Microsoft officially launched a new Office 365 app this week called StaffHub that helps businesses with so-called deskless workers manage schedules on the fly and without having to scramble to update an Excel worksheet or whiteboard when an employee requests a shift change.
Not everyone who punches a clock at the start of the workday settles into an office or cubicle. Microsoft estimates that there are more than 500 million workers toiling away at hotels, retailers, restaurants and other service-oriented businesses around the globe.
By and large, they rarely log into a PC at work to access, update and share company information, meaning they often rely on paper-based processes to fill out and revise work schedules.
StaffHub, (formerly known as Project Sonoma), is available to customers with Office 365 K1, E1, E3 or E5 plans. It allows managers to publish and manage shift schedules on the web.
With a smattering of self-service features, the companion StaffHub apps for iOS and Android allow employees to trade shifts among themselves. All shift-change requests are sent to a manager, and after approval, the app issues updates and notifications to users.
Managers can also get daily, weekly and monthly overviews of their schedules, allowing them to quickly spot gaps or conflicts. Schedules can be exported as .csv (comma-separated values) files used by Excel and countless other business applications. On the mobile app, employees are shown a summary of upcoming shifts on the homepage, along with important notes.
StaffHub also contains some basic messaging and content sharing features. Users can send quick text messages to one another or an entire team. Managers can use the app's file-sharing capabilities to distribute employee handbooks and other documentation, which workers can view directly within the app.
Microsoft is also rolling out the welcome mat for other human capital management (HCM) application providers.
"We're pleased to announce that StaffHub will support connections to Kronos, a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions," blogged the Microsoft Office Team on Jan 12. "Initially, this integration will enable managers to import individual and team schedule information from Kronos' Workforce Central platform directly into Microsoft StaffHub."
The StaffHub-Kronos integration is currently being tested by a select group of joint customers as part of a private preview program. In the meantime, managers can customize StaffHub by adding links to their own human resource systems as well as custom apps to the mobile app used by their employees.
Microsoft seems invested in helping workers make sense of their sometimes-overstuffed schedules.
In August, the company announced it had acquired Genee, a Mountain View, Calif.-based artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual assistant technology specialist for an undisclosed amount. The startup's technology allows users to coordinate schedules, blocking off time on their calendars by copying Genee on email requests for a call, meeting or other events.
"Genee uses natural language processing and optimized decision-making algorithms so that interacting with a virtual assistant is just like interacting with a human one," Rajesh Jha, corporate vice president of Microsoft Outlook and Office 365, in an Aug. 22 announcement.