New Developments, Stats and Data in the Team-Chat World
“The momentum in business collaboration has shifted from enterprise social networks to relatively simple desktop and mobile messaging apps. By mimicking the way consumers bypass email to communicate quickly and conveniently with their closest contacts, business messaging tools have started to displace email and encourage smoother workflow.” Forbes
Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock, it’s been hard not to notice all the excitement (or is it hype) relating to the team-chat/web-chat ecosystem over the course of the last year. The above quote from Forbes pretty much embodies the prevailing wisdom. Or does it? You see the above quote actually comes from an article back in August of 2015. And yet here we are in late April 2018 (nearly 3 years later), and an argument could be made that the ecosystem is still waiting to come of age. At Unify Square, we’re as bullish as they come about the team-chat space, and especially Microsoft Teams, however, we remain equally bullish on ‘plain old everyday Skype for Business’ as we believe it may be yet another 3 years (or more) before team-chat truly does come of age once and for all. Let’s look at a few recent occurrences which highlight ongoing growing pains.
Spark to Webex Teams
Beyond Slack, perhaps the biggest competitor to Microsoft Teams’ march to team-chat dominance is Cisco Spark. Yet, late last week (about 2 ½ years since Spark was first launched), Cisco suddenly decided that their collaboration baby didn’t quite have the spark they were looking for and the offering was rebranded to Webex Teams. But they didn’t just stop there:
• Current Webex becomes Webex Meetings
• Spark Calling becomes Webex Calling, with calls being made from what was formerly the Spark calling platform, now part of the Webex cloud.
• Spark for Developers becomes Webex for Developers
• Spark Boards and Room Kits become Webex Boards and Room Kits
Granted, Webex is the dominant market leader for online meetings in the consumer/SMB market (41% vs the No.2 vendor at only 18%), so from a market branding perspective, the move was probably a smart one. However, the change also signals uncertainty, both at the product level and at the user/buyer level — what do end-users need…and how are they collaborating?
Does Team-Chat Applications Result in Productivity Savings?
Countless articles and data points have been produced which talk to the enhanced productivity savings from the adoption of team-chat platforms. Both Slack and Microsoft even claim that users can experience between a 55% to even a 90% decrease in email traffic by switching to a team-chat application. But does email traffic really truly decrease? We’ve heard the claims, but still not seen the empirical studies.
Suspending disbelief for a minute though, let’s assume that even a 90% decrease in email traffic is possible. Shouldn’t the real calculus not be about the email percentage decrease, but rather shouldn’t it be about what the total combo of email, chat, IM, etc. is that any individual has to “process” per day. Based on personal experience — the usage combination of Outlook + Teams + Skype is actually currently yielding MORE gross (and we mean this in the accounting way, not the vulgar way) communications and collaboration traffic vs less. So, is this then really a net benefit to user productivity? Teams create collaboration and transparency, but they are also perhaps more addictive than email and offer less “time-off”, more sprawl and more ‘disorganiztion.’ Just as Cisco is trying to find their product sweet-spot, so too is the ecosystem still searching for its productivity sweet-spot.
Microsoft Teams at 1
Back in mid-March Microsoft Teams had its first anniversary. As part of the celebration, Microsoft released the infographic below to underline some key stats at age one. Teams is used in over 181 markets and in 39 languages, and 60% of the usage comes from outside of the US. Perhaps most telling and important is also the stat that 70% of Skype for Business enterprise customers are using Teams. Definitely fantastic momentum, especially vis à vis Slack which doesn’t have as much presence outside of the Americas.
The other key stats also look compelling at first glance — the service is now used by 200,000 organizations and three million teams have been created In the past year. However peering one level deeper some question marks arise. How many of those 3M teams were created by Microsoft alone — 20%? Also, how many of those 3M teams and those 200K organizations are small companies, versus the large enterprises which Microsoft is really targeting? Finally, just using simple math, if there are 3M teams spread across 200K organizations, that’s 15 teams per customer. However if I think about my personal Teams usage, I’ve personally (and I’m far from a “power user”) created 7 teams, so in my company of 150 users (and even allowing for an extreme discount rate to estimate that many users won’t create any teams, or very few), there should be approximately 200 teams within Unify Square. This is a far cry from the 15 teams that the simple math defines. We use this math not at all to be critical of Teams, but just to continue to point out that the team-chat space is still in its infancy. Slack’s supposed ‘momentum’ also underscores this observation. Even though Slack is approaching nearly 10 million active daily users, they are still struggling to find actual paid users, with paid users making up somewhere less than one-quarter of its total installed base.
“Collaboration is hot. It will stay hot,” said IDC research director Wayne Kurtzman. “Collaboration platforms embody the opportunity of digital disruption. They are people-powered, use new behavioral metrics and positively affect standard business KPIs. And that trend will continue.” — Computerworld
Yes — the team-chat space is hot….but hot is relative. Everyone should be piloting Microsoft Teams, but don’t give up your Skype for Business platform quite yet!