Margaret Totten explains why Teams is a 'game-changer' for building specialised apps
Microsoft Teams’ adaptive functionality and ability to develop on makes it the “perfect platform” for a collaborative workspace, according to Akari Solutions CEO and Co-Founder, Margaret Totten (pictured above).
Akari Solutions is a Microsoft Gold partner, offering services in Azure, as well as Teams. It also provides big data, automation services and assistive technology.
Totten told UC Today that Teams’ “true power” is in its additional functionality, which includes the ability to build apps and chat bots, as well as the fact that it is updated regularly.
“Teams is a game-changer,” she stated.
“No disrespect to things like Zoom and Slack, but there is no compete [with them] because Teams isn’t just this collaborative workspace or a Skype for Business replacement. The true power of Teams lies in its additional pieces; in the sense of support and the ability to build apps in it.
“For me, there’s no other platform where, as well as video chat conference calls and instant messaging, I also have access to my files, insights and apps. I have that ability to let my development team loose on it to drive our proposition forward.”
It is currently World Autism Awareness Week, and the creation of Akari was inspired by a Microsoft event that Totten and her two co-founders attended several years ago, while she was Microsoft Alliance Director for GCI (now Nasstar). At the event, they learned that just 10 per cent of people with autism are in full-time paid employment.
“As the mother of a child with high functioning autism, those stats didn’t make any sense to me. It was something that I found hard to put together with my son who is blindingly clever,” she explained.
“How can we lock 90 per cent of a group of people out of the marketplace? My son’s always been around tech and so I started looking at assistive technology and how that helped people and I thought ‘This is the gap’.”
Akari has developed accessibility apps on Teams, including AVA, an automated virtual assistant, and ADI, a diversity and inclusion app. Though education doesn’t make up a sizable portion of its customer base, Akari still provides these tools free to help educators and students.
“ADI is a free chatbot within Microsoft Teams and it allows people to educate themselves about disabilities, about allyship, about wellbeing and allows people with disabilities to ask questions and get answers on how to utilise the latest assistive technologies,” she said.
“It can still be used for commercial organisations and we want it to be used by them; in seven years’ time my son’s going to be joining the workforce, so we’re building this working world for him.“