What makes Microsoft Teams better than Slack?

Arif Bacchus

Microsoft Teams

On July 8th, Recode published an interesting report, revealing that Microsoft Teams could crush Slack just like Facebook crushed Snapchat. With the report citing an ETR survey, Slack’s declining adoption rates, and other scenarios, things do look good for Microsoft. However, we wondered, what else makes Microsoft Teams better than Slack? Let’s dive deeper to both sides of the story.

Teams is already included for free with what businesses use

Slack might be more popular than Microsoft Teams — in use with 600,000 organizations vs Teams 500,000 organizations — but there are some situations and a bit more behind the numbers. Data can still be skewed due to real-world scenarios. So, while an organization plans to come on board with either Teams or Slack, not everyone might end up using either of the two collaboration software to begin with. That could be for either legacy support or just because of user preferences.

Still, Slack has a free tier, which is a bit limited to 10,000 searchable messages. However, the full-on version of Microsoft Teams (without any limits) is already included for free with Office 365 Business and Enterprise subscriptions. For everyone else without an Office 365 Subscription, a free tier of Teams is also available, but with unlimited searchable messages, and just a just few missing features.

That said, due to the popularity of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Office 365 is something that is already used by many large established businesses and organizations across the world. There’s plenty more value in what large businesses can get for choosing Teams than with choosing Slack. In fact (keeping in mind our warning about the numbers,) Microsoft last reported that 180 million monthly active users are on board with Office 365 commercial.

That gives organizations a bit more reason to get on board with a real collaboration tool, and away from legacy programs. Folks in large organizations can collaborate with employees at no extra cost, and without having to worry about managing an extra piece of software from another tech company. Not to mention, the bonus Teams integrations with other Office 365 products like Planner, SharePoint, and more.

Microsoft Teams turns 2 1 with border
Some Stats on Microsoft Teams from March 2019

However, there is still another side of the Slack vs Teams story to consider. Even though Teams is free with Office 365, not every organization (say like a small startup) would be willing to pay for a subscription. Yes, it could come on board with the free version of Teams, but not all the integrations with Office would be there. Another software like Skype for Business might be the better bet instead. That is what makes Slack more enticing for some, and where Microsoft could be losing out in the battle.

We did digging for some data to see which of the two is more popular. Unfortunately, we found that Slack doesn’t provide any information on its monthly active users, and neither does Microsoft on Teams. And, though Slack last said it had 10 million active daily users, Microsoft (at time of writing) doesn’t detail its own active user base with Teams. That said, it is hard to do a true Apples to Apples comparison here — but December 2018 data from Spiceworks did show that Teams was overtaking Slack. Again, though, numbers could be skewed, as we’ve explained.

Nonetheless, considering that the Office 365 userbase is already large, Microsoft has the advantage over Slack and the bigger potential for huge future growth with Teams.

Microsoft Teams 2
Teams in use at an Office (Photo via Microsoft)

Microsoft wasn’t typically ‘late to the game’ and is always improving with Teams

Microsoft might not have much success with phones, wearables, or music streaming, and has often been accused by fans of being “late to the game.” With Teams, however, things are different. The company had already seen large success with enterprise-focused Skype for Business software and also with Microsoft Lync. So, at the core, Microsoft realized the potential of an even better — and new — collaboration software when it first announced Teams back in 2017. This would help organizations move off legacy software, to a more fresh experience built for the modern workspace.

Indeed, Slack had already been around for roughly four years before that, so Microsoft was still coming to the market with a copycat product. Regardless, backed by Office 365, Teams is something that Microsoft knew organizations truly could take advantage of. As Recode points out, that’s similar to how Facebook’s Instagram copied features of Snapchat over the years. Microsoft was able to sit on the sidelines, see what businesses wanted, and leverage its significant Office 365 user base to try to undercut and upset Slack.

Additionally, in the years since Teams first launched, Microsoft didn’t stop developing its product. Teams has picked up a lot of features, and Microsoft is always listening to the needs of Teams users. Just to name a few — we’ve seen emoji reactions, integrations with Planner, improved calling features, integrations with Trello, and integrations with Microsoft Whiteboard. Clearly, Microsoft is going big with Teams and is investing in it for the long term.

Satya showing off Microsoft Teams
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella introducing Microsoft Teams

The numbers don’t lie, things are looking up for Microsoft

Going back to reporting from Recode’s original report, data from the research firm ETR shows that many organizations are indeed interested in Teams. The survey polled Forbes’ worlds largest public companies, Forbes Private 225 companies, and the U.S. Federal Government.

We’ve gathered some of the data below, as reported by Recode. As we said before, keep in mind that data can be skewed due to real-world situations. For instance, just because an organization plans to come on board with Teams or Slack, not everyone within the company might end up using the software. That might be due to legacy support, training, or other situations.

  • In January 2018, 26% of large organizations wanted to plan to use Slack. That compares to 34% of organizations who planned to use Microsoft Teams.
  • Roughly a year and a half later, in July 2019, 35% of large orgnizations waned to plan to use Slack. That compares to 59% of orgnizations who planned to use Microsoft Teams.
  • In January 2018, 11% of large companies were new to Slack. That compares to 35% that were new to Teams.
  • Roughly half a year later, in July 2019, 7% of large companies were new to Slack. That compares to 17% that were new to Teams.

Teams is here to stay, and it will eventually beat Slack

At the end of the day, Teams will eventually catch up with Slack thanks to the large Office 365 user base. While many may still consider it the “new kid on the block” when it comes to collaboration software, Microsoft will soon be selling Teams harder than Windows, according to reporting from Brad Sams. The move makes sense, as lots of big partners come on board with Teams, including NASCAR, and 91 other Fortune 500 companies. Plus, just like Slack, Microsoft is even pushing Teams in the education space. The company also switched off its PBX phone platform favor of Teams, showing the true power of its collaboration software.

We’re planning to dive deeper into our first-hand experience with both Slack and Teams next week, so be sure to keep tuned for more. In the meantime, check out our Office 365 hub for more tips, tricks, and news relating to the latest from Microsoft.