Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Getting Hands on with Boards

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

Written: 26/05/2021 | Updated: N/A

Day two of Build. It’s a good one. And I have the opportunity of following up yesterday’s blog on Perspectives with one on Boards. This is the second of three blogs on the three new Power Apps Solutions introduced at Build, and which I think are really building (excuse the pun) on the success of others released over the past six months. I am talking about Bulletins, Milestones, Employee Ideas, Inspection and Issue Reporting. If you haven’t used them yet, they are Power Apps within the Teams App store which you can install and which are deployed in Dataverse for Teams. The great thing about these apps is that you can go on and extend their functionality, you can widen their use in broad distribution scenarios, but what is also really cool is that they are straightforward and you can simply use them straight out of the box. They are designed for a specific purpose. So let’s get to it for today

Boards has been defined as ‘Shared spaces to collect information and organize it by categories. All members of the team can contribute to the Boards – enabling crowdsourcing to organize information. Team owners can govern the accuracy of the information with the ability to edit any user created information. Sounds good, and by the image you can see that you can put together sites, and teams and channels, and tabs, and apps, and files. This is the kind of app which looks really cool for a project, where you want to pull together all those bits of information from all over the place to make a cohesive whole

This blog will cover

  • Getting the Preview from GitHub
  • Deploying into Teams
  • How to set up Boards
  • Deployment Notes
  • How to share Board with colleagues inside and outside of the Team
  • Adding Boards as a Personal App to the App Rail
  • Adding and Sorting Categories
  • Adding a Board
  • Adding and Editing Board Items
  • Removing Board Items, Boards and Categories
  • How to remove Boards
  • How to rename Boards
  • How to extend Boards
  • Concluding thoughts

Note this blog will have abridged steps which will assume some experience with Teams and navigating the Microsoft 365 environment

Pre-requisites

  • Teams licence/Power Apps licence (In an Office/Microsoft 365 Subscription)
  • Teams Administrator/Global Administrator permissions
  • App Permissions to install apps in the Team (and Boards to be installable via the Teams Admin Centre)

GETTING THE PREVIEW FROM GITHUB

1.) Go to https://aka.ms/TeamsBoards and select Boards_1.0.301.2

2.) Select the TeamsCustomApp zip file which will download to your local machine

DEPLOYING INTO TEAMS

1.) Go into the Teams Admin Centre (logging in via https://login.microsoftonline.com with admin credentials) within Microsoft 365. Select Teams Apps then Manage Apps and then select Upload

2.) Select Upload a File

3.) Select the Boards Zip that you have previously downloaded

4.) The App will now be installed into Teams

HOW TO SETUP BOARDS

1.) The Boards app, like the other Power Apps which can be installed into Dataverse for Teams, needs to be installed into a Team. If you don’t already have a team to house the app, set one up. Select + in a channel you want to deploy Boards into to add a Tab

2.) Search for and select Boards

3.) Select Add

4.) Select Save

5.) You can now go off and work whilst Boards installs. The experience is similar to other apps such as Bulletins and Employee Ideas. Once done, you will be notified in the Activity app on the left app rail

6.) You will need to allow the app permissions to access other apps. Select Allow. You may need to refresh during this process if you are doing this in the web app version of Teams

7.) Boards is now installed as a singular tab within the channel

DEPLOYMENT NOTES

A few observations about this deployment

  • Boards can only be deployed as tabs within Teams, it cannot be deployed as a personal app – although it can be used as a personal app and pinned to the app rail once it is deployed – see section below
  • Deploying Boards into another team will deploy a second instance of the app in a second environment – however the app can be shared with others outside the Team – see section below
  • You cannot deploy Boards into Private Channels currently. It errors. However, you can add as a tab to a private channel after deployment
  • When deploying, the perspective tab is visible to all members of the Team
  • When you deploy the app an environment is created at https://admin.powerplatform.microsoft.com. This is where the Power App is housed – in Dataverse for Teams

HOW TO SHARE BOARDS WITH COLLEAGUES INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE TEAM

By default, colleagues within the team will already have permissions to use Perspectives from the start. We can confirm this as follows

