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July 3, 2020

Should Microsoft Outlook and MS Teams Join Forces?

Microsoft Teams is quickly becoming the most popular collaboration tool for organizations using Office 365. However, with the reliance on email, Microsoft Outlook is still the most popular of Microsoft’s business applications as it provides email, contact and calendaring capabilities. 

Should Microsoft consider integrating Microsoft Outlook into Microsoft Teams so that users have an all in one collaboration experience or is this counterintuitive for users and Microsoft itself? With Microsoft already retiring Skype and integrating it into Microsoft Teams could Microsoft Outlook be the next to go?

Office 365 Mobile & Desktop View of Microsoft Outlook email inbox
Image: Office 365 - Microsoft Outlook - Desktop & Mobile.

Microsoft Teams: All in One Collaboration

More and more features are being rolled into Microsoft Teams and it is fast becoming an all-in-one collaboration tool for organizations. Microsoft Teams currently includes the following features:

  1. Persistent Chat: Teams provide a rich chat experience, much like Slack, that can replace email or skype conversation for communication.
  2. Meetings: Ability to schedule meetings and a replacement for Skype Online meetings. The capability of meetings in Microsoft Teams is improving quickly with functionality getting close to that of Microsoft Outlook.
  3. Voice: Calling and telephone features.
  4. Files: Ability to create, edit and collaborate on files within and outside of Office 365.
  5. Integration: Integration with many third-party tools but most importantly with Excel, Planner, and SharePoint.
  6. Advanced Features: Microsoft Teams is growing rapidly and addressing other needs such as those of frontline workers with the new walkie-talkie feature or shifts to manage workers.
Samsung phone displaying Microsoft Teams walkie talkie feature
Image: Microsoft Teams - Walkie Talkie feature.

Advantages of Integrating Microsoft Outlook with Microsoft Teams

Below are just a few reasons why combining these two tools could be beneficial for the user experience:

  1. Simplified Tooling. Currently, users switch between Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Outlook as they collaborate. By integrating the two platforms Microsoft could empower users to have all communication and organizational tools in one place.
  2. Increased User Adoption. A single collaboration tool could accelerate user adoption by providing a consistent interface for all of the collaboration types of activities that they do: schedule/have meetings, work on documents, and communicate with others.
  3. Accelerate New Tool Adoption. Many organizations are resistant to piloting new tools if they don’t believe that users can easily change. If users were given the opportunity to see how email isn’t the best tool for collaboration by being exposed to a tool like Microsoft Teams, it could accelerate adoption rates at such organizations.
  4. True Integration. Microsoft Teams with the power of Microsoft Outlook could open more possibilities for integration creating an even more seamless, productive and collaborative experience. The enhanced capabilities provided by combining Microsoft Teams and Outlook could transform workplace communication. 
Mobile & Desktop Displaying Microsoft Teams Channel
Image: Microsoft Teams - MS Teams Channel.

Disadvantages of Combining Microsoft Outlook with Microsoft Teams

  1. Microsoft Politics: Politically speaking would Microsoft Outlook integrate into Microsoft Teams or would Microsoft Teams integrate into Microsoft Outlook? This may be a difficult decision internally at Microsoft.
  2. Tool Bloat: Microsoft Teams is already quite comprehensive and further integrating email functionality could turn it into a monolithic tool that could be more difficult to manage. Could integration possibly make it harder to iterate with new functionality in the future?

Final Thoughts on Microsoft Outlook & Microsoft Teams Joining Forces

Personally, I think that the approach to joining Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Teams might be to offer a slimmed-down version of Outlook’s capabilities in Teams for 80% of the functionality that is most commonly used, while still retaining Outlook for the remaining capabilities.

New workers have less reliance on email, so could this be a chance for Microsoft to put a stake in the ground and help steer organizations into new ways of working? The integration of at least the common features of Microsoft Outlook could be a good idea and this has already started to happen with additional capabilities announced at Ignite 2019.

There might not be a ‘right’ answer and Microsoft might just keep working on a better integration story between both products; allowing users to choose which tool and which working style they want.

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