Category: Skype for Business

September 23rd, 2020 by Shakti Mb

WordPress is home to millions of sites across countless topics. It’s a big and beautiful world, and we want to make it easier for you to discover new voices. Over the past few months, the mobile team has been working hard to improve the experience of your WordPress Reader on the mobile app. In particular, we’ve been exploring different ways for you to discover new blogs and find inspiration.

The new Discover tab on your Reader will recommend blogs and posts based on topics you follow. These changes give you more control over what you see, making it easier for you to find interesting voices, while also giving you and your site the opportunity to find a bigger audience. 

How it works

Add appropriate tags and categories when drafting your blog posts — this helps us recommend your posts to the right audience. 

The topics you now see in your improved Reader are a combination of tags and categories. If you want to find interesting blogs, follow topics you care about. The Discover tab will then show you recommended blogs and posts based on those topics.

Each post on the Discover tab has a list of topics on top. If you want to go deeper into a topic, tap on it to see a feed of blog posts from that specific topic.

If you’d like to see more posts from a particular topic on your Discover feed, tap the Follow button from that topic feed.

Soon we’ll be rolling out improvements to posts on the Reader as well. To give blog posts more room to shine, the featured image will be more prominent. 

If you’d like to try the new Discover tab, make sure you update your WordPress app to the latest version. If you don’t have the app yet, you can download it for free, on both Android and iOS. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new experience. For specific feedback on the updates, reach out to us from within the app by going to My Site, tapping your photo on the top right, tapping Help & Support → and then selecting Contact Support.

Posted in Skype for Business

September 23rd, 2020 by Tom

My notes from Conversational AI powered Customer and Employee Virtual Assistants, delivered by Darren Jefford, Principal Group Program Manager , Microsoft

What is Conversational AI?

Mixture of out of box solutions, plus the individual components, such as Bot Framework and Cognitive Services.

Over 2.5 BILLION monthly messages sent using Bot Framework with over 500,000 developers! Big names including BBC and CDC.

What’s New

Bot Framework 4.10 – Update to Composer – now has QnA support, Orchestrator in Preview, investments in Virtual Assistant.

QnA Maker –  multi-turn support, rich text editing, role-based access control. Moving forward – more simplification around management of resources needed for QnA Maker

Language Understanding – new, much easier labelling experience

Azure Bot Service – Alexa channel in Preview, SSO Preview for WebChat and Teams (end users won’t be prompted to log in when using web chat / Teams), Adaptive Cards 2.0 brings new features, human handoff support

Composer Demo

Can now create from a knowledge base:

Why? Because you can then extend it after it’s built the template from the KB. Embeds the creation of the KB, creates the basic QnA experience you can then extend and customise:

Can also create from template, including a VA Core template. Makes it much easier to see what the VA bot is doing, and the utility functions it provides. Includes some interruption diaglog examples, which look really good (for example, why do you need my name).

Demo of bot storage for welcoming user, doing QnA pairs, lookup data via skill:

Orchestrator built into Composer and can be used as a Recognizer Type. Advantage over LUIS is it uses a transformer model – you just need to provide keywords for the domain. Means you can simply “wire up” a skill into your bot. That’s pretty cool!

Some nice changes coming to Composer to group together skills into a Bot Project, to make it easier to bring together multiple skills into one project:

 Integration with Power Virtual Agents

Will be able to launch Composer from P-VA, build a bot and then combine back into P-VA. Coming later this year.

Demo of Direct line and Alexa support. (see my blog post from earlier this year about Alexa Support)

WhatsApp integration from infobip via a special adaptor. Infobip WhatsApp Adapter for Bot Builder v4 .NET SDK

Investing significantly in a “new creation and management experience for Conversational AI built around the Virtual Assistant work”.

Telephony Capabilities – will be able to connect your bot to a telephone number

Posted in Skype for Business

September 23rd, 2020 by johnacook

Posted in Skype for Business

September 22nd, 2020 by johnacook

Posted in Skype for Business

September 22nd, 2020 by Brent Middleton

Help your organization continue its digital transformation journey with our webinar “3 Ways to Successfully Drive Office 365 Productivity and Change Management!”

Another year, another Microsoft Ignite, and another exciting keynote from Satya Nadella. During a year that’s been marked with misfortune and quarantine orders, there was a particular focus on how the Microsoft 365 ecosystem is continuing to help organizations around the world stay agile and safe under these unusual working conditions.

