Posey's Tips & Tricks

Microsoft Introduces Yet Another Office 365 Collaboration Tool: Teams

While more ways to collaborate is always nice, is there such a thing as too many tools?

I have often said that one of the coolest things about Office 365 is the fact that Microsoft is constantly adding new applications, and adding new features to existing applications. Recently, Microsoft announced another new addition to the Office 365 Suite: Teams.

Teams is a collaboration application that seems to be aimed at competing with Slack. Of course this raises the question of how many collaboration tools Microsoft really needs. After all, SharePoint, Yammer, Skype for Business, and some of the other Office 365 applications are all designed for collaboration. I imagine that Microsoft's vast array of collaboration apps must seem at least a little bit overwhelming to those who are new to Office 365.

So why so many collaboration applications? Well, I don't think that there is necessarily a simple answer to the question. In fact, I think that there are three separate trends that are driving Microsoft to over bless its customers with collaboration tools.

First, there is the simple fact that no two people work in exactly the same way. Not only are people different from one another, but their job requirements also tend to vary. Microsoft is therefore giving its customers a suite of tools so that users can pick and choose the tools that make sense for their own particular situation.

The second thing that I think that Microsoft is trying to do is to remain competitive. Microsoft obviously sees large numbers of people using Slack, and would like to win some of those people over to Office 365.

The third trend is that of ongoing innovation. Ever since Satya Nadella took over as Microsoft's CEO, the company has become much friendlier toward innovation (which I view as a really great thing). If Microsoft really is making a conscious effort to innovate like crazy, then it stands to reason that they are going to be creating a lot of software.

It also stands to reason that some of the new software that Microsoft creates is going to be fantastic, while other applications are probably going to flop. I'm not trying to bash Microsoft when I say that. The same would hold true for any company that is truly trying to be innovative. That's the thing about innovation -- you try things. Sometimes the things that you try work out really well, and sometimes they don't. Either way, you keep on innovating.

Of course Microsoft's customers tend to be very vocal about telling the company what works, and what does not work. As such, part of the ongoing innovation trend that I cited is inevitably going to be the retirement or merger of Office 365 applications that aren't quite getting the job done for Microsoft's customers. We have already seen this to some extent with regard to the Office 365 groups feature, which borrows heavily from Exchange a nd SharePoint.

In the case of Microsoft Teams, the software seems to be part Yammer, and part Skype for Business. Presently, there is rampant speculation that Microsoft Teams will eventually replace Yammer. Such speculation has been further fueled by Satya Nadella's dismissive comments recently, in which he referred to Yammer as a "bulletin board for the entire company".

In contrast, Microsoft Teams seems to be an app that rolls the best functionality from some of Microsoft's existing Office 365 applications into a single tool. For example, Teams will support Yammer-style threaded group chats. It will also provide voice and video call capabilities (including multi-user conference calls) through its Skype for Business integration. The software will also allow for Microsoft Office document collaboration. In all honesty, Microsoft Teams reminds me of a modernized version of Microsoft's long-extinct Office Communications Server, which was a voice, video and collaboration tool from about ten years ago.

My prediction is that we are eventually going to see Microsoft phase out some of its Office 365 applications. I am guessing that at the very least, Yammer and Skype for Business will be retired because Microsoft Teams will offer similar capabilities. 

I think that over the longer term, Microsoft will eventually produce a "super client" that exposes nearly all of Office 365's collaborative capabilities. My guess is that such a tool would have an Outlook-like interface, and provide access to mail, chat, voice and video calling, calendars, project planning, OneDrive for Business and possibly even Delve. Such a client would greatly simplify the end user experience, while also allowing Microsoft to continue to innovate on the back end.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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