First Experiences with Microsoft Kaizala

What is Microsoft Kaizala? Is it Microsoft’s equivalent of WhatsApp for Business? A replacement for StaffHub? Is it something new entirely?

The answer is all of the above, and none of the above, as well as “I don’t know?”. The reality is I’m trying to figure out what exactly Microsoft Kaizala is.

The website tagline is: “A mobile app for large group communications and work management”. A further explanation is: “Microsoft Kaizala makes it easy to connect and coordinate with your Firstline workers – wherever they are – using a simple-to-use chat interface. Efficiently manage work or collect data from individuals or large groups, even if they’re not in your organization. View built-in reports to get insights for faster decision making.”.

That sounds kind of like StaffHub, with guess access and some reporting built in. Oh, if only it were that simple.

The first thing I’ll say is that it is simple, damn simple. I installed the app, signed in with my mobile number (hello WhatsApp…) and was immediately joined into a group conversation that some colleagues had begun. It was a fantastic experience for those who know why they are doing what they are doing, and what to expect.

The second thing I’ll say is that there is a lot this app can do; so much that I can’t fit it into a single blog post. In this day and age people don’t necessarily have the time to read or watch, so I’m going to keep this post very high level and largely in dot point form to allow you to get out there and experiment with it, should you be so inclined.

Before getting started

  • It requires a mobile number to verify you (hello WhatsApp…)
  • It looks like WhatsApp
  • It acts like WhatsApp in terms of contacts (you can only invite people by mobile)
  • It only works on a mobile device – there is no web or desktop experience (I found this frustrating when I was back at my desk and wanted to continue the conversation – I had to keep picking up my mobile)

What can Kaizala do?

  • Chat 1:1
  • Chat in public groups, private groups, and organisational groups (more on that later)
  • Share forms & quizzes
  • Facilitate feedback
  • Collect data via surveys
  • Post announcements
  • Use emojis in your conversation (including some borrowed from Skype for Business)

Some screenshots of actions:

You can also create connectors, play games, and find nearby groups.

What can’t Kaizala do?

(compared to other Microsoft apps that cross over functionality, as well as competing apps)

  • You can’t like a post, but you can like and comment on pictures
  • You can’t @mention people in a group chat
  • You can’t use GIFs
  • Make voice or video calls

I was a little surprised by these, as they seemed like basic features for a “social” app.

But I guess that’s the difference with Kaizala – it’s not just a social app to compete with WhatsApp; it’s where social intersects with work for mobile users.

What’s interesting about Kaizala is that it actually interacts with Office 365 – although not too much.

For starters you can’t add users via Azure Active Directory – only CSV import. That being said you can browse the directory for other users, but can’t message them if they haven’t signed up yet.

When a user signs up they can link their work account, but none of the attributes come across (ie. photo, email, title, location, etc.).

As an admin I don’t see Kaizala in the Office 365 admin centre either under Admin centers or Services & add-ins. It seems to be its own service, however it does allow me to sign in using my Office 365 admin account.

We can also make it mandatory for users to have an Office 365 account which is beneficial from a governance perspective.

To see how well users are accessing Kaizala there do appear to be a number of reports, and these can also be surfaced in Power BI.

Some important things for IT Managers / Pros / Admins:

(These screenshots don’t really require any further explanation)

How do I get it?

Kaizala started off life as a Microsoft Garage project it now appears to be a fully-fledged service with proper microsite on the Office site and its own Microsoft.com URL: https://www.microsoft.com/kaizala

While this has been available for some time and I had seen it available, previously it appeared to be targeted towards India, Kenya and the Philippines. Now it appears to be in preview elsewhere, so warranted a look-see.

Kaizala utilises the freemium model and as such is available for free or as a paid version (which appears to be included in Office 365 Enterprise subscriptions, but doesn’t specifically say that anywhere):

So where to next?

It is unclear where Kaizala fits in the Microsoft Office ecosystem. It has functionality that overlaps with Yammer, Teams, StaffHub and others. There also does not appear to be any clarity around data residency.

Has Microsoft bitten off more than it can chew with this app? It appears to be quite feature rich yet easy to use for non-technical workers.

My prediction is that this will be merged in with other products over time, as opposed to remaining as a standalone app.

To those who create infographics and like to talk about ‘what to use when’ in the Office 365 ecosystem; I say good luck to you!

For everyone else; just wait and see what Microsoft says in terms of a roadmap.

Teams quick tip: start a chat as a guest

Recently in conversation with fellow MVP Steven Collier, we had differing views on how chats can be initiated by guests based on our experiences. As it wasn’t clearly documented I sought clarification from the Teams team.

When a guest joins a team, they become a member of the Azure Active Directory and gain visibility of the directory to a certain extent.

How this plays out is that a guest can initiate a chat with any another person in the tenant, in a couple of different scenarios:

Name-based discovery only works for people who exist in the same teams as you

What this means is that if I am in a team with John Doe, I can start a chat with John simply by typing his name.

Similarly if another guest called Jane Smith (Guest) is in the team with me, I can also initiate a chat with Jane by typing her name.

However, if Damien Margaritis is not in a team with me – I cannot initiate a chat with him by typing his name:

Which leads us to….

Chatting with people outside of your teams

Similar to how federation works in Skype for Business; you can initiate a chat with someone in the tenant if you know their email address.

So in the previous example where I was not able to find Damien Margaritis by name, I can however find him by his email address of damien@morsmutual.com.

And now you know!