Building off of last year’s popular “tech intensity” theme, for Microsoft Ignite 2020 Satya shifted focus towards building digital resiliency as companies everywhere shift more towards online collaboration and remote production. The keynote went in-depth on the strengths of Microsoft Azure, GitHub, Power Platform, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365, and while we won’t be covering everything he discussed during his hour-long session, read on for a quick rundown of the highlights!

microsoft ignite 2020

Microsoft Azure

The keynote began with a surprise showcase featuring the most recent crown jewel of Microsoft’s Xbox division, Microsoft Flight Simulator. A stunning technical achievement and considered by many to be the first truly “next-gen” video game, Satya went over how such a gorgeous looking and ambitious piece of software could only be made possible through the power of Azure AI, Bing Maps, and spatial computing all coming together to create a whole virtual copy of the world. He then drove home the fact that this same tech stack can be applied to help businesses reach new heights.

Now available in 61 regions worldwide, Azure is being used across a wide variety of industries including medical, communications, energy, and more. Satya touched on the fact that:

Azure Arc extends Azure service to multiple clouds and data centers even in a fully disconnected state.

Azure SQL Edge brings the SQL data engine to IoT devices, supporting data streaming, storage, and AI across connected and disconnected environments.

Azure Sphere secures millions of NCU-powered IoT Devices.

Azure Orbital is taking the Azure infrastructure to space and will enable anyone to access satellite data and capabilities from Azure.

Developer Tools

Next up was Microsoft’s toolchain for developers: a combination of Azure, GitHub, and Visual Studio. GitHub has been instrumental in helping devs collaborate and build software together, while Azure allows devs to build cloud-native apps and modernize existing ones.

Azure communication services also allow every developers to bring rich communication APIs into their applications across any device/platform. This means the same infrastructure behind Teams is available to devs to add into their own apps.

Though Microsoft highlighted a fascinating NASA case study that’s worth viewing in the full, the more compelling case study came in the form of how the power of Azure AI is helping the customer service industry.

microsoft 365

GTP3’s natural language generation capabilities produce relevant, intelligible, and well-formed summaries and responses. In the context of a consumer assistant, it can understand customer requests and dynamically respond by referring to a knowledge bank of company resources and previous customer encounters. This assistant can then respond with the appropriate information, troubleshoot technical issues, surface links, or even ask for additional context like photos and videos of a faulty product.

The fact that this assistant can relay the general sentiment of the conversation, suggested remedies, similar case studies, and more when finally giving the reins to a human representative makes it invaluable for online customer service departments.

Power Platform

Moving on to Power Platform, Satya describes it as “the bridge between professional developers and citizen developers.” It’s a rapid application development platform that gives anyone the tools to create an application, build a virtual agent, automate a workflow, or analyze data.

One of the stand-out citizen dev use cases Satya highlighted involved a school principal who use Power Platform to create an app that helped manage teacher schedules so they adhered to safety guidelines during quarantine. Rather than use a constantly updating Word doc., Power Automate helped, well, automate the schedule approval process so no one fell through the cracks. It was a great showcase for how anyone can use the platform to create simple apps of consequence.

microsoft 365

Microsoft 365

Finally, Satya spent the most time homing in on why Microsoft 365 is the world’s productivity cloud. In a time when working remotely has become the norm across all industries, it’s been instrumental in helping people connect and collaborate no matter their surroundings.

The future of work and productivity is rapidly changing, and the core factors of this change are:


This is where Microsoft Teams shines. Teams focuses on the entire workflow before, during, and after meetings. It covers all the bases, from calls, chat, meetings, content collaboration, and enhanced business process workflows. Teams also helps connect you with customers via video meetings and webinars.


Later this year Microsoft is premiering a new learning application inside of Microsoft Teams that’ll allow organizations to integrate learning materials (i.e. tutorial videos from LinkedIn Learning) right into a central hub in Teams. The app will let managers assign and track learning progress and make it easy for employees to discover, share, and engage with learning content.

microsoft ignite 2020
A quick look at Virtual Commutes.


Emphasizing how stressful these days of quarantine and work from home orders are, Satya pulled statistics claiming that a third of remote workers say the lack of separation between work and life is negatively impacting their wellbeing. Furthermore, 30% say the pandemic has increased burnout, and video meeting fatigue has become more and more of an issue. So, Microsoft is bringing new well-being features and insights into Microsoft Teams.

Newly announced features like Virtual Commutes will provide structure for the remote workday while helping you feel accomplished once it’s time to sign out, and integrations with apps like the wildly popular Headspace can help employees make the most of their breaks and take the much-needed time to relax.

