Microsoft Brings Scheduled Send to Teams Chat

Teams Scheduled Send for Chats Designed to Deliver Messages When Recipients are Ready to Receive

We all have too many ways to communicate and live in a world of constant pings, bongs, and other indications of arriving messages. In some respects, Teams chats are more demanding than emails. Chats are of the moment, demanding the recipient’s attention, and can arrive in a flood of individual messages replete with emojis, GIFs, and other attention-grabbing graphics. All of which means that Microsoft’s introduction of scheduled send for Teams chats is welcome (Microsoft 365 message center notification MC427758, published September 8).

According to Microsoft, allowing users to schedule chats for delivery in the future will help “build better work-life balance” by delivering messages “during our peers’ work hours.” I guess we can always hope that people will check the local time for recipients through their people card before deciding to send a message.

Microsoft plans to roll the feature out to commercial tenants in late September (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 88281). GCC and other high-security tenants will receive the feature later starting in late October and finishing in late February 2023.

Delayed Send with Outlook

Scheduled or delayed sending of messages is not a new idea. Outlook and OWA both have ways of sending messages at a predetermined future time. In OWA, select the Send later option from the Send menu and select the time to send the message. OWA keeps the message in the Drafts folder of the mailbox until the time comes and then sends the email. Users have the option to modify the message until OWA sends it (Figure 1) to change the time, add new content, and so on.

OWA Delays sending an email
Figure 1: OWA Delays sending an email

Outlook for Windows takes a different approach. Users must update the delivery options for a message to set a scheduled time. Outlook then keeps the message in the Outbox until the time comes and then sends the email.

Teams Scheduled Send

The Teams scheduled send for chat feature is available for the desktop and mobile clients and can be used by tenant and guest accounts. Delayed send works for both 1:1 and group chats. Delayed chat doesn’t work for browser clients and it’s unavailable for channel conversations.

The implementation of scheduled send is easy to use. Compose a chat message as normal and then right-click the send button to expose the scheduling options (Figure 2). Teams likes to suggest 8AM tomorrow as a good time to send a message, but you can choose any time up to seven days in advance.

Teams scheduled send - setting a time to send
Figure 2: Teams scheduled send – setting a time to send

Scheduled chats wait for their time to go. You’ll recognize them by the banner and icon stamped on the messages (Figure 3). When Teams sends a scheduled message, it reverts to looking like any other chat.

Teams delayed send message waits for the appointed time
Figure 3: A Teams scheduled message waits for the appointed time

One thing I noticed is that the drop-down menu for the time only allows users to select half-hour intervals. In other words, you can choose to send at 8AM, 8:30AM, or 9AM but not 8:35AM.

This probably doesn’t matter too much, but it would be nice to have more precise control over when messages go. I don’t know why Microsoft went with this implementation, but the reason might be no more complex than it’s easier to have a timer job execute on the client every 30 minutes rather than check for scheduled messages every minute.

No Urgent or Important Messages

Scheduled chats cannot be marked as urgent or important. This is logical because when you mark a message as urgent, Teams notifies the recipient every two minutes for 20 minutes until they read the message, which is kind of the opposite to scheduling delivery for a future time. Anyway, if a message really is urgent or important, why would you schedule it in a chat application?

If you mark a message as important or urgent, and then attempt to schedule it, Teams removes the important or urgent markings and treats the message as a normal chat.

Rescheduling Chats

The potential always exists that people will screw up scheduling a message. For me, it’s selecting the right time but the wrong date. Fortunately, you can edit a message and reschedule it for the correct time (Figure 4).

Rescheduling a Teams delayed send message
Figure 4: Rescheduling a Teams scheduled send message

Federated Scheduling

Federated chat is when Teams users communicate with users of other services like Skype consumer in 1:1 chats. External access is when one or more participants from other tenants join a chat. Scheduled messages work for external access chats (with Teams users in other Microsoft 365 tenants). They don’t work for federated chats with Skype users. You can schedule a message in these chats, but you can’t edit the message to update its sending time, and when the time comes to send the chat, Teams runs into problems (Figure 5).

Problems sending a Teams delayed message to a federated external user
Figure 5: Problems sending a Teams scheduled message to a federated external user

Scheduled chat does work for messages sent to Teams consumer users.

Getting in a Mess

As I played with scheduled chats, I discovered how easy it is to send a message that I intended to schedule and to schedule other messages at the wrong time. Moving from the current model where all chats go immediately will take a little time to master. At least, it will for me.

Learning how to use scheduled chat effectively has its humorous side. If you don’t pay attention, or are distracted by other happenings during a chat, you might end up like I did with a mix of sent and scheduled chats (Figure 6). Also notice that you can schedule a chat to send before a previously scheduled message.

Teams delayed send messages get in a mess
Figure 6: Teams scheduled send messages get in a mess

From the screenshot, it looks like I managed to make Teams schedule the chat for 12:23 instead of a half-hour marker; I have no idea how I did this, so let’s mark it down to a software glitch (or user error). The messages duly arrived as scheduled and confused the recipient, much to my embarrassment.

Mobile Scheduled Send

The UI for Teams mobile clients is very different to the desktop client, so another mechanism is needed to schedule a message. Instead of right-click, use a long press on the send button and then select the time and date to schedule the send (Figure 7).

Scheduling a Teams delayed message on mobile (iOS)
Figure 7: Scheduling a Teams delayed message on mobile (iOS)

No Policy Control

Microsoft regards scheduled send as a new extension of the core chat capabilities. There’s no setting available in the Teams messaging policy to enable or disable the ability to use scheduled send, and the feature is available to everyone out-of-the-box. If you don’t want people to use scheduled send, don’t tell them about it!

Scheduling is Useful

Adding the ability to send chats at a scheduled time is a good enhancement. The implementation is solid and easy to use, even if I got confused at times. One criticism that I think is fair is that it’s hard for users to find that the delayed send option is available because no indication exists that right-click on the send button exposes extra functionality.

Microsoft’s aspiration that this feature will help users achieve a better work-life balance is laudable; the sole question is whether people will respond. Time will tell.


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