Microsoft Teams has become an important player in online collaboration. Launched in 2017, Teams has seen the number of users taking to this tool increase greatly over the last three years. At first, Microsoft Teams took direct aim at Slack. But recently, as video conferencing took off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft has added Zoom to its gunsights.
According to Statista, the number of daily active users of Microsoft Teams has increased from about 32 million users in March 2019 to about 75 million in April 2020. Another report states that usage is about 115 million. The pandemic has given a big boost to this app, and it is being used extensively by business organizations, schools, universities, and others for online learning and interaction. Since it is a part of Microsoft 365, it is estimated that about 30 percent of users who have subscribed to Microsoft 365 use it. All this translates to about $5 billion to $10 billion to Microsoft. These are truly impressive numbers, but is this tool as good as it sounds? Should you switch from Slack, Zoom, or any other online collaboration tool to Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is an advanced tool that combines many features, and these are what make it so powerful.
At the heart of it are components called channels and teams, which allow you to have meetings with a defined group of people. You can choose the people who should be in the channel, provided you’re the admin, so that you can have meaningful conversations with them.
Besides meetings and collaboration, you can have one-on-one conversations with others in your organization through the chat feature. Needless to say, it comes with emoticons, gifs, stickers, and other features that can enhance the conversation and possibly even de-stress you!
Another cool feature of Microsoft Teams is bots that can handle all boring and routine tasks for you. These bots come in a hexagonal shape and are available online at all times. So, you can use these bots to send automated messages to some groups, set reminders for yourself, organize meetings, and more.
These bots are built on the Bot Framework Composer, an open-source visual authoring canvas with sophisticated language generation. You can take the existing bots and customize them with little to no code to automate your tasks.
Every channel in Microsoft Teams has its own backup. It is also easy to search for what you want in each channel, so you don’t have to scroll through each channel to find that file or message you need.
Even if you delete a channel, the files associated with it are stored on the SharePoint site, so you can still easily find those really “old” documents.
You can integrate third-party tools like Dropbox. Trello, Google Drive, Polly, Jira Cloud, Asana, Adobe Creative Cloud, and more to your Teams to have greater flexibility to use the tools that are most comfortable for you.
Since Microsoft Teams is a part of the larger Microsoft Office 365 suite, it’s easy to create documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoints, and notes and share them seamlessly with other users. And if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, Microsoft Teams is included in the package for free.
You can create your own apps by leveraging the power of Microsoft’s developer tools. In fact, you can create tabs, bots, extensions, task modules, adaptive cards, and a host of other features in your app, so you have the functionality that is just right for your needs.
While these are some of the important advantages of using Microsoft Teams, it comes with its share of disadvantages.
Let’s now take a look at some of the disadvantages of Teams to get a balanced view of this tool.
Surprisingly, Microsoft Teams doesn’t have a unified chat feature where you can search what you want from all the conversations.
This essentially means you have to remember which conversation was in which chat, as you can search within that chat only.
When every user can create teams, it is sure to clog up space in the company’s server. Though the admin can restrict the people who can create groups, this requires extra handling and work and is not so straightforward.
Worse, you get no notification or warning when you try to create a team with a name that exists already. This means you can have any number of teams with the same name, which adds to the confusion, especially if you have to handle similar teams but across different geographies.
For example, let’s say you have to coordinate with the sales team located in three offices. There is a possibility to have all the three teams with the name “Sales.”
A workaround is that a person must check for an existing team before using it for a group. Still, remember this is a workaround, and not every person creating a team may be aware of it!
Teams limits the number of channels that you can be a part of. It restricts this to 200 public channels and 30 private channels per person. While this is enough in most cases, still, you must know that there are limits to the channels.
Finally, this space is too crowded. There are way too many tools that offer similar or even overlapping features, so it becomes hard for a user or organization to decide the right tool.
Also, standalone tools for different functionalities compound the problem further, and some of them are offered by Microsoft too! For example, Microsoft offers Skype, a convenient messaging and interaction platform that competes with Teams, instead of complementing it.
Further, you could be used to a certain tool, making it tough to embrace Teams. So, if you’re already using similar tools like Slack or Zoom, should you switch to Microsoft Teams?
Switching to a new tool is not easy, as it takes time for people to get used to it. That said, the switch is necessary if its benefits outweigh the time and effort it takes for employees to get used to the new tool.
Here are some compelling reasons to switch to Microsoft Teams.
One of the biggest reasons to switch is the scale and size of your team.
To give you a comparison, Slack supports up to 15 people in a call if you’ve opted for its paid plan (you can compare the various Slack plans here), while Zoom can support up to 1,000 people (you can compare the various Zoom plans here). Microsoft Teams, meanwhile, supports online events for more than 10,000 people within and outside your organization.
So, if you want to host meetings attended by a large audience, Teams is your choice.
Developers and designers at Microsoft have thought of some subtle and minuscule actions and have provisioned for the same in Teams.
For example, Teams uses blur technology to remove distractions during a video presentation. You can also have specific images in your background, though this feature is available in Zoom as well.
You can record calls, get the transcripts, search through chats, and more in Microsoft Teams. To record meetings in Slack, you must integrate a third-party tool while Zoom allows you to record conversations in MP4 or MA4 format.
The biggest selling point of Microsoft Teams is that it is a part of a larger suite that contains other popular applications like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and more. So, the integration is seamless, and you can leverage the benefits of other apps to gain more productivity and collaboration.
Obviously, this seamless integration is missing in both Zoom and Slack as they depend on third-party apps to make this collaboration possible.
Multifactor authentication has become a de facto way of signing into an app as it provides an extra layer of security. With Teams, though, you can provide a single sign-on implemented through Active Directory.
Slack and Zoom need to integrate third-party apps like OneLogin or Centrify to provide this functionality.
Overall, Microsoft Teams is a popular collaboration tool that comes with a host of features. Like every other tool in this competitive space, Teams comes with its own share of advantages and disadvantages, so the choice depends on what features you need.
If you’re on Slack, Zoom, or any other conferencing or collaboration tool, it makes sense to shift to Microsoft Teams if you want easy collaboration and sharing using other built-in Microsoft tools or if you have any other specific requirement that is not available in the others.
So, what’s your take? Do you like Teams and use it? More importantly, will you make the shift to Teams from other tools? Let us know what you think.
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