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

2.) Select Build, then the Environment Perspectives is in (Name of the Team), then select Share with colleagues (top right)

3.) As shown the Microsoft 365 group linked to the Team is already there with the slider turned on. This means anyone who is part of the team can use Perspectives

4.) Other members of the Team can now use Boards. Here is a member of the team, Vesku, accessing it

5.) Now lets move on to two other scenarios. People outside the Team, or Simply a group of administrators who will manage the Perspectives app who are not in the Team. In the M365 Admin Centre add a Security Group for Boards with members who you want to use the app

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

7.) Select Build, then the Environment Perspectives is in (Name of the Team), then select Share with colleagues (top right)

8.) Enter the Security Group created, use the sliders to share Boards and then select Save

9.) The green bar confirms those in the security group can now use Boards

10.) However in a broad distribution scenario, the group will not be able to use the app until you assign the correct Table permissions which are set to none by default. In order to do that, see this blog how to apply table permissions to the security group. Do this and set the appropriate permissions on all the required tables

It is worth noting here that members of the Team who are part of the security group created will still be able to see the app within the Team whilst those outside will be able to see it as a personal app (see below)

ADDING BOARDS AS A PERSONAL APP TO THE APP RAIL

1.) Like Bulletins and Employee Ideas and Perspectives, Boards supports being added as a personal app. For someone who has permissions over the app – either inside or outside the team, select the app store

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2.) Select Built for your org and then Built by your colleagues and then Perspectives. This is very important – do not try to add the perspectives instance under org as it will not have this option. It needs to be the built by your colleagues option

3.) Select Add

4.) It is then added as a personal app which can then be pinned

5.) Also to note, since I tested this, it can still be accessed by those who have permissions outside of the Team through a browser experience subject to the correct licencing. Having deployed the app, this can accessed via the Power Platform Admin Centre within the environment or via the global icon in Teams, and then provide the URL of the web experience to users outside the team

You can use this URL in a web tab, or should you wish use App Studio to package up and then deploy it as a personal app. Anyone with permissions in the Security Group will be able to use Boards assuming they can access this app packaged via App Studio, have the permissions within the security group and have the right licencing. Of course, this app which is created needs to also be installed into Teams via the method above. Why when you can already use a personal app? You may want to change the app manifest. It offers flexibility when working with the app it gives the developer choice.

ADDING AND SORTING CATEGORIES

1.) We could dive straight in and start adding board items to boards – and Microsoft have provided lots of pre-populated content. However, reviewing the App the most logical place to start out is defining the categories. Categories are like containers of boards and group them. In the above image Clubs, and Digital Wellbeing are examples of categories. To add a category select Cog (Settings) on the very top right

2.) Select Add Category

3.) A new category box is created. Add a name to that category (Here shown as Power Apps) and select Save

4.) Once saved, the save button is greyed out

5.) To sort categories select back and on the landing page select the up and down arrows next to the cog

6.) You can now sort the categories as well as show/hide them. Once done select Apply

7.) At this point, empty categories will not show. If there are duplicated categories showing then you can remediate this in the table Board Category Preference. This is located in Power Apps. Hide, or delete the entries

8.) This now gives us what we want in terms of categories and we are good to begin building our boards

ADDING A BOARD

1.) On the landing page select Add a Board

2.) Add a title, a category and a description. Think of a board like being a subcategory. If a Category is Power Apps then a Board would be Dataverse for Teams Apps. Select or upload an image as the cover for the board. Once done, select Save

3.) The board is now created. As it is the first board in the category, the category also appears

ADDING AND EDITING BOARD ITEMS

1.) Now that the board is created, it is time to add some items. Select the board

2.) Select Add to Board

3.) Pick an item type. This example will use a Website. Add the URL, a Title and Description. Review the preview and if happy select Save

4.) Add board items until complete. Currently, they cannot be ordered (I.e. alphabetically) but can be searched

5.) To edit a board item, simply select pencil (edit) on the board item to open back up