You can watch the full keynote (including Satya’s presentation on Dynamics 365) on the Microsoft Ignite 2020 website via this link as soon as the recording becomes available.

To keep up with all of our Microsoft Ignite 2020 coverage, be sure to subscribe to our blog!

Posted in Skype for Business

September 22nd, 2020 by johnacook

Posted in Skype for Business

September 22nd, 2020 by M365 Now News Feed
By Beth Schultz
Enters communications platform arena with newly unveiled Azure Communication Services, announces Dynamics 365 voice channel built on the platform.

Posted in Skype for Business

September 22nd, 2020 by Tom

Project Oakdale is (current) name for the low-code data platform technology which is built into Microsoft Teams and which can be utilised by Power Apps. It’s scalable, secure and included with Microsoft Teams. It was first announced at Microsoft Inspire 2020 (when it was briefly called DataFlex).

This walkthrough is taken from the session OD241 – Build custom apps to drive productivity in the remote work world with PowerApps and Teams delivered at Microsoft Ignite. It’s the first time that I’ve seen Project Oakdale used to create something:

Apps are authored in the Power Apps (Preview) Teams App:

You can create a new app, choose the Team to install the app to, and provide it with a name.

Now, the interesting part. Click Create new table and provide a table name:

You can then add rows and columns to your table:

It’s very easy to add different columns and select different types for each one. Here’s the list:


There’s an interesting/pleasing blend of data and UI in the ability to specify that a column has options, choose those options and also specify their name and colour:

You can also enter data via this grid.

Once you’ve entered the data, Power Apps will auto-generate a simple CRUD interface for you. Depending on your needs, this might actually be good enough for you – it’s a simple list/detail interface with edit and delete buttons:

Obviously, you could change this and make it look nicer, add some rules, or just use it as a starting point for something more complicated, but it’s nice that it’s a fully working application, and if you wanted to you could click the Publish to Teams button (top-right) and send the application straight to Teams:


Posted in Skype for Business

September 22nd, 2020 by Tom

These are my notes from the Microsoft Ignite session Build richer meetings experiences with Microsoft Teams apps using new meetings extensibility points

Different types of meeting extensibility points:

Pre-Meeting Context Setting

Bots can send messages and cards to the Meeting chat channel,
Tab-style webpage

During Meeting Experience

Developers can add side-content pane. Notice how the additional icon (PagerDuty in this case) is shown along the top next to the Raise Hand feature to let people switch to it: that’s pretty cool

Post Meeting Experience

Bot Channel Chat, Tab-style webpage

Look out for examples of this experience coming from some selected partners:

How it works

for tabs, need to specify the groupchat scope:

Then, the context defines where your tab will show:

The various options for context (and you can have more than one are):

  • channelTab: a tab in the header of a team channel.
  • privateChatTab: a tab in the header of a group chat between a set of users not in the context of a team or meeting.
  • meetingChatTab: a tab in the header of a group chat between a set of users in the context of a scheduled meeting.
  • meetingDetailsTab: a tab in the header of the meeting details view of the calendar.
  • meetingSidePanel: an in-meeting panel opened via the unified bar (u-bar).

To try and make it less confusing:

Before a meeting: meetingChatTab
During a meeting: meetingSidePanel  (this makes it show during the meeting, and also signifies to the App Store that the app is “Optimised for Meetings”)
After a meeting: same as before meeting

Dialogs in Meetings

Separate to tabs, a way of surfacing content or getting feedback during the meeting:

Done by sending a POST call as part of the Teams Client SDK and Bot SDK:   POST /v3/conversations/{id}/activities:

New field externalResourceURL which specifies what to show. This is the same as a regular Task Module, using the same technology.

Different Experiences for Different Roles

(see Roles in a Teams meeting)

Attendees can’t add/remove/uninstall apps in meetings. Same for Guest/Anonymous.

New Graph call:
which will tell you the role of the participant in that meeting

Can get all these things from Tab SSO, Teams Client SDK or the Bot:

Also, new way to get these: FrameContext:

Admin Controls

New settings for controlling whether an anonymous user can interact with apps. By default it is turned ON:

Meetings Apps are also controlled by the normal App Policies that govern other Teams apps.

Note: only Organiser and Presenters can remove/uninstall apps.

