Microsoft today added a slew of new features to Microsoft Teams, its Office 365 chat-based collaboration tool that competes with Google’s Hangouts Chat, Facebook’s Workplace, and Slack. The features include location sharing, a smart camera, and the ability to record and share audio messages. Coming later this quarter: a Graph API for the Shifts scheduling tool and a feel-good tool called Praise.
Microsoft Teams was used by over 329,000 organizations as of September, when the company declared it its fastest-growing business app ever. Teams isn’t even two years old — it launched worldwide in March 2017.
Today’s new features are targeted at “firstline” workers, which Microsoft describes as the first point of contact between a company and its customers — the employees who are directly involved in making products, represent a company’s brand, and see products and services in action. The company estimates there are the more than 2 billion people worldwide who work in service or task-oriented roles that meet this definition.
Mobile-only features available now
If you use Microsoft Teams on the go, today’s update is for you. Not only are there new mobile-only features, but IT administrators can grant role-based access to the primary Teams features you need. This capability can be used for employees in any role (create a custom policy or use a newly available Firstline Worker configuration policy template). You can also customize your app by pinning the modules you need most right to their navigation bar.
As for the new features, the most useful is probably that you can now share your location with your whole team. The smart camera feature lets you take photos of objects like store aisles or x-rays with your phones and save them securely to Teams. Finally, Teams supports the ability to record and share audio messages — for when typing is a pain.
Graph API and Praise coming this quarter
Microsoft is starting to build more workforce management functionality into Teams with a new set of APIs. The Graph API for Shifts, the schedule management tool in Teams, will be the first — Microsoft expects it to hit public preview this quarter. This API makes integration between Shifts and enterprise scheduling systems possible, so managers and employees will be able to access workforce management systems right from Teams.
Also rolling out this quarter is a new Praise tool aimed at recognizing employees. Microsoft hopes it will result in “improving their satisfaction and reducing turnover.” Praise lets managers and employees recognize coworkers with badges, right in the Teams app where the whole team can see it.
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