Microsoft Teams gains ground on Slack

A Spiceworks survey found that Microsoft’s team chat app has moved ahead of market leader Slack on the strength of its inclusion in Office 365. How many users each app has remains unclear.

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Two years after its launch, Microsoft Teams is outpacing team chat rival Slack – largely thanks to Teams’ free availability as part of Office 365 subscriptions. That’s according to a survey of 900 IT decision makers in North America and Europe conducted by Spiceworks. 

The results indicate that Teams is now the second most popular business chat app and is used by 21% of respondents, up from 3% in a similar Spiceworks survey in 2016. That ranks it ahead of third-place Slack, the popular standalone team chat tool in use by 15% of businesses polled. (That represents a slight increase from 13% in 2016.)

The most popular tool is another Microsoft app, Skype for Business. It’s used by 44% of surveyed businesses, up from 36% two years ago. Another rival, Google Hangouts (now Google Hangouts Chat), meanwhile, saw use drop to 11%, from 16% two years ago. Facebook’s Workplace remained at 1%, while stats for Cisco’s Webex Teams (formerly Cisco Spark) were not provided. 

Furthermore, the Spiceworks report claims that Teams is set for the fastest growth of all business chat apps over the next two years. The survey indicates that 41% of respondents expect to use Teams by 2020, compared to 18% for Slack. 

Credit for Microsoft Teams’ growth lies in its availability within Office 365 subscriptions. The office productivity suite is used by 155 million businesses worldwide, thus putting Teams in the hands of a massive audience. 

“The rise in use of Microsoft Teams is likely influenced by the fact that it’s available at no additional cost to Office 365 users,” Spiceworks wrote in a company blog post. “And considering more than half of businesses use Office 365, it’s enticing organizations to give Teams a try.”

Inclusion in Office 365 is just one factor in Teams’ growth, according to Larry Cannell, a research director at Gartner. “More importantly, by supplanting Skype for Business Online, Microsoft can introduce Teams to many customers,” he said. “As a result, IT organizations are scrambling to find the best way to deploy Teams successfully and sustainably.”

Teams was unveiled in 2016 as a rival to Slack, and has since been placed at the core of Microsoft’s communication and collaboration strategy, replacing Skype for Business Online over time. Microsoft has also launched a free version of Teams in a bid to attract a user base outside of Office 365 subscribers.

Teams is now used by 329,000 organizations worldwide, Microsoft said during this year’s Ignite conference, up from 125,000 a year ago. “That is about twice the rate [of growth] that we see from Slack,” said Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications ahead of the conference.

That said, the Spiceworks report and Microsoft’s statistics show only part of the picture; actual usage rates are less solid. 

Microsoft has not provided total daily active user figures for Teams, unlike Slack, which touts 8 million daily active users, including 3 million paid users. Slack declined to comment on the Spiceworks report.

According to Cannell, while Microsoft has certain strengths due to its existing relationships, enterprise deployments of team chat apps are still at an early stage. “We are just starting to introduce really good enterprise collaboration tools,” he said. “Microsoft isn’t a guaranteed winner here, but their success in the email, IM and productivity application spaces certainly influences enterprise decisions.”

According to Spiceworks, Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams are most frequently used by large and mid-sized businesses, while Slack is commonly deployed by smaller organizations. 

It also shows that, while email is still the most popular workplace communication tool (used by 99% of respondents), overall demand for business chat apps continues to grow. Adoption is highest among large organizations (70%, compared to 53% in 2016), followed by mid-size firms (61%, up from 38% two years ago) and finally, small businesses (58%, up from 42%).

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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