Exclusive insights to increase team productivity.
Posted on July 14, 2023 by Fusion Connect
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INTRODUCTION VOICEOVER: This is Tech UNMUTED. The podcast of modern collaboration – where we tell the stories of how collaboration tools enable businesses to be more efficient and connected. With your hosts, George Schoenstein and Santi Cuellar. Welcome to Tech UNMUTED.
GEORGE: Welcome to the latest episode of Tech UNMUTED. Today, we're going to take a look at Microsoft Loop. In the last episode, we talked about some tips around collaboration. One of the things we mentioned at the end was that this new capability called Loop has been released in public preview, I think. Is that right, Santi?
SANTI: That's correct. It's public preview as of right now.
GEORGE: We're going to take a look at some of the functionality. We've used it a little bit on some internal projects. We'll walk you through a couple of the elements of it, how you interact with it, some of the capabilities, those kind of things. I'll turn it over to Santi, want to give a little more background, and then we can jump in live and just start building.
SANTI: I think the best way to start is maybe just explain what Loop is. It is new. When I say new, I know Microsoft has had this out for about a year. It's been available in early access, now it's in public preview, and eventually, it'll be GA. What Loop is, it's a co-creative platform. The idea behind Loop is, "Hey, as a team, we have to maybe think about how to approach a project. We have to plan. We have to maybe create some content." This is how you get to a finished product, a finished document, a finished presentation, is you start with all this stuff, planning, collaborating, going back and forth, creating content. That is where Loop shines.
GEORGE: It's things like checklists, and lists, and assignment, and tasks. It covers more formal project management plus basic checklists, as well as, to your point, the content piece. It's not the final content repository.
GEORGE: It's not a Word document. It's not a PowerPoint, but it does get everything in a single place. We'll share some of the interactivity. It's really easy to live update. Not that you can't do that in a document, but you're in a self-contained little area where everybody can collaborate on all the different elements, or in fact, you can only share one piece of it with somebody-
SANTI: That's correct.
GEORGE: -who doesn't necessarily either need to see the other pieces or be overwhelmed by the other elements that are in that loop.
SANTI: Think about it. In the previous podcast, we talked about some hacks that you can do, some productivity hacks. One of the things that we said is sharing is caring. Remember this?
SANTI: One of the things we said that people will still do is they will create a different version of something. It's almost inevitable. Not everybody is going to follow the rule of work within the shared document. This eliminates that because there is no document to share. What you're sharing is an individual piece of content. I'm going to show you what that looks like, and you'll get a better understanding as to what I'm referring to when I say a piece of content.
Think of Loop as a platform for co-creation of a plan, of a project, of a piece of content. It is a way of looping people in, no pun intended, to get stuff done. Now, there are five use cases that Microsoft speaks about for using Loop. One is obviously co-authoring. For example, let's say that you need help from an extended team to finish some type of message, or maybe you have a big customer presentation coming up, and you want to tailor your message to that customer.
Instead of sending out the entire presentation and telling somebody, "Hey, I just need you to look at slide two," now, just share that piece of content and that piece of content alone. You're going to see in a minute here, when I say this, this piece of content, known as a Loop component, is a living, breathing piece of content. It's its own entity. It doesn't reside in Word. It doesn't reside in PowerPoint. It's not tied to a document or a program. It's its own thing. [crosstalk]
GEORGE: One example is things like an RFP response.
SANTI: Yes, that's perfect for that.
GEORGE: Your finance team to help with one piece of it, your operations or product team with another piece of it. You don't necessarily want to share the entire document, typically-
GEORGE: -or doing those in Word and say, "You need to go to Section 126.96.36.199 and look at the question and answer." You say share that one element. They know exactly where to go. There is some ability to actually respond in an email without responding to the email. You can literally open the email notification app that has the table in that section in-
GEORGE: -and just type and edit. You were not responding. You were literally just typing and editing. I do want to just point one thing to stay aware of. Santi is working on Windows 10. I'm working on Windows 11. We've seen some variations between functionality between the two. We're not 100% sure on all the variations yet, but as we go through this, again, we might do a part two on this one and hit on some of those pieces so people are aware. As well as, we haven't totally figured this all out yet, so we'll just look at an example that gives a high-level view.
SANTI: We're trailblazing here along with you. This is a new platform and we're absolutely trailblazing. It is in public preview, which is great because we get to find things that maybe are hiccups, and we can report that back to Microsoft, which, by the way, this is their go-to moving forward collaboration platform. This is going to be where people are going to get together and create stuff, and so it's a big thing. There was a big announcement for this in the Microsoft 365 Conference.
