Has Microsoft Teams Won the Collaboration Game vs Slack?

Slack hits 10m users, but Microsoft has plenty in the tank

Has Microsoft Teams Won the Collaboration Game vs Slack?

Slack recently posted their milestone effort of reaching 10 million daily active users. No mean feat for a startup formed only in August 2013. But, we all know the story behind the open letter and their confidence that they would sustain their success.

We’ve all read about the constant sparring with Microsoft since the Teams launch and plethora of comparison articles digging into each set of features.

Slack really put it to Microsoft with the open letter, but Microsoft hit back heavy. The numbers keep escalating and Microsoft Teams now has 329,000 organisation using their collaboration client as of September 2018. Since the launch of Microsoft Teams Free, we even see Microsoft competing in the freemium space – a further sign that Microsoft and Slack are fully focussed on this collaboration game.

Microsoft Teams battles with Slack

Microsoft_Teams_logoThe features are comparable. Each app has its areas of strength and its areas of weakness. Microsoft Teams comes with a built-in cloud phone system. Slack is generally favoured due to its user experience. I could write all day identifying where Teams and Slack trade blows. But, chances are, you already know them. And the collaboration game goes deeper than functionality.

So, where do you look when it comes to finding who’s ahead in the game? There is no scoreboard – but everyone is keeping tabs.


Naturally, with collaboration apps, they will need to talk to a whole host of other apps. That’s literally the definition of collaboration. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that collaboration isn’t a technology but a process. The dictionary definition is “the action of working with someone to produce something”.

Nowhere in the dictionary or the technology world is it specified that collaboration must be through one medium. Sure, it’s the dream – we never have to leave one app – but it’s not reality.

Microsoft Teams has the upper hand when it comes to integrating with its own productivity suite. Microsoft Word Online, for example, canSlack Colour logo be run directly from Teams. Traditionally, Microsoft users will also have their files backed up to Microsoft OneDrive. This is accessible natively through Microsoft Teams too. It really would be an outrage if Microsoft didn’t provide the best integration capabilities when it came to their own apps.

Slack, however, has an entire app directory dedicated to tying everything else together and demanding more performance from your business apps. Connecting Google Drive or Trello to Slack is one of the first things you’ll do when implementing Slack – because you know it’s going to be a seamless experience that gives you back hours in your working week. No more app switching between your most frequently used apps. Until you need to go back to the Microsoft world.

Office 365 – a help?

Microsoft has held the cards to the productivity game for a long time. Google has aggressively started to make waves in this area but Microsoft remains the leader. According to Petri, the IT knowledge base, Microsoft Office 365 had 155 million users as of October 2018 and was on course to grow to 165 million by the end of the year. An impressive stat standalone. But, what does it mean for the collaboration game?

Within Office 365, you get the options of Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams or both. This means you have some organisations currently still opting for Skype for Business instead of Microsoft Teams. I don’t have the stats for Skype for Business users without Microsoft Teams but let’s assume its more than “not many”.

That’s an entire base of existing Microsoft customers that are potential Microsoft Teams users. What’s more, Microsoft has started to enforce automatic upgrades from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. There may not be a specific date for Skype for Business to come to an end, but it’s certainly on the agenda. So, surely that’s it? Microsoft has won the collaboration game and Slack will take a watching brief.

Office 365 – a hindrance?

We know Office 365 comes with Microsoft Teams. Before Microsoft Teams was Skype for Business. This was a fantastic communication tool boasting feature like video, chat and screen sharing. A game changer for modern businesses. No more waiting for colleagues to be available and less time lost spent travelling to meetings.

What Skype for Business wasn’t was Microsoft Teams. It wasn’t a dedicated area for teams to collaborate on. It wasn’t an area where your chat remained even after you logged off for the day. It didn’t allow you to integrate other apps into it to get more functionality out of them.

Therefore, and again I don’t have the stats for this, there must be more than “not many” users out there with Skype for Business and Slack on their desktop, their mobile or their tablet. So, what happens when Skype for Business gets removed? Users develop habits and personal preferences. Just because Skype for Business is no more and Teams arrives on your work PC one morning doesn’t mean users will disregard Slack.

There is the argument that Teams and Slack do the same thing. Incorrect. They enable similar processes and conversations but they are different tools. If they were the same, Microsoft would literally just buy Slack.

Who has won the collaboration game?

Spoiler alert. Nobody. Microsoft clearly has the numerical advantage in terms of number of organisations and is generally rolled out organisation-wide. But, even in enterprises with thousands and thousands of users, there will be pockets of Slack users.

Add those to the companies only running Slack and the businesses adopting Slack Enterprise Grid and the game balances out again. Microsoft are onto something when it comes to moving everyone from Skype for Business to Teams, for sure. However, just because it’s available doesn’t mean it will be instantly adopted.

Slack will always be the winner with developers and engineers when it comes to mainstream collaboration apps. But, they too are challenged from open source apps that provide more flexibility and openness. Microsoft will always be there – even if just in the background as an option.

With Slack’s upcoming IPO, we eagerly await the next play. The team collaboration market is in the second half, but we’re a long way from the final whistle.


Got a comment?

Ian TaylorIan Taylor 13:51, 12 Mar 2019

Agreed, it’s a bit like Internet Explorer – everyone gets Teams if they have a PC, pretty much (but then, lots of people use Chrome instead, now (me included))

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AvatarRob Scott 07:32, 07 Mar 2019

I always enjoy a Microsoft versus the world debate. Slack certainly has played the ‘open’ game better than anyone, its UX has led the way for others to copy and the overall experience is faultless.

Microsoft on the other hand is now a major component of Office365 and the fast growing app in Microsoft history, enough said?

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