close up of a turntable
With the release of Teams and Microsoft 365, Microsoft productivity play is finally coming into focus PHOTO: Luke Chesser

Enterprise productivity tools have evolved over the decades, making both information sharing and collaboration easier and more effective than they ever have been before. The global shift towards cloud productivity platforms has completely changed the way organizations conduct business, and early adopters are reaping the rewards. 

In the midst of this zeitgeist, Microsoft is finally rethinking its role in digital transformation. After much anticipation, we’re seeing it shift towards consolidating, recreating and repositioning its products to create a true collaboration suite — capable of supporting small, large and enterprise level businesses.

Microsoft’s Productivity Past: SharePoint's Debut

It’s no secret that both productivity and collaboration in the Microsoft world were once lacking. Since its launch in 2001, Microsoft SharePoint had always been missing key collaboration elements that resulted in a general frustration with the platform. Despite the improvements that came with each new iteration, many organizations continued to express disappointment with both the complexity of SharePoint and the lack of true, native document and people-to-people collaboration.

The Introduction of BPOS, Office 365 and Yammer

In an attempt to address user concerns and combat competitor’s offerings, Microsoft released its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) in 2009. BPOS was Microsoft’s first attempt to move towards the cloud and marked the start of its software-as-a-service offerings, which dramatically shifted its business model. It began packaging standalone software into bundles, and software release cycles which had typically taken years were now up and available in months. BPOS eventually evolved into the foundation for Office 365.

Two years after the release of BPOS, Microsoft launched Office 365, and followed that with the purchase of enterprise social networking firm, Yammer in 2012.

Expectations ran high on how Microsoft would leverage Yammer, but unfortunately, the company failed to invest the resources into integrating it with Office 365. The majority of users remained disappointed and still felt constrained to relying solely on email for communication.  

The Tipping Point: Along Comes Slack

In 2014, two years after Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer, Slack Technologies launched its team communication app, Slack. Slack’s primary goal was to "conversationalize" the way people collaborate in the workplace — and it took the workplace by storm. With over 6 million daily users, Slack set the precedent for what features and capabilities users want in an enterprise social networking tool.

With the release of Slack, and the less-than-successful response to Yammer, Microsoft found itself struggling to fully meet the collaboration needs of its users.  

The Introduction of Teams and Microsoft 365

In 2016, Microsoft released its response to platforms like Slack: Teams. Teams has been a success for the company, with over 120,000 organizations using Teams. It’s provoked a shift in how organizations think about workplace collaboration. With Microsoft Teams, everyone can exchange ideas within content giving their ideas context. Teams also integrates with other commonly used systems, creating a seamless and comprehensive hub for collaboration. Backed by Microsoft’s security network and armed with the capability to integrate with just about every enterprise file sharing system, we predict Teams will continue to be widely adopted by mid to large size enterprises.

In addition to Teams, Microsoft is now offering a complete suite of enterprise collaboration tools in the form of Microsoft 365. This new package bundles Office 365, Windows 10, as well as Microsoft’s mobility and security features into one subscription. With this latest release, Microsoft is clearly demonstrating its commitment towards making communication and collaboration easy and secure, in a cloud-dominated future.

The Future of Microsoft Productivity Tools

Microsoft has finally brought the productivity suite full-circle, tailoring its service offerings to accommodate the way people communicate and conduct business. Current users of Microsoft SharePoint will soon face the choice of whether to migrate to Microsoft Teams for a basic team collaboration scenario, consider alternatives or stick with the limitations of their current platform. SharePoint will still be relevant in some capacity — we anticipate a decrease in front-end use cases, but the backbone of SharePoint will most definitely still be at play.

With the release of both Teams and the Microsoft 365 packages, we’re finally seeing Microsoft shift its focus from designing highly customizable software, to developing more purpose-driven tools with easy and fluid user experiences.