Bridge Communications

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Microsoft Teams Store: A Complete and Utter Disaster

 I won't sugar coat it, the Microsoft Teams store is a new low, even for Microsoft.  Let's face it for years the Microsoft UC strategy has be mismanaged and directionless, this is an understatement.  Products have been killed off with little notice, and without any suitable replacement in site.  Microsoft Teams is largely smoke and mirrors.  Yes there are a lot of Microsoft 365 licenses that come with Teams, and technically millions of users that have it, because it came with what they needed to send and receive email.  Survey the landscape and you'll find a very small few customers who have found it to be a suitable replacement for their UC needs.  I talked to customers every week who are "migrating to Teams" and a shocked and horrified to find out the gaping holes that exist.  The one that is glaring to our organization is the lack of developer support or APIs.  3 years ago we were told not to worry that when the shocking announcement that Skype for Business was a "dead man walking" that all the same tools for developers would land on the new mystery product.  To date they haven't, and there seems to be little appetite from a company that once touted 98% of their sales were attributed to their developer partners.


Enter the snow globe partner approach, where every year they throw away what a few figured out how to navigate, and start from scratch.  Partner Center is the current iteration, where all the pay for Outlook and Teams apps now got stripped, and a few were allowed to migrate to the new store.  Simple enough, we created a Teams wallboard app for monitoring a group of users presence.  Something you really can't do in Teams, though it was and is a basic function in every competing phone system.


Upon completing the app, and a few weeks of testing, it seemed logical to submit it to the Teams store.  The app is simple, reliable, and should have been an easy value prop to fly right into a ghost town of retched store apps.

Problem 1
Microsoft has little to do with the store.  Of course, they farm it out of the low bid Indian firm HCL, who works in the middle of the night if you live in the US only.  They decide if your app has value, having no clue about any business landscape, and shockingly no knowledge of how a contact or call center would work, despite it being a primary source of revenue for them.  The worst part is their hardware, having done a Teams meeting to show the app to them I couldn't believe how bad their connection was.  I haven't seen internet like that since the last 90s.  And of course when it sucks, they fail you because of their garbage environment.


Problem 2
Teams has an App Studio app, which helps generate a manifest.  This is great, and things are fairly logical.  The rub comes with the 3rd party HCL, since they go against the guidelines on the developer site, and contradict several things, that honestly have no effect on the app, but seems to give them busy work to justify whatever low bid revenue they get.  For example if you pick an Accent Color in the App Studio they will reject your app because your icon bordered by the accent color doesn't match your icon.  Seriously.


Problem 3
Let's say you submit your app was we did, and store (HCL 3rd party) rejects it with 1 issue.  You fix the non-issue and resubmit.  Now it comes back with 4 issues, none of which were there the first time.  You repeat the process a few times, and now you have a dozen issues, some of which are beyond stupid, like the outline icon which is supposed to be white, doesn't match the app icon, which is supposed to be color.  They will say the colors don't match.

 

This would fail every Microsoft app as well, as you see the Planner icons above.  It seems the vendor is so bad they are unable to read or comprehend even the most basic instructions they have from Microsoft.  Also any icon that looks like a person or people is instantly rejected because they feel it would be too confusing for users that they would think it was the "Teams" icon despite it's fixed position.


Problem 4
Before you know it, you are up at 3am doing Teams meetings with them, trying to explain the basics of software development, how Teams works etc, to someone who isn't qualified to do anything, and doesn't have access to actual Teams accounts.  It's truly shocking to see how this is being run behind the curtain.

Problem 5
At some point in a crazy scheme to turn a profit you may want a customer to pay you for your app.  Not so fast, despite partner center having a section you fill out about how your app has in app purchases, according to HCL the low bid vendor, you app will be rejected if you try to take payment inside it.  Instead you must write something that exposes a man in the middle attack and threatens you PCI compliance if you want money.  Yeah they are advocating for that!



The Decision
After a month of this you really start to question if you actually want your app in the store.  Frankly, most users probably don't frequent it, because the lack of quality.  The task switching experience in Teams is terrible, it takes us back to the days of DOS.  Luckily you don't really need Teams, since most of the heavy lifting is done by the MS Graph team, you can run your "teams" app better in a web browser.  

Conclusions
Microsoft has hit a new low, and that's impressive given the downward trend of their communications play over the last 5 years.

Don't assume because you got Teams with Outlook your business will survive if you try to use it as your phone system.




Tuesday, June 9, 2020

First Microsoft Teams Attendant Console - With 1 catch.

For years we have been trying to push Microsoft for APIs that would allow for control of the Microsoft Teams audio stream, ideally outside of the Teams application.  Our efforts to date have been very much in vain.  The truly sad part is, everything else is in place for the most part.  Yes there are quite a few issues with MS graph searches, like the ability to search for string contained in, rather than equals and starts with only, but largely the ability to find users and their current presence exists.  To showcase it, we recently added the functionality to our RingCentral attendant console.  If you have a phone call ring to your RC number, you can now see and transfer via PSTN to your MS Teams users.


