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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams

How to set up Microsoft Teams rapidly for your organization

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Have you been asked to get Teams up and running for your organization, but are not using Microsoft 365 or Office 365 yet?

In this guide, we’ll show you the basics of setting up a new Microsoft 365 subscription, connecting your domain and accounts to it, and configuring the basics to be able to use Microsoft Teams.

What we won’t cover in this guide is how to move your other services, like email and files to Microsoft 365, or configure advanced security controls. You can check out the rest of Practical 365 for detailed guidance on these steps.

Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that you use alongside Microsoft 365 to get access to the people you work with and the tools and documents you need, all in one place. You can use it to chat with your colleagues, meet virtually or in-person with your team, company or with customers, teach classes or work together in real time on documents.

That’s the high-level overview, anyway. For Microsoft, it competes with multiple products on the market, primarily Slack for the channel-based chat, Zoom for meetings and screen sharing, and Google Docs for real-time co-authoring of documents.

Often an organization looking for all this functionality will look at Microsoft 365 and realize it does everything they need, and it is easier to secure and update than multiple independent platforms. Teams is built upon various Microsoft 365 services, which means it has the same strong security and compliance functionality as the rest of the suite and uses those backend services to give Teams more functionality.

What do I need to get my organization onto Teams?

To use Teams within your company you need some type of commercial Microsoft 365 business or enterprise plan.

For companies and government customers looking to start with Teams, Microsoft have several trial plans you can use before you must pay. These include:

  • The standard 30-day trial of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 products
  • Office 365 E1 six-month trial for COVID-19
  • Office 365 G1 for US Government customers six-month trial for COVID-19
  • Teams Exploratory License which lasts until January 2021

Once you get started with the trial and let users access it, it is common for you to continue to use this subscription once you buy licensing. You will not throw away your trial subscription and start again if you have spent any work customizing it or picked a domain name for your tenant name you want to keep.

When moving to a paid plan you can switch users from a trial licence to a different licence type. Microsoft’s smaller business plans such as Microsoft 365 Business Basic and higher include Teams, and Microsoft’s Office 365 E1, F1 and higher all include Teams too.

For non-profits and educational establishments, Microsoft provide free basic licensing but charge for advanced features. The free versions correspond to the basic and E1 plans for businesses. If you are a non-profit or in education, make sure you sign up directly for the free (or higher) plans rather than a trial.

Setting up your Microsoft 365 tenant

When you sign-up, either for a trial or a full subscription you will need to pick a tenant name. Whilst you can, and will customize Microsoft 365 with your corporate domain name, the tenant name will show to users in a variety of places, including the URL they use to access services like SharePoint Online and OneDrive, along with back-end mail routing. You cannot change this later.

Therefore, it is important to pick something that your organization will be happy with. When you sign up for a trial or subscription, you will see this choice in step three of sign-up:

After setup of your Microsoft 365 subscription, you will then visit the Microsoft 365 admin center at admin.microsoft.com.

This is the main control panel for users, groups, licenses, and service-wide settings in Microsoft 365. You will see the user, groups, roles and resources under A, the service-wide settings, reporting, and service health are under B. You will find links in C to the admin centers for various services, such as Teams, Exchange, SharePoint and more:

Enabling Extended Trial Licences if you need them

If you decided you’ll begin with an extended trial of Microsoft 365 to get Teams up and running then your next step will be to either get your Microsoft account manager or partner to enable the Office 365 E1 6-month trial, or enable the Teams Exploratory Licence.

You can follow our detailed guide here on how to enable the Exploratory licence.

Adding your own domain to Microsoft 365 and Teams

Sign-in for users is typically using their email address and their normal Active Directory password. So that people can sign-in to Teams using your company domain, you will need to add your domain to Microsoft 365. In the guide below we walk through how to add a custom domain – and in the guide below we will focus on just using that with Teams – not moving across your other services, like email.

Find out more about how to Configure a Custom Domain in Office 365.

