Microsoft Teams vs. Slack: Post-COVID battle for the remote workplace

The coronavirus outbreak has drastically changed the world as we knew it. Countries went into partial or complete lockdown, and organizations, big and small, began encouraging or even mandating working remotely. With the workforce scattered and working remotely, the need to have efficient collaboration tools is more important now than ever. The battle between Microsoft Teams and Slack has been raging for a while now, but in a post-COVID world, the stakes are even higher.

Microsoft Teams vs. Slack

Slack has been a force of nature in the collaboration tool market. Long before the collaboration market was bustling with a plethora of tools, Slack dominated the market. It was so popular, in fact, that Microsoft came up with its own collaboration tool in 2016 called Microsoft Teams. Slack had a lead of a couple of years on this new tool. However, Microsoft quickly gained and became even more popular than Slack. Today, Teams has around 75 million active users, while Slack’s active users are somewhere around 12 million. Slack’s quarterly earnings report, released last week, was seen as a disappointment as the company’s business was under relentless assault from Microsoft Teams.

The massive surge in the adoption of Teams isn’t hard to understand. This feat can be credited to the trust people have in Microsoft and its offerings. Microsoft Teams is not an independent tool and comes along with the Microsoft suite. Enterprises with Microsoft 365 subscriptions could use Teams without an additional license. With so many organizations across the world using Microsoft’s Enterprise and Business suites, Teams swiftly became the default video conferencing and IM tool. However, Teams is much more than just that. After absorbing all the features of Skype (Microsoft’s pioneer collaboration tool), Microsoft packed Teams with an arsenal of features to compete against Slack.

Teams and Slack are both remarkable tools, and organizations should really consider their needs to figure out which tool would be a better fit. Although Teams dominates the enterprise market, Slack is a multi-platform tool that can be used by smaller organizations that use different operating systems.

Let’s compare some features of both of these collaboration tools.

1. Messaging system

Both of these tools allow you to have one-on-one private chats and group chats. You can have private and public group chats or channels based on the teams you are working with. Both the tools allow you to edit, delete, and pin messages in a conversation. You can also mention specific team members to get their attention. Both the tools allow you to share files as attachments in the chat window. However, there are some differences between the two. Teams provides users with advanced formatting options like adding bullet points, changing the font size or color, highlighting text, and the standard bold, italics, and underline options.

Teams also lets users share emojis and GIFs easily. All you need to do is type in a keyword and click the emoji or GIF and press send. In Slack, you can use emojis in a chat and also add custom emojis and GIFs using a single line of code. Slack allows users to react to texts with various reactions. Both tools come with customizable notification settings to help users streamline their notifications based on their specific needs.

2. Channels

Both Slack and Teams allow you to create channels or groups for specific projects. In Teams, you can create different “Teams” based on different projects. All the members of this team can have access to other Microsoft 365 application files like OneNote, SharePoint, and Power BI. Teams allows users to create channels inside channels, which helps create a hierarchical structure that is easier for administrators to manage. These sub-groups can be dedicated to particular subtasks under the main project. Slack allows users to create channels, but it doesn’t allow users to nest channels. To create a subgroup, users have to create a new channel and give it a name that represents the hierarchy.

3. Meetings

Video and audio conferencing is provided by both Teams and Slack. However, there are differences to point out here. Teams is built using Microsoft’s enterprise experience. And, to have an enterprise-grade collaboration tool, you need to make sure you pull all the stops. Teams allows you to add up to 250 members in meetings in the free version itself. With Teams Live Events, you can have an audience of up to 10,000 users. This is because Teams is built for larger enterprises in mind. Slack allows up to 15 members in meetings in the paid version, and this number is expected to increase in the future. With Teams, you get features like screen sharing and recording. Slack, however, allows screen sharing exclusively in the higher pricing tier and has no built-in screen recording functionality as of now.

Teams also let you schedule meetings well in advance. You can schedule meetings via the Teams app or Outlook. Teams meetings get integrated with your outlook calendar. You can also access the calendar through the Teams app. Slack doesn’t come with a built-in meeting scheduling functionality.

