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— 6 min read

Why Microsoft Teams is a big deal

For the first time in the history of software, there is a dedicated distribution channel for developers to easily reach tens of millions of enterprise users. That is a big deal.

Sure SaaS (delivered through the web browser) has existed for a little over a decade. But the difference with the browser is that it’s a mashup of completely different experiences. There is no consistency in how software is consumed on the web and it’s a medium that caters to both consumer and enterprise. Distribution is still complicated - thousands of product teams at startups and big companies build compelling products, but don’t find a way to get users to use it, or even get them to know it exists.

The iPhone changed the game because it gave developers the opportunity to easily build and distribute software to hundreds of millions of consumers with significantly less effort than ever before. Good software developers with great ideas existed but had no clue how to reach users. Apple’s App Store solved that.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest growing product of all time and currently, has over 85 million commercial subscribers. Microsoft Teams is being distributed as part of the 0365 Suite - for no additional cost. And that means it will get adopted by millions of users, and over time will likely cannibalize Skype for Business’ 37% market share.

Make no mistake, Microsoft is all in on this investment. Nadella himself is bullish on bots, and wants to make sure that Microsoft is a big part of this future, and Teams is the vehicle that makes it possible for Microsoft to succeed here. While right now it may seem like Teams is a communication product, it is in reality more a collaboration product that will pull in all aspects of enterprise productivity. And it’s up to the developer community to build those collaboration experiences. Much like the App Store, Teams gives developers the opportunity to reach millions of enterprise users with significantly less effort than ever before.

0 to 10k+ users in 4 days

Since the above is all theoretical, we thought it would be compelling to share some of our early experience building on Teams. Back in November, Microsoft announced its product to the world and made a preview available to its users. That day, we launched a beta page with a couple of screenshots and a beta sign-up form.

Since then, we received over 600 companies request access to our beta. These companies spanned the spectrum, from the fortune 500 to smaller businesses. We saw beta requests from tech companies to hospitals. From CIOs to engineering managers. We had discussions with over 100 users from these teams to help shape our product on Teams; all of this before we had even written one line of product code.

But these are all just beta sign-ups, right? Well, bots were silently made available to some of the preview customers late last week. In the past 4 days alone, Polly (our polling and survey bot for Microsoft Teams) has joined over 800 teams, becoming the teammate of tens of thousands of enterprise users. And we’re only getting started.

Why there is an opportunity for developers

IDC estimates that enterprise software will generate over $112B in SaaS revenue in 2019. They also expect that number to increase at just over 18% year-over-year.

Enterprise messaging platforms aren’t a replacement to SaaS, but merely an extension of it. We’ve already seen a similar trend on the consumer side, with WhatsApp, WeChat, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger stealing cycles away from Social. Over the next few years, expect many SaaS services to be consumed through messaging platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams. This turns these platforms into more like operating systems, and less like just another app. That $112B of value being generated? It will still be there, just more and more of it will be captured by developers through these platforms. Microsoft and Slack are just trying to get a piece of that value for themselves.

But because these traditional SaaS services are being consumed through a new medium, the interactions are different, and the ability to engage users within an organization is different. Historically SaaS tools have been purchased and used by a select few at the enterprise level. With Microsoft Teams, developers have the opportunity to get in at the ground floor and directly reach every person at the company, because those are the users that spend the most time in productivity apps, and are the ones hungry for solutions that make their work lives more productive.

Start Building

There is a lot of hype about AI and machine learning, and while that may be an important part of the future, it’s not the reason these messaging platforms are compelling right now. They are compelling because users spend a ton of time there, and they’re increasingly spending more time there. They’re pulling in all their tools there. They’re not just communicating there, but are collaborating there.

For the first time in history, we have millions of enterprise users coming together in one place with very similar usage patterns. And we have few tools to serve them in this medium. And they’re hungry for solutions. And the best part about the teams on Microsoft Teams - they’ve already shown they’re willing to pay for software that makes their lives more productive. It’s a perfect storm of a number of things coming together to make this the best time to build enterprise software. So what are you waiting for? Go build something…

Note: The opinions and views in this post are those of the Author. They are not the views, nor are they endorsed by Slack or Microsoft Teams.