Microsoft Office 365 is already used by millions of executives, managers and rank-and-file employees at their desks and increasingly on the move. Now, with its new Microsoft 365 F1 Enterprise plan, the software giant is targeting deskless, or so-called "firstline, workers, the folks on factory floors, in restaurants and countless other hands-on working environments.
"Firstline Workers comprise the majority of our global workforce. Numbering two billion people worldwide, they are the people behind the counter, on the phone, in the clinics, on the shop floor, and in the field," said Bryan Goode, general manager of Microsoft Office 365, in a Sept. 25 announcement timed with the company's Ignite conference in Orlando, Fla. "They are often the first to engage customers, the first to represent a company's brand, and the first to see products and services in action."
Although data is often said to be the lifeblood of modern business, it's usually the firstline workers who keep its heart pumping and engaged with the marketplace. "They form the backbone of many of the world's largest industries, and without them, the ambitions of many organizations could not be brought to life," continued Goode.
Replacing the Secure Productive Enterprise product bundle, Microsoft 365 plans include Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). The new F1 offering provides additional functionality that enables businesses to manage and train their employees, and generally keep them in the loop using a variety of productivity and collaboration tools.
Using Microsoft Stream (formerly Office 365 Video), businesses can distribute instructional videos, role-based content and onboarding materials to their workforces, said Goode. Microsoft Stream is an enterprise video platform with built-in intelligence, including face detection and speech-to-text transcribed audio.
To improve collaboration and help firstline workers feel like they are a part of their business communities, Microsoft 365 F1 supports Skype Meeting Broadcast, a version of the communications software that supports interactive townhall-style webcasts. The messaging capabilities in Yammer and Teams allow employees to share ideas, trade feedback and find best practices across an organization.
StaffHub, a mobile-friendly shift-management tool that allows users to trade shifts and keep tabs on their work schedules, will soon allow users to clock in and out of their shifts. The app also now features integrated messaging using Teams, Microsoft's answer to Slack and modern chat-based group collaboration solutions.
Of course, organizations may have a tough time capitalizing on these capabilities if their employees don't have devices to run them on. In that regard, Microsoft was joined by HP, Acer and Lenovo in debuting affordable commercial Windows 10 S devices with prices starting at $275. (Microsoft's own Windows 10 S device, the Surface Laptop, starts at $999.)
In October, HP plans to release the Stream 14 Pro ($275), a slim 14-inch laptop powered by Windows 10 S. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Acer plans to release the 14-inch Aspire 1 ($299) and the 13-inch Swift 1 ($349). Finally, in February 2018, Lenovo will ship its 14-inch V330 laptop ($349).