Surprise: Microsoft Teams Makes Plenty of Sense

Posted on March 14, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Office 365 with 27 Comments


Surprise: Microsoft Teams Makes Plenty of Sense

Last year, I advocated for Microsoft purchasing Slack: This would bring a trendy new mobile app/service in-house and eliminate a competitor in one fell swoop. Damn the cost, I argued.

But as you may have also heard, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was among those who had pressed the software giant to simply build a Slack killer of its own. And sure enough, Microsoft did just that, announcing Microsoft Teams—a “chat-based workspace in Office 365”—in November 2016. Today, after months of testing, Microsoft Teams is ready. So it’s possible to assess what the software giant has accomplished and determine whether this new solution makes any sense at all.

Let me ruin the ending: I was wrong.

Positioned as a new perk for all Office 365 customers, Microsoft Teams is indeed the right approach for the software giant. It leverages Microsoft’s vaunted, enterprise-ready Office 365 infrastructure and integrates deeply with the software giant’s other productivity offerings.

Most intriguingly, Microsoft Teams also splits the difference between being a totally new solution—like, say, Microsoft Sway, which doesn’t quite replace PowerPoint but is rather a new way to present content to others—and working with Microsoft’s existing products and services. Many of which seem to do much the same thing.

That is, Office 365 already offers tons of different ways for two or more people—a “team”—to collaborate: Outlook/Exchange, Yammer, Skype, and SharePoint among them. From a cynical standpoint, you might argue that Microsoft doesn’t really need yet another way to help people collaborate. From an even more deeply cynical standpoint, you might roll your eyes as you wonder at the sadness of addressing Millennials with a new chat-based collaboration solution.

Folks, relax. Microsoft Teams makes sense.

That is, for those people who do prefer Slack-style—sorry, chat-based—collaboration, Microsoft Teams has you covered. You can work entirely within this environment—on the web, or in desktop and mobile apps—and never worry about whatever monolithic infrastructure sits underneath it.

But for those who are not yet on board with chat-based collaboration, or maybe never will be, guess what? Teams actually creates a SharePoint team site under the covers. It creates emails that Outlook users can interact with. In short, it lets you work the way you want to.

This, intriguingly, is a hybrid solution that Slack and others cannot match, because these mobile app-based services don’t have the history or underlying productivity richness that Microsoft has with Office 365. That Teams is just a small piece of Office 365, a perk, makes this all the more amazing. You just get it for being in Office 365.

Microsoft Teams comes with other advantages that are tied to its Microsoft and Office 365 connections, of course. Microsoft is shooting for what it correctly calls “compliance leadership” and Teams meets global standards for regulatory compliance, not to mention stringent security and mobile management capabilities.

Today, Microsoft will announce a number of partners and success stories, and it will highlight the very large number of customers—OK, it’s over 50,000 strong—that are already onboard with Teams in some way. But I am perhaps more impressed by the fact that Teams is available, right now, in over 180 markets and in 19 languages, for all Office 365 commercial customers. There’s no wait, no staged roll out, as is so often the case.

Looking forward, Microsoft also plans to continue improving Teams at a torrid pace. This year, it will provide guest access functionality so that people outside an organization can collaborate, enhanced Outlook support that will include drag and drop between the apps and better calendar integration, and a richer developer platform that will help drive the platform even further.

Not for the last time, Bill Gates easily figured out something that it took me quite a while to wrap my head around. And in this case, building Teams into Office 365 and deeply integrating it with the entire Microsoft productivity stack didn’t just make sense. It was the obvious, and only, way to go.

If you are an Office 365 commercial subscriber, you will gain access to Microsoft Teams today.


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Comments (27)

27 responses to “Surprise: Microsoft Teams Makes Plenty of Sense”

  1. Tony Barrett

    Teams may make sense, but all it really is, is another carrot designed to pull people into Microsoft services and start paying subscriptions. Just how late are MS to this party anyway?? Everyone else has left and gone home.

  2. FlightControl

    I am a slack user. I tried teams. It is nothing special compared to slack. Companies moving to teams or using teams don't have a clue what they could get when using slack.

