The State of Messaging
The ups and downs of the past 6 months have been a rollercoaster we all wish would just stop. Just when you think the ride is over, the global pandemic throws us for another twist and turn. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m getting sick of it (not literally of course, we’ve all been surprisingly healthy in our house).
Mental nausea aside, every crisis creates a set of winners and losers and the world of messaging platforms and collaborative tools have been on quite a winning streak. We’ve written about this in the past, but today we wanted to look at how things have panned out 6 months into the COVID crisis.
Fun fact: My wife stages homes as a side hustle (which means I move furniture as my side hustle) and, as a sign of the times, she has clients that want their homes staged with not one, but two offices. Forget the guest room, today’s home buyers want an extra office!
With everyone, including the kids, home for the foreseeable future, we are all getting more and more familiar with collaborative platforms like Slack and MS Teams. While both have continued to grow rapidly, the very public battle for dominance has reached new levels.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield might claim that he’d “prefer never to think about Microsoft, at all” but one has to wonder if his preference is just that, a preference, and that after seeing MS Teams double and triple daily active users during the pandemic, he might be thinking about Microsoft all of the time.
So much so that Slack recently filed a complaint with the European Commission accusing Microsoft of illegally crushing competition. And to be fair, Microsoft is waging a very 1990’s assault reminiscent of their successful crushing of Netscape. The difference this time around is that MS Teams is actually a very fine product, due in no small part to the fact that it bears a striking resemblance to Slack.
In addition to sunsetting Skype for Business over the past few years, Microsoft has given up on other less than successful attempts like Lync and Yammer. Seems like they got it right with MS Teams and we are seeing increasing demand in our customer base.
Collaboration in Marketing Agencies
If you’ve ever walked into a marketing agency you’ll instantly notice how dynamic, collaborative, and active they are. Most are very much an in-office experience. A place where people like to go to work, not only because of the people they work with, but because so much of what they do is creative and collaborative.
And then COVID happened and all of our customers quickly shifted to remote work back in March. And as of September 2020, most remain nearly 100% remote. If you’d like to learn more about how they did it, we hosted a series of webinars entitled “We Were Made For This”. Transcripts and video records can be found here.
Not surprisingly, tools like Slack became more than just a glorified office chat app. All of a sudden messaging platforms were being used for document sharing, video conferencing, screen sharing, daily reporting, system monitoring, analytics and more.
What was surprising; however, was the bifurcation in the choice of messaging platform. Almost to a tee, we’ve seen small to midsize independent marketing agencies prefer Slack while larger agencies and brands are almost exclusively on MS Teams.
And this wasn’t always the case. It is a trend that started in mid-2019 and only accelerated during the pandemic and we believe the following factors are contributing to it:
- Competitive threat – For several years Slack came to dominate the marketplace in a manner distinctly different than Microsoft typically does. Slack was a pioneer in the consumerization of the enterprise which flips traditional enterprise software sales on its head. Slack grew organically from the bottom up while quietly and quickly eating Microsoft’s lunch when they weren’t looking. Well, back in 2018 and 2019 Microsoft took notice and aggressively copied their competitor, went on the offensive and won back customers.
- Mac or PC – It’s an age old question, but if your organization is a PC shop then the odds are you have either shut down Slack or were introduced first to MS Teams. If everyone is on Macs, you are likely on Slack.
- GSuite or Office365 – Slack plays very nicely with GSuite and, as you’d expect, MS Teams sits within Office365 seamlessly. That wasn’t really true of Skype or Yammer or Lync, while they integrated with Office365, MS Teams was really built within Office365 by design.
- Support and Administration – Slack offers Enterprise Grid for larger organizations that need to manage users, permissions, security and applications at a corporate level which is ideally suited for every non-Microsoft business. Read read our blog post for more about Slack Enterprise Grid. But if you are a Microsoft sysadmin responsible for hundreds of employees, MS Teams is almost too easy to implement across your organization especially since it will cost your organization almost nothing….
- Price – If you are already paying for Office365, MS Teams is basically free and this is at the heart of the aforementioned Slack anti-competition lawsuit in the EU.
Duopolies are Good
The global pandemic is an accelerant for messaging platforms and collaborative tools. Very rapidly both Slack and MS Teams are becoming not only mature platforms but also ubiquitous in business and beyond. So much so that my kids are MS Teams experts now! MS Teams is the heart of virtual school for Fulton County Schools and the kids are doing quite well with it actually.
Here at Eletype we couldn’t be happier to see both Slack and MS Teams pushing this space forward (even if they are at war). Duopolies are good for technology and we can’t wait to see what the next 6 months have in store for both platforms.
In the meantime, we look forward to a big product announcement next week! Stay tuned!
Keep calm, carry on,