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Chat Apps in Microsoft Teams

Dan Paquette

2 min read

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This is part of a series on Microsoft Teams. My last post delved into the platform’s collaboration features. In today’s entry I discuss a feature that was never widely adopted with Skype for Business, Chat Apps in Microsoft Teams.

When Microsoft released Teams two years ago, it re-branded the space in which its collaboration tool lives, changing the name from “Unified Communications” to “Intelligent Communications.” A significant piece of this re-branding has to do with the automated processes that can read and react to the chat stream of a Team (as in the group using the software, not the program itself.)

These automated processes, called apps or chat bots, monitor the content of chats within each Team’s chat stream and act based on what they see. This premise of chat bots is purposely vague and the potential for what they can do is wide open. 

Some examples of what chat bots can do:

  • Keep simple tabs of points for tasks done by team members, allowing managers to see at a glance who the most productive members of a team are.
  • Add tasks to a running list of outstanding tasks to streamline project management.
  • Monitor a Team chat for questions and provide answers based on a reference document. Our own CTO, Marcus Bluestein, for instance, created a chat bot that lets Kraft Kennedy employees query our HR handbook using natural language.
  • Monitor chats and kick off processes in Microsoft Flow or PowerBI. In this way, you could control custom-created work flows with input taken from the Teams chat stream.

These processes work by parsing the text in the channel’s chat stream. They often use keywords to make it easy for them to find what they’re supposed to do. In this way, they are similar to the way you engage your Google Home or Amazon Echo devices by saying their respective keywords,“OK Google” and “Hey, Alexa.” In other implementations, they assume everything in the channel is meant for them and respond to every chat.