Microsoft to Shove Org-Wide Teams Backgrounds Behind Additional License

Microsoft Teams is the central hub for productivity for many organizations around the globe. At the last official count, Microsoft said that there were 115 million daily active users of the tool but that figure is likely outdated at this point.

One of the primary features of Teams is the ability to host internal/external meetings along with the functionality to change your background to hide the fact that you are at the beach instead of being in your home office. But one of the challenges, especially in large organizations, is the ability to control the branding experience from a corporate perspective.

If you want your employees to use ‘pre-approved’ backgrounds and to have those backgrounds show up in Teams, rather than having to manually upload them, Microsoft is enabling this functionality that will roll out later this month.

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Blurry image credit to Microsoft, they did not provide a higher resolution image.

In the release note that you can view here (MC249777), Microsoft states that you will need an Advanced Communication license when this feature reaches general availability in July.

While it is within Microsoft’s rights to use licensing however it deems necessary, this requirement feels a bit odd. Primarily because this feature would ease the adoption of Teams and its meeting functionality but other tools, like webinars that are used by most companies for lead-gen or customer retention, does not require a new license – it feels like this should be swapped.

As Tom notes, the Advanced Communication license has a finicky history with features moving in and out of the license for seemingly no reason. But today, the license covers the following:

  • Tailor and customize meetings: Drive standardization across meetings for your internal and custom-facing scenarios, with features such as custom branded meeting lobby. Implement with flexibility across your organization’s departments.
  • Manage your organization communications: Monitor, track, and analyze data on users and devices to ensure a smooth experience.
  • Tailored experiences with custom policy packages: Enable you to bundle your own set of policies for users with similar roles in you organization. Create your own policy packages by adding the policy types and policies that you want to bundle using the Teams Admin Center or PowerShell. Each user will require a license in order to receive a custom policy package assignment.

From the perspective that if you want to brand your lobby, having customized backgrounds makes a bit of sense but I still think it would be easier to pitch putting webinars behind the license and let backgrounds be a ‘free’ feature as part of your Office 365 subscription.

As for price, the current licenses will set you back $12 per user per month (PUPM) but it is available today for $5 PUPM – as a temporary price reduction. That’s a steep fee for making it easier to use ‘approved’ backgrounds in Teams but many larger orgs may be willing to pay for such a feature.