Microsoft Teams: The Trend Is Positive But Not Perfect
A few months back, Microsoft announced Teams, a new collaborative tool that the company is using to challenge Slack in the productivity and collaborative space for office communication. The company has been developing this app for some time and has a public beta for testing and implementation.
In an effort to better understand how Teams is performing in the workplace, I asked around to get a better understanding of the positive and negative attributes of the tool and compiled my results below. This information, which was gathered by conversing with more than 40 people, each at a different company, along with three phone conversations, has created a picture of how Teams operates and where the product is headed.
The collection of interviews about Teams spans companies who work in services, manufacturing and even food distribution. Additionally, Teams was utilized with groups ranging in size from just a couple of employees, to several dozen.
Onboarding new users has been a relatively painless affair, with multiple respondents stating that the familiarity with the chat interface has made the process smooth. Getting a new user up and running is trivial and because everything is integrated with Office 365, a user is instantly surrounded by all of their content from day one.
Aside from the integration with other Microsoft services, chat, video and group communication works well and threaded conversations are a high-point for the platform. Several users mentioned that threaded conversations are the best feature of the platform which help it outshine email.
About a third of the of the respondents were previously using Slack in their office and are testing out Teams to see if they will make a switch to the new platform. The majority, 78%, said that they are in serious consideration of dropping Slack as it’s an easy way to free up budget for other software, services, or training for their employees. The key here, is because most companies are already paying for Office 365, Teams is a ‘free’ product and Slack is a premium service.
Additionally, Teams works well with younger demographics who know the Slack name but may not currently use the tool. What I mean by this is that multiple respondents stated that those approximately under the age for 35 welcomed the new tool as a means to stop using email and resulted in faster communication as these users did not check email regularly but frequently monitored Teams.
Depending on who you ask, the inclusion of the Gif feature was both reported as positive, neutral and negative; one person described it as “Microsoft’s desperate attempt to connect to millennials”.
Performance of the many applications, depending on who you ask is either excellent or awful, it seems there are still some performance tweaks that need to be made on the PC and as well as mobile applications. But, considering it’s still in beta, this is to be expected.
The negative feedback can be separated into a couple of categories that include: features not yet available, too invested in Slack and can’t find a use case for the product.
Surprisingly, the negative feedback was not all that negative, the most pervasive of which is that there are not enough notifications for activity and that notification control is not granular enough. I categorized these complaints into the ‘features not yet’ available as these same users acknowledge that Microsoft has stated they are planned, just not implemented yet.
And that’s the general theme for about half of the negative remarks; Teams is good but missing features that Slack currently has implemented. This shouldn’t come as a major surprise as the product is technically still in beta and the heavy development is still underway.
Another notable complaint was that those who are heavy users of Slack found it difficult to move to teams as their legacy information did not travel with them. Nearly every one of these users would like to be able to export content from Slack and ingest it into Teams. A few users reported that they were running both Teams and Slack simultaneously to try and bridge this weakness but ultimately realized this is not a logical solution and abandon Teams and remained with Slack.
Of all the negative feedback from the current iteration, the one feature wanted most is guest access. I suspect that this will be arriving in the near future but nearly all respondents said that they needed to provide access to users outside their domain (contractors, clients, etc) but could not do so and that this was limiting their ability to use the tool.
Finally, there are those who were attempting to deploy Teams without having Slack running in their offices. These users found that Teams did not offer a compelling reason to use the platform and have abandoned the tool for now or completely written it off for their operation.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, if you aren’t already using Slack, using Teams (especially while in beta) may not offer a better workflow than what is currently utilized in your environment. The majority of users who fell into this category could not get their users to stop using email which means the end result was having some information in Teams and other bits in email.
Overall, Teams, by those who are currently using the platform, is being well received. Numerous users of Slack indicated that they will be dropping the service in favor of Microsoft’s product once it reaches general availability as there is no need to be running both Slack and Teams.
Additionally, the savings which some stated would be in the thousands of dollars a month, will be redirected to other functional areas which means for these groups, Office 365 is a value proposition because it now includes most of the productivity software that they need.
For Microsoft, this news should come as a relief. They were facing significant pressure from Slack and many believed the company would buy them to make sure they owned the productivity space. Instead, the company built their own product and its deep integration into the Microsoft stack (which many of the companies surveyed do use) is a key selling point and makes standing up a Teams environment easy and for the end user, it also feels familiar which is big win for Microsoft.