Microsoft is serious about extending the reach of its Slack-like team chat collaboration application, Teams.
The software giant announced the availability of a new guest access feature on Sept. 11, allowing users to invite external colleagues into their group chats. "Beginning today, anyone with an Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) account can be added as a guest in Teams," wrote Lori Wright, general manager for Microsoft Teams, in a blog post.
"That means anyone with one of the more than 870 million user accounts—across Microsoft commercial cloud services and third-party Azure AD integrated apps—can be added as a guest in Teams," continued the Microsoft executive. In the future, the company plans to allow users to invite anyone with a Microsoft Account (MSA) as a guest. Users without an existing MSA will be given directions on how to establish a free account with their consumer or corporate email accounts.
Although welcoming external users raises the specter of security threats, the Azure Active Directory (AD) B2B service is keeping a tight lid on things, assured Wright.
Launched in April, Azure AD B2B enables business-to-business collaboration with enhanced data leak prevention and other security protections. In Teams, the technology is being used to manage and secure guest accounts. Those accounts also inherit Azure AD's machine learning capabilities to sniff out suspicious activity, noted Wright.
For IT departments, guest access in Teams can be centrally managed within Office 365. In addition to viewing and adding guests to their Team environments, administrators can revoke access if necessary.
Developers, meanwhile, can now build chatbots for Teams using the Botkit open-source library, announced Microsoft.
"There are some truly cool features for devs that make it stand out from the crowd of other messaging platforms. We're really interested to see how they're used to push the art and science of bot making forward," said Ben Brown, CEO of Howdy.ai, the company behind Botkit, in a Sept. 9 announcement.
Developers can also look forward to integrations with the GitHub code repository and the Atlassian suite of software development and collaboration tools, Microsoft announced. Also in the works are ServiceNow integrations, including an Office 365 connect that will allow the cloud-based IT service management software provider's offerings to send notifications to Teams users.
Since its March 14 release, businesses have been flocking to Microsoft Teams. Wright reported that 125,000 organizations use the application, which is part of select Office 365 plans, including Business Essentials, Business Premium and Enterprise.
Despite these gains, Teams still faces some stiff competition.
On Aug. 8, Slack unveiled new tools that help administrators better manage the application for large teams. Slack now features support for several enterprise mobility management platforms, including MobileIron, AirWatch and BlackBerry. Profiles can now be synced with an organization's internal directory, and administrators can now replace Slack's default status indicators (on my way, meeting clients, on a call, etc.) with statuses that better fit their organization's culture and workstyle.