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.
Tagged with Microsoft Teams