Google and Microsoft: Suite Spots for Team Collaboration Apps?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• There will be a resurgence in the suite versus best-of-breed debate, as organizations look to simplify and rationalize their IT environments.

• A combined ‘best-of-suites’ approach is likely to dominate until vendors can eliminate redundant functionality and provide better integration within their single offering.

Recently, there have been some significant advances in the team collaboration space from Google and Microsoft. This burgeoning market has seen some early pioneers (e.g., Slack and Atlassian HipChat), garner considerable success; however, history oftentimes shows that latecomers grow to dominate markets and both Google and Microsoft have advantages that do not apply to the likes of these first movers. Google and Microsoft have significant customer bases, strategic partnerships, plus the combined assets of their respective G Suite and Office 365 services. Indeed, application and service integration is a key selection criteria for team collaboration apps and consequently, purchases are likely to be influenced by a customer’s preference for a specific office productivity suite vendor.We are likely to see a resurgence in the suite versus best-of-breed debate as organizations look to simplify and rationalize their IT environments. Ideally, suites are fully integrated and share a common platform for management and administration; however, the challenge in adopting a suite arises when individual applications lack the functionality of stand-alone applications, or are not fully integrated in the suite.

Microsoft believes there is no one size fits all in collaboration and unique projects, work styles, functional roles and workforce diversity calls for a complete set of collaboration tools. I remain to be convinced of this approach – instead, I believe this rhetoric hides a potential problem. Microsoft’s old product line Skype for Business, Microsoft Exchange and Yammer is threatened by the team collaboration market; consequently, Microsoft Teams threatens to cannibalize sales of existing products. Perhaps this is why we have not yet heard of plans to release Microsoft Teams as a stand-alone service or the reduction of overlapping functionally in Office 365?

In contrast, Google has recently modified its Hangouts collaboration tool and split it into two distinct offerings – Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Google has finally recognized the importance of addressing the changing needs of the enterprise rather than re-using its consumer applications within G Suite and Google’s late entry into enterprise team collaboration is not without merit. New Hangout functionality includes threaded conversations, task automation across G Suite with Google App Script, an interactive conferencing and whiteboarding endpoint called Jamboard, plus a ‘@meet’ bot to schedule team meetings automatically.

Both suites provide much of the functionality of stand-alone team collaboration apps; however, Microsoft arguably dominates the public-cloud productivity market (60 million Office 365 customers versus 3 million G Suite customers), yet work-hub integration muddies the water – will customers buy best of suite? Short term, we will see organizations adopting an integrative, ‘best of suites’ approach: Office 365 or G-Suite, and Atlassian HipChat, Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow, Cisco Spark, IBM Watson Workspace, Mitel MiCollab, ShoreTel Teamwork, Slack, Unify Circuit or Zang Spaces.

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