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.


Also published on Medium.

5 comments

  1. Reply

    I don’t see the point using Kaizala… We already have Teams to use the features that Kaizala offers, but notiong disruptive in the O365 ecosystem. I will wait until I can recommend this new tool to any of my clients…

    • Loryan Strant

      Reply

      I’m inclined to agree as an office worker, but I think this is aimed at frontline workers who just want to communicate and don’t need the heaviness or richness that Teams brings.

  2. Reply

    Thanks Loryan

    The main use case for this is for developing countries where internet connectivity is at a premium. I.e. still most of the planet.

    Some of the things you can do with this app include collecting that survey data offline.
    Also sending your location in low bandwidth situations using the phone network. Something that existing tools such as WhatsApp just do not do.

    One point that brought Kaizala back to my attention recently was that in India where the app is from initially they are enabling mobile payments. This makes doing business in those far off places easier. As people can use the mobile to run there business no pc required.

    I am working with a large Health non profit where this app has great potential. Having no web interface is a bit limiting as you say plus the data residency is said to be in Azure but in which country.

    The name Kaizala by the way is an Indian Paramanthi word meaning what’s happening? Or of course what’s up…

    This was never designed to be part of 365 but merely a Garage project which has been successful in several places in the world.

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