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business startups

Slack vs. Teams

The most important tool in a company’s arsenal is communication. Companies that are effective at communication are able to get things done quickly and efficiently. Now that everyone is working remote, having great tools to be productive is more important than ever.

I’m sure you’re busy so this isn’t going to be an in-depth review of every feature but if you’re looking at Slack vs. Teams then I’ll talk through the pros and cons of each product and how you should pick the best product for your company. I’ve used both Slack and Teams for multiple years and while each has strengths each also has weaknesses.

Communication tools reflect the culture of the company and the way the culture and leaders of the company choose to communicate. If your culture is broken, or your company is dysfunctional, tools aren’t likely to fix it. Also if the leadership of an organization doesn’t lean-in, the tools will be less impactful and there are tons of examples of either Slack or Teams being rolled out and not really embraced by the executives of the organization.

If you’re going to take the dive into these tools, really try to get the commitment of all-senior-leadership to try to use these tools in favor of long email chains and countless meetings. This time in history is unique because remote work cultures are really well suited for these types of tools. Organizations that take the plundge now should commit to the tool for at least a few months to really understand the organic benefits.

If you’re new to these tools, it’s important to understand how they may be different from your existing communication tools.

  • Like SMS, it can be a real-time conversation or you can respond to message and questions asynchronously 
  • Unlike SMS, it’s oriented around topics/groups
    (and you can easily leave or silence a topic/group)
  • Unlike Email, group conversations are automatically persisted so new people can get the benefit of past discussions and decisions.
  • Lastly… conversational groups are best when they can be created and disbanded organically by the organization itself. This is bottom up communication, not IT led communication.
Five minute feature overview of Slack and Teams

Pricing

While Slack was a leader in this space, it wasn’t the first chat based collaboration tool. Campfire, IRC and HipChat have been around for years before it. What made Slack successful was their timing and freemium model that appealed to early stage startups.

The freemium model allows anyone to setup a slack for their company for no cost and gets an initial Slack experience that works with all the bells and whistles while keeping a history of up to 10,000 messages. This led to rapid growth of Slack and a lot of adoption from early stage startups.

Microsoft Teams on the other hand is part of the Microsoft Office suite, so while it’s not free, it’s often perceived as free because it’s included as part of the Microsoft 365 Business suite.

The basic paid version of Slack is $6.67/user/month and the paid version of Microsoft Basic Business is $5/user/month.

Recommendations

If your organization is using the Microsoft tools already, including Sharepoint, Outlook and Skype for business meeting infrastructure then Teams is really compelling both from a configuration standpoint and a cost perspective. There’s less external dependancies and you’ll get the majority of the benefits. In general I feel that many of Microsofts tools are good enough. I do hesitate to call them great and the shortcoming is from many layers of software that try to tie together but don’t always… Two example…

  • Teams lets you schedule a meeting but it’s settings are different from how you schedule it in Outlook or how you schedule it in Outlook on the Web. So there’s three ways to schedule a meeting and if you do it wrong, your conference system may not work right.
  • Another area I found confusing was that while Teams was integrated into Microsoft Office it was often confusing where to find key files. Is it in the Team folder, The personal OneDrive, the Sharepoint folder or did someone forget and email it and it’s stuck in Outlook as an attachment?

While there’s certainly room for improvement, I do think that the File Folder + Conversation concept is really smart and this is something that Slack just doesn’t do.

Slack on the other hand is designed to be stand-alone. This means that Slack has been more focused on API’s and integration points to allow third party chat bots to extend the functionality of Slack. While I think it’s ideally suited for small to medium size organizations, companies as large as IBM are using slack with their 350,000 employees. Integrations across GSuite, Dropbox, Microsoft, Box, Zoom, Salesforce and more make it easy to tie many tools together into one conversation.

Remember how I said that communication is a company-culture thing? Well a key reason for that is that these chat tools can makes it easy to give your organization to offer company transparency.

Different teams or departments can have their own channels and make these channels visible across the company. This can make it easy to both find important company information and understand how decisions were made through discussion. This idea of being more public by default is a powerful idea and it allows organizations to move faster.

Conversational interfaces are here to stay because they meet us where we are as people and they foster collaboration in a very intuitive way.

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