Inspiration

Action by Busybot was inspired from our work on another product product, Busybot, which is an enterprise-messaging-based task management tool used by over 20,000 businesses around the world.

We've discovered that it's so easy for good intentions to get lost in messaging, like Microsoft Teams... something important comes up in conversation, and then 5 minutes later it's scrolled up past the top of the screen. And even worse, it's easy to forget about those important pieces of work, but because they aren't urgent right now.

We were also inspired by Tabs functionality and integration with corporate Active Directory accounts that make more things possible in Microsoft Teams. That's why Action by Busybot is exclusive to Microsoft Teams and isn't available on any other platform in the world. Sign up using your existing corporate login, and the entire interface runs directly within a Microsoft Teams tab.

What it does

Action by Busybot lets you add new tasks, projects and ideas right inside a channel conversation. Just mention @action followed by the name of an action item, and it will be instantly added on to that channels' task action items list.

When you create a new tab, you can choose a template (or create your own!) based on how you'll use the list. For example, give every item a Red/Amber/Green status, or a simple workflow, project sponsor, or an internal ID. This combines the simplicity of a to-do list, with the flexibility of SharePoint or Excel to customize your own way of working.

Then, at your weekly team meeting, or when a contractor comes back on the bench, there's time to review the action items and get to work! Action supports prioritizing and scoring items, and lets people "claim" the tasks that they're working on.

How we built it

We started from the Sample App, and took everything we've learned along the way building Busybot, combined with the functionality of Microsoft Teams and built it into Action by Busybot.

We started by integrating the authentication APIs to identify users and channels, and ensure we built on a good permission- and identity-based foundation.

Then, we created a new tab linked to the channel. Using Typescript, node.js and React, this gives us a canvas to present all of the information we need to the user, embedded right inside the Microsoft Teams interface.

We built a data model around Microsoft Teams and Active Directory users, and extended it with Boards, Action Items and a template and custom fields functionality. This core forms the base Action by Busybot app.

Finally, we build the bot messaging connectors, to listen for user messages, and to send channel notifications.

Challenges we ran into

We worked through a number of technical, design and product hurdles along the way. The Microsoft APIs are developing quickly, and we found some of the schemas, API interfaces and example applications weren't up-to-date with the latest features that we needed to use. Additionally, because the Microsoft Teams and related APIs cover so many services, we found it difficult to understand all of the different management / settings sites we needed to login to and configure. Finally, the way to register a bot for Microsoft Teams changed near the end of this hackathon, and it took us some time to configure the new Azure bot settings and register an Azure subscription.

We're more than happy to send through a more detailed list of these hurdles to help improve the Microsoft Teams developer experience.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Custom Fields are a premium feature in many top-end project management tools - like Microsoft Project, Asana or Wrike - and are usually associated with complex, difficult-to-implement applications. We're proud that we've turned that on its head, and have released an application that combines the easy simplicity of a todo list with the advanced flexibility possible using custom fields.

We are a team of two people.... and we're also really proud that the two of us could build and release a brand-new application for Microsoft Teams while supporting another product used by over 20,000 organisations around the world.

What we learned

As part of building Action by Busybot, we've created a new user experience, on a new platform, and using new technologies that we haven't used before. We have learned a lot about the underlying technologies and APIs, which will make it much faster and easier if we decide to build another Microsoft Teams integration in the future.

What's next for Action by Busybot

We're going to be ironing out a few of the rough edges, to make sure Action by Busybot is 100% enterprise-grade and ready to submit to the Office Store.

We see a huge potential of a simple-but-flexible project management tool that's as easy as a todo list, but includes the power of custom fields.

We're excited to get this in the hands of as many Office 365 subscribers as possible, and help people get more work done using Microsoft Teams!

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