Microsoft adds more mobile, scheduling capabilities to Teams for firstline workers

Microsoft is adding location-sharing, a smart camera and secure messaging capabilities to its Teams group-chat product, specifically targeting mobile, firstline workers.

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Last fall, Microsoft unveiled a number of new features for its Teams group-chat platform that were aimed at firsline workers. On January 9, Microsoft announced plans to add even more firstline-worker-specific capabilities to Teams.

Firstline workers are people who perform service-/task-based jobs in industries like retail, hospitality, travel and manufacturing. They are distinct from information workers, who usually do their work mostly at desks. Microsoft officials are looking to firstline workers as an untapped market for its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 products and services.

Microsoft is adding customizable mobile capabilities to Teams with capabilities such as location sharing, smart camera and the ability to record and share audio messages securely. These capabilities will be controllable by IT policies set by the workers' employers. These features are available starting today, January 9.

The location-sharing feature is meant to help coordinate workers. The camera feature will allow users to capture photos of objects like store aisles in the case of retail or x-rays in the case of healthcare with their phones and save them securely to the Teams (and not locally). The audio messaging feature also will allow workers to exchange secure messages when using regular chat applications on phones.

Microsoft also is adding the ability for IT to use the Graph API for Shifts, the new Teams scheduling tool Microsoft introduced at Ignite last fall, to integrate Shifts with other enterprise scheduling and workforce management systems. The Graph API for Shifts will be in public preview in the first quarter of 2019, Microsoft officials said.

Microsoft also is adding a "Praise" feature to Teams that will give employers a way to recognize coworkers via badges directly inside the Teams app.

Last year Microsoft officials said Microsoft's StaffHub application will be retired as of October 1, 2019, paving the way for inclusion of these same Shifts capabilities directly in Teams. The Shifts tool enables managers to create and share staff schedules, and employees to swap shifts, request time off and more. Microsoft will be talking up Teams for firstline workers at the NRF 2019 show in New York City next week.

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By Mary Jo Foley

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She...