Microsoft has recently brought Priority Notifications to Microsoft Teams. With that, comes the ability for users to mark messages as important or urgent.
There are a number of good use cases for priority notifications – particularly when something is time-sensitive and needs to be dealt with quickly.
Whilst marking messages as important has been around in email for years – and often ignored by recipients – urgent notifications are much harder for people to see and forget about. This makes it useful for industries that employ first-line workers, retail and healthcare in particular.
Priority notifications are enabled by default in Microsoft Teams and your users will begin to see it in their Teams clients. We’ll talk more about what to do about that later in the article, but first we’ll take a look at Priority Notifications and how they look and feel.
You can create a new Priority Notification by starting a new normal message to a colleague. When you create a message, hit the exclamation mark icon to pop up the Priority Notifications menu:
Important messages show with an exclamation mark and a red banner – apart from that, they aren’t too different from standard messages:
Urgent messages have the same characteristics, but also have a useful new feature. The recipient will be repeatedly notified every two minutes for twenty minutes until they read the message.
These even work on mobile, meaning that the recipient receives the same new message “ping” pop-up or mobile notification until it’s been read.
Where can you use Priority Notifications?
You can use Priority Notifications in both Chats and Channels. Chats provide the ability to use both urgent and important messages – and can be used for not only 1-1 chats, but also Group Chats as well, making it easy to send an urgent notification to up to 100 people (at present). You can read more about Group Chats here.
In Channels, you can only mark messages as Important. This applies to both standard conversations and announcements, and includes replies, too. To find the option to mark a message as important in a Channel, select A and then choose B to see the option:
Priority notifications aren’t entirely free for all users, or at least they won’t be after the end of 2019.
E1, F1, A1 and Business Essentials plans get 5 urgent messages per month, while any users with E3, A3, E5 or A5 plans get unlimited messages.
Deciding who should be able to use Priority Notifications
Without either proper policies or guidance in place on when to use priority notifications, people will use them for the wrong reasons. Decided your request is really important? Send an urgent notification as well as an email. That’ll get it done!
Early feedback from people in organizations who have seen the feature has not been entirely positive, with people seeing priority notifications as another channel that will get used inappropriately as yet another way for some to try and get attention.
Just testing it out in the lab resulted in another case – once you use it then everyone else will want to give it a try…
Instead, it might be worth considering who should be able to use priority notifications and selectively enable it for those users.
Given the future licensing implications for First-line workers, this should indicate that managers of First-line workers – those who may be given E3 or E5 licenses – are the most likely core target for leaving Priority Notifications enabled.
If you have First-line workers who will also benefit from priority notifications (think “we’ve just had a rush of customer on the till on the second floor – can I get some assistance”) then specific user guidance needs to be created to ensure that they know they’ve only got five urgent notifications they can use in a calendar month, and therefore to use them sparingly. For many organizations, giving the guidance and having those limits available will give some comfort that it is unlikely to be widely abused by people in casual roles that might otherwise be tempted to abuse the feature.
For information workers and administrative staff, abuse of the urgent notifications functionality is unlikely to result in dismissal or even a strong talking to. That’s because often people in these roles do have important work to do that depends on others, and getting that work completed helps meet targets. And, as they’ll be granted unlimited urgent notifications, it’s ripe for over-use.
Therefore, you might want to consider speaking to the business to understand who should be able to send urgent notifications after explaining how the new functionality works. Example of roles that might be appropriate within the office environment include receptionists and contact centre staff, or people coordinating the work of others – people who need to get in touch with other people in a very time-critical role. Today, they might already have to repeatedly phone, email and message people they need in an urgent scenario before giving up – and this will help them become more productive and help the people they contact see that they are needed.
Other people who may have team or personal targets to achieve but wouldn’t use urgent notifications unless they have them might not be appropriate people to grant the ability to use urgent notifications to. Ask the business to consider who it will have a positive productivity impact to.
Updating Teams Messaging policies for priority notifications
If your organization has decided that enabling Priority Notifications for everyone isn’t for right now, then use Messaging Policies to disable the functionality.
You can configure Messaging Policies in the Microsoft Teams admin center. After logging in as an administrator, the messaging policies section will be default show a single Global (Org-wide default) policy.
Messaging Policies are used to control most aspects of what a user can do when sending messages or participating in conversations, so bear in mind changes here take effect across more than just priority notifications.
If you want to change the defaults for priority notifications, this is the policy to edit.
After choosing to edit the default policy, disable priority notifications by unselecting Let users send urgent messages using priority notifications, then save the policy:
In our testing, this won’t take immediate effect, so ensure you wait sufficient time before expecting the policy to roll out to users. After disabling priority notifications, the option to mark messages as important and urgent is entirely removed – not just urgent notifications:
Enabling priority notifications for certain users
If you want to enable (or disable) priority notifications for only a subset of users, you’ll need to create or edit a custom messaging policy.
To add a new custom policy, choose Add in the Messaging Policies section of the admin center:
Bear in mind you can only assign a single policy to users, so don’t create a policy just for priority notifications. Consider the persona (in UC language, not adoption language) of the people/role and what would group together common aspects that will form a messaging policy for them.
Therefore if you are creating a new policy for just one change – priority notifications – consider that this policy might be one you use in the future for enabling or disabling similar functionality, such as who should be able to use GIPHY messages in conversations.
In the example below, we’ve created a Power Users policy. The other options are set to match the Global Policy, except that we’ve enabled priority notifications:
After saving the policy, it should show as a custom policy alongside the existing Global policy:
To assign this to up to 20 users at a time, navigate to Users (A), then select a user (B) and choose Edit Settings (C):
When editing an individual user, select the Policies tab, then Edit:
You’ll then be able to edit the user’s policies. When selecting and editing multiple users, you’ll be taken directly to this screen. Select the custom messaging policy from the drop-down list, then choose Apply:
If you want to apply messaging policies to more users, check out our Using PowerShell to apply Messaging Policies to Teams users article for a detailed explanation.
Microsoft Teams provides an ongoing stream of new features and functionality. However, as manager of the service for your organization it’s up to you to examine new functionality and determine if it’s appropriate for everyone to use. In this article we’ve looked at priority notifications and examined what they do, provided some example uses for it and how to enable or disable the functionality for users.
Steve is a Microsoft MVP for Office Servers and Services. He enjoys getting hands-on, solving some of the more complex problems associated with migrating to the cloud or to newer versions of Exchange Server.