Good use cases for Priority Messages in Teams .. and why their misuse is a Very Bad Idea

In a last week’s Twitter discussion, that was started by Amanda Sterner, was some good discussion about Teams Priority Messages after on her blog post, which describes what Priority/Urgent messages are and how they are used. I also have an earlier post how to configure them on or off:

Messaging policy can be used to control user groups who has access to Priority Messages

Look in my linked blog post on details how you can manage messaging policies. As a reminder: user can have a single messaging policy but different users can have different policies. In essence: you can put on Priority Notifications off for default policy and then create a another policy where the feature is on. Or vice versa, thus controlling which users can use Priority Messages.

Priority Messages risks

Priority messages alert recipients for 20 minutes with 2 minute intervals – or until the message is read. Priority Messages will bypass Do-Not-Disturb modes. Apparently they can’t bypass phone’s DND-mode.

Simply put: these can be annoying. Extremely annoying. And when something is annoying it tends to lead users to unwanted behavior like shutting down Teams client. If that happens, it kills the idea of hub for teamwork and affects how you can work together.

It is important that users don’t misuse this but leave it to real scenarios where it is needed. That way user’s will have a immediate feel that “this is important, I need to act on this” instead of “again notifications, how do I get rid of these. This is breaking my focus”.

Good use cases

As Priority Messages are otherwise normal Teams messages it is good to include text what the situation is all about. That way the recipient can act accordingly, even when they haven’t replied to you. Read receipts help to see that the message is read and of course the recipient should react with a like to acknowledge it.

There are lots of good uses for Priority Messages in Healthcare (contacting doctor, nurse etc) etc but there are also a good number of other cases in office domains where this is useful (when not misused):

  • A last minute change of meeting room or meeting cancellation. You can create a priority message in meeting chat so you can create an alert for all attendees that the meeting room is changed.
  • “Are you attending the meeting – when are you arriving?” When someone is late and he is needed. This works also nicely with read receipts.
  • Getting urgent help from a specialist/manager/etc, even when they are in a meeting or in DND mode and won’t be answering calls. Including the urgency text (not just the cry “I need help. Now!”) helps specialist/manager to do prioritization.
  • Something that requires immediate action of a person and normal messages don’t seem to reach him (perhaps due to DND mode) “A decision maker must make a decision now”, “There is a press release that everyone must follow, I see you are in a meeting: break off now and tune to crisis meeting”
  • Getting a message to (field) workers that require immediate action “accident in your area”, “prioritization change: head immediately to.. “, “you have taken a wrong part with you – it is faulty. Don’t install it”, “Don’t install that service pack”

The common in these cases: they all require immediate action by the person and failing to do so may result problems at customers/production, danger or loss of money. Meeting room examples save a people’s frustration or unnecessary waiting.

Don’t use Priority Messages for these

  • Mundane questions like “are we going to lunch at 11am?”, “Where is our HR policy?”, “Can I get a new laptop?”
  • Something you think is important but it doesn’t require any action on receivers part immediately “we just won the case, our stock price is higher than ever, the project starts next week, there is a question from customer – could you check it later”
  • All company messages that has been sent to everyone
  • Using Priority flag for reminding about a task due tomorrow or next week
  • Using priority flag for any message from supervisor “hey it is really important that you read this HR guide .. although you won’t be needing this information for a month)
  • “We just launched out new intranet – take a look”

The common in these cases: there is no urgency, no action is needed or it is of mundane matter. Sure, there can be grey areas (especially when lunch is concerned) . Less urgent messages can be dealt with standard Teams messages – and of course using mark important -feature to make them stand out more.

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