Microsoft Teams first launched in March 2017, but it wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic hit three years later that the use of the collaboration platform suddenly exploded, with Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index Annual Report – which focused on frontline worker trends – revealing that there was a 71 per cent increase in Teams meetings between March and May 2020.
This number increased thereafter with Microsoft recording a 400 per cent jump in Teams usage by November 2021, according to Mayank Verma, senior director of product marketing of Microsoft Teams for industry and frontline workers.
“It’s pretty impressive to see how quickly and effectively organisations have adapted to the changing work landscape using the application,” says Verma. “By May 2023, Teams had 300 million active users each month, a jump from 280 million just a few months earlier in January 2023.”
But for Microsoft, the importance of the platform goes beyond the number of Teams users. Rather, it’s more about the innovative ways Teams is helping firms in various industries to streamline operations, boost employee productivity and enhance collaboration for frontline workers. Teams is transforming the way that businesses operate through built-in applications such as Tasks, Praise and Approvals. For example, healthcare workers can use features like Virtual Appointments and Electronic Health Record connectors to conduct virtual patient visits, while retailers are using the Shifts app for employees manage their schedules.
The importance of the partner ecosystem
Microsoft’s extensive ecosystem of software partners are playing a key role in developing tailored solutions that can help organisations in specific industries to optimise their use of Teams.
“We cannot overlook the significant role played by our partners,” says Verma. “For instance, we’ve partnered with UKG [a human resources and workforce management solutions provider] and co-engineered a Teams Shifts connector for UKG Dimensions, a mobile app that connects workers via their phones. This is a game-changer for the manufacturing sector, as it empowers workers with the ability to easily view and accept open shifts, request time off, and even clock in and out. It’s all about streamlining processes and making it easier for workers to manage their time and tasks.”
Meanwhile, partners such as Tollring are developing collaboration analytics solutions that allow users to understand their activity on Teams and monitor business objectives such as employee well-being.
In addition, Microsoft is working closely with hardware manufacturers to create more integrated solutions. “Devices from our partners like Honeywell, Samsung and Zebra Technologies now come equipped with the Teams Walkie Talkie app,” says Verma. “These devices have dedicated push-to-talk buttons, a key feature that simplifies communication and reduces the need for carrying extra devices.”
Microsoft has also partnered with RealWear, a hands-free, head-mounted device provider, to encourage safe, stress-free and more productive work environments for frontline workers. “We’ve worked together to develop a voice-optimised version of Teams that allows workers to collaborate with remote experts and troubleshoot issues using a fully voice-controlled wearable headset,” says Verma. “This not only increases efficiency but also reduces business travel costs and the overall carbon footprint.”
A Teams-led future
Many businesses have already moved, or are in the process of migrating, to a hybrid working model and Teams is helping to facilitate this across offices, factories, warehouses and more.
“By leveraging Teams, organisations have overcome communication challenges, streamlined workflows and improved operational efficiency,” says Verma. “The product serves as a central hub for communication, collaboration and task management, enabling seamless connectivity between remote and in-person employees.”
The Tasks and Shifts apps in Teams, for instance, have played a crucial role in managing frontline workforce tasks and scheduling.
“Organisations like L’Oreal and Ahold Delhaize use Teams to streamline operations, delegate tasks and ensure consistency across locations,” says Verma. “Shifts in Teams, in particular, empowers managers to create structured schedules and enhance productivity.”
While Teams is now being used by many different types of organisations, some are still struggling to implement it successfully for frontline workers.
“There’s a sizeable chunk of frontline workers – 55 per cent – who’ve had to learn these digital tools on the go, without any formal training,” says Verma. “And one-third of all frontline workers feel they still don’t have the right technology tools to do their jobs effectively. This number goes up to 41 per cent for those not in management roles.
“There’s a lot of variation in how much access and training frontline workers get for these digital tools. Some sectors, like healthcare, hospitality, telecommunications and automotive, have been a bit slow in providing training before bringing in the latest digital tools. With almost half of the frontline workers worried about losing their jobs if they don’t grasp new technology, it’s clear that we’ve got to continue to boost digital transformation and tools to make sure our frontline workers are well-equipped to handle what’s next.”
“We want Teams to be a versatile tool that is diverse to the needs of all workers. Our goal is to ensure that Teams is more than just a communication platform. We want it to be a comprehensive solution that improves productivity, collaboration and efficiency across the board – and our partners are key to making this vision a reality.”
We asked Microsoft partners what software, services or hardware they are developing to make it easy for businesses to adopt Teams and deliver a more productive experience for users.
“As a native communication layer on top of Teams and Microsoft Azure Communication Services, our solutions allow organisations to de-silo communication and take a big leap in the field of customer experience,” says Hans Kramer, global head of marketing at Anywhere365.
“Today’s business aim is to bring customers closer, a vision previously hindered by the traditional separation of employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX). The seamless integration of Teams, an EX champion, with Avaya, a CX pioneer, shatters these barriers,” says Roger Wallman, senior manager of solutions marketing at Avaya.
“The D7X enhances productivity and fosters engagement for Teams users with an intuitive and convenient solution for video collaboration and whiteboard sessions,” says Scott Krueckeberg, head of strategic alliances at DTEN.
“Samsung Galaxy devices, especially the rugged XCover and Tab Active series, are natively integrated with Teams to provide a single secure solution for frontline workers to communicate and collaborate,” says James Pak, corporate vice president and head of mobile business-to-business partnerships at Samsung Electronics.
“As first of its kind, instant3Dhub for Teams enables seamless 3D collaboration and mixed reality for engineering and manufacturing processes. Deeply integrated with Microsoft’s ecosystem, instant3Dhub comprises a powerful toolset for building high-performance 3D applications, combining a wide range of visual computing features with automation, connectivity, and collaboration capabilities of Teams,” says Christian Stein, co-founder and CEO of Threedy.
Read more from these partners as well as EPOS, Gamma, Jabra, Mida Solutions, Q-SYS, Resonate, SCB Global, Shure Incorporated, Solgari and Vyopta in the latest issue of Technology Record.