- A slate of updates aimed at easing adoption for front-line workers is coming to Microsoft 365, the company announced last week. Once deployed, the updates will give workers access to a walkie-talkie-like system built into Microsoft Teams, improved access management features and real-time task tracking.
- To streamline access and protect the privacy of front-line workers, the new features will allow for shared device sign-out. Instead of remembering login data, users can get a one-time password sent to their mobile phones.
- The majority of updates will begin rolling out in the first half of the year, Microsoft said in the announcement. Ikea and Mattress Firm are among companies whose front-line employees currently have access to Teams.
Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack are a modern knowledge worker's best friends. For front-line workers, especially those in task-oriented positions, some hurdles toward adoption remain.
The nature of the work among the two groups varies in needs and objectives. For example, rarely does a developer share a terminal with a peer who takes over at the end of their shift. But ultimately, the need for clear communication and a seamless workplace experience is consistent across any organization.
With the slate of updates, Microsoft is trying to engage the largely untapped group of front-line workers in an effort to expand its presence in the organizations it serves.
The functionality updates to Microsoft Teams "has been long overdue," according to Leif-Olof Wallen, research VP at Gartner, in an interview with sister publication CIO Dive. However, changes such as improved identity access management are a "much needed first step" in order to address the specific needs of the underserved market.
To some extent, Microsoft's interest in front-line worker needs is a response to a shift in workplace dynamics.
"A lot of manual activities are moving either to robotic process automation or physical robots, which frees up time from human front-line workers to do higher value tasks," Wallen said. One example is increased engagement with customers, which requires better access to information.
At Mattress Firm, the mattress retailer with 2,500 locations in the U.S., the shift to Microsoft Teams responded to an organic adoption of communication platforms from front-line employees, said Jon Sider, CIO at Mattress Firm, in an interview with CIO Dive.
"What I wanted was to give them an easier way to collaborate and communicate from the front lines with the other stores so they can feel better connected to the company and share in best practices," Sider said. "There's so much they don't have the ability to do because they only see the same one or two [workers] in a given week."
Mattress Firm began using Microsoft Teams in the fall. Two key improvements are so far making the case for Teams: the ability to have an up-to-date group chat between district stores and an active directory of leadership hierarchy.
The shift to 365, a cloud-based platform, was also part of a broader push away from data centers.
"We have these 2,500 islands and we wanted to better connect them," said Sider.
Getting the whole company engaged with Teams is a work in progress for Mattress Firm — whose workforce of 8,500 includes some 6,700 front-line workers — but 60% of their salespeople have already downloaded Teams' mobile app on their phones.