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Microsoft Teams expected to overtake Slack by 2019

Jan 13, 2017 by Emma Robinson

A new report, conducted by Spiceworks has suggested that Microsoft Teams will surpass competing collaborative chat-based tools within the next two years, and become the tool of choice. This claim is particularly surprising when you consider that Microsoft Teams is not even out of Preview yet, and has only been in public beta for over two months. The tool is available for commercial customers with Office 365 Enterprise or Business licence plans, and general availability is planned for Q1 of this year. If you haven’t tried it already, you can find out how to enable Teams in this post we published back in November.  
This blog will take a look at the findings of the survey, and explores the mixed opinions of the Cogmotive team – who have been testing out Teams since its release – as well as a verdict on whether they have been convinced to adopt the chat-based workplace on a permanent basis.

What did the survey say
Spiceworks surveyed 450 IT professionals around the world to ‘understand of organizations are using collaborative chat apps today or if they plan to adopt them in the future’. They also asked ‘which of these services they believe are most secure, innovative, reliable, cost-effective, user-friendly, and manageable’.
They found that:

  • Email is still the go-to service for communication and collaboration.
  • Organisations with 500+ employees are more likely to use collaborative chat applications, than their smaller counterparts  (53% of those surveyed used them).
  • The most commonly used collaborative chat application is Skype for Business (36% of those surveyed), Google Hangouts (16%), and Slack (13%) followed behind.
  • Only 3% of organisations use Microsoft Teams today, but this is set to change – ‘an additional 17% of organizations plan to adopt it within the next 2 years.’ This means that Teams will be the second most popular messaging/collaboration application (with Skype for Business as first) by 2019.
    Read the full report here.

The Cogmotive verdict 
We enabled Microsoft Teams for our tenant when it was announced, and started testing it out right away. Now that Microsoft Teams has been available for a little while, I asked some of our team what they thought of the tool, and whether they would use it to improve team collaboration.
The good
Overall, the office found Teams easy to use, and intuitive – probably because it shares a relatively similar design and navigation style to the newer services in Office 365 – most notably Planner. We use the full Office 365 Enterprise suite here, so once Teams was enabled on the tenant, everyone was up and running on the service in no time, with no real on boarding necessary.
Most of the Cogmotive team don’t use Slack for department or company collaboration, although many have encountered the tool in previous roles, and are part of other Slack groups. Like many people who are comparing the two solutions, they noted that, unlike Slack, Microsoft Teams uses a threaded chat structure, which means that all team communications are organised into one stream. This set up sometimes requires a bit more ‘scrolling’, but generally it helped keep people on track, and on task.
Some of our departments use services like JIRA, ZenDesk and Trello for task, issue or project management. All these services can all be integrated seamlessly into Microsoft Teams (as well as plenty more – we took a look at integrations here). Of course, Teams is also populated with all the Office 365 services, such as Word, Planner, Excel and SharePoint, but the growing range of third-party ‘connectors’ appeared to be crucial according to our testers. To ensure that Teams is a success Microsoft know that the service needs to embrace current business applications and coexist with the applications that organisations, otherwise people simply won’t use it. From what we’ve seen (and what we use), the general verdict was: so far so good. Heavy development is planned to improve and extend the tool, so our testers will be watching this space to see what else appears.
The not so good 
When gathering feedback, it was clear that Microsoft Team’s benefit really depends on how teams work, and in our case, this seemed quite function, and location specific.
The Development team use JIRA, to plan, monitor and collaborate on tasks, as well as a number of other tools (some which can be integrated and some which can’t). Even though JIRA can be integrated into Microsoft Teams, so that they could use the chat/meeting functionality alongside their established methods for tracking and issue management, the general consensus was that they wouldn’t use the tool. They found that the activity notifications were not developed enough, and as they couldn’t integrate all of the services in their toolkit, Microsoft Teams wouldn’t improve their current workflows or processes. That said, the main reason for their decision was necessity. The team are all based in the same location, and tend to discuss ideas in person (either in meetings or ad hoc), they can turn their chair and talk to the person next to them. They simply don’t need an online chat-based application.
This verdict demonstrates precisely where the strength of this tool lies: it is great for remote or virtual teams spread across different locations, who often lack the ‘social’ collaboration and face to face interaction in their working environment. Microsoft Teams is first and foremost a productivity tool, enabling communication through IM and online meetings via Skype. If you can discuss your ideas face to face, or offer advice in person – then, of course, this tool won’t deliver the same level of value – no matter how well integrated it can be.
The verdict
Overall, the commercial teams (Sales/ Marketing/ Finance) found the tool far more useful, but there were still areas where it could be further developed or improved. Some of the teams are based in different locations, so they found that it offered a versatile work space for project collaboration. Each of these departments said that they would consider moving to the new system, but they raised concerns about how this transition would work. The Marketing team have a lot of legacy data from past projects and initiatives – and they were unsure how to move past communications or plans across to the new platform. The Sales team wanted to be able to use guest access for external users, a feature which is not currently available in the tool. These restrictions and questions weren’t enough to stop these functions from considering using the tool, but they were significant obstacles delaying full adoption of Microsoft Teams.
When I spoke to everyone about whether they would continue to use Microsoft Teams, the responses were primarily dependent on whether it would be able to unify most of the services they current rely on, while providing a good user experience. If it did, then Teams was a great (essentially free) tool, which they would be willing to adopt, but if it couldn’t, then it didn’t really provide much value for them.
Cogmotive is the leading global provider of enterprise level reporting and analytics applications for Office 365. Find out more now.