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Microsoft Teams app expands developer toolbox

Microsoft is giving businesses new tools for building custom integrations within the Microsoft Teams app. The vendor is also enhancing native ties between Teams and Office 365.

Microsoft unveiled a slew of new features to let businesses customize their use of the Microsoft Teams app. The vendor is tightening integrations between Teams and other apps in Office 365, while also making it easier for users to plug their business tools into Teams.

The vendor is releasing a new line-of-business app store where businesses will be able to upload custom-built apps for distribution within their organizations. A hospital, for example, could develop a program for managing shift changes and make it available to all of its Teams users through this new catalogue.

Microsoft is also changing the configuration of the Microsoft Teams App Studio so that the integrations developers build using it get stored in the cloud, rather than on local machines and clients. The studio, released in January in beta, helps developers build apps using the design language of Teams.

"It certainly seems that Microsoft wants Teams to be the app that's always open on your device, so opening it to further integration with an organization's internal applications and services only makes sense," said Jim Gaynor, a vice president of the consulting group Directions on Microsoft, based in Kirkland, Wash.

Microsoft broke the news this week at a conference for developers in Seattle. The vendor has been aggressively building out the features of Teams since announcing last fall that it would replace Skype for Business Online. It plans to add another batch of advanced meeting and calling capabilities to Teams by the end of next month.

Microsoft makes Teams integrations more useful

The vendor will soon release a developer preview of Adaptive Cards for the Microsoft Teams app. The interactive cards bring information from apps and bots directly into Teams messaging channels. Microsoft plans to add Adaptive Cards to other items in its portfolio as well, such as Outlook, Windows and Cortana.

The interactive cards will let users complete more tasks without having to leave the Teams client. They will also support simpler use cases, such as asking a bot for the weather and receiving a visually rich five-day forecast.

Microsoft is also enhancing native integrations between the Microsoft Teams app and Office 365 products like SharePoint and OneDrive. Users can now pin a SharePoint page to a Teams messaging channel. Soon, they will be able to upload documents to and download documents from OneDrive through one-to-one messaging with a bot.

Microsoft is trying to help Teams users get work done without toggling among multiple apps, said Wayne Kurtzman, analyst at IDC. To an extent, the vendor is playing catch-up with Slack, which already has more than 1,500 third-party integrations.

"The Microsoft Teams product is going to accelerate its app integration," Kurtzman said. "They have seen what others have done and they know what they have to do to create opportunities for collaboration."

Microsoft Graph APIs give admins more control

Microsoft Graph APIs for Teams will become generally available this summer. This will let administrators use Graph to create and delete teams and channels, and manage the permissions and settings within those spaces. The APIs will also help businesses manage their line-of-business applications and access the content of messaging channels.

The tools should be particularly helpful for big enterprises with a large number of Teams groups, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research. They also meet a market demand for better management controls within team collaboration apps.

"Our 2018 study on team collaboration found that obtaining business metrics from team apps, including message volumes, top talkers and team management, were the most widely demanded team collaboration management capabilities," Lazar said.

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