Will Walkie Talkie push you to talk or push you over the edge?


Microsoft has just announced that it is adding a push-to-talk feature to its popular communication and collaboration app Teams, meaning that your smartphone or tablet can function like a Walkie Talkie.  Here at simply we reckon this is going to divide opinion as to whether it will be really annoying or really useful. So, what do you think?  Is it a gimmick or a game changer? 

Microsoft revealed the upcoming Walkie Talkie feature, ahead of this week’s National Retailers Federation show, in a blog post that details several ways that its products and services will empower frontline and deskless workers.

Jonathan Phillips, simply’s newly appointed Head of Consultancy, said: “It is easy to see how push-to-talk technologies can be applied in certain service and task-oriented roles, but like all technologies, the power lies in identifying the right use cases and making sure your workers fully understand the value of using them. It’s also true to say that used poorly, a walkie talkie style of communications could really prove off-putting and jeopardise the very thing a business is trying to improve.”

What are the benefits?

According to Microsoft’s blog post, the push-to-talk feature will enable “clear, instant, and secure voice communication” that will turn company-owned smartphones and tablets into walkie talkies. Unlike calling features, which may be rejected, the walkie talkie function will quickly and easily broadcast a message to a person or a group of people. They claim that the new walkie talkie feature will reduce the number of devices that frontline workers will need to carry, lower IT costs for their company, and according to Emma Williams, a Microsoft corporate vice president, “Unlike analog devices with unsecure networks, customers no longer have to worry about crosstalk or eavesdropping from outsiders.”

Another benefit this feature has over traditional walkie talkie technology is that it can be used among workers in different geographical locations as it connects over wifi or cellular data.

What about the downsides?

As with most new tech features, there are a host of naysayers quick to criticise on Twitter and the like. For some, they see the unrequested intrusion into their working day with endless broadcast notices or requests for action interrupting the flow of their work. Others suggest that, for less capable managers, this offers an easy – and annoying – way to ‘communicate’ with employees and colleagues.

The push-to-talk feature will be launched on Microsoft Teams in private preview within the first half of the year. The walkie talkie icon will appear in the middle of the app’s bottom navigation bar suggesting it is a highly requested feature that many organisations will want to use once it is rolled out.

How to introduce this new feature

Here are our top three tips for introducing this – or any – new tech features in your business:

1. Make sure you know exactly WHY you want to use the technology. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. Be clear about WHAT job is it to do, and have an idea of HOW you expect people to use it.
2. Make sure you communicate the WHY, WHAT and HOW to everyone and seek their feedback – let those who are going to use the technology have a say in exactly how they will use it. Getting them on side before you throw it at them will save enormous amounts of time later.
3. Having got senior level endorsement, let your natural enthusiasts be the ones to get it underway in your organisation. A community-driven approach is often more successful.
Will it be a game changer?

Perhaps surprisingly, other well used communication apps like WhatsApp, Slack and Messenger do not have a walkie talkie feature. Is this Microsoft getting ahead of the game or could it be feature bloat?

I reckon the jury is out. Will this be an indispensable feature for certain groups of workers in certain industries? Or will it be a bit of gimmick and then wither? What do you think?

We would love to hear your views, please answer the poll below to let us know!


By Alison Boothby