Anyway, the second use case is brainstorming. Very similar. We have to come up with ideas. We have to create some type of content. We can create a bulleted list or ask for ideas to be deposited into a table. Again, these things are individual components that you can share freely. There's no document here. That's the whole thing. You can compile data. That's another use case. You can manage projects.
One thing that's really nice about Loop is that it does give you a lightweight project management capability, which, by the way, I'm actually in the process of maybe moving away, me personally, from using Planner, which I love, to Loop only because I can now just share elements of a plan to somebody versus sending them an entire plan. It adds that level of flexibility. I'm in the process of valuing that personally. So far, I'm leaning towards using Loop.
Then finally, just having a focus discussion. I like this. Microsoft's fifth use case is focusing on a discussion, and they see it as almost creating a virtual mini breakout room. Let's say we have a group of a chat, a Teams chat with 20 people. We're all working on the same project, but you need three people in that chat to focus on one specific element and you don't want them distracted. What do you do? You grab that one component, you tag them to it, and that's all they see. It's almost like creating a mini breakout session, if you would.
Those are your five use cases as per Microsoft for using Loop. Now, what I want to do is I want to switch over to the app and actually show you how to use the app. I want you to know there's three major elements to Loop. There is what's called a workspace, then there's a page, and then there's the individual Loop components. How you structure this is totally up to you. I see workspaces, at least this is how I'm using it, as a workflow. For example, I have a workspace I created, which is my go-to market activities.
That is a workflow for me. Then I take individual pages underneath that workflow, and those are my individual go-to market projects. That's how I'm structuring it. You can structure it however you want. Your workspace could be departmental, your workspace could be workflow-related, your workspace can be the project, however you want to structure it. I'm going to go ahead and show you what Loop looks like. I'm just going to go ahead and share my screen.
GEORGE: While Santi is bringing that up, this goes back to the point we made on the previous episode. This gets you out of other things that you would normally do. It gets you out of a series of emails around the same topic, and then you potentially need to pull somebody else in later, and they have to read the series of emails. They will see the element that you want them to look at immediately when you connect them into Loop.
It will save on chats. Chats are a great alternative to email, but chats can also be overwhelming at times. The ability to get out of doing chats is often helpful. You're seeing the Loop element. Things to keep in mind here, it's loop.microsoft.com. You see the same naming convention in a lot of things that these new elements that Microsoft has out there. This is a quick way to get to the launch page effectively. Santi, I'll let you jump in and work through an example.
SANTI: Absolutely. I'm going to go ahead and create a workspace and start from scratch here. Now, of course, we're doing show and tell. The folks who are listening on an audio-only version, you may want to chime on the YouTube channel so you can see what we're just demonstrating here. Basically, creating a workspace is as simple as giving it a title and maybe even assigning an icon. We're going to go ahead and call this one a demo of Microsoft Loop.
I need to correct Microsoft name spelling because Microsoft won't like that. We're going to add an icon because we're so excited about Loop. We're going to get a nice big happy face as an icon. At this point, I could potentially invite team members to join this space, or I can do it later. Just for the sake of demonstrating this, I'm going to go ahead and invite George, and I'm going to click continue.
Now, there is something here called Jumpstart. It is 100% generated by artificial intelligence. It looks at the name of your workspace. You can actually add additional keywords here. Based on keywords, it will bring up some suggested documents that you could maybe pull in when you're creating a space. I'm not going to click on any documents at this point. I'm just going to go ahead and create the space.
It even does that for you. It gets ahead of it and says, "Hey, maybe these are things you want to pull into the space." You can select them. When you create the space, it'll pull those documents in. We just created this space, and by default when you create the space, it gives you a blank untitled page. Here's your space. It's the demo of Microsoft Loop. It's the name of the space we created. Right now, there's two workspace members. It's George and myself. We can always add more. We have an untitled page. Now remember--
GEORGE: As we're sitting here, I've already gotten the notification and email that the loop was created. It gives me the option to join the workspace, which I'm going to do in the background here, in case we need to shift screens.
SANTI: Sure. In fact, when you join the space, I should, in theory, see an icon up here with your image on it to let me know. There you are. See, now I know you're in here with me. That's a good indicator that you're collaborating with somebody. All right, so we created the space. It's that simple. We now have our own workspace. This workspace belongs to George and I. We can start working on different elements of our project.