More Resources

Read the technical documentation:

Review a sample app: Meeting Token Generator app

Get help designing your app with design guidelines:

Posted in Skype for Business

September 22nd, 2020 by MicrosoftTeamsTeam

As our world looks to respond, recover and reimagine the way it works, the Firstline Workforce and the IT teams who support them have proven to be the essential force behind business continuity. Firstline Workforces and IT teams keep businesses moving forward during times of crisis and lead the charge to transform the way we work across many industries.

They are the reason grocery stores stay open and transform to accommodate curb-side pick-up; the reason hospitals keep running and evolve in-person health consults into virtual ones; and how manufacturing continues to create essential products like face masks and transform operations.


Three macro challenges emerge when we listen and learn from customers about their new normal.

  1. The need for better communication, transparency and the ability to foster culture from corporate headquarters to Firstline Workers, and within teams on the ground, is changing from a nice-to-have to a must have.
  2. There is an accelerated need to digitally transform processes that were manual or occurred in-person.
  3. Working conditions have become unpredictable; the need for tools that keep Firstline teams and operations agile and everyone informed is essential for fluctuating working conditions like unexpected locations closing.

We see your Firstline workers and IT admins as the heroes of your business, and we would like to talk about how Microsoft Teams enables you to overcome these challenges.

The need for communication and connection with Firstline Workers has long been on customer minds, but the rapid response required to address shutdowns created by COVID-19 has put a spotlight on this gap. Customers also realize the importance of culture for job satisfaction and the need to make employees feel more connected to the organization and to each other.

Within a Firstline team, employees are facing new protocols that make connecting with each other more challenging throughout their everyday work. Walkie Talkie, a push-to-talk experience that enables clear and secure voice communication over the cloud, enables teams to communicate instantly and always stay on the same page. This native built-in app in Teams turns employee or company-owned Android smartphones and tablets like the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro into a walkie-talkie, reducing the number of devices employees must carry and lowering costs for IT.


Customers who currently use analog radio devices no longer need to worry about static, crosstalk, interference from outsiders or traditional radio distance boundaries as Walkie Talkie works over WIFI or cellular data. For Firstline teams not yet enabled with a push-to-talk experience, Walkie Talkie in Teams enables instant team communication with pre-configured channels set to have the right conversation with the right people.

Walkie Talkie is not pre-installed. To enable this feature for users in your organization, you need to add Walkie Talkie to the App Setup Policy assigned to users from the Teams Admin Center. Once enabled, Walkie Talkie will become available on the Android app within 48 hours. This feature will be generally available alongside purpose-built devices from BlueParrott, Klein Electronics, and Galaxy XCover Pro on Sept 22nd , learn more here.


To take the guesswork out of knowing the name of on-shift staff when users need to quickly relay information, Tagging by Shifts allows messages to be targeted to groups based on the shifts they are working on, such as all nurses currently on duty. Users are automatically assigned to tags matching their schedule in the Shifts app in Teams, which allows for integration with major workforce management systems, including AMiON, BlueYonder, and Kronos.


Tagging by Shifts is on by default and enabled by Team Owners by creating shift groups and naming them after an attribute such as a role, which will be the name of the tag. Then assign shifts to team members and share the shift schedule with your team. IT can disable this feature in the IT admin center. Tagging by Shifts will be generally available in November.



The need to engage your Firstline Workers with company-wide announcements that employees can access anywhere is important to create transparency within the company. With Yammer notifications in Teams activity feed, available later this year, teams using the new Yammer Communities app in Teams will be able to receive Yammer notifications in the Teams activity feed and on your mobile lock screen. You can also find Yammer conversations using the Teams search bar so that large scale announcements and updates can reach all employees within Microsoft Teams mobile, desktop, and browser experiences.

yammer notifications in teams.png

Yammer notifications in Teams activity feed will be available this year, to learn more


As the world continues to applaud Firstline Workers for the jobs they are doing, internal steps to engage, recognize and appreciate employees go a long way to improve job satisfaction and promote a positive work culture. Customizable Praise Badges provides the ability to customize Praise badges to express a company’s culture and values in celebration of every success and foster greater comradery during a time of disconnect.


Customizable Praise badges will be GA in September. Learn more here.



The acceleration of digital transformation arose from travel restrictions, capacity limitations and more safety protocols around manual processes across all industries. Whether it is expert assistance in a manufacturing plant, virtual store walks in a retail store or patients being able to visit their doctor - processes are changing from what was normal in the past.

