On May 1, Microsoft announced (to relatively little fanfare) that Teams will be rolling out a change to all users through the end of May, enabling group chat to accommodate up to 250 participants, compared to just 100 currently. (This should not be confused with the capacity of an organization-wide “Team,” which can still accommodate up to 5000 users.) Now it will be easier for organizations to quickly communicate in real time with larger groups of people, without having to create a new Team.
Why Microsoft Teams’ bigger maximum chat size matters to your organization.
With more organizations trying to consolidate and streamline workflows and coordinate multiple streams of communication, this release aims to help companies reach their audiences faster and easier. With over 75 million active users, businesses have turned en masse to Teams to enable their remote workforce as “work from home” transitions from a short-term reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, to a long-term operational strategy.
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Unfortunately, this increase in the number of participants in a group chat does not allow more users to participate in video or voice —that number is still capped at just 20 people.
In fact, Microsoft notes that if more than 20 people are in a group chat at any time, several features automatically shut off. These include the ability to engage video and voice chat as well as other useful features like Teams status messages, typing indicator, sharing, and read receipts.
How can an increase in number of Microsoft Teams group chat participants help my business?
The impracticality of having a video or voice call with 100 people (let alone 250!) has always meant that Teams is not the preferred solution for that type of communication. (If that functionality is important, you should look at Microsoft Teams Live Events as an add-on, which enables webinar capabilities for up to 10,000 people.) But a chat group with a larger capacity does have practical use cases.
As we look at how many of our own customers’ use Microsoft Teams, we believe there are a few examples that make this both useful and worth noting.
- Ad Hoc Chat: Sometimes, spinning up a Team doesn’t make sense – like when your company is kicking off a big project, coordinating an event, or engaging participants at a specific point in time. A larger capacity means bringing everyone together and onboard quickly and efficiently.
- Small and Medium sized Businesses: For businesses with large teams, for example, a global salesforce, a single group chat allows them to share internal content and news with the entire group. This could be helpful for more informal feedback and conversation with the organization. Alternatively, if your entire business has more than 100 employees but fewer than 250, you will now be able to use a group chat to communicate to your whole organization. Yes, Yammer can do this now. But that means asking employees to go to two different places to work and get information. With a larger group chat, all your employees can now have a single place to communicate, collaborate, and get work done—and stay informed on the broader organizational level. You may not want to abandon the old email newsletter or intranet news updates just yet, but a single location can drive deeper reach to all your people.
- External Communication: Businesses with large rosters of clients, franchisees, or topical interest groups can now leverage a group chat to drive conversations and keep them informed in a more secure environment.
Using Teams to build a better Digital Workplace
Teams can be an incredibly powerful platform to enable and empower your organization. But that does require some planning and strategic vision. Eventually, I believe, Teams can replace company intranets as the primary internal communication tool—providing a true single-pane-of-glass collaboration and information platform.
Microsoft is continuing to invest heavily to support its steadily increasing number of active users who have come to Teams for its better collaboration tools. While 250 participants in a group chat may not be fanfare-worthy news, Microsoft has indicated that they are working on increasing Teams chat capacity to 1,000 participants, possibly within the next year. That could prove to be a much more valuable solution for businesses as they look to further consolidate and streamline their workflows in the post-COVID workplace.
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