By default, you get a plain untitled page, but if you look down at the bottom, you also have some suggested templates. Now it shows you four, but if you click on explore other templates, it'll show you an entire list. Templates are great because what Microsoft did is they went ahead and they pre-structured some flows within this page that you could potentially use. Every time you click on one of these, it gives you a little preview of what's included in the page.
For example, this is a project brief page template. It gives an overview section, some goals, you can add team members, you can add project deliverables and some relevant links. These are all great things. You can choose to use that. You don't have to use every element on this page. You can choose the template as a starting point and then delete or add as you choose as you please.
Same thing, maybe we're trying to reach a decision, and so we want to team to decide on something. There's a question section. There's some background context. Again, this is a template. What I want you to understand is each one of these elements that you see here, you can create into what's called a loop component. I'm going to show you that next. For the purpose of this, I'm just going to say let's do a project plan.
We're going to click on project planning, and I'm going to go ahead and choose this template instead of just starting from a scratch page for now. Let's just do this. It's going to create a separate page and add the template that I just chose.
GEORGE: Literally, as Santi is doing that, I'm in the browser, I clicked through on the link, the project plan showed up.
SANTI: As this page, what you're going to see is all the elements that were included in the template are now here. I can start working inside of this particular page that we just created. Everything is editable. You can edit everything: titles, images, tables. You can insert new tables, you can delete stuff. There's nothing here that is static. Everything is dynamic. You can change everything.
You can see George is actually live editing in the document as we speak. While he does that, I'm going to add a new element to this page. I'm going to come down here. Now there's two ways that you can start adding components to a page. You can use the forward slash or you can use the @ symbol. The forward slash will insert a component, whereas the @ will either tag somebody or add a file.
Let me show you how it looks like. The forward slash gives you a menu. That menu is everything from headings to tables, checklists, a bulleted list, a number list, maybe a divider, which is a visual line to separate one section of your page from the other, or you can scroll down and get some of these tables that already are templated. For example, maybe what I want is a task list. They've already created a task list for you. Maybe I need to get some votes in to decide on something, or maybe I need to track the progress.
In essence, these are all tables. Instead of creating a table from scratch, they went ahead and created a template of this already for you. You can also at this point tag a person, grab an emoji, get a dynamic calendar inserted on here, or you can start creating labels. Labels are exactly what you think they are. They're labels. For example, that red label at the top of the page says status not started, that's a label.
For the purpose of this demonstration, I'm going to just create a task list. I'm going to insert here, into this page, a task list. I can create tasks now and assign them and give them a date. This is all happening live as George and I work on putting together this project plan. Let me create a task. I'm going to assign that task to George, and I'm going to say that this is due today, just to give him some pressure. Now it got to get it done today.
That is how easy it is to, one, create a workspace, two, create a page. You can create a page from blank, or you can create a page from a template. Now let me show you how to create a component. The third thing I want to show you here is what exactly is a loop component? A loop component is taking an element from this page and creating its own individual content that is a portable piece of content, that is also a living piece of content, and that can be shared across the entire Microsoft ecosystem.
How do I do that? Well, let's come here where it says task. It's the task list, but the task list is not just a list, but I want the title. I'm going to actually highlight from the title down to the list itself. As soon as I do that, I get this menu that hovers. If I click on the three dots for more, at the bottom of the menu, it says create loop component. Watch this, and there it is. What did I just do? Well, I took what would have been just a plain old table or a task list that was part of a document, and I turned it into its very own independent entity.
Yes, you can see it in this page, but I have news for you. It doesn't live in this page. It is its own thing. It's a living, breathing piece of content that I can share across the entire Microsoft ecosystem. I can do that simply by coming here and copying this piece of content, and this piece of content alone, and sharing it. If I click copy, it'll generate a link. I can send that link to somebody, and they'll see this piece of content and this piece of content only.
Not only will they see this piece of content, but they'll be able to edit it and make changes, and when they do, no matter where I share this piece of content and how many people I sent it to, that change will sync everywhere, and it will be up-to-date. I'm going to go ahead and when I created the piece of content, I think George, it might have removed your tag. I'm just going to add you real quick here. When I created into a loop component, it kind of knocked that out. I'm just going to tag you again.
Now you should get an email that says, "Hey, a loop component was-- you've been tagged to a loop component." That's how that's going to-- As soon as you tag somebody, they'll get an alert. Let's say I need somebody else to look at it, I can just share it. Let me just show you one last thing. So far, we learned how to create a workspace. We learned how to create a page inside of that workspace. Then we learned how to create an individual loop component, which is the magic trick here.
