Microsoft StaffHub: Customer-centered design driven

Microsoft’s core strength has traditionally been delivering tools for working with, creating, and managing information at scale with products like Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. These products have been primarily desktop-based, simply because the typical information worker sits at a desk; collecting, synthesizing, and sharing information with their colleagues.

Our mission here at Microsoft is to “empower every individual and organization on the planet to achieve more”. Yup, lofty goal, but not out of reach when your approach to designing and building products starts with listening to customers. Listening helps us learn about the situations people work through, how they solve problems now, and the motivations and context behind that process.

Recently — while listening — we uncovered an insight that led us to a new market of workers. A market that had been unsupported and untapped for a long time. They are the frontline workers of a hotel, retail store or food and beverage company. They are mobile-first, technically-savvy and in contact with their customers every single day. They don’t have desktop PCs, and they don’t need traditional solutions.

Accor Hotels, one of our largest Office customers, approached us with their problem. They employ over 120,000 deskless workers in 80+ hotels all over the globe. They realized that their workers didn’t have the digital tools they needed to accomplish their core tasks of schedule management, communication and content sharing.

Microsoft StaffHub + Accor Hotels

Their workers predominantly used Excel to manually create their schedules and printed them for employees to see. There was a lot of back and forth over text message for a shift swap or when an update needed to be made. Managers were struggling to keep track of how to contact their staff- each location using a different consumer solution. Some staff felt uncomfortable releasing their personal phone numbers to everyone on the team.

A small team formed to deep dive into the problem space. We visited multiple customers and asked hundreds of questions trying to tease apart the core problems that a digital tool could solve for them. In the following year there was a LOT of iteration and interfacing with pilot customers who were willing to try out our beta product.

The biggest hurdle the team’s faced is keeping our laser focus on the end user and designing a simple tool that is comparable to the consumer solutions they were using for communication but enterprise ready so that any customer could confidently adopt our solution with low IT friction.

We are excited about the opportunity to create a new set of digital tools, and humbled knowing that we have so much more to learn.