Microsoft Teams vs Slack: Showdown 2017
Microsoft released a new collaboration tool, Teams, in 2017 as an alternative to Slack. For organizations that use Microsoft products exclusively (such as Isagenix, headquartered here in Phoenix), Microsoft Teams is a no-brainer. But what about us? Each Lucid Agency employee has a Microsoft 365 account, but we are not strictly a Microsoft house. We jumped on the Slack bandwagon when it first came out, and have been loving the ride ever since. Could Microsoft Teams compete with Slack? Is it a better choice for our agency, since it integrates with other Microsoft products? I decided to take a look:
First, I accessed the Microsoft Teams web application, downloaded the mobile app, and downloaded the desktop app. I wanted to get the full experience across devices in order to give more complete feedback. Here is how it compared to Slack, for my agency:
File Storage and Price:
Slack offers 10GB of storage per user, for $8/mo. Microsoft Teams is free to use, IF you already subscribe to Office 365 (which we do). How does Teams handle storage? Storage in teams counts against your available SharePoint Online tenant storage. Each user in Office 365 is a separate “tenant.” An admin can check the amount of SPO storage available in the SPO Admin center in his or her 365 account.
Verdict: If you already use Office 365, Teams will likely save you money. You can stop paying a monthly subscription for Slack, since Teams is built into the 365 product. On the other hand, if you are using the free version of Slack and do not mind the storage limitations, switching to Teams is likely not worth it.
Talking to Outsourced Developers
Teams is really designed to work within your organization, only. In other words, if someone does not have an @yourorganization.com email address, they will have a tough time participating in Teams. With Slack, it is very easy to create guest accounts in the Slack Admin panel:
We use this feature frequently to add clients to our Slack workspaces. Adding a guest account is not as easy on Teams. To even allow guest accounts in the first place, an SPO admin must manually change the setting to allow guests in the SPO admin area. Additionally, guest accounts are limited to individuals who have organization-level domains (such as work or school accounts). Teams does NOT allow you to invite a guest with an @gmail.com or @outlook.com email address, for example.
Verdict: If you frequently chat with individuals outside of your organization, this may be a dealbreaker for Microsoft Teams.
One of my favorite features of Microsoft Teams is the ability to schedule meetings directly within the application. Let’s say you have created a team for a particular project, and invited all coworkers that are participating in this project. Imagine you’re chatting about a deliverable and realize that some of your team members want to review a completed deliverable. Scheduling a touch-base meeting with the members of the team is just a click away in Teams. Note that this feature only works when scheduling meetings with other members of your organization. If you need to schedule a meeting with an outside party, such as a client, you will still need to do this in Outlook. Teams also pulls your daily schedule from Outlook, so you can always see which meetings you have on deck without leaving the application. Unfortunately, the only conference app available within the Teams application itself is Skype, so if you use another 3rd-party conferencing tool, any links to the tool will open in your external browser window.
Meanwhile, there are dozens of 3rd-party meeting apps developed for Slack. These cover everything from planning meetings to actually hosting meetings with in-app conference calls. Meetingbot.io is one of the most popular options. Synch meeting_bot with your Office 365 or gmail calendar to find and schedule meeting times directly through slack. While this is useful,in my opinion, bots are not as intuitive as a visual calendar interface, so my preference here is Teams. Additionally, many of the available Slack apps require additional subscriptions.
Verdict: The meetings feature in Teams is attractive for any team that already manages work schedules in Outlook.
Microsoft Teams natively integrates with OneDrive. Additional cloud storage options include:
- Google Drive
Slack is more agnostic. It has about 60 options for file management add-in apps, including popular options like Dropbox and OneDrive.
Verdict: Both platforms allow users to share files stored in external file management systems; however, Slack has more options.
Channels and Teams
For me, this was one of the biggest difference that I saw between the platforms. Slack only has channels and has no teams. For example, in the Lucid Agency Slack Workspace, the channel #gameofthrones is for discussing dragon-related predictions and drawing metaphors between Westerosi politics and US politics. We of course, only invite team members that watch or read Game of Thrones.
In Teams, we can’t do this easily because channels do not overlap teams. In other words, if we had an overarching “Lucid Agency” team that included every person at Lucid, any channel under that team would also include every person at Lucid. If we wanted to get really specific about who was invited to each channel, we’d need to create new teams for each channel, which would be unwieldy.
Verdict: Neither Slack nor Teams is “better” in this regard. Depending on the structure of your business and how you communicate internally, either one may be more appropriate.
The only statuses available in Teams are “Available” “Busy” “Do Not Disturb” and “Away.”
Verdict: If we were to make the switch from Slack to Teams, we would lose our ability to create custom statuses (Working from home, Flying back from Chicago, Eating lunch, etc). These custom statuses are useful for quickly communicating your whereabouts to fellow team members. Slack statuses are especially useful for identifying, at a glance, who is in the office and who is working remotely.
I love that Teams integrates with multiple applications that we use on a daily basis such as OneNote, Smartsheet, Excel, and Asana. Slack has a seemingly unlimited number of integrations, but I do not find them nearly as useful as the Teams integrations. For example, the asana integration in Slack simply pushes notifications to a specific channel when changes occur on the linked asana project. These notifications are just alerts – the user does not get the full picture of the linked asana project or have much opportunity to interact with the platform in a meaningful way.
In Teams, on the other hand, integrations are visual tabs. If I integrate with Asana, for example, Team members with access to a channel can click the Asana tab to see all assigned tasks, due dates, and more. I can add tabs for other useful project tools such as SmartSheet, OneNote, etc. In this way, Teams is more than just a chat client – it is a robust collaboration tool.
Verdict: Slack integrates with way more applications, but the Teams integrations are more useful and visual.
This is a tough call, and really comes down to an organization’s preferences. Microsoft may be too late to the market to gain any traction with teams that are already in love with Slack. Additionally, many organizations that already use Slack could incur a hefty switching cost. The only way for Microsoft Teams to fight this uphill battle is to reposition themselves. Teams shouldn’t be considered as an alternative to Slack, but rather as a collaboration tool, more akin to project management software than chat software.
So if you’re trying to make a decision for your organization, what should you choose? It can be tempting to look at dollars and cents when deciding to switch software applications, but you also have to look at intangible opportunity costs. Consider questions like:
- How much time do you need to spend training employees if you switch?
- How many existing applications would not be compatible with the new platform?
- Do I have product evangelists or product detractors in the office that will make my job easier or harder?
Additionally, throughout testing, I did notice quite a few bugs and errors in Microsoft Teams that I do not encounter with Slack. For example, the asana oAuth connection does not complete in the desktop app. This has been a known issue since March. Teams is a newer product than Slack, so it stands to reason that you may experience a greater number of issues in this platform over the more established competitor.
Use Microsoft Teams if:
- Your organization is set up in very distinct working groups
- Your organization already subscribes to Office 365
- You don’t plan on using the tool to communicate with individuals outside your organization
- Your already ingrained into the Microsoft ecosystem
Use Slack if:
- The free version of Slack works for your organization
- Your organization needs a lot of channels that grant access to team members across multiple working groups
- Your organization does not rely upon the Microsoft ecosystem
- You frequently communicate with individuals outside of your organization, especially if these guests have non-work emails such as @gmail.com