Start with a pilot deployment of Microsoft 365 for frontline workers

Before you commit to a full rollout of Microsoft 365 for frontline workers across your organization, it's a good idea to try it out first with a small set of real people in your organization. Starting with a pilot program first can help you identify:

  • Validate user readiness.
  • Identify and mitigate issues.
  • Help ensure a successful, organization-wide rollout.

For example, a pilot can help you determine:

  • Whether the scenarios you've identified match the business needs of your organization.
  • What elements will need to be modified or further customized for your organization.
  • What training and orientation information you'll need to provide to users before, during, and after they start working with these new tools.

Running a pilot program is part of the overall adoption process. For more information about adopting Microsoft 365 in your organization, see:

We recommend that you prepare for deployment by completing this 30-minute learning path: Prepare for a Teams deployment with Microsoft 365.

Steps to run a pilot program

Get your people together

Assemble a group of individuals from your business, IT, and frontline communities to act as the stakeholder and decision-making group for your Microsoft 365 pilot for frontline workers. Be sure to include individuals from all three communities to give yourself the best chance for success:

Next, identify your phase 1 pilot community and make sure it includes actual frontline workers in the smallest logical grouping for your organization. For example, one restaurant, one division of a department store, one store, one clinical ward, one precinct, one plant, one distribution center, etc. The key is to optimize around the average frontline worker being part of one team only. Managers or specialists may be in more than one.

Best practice

It's important to include all roles within that smallest logical grouping, from managers to part time or seasonal workers, to uncover valuable insights and enable modern communication scenarios. Your most junior staff will surprise you! Some key delightful and unintended valuable scenarios uncovered during pilots with sample customers include:

  • Standardized Expectations and Training: Taking a picture of a clean stove to illustrate to kitchen staff what clean means. “If it doesn’t look like this, then it isn’t clean!”
  • Reducing shrinkage: Taking a picture of a known shoplifter and notifying other employees immediately. Teams on future shifts will also see this picture to mitigate future risk.

Decision points

At the end of this phase, you should be able to answer these questions:

  • Who will participate in your pilot?
  • What's the smallest logical grouping for your organization?

Plan your pilot

A successful pilot includes the following:

  • Defined start and end dates and clearly defined goals for measuring success. These goals can help you plan the rollout after the pilot is complete.
    • Create a test plan and process for gathering feedback, plus a communication plan.
  • Allow enough time to run the pilot and assess its impact. A minimum of 30 days is recommended.
  • Include the right stakeholders and participants, knowing you can add more users throughout the pilot, if necessary. For Microsoft 365 for frontline workers, make sure your stakeholders and participants include not only the business leaders and IT staff, but your frontline managers and workers, so you can both:
    • Ensure you understand their challenges while planning the implementation.
    • You can check to make sure your implementation is having a positive impact on those challenges.
  • Start small and take time to pause, assess results, and adjust the pilot.

For a successful pilot for frontline workers, simplicity is key! For most organizations, this community typically isn’t provided any company-supported communication or collaboration technology, but are likely already using unsupported consumer tools to accomplish some basic needs. A recommended best practice is to begin where your users are and mimic the capabilities they’re using in consumer tools today. As your pilot progresses and the iteration process begins, you can grow the experience.

Decision points

  • Which capabilities will be in Phase 1 of your pilot for frontline workers?
  • Do your frontline workers need Shifts?
  • Which chat configuration will you use?

Not sure what consumer tools these users are currently using?

Use a pre-pilot survey to inventory the tools, capabilities and scenarios your users rely on today.

Set up Microsoft 365 and Teams

Determine what devices you'll support. For example, you can use the Teams mobile clients on Android and iOS to provide secure access to Teams and frontline worker apps. See Manage shared and personal devices and Get the Teams desktop, web, and mobile clients.

See Set up Microsoft 365 for frontline workers for guidance on how to set up Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, and the other services you'll need for your pilot.

When you have set up and configured all of the other services you need, you can set up Microsoft Teams. We recommend you use the Frontline Worker onboarding wizard to set up your pilot for Teams.

