Considering Microsoft Teams as a Platform – get started with App templates

In several foundational pieces I have written about Microsoft Teams as a Platform (disclosure). This post gets to some of the detail and focuses on a simple way to get started with use of App templates in Teams. This is a big focus of my work with customers at the moment and I give an overview of the App template library and then dive into two popular Apps.

Microsoft Teams App template library

You can find the library here: App templates for Microsoft Teams. From the start of that page I’ve pasted the two simple paragraphs that provide the best possible intro without needing to replicate it. Below these, I’ve added a few additional notes for consideration that are not easily discernible from the documentation.

App templates are examples of complete apps for Microsoft Teams that are open-source and available on GitHub. Each app template contains detailed instructions for deploying and installing that app for your organization. It also provides a sample app that you can install and begin using immediately. The complete source code is available too, which allows you to explore it in detail or fork the code and alter it to meet your specific requirements. All app templates are provided under the MIT License terms.

Key benefits

  • Deploy directly to the cloud: All app templates include deployment scripts that allows you to host all required services in Microsoft Azure or the Power Platform.
  • Recommended sample code: The app templates conform to recommended best practices around security and infrastructure. All community submitted changes to the app templates are reviewed to ensure conformance.
  • Customizable and extensible: While all app templates can be deployed with minimal configuration, we provide the entire code base and deployment scripts so that you can easily customize or extend them to fit your unique needs.
  • Detailed documentation: All app templates are accompanied by end-to-end documentation on solution architecture, deployment, and configuration steps.

Additional considerations

  • Costs: While the Apps themselves are free, many have cost implications in terms of where you host/run the App. As mentioned in the first line of benefits above, you can run them in Microsoft Azure or the Power Platform and this is where you may run into costs. But you are well prepared where this is the case as all the documentation on GitHub give clear indications and even samples of cost dependent on different use cases. Here is a cost example from the Company Communicator App.
  • Complexity. Some Apps are super simple. Others not so. You need to be aware of this especially in relation to your resources and skills capabilities. While App templates are Low/No-Code, for some of the more complex Apps that incorporate several Microsoft technologies (e.g. PowerApps + Power Automate + SharePoint Lists), the people running and deploying them need to have the right skills.
  • Adoption. While these Apps are all in principle very simple, that does not mean you can just deploy them and leave users to their own devices to learn as they go. At the very least some change management efforts should accompany the launch, especially for more complex Apps. Something like the Prosci ADKAR® Model in miniature, covering: Awareness; Desire; Knowledge; Ability and Reinforcement.
  • Fit: In case it wasn’t clear, below is a simple depiction of the full Microsoft Teams App Spectrum just so you can see where the template Apps fit in and why its a good place to start with if you want an App to to do a specific job but not start from scratch.

Company Communicator

You can find this App here. There is lots of documentation there and the GitHub pages so I wont repeat them. I’ll just add my own take below. Also at left is a video showing how Ernst & Young use it with their 300k+ employees.

This App allows you to effectively create and use a new comms channel in a platform (Teams) that many users are already present in.

It is especially relevant when you consider that existing channels might not be as effective (according to some research, as little as 3% of internal mails are read) or where attention has declined in other normal channels like an intranet. It can also be useful in specific circumstances, like reaching everyone with important messages at times of company change, crisis, new leadership, etc. I love this App because I spend my life in chat these day and where I get work done – so messaging me there allows me incorporate it into my flow nicely.

FAQ Plus

Click to enlarge

You can find this App here. This is a BOT with a twist. Here is my take.

The plus part comes into it when the BOT does not have an answer. Then you pass the query over to a human, an expert. This is a beautiful symbiotic relationship between machine and human. Watch the gif enlarged and you’ll see what the experience looks like from a users perspective.

The query passed on to experts gets logged in a Team set up for the experts. It resembles an issue ticket in a card which can be assigned to experts. Experts can be made up of a champions community and/or regular IT support staff. Follow the link above and you’ll get the experts view.

The knowledge base can be prepopulated with your own existing FAQ’s and you can manage this all through Microsoft’s QnA Maker. You can add to the knowledge base all from within Teams once a query passed on to experts has been resolved, thus building up your body of knowledge effectively.

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