Due to the coronavirus pandemic and a huge increase in the number of people working remotely, the use of collaboration workspaces like Microsoft Teams and Slack has exploded.
In the third week of March 2020, Microsoft Teams, as part of Office 365, had 44 million daily users, a figure that grew by 12 million in one week alone. Slack added 2.5 million users in two weeks and 9,000 new paid customers between February 1 and March 25.
As workplace behaviors shift, Microsoft Teams and Slack are in a head-to-head race to win market share. The platform you choose will depend on the needs of your business, the features most important to you, and what you’re willing to spend. Here are several aspects to take note of before making a final decision.
Messaging is a key part of any collaboration platform. Both Microsoft Teams and Slack have group chat functionality with thread messaging as well as the option for private chats. Each offers the ability to edit, delete, and pin messages, as well as the option to mention someone, share a file, and start a new thread.
If you’re into adding GIFs to your messages, both offer that option as well. The “Stickers” feature in Microsoft Teams enables users to customize memes for a richer interactive experience. With Slack, you have to work with an integrated system, like Bitmoji, to get this functionality. However, Slack does give you the option to react to messages and comment with an emoji.
As for customizing the message interface in Slack, you can change the overall appearance, switch between light and dark themes, and switch the sidebar colors between almost a dozen options.
When it comes to meetings, both Teams and Slack offer online audio and video sharing — but Teams has the edge for larger companies, as it’s backed by Microsoft’s years of experience creating products specifically for large enterprise organizations.
The free version of Teams allows you to hold video meetings, and use background blur, custom background images, and screen sharing. The version included in Microsoft 365 Basic allows you to schedule and record meetings, and host meetings with up to 250 attendees. It also supports larger gatherings, such as webinars, meetings, and events of up to 10,000 participants, both from within and outside the organization.
As for Slack, you can conduct unlimited one-to-one voice and video calls under the free plan; however it doesn’t allow you to record a meeting without integrating a third-party app. On the other hand, Slack does support third-party voice and video call services, such as Zoom and Google Meet, even with the free plan. If you upgrade to a paid plan, Slack will support up to 15 simultaneous callers and provide screen sharing.
Both Teams and Slack allow you to create private messages and channels that provide you and your team with a shared view of the work that’s being done. As you work in channels on both platforms, your conversations and files become a searchable archive, making it easier to find what you need when you need it.
Slack offers public channels, private channels, and shared channels, so two separate organizations can work together in Slack, allowing you to collaborate in real time with clients, vendors, agencies, and more.
With Microsoft Teams, “channels” are actually conversations between various groups of teammates. Every channel covers a particular subject, whether it be a project, a specific interest, or a department. Channels can be public, meaning anything posted is searchable by others in the organization, or they can be designated as private. People must be invited to a private channel in order to view it and participate.
So what’s the difference?
In Slack, you can’t have a channel within a channel, but with Teams, you have the option to create teams and add channels within those teams, essentially creating sub-channels and enhancing collaboration within groups. These teams are also automatically created as groups in Office 365, so they can be integrated with other Office 365 apps, like SharePoint Site, OneNote, and Planner.
Both Teams and Slack have tons of integrated apps. Slack’s App Directory includes over 2,000 apps covering all kinds of needs and functions that organizations depend on for their day-to-day activities. However, you can only install up to 10 apps when using the free version.
Teams offers more than 500 apps, but you do get unlimited app integrations, no matter what plan you’re on. For organizations that use Office 365, the big advantage of Teams is that it integrates seamlessly with Microsoft’s product suite, making it much easier to manage workflow within the one platform.
There are free versions available for both Slack and Teams. Each product offers different features in their free plans. For example, with Slack, there are unlimited channels, and with Teams, unlimited messages. Slack offers 10 app integrations, while Teams gives access for up to 300 users. The best free plan for you depends on the features you need.
Slack offers a Standard package for $6.67 per month, per person. Slack Plus costs $12.50 per month, per person. Slack Enterprise requires you to contact the sales department.
If you choose to go with Microsoft Teams, note that it isn’t available as a standalone product. Rather, it’s an add-on with any Office 365 plan. Pricing starts at $5 per month for the Business Basic plan, and goes up to $20 per month, per user for the Business Premium plan.
The bottom line
Overall, Slack offers more integrated app options, and its familiarity and “fun” way to connect has made it a popular choice. In the long run, however, Slack can end up being more expensive, because of the cost of external apps and tools beyond the chat function and file storage built into the Slack platform.
Microsoft Teams offers seamless integration with Office 365. For organizations already using Office, it’s a more consistent and fluid tool. Its robust video conferencing option also makes it the choice of larger enterprises that have employees around the world. If you’re looking to keep costs down, the least expensive Office 365 plan with Teams costs less than the cheapest paid plan offered by Slack.
Many companies are allowing more employees to work remotely during the coronavirus crisis. And that’s something that isn’t expected to change afterward. In fact, projections show that a quarter to a third of the workforce may well be working at home several days a week within the next couple of years. The collaboration platform you choose — whether it’s Microsoft Teams or Slack — comes down to what best suits the needs of your business, not just now but in the future.
If you have used both of those products and still been looking for further alternatives, check out our articles on Slack alternatives and Microsoft Teams alternatives.