Creating a modern workplace that keeps teams connected and enables collaboration is challenging. Should you opt for a full-service office management suite? Or choose a standalone collaboration tool that offers limited features like messaging and file sharing? Adding social media into the mix would be great, wouldn’t it? Or how about upgrading to a project management software complete with collaboration capabilities? Each organization is different and it’s hard to choose one particular tool that corresponds to all your business needs.
In this competitive space, Microsoft Teams has emerged as one of the most popular workplace collaboration tools today. Most people who have worked in an office environment have encountered Microsoft before. This massive software company creates operating systems for computers and is known for some of the most widely used Document creation software — the Office suite. Microsoft Word for documents, Excel for spreadsheets, Powerpoint for presentations and Outlook for email are common office tools. Microsoft is expanding its reach by innovating new tools such as OneDrive to store and manage files in the cloud, OneNote to deal with notes and research and more recently Teams to facilitate collaborative conversations and meetings.
What's Microsoft Teams and should you use it?
In 2017, Microsoft announced it was replacing Skype with a new application called Microsoft Teams. Since its rollout in 2018, Teams has continued to gain features and functionality making it a useful product for collaboration in environments where Office 365 is a primary choice. Teams was created to compete with some of the leading market players (Slack and others) and is designed to integrate effectively within the Office 365 environment.
Microsoft Teams is a messaging tool that allows users to message each other, share documents and run meetings no matter if they are in the same office or working remotely. Users can create chat rooms for collaboration or message individual users privately. From messaging to chats, users can also elevate to a video call with a click ensuring that their message is delivered effectively. Teams allows users to collaborate on documents using a variety of familiar Office software tools. Users can add a document directly to a chat, video call or pull up Word, Excel or PowerPoint files from OneDrive. Users can then collaborate on the document, with multiple users making changes at the same time and the changes on every version being controlled through OneDrive.
Image Courtesy: https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/free
It also supports a lot of other team and project management tools. The Microsoft App Directory provides a marketplace for third party bots and applications such as; Trello, Wrike, Asana, Adobe Creative Suite, Zoom.ai and many others. Teams also supports many mobile applications, allowing you to work natively on Android or iOS in the Teams product. The apps provide a simplified and streamlined view of information. It offers all the key elements you’d expect through a mobile app. You can call in through voice or video, join a meeting and most importantly, share animated GIFs.
Viable Alternatives to Microsoft Teams
If you have Microsoft 365 Office for your company, Teams may be a logical choice. But if your team is more comfortable with Google Drive or if you have costs/compliance limitations about the software your team can use, you may look for some alternatives. If you collaborate with companies and partners that use a wider ecosystem than just Microsoft documents, it can be a challenge to collaborate effectively with Teams.
We have compiled a list of alternatives, focusing on applications that offer both desktop and mobile support. We have outlined what makes each tool ideal for different types of users and have listed some of the features and functionality. Check out some of these Microsoft Teams alternatives and decide which one is the best fit for your team:
Image courtesy: https://slack.com
Slack is a platform for collaboration. With a free tier for individuals or small groups, and a paid tier for business and enterprise, it’s a great tool for immediate communication between teams and distributed groups.
If you’re stuck in endless threads of email, Slack is a great way to liberate your team into less email. Slack is often referred to as the ‘email killer.’ Teams find that as they roll out Slack in their organizations, their use of email drops significantly. It’s easy to catch up on a thread of conversation and it’s less likely you’ll neglect to include that important person in an email thread, as users can monitor multiple threads very quickly through notifications and alerts.
Slack also provides all the key elements that Teams does — chat, groups, calling, video calling, screen sharing and file sharing. The integration ecosystem is much richer on Slack than Teams, as it has had longer to create and collect integrations. Though it’s a great tool, the cost is pretty steep for per user ($8) and the video and audio chat options are limited when compared to Skype. You may want to consider some of these Slack alternatives.
Image courtesy: https://flock.com
Flock’s productivity tools allow you to assign tasks to your team, track the status of those tasks, run polls for quick feedback and set reminders to keep your team moving.
Flock provides powerful and smart communication channels to support private channels for focused discussions, full team channels to broadcast critical updates to everyone and the ability to include team members automatically. Smart channels bring everyone from a location or function into a conversation automatically.
