Is your company a TEAM player?

Wherever you look in the collaboration space at the moment, the talk is all around having a single application that can cater for all your user’s requirements…meeting spaces, persistent chat, instant messaging, video conferencing, audio calling, whiteboards, file sharing, live content annotation and more. The desire is driven by the changes taking place within companies, whereby employees are demanding more flexibility and the chance to fit their work around their life, and not the other way around.

Is there a silver bullet for the all-in-one collaboration app? Or is it all just a bit confusing? Let’s look at the main players. Slack, Microsoft and Cisco.

The arrival of Slack in 2013 started shaking what was a fragmented collaboration tree, where to have an effective and productive meeting, more often than not, multiple services would need to be used. Slack was the first service to combine multiple tools to allow users to stay in one application and really started to become noticed in 2015. Slack created spaces where multiple users could work together on projects, share files and talk. Slack teams as it is known, allows users to choose the way that they want to collaborate, whether that is by messaging, video or voice. Slack also allows users to connect and use third party services without having to leave the application. Tools such as Salesforce, Microsoft OneDrive, GitHub and HubSpot are all available to add to any Slack team space, decreasing time spent switching between programs and increasing efficiency.  

Slack was a start-up, and in 2015 had some serious hacking and data breaches effectively meaning that many companies look at its collaboration app with a bit of caution, and whilst it is still gaining users through both a freemium and enterprise model, that growth has been reported as slowing down. Also, Slack does not come as the all-in-one collaboration tool natively. To do things like make video calls or use a whiteboard you will have to enable third-party apps. Something that enterprise businesses might be warier of doing. 

Jump forward to today and Microsoft and Cisco have both created their own rival applications to Slack leveraging their own technologies and expertise to create what they see as the all-in-one answer to our collaboration needs.

Microsoft already had Skype for Business as an instant messaging, audio and video collaboration tool. Leveraging the popularity of the consumer Skype product, Microsoft upgraded their Lync application in 2015 to Skype for Business, porting across a few features in the process of launching Skype for Business.

Skype for Business however, only has about half the collaboration tools (seen as business critical) available. There are no spaces for persistent chat, and no ability to annotate or whiteboard in real-time. As such Microsoft needed to launch something else. Say hello to Microsoft Teams.

Using the ever increasing popularity of the phrase ‘team spaces’, Microsoft launched their collaboration all-in-one product in 2017. Like Skype for Business, Teams comes within the Microsoft Office and Office365 bundle, giving Microsoft an enormous advantage over its competitors, based solely on the number of businesses that have already purchased Office or pay for it monthly. IT departments ‘simply’ have to enable their users and deploy the application on the laptops and desktops of the company’s users. That means millions of employees globally have the potential to have Teams at the click of a few buttons.

Sounds great, and seems like Microsoft have a solution that fits the bill…but Teams is by no way the finished product, and it sometimes appears as if Microsoft themselves don’t know what the finished Teams will be. At present many companies have invested heavily in deploying Skype for Business across their business. A fantastic strategy that opens collaboration up to everyone at their desktop; but what about Teams? Companies will want to see ROI on their Skype for Business strategy before moving to Teams surely?

Skype for Business is going to be consumed by Teams at some point in the future; in fact Microsoft is regularly updating Teams with Skype for Business features and functionality such as audio and video. Presently, many companies have been left in limbo, waiting for Microsoft to announce exactly what is going to happen with Teams and Skype for Business.   

So, whilst everything is up in the air at Microsoft, can Cisco gain momentum?

Cisco’s quick response to the possible threat of the Slack invasion in the collaboration space was to launch Spark in 2016. Spark offered all of the functionality that we now expect from a collaboration service and like Slack allows users to connect to third party tools without having to leave the application. Cisco also launched a number of specific Spark hardware devices and room systems (Spark Room Kit and Spark Board) designed to maximise the functionality in Spark and the productivity of the users.

Last month Cisco made the choice to re-name Spark to WebEx Teams, exactly why they did this is unknown, but speculation suggests a slow take up of Spark users and Cisco leveraging the stronger brand awareness of their WebEx service.

It does now mean that we have three services all using ‘teams’ within their service name; just a little confusing for customers.

Cisco WebEx Teams comes as part of the WebEx package which includes WebEx Meetings (the traditional WebEx), WebEx Calling (Audio) and WebEx Teams (what was Spark, but with an upgraded UI). Cisco appear to be heading in the right direction with the WebEx suite, ensuring that they have everything covered for ultimate collaboration. They also have the reputation for providing the highest quality audio and video devices. However, have Cisco allowed Microsoft or Slack to get a large foot in the door? Are users already wedded to the Microsoft workflow, or used to using Slack?

So, is there a perfect choice? It certainly depends on the company, the business needs and the users as to what would be the perfect choice. Impartial advice on how to implement an all-in-one collaboration strategy would be wise.

Videocall are a collaboration expert and systems integrator with practised knowledge in helping global companies deploy services to improve efficiency and productivity in meetings. Through open conversation we can advise on all three key areas within any collaboration roll-out; design, build and support, thus ensuring that the solution you choose will be the perfect fit for your business.

We talk with companies in various stages of their strategy, whether it is planned for late this year or even next, right up to companies that are about to press the ‘start deployment button’. Having an impartial expert tell you that everything you have done so far is perfect, is often what service owners want to hear. Then finding that Videocall can offer services that compliment and further improve the collaboration always turns out to be a great reward.

So why not contact us today and start your conversation about all-in-one collaboration. You can email us on, call us on +44 (0)1276 706 706 or use the contact form on our website.