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Microsoft Hackfest Success with the Teams API

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Microsoft Graph and Teams Partner-With Hackfest

Last week, we spent some time at the Microsoft Redmond campus where Unify Square participated in the Microsoft Graph and Teams Partner Code-With Hackfest.   Microsoft has poured significant innovation and muscle into its Graph API for accessing Office 365. This allows developers access to most of the key objects in the Microsoft Office 365 cloud, such as email, calendar items, OneDrive documents, contacts, etc.  (The name “Graph” can be somewhat misleading as the API covers a much broader surface area than just insights into relationships.)   The Teams API is a newer, companion API focused on Teams.   (More on Teams in a forthcoming post.)

The Microsoft Graph API

The Graph API covers a massive surface area, and Microsoft has appropriately invested significant resources into making this API “land” well in the ecosystem.   Hackfests are one-way Microsoft has engaged the ISV community, regularly bringing a handful of ISVs to campus for a week of focused coding to get real/commercial solution prototypes built.   Our mission was to build what we referred to as our “VIP Care” prototype for PowerSuite integration with Teams.  VIP Care will be our initial PowerSuite solution (more details coming soon on this) for Teams, even as we continue to enrich our Skype for Business solutions in PowerSuite.

Microsoft ran a quality operation, with the logistics and physical and team arrangements well thought out, and quality catering!    Unify Square was one of 7 partners participating.   Each partner was assigned its own Microsoft developer team for the entire week, which spoke highly of the focus Microsoft is putting on engaging with the developer community around Office 365.   Our assigned team consisted of Zachary Miller and Tess DiStefano, both in the Microsoft Developer organization.    (We had several other Microsoft contacts involved in setting up our participation and “vetting” our proposed solution before getting us registered in the hackfest, which seemed to help with the quality and productivity of the event.)   Zach and Tess served as a 24×7 PM & Dev extension of our own Unify Square v-team.


The Microsoft Teams API

The Teams APIs themselves seemed to have a Beta-type flavor to them (indeed, they are officially classified as Beta), with more than a few rough edges.   While Microsoft has done an impressive job with out-of-the-box templates, actually using the Teams API to solve our real-world PowerSuite scenario had us asking quite a few questions.    Zach & Tess’s contributions were critical to keeping us focused, stepping past potential roadblocks, and securing additional Microsoft resources where needed.   For example, by Day 4, we arrived at the critical integration moment in our solution getting a bot to send a message to a Team, and hit what we thought was a rather large roadblock, potentially impacting the viability of the entire solution itself.    Zach and Tess were able to secure senior Microsoft expertise as well as Teams product group resources to successfully overcome that roadblock in a couple of hours (ended up being an auth issue).   We also got the sense that the entire Microsoft staff involved was learning from Partner experiences like ours – it was apparent Microsoft was getting value for its investment of time and resources!

Success with the Graph and Teams API

Friday morning was “showtime” – presenting our working solution to a room full of Microsoft staff (no other ISVs in the room).    We were somewhat concerned as we happened to be the last presenter on the roster, just before folks were supposed to head out to their flights etc.    However, the event seemed run like clockwork – we were up on stage right at the appointed minute, and had a presentation – along with extensive API feedback to Microsoft – that seemed very well received.

Overall, we came away with a positive feeling about both the Graph/Teams API and how Microsoft runs its hackfests.     We had our solution first working a full 18 hours before showtime, which is more than can be said of most code “-athons” we’ve been involved in, and due in no small part to how Microsoft set us up for success!

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