Summoning all my high school debating experience, I lined up with colleagues Nathan Rodger (Web Coordinator) and Dr Jochen Schweitzer (Director of the MBA Entrepreneurship, UTS Business School) at the UTS LX.lab to argue the case for Slack as the superior productivity and collaboration platform. On the opposing side, defending the virtue of Microsoft Teams, assembled Dr Jurgen Schulte (Senior Lecturer from UTS Faculty of Science), and two of our LX.lab Learning Design and Technology Specialists, Oliver Coady and Phil Mills.
Importantly, Jochen and Jurgen share the same initials, and both happily swear that using Slack – in Jochen’s case – and Teams – in Jurgen’s – has revolutionised the learning experience in their subjects, decimated their emails and turned up the dial massively on student engagement.
Slack lost. We lost.
What seemed to be the deciding factor that swayed the audience votes?
I was confident that UX/UI was going to be it. Slack is undeniably more user friendly, faster, and just more fun to use. But it’s hard to convey that in a format where we only had 90 seconds to demo. And it’s also hard to deny that while Microsoft Teams can be sluggish, the functionality is mostly all there now.
Jochen argued that Slack allows him to invite and collaborate with industry partners and academics from outside our organisation – a killer point I thought. But team Teams (and their buddies in UTS ITD) assured us that guest accounts from outside the organisation are on their way for Teams as well. Darn.
Surely we made a better case for third-party integrations? Slack has a vast library of apps, ranging from essential (Google Drive), to useful (reward and recognise your team with tacos using HeyTaco) to utterly frivolous (Beer Time will remind you when it’s time for work drinks). Teams does have a more limited range of apps available to integrate, and it’s growing steadily – but how will I know when it’s beer o’clock????
And channels. The ability in Slack to easily archive a channel, to create private channels and to tailor your notifications per channel is a clear winner for me. But it seems that Teams is catching up here too (tip: our team found that you can actually name your private chats in Teams – sort of like private channels in Slack – although of course we kept this nugget to ourselves).
Videoconferencing didn’t seem to separate the platforms. Slack and Teams both do it, and do it well. As Jochen pointed out, 99% of the usage of Slack and Teams tends to be text and file based: online messaging, document collaboration, and Nathan’s beloved Giphy. In our organisation at least, people don’t use Slack or Teams all that much for live video conferencing – and with a dedicated videoconferencing product like Zoom zooming in, I can’t see this changing any time soon.
I think people liked the fact that Teams is fully supported at UTS, and that when we use it we know our data is safe. There was a bit of an awkward silence when an audience member asked us where Slack’s servers are. Most of us using Slack are on the free version too, so it’s really a different game.
In the end, it seems that people are willing to accept a little less in user experience for the safety of a product that is institutionally supported. And we all agreed that email was the loser on the day.
I guess I’ll try to dry my tears and gather my wits for the next epic tech battle at the LX.lab. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the suggestions for the techs you want to see go head to head. Just be prepared for your favourite tool to lose.
A taco to Match Referee Anthony Burke, and one to LX.lab event organiser Phoebe Huang.