Since We Can’t Afford a Full Page Ad in New York Times

Today was a big day in the exciting and ever-evolving world of enterprise messaging and collaboration. Microsoft announced their “slack killer” MS Teams, and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to share his opinion of the news.

His tone was respectful and, overall, “un-Larry-Ellison-like”, but beyond claiming to love customers more and to have a few tiny hidden features, his main point was clear: Integrations to other systems are everything for collaboration apps. Slack – made by and for engineers – has always been great at integrating with the systems coders need to use (for example, Jira, GitHub or Jenkins). Whether or not the thousands of other integrations are taking off with non-technical white collar workers remains to be seen.

Now, take a look at the main points from Microsoft’s announcement. There are the elusive-to-Slack threaded messages, and tight sharing features with Microsoft apps like OneNote, Word, PowerPoint, Excel. To me, it all looks like an upgraded version of Sharepoint, with Skype thrown in for good measure.

So now the battle is on for what is more valuable to desktop workers: having all your daily Microsoft products in one collaborative place, or having thousands of other integrations added into your conversations. Personally, I’d argue for the Microsoft tools for myself – but then again, I’m not an engineer.

What both Slack and MS Teams don’t address is the fact that 80 percent of the workforce isn’t like me. They are blue-collar workers who don’t have a desk, don’t have a computer, may not even have email – much less need an “email-killer.” They certainly don’t use PowerPoint, don’t need integrations with Jira, and frankly, they aren’t collaborating with other people on computers all day, or at all.

But these workers are inherently mobile and they sure do need to communicate with others over the course of a day. And they text all the time: they text their friends, their family, and their coworkers too. Deskless workers benefit greatly from messaging, and they need a way to communicate with their mobile colleagues. According to Spyglass Consulting Group, 96 percent of physicians use consumer text messaging for patient care coordination, and 30 percent have admitted to receiving personal health information about patients via consumer texting apps. And if you read the HIPAA Compliance statement you get every time you see a doc, you know that’s illegal.

What these workers in deskless industries like Field Service, Retail, Construction, Hospitality and Healthcare need is a secure, enterprise version of their favorite text messaging app, not more complexity, bells and whistles on an app made for computer workers. In this case, keeping things simple is the best way to be useful and actually improve customer and employee satisfaction. While Teams is a natural extension of their ecosystem, I just don’t think the majority of the workforce will need or use it.

I do enjoy watching the big guys battle it out – I only wish Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were handling their battle with as much mutual respect.