The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
This ancient proverb usually reserved for geopolitical conflict is currently being applied in the video conferencing world to win the battle for your business communications dollar.
The common enemy in this war is Microsoft and the friends of convenience are Zoom and Slack. It’s an old-order-versus-new-order clash centered around how you fit your internal and external communications in with your daily workflow.
Microsoft offers an all-in-one solution through its Teams platform that combines workplace chat and video with its Office 365 products in a centralized hub that it essentially copied from Slack. On the other side, Slack and Zoom integration combines the former’s virtual workspace with the latter’s video conferencing service.
The question is: do you prefer a single-bullet solution, or do you want to mix and match your services and personalize your experience?
Slack’s Open Invitation
Third-party integration is at the heart of Slack’s success. Since its inception in 2013, it has attracted more than three million customers by centralizing access to hundreds of applications within its free-flowing central hub. That hub links every account user directly and instantly with messaging and video calls that launch with single-click efficiency.
In a way, Slack is more a venue than a service. You incorporate the tools you need into a central space you share with your colleagues. Video conferencing is one such tool. While Slack offers its own native video platform–and quite a good one at that–you can also access your existing video calling service from within its hub. And Slack is not shy about sharing video access. You can use any of the following if you’re willing to become a Slack subscriber:
That last name on the list is the hottest video calling property of the moment and one of Slack’s most important comrades in the fight against Microsoft.
Slack and Zoom Integration
It seems safe to say that Zoom has enjoyed more general news hype than any video vendor since Microsoft’s $8.5 billion Skype purchase in 2011. Zoom’s recent public offering turned it from billion-dollar private unicorn into $16 billion public property.
Its meteoric rise from startup to IPO is due to its focus on customer experience. The cloud-based app is among the most accessible, flexible, and intuitive video platforms currently available and anyone can have it up and running in minutes. It has inspired consumer loyalty that leads to the average customer spending 40% more each year they stay with the company.
This is exactly why Slack lets you stick with your preferred video vendor when you sign up for its service. Zoom has been available within Slack since 2016 and the pair have recently further deepened their connection. In late April, Slack announced that its latest Zoom app would allow users to see full meeting details and a participant list before joining a live call from within the host platform. There is also enhanced call customization, combined Slack and Zoom links to external calendars, and a Zoom Phone feature for making smartphone calls.
The integration enhances the video calling merits of both parties. Zoom customers get to keep their favorite calling service while embracing the larger collaboration potential of the Slack platform and Slack gets to keep Zoom’s customers inside their application. The downside for consumers wanting to mix and match like this is that you have to pay twice for a setup that Microsoft Teams customers get all rolled into one.
Is the Slack and Zoom integration effectively twice as good as Teams to justify that expense?
The Advantage of Being a Goliath
A little more than two years ago, Microsoft announced it was ditching its Skype for Business brand in order to pursue Slack-style workplace collaboration. The resulting Teams platform does everything Slack does and everything Zoom does, plus it offers Office practicalities. That made possible the following comparison:
- A Microsoft Office 365 “Business Essentials” subscription that includes Teams will cost a minimum of $5 per user per month.
- The minimum Slack investment is $6.67 per user per month.
- Zoom will cost you $14.99 per month per host.
Ignoring the fact that all of these services have free versions–of which the Teams offer represents the most value–the combined Slack/Zoom service will cost you more than four times as much as Teams. And Teams includes access to at least the basic Office business package.
That’s the mutual enemy Zoom and Slack face. Microsoft is just so large that it can leverage its resources to offer more for less. It even considered buying both its rivals over the past two years.
Slack and Zoom must rely on the customer experience and a fluid partnership to feasibly rival such a giant. Together they do form a formidable solution, but it isn’t (in our opinion, at least) four times better than the Teams offering, and if you want to add an office package to your unified communications setup you may end up paying yet again–either for something from Microsoft, Google’s G Suite, or another third party such as Zoho.
Zoom and Slack have demonstrated they can inspire the kind of customer loyalty that goes beyond bottom-line considerations, but their enemy-of-my-enemy solution is going to have to overcome some stern financial realities in order to endure over the years to come.