    Slack is in a complete other segment and of another category. Microsoft is saying that they stopped with marketing saying "we can do too". Instead, teams is an example that Microsoft did not stop imitating and can't imitate.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to FlightControl:

      Give it time. MS will relentlessly absorb every single feature of Slack. By offering Teams within Office 365 it greatly throws to the wind most of the business value of a solution such as Slack for Office 365 users. For the price of Office 365 a Slack like tool becomes just an option you can use or not. This is unlike for instance Groove vs Spotify, its far more agressive. Imagine Groove being part of Office 365 subscription that would be aggressive but can't be done.

      Most users do not use Slack or even know what Slack is. Couple this with third party marketing :) around Teams, "MS does Slack" along with people that never used Slack ... it will ride on the wagon of Slack efforts initially ... you catch my drift ...

      Its really hard to create a business out of a new approach, really really hard. What is the point of investing in UWP so on and so forth if MS is ready to use the hammer lightly any time. If you have a innovative solution ... pushing Windows with it is bad call in the long run, unless you are bought by MS and you are that kind of guy which is not that bad from a personal $$ pov. There are apps in the Windows App Store that are "blacklisted" for not other reason but going against MS business interests. Google is also playing this game the same way, but without as much power in the desktop hence it goes more lightly. The only platform company that is not playing this game as deeply is Apple whose business model focuses on selling devices. leaving cross platform solutions to third parties and gathering some revenue of these through the App Store. For them the more apps, the more third party innovation in their ecosystem the better has it pushes their devices sales. Which begs the question, "Does a good and diversified software ecosystem go along with a diversified device ecosystem?

      Its up to IT managers to decide if its good for their business to bet in one company tech only, one provider, or have multiple service providers. Small shops are too small to care for this as they probably vanish before MS does.

      This is definitely a blow to Slack.

      Office 365 is not a platform! Its a software solution much like SAP and Sales Force built on top of Windows for general Office Productivity. Windows and Azure are platforms. This Solution is being tied deeply into Windows 10, more than ever before.

      Hopefully the market will push MS to the point where MS needs to decide wether they keep Windows or Office 365. But it will take a long, long, long time to reach that point. It would a market shift from Windows to other platforms in personal computing. That is why the success of stuff like Chromebook, iPad Pro's and so on are crucial to guarantee long term diversity and in turn a healthy and innovative software market.

      PS: One can argue that there are other Office services/solutions that MS has not used the hammer. Well, that is because they weren't a lot successful.

  3. irfaanwahid

    I am on Exchange Plan and Office 365 Business plan, and I don't see this feature yet. I hope ALL means, well, ALL.

  4. nbplopes

    MS decided to attack Slack business. There is no way around it. And took the core functions of the successful Slack system, which were not original, yet dormant for more than a decade (BBC boards style) and baked Office 365 features. If it wasn't for Slack, Teams would probably never existed, ever. If we were still in the Windows only world before the iPhone, Slack would be out of business!!!! Its a different world now, more diverse and I'm really happy that it is.

    Slack has plenty of integration extentions:

    Have a deep look at it.

    I think its funny that Slack did not make much sense for Paul and I suppose many many other Windows / Microsoft driven users. It was a Millennials thing (a pejorative term to refer to the new gen of users) It took MS to build it to make sense, just that. This and Bill Gates discovered the all damn thing.

    Another example of Tunnel vision.

    PS: I think this is one of the reasons why UWP has been having so much difficulty to start. The modus operands of assimilate rather than nurture and integrate successful third party businesses.. To be honest I hope it never starts. I simply do not want the future to be one company rules them all has it happened for 20 years or so. It had a massive effect in slowing down progress to the point of defining what computing is and how it works, so much so that if does not work ... "well that is how computing is, or anything else is the same or worse, nothing. can be done about it." .. a highly confirmative point of view.

  5. allanwith

    So the thing that bothers me here is not so much Teams, but the fact that they just enabled the license for every single one of our users instead of letting us decide when to roll it out, if ever. To add insult to injury, Teams isn't even available to us, since we're and educational institution. So now our users get a notification when they log on to Office 365, that a new service was added to the menu, but when they click it, it says that it is not available and they should contact their administrator to get it activated... which we can't...

