David vs. Goliath or Slack vs. Teams
Just at the end of the year Slack announced its partnership with Google which involves integrating services from Google Cloud such as Team Drives and document previews.
An announcement for battling the rising competition from Microsoft Teams and Facebook @ Work.
The Slack — Google Partnership
By teaming up with Google and intensifying the integration of Google Cloud tools, Slack clearly aims at overcoming the deficits it may have in comparison to Microsoft Teams.
This comprises facilitating team collaboration in projects. There are five main features that are going to be updated:
The Google Drive bot now enables users to approve, reject and settle comments on Google Docs within Slack or to open a Google Doc to resolve them directly inside. In addition, users are able to use notifications in Slack conversations when sharing Google Docs. This includes Slack scanning the user permissions for a file that is shared within the channel and verifies that all team members have permission to access the file. Users can also change the permission to read or edit the document directly in Slack without switching to Google Docs.
It is also possible now for users to receive notifications of changes in a Google Doc in the team channel that is linked to the respective Drive folder.
Users may also view a preview of Google Docs in Slack. Google Admin Console is likewise integrated in Slack which ensures accounts are provisioned for the entire company and reduces potential for user error.
Now that we’re up to date on Slack it’s time to look deeper into the pros and cons of Slack and its competitor Microsoft Teams. On the surface it seems like the two tools do not have many differences.
But, as is often the case, the devil is in the details.
Integration with other applications
Besides the over 200 promised pre implemented connectors from Microsoft you have the possibility to create your own. This can be done by simply creating a Webhook URL in Teams and letting your service push its messages to this Webhook into Teams.
On the other hand we have Slack, which is providing an almost completely open platform. That means 3rd Party applications can easily be implemented either by choosing an existing Bot from the Slack “Store” or by building your own individual one by using the Slack API. This gives companies and other Slack users an enormous variety of integration possibilities.
Usability and user experience are the crucial points of being an effective, fast and collaborative communication tool.
As mentioned before, these points seem like small and unimportant details, but when it comes to super fast communication or collaboration, even the difference of two more clicks to get the same result applied to the whole company leads to an awful waste of time.
In Slack you have a tremendous amount of shortcuts and quick-type commands that give you access to almost all of your bots and slack features (e.g. “/” is giving you the immense power of using all your bots right at your fingertips while you are already typing your message).
Furthermore, Slack is always ready to type which means when you change channels or even a Team, your cursor will always be right where you want it: in the text box, ready to type a message.
In Teams, things are a bit trickier as far as the Beta is giving us a glance at the live version of it. Don`t get me wrong, in Teams you will find over 50 different shortcuts to navigate within the Tool. These shortcuts are awesome for Navigation within Teams and accessing functionalities but when it comes to the key purpose of these tools (improving collaboration and communication), Teams is lacking some features compared to Slack. For example; changing a Channel or a Team will always require you to get the cursor back to where it belongs: the messaging box. If you just want to send a quick GIF summing up what you think, you need to use your mouse and navigate through the endless list of different emoticons, GIF`s and Stickers.
These are just two small examples, but you may get my point now. It’s the same reason why Snapchat is always starting with the active camera function — it’s made for producing and sharing video content. So why should the cursor not be ready to type in a tool that is made for communication?
However, something Teams introduced first was threaded conversations. By default, Teams provides a slim and simple way of answering to a certain message or post. This again seems like a small and unnecessary feature, but we’re talking about super fast communication which also means that users need to get their information structured and processable. Everyone who has used the previous version of Slack for a while will agree when I say that keeping track of different topics within the same channel where multiple people have replied to was a pain in the ass. With the newest Slack update they finally added threaded conversations too, wich makes knowledge and information management a lot easier in Slack. But what happened here is something more interesting and profitable for us as Users of such tools. It’s exactly the point i’m coming back to in the conclusion about the overdue competition in the segment of business communication tools.
Projectmanagement, Docs etc.
Next point is, at the moment, a big pro for Teams. I’m talking about Team tabs for different recurring tasks or documents. In Teams you have the option of organizing different tasks and documents you want to keep track of with tabs in your Team’s channel. For example, with a Planner tab you can easily delegate project To Do’s or track Milestones visible for everyone in your channel. In this case, Slack is by now lacking some capabilities. In Slack, you can of course let a bot push different alerts or messages into your channels message feed, but this will never feel as neat and clean as the tab based solution of Teams.
Another point is document previews. Teams is already performing this functionality of giving you a preview of your shared or as a tab connected Office 365 file. On the other hand, Slack will shortly feature this possibility for Google Doc’s with their announced G Suite cooperation too.
Next up, video and voice calls. Again a big advantage for Microsoft, they are already running the complete skype for business environment, which they seamlessly implemented into Teams. On the competitor’s side, Slack is providing this — finally — too.
What’s actually a bigger thing is that both Slack and Teams are only aiming for desktop users. If we take any instant messenger like WhatsApp, we soon realize that most of our communication is happening on the go. Same thing in business. Communicating or sharing Ideas with your colleagues on the go without wasting time by composing emails wasn’t possible before. Slack and Teams have a huge impact on this in business environments but do not really go all the way. I mean how often do you think about certain business topics while on the train to your office or to a client? — Always. So why shouldn’t you have the possibility of putting your ideas and thoughts into voice messages or spontaneous calls the moment they appear? Sure, you can call someone in your team with your Slack app on your mobile phone, but it almost takes hours searching for the correct colleague from the user list, opening a chat and then finally hitting the voice call button. Think about WhatsApp and how easy and especially how fast it is there to share a thought with a voice message or a call. And that’s because those messengers went all the way and understood that people want to communicate quickly and on the go. So they built the mobile apps exactly the way you need it when you want to communicate instantly.
Long story short, this is a big feature both business communication tools are lacking, as they have the same goal only in a different context as messengers for private use.
As the last point we will compare the costs. You can only use Teams if you have a full Office 356 E1-E5 subscription. This means that Teams won’t be available to anyone using different Office solutions than those from Microsoft, or at least the ones not willing to pay for an extra Office subscription.
If you are already using the Office 365 subscription or want to use it, it will all in all (the complete MS Office Suite, OneDrive, Skype, Teams, etc. ) cost you from 8$ going up to 35$ per user per month, depending which O365 configuration you need.
Opposite to that, Slack is an open platform and standalone tool, which can easily be set up in any kind of business or office landscape. Even with the G Suite integration Slack won’t require Google Drive or a G Suite subscription. Another big pro is that Slack is free for Teams that don’t have big demands in Storage or support. But even if you’re a bigger company, Slack starts at 6.67$ and goes up to 12.50$ per user per month with the complete bandwidth of support, data storage, archiving etc.
The differences between the apps are obviously only secondary. Nevertheless, the launch of teams triggered a competition and this may lead for us as users benefiting from better usability of any of these apps.
As you can see in the latest Slack update (Threaded Conversations), we have the first effects from the competition about the best business communication tool. Teams introduced a innovative and missing Feature of Slack and — whosh — a blink later Slack added this feature too, because they felt the pressure from Microsoft lacking a necessary functionality. We’re sure that this will just be the beginning of a aria of innovative features that are coming.
I’m looking forward to discuss this topic with you. So give me your thoughts on this. And I hope that it was helpful to the ones among you who usually do not deal with technology. Thanks for reading!