4. File sharing and collaboration

Both apps allow you to share files as attachments in the conversation. You can share images, videos, documents, etc. and collaborate with other team members. With Teams, you can share files with other users, which can be opened inside the Teams app. Teams has a built-in video player that lets you play videos without ever leaving the app. Other than this, Office and OneDrive documents can be shared across teams to have multiple users collaborate and coauthor said documents in real-time. With the ability to share audio along with screen sharing, users can watch work-related video presentations together. Slack, on the other hand, doesn’t come with built-in coauthoring functionality. Users can use various addons to do the same for Google docs and Office documents.

5. Integrations and helper bots

Teams is quite efficient when it comes to the Windows platform. However, it isn’t as popular with companies that don’t necessarily rely on Microsoft’s offerings. Slack offers up to 800 app integrations in the paid version. This comes in handy with features such a screen recording, real-time coauthoring, and meeting scheduling. Microsoft provides less than 200 integrations as of now. The number is expected to grow. However, if you have productivity tools installed on employees’ systems, they are more likely to be integrated into Slack. Slack also comes with its signature bot called SlackBot that can be queried to retrieve information such as project deadlines and meeting information. While Teams does allow for third-party bots to be integrated, these bots usually perform only specific tasks.

Microsoft Teams vs. Slack: Pricing models

Teams

Free plan: You can easily access the free plan by contacting your Microsoft partner or a sales representative. The free plan comes with unlimited chat and calls (audio and video). It comes with decent storage of 10GB per workspace with an extra 2GB per team member. You can also share files and coauthor documents on web-based Office apps.

Microsoft 365 Business Basic: This plan comes with hefty storage of 1TB for personal use. For organizations, storage of 1TB is available with an additional 10 gigs per license. Other features include meeting recording, scheduling, and Live Events with up to 10,000 viewers.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard: It comes with much more integrations than the basic plan. Users can access desktop versions of the Office apps to collaborate and coauthor.

E3: This plan comes with unlimited storage per user. This plan comes with advanced rights management, message encryption, and compliance capabilities.

Slack

Free: Users get unlimited channels and unlimited one-to-one calls (audio and video) without screen sharing. The free version stores the latest 10,000 messages and comes with a storage of 5GB per user.

Standard: This version comes with expanded analytics, unlimited message archive, conference calls with up to 15 members at a time, guest accounts, and screen sharing capabilities. It offers 10GB of storage per user.

Plus: It contains everything the standard version does with twice the storage space. This version comes with advanced compliance and identity management capabilities.

Enterprise: This version comes with enterprise-grade security and compliance capabilities. The Enterprise version allows you to govern all your teams and channels from a single pane of glass.

The Post-COVID battle: What the future holds for Microsoft Teams and Slack

This pandemic has led to a surge in the adoption of collaborative tools across the globe. For smart collaboration tool providers, this is an opportunity to branch out. Microsoft Teams and Slack are both doing their best to tap into this surge. Recently, Microsoft unveiled several new features, including Together mode, which is a video conferencing functionality that crops users from the shoulders up and puts them together in a grid view. This way, all the users can be on the same screen instead of only a specific few, which allows for a better video conferencing experience. Another new feature unveiled by Teams was the Dynamic view. This feature allows users to dynamically share content on the screen side-by-side while in a video conference. Slack is also working on bringing new updates to its app.

Earlier this year, Slack tweaked its UI and made everything less cluttered. Recently, Slack has been working on upgrading its security by letting users have more visibility and control over their data. Users can use the app Splunk by Slack to visualize data logs using prebuilt dashboards. Other than this, Slack has been working toward strengthening its participation with Atlassian. Users can now receive Jira notifications via Slack and can share Jira links with teams without worrying about logging into Jira via a browser. Users without a Jira account don’t have to spend any time onboarding themselves as they can simply click on a link, and a Jira account will be created for them with required authorizations. The battle is cutthroat and is forcing providers to innovate faster. It’ll be exciting to see what both of these tools come up with in the future to win this battle.

Featured Image: Shutterstock / TechGenix photo illustration

Twain Taylor

My interests lie in DevOps, IoT, and cloud applications. I began my career in tech B2B marketing at Google India, after which I headed marketing for multiple startups. Today, I consult with companies in The Valley on their content marketing initiatives, and write for tech journals.

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Twain Taylor

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