Microsoft Highlights Perks for Retailers using Teams and Dynamics 365
Microsoft this week announced Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365 improvements designed to help retailers.
The improvements enable improved communications with so-called "front-line workers" in retail stores. They are being touted in preparation for the National Retail Federation's Big Show event happening next week.
Microsoft generally argued that retailers should become resilient by using digital technologies. Those technologies include "AI, retail media advertising capabilities, dynamic pricing capabilities, shopper and operations analytics, and autonomous and automated stores."
With regard to the autonomous store angle, Microsoft described having a "Smart Store Analytics" solution that's based on AiFi's computer vision technology. It "uses a variety of smart tech to track shoppers and shopping behavior all the way from product discovery through purchase."
On the communications side, Microsoft described a "Store Operations Assist" solution for mobile devices that's designed to help sales associates view "operational day-to-day activities."
For organizations using the Microsoft Dynamics 365 family of products, Microsoft offers the "Microsoft Customer Experience Platform," which can be used to analyze customer data. The platform is said to let organizations "predict customers' needs and wants" while also maintaining privacy controls, per this announcement.
Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 Additions
Microsoft added features to its Teams collaboration service that are specifically designed to aid frontline workers, as described in this announcement.
The Teams Walkie Talkie application, which adds walkie-talkie-like capabilities to mobile phones, has two new features. The "prompt to join" feature, currently at the "general availability" commercial-release stage, will default to the last communication channel that was used, which makes things easier for workers. Microsoft also added a "transmission usage report" for the Teams Walkie Talkie app. It lets IT pros to check things like call use and quality. This report is expected to become available as early as next month.
The Microsoft Teams "Shifts connector for UKG Dimensions" capability is now generally available. It connects with the UKG Dimensions solution to show shift times, clock-ins and clock-outs, plus time-off requests for frontline workers. Microsoft has also collaborated with Blue Yonder and Zebra Technologies on such shift connectors with Teams.
A checklist solution for store associates, called the "Updates app in Microsoft Teams," will be getting a "deep link sharing" capability sometime this month that will let workers share these checklists with anyone.
The Teams Updates app also can get automated with other actions. It's carried out via an "Updates Power Automate connector," which will reach general availability "in February 2023."
Microsoft announced a preview of "Microsoft Viva Connections pre-configuration for frontline workers." It's a simplified dashboard showing "adaptive cards for Shifts, Tasks, Approvals and Top News." This interface can be customized by IT pros. It'll be arriving as a default dashboard for new Microsoft 365 F-product users "soon."
Viva Engage users now have access to a Stories preview, which will let workers create and share images or videos from a mobile device. Viva Engage, which enables social-networking-like capabilities, was commercially released back in August.
Viva Learning's new home page for mobile devices is now generally available. The home page, opened through Teams, will show things like "upcoming assignments, bookmarked learning content and personalized recommendations."
Azure Active Directory Shared Device Mode
Microsoft touted a "shared device mode" capability of Azure Active Directory, which is said to make it easier for workers to sign into and out of apps when using a shared device.
Microsoft described shared device mode availability for mobile devices as follows:
Shared device mode support for securely accessing Microsoft Outlook, Edge, Yammer, and Power Apps apps on Android devices is in preview starting in January 2023. On iOS devices, shared device mode support on Microsoft Intune for securely accessing Teams will be in preview starting in February 2023.
Microsoft has also collaborated with SOTI and VMware's Workspace ONE on using shared device mode. Here's how Microsoft characterized such support for Android devices:
VMWare Workspace ONE's support for shared device mode is in preview starting February 2023. SOTI's support for shared device mode is in preview starting January 2023 and generally available in September 2023.
Microsoft has also built a "sample application through GitHub" that will let workers authenticate to applications in part by using a machine-readable QR codes. Users first scan the QR codes to show their user names. They then enter their passwords. The use of QR codes is seen as speeding up authentications on shared devices. This app is expected to reach general availability sometime this month.
Outlook at Scale Deployments
Microsoft is claiming that the Microsoft 365 Admin Center portal can serve as "a single hub for IT management," including when deploying Outlook. The ability to deploy Outlook at scale using that portal "will be in preview in February 2023," Microsoft indicated.
Two new Outlook features, coming next month, will support frontline workers. One of them is "audience targeting," which lets senders use filters for "job function, location and department" to better target e-mail messages. The other feature, "group mailboxes," is said to make it easier for frontline workers in different departments to collaborate using Outlook.
Microsoft offered a lot more details about these frontline worker-type enhancements in two Microsoft Tech Community posts this week. For instance, this announcement delved into Outlook at scale, Viva Connections and Power Automated connector details. In this post, Microsoft described Outlook, Power Apps, Microsoft Intune and shared device mode perks.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.