Connecting your Active Directory to Microsoft 365

To allow sign-in of users to Teams using their Active Directory credentials, it is worth synchronizing your local Active Directory to Microsoft 365. This will also make sure that if you are running Exchange Server on premises then you won’t accidentally end up with duplicate mailboxes in the cloud and you’ll have a clearly defined way to move mailboxes later on using Exchange Hybrid.

To limit the amount of changes to AD you need to make just to use Teams, you can begin by using the email address as the sign-in name and then make changes later on to AD once you are looking at migrating other services.

Learn more about how to quickly install and configure Azure AD Connect here.

Licensing Users

After you connect your Active Directory to Microsoft 365 and Azure AD, you will need to enable licences for users before they can access services.

You can license individual users or mass-enable them by navigating in the Microsoft 365 admin center to Users>Active Users.

Under the licences tab you will see the licence type – such as Office 365 E3 and then the individual apps enabled for that user. By default, you will have all enabled.

Learn more: How to close the Office 365 License Management Gap.

A user who needs to access Teams will usually need other services enabled, too, such as SharePoint so that they can access the files tab in Teams. It is typical to licence a user for all services by default, unless you need to fully restrict their access to particular services.

Disable OneDrive for Business until you are ready

As SharePoint is a core service for Teams you will not want to disable it on a per-user basis, as people will not be able to work together on files.

Some organizations however will want to prevent users from uploading to their personal OneDrive for Business until they have configured appropriate governance. Instead of disabling SharePoint for a user altogether, you can prevent OneDrive being setup for people.

Restrict creation of OneDrive for Business accounts for Users (Not published yet)

Ensure Security Defaults are in Place

There are many security and compliance settings from retention, encryption, data loss prevention to external sharing that you will need to configure for long-term usage of Teams. Some of these will depend on the licenses you buy.

Before you configure these policies and customise these for your organization’s needs, a good baseline is to ensure you enable Azure AD Security Defaults. This option will gradually enforce Multi-Factor Authentication and block older, legacy authentication protocols that are not needed for Teams usage.

More information on Security Defaults and how to enable them.

Getting Teams out to the organisation

Deploy the Teams Client to people’s PCs

Teams works in modern browsers, including Edge, Chrome, Safari and Firefox. The new Edge, and Chrome are best as they allow approximately the same functionality as the desktop version.

You might want to deploy the Teams client’s to people’s computers though, because this ensures that should a colleague call or instant message, it will be seen.

Most importantly – installing the Teams client also installs the add-in for Outlook to ensure people can schedule meetings with their colleagues.

People can install Teams by visiting teams.microsoft.com/download and downloading the version for PC, Mac, Linux and Mobile.

If you want to deploy it to all your clients, then you can follow the following guide:

Learn more about Deploying the Microsoft Teams Desktop Client.

Configure your Teams admin settings and use the Teams Advisor to generate a plan of action for roll-out of chat or meetings

You will use the Teams Admin Center, available at admin.teams.microsoft.com to administer the Teams-specific parts of Microsoft 365. Within the admin center you can configure:

  • User settings for Teams
  • Meetings settings
  • Messaging and chat policies
  • Teams applications that are shown or deployed
  • Individual Teams including creating and managing channels and membership
  • Voice configuration

And you can view reports and access planning tools. To understand exactly what you need to configure next, and get some experience using Teams for a purpose, use the Teams Advisor in the admin center. You will find this under the Planning menu.

The Teams Advisor will create a Microsoft Team for you and other people you choose in your IT team and add a plan for getting workloads fully deployed. This includes guidance on good governance, adoption planning, networking and more.

Start with a company-wide team to use for comms and to publish links to your guidance

You may be planning to pre-create Teams for your departments or projects in advance. One Team you should not forget to create, especially if you are a smaller or medium size business, is an organization-wide Team. This is a Team that includes all the employees automatically. It is great as a place for informal chat and company-wide announcements. It is worth ensuring you set it up correctly though, and you can follow our guide below:

Deploy up-to-date user guidance to your Microsoft 365 environment

Although there is help built-in within Teams, you will find that video guides on how to perform specific tasks will be helpful, along with short how-to articles. Most organizations will not want to simply redirect people to Microsoft websites or blogs as the guidance may include suggestions that are not appropriate for your organization or suit how much you have deployed so far.

Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways provides you Microsoft’s guides for users but also allows you to install it into your environment, within a SharePoint portal you can direct users to. It allows you as an administrator to tune the content that people will see and customise the portal with your branding.

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Microsoft Teams

Google Meet to Get Custom Backgrounds to Match Microsoft Teams and Zoom

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Google Meet has been one of the communication tools that has enjoyed massive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside the likes of Zoom and Skype, the platform has seen it’s userbase increase substantially. We can also throw Microsoft Teams into that mix, although the collaboration tool is slightly different to those named.

Either way, Google has been working to ensure Meet surpasses its competitors in some avenues and catches them up in others. We can file the recent leap forward in noise cancellation as blazing a trail and this latest feature as catching up.

That new feature allows users to add images and include blur effects to backgrounds during video calls. As reported by 9to5Google, the feature allows users to pick their own background image or effect.

Google Meet is a little late to this party as Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams already allow this. Of course, it’s better late than never. It’s worth noting that while Microsoft has been toying with custom background for months, it was only this month the feature fully landed on Teams.

Growth

Elsewhere in the latest Google Meet update, the company added low-light mode, real-time captioning, hand-raising, and a tile view for 49 participants. However, this update is not yet available and Google has not said when it will officially arrive. That said, some education and enterprise users say they are already previewing the changes.

In April, Google made a direct push towards its main competitor Zoom by making Meet free to use.

Google Meet is baked into the company’s G Suite service and is focused on education and enterprise users. During the pandemic, Meet’s userbase has increased to over 100 million (a 30x growth).

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Gains Consumer Features in Preview

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Back in March, Microsoft raised a curtain on its new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions. As consumer-fronted versions of Microsoft 365, the package had numerous user-oriented tools. For example, consumer features for Microsoft Teams were promised at the launch.

Well, three months later and Microsoft Teams is finally getting those tools… at least in preview. Available worldwide for Android and iOS users. As we noted in April, there is no specific consumer version of Teams.

Instead, Microsoft has simply added special consumer tools behind a consumer account on Teams. For users currently running the existing app, a toggle is available to switch between personal and enterprise accounts.

Perhaps the standout consumer tool in Microsoft Teams is chat, messaging, and video calling. Users can also share documents, lists, and calendars in groups. Of course, Teams is about collaboration, so the consumer side of the app allows users to share Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents from OneDrive.

Other sharing options include for locations and information (passwords and login details). Sensitive information is handled in the Teams Safe, a sandboxed part of the app.

Ongoing Growth

Microsoft has confirmed the consumer tools are available for free. However, Microsoft says some future tools may be locked behind the subscription paywall of Microsoft 365 Personal and Family. It seems the company hopes these new abilities will continue to push Teams’ growth.

Teams has been on of the big benefactors from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, Microsoft confirmed the platform’s daily active users jumped from around 20 million to over 80 million in two months. However, while the current stay-at-home measures have boosted teams, the service has been growing since launching in 2018.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams to Get 49 Visible Video Participants This Fall

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At the start of the month, we reported on Microsoft’s plans to increase Microsoft Teams video meetings to 49 visible participants. At the time, the development was teased by the company but now Microsoft has confirmed its plans. In a blog post on Monday, the company also revealed it will increase the maximum participants in private meetings to 250.

Both measures are designed to bring Microsoft Teams more inline with Zoom. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom became the go-to video communication tool for enterprise and personal use. Indeed, the company saw its monthly userbase increase from 10 million to over 300 million.

While Microsoft Teams is not a complete competitor to Zoom (Teams also handles other workplace collaboration tools), Microsoft wants it to become one. By increasing visible video participants to 49, the company is moving in line with Zoom.

