Slack vs Teams

The Slack vs Teams debate appeared recently in the news again when Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack, said in an interview with CNBC that Microsoft Teams is not a competitor to Slack:

“I think there’s this perpetual question, which at this point is a little puzzling for us, that at some point Microsoft is going to kill us,” says Butterfield in the CNBC interview. “In another sense, they’ve got to be a little frustrated at this point. They have 250 million-ish Office 365 users, they just announced this massive growth in Teams to a little under 30 percent. So after three years of bundling it, preinstalling it on people’s machines, insisting that administrators turn it on, forcing users from Skype for Business to switch to Teams, they still only have 29 percent which means 71 percent of their users have said no thank you.”

The comments thread in the Verge article has people weighing in on both sides of the debate. One viewpoint is that the Teams user-experience may not be as good as what Slack offers, but is good enough — which is probably why Teams will end up winning this battle.

I’ve used both Slack and Teams. I started with Slack, using it for communication in small groups, and I loved it. But when Microsoft Teams was broadly rolled out in the company, it made sense to switch over for some use cases. I continued to use Slack for communication, but preferred Teams for storing documents or creating short wikis. While Slack did not eliminate the need for email, it made short exchanges within well-knit groups really efficient. And it allowed us to easily imagine and try out new use cases, like getting notifications from our continuous delivery pipelines.

Slack clearly is much more cool to work with, and it has a bigger range of integrations. But what if Teams is “good enough” from an enterprise perspective, if not from an end-user standpoint? Since end-users are not the ones buying software in enterprises, will Teams end up upstaging Slack in enterprises already invested into Microsoft platforms and solutions?

There’s also the other segment, next-gen enterprises that have grown up with cloud-native software and consumer grade experiences. If keeping employees happy is key to their success, such enterprises may end up choosing the slickness of Slack over baggage of Teams. (Such segments could also exist as niches within large enterprises that predominantly use Microsoft.)

I’ll be watching this space.

(Butterfield is an interesting character. He’s known as the person behind Flickr and Slack, both of which emerged out of his ventures to create something else altogether: a massively multi-player online game. Wired profiled him in 2014, and Ezra Klein had an engaging conversation with him in 2016. And then there’s this resignation letter he wrote when he left Yahoo!)