As an integrated employee ideas platform, our customers' idea campaigns' success very much comes from the experience employees have when sharing their ideas. Our solution allows organisations to tap into their existing digital communities (on Yammer traditionally) to collect their ideas, taking these ideas through our SaaS back end, allowing for the best ideas to be discovered and brought to life.

With the explosion in Teams usage across the world and at our clients, we knew we needed to revamp our existing Teams integration. The legacy integration tapped into a channel and pulled ideas shared in this environment into the back end platform. We realised this environment quickly became cluttered and confusing when it came to widespread idea-sharing, with submitters unable to get updates on their ideas and no clear format for sharing ideas. This combined with often a large amount of activity elsewhere in teams, we knew we needed to create a dedicated space for ideas to be shared. The idea for the app was born!

What it does

The app allows organisations to create a really native home for ideas in teams. The app sits on the left rail and allows an idea submitter to find an idea campaign they want to take part in. Idea submitters can submit their ideas in a structured way, like other ideas, comment on ideas and get updates on the journey of their idea within the Sideways 6 back end.

Campaign managers have the benefit of having campaigns that are set up in Sideways 6 automatically being pulled through to Teams. The campaigns can be branded up with images and deceptions. Campaigns can be managed as drafts before being launched, and there is functionality to send campaign launch comms to an idea submitted to get them excited about the upcoming campaign.

The app is fully integrated into Sideways 6 with campaign statuses, dates, titles, idea stages, custom comms and even ideas from other sources like Yammer being integrated across to the Teams app.

How I built it

The app-building process followed product management best practice starting with a review of the current integration as the starting point. This was followed up by competitor research, market analysis and interviews based on a working business plan and assumptions. These sessions and experiments led to a jobs to be done frame being developed, value proposition and eventually an MVP feature set. We then attended a Microsoft hack where we were supported on some key functionality like authentication.

From a technical perspective, we started by checking the Teams app development documentation and understanding the best practices and application capabilities. During the Microsoft Hack, we built a PoC covering unique Teams application capabilities like silent authentication, tabs experience, navigation with deep links.

Challenges I ran into

Some of the main technical challenges we faced were around provisioning of user accounts in our existing platform using Microsoft Graph tokens acquired on-behalf from Teams. We also have to work with overcoming the rather limited set of UI components from the FluentUI library to provide a native Teams experience for our users.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We built the app in record time due to signing a customer interested in using the new integration. From Hack to the beta was about five weeks.

There was no dedicated team for this project and all work was conducted along with side everyone day job. Despite this, the speed of production and quality of the app is something we are all very proud of.

We already have four significant customers lined up to use the app, including a leading global FMCG company.

What I learned

That's focusing on a new project can result in a team pulling together. That following a full product process will mean you create a product that customers will love. Asking the right questions will get you the best answers.

What's next for Ideas By Sideways 6

We have two more stages of development before going live in the GA. We will be focusing on the idea enrichment journey as well as improving the idea submitter experience.

We are currently hiring a brand new team to support this product and already have a pipeline full of interest in the new app.

Built With

  • app-service
  • application-insight
  • azure
  • azure:-bot-framework
  • c#
  • cognative
  • mongodb
  • service-bus
  • service-fabric
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