SOLVED

Email Interface for Teams

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Occasional Contributor

UPDATE: So the current best solution seems to be setting up some kind of an intermediate email inbox that handles the notification emails/input emails with some clever filtering (e.g. scraping/encoding relevant information in subject lines). Unfortunately this is not possible to test/implement until the Teams email notifications are fixed (relevant request on Voice located here) so I'm shelving it for now. If anyone comes up with another solution I'd be keen to hear it!


ORIGINAL POST:

Hi all. My hunch on searching around is this is not possible using built in Teams functionality (unfortunate that this is missing) - so I'm wondering if there is a work-around (perhaps through Flow) that anyone has used successfully. Here's what I'm trying to set up:

I need to help some employees interface via Teams using email rather than the teams app - that is, they receive an email when something is posted in a channel, and they are able to reply to that email to post to that channel. They should also be able to email to a particular channel and have the replies to that channel-post be returned to them via email. Obviously there will still be a ton of features that cannot be replicated that they'll have to use Teams for, but I'm looking to get some basic communication with email up and running.

Solutions that don't appear to work:
(1) Email to a channel: It posts, but then replies within teams are not sent back to the original sender.
(2) Email Notifications: Even after having these users 'follow' a channel and turning on email frequency to 'As Soon As Possible,' not all activity within the channel seems to generate an email notification. Additionally, they are not able to reply to the channel activity via email (the notification comes from a 'no reply' address, not the channel email for some reason).

Solutions that will definitely not work:
(1) Encouraging these users to use Teams in place of Email (a more likely outcome will be the organization dropping Teams entirely)
(2) Anything that requires constant technical skill from the users (i.e. I need to be able to set things up for them and then it should work more or less automatically through Outlook)

(Happy to take recommendations that involve coding, but simpler solutions would also be nice, if they exist).

Thanks!

12 Replies
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@Austen_E Not a good job for Flow for the entire process (sounds like you need it to be extremely responsive and you have to pay for the upper tier of Flow for that at least). Maybe use it to seed a start of this interaction or use a bot to do that... 

 

Coding is definitely a base for a solution to this. It's not simple since it has to straddle two applications and be always on the lookout for these messages to pre-process or post-process. 

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@Timothy Balk Instantaneous speed isn't critical (lags of minutes OK, but not hours), as the users trying to link in via email will not be involved in any 'chat-like' situations.

 

Regardless, my best 'easy' solution right now looks like it might be setting up some kind of intermediate email address to handle everything with filters/clever forwarding. This would depend on the automatic email notifications working as intended however - and so far they don't appear to.

 

If a coding solution is necessary, (and without having gone very far down the coding path at all to confirm this), I suspect one of the bigger challenges will be to scrape Teams notifications/channel content (as opposed to the email/Outlook end of things). Any thoughts on how I might manage that?

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@Austen_E Model after incident management systems... embed an ID in the text or subject line.

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Yes, as you said yourself, not that easy!
Also the mail notifications is Dependent with the users teams status! It’s first sent when users is inactive! There’s more to it but conclusion is that’s probably not the best idea to use these!

Why not create an mailbox and connect that with for example mailclark in Teams! It’s a app with a connector so all mails with connected mailbox account end up as a channel message and can be replied from directly in Teams etc!

Not as fancy as building your own customized solution but maybe enough?

Adam
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@adam deltinger thanks for the response and for letting me know about the bugged notifications - I've logged that over at Microsoft voice here if you want to give it an upvote. That would definitely explain the issues we've been having with them.

 

I've checked out Mailclark and I don't think it will work for us unfortunately. Besides the pricetag, it looks like it would require each channel to be set up as a Mailclark tab, and require all responses of our standard users to 'reply' to the emails which would lose a lot of the functionality we want from teams (not to mention threading issues I can forsee).

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@Austen_E Maybe give some more information on who is consuming this kind of a solution and why a solution like this is needed . Feel like there is missing info that could be key to identifying something to help.

