Earlier this year Microsoft announced Teams – a cloud-based workplace collaboration and communication platform; to boost employee efficiency. Teams extends Skype’s individual meeting and collaboration outlook to a broader team perspective. It is available for Office 365 Business, Enterprise and Education subscribers. Teams tightly integrates with Office 365 and leverages the Office 365 Groups membership service.

Microsoft Teams versus Slack

Microsoft Teams is in direct competition with Slack; the business productivity application that aims to reduce email overload. Although there are heaps of similarities between the two technologies; Teams offers some distinct advantages.

From a user experience point-of-view, both Slack and Teams have similar functionality. Both offer tabs for Activity, Chats, Messages and Files; and users get an exclamation mark or red flag next to the message where their name is directly mentioned. While Slack provides users with different themes to customise their UX screen; Teams currently has only three options.

With respect to personal assistants or helpers; Slack has the Slackbot and Teams has the T-bot; for users to get acquainted with the application. Microsoft however provides another assistant called the WhoBot. This bot is built over the Microsoft Graph AI framework; and has been configured to answer specific questions about company employees; such as their department and skillsets. Users can essentially use WhoBot; to look for subject matter experts or people who have worked on similar projects within the company. WhoBot is an interesting function that has a lot of enthusiasts talking but; there is no definite timeframe of when it will be available.

The main distinguishing factor between Slack and Teams is the latter’s tight integration with Office 365 owing to which; Teams has access to every app in the Office 365 suite. For example, users can use OneNote to take notes, Planner to plan project milestones, OneDrive and SharePoint for file collaboration, Power BI for analytics, Skype for audio/video calls & meetings. Additionally this integration allows users to access Office 365 connectors and integrate with over 150 third-party services including Trello, GitHub, Hootsuite, Zendesk and Asana. The Slack App directory is however quite expansive when compared to Teams.

Another area where Teams stands out is with deeper security and administrator control functionality. Slack and Teams both encrypt messages, data and files and enforce two-factor authentication; however the similarity ends there. Microsoft Teams provides IT admins with additional controls such as being able to; turn Teams on or off for the entire organisation; define how user profiles are configured/displayed; restrict/allow video screen sharing and limit animated images and memes creation/distribution.

On the compliance front; Slack and Teams both are ISO-27001 compliant; although Microsoft has added a few other compliance certifications for Teams such as ISO-27018, HIPAA, SSAE16 SOC1 and SOC2.

What’s next

Since debuting as a preview release last November; Microsoft Teams was first became generally available to Office 365 Business and Enterprises subscribers and later to Office 365 Education users in March 2017. Recently in May Microsoft added updated the application for IOS and Windows Phone devices and included the features and functionality facilitating developers to publish “Teams apps” to the Office store.

At this stage; Microsoft Teams supports a maximum of 600 members in a team; however considering the application is built on Office 365 Groups which has a higher limit, it is likely this limit will be increased soon.

Right now, Teams does not support the ability to add external users who don’t have user accounts inside the organizational directory as members. With an increasing demand for users to collaborate with external vendors and partners; it won’t be long before Microsoft adds this function.

Based on the enhancements being provided to Teams, does it have what it takes to outdo Slack and become the preferred workplace collaboration tool; we will have to wait and watch. At this stage however Teams looks quite promising. If your organisation is not an Office 365 customer yet; now is the right time to get one. Contact our team for your Office 365 subscription and take advantage of its exciting features and boost organisational productivity.

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