Microsoft rolls out Teams to Office 365 customers: Where do we go from here?

It caused enough ripples when it was released that Slack was compelled to take out a full page advert in the New York Times – and now Microsoft has officially rolled out its Teams product to Office 365 subscribers worldwide.

To define Teams, as the promotional video for the preview put it: “Microsoft Teams is a chat-based workspace that gives people one place to connect and create in inherently human ways. A way that builds trust, and helps create a natural rhythm, so ideas flow freely and evolve organically.”

Microsoft said that more than 50,000 organisations had started using Teams since the preview in November, including Accenture, Deloitte, and Sage. Another customer, Trek Bicycle, said that they saw Teams as the ‘project hub’ of Office 365 “where everybody knows where to find the latest documents, notes and tasks, all in line with team conversations for complete context.”

In a blog post confirming the news, Kirk Koenigsbauer, Office corporate vice president, said more than 100 new features had been put in since the soft launch. Among them includes audio calling from mobile devices, emailing separate channels, and more seamless transitions from chat to high quality voice and video for meetings.

Bots are also a key part of the rationale, with users being able to benefit from more than 150 integrations. If you want to leave the grunt work of organising travel, scheduling meetings and so on, then this is the route to go down – and Microsoft is looking to add Hipmunk, Growbot and ModuleQ in the near future. This aspect has been previously emphasised by Microsoft; not least at the company’s Envision conference in April last year, where CEO Satya Nadella discussed the importance of ‘conversation as a platform’ and using AI for ‘taking the human language but applying it much more pervasively to computing.’

As one would also expect, security was cited, with Microsoft Teams supporting a plethora of global standards, including SOC 1, SOC 2, ISO 27001 and HIPAA, alongside mobile app management with Intune. “Our responsibility at Microsoft goes beyond this,” Koenigsbauer wrote. “Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.”

It all sounds simple enough; and given Microsoft can boast more than 85 million active Office 365 users, the combination of Office, Outlook, SharePoint, Yammer, Skype for Business, and now Teams, the Redmond giant will be hoping this is the missing piece of the puzzle for collaboration on its platform.

But whither Slack? At Mobile World Congress last month, the main enterprise panel session featured a few whistle-stop polls. One, not surprisingly, was around the most popular enterprise apps. Even less surprisingly, Office came out on top – but with only 35% of the vote. Slack scored 12%, level with Skype and with only WhatsApp (21%) ahead of it.

Christian Reilly, CTO of workplace services at Citrix, told audience members that his company – with the best part of 10,000 employees, let’s not forget – had ramped up its Slack usage over the past 12 months. “I said Slack could be the next operating system,” he recalled. “People looked at me as though I’d fallen from space.”

Slack is evidently aware of its growing importance in the enterprise, and doubled down on its commitment with the release of Slack Enterprise Grid earlier in February, integrating with Salesforce, Adobe and Box, as well as greater admin controls and unlimited workspaces.

The battle for enterprise collaboration mindshare and market share is well and truly joined.

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