Effective team collaboration software is a must in today’s workplace, where employees in different departments and disparate geographic locations need a way to instantaneously connect and work on projects. Microsoft launched its own workplace collaboration platform, Microsoft Teams, in March 2016, allegedly after considering a bid to acquire Slack. At first, Microsoft Teams struggled to compete with Slack. Slack had name recognition and the “cool factor” on its side, along with better third-party integration and, perhaps most importantly, a freemium version that appealed to cash-strapped startups.
Since then, Microsoft has made major improvements to Teams, including the introduction of its own freemium version. Teams is exploding in popularity and is now the fastest-growing business app in Microsoft history.
The new and improved Microsoft Teams isn’t just on par with Slack; it’s a superior product for five distinct reasons.
1. Teams Is More than Just Persistent Chat
At their core, both Microsoft Teams and Slack seem like fancy instant messaging platforms. They allow employees to communicate in real-time without ever leaving their desks, whether they’re across the room from each other or scattered around the world. Both platforms offer private text chats between individual users, video-calling capabilities, group chat rooms with threaded messaging, and the ability to share files with individuals and groups.
However, workplace collaboration isn’t just about texting, making calls, and linking to files. Employees need the ability to collaborate on files as a group. Microsoft Teams integrates the core Office productivity apps, allowing employees to access Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and other files housed in SharePoint and edit them together in real-time, complete with a text chat right next to the document being worked on. These co-authoring features allow employees to focus on ideas and innovation instead of wasting time sending files back and forth to multiple parties and waiting for a response. It also eliminates confusion over which file versions are the most current.
2. Teams Is Part and Parcel of Office 365
Unlike Slack, Microsoft Teams seamlessly integrates with Office 365, the most popular business software suite in the world. Pairing Teams with Office 365 yields productivity benefits such as single sign-on (SSO) between apps, integrated search capabilities, the ability to schedule calls and meetings in Teams or Outlook, open access to SharePoint Intranets and content management tools, connections to task management in Planner and real-time visualizations in Power BI, plus the ability to collaborate in a dedicated document library built into each channel – all without ever leaving Teams. This provides a holistic solution built on top of Microsoft’s concept of Intelligent Communication: encapsulating communication, collaboration, and the entire productivity suite within a single user interface.
3. Teams Offers More Robust Enterprise Security & Compliance Tools
Microsoft Teams can improve your data security and ensure compliance with regulatory and industry standards such as HIPAA. It integrates with Microsoft 365’s Enterprise Mobility and Security suite and the new Azure Security Center, which boasts centralized security policy and compliance management, continuous security assessment, and a built-in dashboard that provides instant insights into security alerts and vulnerabilities.
Among the many security and compliance features of Microsoft Teams are per-team document storage using SharePoint; file retention tools to ensure that no files or file versions are ever accidentally deleted; the ability to create sharing policies that are as broad or as specific as you need them to be; and even compliance and security tools to manage Teams chat and meeting histories. These enterprise-grade cybersecurity and compliance features are important for all companies, but especially so for government agencies and highly regulated industries such as finance, insurance, and healthcare.
Enterprises can expect Microsoft to continue pouring billions of dollars into enhancing its products with world-class security and compliance features. While Slack offers an enterprise license with additional security and compliance features, it simply cannot compete with Microsoft’s resources in these areas.
4. Teams Customization and Extensibility Provides More Organizational Value
Slack is a siloed application, but Microsoft Teams sits atop the Azure platform that permits third-party applications. Microsoft Teams supports customizable tabs and API connectors to streamline work for a long list of popular apps like Adobe, GitHub, Jira, Meekan, Polly, ProjectWise, Smartsheet, Trello, Wrike … the list of integrations is hundreds long and counting. This function enables working groups to snap their favorite tools into their own channels and customize the layout to their needs, reducing the time lost every day switching between this tool and that tool and back again (also known as friction).
Add on top of this experience the ability to create user-friendly bots inside of Teams chat, and you begin to automate business processes and reduce your use of paper. Imagine your entire digital toolkit for teamwork arranged in one location with single clicks to every app or workflow you need! We refer to this seamless experience as “the single pane of glass.”
5. Teams Gives You Way More Bang for Your Buck
Microsoft Teams is a better buy than paying for Slack, simply because paid access to Slack gets you … a subscription to Slack. A subscription to Microsoft Teams isn’t just a subscription to Teams; it’s a business-level subscription to Microsoft 365 and all the business apps and intelligent security features therein. The least expensive business-level version of Office 365, Business Essentials, costs $5.00/user/month on an annual contract, a bit cheaper than Slack’s Standard version, which is $6.67/user/month on an annual contract.
This also means that if you have an Office 365 business-level subscription, you’ve already paid for access to Microsoft Teams. Paying for a Slack subscription would be duplicative, and you would miss out on all the benefits Teams has to offer.