Setting Up a Remote-Work Home Office
Slack changed the game when it comes to unified communications platforms. It was clear from the beginning that this was an application that recognized the nuance of today’s collaboration – it’s spread out, it’s happening constantly, and it involves MANY moving parts. It was a revelation and a revolution. It got a head start, with the sleepy giants slowly rolling out of bed to catch up. The largest sleepy giant, obviously, is Microsoft. Teams was created in direct response to (and to compete with) Slack, but boasts the full integration of the ubiquitous O365.
There have been a lot of articles written about the feature/UX arms-race that the two platforms are engaging in – and I haven’t got the time nor the energy to rehash it. Instead, I’ll stick with what we at Pragmatic know best: video communications. How do the two platforms compare when it comes to video collaboration and conferencing?
Let’s talk first about collaboration. A lot of people nowadays, particularly in the SMB world, believe (mistakenly) that collaboration tools like Skype and FaceTime are all they need to connect with co-workers, partners and clients. They connect in shared apps for face-to-face communication.
When we talk about video conferencing, though, we usually mean bridging both distance AND devices/apps. Meeting participants often do not have the same devices to connect with, and the disparate technologies don’t play nice. They may also include SIP or H.323 conferencing-specific devices (the set-ups you see in boardrooms) that don’t traditionally connect to apps like Skype for Business. Not to mention connecting over different networks and getting into firewall traversal.
Slack does not come with a built-in video service. Instead, they offer simplistic integrations with video services. It’s little more than an in-app button that launches another video conferencing app. That’s not to say that big players aren’t on board to fill that gap – Zoom has gone all in with Slack, and offers a tidy experience when properly set up. And by integrating with cloud video, Slack users can meet in the cloud with those using other video endpoints.
Microsoft Teams has video collaboration nestled into the app. Companies that have used Skype for Business to chat, meet, and share will recognize similar features and workflow. Starting a call from your directory is a breeze, quality is great (if a little bandwidth-hogging), and Microsoft has committed to improving the experience with features like background blur and similar. And again, because Teams is part of the larger Microsoft offering, it integrates flawlessly with Outlook scheduling.
But somewhat counterintuitively, by having such a strong showing with their own in-app video service, Microsoft places Teams at a bit of a disadvantage. Yes, the philosophy of Teams is to enable collaboration with an organization via intranet, but surely users will want to use the same platform to communicate with those outside of their bubble.
So in this respect, Teams also requires an integration to get the job done. But it would be a pity for them to sacrifice that self-contained feeling by just having someone else’s app pop up when you press the call button (as in Slack), not to mention introducing a whole new workflow just to connect with outside networks/devices.
Microsoft lucks out a little in this regard. Given the success and wide adoption of Skype for Business, 3rd party developers (not unlike our own humble selves) have created tech and apps to work with their platform. Some do it better than others: Blue Jeans and Zoom have long-since “integrated” with S4B, but require users to alter their Skype workflow to get on a call. RP1Cloud – our baby – gets worked right into the workflow so that you can schedule and join meeting in the same way and still meet in S4B with the same look and feel – and now those in other networks and on other non-Skype devices can join the Skype meeting.
As with Skype, so shall it be with Teams. A Virtual Meeting Room is added to the Teams directory, can be invited to a call via the same Outlook calendar, and then host a meeting within Teams but including everyone invited, thanks to the cloud. For the Teams user, it all take place in-app – and that is a unique and exciting thing. Participants joining from other devices see their regular join-flow as well.
For companies that have thrown their lot in with Microsoft, Teams is a no-brainer. It’ll go tit-for-tat with Slack features-wise, but given the O365 suite, it really cannot be beat – especially given that the Microsoft API has allowed products like RP1Cloud to integrate natively and dovetail with their tried-and-true workflow. No need to learn a new app – it’s all there, right away.Recent Posts