Slack’s competition can’t afford to slack off in the office collaboration battleground

The battle to facilitate communications in the workplace is heating up with large players and niche startups alike vying for the crown of the most widely used office collaboration tool. The advent of cloud computing and SaaS products have raised expectations for enterprise collaboration apps. Many vendors are fleshing out their vision for what the ideal office collaboration tool should look like. Four vendors are particularly aggressive in their push for this space — Slack, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. Let’s look at the efforts of each of these players and how the enterprise collaboration space is shaping up.

Slack

Slack
As the leader in the enterprise collaboration market, Slack sets the pace for the others. Slack has been busy churning out feature after feature, all to maintain its lead as the most important tool for collaboration in the enterprise. Here are some of the innovative features launched by Slack in recent times.

As the leader in the enterprise collaboration market, Slack sets the pace for the others. Slack has been busy churning out feature after feature, all to maintain its lead as the most important tool for collaboration in the enterprise. Here are some of the innovative features launched by Slack in recent times.

Cross-organization teams: Slack is being used by so many organizations that there are many use cases for teams across organizations wanting to communicate using Slack. Whether it’s an ad agency communicating with its clients or collaboration between the development teams of two organizations, Slack can replace email and make the communication between these teams easier and more searchable.

Private channels: This is a way to have confidential discussions about, say, an acquisition or merger that you’d like to keep under cover till the deal is done. It works even across organizations so that if your organization and your law firm both use Slack, you can create a private channel where only a select few users from each of your organizations can participate. These conversations will not show up in search results, and the channel is not visible to other users.

Screen sharing: This is a by-product of Slack’s acquisition of Screenhero. It’s part of Slack’s effort to diversify its product from chat to other forms of communication as well, and screen sharing is a popular feature requested by users.

AI-powered search: Finding information can be difficult in Slack, but it’s even harder in emails or internal wikis. Slack believes it has a great collection of collective knowledge in channels that aren’t available in emails and wikis, and it wants to make this information easily accessible and searchable. Slack is using artificial intelligence to create graphs for the topics that employees discuss in an organization and make these topics easy to search. Whether it’s by using tags or understanding the context of phrases, Slack wants to make information retrieval easy, and have boosted their search feature with intelligent features.

Threaded conversations: Many users have complained that it’s hard to keep track of a single thread of conversation in Slack as conversations can get easily lost in the steady stream of updates. To address this concern Slack announced threaded conversations, which lets users take off on a tangent from any message and view their entire conversation in a thread, just like they would with email, but only here it’s more like chat. This feature has also led to the rise of many startups like Redkix and Twist who are trying to find the right balance between Slack and email, and Slack itself doesn’t want to be left out of the party.

With all these updates, Slack is busy at work trying to keep and extend its lead over other enterprise collaboration tools.

Microsoft Teams

Slack
Microsoft

Microsoft considered buying Slack for $8 billion in 2016, but that deal was stopped before it got out the door by Bill Gates and Satya Nadella. That’s when Microsoft decided to build its answer to Slack – Microsoft Teams. Now, Microsoft is not new to this industry. It’s always toyed with enterprise collaboration apps and services like its acquisition of Yammer, Skype, and even intranet-like offerings that aimed at solving the problem of enterprise collaboration. However, with the launch of Teams, Microsoft is shifting focus from all those other products to focus exclusively on Teams.

Microsoft has made quite a push to get Teams adopted by its huge list of enterprise clients. That’s resulted in 200,000 organizations using Teams today. In fact, many enterprises are already on board Microsoft’s Office 365 platform, and for them, Teams is a natural extension of how they work as it’s well integrated with Microsoft products.

Microsoft is also taking steps to integrate Teams with other tools like GitHub, Atlassian Jira, and more. This is key to the success of Teams as Slack is known to be the Swiss army knife of app integrations with over a thousand integrations already. Comparatively, Teams has a long way to go with its total integrations around the 250 mark. But Microsoft is making good progress with the launch of its new app store for Teams.

Teams also leverages the Cortana platform to integrate artificial intelligence into the Teams user experience. This is still early days for AI, and Microsoft is keen to differentiate itself using features like Cortana as it goes head to head with Slack. But perhaps the biggest strength of Microsoft is its deep reach into the enterprise where it can easily cross-sell Teams. Among the competition, Microsoft has the ability to reach and win the biggest clients, and this is what gives Microsoft the confidence to build Teams from the ground up and invest deeply into it.

G Suite

SlackEach of the platforms in this space announce their numbers differently according to their strengths, and Google chose to tout that it has 4 million paying customers for its G Suite platform. Though Google doesn’t have a direct competitor to Slack, its G Suite is a combination of many Google products that have the same goal as Slack — to enable enterprise communication and collaboration.

G Suite is most popular among startups and education institutions. These, of course, aren’t the biggest payers, but they make up the mass of office collaboration users, and today’s startups are tomorrow’s enterprises. In this sense, Google hopes to catch ’em young and grow with their customer organizations.

With its primary product being Gmail for work, G Suite also has other complementary offerings like Docs, Calendar, and Hangouts. Hangouts is particularly up Slack’s alley but falls far short in terms of maturity as a product. Still, Google has worked on integrating Hangouts with Salesforce and integrating G Suite with Dropbox and Box. G Suite may be lacking as a communication tool, but its Docs part of the product is a great option for a content management system with its multiuser editing features and access controls.

Facebook Workplace

SlackWhile not the most popular option, Facebook Workplace has won 30,000 organizations over to its platform. Its biggest win was getting Walmart as a customer, but apart from that, it hardly as much traction as the other competitors have. Facebook looks to facilitate conversations in its own style of comments and likes, but also adds features like screen sharing to the mix.

Atlassian Stride

The newest kid on the block, Atlassian Stride is another attempt by the organization to solve challenges in the enterprise collaboration market. Its tools like Jira, Trello, and most importantly Hipchat all address this problem in one way or another. It’s surprising that Atlassian decided to build a new product and not extend Hipchat, which was traditionally considered Slack’s closest rival. However, the reason for this is that Atlassian puts a strong focus on meetings in the form of audio and video and doesn’t just limit Stride to just chat as Hipchat does.

A competitive year

Slack is at the top of the fast-growing enterprise collaboration market space. It is launching new features from screen sharing to artificial intelligence to cross-organization teams. Its rivals are far from reaching this level of maturity, but they’re not sitting still. Microsoft Teams is pushing hard to gain market share in the enterprise. G Suite is looking to build integrations and add more collaboration features. New entrants like Facebook Workplace and Atlassian Stride are looking to find their place in this fierce battle. How the pecking order will change in the coming year depends on who can innovate and get their solutions to market best. In this race, Slack’s rivals can’t afford to slack off.

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