Can Slack hold on to its lead?
While the incumbents are prepping for the challenge, Slack and Facebook have earned the distinction of being taken seriously, Castanon-Martinez says. Facebook owns the three top messaging apps in the world and Slack is “perhaps the best example of a tool that has penetrated the enterprise because employees actually like to use it,” he says. The competitive landscape for Slack has also shifted as it moves beyond its core messaging app into a central hub for enterprise productivity. “This is a big challenge for Slack, but the company has jumped ahead of the incumbents so they still have the lead.”
However, because Slack is a singular product it lacks the suite of enterprise tools that companies like Microsoft, Google and others can provide. Packaging collaboration and messaging apps with other apps for productivity is “absolutely critical” for companies to achieve scale and long-term growth, says Melissa Incera, associate analyst for collaboration and business applications at 451 Research.
“Collaboration is the point where personal and group productivity meet,” Incera says. “The better these tools integrate with and support personal work habits, the more people will use them. In this sense, Microsoft has a huge advantage because its productivity applications are already so engrained in corporate culture.”
Enterprise IT shops and procurement departments also prefer shopping from a single vendor because it’s more efficient for licensing and can create a lighter operational burden, says Preset. “The more enlightened organizations are, the more they're willing to dive deeply into investigating what's best for end users to accomplish their work,” he says. “However, the practical reality is that we don't need the best all the time, and sometimes we can't afford the best. Sometimes all we need is good enough.”
Google is the wild card
Now that Microsoft Teams, an app Microsoft has been developing for the past 18 months, is on the scene, one of the biggest remaining wild cards is Google. The company currently maintains at least eight different messaging apps. It plans to shift its consumer-centric Hangouts app towards the enterprise, just as it’s starting from scratch with two new apps for consumers: Allo and Duo.
“Google's advantage has been its user experience, its cloud nativity and, more recently, its analytic capabilities, but it has really struggled to upend Microsoft's hold on the office productivity space,” Incera says. “The repositioning of Hangouts and G Suite is indicative of some larger priority shifts for Google as it recognizes a need to address the business use case apart from its consumer experience.”
IDC’s Thompson also believes Google will introduce a more refined and sophisticated app that meets the communications needs of its existing enterprise customers. The company has added features to some of its apps in G Suite that take advantage of artificial intelligence and organize tasks around teams such as Team Drive, a new capability in Google Drive that brings content ownership, sharing and management up to the team level with more controls.
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