Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Hands on with Employee Ideas

This blog is part of a series on Teams. For more articles, check back often

Written: 21/02/2021 | Updated: N/A

The last blog I did was on Bulletins. My good friend Vesku Nopanen responded in kind with Milestones. So I thought I would just go on to talk about Employee Ideas. Like Bulletins and Milestones, Employee Ideas is an app in the Teams Store which is built upon Dataverse for Teams. It’s part of a new wave of Power Apps which can be deployed and then extended giving users a leg up as opposed to having to create something from scratch. So what’s this one all about? Well, the description in the screenshot below outlines it pretty well: it’s about creating and managing and voting up ideas in the team. Ideas for improvement. Ideas for change. Ideas for how to be more inclusive. For me this is a pretty cool for two reasons. The first is that I often have ideas but have nowhere to put them. Me being me I typically leave them in notepad or on an open excel, then I’d lose them or they would be buried in notes where I would never find them. I must get to a better place then ideas either being in OneDrive or in my head because if you are like me I am very forgetful. Maybe that’s just my age. Secondly, I love the prospect that this could potentially be used similar to Uservoice, particularly when it comes to crowdsourcing innovations or improvement actions. Let’s get great ideas teamwide, let’s not have a monopoly or self identify as having the best. Now, as far as I know the Employee Ideas app came out sometime around November/December 2020 – but I could very well be wrong about this. Bulletins and Milestones are the newer apps, but these have all been close enough together they could be considered in the same wave. Most I talk to don’t realise that they are even there, so are probably going to get discovered together. Let’s get hands on with this one.

This blog will cover

  • How to setup Employee Ideas
  • Deployment notes
  • Creating Campaigns and Ideas
  • Deleting an Idea
  • Deleting a Campaign
  • Editing and Duplicating a Campaign
  • How to remove Employee Ideas
  • How to extend Employee Ideas
  • Concluding thoughts

Pre-requisites

  • Teams licence, typically in an Office/Microsoft 365 subscription. Power Apps on for extending
  • App Permissions to install apps in the Team (and Employee Ideas) to be installable via the Teams Admin Centre)

HOW TO SETUP EMPLOYEE IDEAS

1.) I have setup my Team ready to go. In the channel I select Add (+)

2.) Search for and select Employee Ideas

3.) Select Add

4.) Select Save

5.) Installation will then occur. This may take some time – however you can navigate away and do other things in Teams whilst it installed and you will be notified in the activity feed once installation has completed

Activity feed notification when employee ideas installed successfully.

6.) Once installation has completed, select the channel notifications will be posted to and then select Let’s go

7.) Employee Ideas is now deployed (as a single app as opposed to two apps like Bulletins)

DEPLOYMENT NOTES

There is a few observations about this deployment

  • Employee Ideas can only be deployed as tabs within Teams, it does not exist as a personal app (Like Bulletins & Milestones)
  • It’s scope is the Team. In other words, deploying it into another team is deploying a second instance of the app
  • You cannot add Bulletins into Private Channels. It errors.
  • You can restrict the creation of campaigns (containers for ideas) to Team Owners (as shown below)
  • When you deploy an environment is created at https://admin.powerplatform.microsoft.com. This is where the Power App is housed – in Dataverse for Teams
  • Creating Employee Ideas in another team creates a second environment

CREATING CAMPAIGNS AND IDEAS

This is what users see when they first deploy. The Employee Ideas app is real simple, Ideas are organised into Campaigns which are essentially containers for ideas which run for a period of time

1.) Let’s start by creating a campaign. Select Add campaign

2.) Add

  • Campaign Name (What the ideas are for)
  • Campaign Description (What the campaign is designed to do I.e. outcome)
  • Date (How long the campaign is open for – looks like the maximum is currently around 2 years)
  • Cover Image (there are prepopulated ones but you can upload your own

In addition to the information above you can also add or remove the prepopulated Idea Questions which responders would need to answer when submitting an Idea. Ideas can be completely blue sky, but the majority of the time we ask questions such as ‘What Impact will it make?’ ‘How easy will it be to implement?’ so we can assess and rate those ideas. These questions can be added via Add Question or removed via the Red Bin inline. The questions can also be ordered and prioritised. You can have at least 20 questions (I didn’t test adding any more) and the answers can be by a 1-5 rating or text for more intricate and granular answers

Once all this is done, select whether the campaign is posted to the channel (via slider) then Add Campaign