That's really the magic is this piece of content that's outlined, it's its own entity. That's pretty amazing. What I want to do is I want to show you how easy it is to create a loop component in Microsoft Teams. I'm just going to go ahead and switch apps here. All right, now I'm in Microsoft Teams. I have a group chat with some colleagues. What I want to do here is I want to be able to create a loop component right here inside of Teams because I want my team members to collaborate on that one piece of content.
Down below, where you have your message field, this is where you would type your message, there is an icon that looks like a loop. You can see there, it says loop component. When I click on that, it gives me the option to choose what kind of component do I want to create. For the sake of this, I'm going to go ahead and create a numbered list, and it literally starts to create a brand-new loop component that is, again, a live, living, breathing piece of content.
Notice I'm not saying document. It's a piece of content that's portable. I'm going to give this a title. Then we're going to start creating steps to baking a cake. I'm just going to select the first one. I'm going to say select, and I'm going to leave it at that. Then the other team members, once I send this, they will be able to take this piece of content and edit and make changes to it.
I'm going ahead and send it, just like I would send anything else in Teams. Just hit the send icon. Now, the loop component is literally live inside of this team chat. My colleagues can now go in there and start adding to the list, and this is, again, live. No matter where else I share this document, no matter who I share this document to, whatever changes we make right here and right now will appear in every other instance of this piece of content.
GEORGE: This live showed up in Teams. There is a little bit of a lag on the other elements. It takes a couple of seconds, maybe a minute or two to get the emails. This live showed up on the top of my list in Teams. I've also just got a notification of a task assignment and email. There's a little bit of a lag there, but I can literally, on the fly on my screen, go in here and add second item to the list, and you live see that same thing on the screen that Santi has, right?
SANTI: That's correct.
GEORGE: That's similar to a regular chat, but again, this component is now visible across multiple different places.
SANTI: That's correct. One last thing is what's great about this also is these individual pieces of content can be easily searched for. You know where? In your Microsoft 365 or your Office 365 app. When you open up your Office 365 app, your Microsoft 365 app, all your documents show up. If you go to the search field, and you just type in either the word loop or the title of that specific piece of content, all those individual loop components will show up.
You can click on them, and they'll open up in a browser or actually open up right inside of the Office 365 application. It's very easy to go back and find them if they're these separate individual pieces of content that you created. Anyway, that pretty much wraps up today's demonstration. This is a different way of thinking, isn't it?
GEORGE: Yes, it is.
SANTI: It's not what we've been used to. It's going to take a little time to shift the mindset on how we collaborate on stuff, but I like it. I think it's very effective.
GEORGE: It's going to evolve.
SANTI: Oh, sure.
GEORGE: We saw that one variation between Windows 10 and Windows 11. I'm going to just really quickly peek at this last email, that standard email with a link to the task. We had seen one variation of it where, in the email itself, you could edit without replying. In this particular demo, for whatever reason, that didn't happen. We'll take a look at why that does or doesn't happen in certain instances, but wow, that was really cool when I did get the one that you created earlier in the week that I literally could type in there.
The only reason I noticed it was that Santi sent it and then was in there making changes to the table, and the table, this is to the loop component, that component was embedded in the email. I had the ability to see exactly what was going on in that individual component, what was being added, changed, those kind of things.
SANTI: I love it. It's phenomenal. Again, I think it's going to help save time because you can have your team focus on the component that you need them to focus on and get answers quickly, especially when you embed it into a Teams chat like that because now I have the component, I can bring that component now anywhere I need it, and it's going to be live. No matter what I do, it'll be synced, and it'll be live, and it'll be up-to-date, and I don't have to chase people down for anything or worry about different versions of documents.
All that stuff goes away. It just makes it a little bit easier to collaborate and plan and execute tasks. There you go, folks. That is today's podcast and demonstration of Microsoft Loop. It is still fairly new. I'm sure there's kinks that are going to be worked out. It's going to go GA at some point. I don't have the exact date, but we can absolutely look that up and post it as part of the show notes, but if you want to learn more about Microsoft Loop, all you have to do is search for it.
Microsoft has a great page dedicated to all the features and functionality, including all the use cases. This brings our podcast to an end. Remember to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you don't miss the next episode. Until next time, stay in the loop and stay connected.
CLOSING VOICEOVER: Visit www.fusionconnect.com/techunmuted for show notes and more episodes. Thanks for listening.
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