Slack, Microsoft Teams, & What Real-Time Messaging’s Battle for the Enterprise Means for IT

Did you catch the news? Microsoft launched their Slack competitor, Microsoft Teams, yesterday. The pace of innovation in the real-time messaging space over the past 3 years has been incredible. 15 years ago, we were all using email and AIM (right?!). Today, it feels like there are at least 10 unique channels through which you can reach anyone in your organization.

And Slack in particular has ushered in a lot of this innovation, which has forced the major players like Microsoft to reexamine and level up their investments in the communication and messaging space.

Consider the following:

  • Slack is now used in over 80% of Fortune 500 organizations and counts 4 million daily active users. By almost any count (usage, revenue, etc.) it’s the fastest growing SaaS application of all time.
  • Microsoft reportedly considered an 8 billion dollar acquisition of Slack in March of this year, deciding instead to invest in building out a proprietary competitor.
  • Microsoft’s share price just hit an all-time high, showing that even amidst roughly flat overall sales numbers, Microsoft’s growth in strategic areas like Azure and Office 365 is viewed very favorably by the market.
  • Slack is now preparing for a siege on the enterprise, creating a strategic partnership with Salesforce just weeks ago, with Slack Enterprise coming soon.
  • As noted above, Microsoft just yesterday launched “Microsoft Teams”, their Slack competitor, as part of a huge press event featuring CEO Satya Nadella.
  • Slack purchased a full-page ad in the NYTimes yesterday, featuring their “Dear Microsoft,” blog post addressing the launch. (Read this one, it’s good).

If you haven’t been following this story over the past year, it’s a good one. Now you’re caught up.

But enough about valuations, acquisitions, and growth… what does this mean for the modern workplace and for IT professionals managing it?

Here are our top 3 takeaways from this developing story:

1. There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in workplace technology

Every week (literally), we are seeing applications improved based on user feedback and the drive of competition in the market. Do you want functionality in Slack that’s not there today? Chances are it will be there within 6 months, or you can achieve that functionality on your own through custom development or a marketplace integration.

Slack has released dozens if not hundreds of updates this year across all platforms (and they write great release notes, to boot). Tech giants like Microsoft are being forced to innovate, and the result is, as Slack states in their “Dear Microsoft,” post, that this competition “will bring a better future forward faster.” We couldn’t agree more.

The innovation in workplace technology is making IT one of the most fascinating areas of technology right now, just as infrastructure and platform-as-a-service have done with engineering and DevOps over the past 10 years.

2. GREAT workplace technology = HIGH opportunity cost of not adopting that technology

Our Trends in Cloud IT series focused on real-time messaging in March of this year, surveying our audience of over 100,000 IT professionals and technology enthusiasts who subscribe to the Daily Monitor. Over 80% of all respondents said that real-time messaging improved communication in their organization.

 

While you could have argued 5 years ago that the productivity gains promised by new workplace technology didn’t outweigh the costs (both hard cost and change management), we are far past that point today. When over 80% of an audience says that real-time messaging has improved something as important as communication… IT needs to listen.

Unlike introducing a brand new enterprise application, with real-time messaging you likely have pockets of users in your company already using these applications. You have your champions. Embrace this shadow IT in your org, and these champions, and take steps to centralize those applications (ideally just one) under IT so that those communication benefits can be realized across your entire organization, rather than in silos.

Want advice on how to do this? Check out “Here’s How We Took Advantage of Shadow IT and Rolled Out Slack“, written by our very own Director of IT, Tim Burke.

3. Invest in the best

Competition in the market is creating an embarrassment of riches for workplace technology and IT. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo, whether that’s an incumbent vendor or simply “the way we’ve always done it” (e.g. no officially supported real-time messaging app).

While real-time messaging may come free with your organization’s cloud office suite, if your users are demanding a dedicated solution, or already using one, listen to them, and help them be more productive by helping them communicate more effectively. Any measure of enhanced productivity justifies the cost of a dedicated real-time messaging solution, which is probably around 0.1 – 0.3% of the average monthly salary across your organization.

(Want advice on how to gain budget for an investment in real-time messaging? Check out our Cloud IT Live session, “How to Win Budget and Influence People“, presented by former CIO Gavin Whatrup).

That said, compared to the other layers of the cloud stack mentioned in #1 (IaaS and PaaS), making changes at the SaaS layer is more difficult because you have to drive a change in behavior across your organization, not just within your IT or engineering team. Just as real-time messaging’s promise of improved productivity demands justification of budget, it’s deeply embedded nature prompts serious, thoughtful consideration of your organization’s needs and your users’ communication patterns.

Your thoughts?

We would love to hear your thoughts on real-time messaging, including how it’s been adopted in your organization to date and how you plan to influence that usage and adoption going forward. Let us know in the comments or head over to our BetterIT Slack community and join the discussion.

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