Microsoft adds Teams ‘task publishing’ for front-line workers


Office workers may be an obvious target audience for Microsoft Teams, but elements of the collaboration platform have also been tailored for front-line employees, such as retail workers, field technicians and hospital staff.  On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled a handful of new features aimed at supporting staff in these roles — retail in particular — including the ability to publish task lists to specific teams across an organization.

Often overlooked when it comes to spending on digital tools, front-line workers typically spend less time at a desk and their primary computing device is more likely to be a smartphone rather than a laptop. It is a large market: there are more than 2 billion such workers globally, Microsoft claims, and Teams has received several updates in recent years to cater to those at the edge of their organization.

Earlier rollouts included a push-to-talk walkie-talkie function for smartphones, a WhatsApp-like messaging app dubbed Kaizala, and the Shifts app for coordinating worker schedules — all available as part of dedicated Teams subscriptions for front-line workers. 

Among the features added this week is one that lets management teams create and publish tasks in Microsoft Tasks, the dedicated work management app in Teams. The task-publishing feature allows managers to create lists of actions that are disseminated to staff at — for instance — regional stores, outlining work that needs to be carried out in each location.

The feature could aid in a company-wide rebranding exercise, according to one use case offered up by Microsoft.

“Leadership for a nationwide retailer can, for example, create tasks about the display needed for the reopening of their stores, attach a planogram to the task, send that list to only the affected store locations, and then track progress against the assigned task,” Emma Williams, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, noted in a Microsoft blog post.

Managers can then review the lists and assign individual tasks to store workers. Staff can access Teams on a mobile device and mark tasks as complete and attach photos when required.

The feature is indicative of Microsoft’s continued focus on Teams as a platform for front-line or first line workers, said Angela Ashenden, a principal analyst at CCS Insight.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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