As for 250 private meeting participants (non-visible), this number is still short of Zoom’s 500 participants.

Helping Education Users

While the change is being made across Teams, Microsoft says the goal is to help Microsoft for Education users. The platform currently has 150 million students, education institutes, and teachers. Microsoft says being able to gather a class in one visible meeting is an important first step. Certainly, it’s a big reason why educators embraced Zoom during the stay-at-home lockdown during COVID-19.

“For educators, seeing all their students’ faces at the same time makes a big difference in student engagement. As well as social and emotional connection. That’s why, coming to preview this month with general availability in the fall, we are expanding the Teams grid view to 7×7, which will accommodate up to 49 participants at once on a single screen. In the fall, educators will be able to create virtual Breakout Rooms so students can meet and collaborate in small groups.”

Recently, Microsoft brought a 3×3 grid to Teams (which incidentally also came to Skype), allowing 9 video call participants. Microsoft says 49 participants will be available in Teams for Education this fall.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Finally Gets Custom Background Features

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One of the coolest features brought to Microsoft Teams in recent month is the ability to add a custom background during video calls. In a blog post, Microsoft confirmed this tool is now available but is currently limited to scheduled meetings.

Microsoft first signaled its intentions to provide custom background in Microsoft Teams in April. It’s been a long time coming as the company promised the ability for a long time. Early in 2019, Microsoft announced it would bring custom background to the service.

As the name suggests, this Microsoft Teams tool allows users to change the background effects in meetings. This extends background features that have been part of Teams for two years. Back in 2018, Teams received a tool that allowed users to blur their background during video calls. This quickly became a popular feature.

Competing with Zoom

This is one of those additions that is much more useful that it at first appears. It also brings Microsoft in line with video conferencing rival Zoom. The increasingly popular app has allowed users to add a custom background for some time.

Zoom increased its userbase from 10 million users to over 300 million in the space of six weeks. Microsoft Teams also enjoyed massive growth, jumping from 20 million daily users to around 80 million.

Elsewhere, Microsoft announced some new abilities for the free version of Teams. Specifically, users can now schedule meetings and send invites without using the “Meet Now” tool. Furthermore, users can also add live captions to calls.

You can check out the new abilities on Microsoft Teams now.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams to Drive Taiwan’s Official Remote Work Push

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Microsoft has scored a contract for its Microsoft Teams work collaboration tool. Specifically, the Taiwanese government says it will now use Teams exclusively for its legislative branch.

Microsoft Teams has gone from strength to strength since it launched in 2018. There’s no denying the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has spurred Teams to new success, as it has many digital services focused on communication. However, it’s too simple to say the pandemic is the sole reason behind the growth… Teams was thriving anyway.

Of course, COVID-19 and the resulting stay-at-home measures employed by most countries have had a profound effect on Microsoft Teams. In fact, the platform’s daily active users jumped from around 20 million to over 80 million in two months.

One of the lessons from the coronavirus outbreak is that perhaps people don’t need to work on-location as much. There is a suggestion the pandemic has created a new work-at-home generation. Companies and even governments may embrace the idea of more people working remotely.

Taiwan Embracing Work-from-Home

Only time will tell, but it’s clear some organizations are embracing the idea. In Taiwan, the nation’s legislature says it will now use Microsoft Teams to drive a new stay-at-home work generation. Legislators will leverage a specialized version of Teams that taps into Power Platform.

“PowerApps are used to create sign-in forms with MFA as an extra layer of security. Once signed in, members enter their personal data and meeting information into the system. PowerApps uploads this data to the SQL server, using Power BI to visualize and plug data into Teams. This secure and thorough process allows all legislators access to all the latest information in real-time,” Microsoft says.

Whether we are entering a new era of work-at-home or this is just a moving trend remains to be seen. Certainly, while Microsoft benefits from such a scenario through Teams adoption, it is not something the company is actively pursuing.

