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Q&A: Enhancing Office 365 Collaboration via Microsoft Teams Extensions

When Microsoft Office 365 users need to communicate or collaborate, they turn to their built-in teamwork hub, Microsoft Teams. It handles chat, calls and meetings in today's enterprises where collaboration is becoming more important across widespread workforces.

Those interactions include Skype meetings with HD video, VoIP, and dial-in audio conferencing options; sharing of files, apps or desktop in online meetings; and reviews of important moments later via transcriptions of recorded content, among many more features.

To enhance those capabilities, developers can create extensions that leverage Tabs, Bots, Connectors and other rich capabilities of Teams to improve the user experience.

"Microsoft Teams fosters collaboration amongst a group, and the collaboration can be augmented with automation."

Paul Schaeflein, enterprise architect and Microsoft MVP for Office Development

To help enterprise developers do just that, Paul Schaeflein, an enterprise architect at DMI (Digital Management LLC) and Microsoft MVP for Office Development, is leading a full-day, hands-on lab at the upcoming Live! 360 conference in Orlando, Nov. 12-17 in Orlando, Fla.

The lab -- titled "Developing Extensions for Microsoft Teams" -- will show how to extend Teams by building Bots and Connectors, as well as extending the UI with custom Tabs.

"The Teams extensibility options allow developers to bring their application to the place that users are already interacting," the lab description says. "No need for switching between windows and multiple sign-ins. This hands-on lab will provide the opportunity to learn about and build each of these types of extensions. In addition, the modules will cover authentication and integration techniques."

To learn more about Teams and the upcoming lab, we caught up with Schaeflein to ask him some questions.

What are the most popular features and customizations that developers might be asked to add into Microsoft Teams?
While this is a natural question, the best way to approach the task is to consider what information or events happen in a system used by a common set of users that can be solved collaboratively? Microsoft Teams fosters collaboration amongst a group, and the collaboration can be augmented with automation. Events can be surfaced via a Card, with many different layouts available. And a bot can engage a user in natural language conversation to find and resolve questions.

What are some the exciting features people might not know about yet in Microsoft Teams?
Deep linking in tabs. If something of interest happens in the group, a connector or bot can insert a card with a link that takes the user to a tab that shows the specific information relative to the event.

What aspects of developing for Microsoft Teams will your hands-on workshop focus on?
The workshop will cover all aspects of Microsoft Teams integration: Tabs, Bots, Cards and Actionable Messages.

What is your top tip for developing for Microsoft Teams?
Context is key. A tab or bot is added to a group -- what does that group do? Resist adding noise to the group, rather ensure that information is relevant.

What other resources do you recommend for developers interested in working on Microsoft Team extensions?

Note that according to the conference site, lab attendees need to bring their own laptop and must have an Office 365 tenant account with Teams enabled. Interested developers can go here to get a developer tenant. A Microsoft Azure subscription will also come in handy, and you can get that for free here.

About the Author

David Ramel is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine and Application Development Trends Magazine.

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