Microsoft Teams / Skype for Business coexistence and interoperability

For some time now Microsoft has made no bones about the fact that Microsoft Teams is the future replacement for Skype for Business (S4B).  In fact there isn’t much you can do in S4B that isn’t already in Teams today.

By default, you have S4B and Teams side by side and most organizations don’t change this at the onset.  Fortunately Microsoft has now published an article to Understand Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business coexistence and interoperability that can explain all the options on how this can work.  Note that best practices recommend a controlled rollout of Microsoft Teams, once a usage guidelines and governance strategy has been defined for the organization.

The issue that most organizations have is how to migrate their users over to Teams.  The default situation means that most users will continue to use S4B until they find the people they want to communicate with are already communicating on Teams.  At that point they will use both until all the people they communicate with are migrated.

This is generally okay as most organizations want some pilot or leading edge users to try it out before migrating everyone.  The trick here is that you may want to control who has access to Teams until you are confident or comfortable enough to migrate everyone.  This means a controlled rollout of Microsoft Teams, a topic intimately tied to how you manage Office 365 Groups and has been discussed and documented well in the last year.  Once the pilot is complete, then you can formalize a migration plan consistent with the usage guidelines and governance strategy.

QnA Maker

Bots and AI are all the rage these days as the next technologies promising to improve productivity, build efficiencies and capabilities that don’t exist today, change how humans engage with technology, and change the world.

You can see these technologies in play today in Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana.  These technologies have been integrated into laptops, tablets, and phones.  These same technologies have also spawned whole new families of consumer devices such as the Amazon Echo and other personal assistant devices.  These Bots and AI will eventually be deeply integrated in every device, application, and service.

The most basic and common use of bots has been developing Question and Answer solutions, such as Knowledge Base information and FAQs.  You often see this in adds for the new class of personal assistant devices…”Alexa, what’s the weather tomorrow?”, “Google, who won the Super Bowl?”, “Siri, how far is the north pole?”.  In these cases, the knowledge bases are Search Engine results, which are queried, indexed based on relevance, and read/written back to the user.

The thing about bots is that they can outperform a search engine. Search engines don’t generally give you answers to questions. They give you the source of the answer to your question. You still have to read through the sources to find the answer.  A bot, on the other hand, can actually answer the question directly, providing a link to the source for reference.

As for Office 365 and other Microsoft applications and services, they released the Bot Framework for developers to integrate into their applications.  The first service that Microsoft natively integrated bots into was Microsoft Teams (using a variation of the Bot Framework). Rest assured that it wouldn’t be long before they are integrated into all of Office 365 and other Microsoft products (including SharePoint on premises) for basic application and service based questions.

What’s most important to businesses (i.e. Office 365 customers) however is that bots will allow employees to add frequently used, business relevant and critical knowledge bases to Office 365 (including Teams, SharePoint, Outlook, etc.).  This can all but solve the age-old findability problems for most of their business-critical content, resources, and other assets without employees taking the time to search and identifying relevant results.  This is a game changer for most businesses as they can see huge productivity gains!

Up to now, implementing the Bot Framework or bots into Office 365 requires a developer to implement a bot.  This is why most organizational bot development examples thus far have been FAQs.  Although developing bots allow for big capabilities and potential for business beyond Question and Answer problem, it is a too common use case to need development efforts at each organization.  Microsoft has recognized that re-inventing the wheel here for every organization isn’t wise and has come out with the “QnA Maker” (in preview) to address this common need.  It also allows organizations to start building bots without needing development projects.

With the QnA Maker, the time-consuming part is populating the list of questions and answers to start. Once it’s set up, it’ll be smooth sailing. And you’ll save massive amounts of combined searching time within your organization.

QnA Maker

I first learned about the ‘QnA Maker’ from the good people at BIZZY.  They have SPFx solutions to integrate bots into SharePoint Online, take a look…

Starting Microsoft Teams conversation on items from SharePoint list

For as long as I remember, users have been asking for the ability to have conversations on SharePoint list items and documents.

And for years we have had not so good hacks to get this to work…Wiki Pages, Appending Comment Fields, Lookup Lists, SharePoint Newsfeed, Yammer, 3rd Party tools and Apps, and a ton of other kludgy solutions.

Finally Microsoft Teams comes to the scene and all of a sudden, you can have a conversation and tag a document from SharePoint or even embed the document in a conversation…Hallelujah!

But wait…What about SharePoint list items???

Well we still don’t have a simple coherent out of the box solution just yet.  However it looks like Microsoft didn’t ignore the problem.  It’ll take a little work, but a coherent solution is now here…

Starting Microsoft Teams conversation on items from SharePoint list

Best practices for user feedback methods in Microsoft Teams

The adoption of a new collaboration experience is about changing the behavior of your users. Human change requires training, encouragement and positive examples. It is also critical for people to feel heard during the transition.

See also…