Chat configuration options

Within Teams Chat on mobile, you can have the normal traditional chat layout for Teams OR a layout that includes favorite channels in Chat. This second, simplified UI works well for frontline workers who are only in one team, and is the recommended best practice. Configuring “Show favorite channels in chat” also creates an opportunity to remove the Teams button from the frontline worker app setup policy to further streamline and simplify the end user experience without a loss of functionality. For users who will be in multiple teams, this isn't recommended. You can configure this on a per-user basis and grow in sophistication as needed.

Best practice

Configure Phase 1 of the frontline Teams experience to mimic the consumer tools these users are already using! We recommend starting your pilot for frontline workers with “Show favorite channels in Chat” for simplified communications and Shifts (optional).

With Shifts Without Shifts
Screenshot of phone screen with Shifts added Screenshot of phone screen without Shifts added

Use the Frontline Worker onboarding wizard to kick off your pilot

The Frontline Worker onboarding wizard in the Microsoft 365 admin center simplifies onboarding frontline workers to your organization. Use the wizard to kick off your pilot and quickly deploy an experience in Teams that's tailored to your frontline workforce.

Check out this short video for an overview of how to run the wizard to get your frontline workforce up and running.

The wizard sets up a team for your frontline workers and assigns licenses and policy packages to each team member. You can create your team from scratch or from a team template, and then you add users and assign roles. The role determines whether the wizard assigns the Frontline Manager or Frontline Worker policy package to the user.

The wizard is available to all organizations that have at least one F license. You can run the wizard as many times as you need to roll out Teams to your frontline workforce in different locations or sites across your organization.

For step-by-step guidance, see Use the Frontline Worker onboarding wizard to get your frontline workforce up and running.

Decision points

  • How many channels/conversation topics do you want for your pilot?
  • Which topics feel right for your scenarios?

Best practice

Keep the channels simple. We recommend resisting the urge to create a channel for every possible topic of conversation and instead keep things simple. It’s ok if channels are created over time as needed.

Screenshot of Channels tab

After you have Teams set up and you have your teams and channels created, you can configure any additional frontline apps that you want to use in the pilot, including:

Communicate

Inform your frontline workers of their participation in the pilot, the pilot goals, and provide training, if necessary, on the basic functions. For most customers, this can be a simple instruction to these users to go to the Google Play or Apple Store on their personal mobile devices, download the Microsoft Teams application, and sign in with their company credentials. We’ve designed Microsoft Teams with a simple and easy to use interface that most frontline workers should find intuitive.

Best practice

Don’t forget to train your managers on Shifts! If you’re going to include Shifts in your pilot, then make sure to conduct a separate training session with your managers on how to create, manage, and publish schedules to their team. If you would like additional training materials and communication templates, you can find them in your frontline Pilot in a Box.

Measure

Empowering your frontline workers is more about people than technology. To understand the impact of Teams, stay focused on your frontline workers’ experience. Survey them before, during and after the pilot in order to understand their needs, pain points, and reactions. If you're iterating your pilot and adding new features over time, this feedback can help guide the order, pace, or even whether additional features are needed. In order to help you evaluate the success of your pilot, you can find them in your frontline Pilot in a Box.

Best practice

Nurture your champions and highlight your wins. Reward your frontline workers for embracing these new tools and using them in innovative ways that relate to business outcomes for your company. This, above anything, will ensure continued adoption of Teams and value to your company.

Iterate and expand

Now that you’ve successfully completed your first pilot with an initial group of frontline workers, it’s time to expand! It’s time to go back to Step 1 with one of the several expansion options below. We recommend working through this process as many times as needed to arrive at a solution, set of best practices, and training documentation for all of your frontline workers.

  • Expand the number of teams. Use the Frontline Worker onboarding wizard to set up your next location or region.
    • Instead of one location, can you do one region?
    • Would you want one team for the whole region or individual teams for each location?
  • Expand the features provided.
    • Was there a key feature that your frontline workers suggested I your feedback forms, like Shifts, that you didn’t include in your initial feature set?