6.) Even with full permissions on the Boards app, a user can only edit the board items they added unless they edit in Power Apps

REMOVING BOARD ITEMS, BOARDS, AND CATEGORIES

From an administrative perspective removing board items, boards and categories that others created cannot be done in the Boards app itself, but can be done if you have access to Power Apps and have full permissions over the app. Even if you have full permissions over the app you cannot modify table permissions as that is reserved by the owner & co-owner of the environment the app is deployed in. Knowing this, you may want to restrict Power Apps for users who have full permissions, or change the table permissions to lesser permissions such as Contribute or lower where they would not be able to edit data in Power Apps

To remove your own data

1.) Removing Board Items can be done on the board item itself and selecting Pencil (Edit)

2.) Select The Red Bin (Delete)

3.) Tick I understand and select Delete

4.) To remove boards, select the board and then Edit

5.) Select Delete Board (Red Bin)

6.) Tick I understand and select Delete

7.) Removing all the board in a category hides the category. To delete a category remove, select the Cog (More Options) on the right

8.) Select the Red Bin next to the category name to strikethrough it and the Save to delete

9.) The category has been removed

HOW TO REMOVE BOARDS

1.) Like other D4T apps, you can’t simply remove Perspectives by simply removing the Tab

2.) Select Power Apps from the App Rail, and then Build. Select the Team, then Installed Apps, then More Options (…) on Employee Ideas, then Delete

HOW TO RENAME BOARDS

We may want to distinguish this app from others, especially if we plan to deploy multiple instances of Perspectives within our organisation

1.) Select Power Apps from the App Rail, and then Build. Select the Team, then Installed Apps, click on the name of the app. This will open it in Power App Studio

2.) Click on the name of the app and rename then Save

3.) Select Publish to Teams

4.) Add the channels in the Team where new tabs should be and select Save and close

5.) Clean up any old Tabs in the Team

6.) The app is renamed throughout Teams including in the App Store

HOW TO EXTEND BOARDS

1.) Select Power Apps from the App Rail, and then Build. Select the Team, then Installed Apps, click on the name of the app. This will open it in Power App Studio and you can now customise and extend the app

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Our job here is done

This is an app which has the potential to be very strong. It has a very similar feel to Bulletins and the use case is very similar: both work on categorisation. Both are designed to aggregate, centralise and curate content to make it easier for the end user to work with, and there really is a need for this for many users given the complexity that Teams can become, that Microsoft 365 can become. The real insight is in understanding that valuable data and resources are often fragmented and rarely located in a single place. So bringing together links for sites, and files, and apps, and channels and channel conversations is a good way to make something of value. It would be great for projects, great for departments, it could be effective org wide. The fact that we can build it collectively is also a good way of getting the team to collaborate. And it’s clever in the use of space because linking means that files and video don’t use up the D4T space or requires converting to Dataverse since it can leverage SharePoint and OneDrive. But two things are clear from testing. The first is that its success will ultimately be due to how the content is curated and really, that’s largely dependent on the end user. Secondly, feedback will have to be given to the team developing this app with the all up experience of navigation based upon links and in particular the experience of using the web app. Navigating to web sites in the web app? No problem it’ll open a new browser tab. Navigate to a channel in the web app, for example and it’ll try to open the desktop app. In the desktop, will the link to the channel route internally within Teams? Or will it bounce out to the browser to go back into Teams? How will users feel about that?

With an app such as this there is some scope for things which could benefit Boards in later versions

  • Categories can be ordered, but it would be awesome if boards within categories and board items could be ordered in several ways, for example, alphabetically
  • Users can mark board items as stale or link broken so the item can be reviewed, updated or removed
  • Board Item Titles could be longer. They have a limit otherwise the Title cuts off
  • The ability to change the owner of a board item
  • Upvoting and stats on boards and board items (I.e. how many times have they been clicked on/click through rate
  • Ability to colour code Board Items for visual distinction, or Tag them (like Planner Items). This could be underneath the picture on the board item as there is whitespace there
  • Pin Board Items like Lists
  • Subcategories of board

Another great job team. Look forward to how this one develops

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