Microsoft Teams is increasingly becoming the heart of the digital workplace for many organisations – a single environment where users can digest content, view data and perform transactions from right across the digital workplace without having to visit multiple disparate applications. The introduction of Microsoft Viva is driving this trend further, supporting a better employee experience.
In organisations where Teams use is very high and some employees are spending their day in and out of Teams, it makes sense to give employees the power to access more information and complete tasks directly in their flow of work, helping drive productivity and reducing information and app overload. One of the elements powering this is the ability to deliver a library of Teams apps across companies; digital workplace teams now need to consider their Teams apps strategy in order to support the best possible employee experience.
Apps, apps and more apps
One of the issues here is that there is a growing number of apps available, and more than one option to deliver required capabilities. Options include:
- Leveraging Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps
- Adding apps from other Microsoft 365 applications
- Adding third-party Teams apps and connectors from an ever-expanding library
- Using community-driven apps available on GitHub
- Creating custom apps to meet your organisation’s specific needs
- Using Microsoft Viva Connections (currently for the mobile experience)
- Delivering integrations via bots
- Providing access to “micro-apps” built into SharePoint, and delivering them via Teams
- And more.
As you can see, accessing apps through Teams is an exciting and evolving area. In this post, we are going to look at some of the out-of-the-box apps which are built into the fabric of Teams.
Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps
Microsoft’s in-built Teams apps come out of the box within Teams (they may not be available for all Microsoft licenses, so it is important to check the small print and make sure an app is available to you). There are a multitude of options, including bookings, lists and shifts, that can meet a number of use cases. Below, we look at the different in-built Microsoft Teams apps that are currently available, what they do and the value they bring.
The Teams Bookings app allows for the scheduling of appointments, either in-person or virtual (via Teams) and for both internal and external audiences. While this is useful for arranging meetings with colleagues, it can also be used by people managing diaries to co-ordinate touchpoints with customers and third parties. Multiple diaries can be involved, so this is very useful for co-ordinating meetings and appointments across a busy team or department where scheduling can be extremely complex. The app is especially useful if you are predominantly running virtual meetings in Teams itself. Naturally, everything is synced with Outlook.
At Content Formula, we’ve had a long-time crush on SharePoint Lists. It is one of the most powerful and underused elements of SharePoint; recognising this, Microsoft has made Lists available as a separate app. The Lists app for Teams brings the power of Lists to the Teams experience, establishing a great place to keep track of things like assets, inventories, supplier lists, locations and more.
Lists can also be a smart way to store information that is used in other workflows and automation, acting as the source of truth for information that is updated within other systems, for example. The app allows users to create new lists (using templates or even an expert from Excel) or access existing ones (even from different SharePoint sites), all from within Teams.
Task management is a key element in project management and driving personal productivity. The Teams Tasks app helps both teams and individuals manage their tasks. Currently, tasks can be set and managed using both Microsoft Planner and Microsoft To Do – the Teams App brings tasks from both into one place, within the Teams environment.
The app can help employees prioritise tasks, view deadlines and drill down into the details. The app delineates between tasks for individuals (My Tasks) and for the team (Shared Tasks), with the latter showing who the task has been assigned to, supporting transparency and accountability. Anything that helps employees keep on top of their busy schedule and stay co-ordinated will drive value, so this app can prove popular with both employees and managers.
Employee experience is a currently a major focus for the digital workplace, and the Praise app is a nice way to support this. It facilitates a way for employees to show their appreciation for their peers by offering praise to a named colleague or colleagues, as well as providing a range of badges from “Achiever” through to “Thank You”. Note that these badges are set – it’s not possible to set-up custom badges, although this was available in the past.
These shout-outs are a good way to celebrate success and promote a positive organisational culture. The Praise app is available within Microsoft Viva Insights, while a stripped down “praise” feature is also available in Yammer. Although we like it, the Praise app is not always suitable for every function or department, so it is possible for central admins to enable its use for specific groups and not for others.
Many organisations still rely on emails for approvals of a variety of different processes: ordering a laptop, submitting a budget request, approving a training course and so on. Using email is inefficient as it wastes time, is difficult to track and is not able to apply any multi-step approvals. Digital workplace tools that use workflow provide an alternative to email that is far more efficient, ensures requests don’t get lost and aggregates everything in one place.
The Teams approval app brings simple approvals into Teams, allowing administrators to set up a range of approval types and associated workflows, and approvers to be notified of requests, then view and act upon them Aggregating and streamlining approvals is always a good use case, and it makes sense to do this in Teams as it is one of a number of options to create approval workflows across Microsoft 365. Note that to use the Approvals app, your organisation will require a Power Automate license which is used as the workflow engine for the app.
Shifts is an app designed to co-ordinate rostering and shifts for frontline employees, such as those working in customer service, call centres, retail operations or in manufacturing plants. It’s primarily designed to be available on a mobile device. Team leaders can create rosters, message employees and share news and documents, while frontline staff can view their schedule and request to change or swap shifts.
Currently, Shifts can only be used by staff (rather than guests), and everyone needs to have Microsoft digital identities which isn’t always the case with frontline staff. Overall, shifts and rostering is a great digital workplace use case for frontline employees, so used in the right way, this app can drive real value and adoption for Teams across this group.
Using Microsoft Teams apps
We think using apps within Microsoft Teams is only going to grow, and Teams app strategy and selection will become one of the key considerations for digital workplace teams. The Microsoft in-built apps described in this article all provide value. If you’d like to discuss options for Teams apps in your digital workplace, your overall Teams apps strategy or a specific app, then get in touch!