Microsoft Teams Makes a Play for Retail and Service Sectors

Microsoft Teams Makes a Play for Retail and Service Sectors

Workplace collaboration platforms are already an office staple for professionals working “desk jobs” in fields like technology and media, but these tools are less common among frontline employees in hands-on roles. Nearly two years after its global launch, Microsoft’s workplace collaboration platform Teams has added a series of new features to improve its functionality for workers in fields like retail, hospitality, healthcare, and manufacturing. The latest upgrade was rolled out last week, GeekWire’s Nat Levy reported, including:

  • [A] new customizable mobile experience comes with a series of features specifically for workers on the go, such as location sharing, smart camera and the ability to record and share audio messages.
  • Teams will now include a template to help IT managers grant individual employees access to the features they need.
  • Microsoft is working on a set of APIs, which will debut in public preview later this quarter, that will allow companies to integrate workforce management tools that handle things like scheduling and payroll directly into Teams.
  • Coming later this quarter, Microsoft is enabling a Praise feature, which allows employers to call out important contributions from workers.

This announcement comes just a few months after Microsoft showcased a series of new features for “first-line” workers at its Ignite developer conference in September. These included scheduling tools that enable users create and share schedules, swap shifts, request time off, and access announcements from their employers. Microsoft also revealed that it had a secure patient care coordination tool in private preview as part of an effort to bring Teams into the health care field.

The company also announced at Ignite that Teams was being used by 329,000 organizations, up from 200,000 last March. Its chief rival Slack announced last May that it had 500,000 organizations using its platform and 8 million daily users. A Spiceworks survey released last month, however, found that Skype for Business, also owned by Microsoft, was the leading business chat app, and that Teams had surpassed Slack in adoption, with 21 percent of businesses using it against 15 percent for Slack. Teams enjoys a certain edge in this market thanks to its built-in integration with other Microsoft products, like the Office suite, that are already in widespread use. Microsoft also launched a free version of Teams for smaller groups last summer.

Pushing into new consumer markets and areas of the employee experience gives Microsoft an opportunity to expand the Teams user base dramatically, especially as the platform begins more and more to resemble a full-service HR management system. At a time when many organizations are looking for technological solutions to improve the experience of hourly employees, focusing on simple day-to-day challenges like scheduling and payroll is a logical next step for Teams. Competitors are moving in that direction as well, however: Facebook Workplace, the social media giant’s entrant into the collaboration software market, added new integrations last year that also targeted new segments of the workforce and expanded the platform’s functionality as a people management tool.