Line-of-business apps overview
The Microsoft Teams developer platform makes it easy for developers to integrate their own line-of-business apps and services within Teams to add value, improve productivity, make decisions faster, provide focus (by reducing context switching), and create collaboration around existing content and workflows.
Teams line-of-business apps integrate the custom apps and services that your organization developed or create new capabilities to meet the needs of users that can’t be met via commonly available, off-the-shelf software or public Teams apps.
Teams provides a rich collaborative environment to drive your development in addition to a set of developer platform features to use to develop Teams line-of-business apps, which you can then simply roll out and manage for your enterprise through Teams.
What’s in it for me? What’s in it for my company?
Create enterprise-specific solutions for your users by integrating with your existing internal services and processes. Publish a Teams line-of-business app to your private app source, and follow up by using dedicated channels for feedback and resolving issues.
When you fully integrate an existing app or service into Teams, you can expect to reduce complexity in both development and testing by removing legacy browser compatibility requirements. This benefit is realized when Teams becomes the entry point for your app.
Does this support my organization’s digital transformation strategy?
Yes, Teams customers are engaging on their digital transformation journeys to transform the way that they do business. A key component of any business consists of the conversations that they routinely have as part of their daily work.
The modern Teams workplace is encouraging people to consider these conversations and explore how they can be turned into actions by bringing internal and external information into the hub of the conversation, and using that information to make decisions in a more informed and timely manner. There are over 200 “first-party” (created by Microsoft) and third-party Teams apps to use to enhance these conversations, but sometimes there’s a need for a custom app to leverage internal systems and data.
Teams line-of-business apps give you the opportunity to reimagine common, repetitive collaborative processes in which people have to get information from multiple systems before they can come to a conclusion, a conclusion that often needs to be discussed before it’s acted on.
Let’s look at two approaches that can be delivered through Teams line-of-business apps. (These are just examples; let your imagination and business needs guide your investigations!)
Acting on intelligent insights
Imagine one category of this type of conversational enhancement as “Acting on intelligent insights.” People are provided with insights from a number of internal and external sources via bots and connectors in a Teams channel or conversation, and then they discuss the most appropriate action and initiate a follow-up.
You can consider a number of sources where these insights might come from:
Microsoft Cognitive Services
Platform metadata (Azure)
Microsoft Graph (user interaction, usage, and so on)
Connection from external and internal systems
What actions can you then take?
Engage with humans (that is, have further conversation in the channel)
Trigger predefined workflows (Microsoft Flow)
Trigger Azure Automation events
Pass control sentences to another bot to execute the outcomes
In the following example, a team uses Azure sentiment analysis services via the bot framework to inform them about changes in customer sentiment.
Example: The marketing team has an Instant Response channel with a bot that uses the social media sentiment analysis approach described in this article. The bot pings the Instant Response channel to alert the team when customers are unhappy. The team collaborates quickly to create a response, which is then posted on Twitter via a connector, a bot, or a flow that has an approval chain.
Turn conversations into actions
We can imagine a second category of this type of conversational enhancement as “Turn conversations into actions,” where Teams extensions are used to create and package a Teams app that executes standardized actions from regular meetings or common processes.
Consider which internal processes in your organization would be enhanced if people were able to take direct action from within a conversation:
Real-time incident response
Weekly triage meetings
Example: Imagine a sales meeting support bot: a salesperson pings the bot with the customer name, and the bot interacts with a number of internal customer systems on the back end and returns a simple summary with the top 10 “top of mind” items. These might include sales figures, key contacts, customer sentiment, key blockers, opportunities, ice-breaker topics for conversation from social media, or news events relevant to the customer.
I already have line-of-business apps, why should my organization invest here?
One great place to start is to consider how much application and context switching are users of the current custom apps forced to undertake. We know that changing focus from one app to another takes time and can cause a person to lose focus on the task at hand.
Another area to consider is the daily discussions related to standard business items such as invoices, leads, tickets, or open job positions. You can bring these items into the Teams conversation via developer platform features so the conversation and the item are all in the same place.
You might consider two possible approaches:
If the current line-of-business apps have browser-based presentations, you can simply pin the pages in a channel, to give easy access to the apps that are part of a workflow and to drive conversation in Teams.
If the current line-of-business apps are used to gather information or data that is then summarized, why not create a bot that can interface with each app and return the summarized data in a single response or card into the channel? This way, the data will be accessible where it’s needed to support conversations, and to drive key decisions and next steps.
So where do I start?
Try the following high-level process to get you started:
Consider how Teams line-of-business apps can help your organization and understand how to develop them.
Engage with a target business unit and define one or two areas where this approach can bring benefit to your organization.
Envision, scope, develop, and test your Teams apps by using the guidance here.
Publish the Teams apps in your company store.
Review usage and drive feedback via a dedicated channel.
Evangelize and create an Ideas channel, where people see what can be done and can share, discuss, and prioritize ideas.
Here are some common examples to get you going:
DevOps for admins
Time and absence reporting
Support and information
New employee onboarding
Process and workflow
You can find a list of inspiring scenarios on the App Scenarios page.