We have been using Slack at F7 for several years. With the Corona pandemic, our use has intensified significantly and our requirements have expanded. Since we weren't perfectly happy with Slack, we took a look at the market and landed directly at Microsoft Teams for a comparison test. With that, we pitted the two biggest competitors against each other for battle....
Starting point: Experience with Slack
Slack has been used for internal communication at our company for a long time. For years, our version management has been connected to the system and we use it for lively professional and also non-professional exchange.
The pandemic changed our requirements profile once again. Video conferencing suddenly played a decisive role, as we all sat in the home office. Unfortunately, we reached the limits of Slack at various points on this point. Especially when it comes to the number of participants and the quality of video connections. In addition, a major shortcoming - especially for me as a productowner with a lot of customer and service provider contacts - is that external participants cannot (easily) be switched into a video call.
Expectations of teams
My expectation of Teams as an enterprise solution from the software giant Microsoft was that I would get a tool that runs at least as well and cleanly as Slack, but that also integrates "seamlessly" and smoothly into the Office 365 suite and, especially in conjunction with Outlook, provides a central tool for organizing everyday project work.
The past tense in my wording already suggests that I was disappointed.
In my team "Voyager" we started the test balloon "Teams" and used Teams for two weeks in the daily project routine to get a realistic overview of the tool and to gain real experience. The rest of the teams at F7 stayed on Slack, so cross-team communication continued to happen through that channel.
The first thing that stands out is that the interface design of Teams is surprisingly large with, on the other hand, small fonts and a lot of unused space. In an application where the goal is to share information in a concentrated way, this doesn't seem like a good approach to me.
Video conferencing via Teams actually works much better than in Slack. This was the main reason for us to look for an alternative to Slack. In addition to the good image quality, it is positive to point out that there is a chat parallel to the video call, which remains after the call. For example, it is a helpful feature during trainings that you can take control on a split monitor - unfortunately, this is not possible in Slack. In Slack, on the other hand, you can "doodle" with a pen in screen sharing. The entire screen thus becomes a temporary whiteboard, which is very handy for coordinating concepts and graphics or briefly focusing on a certain area of the shared screen (or scribbling a pretty hat on a colleague's head ;-). There is no adequate counterpart for this in teams, even via extensions.
What is really good is that the camera remains active even when the screen is transferred. In Slack, unfortunately, the video signal of the camera disappears with the start of the screen transfer.
Here, we unexpectedly encountered poor conditions in Teams. The chat feels tough and sluggish. The responsiveness of the application is a real hindrance for me. This is surprising when compared to Slack in particular, knowing that Slack is not a native application, but "only" an HTML and JS based web application in a container.
The organization of messages is split between two tabs in Teams: "Chats" and "Teams". "Chats" include all direct messages, while the "Teams" tab organizes group chats. I found this to be cluttered and a distinct disadvantage, as it requires you to constantly switch between the two tabs. There is another tab "Activity", which lists the last activities, maybe it is better to get there. However, two weeks were not enough for me to relearn ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Unfortunately, no threads are possible in chats (i.e. direct messages). Thus, there is only one flat chat thread per pair of participants. In Slack, on the other hand, this is possible, allowing you to conveniently discuss two or three threads with one person in parallel.
The group messages in the "Teams" tab are output by last response and not chronologically sorted. This has been confusing, at least for us, as it constantly results in a new arrangement of threads. The idea behind this is presumably that the user also sees reactions to threads that had disappeared from the viewport. However, this is at the expense of the general overview and could certainly be solved differently.
Communication via chat can easily be misunderstood. Emojis can help to convey an emotion with a message and to classify how words written in the chat are to be understood. Unfortunately, the set of available emojis in Teams is quite meager. This is also a pity, since an emoji culture has developed here, via which, for example, agreement, rejection or the selection of options to messages also takes place. The emojis thus also have a practical use.
When setting up teams, we stumbled across quite a few minor issues that we would have imagined differently. For example, you face issues when you are on multiple Teams projects (one Teams account from F7, one from our customer). We did not find a satisfactory solution for this until the end of our testing phase.
When avatar images are displayed in Teams and when only the name abbreviation is displayed is not really well traceable and in any case a UX problem that makes orientation difficult. The behavior of the mobile app brings in an additional layer of complexity here, as the avatar display in particular does not behave consistently with the desktop app here.
This is not a complete comparison of Slack and Teams features, but simply an overview of the factors that are critical to us and our day-to-day work.