Microsoft Invites Customers for a Teams Test Drive

Slack or Microsoft Teams? The software giant is hosting online "test drives" to help customers get up to speed on its new group collaboration offering.

Microsoft Teams is the company’s answer to Slack, the team-collaboration platform that's growing by leaps and bounds.

Microsoft formally announced Teams back on Nov. 2, following rumblings that it had seriously considered a bid to acquire Slack before preparing its own challenger (formerly Skype Teams). Like Slack, the Microsoft Teams app allows users to carry on group conversations and pepper them with animated GIFs.

One major differentiator is Teams' threaded conversations feature, which allows users to reply directly to an individual message. Slack conversations are commonly a group affair. Naturally, Microsoft's new offering is tightly integrated with its cloud-enabled Office 365 productivity software ecosystem.

To help organizations get up to speed on Microsoft Teams, the company announced this week that it is offering online test drives of the product under its Customer Immersion Experience.

How the Teams Sessions Work

"Each 90-minute session starts with an online business roundtable discussing your biggest business challenges with a trained facilitator, and then it transitions into a live environment in the cloud," blogged the Office 365 team. "You will receive a link to connect your own device to a remote desktop loaded with our latest and greatest technology, so you can experience firsthand how Microsoft tools can solve your biggest challenges."

Each session supports up to 12 attendees. Participants will be shown the basics of how Microsoft Teams works, along with how to configure channels, tabs, connectors and bots to deliver customized team chat experiences. Sessions will also explore the product's "threaded persistent chat" feature and how to jazz up conversations with emojis, stickers and attention-grabbing GIFs.

On the productivity front, users will also learn about Office's real-time co-authoring capabilities. The sessions will also delve into Office's business analytics capabilities and how to remain productive without running afoul of compliance policies and regulations.

Slack Has Been Making Moves of Its Own

On Dec. 7, Slack announced a batch of new product integrations in partnership with Google. In the coming months, Google Drive bot will deliver notifications to Slack users when comments and access requests for Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are made.

The companies also plan to allow joint customers to link their Slack channels to Google Team Drives and preview Google Docs in Slack. Finally, customers will gain the ability to provision Slack using the G Suite admin console.

"These integrations will be available for your team to use in the first half of 2017, but they're just the start. As users of Google Cloud ourselves, we're thrilled about this partnership and how it will simplify our working lives," Slack said in a Dec. 7 advisory.

Also this month, the company rolled out a new video-calling feature for the Slack for Mac and Windows desktop apps and Google Chrome. With a click of the camera icon, users can initiate one-to-one or group video calls with up to 15 participants without leaving the app.