Processes that normally would have been transformed over 2 years have accelerated and are transforming in a few weeks. And this transformation has allowed companies to work in ways never available before, enabling new ways to scale the once in-person work. For example, through an integration between Teams and RealWear head-mounted devices, field workers can get virtual expert assistance while remaining 100% hands-free using a voice-controlled user interface while maintaining situational awareness in loud and hazardous environments.


To enable this feature for users in your organization, you need to add Microsoft Teams to devices via the RealWear Foresight platform. This feature will be generally available in late September.


With more technology in the hands of your shift workers, the need to make sure you comply with labor regulations while also digitally empowering your workers is essential. With off-shift access controls, IT administrators can now configure Teams to alert employees when they are accessing the app on their personal device outside of working hours. The feature prompts employees to accept that they will not be getting paid for time spent on Teams to ensure employees are not involuntarily working while not on shift and helps employers to comply with labor regulations. The feature does not require active usage of the Shifts app, but it does require Shifts being configured and schedule data being inside the app, including workforce management API connectors like Kronos, BlueYonder and more.


This feature is not enabled by default but must be enabled through PowerShell. This feature will be generally available in October.



With manual processes becoming more strained in current conditions, the need to be more efficient and cost-effective around approval processes has become even more important to keep businesses moving forward. Approvals in Teams makes it easy to request, approve or reject various requests. For example, a Firstline worker in manufacturing could request approval to confirm that a repair is completed correctly right from a chat conversation. It brings all your approval flows across the company in one place by seamlessly integrating Teams with over several systems using Power Automate, including ServiceNow, Dynamics, GITHUB, and more. Whether you need written acknowledgement from your manager, a formal authorization from a diverse group of stakeholders, or an official signature from a customer, approvals in Teams can be customized for your needs and leverage the capabilities of Adobe Sign and DocuSign to get e-signatures all in one place in our Approvals Hub natively in Teams.


This feature is enabled by default and will be generally available in October. E-signature features will be GA in November. Learn more here



Unpredictable working conditions seemed to hit the whole world overnight. Not only are locations fluctuating between being open or temporarily closed, but shift schedules and employees are as well, which has put a lot of pressure on managers and legacy processes to keep up.

The need for flexible and agile shift scheduling has become essential for keeping up with work fluctuations. With the new Power Automate Shifts connector, users can automate shift processes with triggers and actions, so managers save time and are more efficient with schedule management during times of increased pressure on shifts. With these new triggers and actions, a user can view all their Shifts in the calendar of their choice (such as Outlook), a manager can auto-approve shifts all at once and it also enables users to create Shifts templates of their own to meet the ever-fluctuating needs of their business.


The new triggers and templates will begin rolling out in September and are enabled in the Power Platform directory. Learn more here.


To further save managers time and reduce inaccuracies that can lead to employees not turning up for their shift during heightened pressures of work, Shifts schedule assistance alerts managers when a scheduling conflict occurs while they are creating shift schedules or approving a schedule change request.

This feature is on by default and requires no IT involvement as managers can turn it on or off as wanted. This feature will be generally available in October.



With fluctuations in the workplace, streamlining the onboarding process is important to maintain continuity in the business. With new custom policy packages, IT can now create custom policy packages and assign them to their Firstline workers and managers to get them onboarded quickly with the right policies for them and the business. Policy packages provide IT administrators with pre-defined policies and policy settings tailored for their Firstline workforce to create a simple, centralized, and consistent way to manage your Firstline workforce, no matter how big.

Now with Teams templates, you’re able to create effective teams faster and more easily than ever. Users can choose from common business scenarios, such as Onboarding and/or industry-specific templates, like Retail – manager collaboration and Organize a store. Each template comes with pre-defined channels, tabs, and apps. Administrators can also create custom templates for their organization, helping them standardize team structures, reveal relevant apps, and scale best practices. They can create these from scratch or use an existing template or team structure as a starting point, so Teams are set up for success at the beginning to keep business moving forward.


Custom team templates empower admins to create the right collaboration space for users in their organization. Learn more about creating a template from scratch, from an existing team, and from an existing template. Custom packages will be rolling out in October, learn more here.



With Microsoft Teams as your hub for communication and teamwork for your entire organization, we have the tools to help you overcome the new challenges you face today. Tools that keep you agile during fluctuating work conditions, digitally transform processes under pressure, and connect the entire workforce during a time when communication is no longer a nice to have, but now, essential.



To learn more about why it is important to empower your Firstline Workforce, read this Harvard Business Review Analytics Service Report.

Posted in Skype for Business