News recently broke that Microsoft Teams is officially available to anyone with an Office 365 subscription. The application has been in testing since November, but it’s now fully launched as part of the Office 365 suite. This is great news for professionals because Teams is about to make communication among business teams in Office 365 much easier.
Many tech experts agree that this latest application from Microsoft will change the game for digital communication giants like Slack. While the initial version of Teams is dynamic and fully integrated, we thought it would be beneficial to explore the key differences and capabilities between Teams and Slack to see if Microsoft has really outdone the widely-used, web-based chat solution.
Slack is the well-liked and long-standing web-based take on old-fashioned digital communication channels that use Internet Relay Chat (IRC) models. This allows for a long ‘relay’ of messages that can be persistently stored and accessed. This provides a constant flow of conversation between team members that can be re-examined or picked up from the most recent point at any time. The framework is line-oriented and text heavy but seeks to mimic the office water-cooler as a place for team members to chat in a conversational style.
Teams mimic Slack’s style but proudly includes a Microsoft twist. Microsoft Teams is a dynamic group messaging application organized around the use of chatrooms. Additionally, unlike Slack, Teams is not a standalone solution – it is fully integrated with all Office 365 applications, which optimizes the consolidation of data and functionality. Full integration means there’s no additional account sign ups or onboarding process. Only one login, using existing Office 365 credentials is required.
Furthermore, Teams relies on built-in business intelligence tools to help users better utilize and understand existing groups or teams. This makes it easier than ever to streamline the company communication platform and ensure relevant team members stay connected. This optimization is maximized even further because Teams is also integrated with Skype for Business. This means turning a Teams text conversation into a face-to-face meeting is only a click away, from within the same browser.
Like Slack, Teams can be integrated with a variety of third-party services to offer things like embedded images and videos within chat windows. Teams have even gone further than Slack in the creative department by adding a feature that allows users to choose an image and overlay text on it. Finally, thanks to Office 365 integration, file sharing capabilities are much more streamlined in Teams as opposed to Slack.
Teams are more private as it utilizes private group chat options instead of a ‘live-stream’ IRC channel like Slack. This means team members can have more private conversation streams that function more like personal messages as opposed to status updates.
Microsoft also changed the game when it comes to message view and organization. Slack has since copied the feature, but Teams was the first to orient toward threaded messaging. This allows users to cluster replies beneath specific messages. As mentioned, Slack has now included this feature, but many users agree that the threading option just doesn’t suit the Slack, line-by-line, IRC model. The bottom line is, many Slack users chose the solution for this ‘free-for-all’ approach to team communication.
It’s here where Teams parts ways most significantly from Slack. Some critics believe the Teams infrastructure is a little heavy and clunky. Threaded messages take up a lot of space, meaning users don’t have the option of seeing a variety of messages on screen at once. While threaded messaging may work for some companies, most organizations investing in an instant communications platform are looking for something more instantaneous and chat-style.
The final way that Microsoft is distancing itself from the Slack approach, is through tiered pricing models. As it stands, Teams has no free tier and no standalone pricing. Instead, Teams comes included with Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium as well as all three Enterprise plans (E1, E3 & E5). This means Teams is offered at no additional cost – Office 365 users pay their regular monthly subscription and have full access to the Teams app. Slack, on the other hand, a free version and a variety of basic, per-user subscription models for their stand-alone chat solution.
When it comes down to it, Microsoft built Teams in about 21 months and it’s already a polished and well-equipped solution. In fact, for a version 1 product, Teams is downright remarkable. So, for Office 365 business users who have been making use of Slack for communication, Teams offers a compelling alternative. Google is on the scene too, pushing Hangouts as an additional communication solution – specifically targeted at G Suite subscribers.
However, when it comes down to it, neither Slack or Hangouts offers the same integration, centralization, and customization potential that Teams offers. While Microsoft may want to rethink the visual infrastructure of Teams to reflect a more appealing and consistent flow of conversation, their solution is already changing the game when it comes to business communication. They may also be wise to consider a free, standalone subscription option to get users hooked on the features and capabilities built-in to Teams. A standalone version could also serve as an effective tool for external collaboration and cross-organizational connection.
Is teamwork in your office delayed or made difficult because of poor communication tools? Wondering about the best solutions for more instant and streamlined chat potential among team members? Reach out to our team of technology professionals any time for guidance.