We were talking to Microsoft SharePoint MVP Becky Bertram a few weeks back about this new tool called Kaizala, and were interested because being in the Compliance and Governance space, we had heard this new tool could resolve some of the problems with messaging applications not managed by an enterprise.
Users with Office 365 Small Business Premium subscriptions have started seeing a new app show up in their app launcher, called Kaizala. But what is Kaizala? In the United States, it’s one of Office 365’s best kept secrets.
What is Kaizala?
Microsoft Kaizala is a phone-based mobile chat tool that integrates with Office 365. Some have called it a competitor to WhatsApp (owned by Facebook). Kaizala goes above and beyond just letting folks chat with one another; it allows people to carry out quick tasks like creating a poll, survey, or task list; create a job posting, make an announcement, or schedule a meeting and then take attendance; or send a photo with your location. Additionally, there is the possibility for organizations to create their own integrations with the platform. Depending on how Kaizala is configured, users can be invited to use the app and join Kaizala groups without needing an Office 365 login.
The tool was developed in India and has gained major traction overseas, where many people don’t have reliable access to wi-fi but do have cell phone access. Microsoft has taken this tool from being a side-project to incorporating it into the overall Office 365 product line-up because the company is increasingly focused on what it calls firstline workers. These are workers who don’t do their job from a computer in a cubicle somewhere, but they’re employees who are on the go and still need to be connected to each other in their organization.
For example, imagine construction workers who are spread out on a job site, or nurses spread out through a hospital campus. In many cases, the lack of available tools has created a case of Shadow IT, where users take advantage of consumer tools that get the job done, but aren’t explicitly managed or sanctioned by the organization. For example, a construction worker might simply use text with photos from their phone to point out their location, or a nurse might use the iPhone’s ability to transmit their location, or they might use an app like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate. However, since these communications happen on their private phone, or are owned by 3rd party companies, it’s hard to be sure that communications can be monitored and that privacy requirements are being ensured.
Management Tools in Kaizala
Because Kaizala is part of Office 365, it provides a way for users to communicate in groups that can be (but don’t necessarily have to be) tied to Office 365 groups. For example, if you already have a group created for the cardiac unit at your hospital, (which is being used by cardiac unit staff to store electronic documents in a SharePoint site associated with the group), then you can also ensure that the same people can also use Kaizala to communicate with one another.
Additionally, Kaizala allows administrators to set up data retention policies and compliance policies around the access, copying, sharing, and forwarding of information.
There’s also a dashboard available for allowing administrators to view data stored in Kaizala such as group conversation histories, and the outcomes of polls, surveys, and more.
Users in North America can use the app on their phone, and administrators can set up compliance features for their tenant. However, data retention policies are only available to users with the Kaizala Pro license, which is currently available in 28 countries – not including the United States or Canada.
The Future of Kaizala
While one of the strengths of Kaizala is the ability for non-Office 365 users to still participate in conversations that are managed by Office 365 tenant administrators, the obvious overlap between Kaizala and Teams is likely to cause a bit of confusion. For now, the strength of Kaizala seems to be its ability to reach out to non-licensed users who don’t exist in your Azure AD, and incorporate them into a managed Kaizala implantation. It’s also a very consumer-like tool and easy for novice users to pick up. However, if you’re in North America and are just now working on user adoption in your organization surrounding Teams, I would suggest you continue down that route unless you require the functionality of Kaizala beyond your organization. Time will tell if Microsoft decides to roll Kaizala functionality into Teams, (as it has recently done by transitioning the StaffHub app into Teams and rebrand it “Shifts”.)
In the meantime, go ahead and download the app on your phone and try it out. You can use the app on your phone or access Kaizala on the Web by navigating to https://webapp.kaiza.la. The management portal for Kaizala can be found at https://manage.kaiza.la.