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Year in review: How Microsoft Copilot, Microsoft Teams, and our partners built a stronger ecosystem

As 2023 winds down, it’s incredible to reflect on all the progress we’ve made across the Microsoft 365 ecosystem this year. Above all, I want to thank our customers for trusting Microsoft Teams to be your tool and platform for collaboration and communication. I’m proud to report that tens of millions more people adopted Teams this year, including the new version released in October. Microsoft Teams now has over 320 million monthly active users.

I also want to share my deep gratitude with the independent software vendors (ISVs), system integrators, and enterprise developers who have partnered to help build our Teams ecosystem. Thanks to your investment, there are now more than 2,000 apps in the Teams store and over 145,000 custom line-of-business (LOB) apps built by enterprises.

This year’s biggest news was the introduction of Microsoft Copilot, your powerful new AI assistant for work. Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 became generally available Nov.1, and we’re ensuring that your investment in Teams provides the foundation for Copilot extensibility, which allows you to augment Copilot with custom skills and bring its capabilities to your apps. Organizations with Copilot for Microsoft 365 can opt into the public preview for extensibility.

As we look forward, I want to share key resources we’ve created for ISVs and enterprise developers so that you can plan how you’ll harness the power of AI by extending Copilot. I also want to highlight a few fantastic Teams apps that can help enterprises improve their end-of-year operations, recognize outstanding employees, and kick off next year with renewed purpose.

Tips for extending Copilot for Microsoft 365 using Microsoft Graph connectors

In 2024, enterprise adoption of Copilot for Microsoft 365 will gain increasing momentum, and enterprise developers and ISVs must prepare accordingly. You can extend Copilot two ways: plugins and connectors. First, we’ll cover Microsoft Graph connectors, which bring information and content from external data sources into Microsoft Graph, enhancing the knowledge layer and grounding Copilot’s responses in more of your unique context. This extensibility option, which is generally available, also helps users discover more of your organization’s content across Microsoft 365 experiences, like Microsoft Search.

For example, in early spring 2024, Copilot users will be able to search for and summarize content from Lucidspark’s virtual whiteboards and Lucidchart’s intelligent diagramming, bringing natural language processing to a new level. Lucid will achieve that new capability by extending Copilot with Graph connectors, making it possible to reason over the various data properties in the whiteboard or diagram and answer complex user questions. Information such as the content of Lucid canvases, the date the Lucid document was created or modified, the author, and other relevant fields will be ingested via Graph connectors to surface rich insights to users. Content ingested from Graph connector data will be linked in Copilot’s references, allowing users to link back to the original Lucid whiteboard or diagram.

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Visit Microsoft’s new developer portal to learn more about how to get started building Graph connectors, or check out this quick start guide. You can download solutions from the Sample Solution Gallery, and go to the Microsoft 365 Developer YouTube channel for videos on best practices. You can also review the list of all published Graph connectors that have been enabled for use with Copilot.

Tips for extending Copilot for Microsoft 365 with plugins

You can also extend Copilot using plugins. A powerful way to create a plugin is to use Teams message extensions, which can retrieve external data, analyze and summarize information, and allow users to take actions via Adaptive Cards in Teams. Developers can now create message extensions using Teams Toolkit for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code. For existing message extensions, make sure app manifests are updated.

We have a wealth of resources to help developers build best-in-class plugins and successfully extend Copilot.

  1. Follow our guide for building high-quality plugins.
  2. Build plugins with low code, or create your own enterprise copilots, with Microsoft Copilot Studio.
  3. Check out best practices for designing Adaptive Cards and Teams task modules to set the stage for great plugins.
  4. Develop an expertise in prompt design and engineering to increase the accuracy of responses from large language models (LLMs).
  5. Set up a dev environment by applying for the Microsoft 365 Developer Technology Adoption Program, which has a limited number of Copilot licenses available for ISVs to purchase in private preview.

How Teams AI library enables intelligent apps

Enterprises and ISVs can also begin their AI journey by using Teams AI library, in public developer preview, to streamline the development of intelligent apps using APIs, controls, and prebuilt code. Ramp, an ISV that automates finances and expense management, used the AI library to map user intent to actions inside the Ramp experience extremely quickly, without requiring custom prompt engineering or manual LLM calls. The API also makes it simple to add actions to Ramp’s Teams app with very little development effort.

The resulting integration with Teams removes friction from traditional financial workflows and unlocks significant productivity gains—ultimately making finance simpler and more efficient.

“Ramp is here to redefine the status quo and make finance simple, so businesses can focus on work that matters,” says Eric Glyman, CEO of Ramp. “Simplicity and ease-of-use are at the heart of what our customers love about Ramp—from intelligent routing for the right approvals, to automatically matching receipts to transactions, to maintaining effective controls. By seamlessly integrating with Teams, we make intelligent financial tools available where hundreds of millions of people do their best work every day.”

