Microsoft Teams and Slack are at arm’s length, very similar apps. Deep down though, they are quite different. Microsoft Teams was built by a large corporation, for large corporations, and Slack was born of startup, for their startup. That doesn’t mean that Slack is more adept for small corporations while Teams is better for large corporations. There are many small companies that choose Teams and many larger companies choose to use Slack. Though as we will explore, it does tend to show in their design and functionality.
In this blog post we will cover the following:
- The Numbers
- The Integrations
- The Security
- The Design
- The Pricing
We will conclude with our opinion on the future and how Eletype plans to navigate these two ecosystems. But first a quick history…
In 2016, Microsoft launched the Teams application to compete with Slack. Instead of buying out Slack, they decided to develop their own business messaging platform. This wasn’t Microsoft’s first attempt at a messaging platform. They had previous attempts with Lync, and Skype for business. And if your team has ever used Lync or Skype for Business you most likely understand why Teams was created. Teams is supposed to be the end-all be-all of Microsoft messaging and by all accounts it looks like they are well on their way.
Slack had the interesting story of being formed from the ashes of a massive online multiplayer game. Slack was originally developed as an internal tool used by Stewart Butterfield’s company in the development of this game, but after the game shut down, Butterfield and his team realized that their internal tool could be much more than that. They allowed a couple of their friend’s organizations to adopt it, and it began to take off. Slack officially launched in 2013 through a beta program that they called “preview release” in typical Butterfield fashion. As anyone in the IT world well knows, Slack caught fire in the DevOps community, going viral through the engineering and software development communities. From there it spread bottom-up in what is now known as the Consumerization of the Enterprise.
There is a lot to be said about about both of these platforms, but the numbers do not lie. And the numbers have been changing a lot recently. The two have been in a battle of the amount of active users since early this summer. Just recently, Microsoft revealed that its current number of Team’s users is now above 20 million. This comes after Microsoft made claims in July that Teams had over 13 million users, already ahead of Slack’s numbers at the time. However, Slack is emphasizing that “Not all Daily Active Users are created equal”. At this point, it is very hard to determine who is actually winning the messaging wars. Slack recently even commented about Microsoft’s currently higher DAU being a result of the shutting down of Skype for business. Despite all these numbers and arguments, it is really hard to say who is winning the messaging wars. It feels more like he said/she said argument than a hard data comparison.
Since Teams is Microsoft’s creation, it is very well integrated with other Microsoft apps such as OneNote, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and the big player- Skype. Slack doesn’t have the same advantage, but that didn’t stop them at all. In fact at this point, Slack has significantly more integrations than Teams (about 1500+). Slack also has video and conference call support built in, though not as powerful as Teams, is enough to power 99% of corporations. And because of Slack’s integration with Zoom, the sky’s the limit for calling as well. At the end of the day, Slack integrates just fine with Microsoft products, and only the dedicated Microsoft customer will really notice any difference between the two.
Security and Administration
Slack and Teams both offer encryption and administration tools. Teams has a couple more IT features and ISO compliances. However, Slack does the job just as well, and really Teams only has the advantage for companies with compliance, and administrative and IT focus. Slack has also been working heavily to update and expand its administrative capabilities. Slack has quite a few ISO/IEC certifications, and also has support for HIPAA compliant organizations. Teams has similar certifications, but also adds quite a few more. Both boast the ability to customize security preferences per organization.
One of the main differentiations in this category is Slack’s previous history of security issues. In 2015, Slack had a security breach for a small number of users that exposed some users passwords and usernames. Thankfully, Slack has dramatically improved in this area over the past 4 years.
Design and Functionality
We think this is where Slack shines the brightest. Both applications require a short learning period to get the hang of. Teams might be easier for the dedicated Microsoft customer, but Slack is designed with simplicity in mind. Now because of that, it might not have the exact same abilities as Teams, but it definitely has more than enough to get any job done. Slack has also recently promised new and improved design features, and it is highly likely that Microsoft will follow.
In the beginning, Slack had the advantage in terms of pricing. The freemium model pioneered by Slack and other SAAS startups gave them a great advantage in customer acquisition. Teams had the advantage of being included in Microsoft in Microsoft Business pricing. Now Teams offers a free plan as well. Teams first paid plan starts at $5.00 a month and Slack starts at $6.67 per month. The price difference is almost negligible, and you get what you pay for with either plan. The big advantage that Microsoft has is the bundle of Microsoft 365. This allows customers to get more than just a messaging platform and have access to other tools such as the Office Suite and email services. Depending on a company’s use of Office products, this might not even be a comparison. And once again, there are still many companies that subscribe to both services.
It is hard to imagine that either one of these companies will gain a monopoly on the corporate messaging space. In fact, this appears to be developing into a classic technology duopoly, which, in our opinion, validates the space and is good for both ecosystems.
Mac vs PC, Google vs Facebook, Playstation vs. Xbox, iOS vs Android, Intel vs AMD, the list goes on and on. The best technology ecosystems thrive in duopolies. Monopolies kill innovation and fragmented ecosystems are bad for users. Messaging will be dominated by Slack and MS Teams throughout 2020 and beyond. No doubt there will be second tier platforms and valiant attempts by Google Hangouts and Facebook for Business, but this is a two horse race that is only picking up speed.
As more and more companies shift to messaging based communication and collaborations, these two companies will face a continuing battle. The key for companies using these services is the ability to adapt these platforms to the specific needs of their industries.
The marketing industry, specifically marketing agencies, are divided between these two platforms much as you would expect. When I spoke at a marketing agency conference last year we surveyed the audience and found that a whopping 95% of agencies in attendance used Slack… but here is the thing… the 5% that don’t use Slack, use MS Teams, and they are often the largest agencies. Many, if not most, of the largest agencies are, not surprisingly, Microsoft shops and the Microsoft is coming in heavy trying to wall off competition.
Despite the messaging wars, we think there is an overwhelming consensus in the business community that the future of work will look a lot different than the email-centric world that still dominates the office. Though email will probably never die, workplace messaging software is taking over email’s former dominance daily. Will email go the way of the fax machine? Probably not, but messaging has certainly offered better solutions to some of emails worst problems and we are thankful for that!
Next week we will cover our favorite Slack apps and talk about our upcoming product release.