Microsoft flings features at Teams to close the Slack gap

StaffHub takes one for the Teams

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Microsoft rarely misses an opportunity to extoll the virtues of its collaboration platform, Teams, and this month’s Ignite is no exception.

Teams, according to the software giant, is “the fastest growing business app in Microsoft history”. As is the norm, a raft of figures was trotted out to back up this fact: 329,000 organisations use Teams, 87 per cent of the Fortune 100 use Teams, and there are 54 customers with 10,000 or more active users in, er, Teams.

That’s quite a jump from figures released in March, where Microsoft claimed 200,000 organisations.

Of course, such figures invite comparison with rival Slack, which reported over 8 million daily active users and 70,000 paid teams in August as it celebrated the injection of another $427m, with a post-money valuation of $7.1bn. In May, the hipster chat platform reckoned it had 500,000 organisations in total.

So, Teams still has quite the mountain to climb, even after introducing a freebie version back in July.

To encourage users to its platform, Microsoft has been shaking the feature tree and already added background blurring to video calls as well as meeting recording with automatically generated transcripts. Redmond will also be able to add at least some users from its short-lived shift scheduling platform StaffHub, which will take a bullet to the head on 1 October 2019.

StaffHub functionality will be shovelled into Teams in the form of two new views onto the platform. Home will target first-line shift-workers, allowing them to clock-in, clock-out as well as seeing information pertaining to their shift. Shifts is aimed at managers with a need to plan and publish worker schedules.

The highly lucrative healthcare industry is also on the Teams hit list for the end of 2018. HIPAA compliant image annotation and chat will allow Teams users to chat about patients without alarming regulators and Microsoft has emitted a private preview of tools to coordinate patient care and connect to Electronic Health Records.

A slew of other announcements aimed at getting more developers on the platform and easing administration through a new Teams Administrator Role and templates of best practices are also inbound over the coming months.

The growth of Teams over its short life is undeniably impressive, and for those bought into Office 365 there is much to recommend it. However, Slack is unlikely to be giving its hipster beard a worried tug just yet. It still commands a comfortable lead, for the time being at least. ®


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