Frontline workers are vital for every business, interacting directly with customers and managing on-the-ground operations daily. However, they face a digital deficit challenge – spending more time on finding information from siloed paper-based processes, legacy systems, and the various devices than on meaningful work like customer service and operational efficiency.
Microsoft is democratizing technology for this essential workforce, empowering them with new innovations to help improve productivity and business processes. And our customers are at the center of the innovation we’re delivering. Customers like Conagra Brands are driving digitization at their manufacturing facilities and modernizing their shop floor operations with Microsoft Teams. With real-time communication and data sharing, Conagra is enhancing collaboration across facilities and removing information barriers to ensure business success.
Let’s look deeper into how Copilot, Microsoft Teams, and the entire Microsoft 365 platform are innovating to help frontline workers and the organizations they serve to be successful:
- Increase frontline operational efficiency with smart and automated features.
- Secure and manage your business with new deployment and authentication products.
- Connect and engage your workforce with new push-to-talk innovations.
Increase operational efficiency
Over 60 percent of frontline workers struggle with having to do repetitive or menial tasks that take time away from more meaningful work (Work Tend Index Special Report, 2022). Now, new AI and automated features give frontline workers time back so that they can spend more time on operational excellence.
Microsoft Copilot coming to all Entra ID users, starting with Microsoft 365 F3 on December 1, 2023
Starting December 1, 2023, Microsoft 365 F3 users will be able to access Copilot (formerly Bing Chat Enterprise) with commercial data protection so frontline workers can use AI-powered web chat while keeping business and customer data protected. For example, store associates can assist customers in complex product comparison requests when shopping by using Copilot to make a table to compare the potential products against each other, or to summarize long manuals and onboarding documents into a few digestible bullet points for quick reading.
When signed in with Microsoft Entra ID (formerly Azure Active Directory), Copilot adds commercial data protection so workers can make requests knowing that confidential data stays private and isn’t being used to train the AI model. Over time, we will also expand the eligibility of Copilot with commercial data protection to even more Entra ID users at no additional cost.
Shifts plugin for Copilot for Microsoft 365 and new Shifts features
Now Copilot for Microsoft 365 can pull from not only data sources like Microsoft Teams chat history, SharePoint, and OneDrive, but also from the Shifts app in Teams. The Shifts plugin for Copilot uses prompts to retrieve insights for frontline managers, leveraging data from the Shifts app in addition to user and company data it has access to.
Frontline managers can quickly get a list of important items specific to their team and location to speed up time-consuming tasks like covering shifts and onboarding new employees. This helps reduce the burden of repetitive and menial tasks that take time away from meaningful work for frontline workers. This feature will be generally available in December 2023.
We are also excited to share three new Shifts in Teams features that will be generally available in December and click here to learn more about Shifts in Teams.
Import and export time offs and open shifts via Microsoft Excel
Many customers use external tools to create schedules and need a convenient way to import those schedules in the Shifts in Microsoft Teams application. Shifts offer frontline managers (schedule owners) the ability to upload schedules via Excel through the web and desktop applications. With this feature, frontline managers will also be able to upload open shifts – enabling them to use the frontline workers’ self-serve capability to fill in unassigned shifts, and time offs – ensuring that data in Shifts app is in sync with the time-off data in human resources (HR) or workforce management (WFM) source of record systems.
Improved Shifts in Microsoft Teams privacy settings
Shifts app digitizes schedule management capabilities and creates efficiencies for organization by making the team’s schedule information available on every frontline worker’s device. However, some customers may want to limit the scheduling information that is shared with frontline workers due to privacy or business concerns. With this feature, frontline managers (schedule owners) will be able to precisely control what information is visible to the frontline workers: such as teammates’ time offs reasons & notes, shift notes, break duration, activities, and how far back frontline workers can view coworkers’ schedules
Marketplace controls in Shifts settings
The Shifts in Teams application offers multiple self-serve capabilities for frontline workers. For example:
- “Open shifts” enables frontline workers to sign up for unassigned shifts.
- “Swap and offer shifts” enable workers to cover each other’s shifts.
- “Time off requests” allows workers to request days off.
Organizations can now pick which of these features to enable for their team in the Shifts settings page. These marketplace control settings, which can be changed at any time, give customers control over how they deploy Shifts within their organization.
New task publishing enhancements to support workflow management
Task management is essential for frontline organizations that operate in multiple locations. We are constantly developing new features to help you manage your work more efficiently. For instance, we have recently added a feature that lets you choose which frontline workers will receive notifications when you publish or unpublish a task list for their team. This month, you will also be able to filter tasks by department or area on your mobile device. Watch Task Publishing in Planner to learn more about the newest task publishing features.
New Microsoft Planner in Teams to centralize task management
Starting today, Tasks by Planner and To Do app in Teams will be renamed Planner and the new app experience in Teams will be generally available in Spring 2024.The new Planner app in Teams will continue to include our task management features for frontline organizations and will become the new central place for frontline workers to track what needs to be done, delegate tasks to the right workers, and monitor progress all from one platform. Frontline features such as task publishing will still be accessible in Planner app in Teams, and we’ll be introducing more features soon as well.
