Teams Extensibility

November 21, 2017 Lavayna Murthy

Constant innovation has become the new normal and is spurring the exponential and accelerating technology growth. Faster and shorter cycles of iteration are imperative to keep the platform evergreen, but equally important is the extensibility of the product. Extensible platform enables unique workflows and scenarios, eliminates context switching, and empowers users to interact and engage with their peers and be productive.

Microsoft Teams, a hub for teamwork in Office 365 has been garnering interest from organizations ever since it was announced. Teams a channel based app with historical persistent and threaded chat, files, real time media collaboration across all device form factors support modern workforce collaboration. Integration of Teams through Office graph that’s built around Office 365 users and their content differentiates Microsoft Teams from its competitors. Extensibility is incorporated into every aspect of Teams application to deliver a customizable hub for teamwork by democratizing the content from partner repositories, incorporating workflow, and enhancing the business productivity.

Teams integrates with several third-party services, there are more than 150 integrations available through an in-product store and more are coming soon. In addition to vast array of out of box integrations, custom integrations with a line of business app can be developed without a significant effort using the web standards like Webhooks and Markdown enabling organizations to ramp up a customizable collaboration tool by incorporating other platforms. Microsoft Teams has several extensibility features can be leveraged to enable team productivity within channels, personal productivity with an app fly out. Developers can leverage one of these extensibility features or a combination of the extensibility features.

Tabs
Tabs surface rich features and business logic within Teams. With tabs admins can bring the additional tools or data into Teams that users need most to interact with and avoid the user having to switch between the apps, for example a sales funnel for marketing or a list of outstanding tickets for a support team. Tabs also enables the users to have focused conversations around a content from a file or website. There are several Microsoft and third-party SaaS app tabs available out of the box with Teams and more are being added as partners publish their apps to Office Store. In addition to the several built-in tabs, developers can create tabs from scratch or adapt the existing web app with very minimal effort and rich functionality of personalization of content or service, deep linking, and support cross domains. Authentication for the custom tab can leverage Azure Active Directory or third-party authenticators for single sign-on.

Connectors and Actionable Messages
Connectors deliver content and updates from services that users frequently leverage directly into a channel. Microsoft Teams users can receive updates through connectors from popular services such as Twitter, Trello, Wunderlist, GitHub, and VSTS. The connectors are reusable between Teams and Office 365 Groups, allowing the same connectors to be used either in Office Groups formal team collaboration or Teams ad-hoc collaboration. For example, developers can quickly see the output from a test or a build running a continuous integration tool like Jenkins or a sales team can get its latest pipeline information from Salesforce. Custom connectors be created using simple Webhooks to integrate line of business applications. When an external application pushes data to a connector, the message is shown in the channel conversation list as card message. Users can click on links in cards and action buttons to access external content from inside Teams. Several third-party connectors are available in the office store and connectors can be manually configured in Teams as well.

Bots
Bots are automated programs that are set up to respond to queries or give updates and notifications. Bots allow users to interact with cloud services like task management, scheduling, and polling, through chat conversations with text or images in Microsoft Teams. In addition to the chat, bots also deliver rich actionable through interactive card approach for a more structured set of interactions between a user in Teams and an external application. Bots for Microsoft Teams are built on the Microsoft Bot Framework and take advantage of a range of cloud-hosted machine learning services for natural language parsing. Using Microsoft Cognitive Services developers can bring richness and sophistication to the bots beyond text or images. Bots developed by the community are available and custom bots can also be created for kicking off a company specific workflow, creating and launching virtual machines or subscribing to services.

Activity Feed (In Preview)
The activity feed in Microsoft Teams is the user’s summary pane for all activity across Teams. The feed aggregates important content from Teams channels, chats, apps such as likes, @mentions, replies to a comment, and tasks assigned. Developers can send personal (1:1 chat) messages into the feed as preview cards summarizing the app’s activity to engage an end user or drive attention to a task inside an app. The message can be deep linked, so that when the user clicks the preview the full message or object that triggered the notification, such as an entity in a tab is displayed.

Compose Extensions (In Preview)
Compose extensions appear along the bottom of the compose box in the conversations tab in a Team channel. A few are built in, such as Emoji, Giphy, and Sticker. More options (⋯) button reveals other compose extensions, including those added from the app gallery or sideloaded. Compose extension is a cloud-hosted service that listens to user requests and responds with structured data, such as cards and is intuitive to use and eliminates context switching for rapid collaboration. Integrate a service with Microsoft Teams via Bot Framework Activity objects or use the framework to add compose extension functionality to a custom app.

Reach out to New Signature if you want to up the ante of your Microsoft Teams rollout through extensibility features and create a customized hub of teamwork for your business.

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