The pricing of Flock is less expensive than Microsoft Teams and it integrates with OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and Box. Flock also allows unlimited free guests. So depending on how your company is setup and runs projects, this can be a very useful and cost effective feature.
3. Workplace by Facebook
Facebook has made a powerful entry into the collaboration space with Workplace by Facebook. Workplace has the same familiar interface as the regular Facebook, but what differs are the logins, few features and the focus of Workplace. The common features of chat, groups, video and audio calling are present in addition to other features such as polls, auto-translate and the power of bots. A Workplace login is entirely separate from your Facebook login and conversations, groups and activity are managed separately.
Users can connect with anyone in the organization through Org Charts, which shows users and their interests across the organization. Document sharing allows users to share through box, Office, OneDrive, Quip, SalesForce and others. Workplace also allows unlimited storage and users as part of their premium tier. Groups are useful for communications and allow you to assign tasks, share feedback tag colleagues for notification and post updates. Groups can be open, closed or secret. You can also have multi-company groups to connect with external teams, partners, suppliers and customers.
Image courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/workplace
Facebook has taken security seriously and in their premium product, you can connect to the identity systems you’re already familiar with - such as G Suite, Microsoft Azure, OneLogin, Okta, PingIdentity, or other authentication repositories. Workplace is also audited against ISO and other security protocols to ensure it is enterprise ready. Facebook has put a lot of thought and effort into making this tool ready for small business as a familiar toolset and ready for enterprise with robust feature sets, security and data management.
The price for the standard version is free, but the premium version has a cost of $3 a user, which is significantly less than Slack. The core question of whether to use Workplace or not is your policy on information sharing and record keeping. If you are a public sector organization or operate in a space where your information privacy is critical, Workplace may not be the ideal solution for your organization.
4. Google Drive/Hangouts/Meet
Image courtesy: https://www.google.com/drive/
If you’re deep into the G Suite, with your users on Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Google Calendar and Google Meet, then you know you can use these tools to connect and collaborate. While the Google Suite has all of the key elements required for collaboration, the hub of these interactions is typically email. Teams, Slack and other modern tools rely on group and individual chat streams as the core for collaboration. We know that chat allows one-to-one and one-to-many conversations. However, due to the fragmented nature of the various tools and the preference of notifications appearing in email, G Suite may be a good fit for your organization as a replacement for Microsoft Teams — more so, since the experience for your users isn't as robust and collaborative.
The key advantage of Google used to be that it was free, but if you plan to use G Suite with your organization, you’ll need to pay $6 per user per month with recent increases. While the functionality is very similar, G Suite has email as the central hub for communications rather than a chat, so it's a slightly different experience for the users. But you never know, it might just be the right fit for your business.
5. Bria Teams
CounterPath offers Bria Teams as a streamlined communication solution that provides all the key features you’d look for in a team collaboration tool. You can securely message team members, create groups for collaboration on projects and topics and strike up a voice or video call at any time. The call quality on Bria Teams is managed through 'Voice-over-Internet Protocol' (VoIP). It's built on SIP and open standards, making it interoperable with any PBX, call server or VoIP service provider. So if you have an existing VoIP system, you can integrate Bria Teams into your current service and get your teams talking within minutes. Bria Teams also has screen sharing, which allows you to share your screen without downloading another program or plugin. File sharing, team messaging and presence including all your other favourite features are also supported.
Administration is simple and easy as you can scale and manage your team from a single portal. You can share contacts and information with your whole organization quickly and easily. Bria Teams also works across all the platforms you use, including Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Presence, or identifying when someone is available or not, is another key advantage of Bria Teams, so you can intelligently choose whether you message, call or follow up later with your team, based on their status.
Bria Teams is competitively priced, starting at $4.95/month per user and you can try it free for 30 days!
Which team collaboration solution should you choose?
You’ll want to spend some time prioritizing your company's objectives and itemizing — identify your budget, key features, essential infrastructure (cloud hosted) and the nice-to-have features. You can then review the various options we’ve listed here and potentially research further afield. You may want to setup a pilot project, install and test drive one of the above solutions against your list of key features and plan out the costs for your organization for a full implementation. If you have narrowed it down to a couple of options and it’s hard to choose between them, running a small, time-limited pilot of both the solutions can be a useful in making a final decision.
Want to get started right away? Sign up today for your free 30-day Bria Teams trial!