  6. crmguru

    Bill Gates = Genius (Literally)

  7. kweis87

    Software giant. Software giant. Software giant...

  8. will

    So where does this fit with Office Groups? I know that you can convert a Group into a team, but how are users going to know what to use in terms of do they create a new Group or should they just create a Team?

  9. plibken

    What if Microsoft ported this over to the consumer version of Office 365 and called it Microsoft Family, or something. Would it be useful in a household?

  10. Fusciacastle

    Teams misses one critical component and one onboarding opportunity. What is missing, as with Windows 10 apps, is delevoper enthusiasm. Look at MS Flow vs IFTTT. Slack has 100s of integrations. Teams... Not so many. I don't see the prospect of many either. The second point is the onboarding. Who is Slack's constituency? SMEs and startups. Free tools to get work done with a path to growth in a paid model. Teams may emulate the function but it misses the mark in generating new customers.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to Fusciacastle:

      These guys disagree with you. Also remember this is Day 1. How long has Slack been around?

    • Vidua

      In reply to Fusciacastle:

      Don't confuse Windows dev enthusiasm with Microsoft dev enthusiasm. Office 365 has a huge developer community and it's part of Office 365. Money earning opportunities are just huge and are simply far bigger than what Slack offers. Also Microsoft Teams launches with over 150 integrations already, and fully supports Microsoft's Bot Framework which became a de facto bot framework of choice.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to Vidua:

        Don't confuse software developers with software developer consultants. One builds products, businesses that are than sold and eventually put on an App Store. The others orbit around theses kids of products and provide software integration. These will hardly jump start UWP.

        The OP is right. It misses the focus on generating new customers. Its a defense move by killing a third party business within the realm of Office365 that could well be integrated and actually bring in new customers. But than again MS has other ways to bring in new customers I guess.

  11. wbhite

    I'm an O365 admin and I played with Teams in beta several weeks back. I may be getting my products crossed, but one thing I immediately found to be annoying was that Teams creates objects that get published in the Global Address List. Planner and Groups does this, too, and it's damned annoying when you're trying to keep your GAL clean and want (in the case of Planner, for example), private items to be private. I get the benefits to using the underlying O365 platform as a whole, but sometimes you want to work on something using the tools without it being published for the entire organization to see.

    Edit: I should note that I'm a relatively new O365 admin, so I'm still figuring a lot of this out.

  12. Lopan

    Just a friendly rant,

    How much do I have to read and how many times do you have to say "all Office 365 customers" before it's finally made clear that this is ONLY for "Office 365 commercial subscribers"?

    Would it hurt you to clarify that first and upfront so I'm not wasting my time guessing if this service is available for my Office 365 Home subscription?

    • wbhite

      In reply to Lopan:

      Microsoft is definitely to blame for this. "Office 365" means so many, many things, some of which are vastly different from one another.

      • Polycrastinator

        In reply to wbhite:

        There's a second question, which is "why isn't this available for home users?" I really like Teams. I can totally see using it as a family chat or similar, Church groups, gaming, etc. They may want to keep it limited in some fashion, but rolling this out to home users wouldn't be a bad plan, IMO.

        • lvthunder

          In reply to Polycrastinator:

          I'm guessing it's because home users don't get Exchange and Sharepoint.

        • Max Daru

          In reply to Polycrastinator:

          Non-profits (e.g. Church groups) can get discount pricing for Office 365 commercial. You can get up to 300 licenses for Office 365 Business Essentials for free. Office 365 Business Premium is $2.50/month per user with non-profit pricing.

          • karlinhigh

            In reply to Max Daru:

            The hangup with church groups getting Office 365 is that Microsoft needs the IRS 501(c)(3) approval letter. Lots of churches don't have them, because approval is automatic-without-asking for any "place of worship." And to get that letter, there's a nasty big form to fill out, and a fee like $850 USD to the IRS, plus whatever someone needs paid to prepare the thing.