Welcome to the first round of results from our internal Teams Vs Slack showdown. We’ve had our share of challenges, with some whining, crying, and even one threat of suicide. But we didn’t take them seriously (RIP Brad; I have no idea how he trained the squirrels to eat him so quickly). But we’ve also had some victories- less daily meme crap, better overall focus, easier calendaring, and more. Read on…
The “Clean Slate”:
If you’ve already deployed Slack and are considering swapping to Teams, be prepared for a “clean slate effect”. The shiny, new, EMPTY Teams deployment means thereare fewer repositories for nonsense and chatter. There won’t be a “videogames” or “Game of Thrones” channel – so until someone ponies up the courage to create these time-sucker channels, the cross talk and day-to-day BS will be cut down DRAMATICALLY. This is GREAT if you’re a boss, not so great if you’re an employee used to posting memes in response to movie trailers.
Another feature bosses will love (and employees will miss)- With the central control baked into Office 365, there can be no truly “secret” channels, and no outsiders will get access to your Teams (without express approval and monitoring). Slack is so open, so flexible that security and monitoring are really difficult. With a paid Slack plan, a company can tie its Slack to another company’s Slack, effectively breaking one of the core purposes of this communication medium – privacy! I feel like the key advantage of Slack/Teams/Hangouts/etc. is the “internal-only” nature of the product. Everything we do in here is for us and us alone. There is no spam. There are no customer eyeballs reading what we’re saying. There is no vendor “just checking in” and breaking your flow. It’s our private garden.
How about built-in Video and Audio conferencing with all the bells and whistles available from day one? That’s freaking great. Sure, Slack has calls and video, but screensharing and such are only available for paid teams. So if you’re paying for Office 365 AND Slack, it adds up quickly. Teams is already INCLUDED with your Office 365 plan, so it’s great to get all the features at no additional cost. Chat is great to allow folks to switch task across multiple conversations, but sometimes you just need to TALK, and Teams makes this a snap, seamlessly jumping from chat to audio to video, and it preserves a record of the existence of these conferences (if not the content of the conference).
Then there’s the calendar integration. Love having access to calendars just a click away. Want to schedule something with me? BAM, you can see my availability. Yes, I know that was also possible using the meeting scheduler feature in Outlook – but the UI on that was ugly as three sins and tragically underused.
Hover For Detail:
Here’s a simple slick feature that I love. Hover over someone’s avatar to get all the contact info stored in your Active Directory, like their direct dial number. Of course, you can also use this hover feature to start a video conference too! Super cool.
NOW FOR SOME “BAD”:
Performance on android mobile is…not good. Get ready to see “we can’t get your conversations right now” a lot (and before you ask- I’m on a Google Pixel, fully patched, with solid service). If Teams would simply allow the app to show cached data instead of blanking out history pending the sync, I’d at least be able to see something. This would be awesome, since I often need to quickly refer to past conversations. I should be able to refer back without sync, and without service. Teams teases me, and flashes cached data for about one second, then blanks it with this annoying screen:
They are handled REALLY inconsistently. Sometimes the images we post show up inline (meaning they display in the app), but sometimes they just show up as links, and viewers will need to “download” them. Worse, they seem to need to be re-downloaded over and over again, and never really show up in line. This is has NOTHING to do with the type of attachment, and everything to do with HOW the attachment gets added. If you use the “share” button in the mobile app, it adds inline (good). If you use the “attach” button in the mobile app, it makes it a download (dumb). Dragging the item into the app on the desktop app? Seems to be inline (except sometimes it’s not). How about the attach button in the desktop app? Mostly downloads.
I don’t get it.
“REPLY” REAL ESTATE:
I wont get too deep into the debate about “threaded conversations”, as we are still brawling internally on that. But look at this:
That’s nearly FIFTY PERCENT OF MY SCREEN dedicated to the “reply” button. That is MADNESS from a UI perspective. 50% of my scrolling is simply a result of trying to get past a rarely used button/function? That’s gross. I really REALLY dislike the amount of space dedicated to this graphical acne. I want it GONE. Just make an icon. Move it to the bottom right of each chat, or better yet, have it HIDDEN until I hover over it, and have it appear. It’s the one instance where I’d expect to have to use the mouse, so make it do something worthwhile.
I MISS COMMAND-K:
Slack had a master “go” shortcut that allowed us to jump from one channel to another, from a chat with one teammate to a channel, or to another teammate. Command-K. This shortcut was super useful. Dramatically reduced my usage of the mouse, which is a victory.
CONCLUSION: Slack 9/Teams 8
(We’re doing boxing style scoring on this fight, in honor of the “showdown” concept).
Slack kicked Teams’ butt when it comes to cross-talk and engagement. That’s the basic intent of the tool. But the ref deducted a point because Slack also allowed a little too much freewheeling fancy nonsense to go on, at the expense of good old fashioned focus. But then, after multiple warnings, the ref deducted a point from Teams for low blows (that is, consistency problems with attachments, file management, and mobile performance).
But stay tuned! It’s too soon to call this fight. Teams clearly has a lot of promise, featuring direct integration with our calendars, easy file sharing and the rest of the communication stack like email, Skype for Business, video and audio calls. I think Slack is going to have to dig deep in the later rounds to stay on top.
Clearly, if Teams keeps working on streamlining and making the product more predictable, I think Slack is in a world of trouble. But if Microsoft lets this be yet another aborted project that dies quietly in a corner, then Slack will win, and win BIG.
Stay tuned folks. This fight is heating up.