Ramp has also taken the next step by integrating with Copilot, providing each employee with a finance assistant that can complete expense workflows on their behalf, give instant insight into spending trends, and answer expense policy questions.

Copilot Ramp.gif

Teams apps to improve year-end activities and jumpstart 2024

With the year wrapping up, I’d also like to highlight some Teams apps that can improve recognition programs for outstanding employees in 2023 or help refine business operations for 2024, starting with another look at Ramp.

In addition to accelerating day-to-day tasks, Ramp’s integration with Copilot also fosters more strategic, data-backed thinking and decision-making. With deep insight into the financial inner workings of your business, the Ramp plugin is an invaluable partner to finance teams planning, tracking, and managing budgets as we approach 2024. For example, finance managers planning travel and entertainment budgets can use Ramp to understand how much their company spent on hotels last year and adjust their forecasts based on the data.

Achievers for Teams: Celebrate moments that matter

As the pace of work accelerates, Achievers for Teams helps customers simplify employee engagement by merging the employee experience into the daily flow of work, and by leveraging a tool that employees already use and love—Microsoft Teams. This extends the value of employee engagement strategies and increases a sense of belonging by embedding recognition opportunities throughout daily routines.

“The Achievers for Teams app allows us to bring recognition into the flow of an employee’s normal course of work,” says Michael Cohen, Chief Product Officer at Achievers. “With so many employees spending the bulk of their day in communications tools like Teams, the ability to send and receive recognition from within the application allows us to meet employees where they are and to encourage culture-building without ever leaving the Teams app.”

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Organizations that have implemented the Achievers for Teams integration have seen significant increases in the number of recognitions sent and higher overall employee engagement versus those without the integration.

Enterprises can also use Achievers to amplify year-end recognition initiatives, utilizing key functions like celebrating moments that matter where and when they occur by sending social or points-based recognitions within Teams. Points-based recognitions are redeemable for rewards employees actually want. Achievers is an industry leader with a marketplace of over 3 million rewards and 2,500 global brands—with local fulfillment partners that ensure speedy and reliable delivery in over 190 countries, all backed by award-winning customer service.

BHN Rewards: Simplify worldwide gifting to incentivize employees

According to BHN’s 2022 Employee Incentives Report from NAPCO Research, 83 percent of employees say that getting rewards improves their productivity and loyalty. Gift cards and prepaid cards are the most requested option (cited by 90 percent).¹ BHN Rewards for Teams makes it easy to give employees what they want while also simplifying budget controls, international rewarding, and reward tracking.

Users can send rewards during live virtual meetings or in one-on-one chat messages, and the reward announcement can be easily shared to Teams channels as well. The option to deliver rewards publicly—even among remote, hybrid, and global teams—amplifies the impact because colleagues can see and comment on the recognition. Recipients can easily claim their digital gift card or prepaid card with just a few clicks.

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With the exponential rise in remote employees and global workforces, delivering end-of-year staff appreciation gifts and honoring top performers has gotten more complicated for a lot of enterprise companies. But with BHN Rewards for Teams, those rewards can be sent on the spot during virtual department meetings or holiday gatherings, making them simple, meaningful, and effective worldwide.

Matter for Teams: Give customizable kudos to revolutionize recognition

Matter for Teams starts by creating a recognition habit called Feedback Friday, where employees are automatically encouraged and guided to provide kudos to their peers. Enterprises can utilize Matter’s templating system to create fully customizable kudos templates to match your company’s brand, company values, or special events. Matter’s rewards platform includes gift cards and donations from 1,500+ merchants in 80+ countries, and you can create your own company rewards store for items like merchandise or a PTO day.

“Matter for Teams has made employee recognition and rewards fun and easy to use right where you work,” says Matter CEO Brett Hellman. “Within weeks, 83 percent of employees actively engage in peer-to-peer recognition, all from automatic reminders. This uptake highlights Matter’s effectiveness in fostering a culture of appreciation. It’s not just about software; it’s about revolutionizing how we recognize and reward our teammates.”

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Use Matter’s analytics tools to understand engagement and recognition patterns. This data can inform HR and management about the effectiveness of recognition strategies, employee morale, and areas needing improvement. When the year ends, you can use Matter’s powerful analytics to find which employees received the most recognition for a particular company value or theme and then reward these employees virtually in your Matter Teams channel or in real time.

Find out more about the apps highlighted above at the Achievers website, the BHN Rewards website, the Lucid website, the Matter website, and Ramp’s website and Teams integration site.

Maximize your investment in Copilot and Teams in 2024

Check out these resources for more on how to get started with Copilot and make the most of your investment in Teams apps:  

We love sharing partner success stories. If you have a story, please contact us.

¹2022 Employee Incentives Report, NAPCO Research and BHN. March 2023.

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