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How Slack Could Ruin Microsoft’s Messaging Cannibalization Plans

Microsoft Corp’s planned cannibalization of Skype for Business by Microsoft Teams looks to be going as designed, but one threat from Slack is still lurking to steal some users, according to the results of a new survey from Mio.

Mio surveyed more than 200 IT managers and administrators and asked them to look forward two years and predict which messaging apps will have fewer users in their organization. Skype for Business was by far the leading result, with 57% of respondents saying they will have fewer users of the application. It’s followed by Google Hangouts at 21%, Cisco Jabber at 20%, Slack at 20%, and Microsoft Teams at 15%.

It’s no surprise that many IT admins are getting ready to move on from Skype for Business, which was rebranded from Microsoft Lync shortly after the Redmond, Washington-based mothership absorbed the consumer-oriented video chat app from Luxembourg. Microsoft has long advised that it will wind down Skype for Business, pushing users to upgrade to Teams as their messaging and web conferencing solution.

The road map’s been out since 2017, but there’s still no end date for Skype for Business in sight. Why has Microsoft shied away from circling a date on the calendar? It comes down to the complications of the application’s legacy, per Microsoft’s own documentation:

  • Where enterprises have Skype for Business deployed on-premises and use it for enterprise voice, they may use Skype for Business for chat, calling, and meeting capabilities while using Teams for private chat, calling, and scheduling meetings.
  • Organizations can choose to use only Skype for Business, if they use an app permissions policy to hide teams and channels features.
  • For those using Skype for Business Online, Microsoft recommends using Teams and Skype for Business as two separate solutions in tandem.
  • Organizations can also upgrade fully to Teams, but can’t totally eradicate Skype for Business because the client is still required to join meetings hosted by non-upgraded users or external users with Skype for Business.

So even though Microsoft is trying to maintain its messaging and web conferencing user base with an automatic upgrade feature, the reality of the muddled upgrade pathway to Teams leaves an opening for the freshly NYSE-listed Slack. Mio’s survey shows that 56% are planning to use more Microsoft Teams in their organizations in the next two years, while another 38% are planning to use more of Slack. Cisco’s WebEx Teams is an option too, with 41% planning more deployments there.

The real reason that Slack could outperform what even these IT managers and admins expect is its position as the “shadow messaging” app of choice. Slack is the most popular choice among messaging applications, at 65%, beating out both Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams. Out of all Slack deployments, the free option is still the most popular option at 27%. Not only is it free, but its installation client sneakily slips behind most user account controls designed to prevent employees from installing rogue software.

When the issue of upgrading from Skype for Business to Teams finally comes to a head, IT departments would be wise to make an effort to document internal Slack adoption. Once they know just how long that shadow IT is cast, they can determine if an interoperability solution is necessary.

Source: Skype at SoftwareReviews, Accessed July 4, 2019

Source: SoftwareReviews Web Conferencing Data Quadrant published April 10, 2019

Our Take

The “choose your own adventure” path to upgrade from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams creates an opportunity for shadow messaging apps like Slack to bubble up into organizations. IT departments will need to have a clear upgrade strategy to manage their use of Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams while boosting awareness of those using unsanctioned alternatives.


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