Secure and manage your business
At the foundation of a frontline experience, is a secure device and a simple Teams structure deployed for collaboration from day one. We are committed to making it easier for IT admins to deploy and manage Teams for your frontline workers. Given the large size of the frontline workforce and the high turnover rates, simplicity is key to the admin experience.
Deploy and manage frontline dynamic teams and shifts at scale
Whether due to seasonality or the natural turnover seen on the frontline, simplifying user membership is key to easing management needs. Generally available in December, Microsoft has added new capabilities in the Teams Admin Center to deploy frontline dynamic teams at scale for your entire frontline workforce. Through the power of dynamic teams, team membership is automatically managed and always up to date with the right users as people enter, move within, or leave the organization using dynamic groups from Entra ID.
This deployment tool streamlines the admin experience to create a Teams structure that maps the frontline workforces’ real-world into digital world and makes it easy to set up a consistent channel structure to optimize for strong frontline collaboration on day one.
Available in public preview in December, admins can deploy and manage shifts for the entire frontline workforce in the Teams Admin Center. This capability allows admins to centrally deploy and manage the Shifts app across their frontline locations. As part of the centralized deployment and management, admins can standardize time off reasons, scheduling groups, and shift settings across all frontline locations.
New support for Entra ID Shared Device Mode on iOS and Android
Previously, frontline workers who use Microsoft 365 applications on shared devices had to individually sign-in and sign-out of each application at the beginning and end of their shifts. This made it difficult for frontline workers to quickly start their shift and ensure their device was fully wiped when they gave the device to another employee.
To address this challenge, Microsoft developed Entra ID Shared Device Mode that allows a user to sign-in and sign-out once for all apps that support the feature. And when used with Intune’s Application protection policies, you can provide additional data protection so other parts of the device do not leave data behind.
On Android, we have previously shared that the core apps including Microsoft Teams, Managed Home Screen, Outlook, Edge, Viva Engage, and Power Apps have general availability support for Shared Device Mode. Joining the portfolio of supported Android apps, Power BI will be generally available and Microsoft 365 will be in public preview starting December.
We know many customers also use shared Apple devices and we are excited to unlock key scenarios on iOS. We are announcing the general availability of Intune zero-touch provisioning of Entra ID Shared Device Mode on iOS and iPadOS as well as additional iOS apps support. In addition to Outlook, Power Apps, and Power BI in public preview, Microsoft 365 will be in public preview starting December. Viva Engage will now be generally available and Microsoft Teams and Power BI will be generally available starting December.
Simplify authentication with domain-less sign-in on Microsoft Teams
Since a single device is often shared among multiple frontliner workers, they need to sign-in and out multiple times a day throughout a shift or across shifts. Typing out the long username with domain is prone to mistakes and time consuming. With domain-less sign-in, frontline workers can now sign-in to Teams quicker using only the first part of their username (i.e., without domain), then enter the password to access Teams on shared and corporate-managed devices. For example, if the username is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, users can now sign in with only “123456” or “alland”, respectively. This feature will reduce sign-in time to help frontline workers get to work faster and be available in public preview starting January 2024.
Connect and engage your workforce
Communication on the frontline can be difficult to reach the right people at the right time. We created a foundation of communication that applies to every worker with capabilities like chatting and calling. But we have also built specific frontline capabilities natively in Teams like push-to-talk communication for them to do their work, their way.
Walkie Talkie in Teams: listen to multiple channels and new headsets support
Frontline workers using Walkie Talkie in Teams will have the option to automatically hear incoming transmission from any of their pinned favorite channels. With this new feature, users can easily stay connected to multiple channels without needing to switch channels manually. This feature will be generally available starting January 2024. Learn more on how to get started.
Walkie Talkie support on Jabra Perform 45 and all Klein wired push-to-talk USB-C Headsets
In addition, frontline workers often need to instantly communicate with each other even when their phones are locked. This experience is possible with the dedicated push-to-talk (PTT) button on headsets that instantly brings up Walkie Talkie for clear and secure voice communication. We are excited to add Jabra Perform 45 support on both Android and iOS as well as all Klein wired push-to-talk USB-C headsets (such as Drift USB-C) support on Android to our frontline walkie talkie audio accessories ecosystem.
Learn more about Walkie Talkie and check out the list of walkie talkie rugged devices and audio accessories partners. For any other partners interested to be validated by Walkie Talkie in Microsoft Teams, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
These new capabilities create a secure, simple, and smart workplace for the frontline workforce, so they can spend less time trying to access the right information, people, and processes to do their work and more time on meaningful work like delivering great customer service and operational excellence. Want to see all this innovation in action and headed to Ignite in person? Come check out our frontline session.
Missing Ignite this year? Don’t worry, we will link to the on-demand session starting November 20th so check back here!