A quick little chat message vs. writing an email: which would you rather do? Most of us would rather send a chat message, especially if the messaging platform was particularly easy to use and capable enough to truly facilitate real-time collaboration with colleagues.
As such, tools such as Slack have gained popularity over the past couple years. Slack’s tag line is “Whatever work means for you, Slack brings all the pieces you need together so you can actually get things done.” It is a bit long for a tag line, but the promise is clear—less effort, more productivity, and everything you need in one easy-to-use spot. We at BTA can attest to the fact that it is easy to use and does facilitate collaboration as we have been using Slack internally for a while. But Slack now faces new competition with the formal launch of Microsoft Teams – Microsoft's messaging-centric collaboration tool for Office 365. And admittedly, we think this is good news, as Microsoft's presence in this space validates this new, efficient way of communicating.
Initially known as Skype Teams before its official release, Microsoft Teams is what Microsoft calls a "chat-based workspace" that facilitates real-time collaboration and allows people to come together to have casual conversations and create work plans.
In essence — and like Slack — Teams is a group chat app which is significantly easier and quicker to use than email for managing multiple conversations in a team environment. Also like Slack, Teams allows conversations to be separated into various channels (topics) and across teams of people, of which you can be a member of as many as you like. There can be both open group chats and direct messages, and Microsoft Teams supports the use of memes, GIFs, stickers and emoji. 'Connections' allow you to also bring in content from elsewhere, such as Twitter.
But unlike Slack, Teams includes Skype support. You can easily switch from a text chat to a face-to-face conversation, with one or multiple other users. Plus all of Office 365 costs about the same as just Slack, which is where the real difference lies. Teams is included with Office 365 at no extra cost, so if you have Office 365, you have Teams. It is enabled by default for commercial customers and effortless to try out. This makes it (almost) a no-brainer for organisations already using, or considering, Office 365. But there is no free or standalone version of Teams, it is only available as part of Office 365. Organisations using Microsoft Exchange on-premise for email are out of luck. Slack, meanwhile, operates on a 'freemium' model: there is a free tier and a number of paid tiers depending on features. Slack's free tier is surprisingly useful (as we at BTA can testify!) but doesn't include tools and features many larger businesses may require, such as long term archival or integration into Active Directory for easy deployment. Slack's paid tiers can seem reasonable, until you realise that the entirety of an Office 365 subscription, including Teams and everything else in Office 365, isn't much more. This, then, is the key battleground: for organisations not committed to Office 365, Slack is a great solution, especially due to its popularity and wide third-party integrations and ecosystem; but for Office 365 users, 'free' Teams is hard to beat.
When Teams debuted as a preview last November, Slack bought a page in The New York Times and devoted it to an Open Letter that read, in part, “Welcome, Microsoft, to the revolution. We’re glad you’re going to be helping us define this new product category.” That letter was widely felt to have legitimised Teams as a competitor and not to have been a good idea. Microsoft was no doubt thinking, “Thanks for getting things started, we aren’t going to help you define this new product category, but take it over.”
And only time will tell.
BTA has been helping businesses with managed IT services for more than 20 years. Specialisations include cloud solutions, cyber security, business continuity, comprehensive outsourced IT and network services. Considered one of the leading IT companies in London, BTA has the depth and breadth of experience to complete even the most complex projects. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.