POLAND – 06/15/2020: In this photo image, a Microsoft Teams logo is displayed on a … [+]
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I’ve been a bit of a naysayer to Microsoft Teams for the past few months.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, I rejected the complexity of this collaborative app and avoided it like a wet gym sock. I thought:
Microsoft doesn’t understand how we work. The app has too many features. It doesn’t fit the lifestyle of modern remote workers. I hate the color purple.
It was like that big chunk of bloated software sitting in an application drawer, collecting dust. I didn’t want to click on it and I didn’t want to learn how it worked. At times I would reluctantly post a few documents and test features while wishing I was back on Slack.
I kept telling people that Microsoft Teams was a joke.
I was wrong.
I’ve advocated Slack and Zoom in the past because, at least in most of my day-to-day work, they are functional, elegant, and intuitive. It’s easy to chat with people on Slack, and the features are so simple and straightforward that you can teach them to a newly minted intern (depending on the intern). Zoom became the de facto tool for most employees as the video chats are smooth and reliable.
Using teams with an actual team over the past few weeks has completely changed my perception. I think it’s a bit bloated, with too many features that people will never use. There’s a task management system called Planner that’s just a click away but doesn’t have any serious automations and is a whole galaxy away from the power and simplicity of Trello. It’s incredibly annoying that you can’t jump into thread conversations like you can in Slack. And let’s not even start with a few missing video chat features. (When you turn off your camera in Teams, it turns into an icon, a tiny photo at the bottom of the screen. I keep thinking that someone isn’t making a call and asking when they’re going to join. Zoom shows a blank screen instead.)
And yet we are here. I like teams.
Microsoft made a name for itself in technology because of a word. Maybe it oversimplifies a billion dollar company, but the word is integration. Outlook is built into Word, which is built into Teams. Over the years people have used a different word for it (monopoly), but when you’re trying to complete a report and you’re in an office by yourself, the integration is great. I was able to start a video meeting with people with one click. Great! I can do that in Slack. But then with a few more clicks I was able to add 17 more people, plan meetings with them in teams and work together on a Word document.
I will go a few steps further. I am now starting to think teams are much better at working together in the (hopefully final months) of the pandemic. We need integration now more than ever. If I can click once to start a meeting with 10 people instead of sending them the link, I’ll take it. Hear me right – the individual tools in the Microsoft ecosystem aren’t always better. I prefer Slack and Zoom. What I’ve found is that the COVID-tired version of me prefers an ecosystem that can do everything. The pandemic has changed my mind.
Which brings us to Google. There are only two companies struggling to dominate knowledge worker productivity. (Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing in this regard. There is no Slack, Zoom, or Team alternative for actual business productivity.) Google and Microsoft are the two remaining.
Google is closest to Microsoft when it comes to making everything work smoothly and intuitively. However, Google Meet is far from Teams. They’re not even in the same league. If only it wasn’t! I prefer Google Docs over the online version of Microsoft Word, and Gmail (as part of Google Workspace, formerly known as G-Suite) is a lot better than Microsoft Outlook, especially for those of us who never have one Delete email and rely on an inbox search every five seconds.
At the moment I am impressed by the simple way to start a video chat (and add a team) in Microsoft Teams and the integration with Outlook to schedule group chats.
When things return to normal, I may be ready for the streamlined, simple, and intuitive approach with Slack and Zoom. We will see.