 

IMO - I wouldn't take a project like this on. Big red flag when people say they want to use the software, but they're not really using it and they want a custom plug in like what is being described here.

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Yeah, if they refuse that's their loss, let them be less efficient and not leverage modern tools..... find your groups that will, get them going on it, and eventually the stubborn people will eventually follow.

One of the largest things to get people going is get them to get the mobile app. That is huge for Teams adoption. They most likely will complain that they don't want to deal with another app, or off hours but your immediate response should be: "Do you have e-mail setup on your phone?" They will always stumble on themselves and you just come right back with then you need Teams on your phone.

Anyway, I know the pain, I had groups like that in my successful deployment at my last job. I knew there would be people that just wouldn't do it, so I started with all the groups I knew would. You get them going and it's a train that wont' be stopped. Talk to managers, get them in the flow of telling their Teams to say hey, all communications are going here, if you miss something that's on you. People will eventually make the effort because they don't want to miss out, fall behind or get in trouble.

There used to be a good article about onboarding some Teams but I haven't been able to find it recently.

Anyway, good luck. For sure don't try forcing e-mail with a chat tool, you're asking for a nightmare. Try to sell it for what it is. One last tip I always used when showing them why Teams is better than e-mail. Create a group reply all example with 3 or 4 work buddies, with a bunch of Thanks, Got it, Can you check, this, 3 or 4 reply attachments of the same file update. Do that same exact thread in Teams. Show them the difference. E-mail you have the usual, Long chain to shift through, out of order responses, different file versions. Tons of Header / Signature etc. bloat to scroll through. Then show them Teams. 1 Single source of Truth file, updated realtime with the entire context in few replies, all the "Thanks!", "Got it", "looks good!" Replies aren't there, and in turn they are 4 likes on the original post.

Just doing that scenario alone, usually sets a light bulb off for these e-mail folks. And tell them, this isn't replacing e-mail, it's just improving internal communications, you still have to have it for some cross org, external (Outer loop) communications.

Ok, done blabbing :). Hopefully this helps!
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@Chris Webb Thank you for the response. I should have stated this more clearly in my initial post - changing user behaviour is not my goal here. My goal is to help some users achieve basic functionality in Teams using email.

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Your only real option with e-mail back and forth that I know of is using Mail Clark. Other than that your forcing a square peg through a round hole. I don't recommend it :)

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@Timothy Balk Thanks for your response. I have several users who would like to be able to interact with Teams directly via email (or at least, as directly as is practicable) in order to (1) keep a record of conversation (since there currently appears to be no way to export an entire thread/conversation) and (2) manage most of their conversations via email for simplicity/minimalism's sake (NB: I am not interested in evaluating whether or not these reasons are 'valid' - I'm curious how to solve the problem!)

 

A minimum viable solution would include posting new conversations in a given channel via email, replying to a conversation in which the user was tagged via email, and receiving replies to both classes of conversation via email.

 

It's not my primary project with this client (I'm mainly a database guy) - it just came up in a side conversation and I was somewhat surprised it wasn't a simple option to enable (seems like it would be straightforward enough given the, admittedly superficial, similarities between a conversation and an email thread.) 

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@Austen_E 

Thanks to all for an informative dialog. It's helped me address a question from our users - a fairly senior group who are "loosely affiliated", rather than 'full time' members of an organization. As such, some form of email integration will likely be expected. Some of them are familiar with the Teamwork collaboration platform which has long provided inbound and outbound use of email to work with messages [Conversations], Files, Notebooks, etc. This seems particularly appealing to a hybrid group of volunteers in a not for profit that I support. 

The ability to send email to a Microsoft Teams Channel is helpful to an extent. But it appears that we should not expect much more integration with email in the near future. Explanations that this is a "chat" paradigm rather than an "email" paradigm may satisfy some of our users, but not the majority. 

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@djcrane Glad it helped! I have yet to find any solution to this (other projects have taken priority), but on the off-chance I do find something eventually I'll post it here.

As you said - the 'chat > email' paradigm is difficult for many users to accept, so hopefully full email integration will be possible eventually.