Microsoft to add new firstline-worker features, like 'Walkie Talkie' voice calls, to Teams

Microsoft is continuing its pursuit of deskless, 'firstline workers' with several new features coming to its Teams group-chat application in the coming months.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has been working to make its Office 365 applications and services better suited to firstline workers for the past-year-plus. Ahead of next week's National Retail Federation (NRF) show, Microsoft is introducing additional firstline capabilities for Microsoft 365.

Firstline workers are deskless workers. They are employees who often are in service-worker, customer-facing jobs. And they are one of customer segments key to Microsoft's plan to try to grow its Office 365/Microsoft 365 user base.

Microsoft is adding the ability for smartphones and tablets to work like walkie talkies inside of Teams, its group-chat product. Microsoft says this new push-to-talk experience will be built natively into Teams and usable with employee- or company-owned devices. Walkie Talkie in Teams will work over Wi-Fi or cellular networks and can be used across geographic locations. This feature will be available in private preview in the first half of calendar 2020.

Microsoft is enabling third-party workforce-management systems like Kronos and JDA, to integrate directly with Shifts using the Shifts Microsoft Graph programming interfaces and software development kit. This allows these products capabilities like scheduling and time and attendance, to integrate with Teams. Microsoft said the JDA connector for Shifts is available on GitHub and the Kronos connector for Shifts will be available on GitHub later this quarter.

Microsoft also is going to enable IT administrators to configure Teams to limit employee access to Teams on their personal devices outside working hours. This feature will begin rolling out to customers this quarter, officials said.

Other new Teams capabilities that Microsoft said will be available in the first half of calendar 2020:

  • Tasks targeting, publishing and reporting via Tasks in Teams
  • One-time SMS code availability on mobile devices to streamline sign-in for firstline workers
  • Simultaneous shared device sign-out of all Microsoft 365, custom apps and browser sessions

Microsoft plans to show off these new Teams capabilities at NRF in New York City next week. At NRF, Microsoft will be highlighting Ikea, which has moved more than 70,000 workers to Teams, as an example of a major firstline customer win, according to Bloomberg