Several months ago, I wrote about new workplace communication tools, namely Slack. Slack is the market leader in this space, but Microsoft, true to form, is coming on strong with its tool called Teams. At the time I wrote the original article, Slack really owned the market. Fast forward five short months and the scale is swinging toward Teams.
So what is Slack and Teams? These are commonly referred to as workplace collaboration tools. Slack, from their website, says it is “Where work happens. When your team needs to kick off a project, hire a new employee, deploy some code, review a sales contract, finalize next year’s budget, measure an A/B test, plan your next office opening, and more, Slack has you covered.”
The Teams website is “The hub for teamwork in Office 365. Communicate through chat, meetings and calls. Collaborate together with integrated Office 365 apps. Customize your workplace and achieve more. Connect across devices.”
These tools are hubs of information and collaboration. They are places where people communicate in groups or teams, share information, use collaborative applications to drive productivity, host meetings, make voice and video calls and store information. This can be done in small groups of people, between departments, publicly, privately and most importantly securely.
Slack was first to market and Microsoft has followed with Teams. While the tools themselves are becoming more similar than different, Slack had a clear edge with its broad integration with a wealth of other apps that many businesses use. This integration allowed users to collaborate in one place, across multiple apps, projects and discussions. Initially, Teams lacked these same integrations, but that has changed. Teams now has as broad a set of integrations as Slack and because Microsoft includes Teams in all of its business Office 365 subscriptions, it has millions of users, almost overnight.
If you are a Microsoft Office 365 subscriber, you have Teams. If you are not using it yet, you likely will be soon. Skype for Business, Microsoft’s popular business chat, voice and video service is also bundled with Office 365 and had a very large subscriber base from before Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype several years ago. Skype for Business is being merged into Teams so if you are a Skype for Business user, you will eventually become a Teams user. Microsoft is not yet forcing this transition, rather allowing you to continue to use Skype for Business while you explore and plan your eventual transition to Teams.
One of the main benefits users tout for these platforms is the reduction in email volume. Instead of lengthy email exchanges, with people being added and removed from replies and topic being equally added and removed, these platforms organize these conversations into distinct threads. By moving conversations into these collaboration platforms, you remove the immediacy of interruption that is often associated with email. You are able to more finely control your alerting preferences and when and how you want to consume the information. You can share and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and more, while maintaining more control over the original file and keeping the spread of the file living in numerous places.
With support for voice and video calling, these hubs become a single tool for all manner of communication within the business. Extensive search capabilities make finding current or past information far simpler than searching through email and server folders. Rich auditing and tracking as well as discrete permissions management also means you can control the flow of information and restrict access, to keep information secure.