This week’s Microsoft 365 announcements, which have a focus on FirstLine workers – that’s the retail, construction, field workers and other people who are outside the office and at the “front line” of the business.

Top Announcements from the week

Walkie Talkie for Microsoft Teams – this is the long-anticipated “Push to Talk” feature. This is really interesting – it’s touted to reduce the number of devices staff need to carry, but it meets that need where people don’t want to create a Teams call or ongoing meeting but need to send a message to all relevant people, say, in a channel. Apparently, this is coming to private preview for some customers in the first half of the year.

Tasks in Teams was announced at Microsoft Ignite and the announcement today is how Microsoft will allow organizations to target those tasks to people – think directing tasks to more than just an individual, but perhaps a retail chain targeting tasks for a new product launch to groups of people across different stores in different areas. They’ll also be able to track these tasks using real-time reporting as well – and people who’ve had the tasks assigned will get a prioritized list.

Microsoft has also announced integrations for Shifts. This isn’t necessarily a major announcement, as Microsoft had said the APIs will be there for vendors to integrate with. But to kick-start this, a connect for JDA has been published as open-source to GitHub, and they’ll be publishing a Kronos connector, before April this year.

One thing announced by Microsoft yesterday was SMS sign-in and shared device sign out. What’s good here is some detail and screenshots of what this looks like – but these were announced, back at Ignite, and, well – SMS sign-in looks as you might expect – login with your phone number, then you’ll get an SMS code to sign-in with. Think of how you might sign-in to a service like WhatsApp when you install it on a new phone.

Shared Sign-Out is aimed at Shared Devices – I think this is similar to functionality previously announced to make it easy for Firstline workers to sign-out from all services on a device at once, but this use case is for something like an iPad, or tablet where they then place it back in a holder after their shift is over so someone else can use it easily.

This will certainly be important to people in some European countries, where working time regulations are strictly enforced – off-shift controls to Teams. If we’ve using a BYOD device type scenario, then when someone is off-shift, they won’t be able to access Teams. This is a bit like those old controls in Active Directory, or even Windows NT for controlling user login hours – but without that expectation that people sign-out and sign-in every time they go into an app. Instead, they’ll see a message saying they aren’t authorized to use the app. Admins get a bit of control around this – from the look of it – so that if someone does really want to go in, you can choose if they can, but a warning – such as “you won’t get paid!” will be shown.

Hidden in the announcement is a new feature that’s quite a big one, called Delegated User Management. This gives a new portal – where managers can deal with identity issues, like managing password resets, enabling SMS sign-in and so on. It would be a niche use case for office workers (and potentially still managed by AD delegation, for those edge cases) but certainly makes sense here where a manager might need to reset access for someone coming on shift – or disable access very quickly.

Finally in the M365 announcements this week we’ve got a new integration for Identity and Access Management. This is called inbound provisioning from SAP SuccessFactors. This is an HR system for managing employees – similar to Workday and others that benefited from integrations. What this will do is allow SuccessFactors to provision identity and manage identity directly to Azure AD.

Learn more here:

Fluid Framework preview is starting to roll-out

If you are a developer today, then this will be of interest – it’s rolling out in preview to tenants using a targeted release, but even if you are not, then you can try this out for yourself, and create and edit fluid framework files at today.

We’d recommend visiting the blog post from Microsoft to learn more and having a play yourself. It’s an interesting concept. Of note though is that as yet – there’s apparently limited support for aspects like discovery, retention, and classification.

Office Scripts for Excel is launched into Preview

In short- think Macros for the modern office. Office Scripts allows you to record scripts to automate tasks within Excel to make your life easier. You can use – and this is web-based, in Office Online – the recorder to record the steps you perform, edit the underlying code that’s generated, export it as well if needed, then run the script. This will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks to E3 and E5 tenants and provide a new Automate tab to Excel on the web, but needs to be enabled in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

Message Center Updates

MC199540 – Intune In Development for January has been published. Some key new features coming include the ability to add proxy server settings to wifi profiles for android at work, always on VPN for iOS devise using IKEv2, block certain Android devices by manufacturer (maybe you only want Samsung devices, for example) and if you are deploying applications to Windows devices, a new option to require a restart for certain apps. There’s a whole lot more, published here:

MC199562 – Outlook for iOS now supports, along with S/MIME, the automated deployment of certificates. The caveat for this is that it’s for enrolled devices in Intune.

MC199563 – If you use Windows 10 sticky notes, then you’ll see a new experience with the “Notes” folder in Outlook for the Web. In here, you’ll see – in all their coloured and formatted glory, your Sticky Notes. Of course, if you don’t want this – you can block it – but users will still be able to create Sticky Notes locally. There’s some more information here:

MC199669 – tells us about a new feature for Power Automate. You’ll be able to create Flows – or rather, Power Automates, for approvals of Hub Site joins. This will be useful for intranet administrators. This is rolling out to all customers, now.

Microsoft 365 Roadmap Updates

58135 and 60109 – Outlook for iOS and Android will both follow the same privacy controls, for where they send diagnostic data as other Office 365 apps, like Office 365 Pro Plus. This is planned to roll-out this month but is in development right now.

60191, planned for February, changes the behavior for adding content from not just Bing Image Search, but also Youtube Videos. As an Admin, you’ll then be able to stop users adding YouTube videos into forms – but they’ll be able to add videos from Stream.

About the Author

Steve Goodman

Technology Writer and Chief Editor for AV Content at Practical 365, focused on Microsoft 365. A 12-time Microsoft MVP, author of several technology books and regular Microsoft conference speaker. Steve works at Advania in the UK as Field Chief Technology Officer, advising business and IT on the best way to get the most from Microsoft Cloud technology.

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