3.) The campaign has now been added. Select Return to the Campaign List

4.) In the campaign list, f the campaign has started you can now begin to submit ideas. Only active campaigns will show on the main page

5.) Let’s move on and add an idea. In the campaign, select Submit an Idea

6.) Add

  • Title of the Idea
  • Description of the Idea
  • Answer the Idea Questions (as set by the campaign)
  • Add a picture (if required)
  • Add attachment (if required)

In this example, here the idea for the Improve Remote Teaching Campaign is to invest in a Blue Yeti X to use with Microsoft Teams. The attachment covers technical specs

Once all this is done, select whether the idea is posted to the channel (via slider) then Submit Idea. Be very careful with this and try to articulate as much as possible as you cannot edit the idea afterwards you would need to delete and re-add it (see below)

6.) Select Return to Ideas List

7.) The idea is now in the Campaign

8.) Others can now vote up on the idea

9.) Here is what the posts for the campaign and the idea look like in the channel

DELETING AN IDEA

From time to time, you may need to delete an idea, more than likely because you forgot to add something because a limitation of the employee ideas app is that you can’t edit ideas. Once they are added they are set in stone – so we can only delete and recreate. Note anyone in the Team can delete ideas and there is no options to lock this currently

1.) From the main page, select the campaign

2.) Select the idea

3.) Select More Actions (…) on the top right then select Delete

4.) Tick the box I Understand and then select Delete

DELETING A CAMPAIGN

If a campaign is no longer necessary, or expired and we have our ideas we may need to delete it

1.) From the main page or the campaign page, select the campaign

2.) Select Edit

3.) Select Delete

4.) Tick I Understand and then select Delete

EDITING AND DUPLICATING THE CAMPAIGN

We may want to edit details about the campaign – such as how long it runs for, it’s description, the number of idea questions we have, or we may want to duplicate the campaign to use for another in the future, or from an expired campaign we want to re-run

1.) From the main page or the campaign page, select the campaign

2.) Select Edit

3.) Here you can edit such details as the title, the description, the image or the idea questions. Amend as required

4.) To duplicate the campaign select Duplicate

5.) Amend the data and select Add Campaign which adds a fresh campaign without ideas. Note in this scenario a new cover image will need to be provided

RESTRICTING CAMPAIGN CREATION

With Employee Ideas, the ability to add campaigns can be restricted to Teams Owners. In this way, it keeps members focused on submitting ideas and the Owners focused on setting up campaigns. It would also curb campaign sprawl

1.) As a Team Owner, on the main Employee Ideas page, select the Cog on the top right

2.) Turn Owner Restrictions on (Slider) and than select Save

3.) Regular members will no longer be able to see the Add Campaign button on the main page

HOW TO REMOVE EMPLOYEE IDEAS

1.) Like Bulletins, you can’t simply remove Employee Ideas by simply removing the Tab

2.) You can’t remove it from the App Store

3.) Select Power Apps from the App Rail, and then Build

4.) Select the Team, then Installed Apps, then More Options (…) on Employee Ideas, then Delete

HOW TO EXTEND EMPLOYEE IDEAS

1.) Select Power Apps within Teams – either through the app rail or via a Tab

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2.) You may see it within Recent Apps

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3.) If not select Build

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4.) Select Installed Apps and then select the Power App to customise it

5.) Power Apps Studio will open within Teams

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Our job here is done

I like this app, I think it’s straightforward, easy to use, easy to manage. I am going to try it out in my own organisation and see how we get on. However, I do think there are one or two areas that can be improved

  • The ability to edit ideas. You can’t do this today: once they are submitted you can’t edit them. Whilst you can delete them and recreate that’s not sufficient because there will be cases that people want to go back and amend if they think they have done something wrong, or there is something more to add
  • Prevent others from deleting ideas and limit it to only the team owner and user who submitted the idea. All people who can use the app can delete ideas. Probably won’t occur often but they could do this by accident or maliciously
  • The limit of two years for a campaign could be extended to 5 for example
  • There does seem to be an issue with the attachment functionality within the ideas. This could just be me but after uploading you can’t seem to download it again. May work for you

Today, this isn’t quite a uservoice, but it really could be given that it’s so very close to being so. Easy to add campaigns, easy to add ideas, voting up on those ideas. Adding statuses to ideas (I.e. working on it, backlog) wouldn’t take very much at all. Having a Uservoice app inside your own Team, or your own organisation, would be very very powerful. So overall, I think this is a great start. Tidy up in a few areas and extend it a bit. You could very well have one of the best apps within Teams