Microsoft Inspire 2019 – The Year of Teams?

by | Jul 17, 2019 | Blog, Lifecycle Management, Office 365 Governance

Vegas Baby!

It is the middle of July and many people in the Microsoft ecosystem are in Las Vegas for Microsoft’s annual partner hyper-summit, ‘Inspire’ (nee ‘Worldwide Partner Conference’).

No doubt there will be a huge amount of noise coming from the conference, but I am particularly interested to hear what will be announced this coming week in the ‘modern workplace’ product stack a.k.a. Office 365.

I am interested (for once) this year, as Microsoft have started crowing early last week with announcements about the adoption of Microsoft Teams, their unified communications platform.

Teams vs Slack

Teams plays in what is marketed as a competitive landscape (it isn’t in my view, really there are few products that provide the depth and breadth of Teams) with one competitor standing out – Slack.

Slack is a cloud based unified collaboration platform that many believe to actually be in the same space as Yammer (as opposed to Teams) built and marketed by a recently public company – Slack Technologies – who are based out of San Francisco but originally founded in Vancouver (go Canada!) and up until this week were the leader in this space.

The announcement last week from Microsoft around Teams specifically cited an ‘active daily user count’ of around 13 million (wow!) making it 30% larger (in terms of active daily users) than Slack if Slack’s recent IPO filing, citing 10 million daily users, has not significantly changed.

This is impressive by any measure – platform adoption in this space is something that Microsoft has always struggled with – especially with ‘included’ products that orbit around the collaboration space. And suggests a trajectory that rivals SharePoint itself.

I’m interested in the longer play though.

Challenges for Teams

For Enterprise customers, Teams represents challenges – especially if voice is part of the equation – and I suspect that ‘adoption’ of Teams is a little like the early ‘adoption’ of Office 365 in many estates, which was (in many cases) just using Exchange Online with some sprinkling of ‘new’ SharePoint (with the majority of the SharePoint estate staying on-premises for considerable while).

I know (from talking with smaller customers) that Teams adoption has been forced on some of them, especially where they don’t have the in-house skills in Office 365, as they were unsure of what to do when the ‘upgrade’ notices came around – the concept of ‘islands’ and ‘hybrid’ was poorly handled in my view.

Furthermore, the interoperability of Teams is challenging for those customers that want to collaborate beyond the corporate boundary. Switching between tenants is currently horrific and controls for external/guest access to Teams are blunt tools at best – with Slack managing both use cases with ease by comparison.

Within ProvisionPoint we use Teams and Slack side-by-side. Slack as a transient communication and non-artefact collaboration tool and Teams where persistence or documentation become a factor – a situation I do not foresee changing soon due to Slack just being better at several things that matter.

For Microsoft this is not ideal. When loyal partners (in the case of ProvisionPoint, a partner that builds a product that *only* works on Microsoft technologies) choose to leverage a heterogeneous approach something is clearly not quite right.

Will Teams Dominate?

Microsoft clearly see Slack as the take-down target for Teams. Their alleged (multiple) attempts to acquire Slack pre-IPO is par for the course, and their citing of Slack in outward facing messaging is an all-up admission of their perspective on Slack as the enemy by the gates.

There is one thing I do know for sure about the Teams vs Slack discussion as it stands today. A significant percentage of people and organizations I speak to in the partner ecosystem, community world and customer space bemoan Teams and its shortcomings almost constantly whereas *everybody* loves Slack.

Time will tell but Microsoft could be in for a fight this time if Slack can use the funds raised from their IPO wisely.