Editor’s note: In response to the coronavirus crisis gripping the world, TechGenix is republishing a selection of recent articles, tutorials, and product reviews that contain relevant information for IT pros as their jobs change dramatically. In this article, originally published Dec. 6, 2019, we look at how Microsoft is using Office 365 and Microsoft Teams in its quest to control the in-office and remote collaboration market against competitors Slack and Zoom.
When I look at what’s going on with Microsoft Teams and Slack and Zoom and similar real-time collaboration platforms, I often imagine a bunch of gladiators battling it out in an arena in ancient Rome. “There can be only one” is probably just as true for cloud-based solutions today as it was in battling to the death in the days of the Caesars. A number of questions arise however as I consider how to place my bet on which warrior will end up eliminating all the others as they fight to the finish. Will Teams end up dominating the market? Will it become more tightly integrated with Office 365 until the two basically blend together? How will the branding for them evolve if this happens? And if Office 365 plus Teams is the ultimate path to the top of the podium where the olive leaf crown will be bestowed upon the winner, how can IT leaders best plan their migration from Slack and Zoom to Teams within 90 days while getting their employees on board with the switch as well?
These and other questions came to mind when I sat down recently to talk with Hunter Willis, the product marketing manager at AvePoint. While I didn’t get all my questions answered or have time to cover everything I was interested in, I did learn enough to make me seriously consider raising the ante on my bets concerning Teams dispatching its competitors into the Underworld.
MITCH: Let’s start with the basics. Real-time collaboration platforms such as Teams, Slack and Zoom are becoming increasingly popular with many businesses. Why is that?
HUNTER: There are many reasons for this, but, in my opinion, these are the two strongest. First, people have become accustomed to applications that encourage chat and personal messages that are easier to follow, read and deliver message context than email — which can become cluttered and difficult to follow as a stream of conversation.
Second, with the expansion of tech, increased competition and the nature of the modern workforce, employees have to rapidly adapt to needs outside of their “job descriptions” and take on more varied workloads. Chat applications are much better suited for adaptive communication. In Teams, for example, users can keep track of all of their conversations, label their chat streams and personal multi-user conversations, and associate documents with specific conversations. Organizations have security controls over this content which further enables them to lean on the tech to get the job done.
MITCH: Makes sense, thanks! How is the market share currently divvied up between these three products and where do you see it headed?
HUNTER: Aside from the news of Slack being in decline, our company has seen such an increase in demand for Slack migration into Teams that we built the functionality to make it happen months ago. As for Zoom, I had multiple enterprise IT admins ask me at Ignite if we were going to be able to migrate Zoom in the near future, so that’s a fairly clear sign, but still very anecdotal.
MITCH: OK then, why do you think Teams beginning to dominate the market? What features or advantages does Microsoft have that its competitors don’t have?
HUNTER: The biggest reason is that Microsoft has brilliantly included Teams with Office 365, which many, if not the vast majority of large organizations, already use for collaboration to one extent or another. This means rather than paying for licenses for additional tools, they just have to turn it on.
The second reason is that the integration of Teams into the rest of the Office 365 services makes it a true enterprise-ready one-stop-shop for most of the capabilities organizations need. Combine that with its increased security, manageability and conversation structure abilities over Slack, and for most organizations, it’s a no-brainer.
The other thing about Slack, in particular, is that to get any capabilities other than chat, you have to add in apps and services from other tools. This is almost like adding micro-microservices to your organization, ultimately scaling the burden of IT to make sure things are secure and managed.
In regards to Zoom, it was much easier and more reliable than Microsoft services for external meetings in the past. But in the past year, the only conversations I’ve had about it have been customers asking to move it into Office 365.
Now, it’s important to note that Zoom and Slack will always have a place in the market. Time and time again I hear small organizations say they are easier to use and get started with than Teams, and I personally think they are. A lot of organizations are also keeping Slack for the foreseeable future because their users prefer it to the point that IT is agreeing to hang on to it. And that ease of use and user loyalty cannot be discounted in this conversation.
MITCH: OK, so maybe it’s not like the gladiator arena where a battle to the death leaves only one victor. But given that Office 365 is very popular nowadays with businesses of all shapes and sizes, do you foresee Microsoft completely integrating Teams and Office 365 into a single unified platform under a single product name? After all, Teams is currently a separate app, right?
HUNTER: It is important to note that Teams is technically a separate app from Office 365, but it’s built on the Lync/Skype For Business architecture and nearly all of its capabilities and integrations rely heavily on the Office 365 Platform. For all intents and purposes, they always have been integrated.
MITCH: So, I guess we’re stuck with Office 365 as the branding, though perhaps even that may change if Microsoft 365 really takes off. Anyway, let me finish by asking about what options businesses have if they’re currently running Slack or Zoom and want to migrate over to Teams. Are there tools that can help them do this? And are there any challenges that customers may face in performing such a migration?
HUNTER: AvePoint can migrate Slack conversations and files into Microsoft Teams, combine multiple Slack channels into one Team, or migrate each channel into its own Team. We also can migrate Slack conversations into Teams chats, or migrate them into the Files tab of Teams. In any case, gifs, emojis, and metadata will be preserved, and the text is searchable and looks just like Teams.
As for Zoom, I am currently unaware of a vendor migrating from Zoom to Microsoft Teams or a company that has done that before.
MITCH: Great. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
HUNTER: My pleasure.
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