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Microsoft Teams 'Feels a Lot Like a Bicycle'

As of today, with general availability of Teams, Microsoft is now "fully immersed in the team collaboration market," as Ovum analyst Brian Riggs noted in the "Email Killers 2017" slideshow we posted yesterday.

GA comes roughly four months since Microsoft took the wraps off its Teams development, and gave official notice that it would be delivering a team chat app as part of Office 365 in the first quarter of 2017. That "as part of Office 365" is an important distinction among the many similar tools on the market today, Riggs also noted in his team collaboration tools slideshow. As part of Office 365, Teams tightly integrates with other Microsoft apps in the suite, serving as a hub for all sorts of documents, analysis, conversations, meetings, and so on.

"We view Office 365 as the engine of collaboration," with Outlook for enterprise-grade email, SharePoint for content management, Skype for enterprise voice and video, Yammer for "CXO connections and broad company discussions," and now Teams for team chat, said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate VP, during a lived streamed briefing event Microsoft held to mark the occasion of Teams GA.

Since Teams became available in a preview mode in early November 2016, it has been put into use by more than 50,000 organizations, Koenigsbauer said. In the most active instances, he reported, Microsoft has seen 30% month-over-month growth in the number of people using Teams.

Teams is available globally -- in 181 markets and 19 languages with this release, Koenigsbauer said. Some early users, a couple of which participated in the GA event, include Alaska Airlines, Conoco Phillips, Expedia, and Hendrick Motorsports. On hand were folks from WeWork, which offers physical working spaces for individuals and teams, and Trek Bicycle, a bike manufacturer.

With Teams, "I think people are feeling less lost," said Nathan Pieper, collaboration manager at Trek, during a short roundtable discussion during the GA event. "It brings everything together in one place -- the documents you're sharing and the conversations you're having. We're seeing channels that are definitely broken out by functional areas -- development, analysis, DBA -- but then also channels that just spring up for a short-lived project."

Training sessions have been interesting, added Eric Bjorling, brand marketing manager at Trek. "You look around at the faces in those sessions, and you can already see people starting to think 'what sucks right now for me that this could fix?' -- everybody's got their own things."

Teams has a nice synergy with a bike, in fact, he added. "Teams feels a lot like a bicycle -- a collection of moving parts and pieces all working together to move a rider forward as efficiently as possible."

Teams users do have a lot of features and functionality at their disposals, with more than 100 features having shipped since the preview version, Koenigsbauer said. They revolve around the four core pillars Microsoft outlined for Teams with its initial unveiling: chat, a teamwork hub, customization, and security. As discussed during the GA event, a sampling includes:

  • Built-in audio calling available on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone now; built-in video calling also is available now on Android devices, and coming soon for iOS and Windows Phone
  • Ability to schedule private meetings with select participants, with auto-assistance on scheduling
  • @mentioning a bot within a specific team channel allows chat with that bot
  • Support for audit log search, eDiscovery, and legal hold for channels, chats, and files, as well as mobile management with Microsoft Intune
  • More than 150 integrations are available or coming soon, including bots from Meekan, Growbot, and ModuleQ, and tools from SAP and Trello

Automatically provisioned within Office 365, now that it's readily available Teams may serve to dissuade users from turning elsewhere -- i.e., Slack -- for their team chats, Riggs noted in his slideshow. "Of course [Microsoft] can't prevent Office 365 customers from doing so, but why would you pay for team collaboration from Cisco or Slack or whoever when you can get it for free -- and presumably more tightly integrated -- with Office 365?," he questioned. "It's a perfectly valid approach, and one that should appeal greatly to current and future Microsoft customers."

To see how Microsoft Teams stacks up against 13 other team collaboration tools, check out Riggs' slideshow here. Many of the apps he features will be available for demos in the Expo Hall at Enterprise Connect 2017, coming March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla., while many discussions of team collaboration trends and technologies will take place during the conference program. If you're attending Enterprise Connect and looking to learn more about team collaboration apps, be sure to check out these sessions:

Register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event or Tue-Thu Conference pass, or a free Expo Plus pass.

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