Indeed, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said he wants employees in the workplace as soon as it is safe. He argues the dynamics of people working together will be lost in a remote environment:

“What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you’re able to connect with them for the two minutes before and after,” Nadella in an interview with the New York Times.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams to Target Zoom with Support for 49 Video Participants

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While it is arguable Microsoft Teams and Zoom are not direct competitors, they have some overlapping features and are certainly competing in roughly the same space. In fact, it seems Microsoft wants Teams to become a competitor to communication services as much as it is one to work collaboration solutions like Slack.

With that in mind, Microsoft’s recently announced work on bumping Teams video support to 49 users is important. Zoom allows up to 49 people to participate in a video call at the same time. This has allowed the service to become the de facto video communication tool of the stay-at-home era created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zoom increased its userbase from 10 million users to over 300 million in the space of six weeks. Microsoft Teams also enjoyed massive growth, jumping from 20 million daily users to around 80 million. That’s good news for Microsoft as it positions Teams against Slack but if we compare against Zoom, it’s not so good.

It is worth pointing out Slack has been going to great lengths to say Teams is not a competitor. So much so, the company’s CEO last week said Teams is more directly competing with Zoom. That’s not true because only recently has Microsoft started taking the video communication aspects of Teams seriously.

Competing with Zoom

What the company is aiming for is a complete workplace collaboration tool like Slack and a complete video communication platform like Zoom, rolled into one package that also handily taps directly into Office 365. When discussing Teams, it’s always with the benefit that it’s part of Microsoft’s wider productivity suite and integrates with it.

Microsoft has already cracked the collaboration aspects of Teams, which is outperforming Slack. Now the company is turning its attention to video communication. Recently, Microsoft brought a 3×3 grid to Teams (which incidentally also came to Skype), allowing 9 video call participants. Still, that is some way short of Zoom’s support for 49 participants.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is working on expanding Teams video support to 49 users. In doing so, the company will remove what is arguably the biggest difference between it and Zoom.

Unfortunately, there is no timeline on when this expansion will happen. However, considering 3×3 grid support only arrived on Teams last month, I expect support for 49 participants is at least some months away.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams and Skype Interoperability Goes Live

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Microsoft has finally rolled out its integration between Microsoft Teams and Skype, something the company delayed twice. Alongside the interoperability, the two platforms have gained a new feature. Specifically, chats can be moved to a new window to allow calls to continue separately.

Microsoft announced its plans to fold some Microsoft Teams and Skype features into each other in March. The cross functionality was expected in April, but was delayed until May. However, Microsoft returned last month and postponed the release again. The company put a vague June launch for the interoperability.

Now that June is here, Microsoft has kept its word to the letter and launched Microsoft Teams and Skype integrations. The feature merger will allow Microsoft Teams users to make calls and send messages directly to Skype users. In other words, recipients won’t need to be using Teams to receive messages and calls.

“Teams and Skype interoperability will enable collaboration with more partners, customers, and suppliers who rely on Skype for Consumer (SFC) as their communication app,” Microsoft said in a blogpost.

“On either platform, customers will be able to discover users via email search, then chat or call using audio/video. Clients supported include Desktop, Web and Mobile (iOS/Android). Admins will be able to control user access to this feature from The Teams Admin Center.”

Questions over Skype

Recently the company released a consumer version of Teams, leaving some question marks over the long-term viability of Skype. So far, Microsoft is committed to ongoing Skype development but it’s not impossible that one day Skype will fold entirely into Teams.

Skype for Business was folded into Teams and will shutter permanently in 2021. So far, Microsoft says it has no plans for regular Skype to follow a similar path.

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Microsoft Teams

Configure a Custom Domain in Office 365

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Configure a custom domain in Office 365

 

In this article, I’ll demonstrate how to configure a custom domain for Office 365. If you’ve recently registered for Microsoft 365, then you will want to register your company’s domain name with the service.