Hopefully the ability to now use RingCentral as a hybrid attendant console for RingCental and Microsoft Teams hybrid deployments will push Microsoft toward finishing the APIs needed by 3rd parties, to fill in the many gaps Teams has as a PBX replacement.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Introduction to Microsoft Teams messaging extensions

In this podcast below I walk through how to create your own messaging extension for Microsoft Teams.  In this Example I create a new Gif extension that you can more easily control the ratings on.





Sample Manifest


Sample Node.js Application



Doug Routledge

Teams, Skype for Business, SQL, Exchange, UC, Full Stack Developer

Doug is the co-found of Bridge Communications, and also leads the development team.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

New Product: Bridge Cloud Suite for Cisco Unified Communications

February 28, 2018
Fargo, ND.


New Products for Cisco Users.

The Bridge Cloud Suite represents the next generation of apps written for Cisco Unified Communications users.

We are excited to let you know about an exciting new SaaS suite we are launching today. Bridge Communications is continually evolving to support today's technology in an effort to make the modern workplace more productive. Your company is being invited to join us, as a customer of the new Bridge Cloud Suite. Join us today and discover why solution providers around the world look to us as their preferred channel partner for Cisco Unified Communications.
Staying on top of changes in business and technology has become increasingly important, challenging and expensive. Businesses can’t afford to maintain the status quo. With our deep understanding of the Cisco Unified Communications landscape, Bridge Communications is releasing a browser-based Cloud Suite designed to support your business into the future with no up-front investment. We have designed a unique solution based on our long history of delivering the Bridge Operator Console that will make technology your competitive advantage.

You can boost productivity with cloud-based UC tools, and work with full versions of the Bridge Operator Console and other important tools anytime, anywhere, and on virtually any device. Further benefits include low up-front costs, and the flexibility to add users and services as needed.
Whether you want to transition to a cloud environment or extend the value of your existing UC investment, we can help you meet your unique business goals.

Bridge Cloud Suite Components

The Bridge Cloud Suite has applications for all levels of users in your communications topology.
  • Attendant Console
  • Supervisor Reports and Dashboard
  • Cisco Finesse Supervisor Tools
  • More in Development


Wide Range of Devices Supported

The Bridge Cloud Suite supports a wide range of devices. All Products Run in Any Modern Web Browser
  • Windows Desktops, Laptops, and Tablets
  • Apple Desktops, MacBooks, IPads, and IPhones
  • Chromebooks, Android Tablets, Android Smartphones

Bridge Operator Console


Bridge Operator Console is our flagship attendant console for Cisco Unified Communications. Bridge Operator Console is perfect for the modern workplace. It offers full call control, predictive transfer, related people, calendar visibility, phone messaging and paging, and much more. The latest generation, which is part of the Cloud Suite, does not require any installation. It runs in any modern browser, giving the users, and system administrators maximum ease and flexibility.

Bridge Supervisor Reports and Dashboard


Bridge Supervisor Reports and Dashboard is the perfect complement to Bridge Operator Console. It is designed for reception supervisors and provides a live dashboard of availability, as well as live and historical reports. Supervisors can see group reports, and drill down to see data at the user level.

Bridge Cisco Finesse Admin


Bridge Cisco Finesse Admin is designed for contact center supervisors. It combines live reporting, call monitoring, recording, and call control into a simple, mobile friendly interface that can be run in any modern browser. Supervisors have the power to change the status of their team members, and even barge into calls where required.


What Does This Mean for Me?


Answers to Common Questions are Listed Below
  • Is this replacing my traditional desktop client? Not at all, this is just a new option for customers. We will continue to support and update our traditional desktop clients.
  • Is my company data stored in the cloud? All data remains stored in your existing on-premises BOC Tapi Connector Server. Only the app is loaded from the cloud.
  • Is there any performance difference? Yes. We have found the cloud suite apps are both faster, more responsive, and consume far less bandwidth than the traditional desktop clients.
  • Are there new features in this version? In addition to 2 new applications, there are new features in Bridge Operator Console as well. The interface has been retooled to work on any device, integrated with Cisco Finesse, and made easier and more intuitive for new users.
  • Where are the apps hosted? For high availability and global distribution, the apps are stored in Microsoft Azure.
  • When would be the best time to move to the new apps? We recommend beginning the process of trying the new apps 60 days before your traditional client renewal was due. This will insure time for testing and smooth transition, if you decide that the cloud apps are a better solution for your organization.
  • Can I still work with my reseller with the cloud apps? Yes. We are giving our resellers more options with a new program. There are now multiple ways to partner with your reseller in regard to the Bridge Cloud Suite.
Schedule an Interactive Demo Here


Get Started Today!


Customers are invited to try the Cloud Suite products today. If you have version 3 of the Bridge OC Tapi Connector, simply email sales@bridgeoc.com to get access to license portal, where you can manage your users, enable trial users, and purchase licenses. We recommend testing the application prior to traditional license renewal, which would be an optimal time to switch to the cloud platform. Cloud users are not required to pay annually for BOC Tapi Connectors.
  • No client software to install. Apps run in modern web browser.
  • Supported on thousands of devices
  • Talks to existing Bridge OC Tapi Connector
  • Data remains secure and stored on customer's existing network
  • Apps are built on and hosted in the Microsoft Azure platform
  • Affordable monthly licenses
  • 30 day trial, no long term commitment
Schedule an Interactive Demo Here