Choosing between Slack and Microsoft Teams for your next collaboration tool? Here’s what you need to know about the differences between the two, so you can choose the platform that best suits the needs of your team.
While Slack may have been released first (2013), in the collaborative workspace race Microsoft Teams seems to be moving faster. Released in 2017, Teams has already surpassed Slack in number of daily active users.
On the surface, Teams appears quite similar to Slack. Both tools offer:
- Persistent chat (including emojis and GIFs)
- Quick commands
- Integration with other apps
Behind the scenes, however, there are key differences in functionality that really set these two platforms apart. Understanding these differences can really inform your choice of collaboration platforms.
If you’re still on the fence, here are some things we think you should keep in mind when selecting your next productivity tool:
Microsoft Teams integrations vs Slack integrations
The truth is that collaboration today involves more than just persistent chat. Project-based teams tend to move across products and apps as they work towards a common goal.
That being said, Slack and Microsoft Teams each take a slightly different approach to integration with other apps.
Slack boasts a ton of integrations with a variety of different apps—more than 800 for paid plans, to be exact.
In the Slack App Directory, you can select apps you’d like to integrate acros your team’s workflow, everything from Giphy, to G Suite, to Trello. If your team uses another productivity app in their work, chances are good that it already integrates with Slack.
The sheer number and variety of apps available means that you can customize your Slack workspace to work in tandem with the tools and services your team may already be using. But there’s a flip side to this vision: how is IT meant to keep up with all of these different apps?
Less than half of respondents to a recent Forbes Insights report said they’re confident they’re aware of all the technology their employees use. And a Cloud Security Alliance survey revealed that nearly 72% of IT executives don’t know how many unauthorized applications are being used within their organization.
Without proper oversight, Slack’s ease-of-customization could end up contributing to data sprawl and fragmentation—making the problem of shadow IT even worse.
Microsoft Teams integrations
While Slack offers more options for customization, Microsoft Teams takes a different approach—offering a full-fledged collaboration platform with many different functionalities built in from day one.
Essentially, Teams isn’t meant to be a standalone tool. It’s a fully integrated Office 365 collaboration hub, allowing users to move seamlessly between tasks and apps within the Teams window.
According to Microsoft MVP Jasper Oostervald, this simplifies collaboration:
“If I’m working in a team—so working around a project—I don’t have to open five other tools to do my job. I have the Teams application, where I can work with my files, I can chat, I can work with my tasks in Planner, all while staying within the context of that project. I think that’s such a powerful aspect of Teams, and I think that’s what’s really going to make it have a good future.”– Jasper Oosterveld (@jasoosterveld), Microsoft MVP
Aside from ease-of-use, keeping collaboration within the Office 365 productivity suite makes it easier for IT to ensure sensitive data stays secure. Teams integrates with policies set in your Office 365 security & compliance center—such as Data Loss Prevention (DLP), retention, and sensitivity labels—to block sensitive content when it’s being shared.
However, if there’s an external tool your team just can’t do without, it may also be available for Teams—although Microsoft Teams has fewer integrations than Slack, many apps do offer integrations with Teams!
The right platform for you will depend on whether you’re looking for a solid chat tool, or an excellent, project-centric tool that includes a chat and meeting functions among its many powerful offerings.
Meetings and video conferencing
If you’re looking for a solution to conduct remote meetings, ask yourself: what style of meetings do your users prefer?
As we mentioned before, both Slack and Microsoft Teams offer persistent chat. So if you just need something suitable for messaging-style meetings, both platforms provide good options.
However, if video conferencing is a big part of your organization’s day-to-day collaboration needs, there are some critical differences between the two.
Slack video conference
Both Slack and Teams offer video calling. But the platforms differ in the number of people that can be included in a call.
Slack’s free plan offers unlimited 1-to-1 calls, and their paid plan offers calls that can support up to 15 people. If your team is relatively small, this might serve your needs just fine!
With the paid plan, you can start a call either from a direct message or from a channel. And once a call is started, you can choose to invite other users to join the conversation or share the call in other channels via a sharing link.
It’s worth noting that Slack only allows you to make calls within the Slack app—and then, only between people who are part of the same workplace.
A further limitation is that Slack doesn’t offer the option to record calls—you’ll need another app if you anticipate needing to record meetings for those who can’t attend, or for personal review later.
Microsoft Teams video conference
In Teams, there are actually two ways to initiate real-time video communication:
- A user can call another user directly
- A user can create a meeting (either scheduled or with ‘Meet now’) between multiple users
Unlike Slack, Teams offers a dedicated Meeting feature. Users can schedule channel meetings, ad-hoc meetings, and private meetings—either directly in Teams:
Or, from your Outlook calendar, which will automatically sync with Teams:
And when it comes to the number of people that can be included in a call, Microsoft Teams is the clear winner, offering video conferencing that can support up to 250 people.
Unlike Slack, you can also record calls with Teams—eliminating the need to add another app to your tech stack.
For larger companies, or for companies that want to record certain meetings, Microsoft Teams is probably the more suitable tool—while Slack may be better for companies that are smaller or prefer to meet in person.
How to migrate from Slack to Microsoft Teams
After reading the above, you may be thinking that while your company is already using Slack, Microsoft Teams seems like it would be a better fit for your organization. How do you now go about moving from one to the other?
Before you start a migration, you need to gather some information about how Slack is being used within your organization.
Ask yourself questions like these to help determine the scope of the migration:
- How many workspaces need to be moved over?
- How frequently are those workspaces being used, and by whom?
- Which channels are active and worth migrating?
- How will you group channels into teams?
Check the usage data for a workspace you’re planning on migrating at .slack.com/stats. You can analyze usage patterns in the Channels and Members tabs to help you determine which workspaces and channels are still active and worth moving.
Note: the type of Slack service plan you are registered for impacts what you can (and cannot) move. If you’re unsure about your workspace service level, you can find your plan type by logging into Slack and navigating to the About this Workspace page. The Slack website has more information about export options.
You can also use this data to help plan how you’ll group these channels into teams within Teams (and which users will be members of each team). Whereas in Slack users join a channel that’s part of a workspace, in Teams users join a team which is a collection of channels.
Get started with Microsoft Teams
Once you’ve decided on what you need to export, you’ll need to think about setting up Microsoft Teams to best suit the needs of your company.
Teams is a tool with a lot of different options. This creates flexibility, but also means that you’ll need to choose between those options upfront.
Before you get started, you’ll want to think about:
- Who can create teams
- How to name teams consistently
- And whether you’ll allow external access
For more about what you’ll need to keep in mind while getting set up, check out our overview of best practices for Microsoft Teams.
If you already use SharePoint, read our article on how to deploy Teams when you have existing SharePoint team sites.