News

Teams Walkie Talkie and More Coming to Office 365 Users

Microsoft, as part of the NRF 2020 event for retailers, this week announced a bunch of coming Office 365 enhancements, most of which will support so-called "firstline workers."

Eight new capabilities will be arriving around the first half of this year. Microsoft defines a firstline worker as someone who serves as the "first point of contact between a company and the outside world." They may include shift workers and temporary workers, perhaps.

Notable among the coming new features for organizations using Microsoft Teams is a new "Walkie Talkie" feature. It will enable a "push-to-talk experience" for Teams users on mobile devices having Wi-Fi or cellular data access. Unlike a typical Walkie Talkie device, this Teams app version isn't subject to cross-talk interference and works "across geographic locations."

IT Perks
Some coming features will add IT pro controls. For instance, a new "SMS sign-in" capability uses Azure Active Directory to set up single sign-on experiences for end users. IT pros set up SMS sign-in for groups in an organization, but configuration at the user level is possible using the My Staff portal, which is said to "reduce the burden on IT." The process gets kicked off when a "user is prompted to enter their phone number, which generates an SMS text with a one-time password," the announcement explained. Once single sign-on is established, end users can access the organizational apps they're entitled to access without having to repeatedly enter their user names and passwords.

IT pros can also delegate oversight on the use of phone numbers with the SMS sign-in feature, as well as oversight on password resets, to so-called "firstline managers." A coming new "delegated user management" capability will permit the My Staff Portal to be used for the purpose, the announcement explained.

The Microsoft Shifts application, used for establishing schedules for workers, can also integrate with workforce management systems via "Graph APIs" and a software development kit. Supported capabilities include the "management of shifts, schedules, schedule groups, swap requests, time off requests, and open shift requests." A JDA connector is currently available as open source code on GitHub. A Kronos connector is planned for "later this quarter."

IT pros are getting the ability to integrate various "human capital management" (HCM) services with Azure Active Directory for managing end user access to applications at large scale. The integration is already commercially available for Workday HCM systems. It's at the preview stage for SAP's SuccessFactors HCM system.

Another perk for IT pros is the ability to limit access to Microsoft Teams outside an organization's working hours. This capability, called "off-shift access controls for Teams App," is conceived as labor-regulations compliance tool. When it's turned on, end users will get the message, "You're off shift," after they have attempted to access Teams outside their regular work hours.

Other Controls
Microsoft also plans to deliver a "shared device sign-out" feature in the first half of this year for Office 365 users. It's designed to limit data access between users that share a single tablet or mobile device. An "End Shift" button on the device is used to log out users from their apps and browser sessions.

Lastly, Microsoft is planning to deliver a "tasks targeting, publishing and reporting" capability in Teams sometime in the first half of this year. It'll let organizations assign task lists to employees. It has a "real-time" reporting capability that tracks employee progress on these assigned tasks.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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