This will allow you to create login identities that use your company domain name, like Steve.Goodman@practical365.com rather than the default Steve.Goodman@your-tenant.onmicrosoft.com format.

As well as making sure your company is on-brand when communicating with others, it’s also a key pre-requisite if you are planning to synchronise your local Active Directory and to migrate email.

If you currently host your email service elsewhere, this is a process that should be considered carefully, as you will not usually want to migrate your MX (mail exchanger) DNS records to Office 365 until you’ve migrated email across, or configured Exchange Hybrid.

To configure a custom domain, navigate to the Microsoft 365 admin center after logging into the service as an administrator. You’ll find the link in the waffle menu in the top left as Admin:

Microsoft 365 Admin Center

Next, expand the left-hand menu under Settings and choose Domains (A). You will see the default domain listed. Choose Add Domain (B):

Add Custom Domain for Office 365

In the add domain wizard, enter your company’s domain name, then choose Use this domain.

Add a custom domain for Office 365

Before your domain is confirmed within Microsoft 365, you’ll need to verify you own the domain. The easiest way is to use a DNS TXT (text) record. This will be added into your DNS control panel in addition to any other existing TXT records and is in the format MS=ms123456789.

If you aren’t sure how to add this to your DNS provider, choose the Step-by-step instructions link which will provide a Microsoft guide specific to your DNS provider.

Verify your domain

After this step is complete, your domain is verified with Microsoft 365. You can choose to close the wizard at this point.

If you want to add additional records, such as those to allow Microsoft Teams chats with external people – or if you don’t have an existing email provider and want to receive mail at Microsoft 365 now, then you will want to choose Continue to activate relevant DNS records.

Below we’ll choose Continue with a plan to add Microsoft Teams-specific records:

Activate records

On the Add DNS records page, we’ll select Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business. This will show the specific DNS records we need to add. Much like if you have an email server you will not add MX records, the same applies here if you run Skype for Business Server or Lync Server on-premises – only consider adding the records if none exist.

Add DNS records

In our example DNS control panel the records added look similar to below, with records to support the communication with Skype for Business Online federated users (known as external users in Microsoft Teams):

Custom Domain for Office 365

When these DNS records have been successfully added, we’ll choose Continue. This will take us to the last page of the wizard.

Domain Setup is complete

After choosing Done, the custom domain will be added to your Office 365 tenant. If it’s the first custom domain, it will be set as your default domain.

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Microsoft Teams

Slack CEO Claims Microsoft Teams is Not a Competitor

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Slack and Microsoft Teams have often been pitched as the two major players in the workplace chat and collaboration market. Thought of as rivals and pitched as such by the companies, it seems Slack is moving back and says Microsoft Teams is not a competitor after-all.

When Microsoft announced its Q3 2020 financial results this week, the company said Microsoft Teams now has 75 million active daily users. This represents a major growth from 44 million in March, which was itself a jump from around 20 million in January.

This unprecedented growth has happened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has started a surge in remote work. Slack has also been a beneficiary of the virus outbreak and crisis and has seen its record for daily users consistently change.

However, it is clear Teams and Slack are now in different leagues. Whereas Slack has expanded with interesting features – including Teams call integration – it has stuck closely to being a communication tool. Teams, on the other hand, has expended into a more robust platform with added features pooled from Office 365.

Not Competing

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has been a critic of Microsoft’s tactics with Teams. In an interview with CNBC he argued Microsoft’s platform is “not as a competitor.” He claims Teams will not “kill” Slack because they are not competing.

It does seem like Butterfield has used corporate speak to essentially say Teams is now in another league to Slack. Certainly, the CEO once saw Microsoft’s service as a rival. However, he is also correct to suggest there is enough market for all to thrive.

“The work-from-home phenomena as the result of the coronavirus may have accelerated the digital transformation and adoption of software for business productivity,” the Slack CEO said.

That said, it is clear Microsoft Teams remains a competitor to Slack. If an organization chooses one platform over the other, that means they are competing.

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