The Teams team has been busy! But the more I read about recent Teams activity, the more questions I have about its development. Hence today’s post.

I’m asking three questions about Teams here. They aren’t quite rhetorical; I would appreciate answers, either from Microsoft’s eventual updates or the community’s collective knowledge. But I also want to put these questions out so others can ponder them.

Question 1 – Will a Freemium Teams Be Compelling Enough to Lure Users Away from Slack?

Teams may have a free version coming.
Report: A Free Version of Microsoft Teams is in the Works – MS Power User
Some clever IT pros came across clues in recent Teams updates that indicate a freemium, or feature-light version in order to compel paid subscriptions, would arrive soon.

Thing is, introducing a freemium version like this—after users have had the paid-version software for a while—is unusual. So much so I’m not actually sure it will achieve its end.

In order to lure users away from Slack, a free Teams would need to either A) match Slack’s free-tier feature set, or B) offer a big value-add by itself. But Teams’ value-add comes from subscription—the extra Office 365 tools. Without those it can compete directly with Slack, but not overwhelm it.

That leaves matching Slack’s feature set…where a freemium model actually hurts Teams. Restrictions in a free version could include:

  1. Inability to share files above a certain size
  2. Limited number of teams
  3. Limited number of people IN a team
  4. No third-party connectors

And so on. If Microsoft takes this path, Teams cannot hope to match Slack’s feature set. It would start the race with a broken leg (if you’ll pardon the sports parallel).

Teams’ biggest appeal as a package comes not only from its communications tools, but from the O365 productivity tools you buy to get it. I get a strong sense that a free Teams could easily fall flat with new users.

Private Teams Chats Searchable
Hey hey, are you having a private chat?

Question 2 – Why Make Private Teams/Groups Searchable Now?

Private Teams groups will become searchable in March.
Private Microsoft Teams groups to become searchable in upcoming change – OnMsft.com

I have to wonder. What’s the rationale for doing this now? If you’re creating a private group, you’re doing so for a reason. Maybe you don’t want others knowing what you’re discussing…or that the discussion even exists.

I can picture one internal use for this immediately: New departmental projects you want to test before notifying other departments. Totally legitimate, and a valid need for privacy. Now it’s gone from Teams. Anyone with such private projects is now unwillingly exposed.

Besides, according to the article, it’s still possible to hide teams/groups from search, using a PowerShell cmdlet. If the function’s still there, then why institute search for private groups at all?

Question 3 – Is True Guest Access Finally Here?

Twitter blew up yesterday with an announcement about Teams Guest Access. “It’s here!” “We have full Guest Access support ready!”

Happy Dog for Teams Guest Access
I can come in now??

Photo by Anita Peeples on Unsplash

A blog post on Office.com today seems to confirm: New in February—advancing creativity, teamwork, and management in the modern workplace

Work with guests in Microsoft Teams—We’re rolling out the ability to add anyone as a guest in Microsoft Teams. Previously, only those with an Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) account could be added as a guest. Starting next week [early March], anyone with a business or consumer email address—including Outlook.com and Gmail.com—can participate as a guest in Teams with full access to team chats, meetings, and files. Guests in Teams will continue to be covered by the same compliance and auditing protection afforded to Office 365 subscribers, and can be managed securely within Azure AD.

They’ve also posted the announcement on the Microsoft Teams Blog (Tech Community).

After an early-March rollout, according to Microsoft’s “What the Guest Experience is Like,” Teams Guest users can:

  • Create a channel (if Team owners let them)
  • Participate in a private chat
  • Participate in a channel conversation
  • Post, delete, and edit messages
  • Share a channel file

But they can’t:

  • Share a chat file
  • Add apps like bots or connectors
  • Create tenant-wide and teams/channels guest access policies
  • Invite a user outside the Office 365 tenant’s domain
  • Create a team
  • Discover and join a public team
  • View organization chart

Frankly, this is very much a “wait and see” thing for me. Once burned and all. Microsoft has promised this before, and then reneged. Besides, there’s one tiny inconsistency I found.

Why is Guest Access mentioned left and right…yet no mention on the UserVoice Guest Access thread? The thread contains hundreds of users’ frustrations with the long Guest Access delay. Many have given up and gone to Slack (good luck winning them back at this point). Is Microsoft just ignoring some of its audience?

Will These Updates Grow Teams’ Adoption…or Slow It?

Teams continues to develop at a rapid pace. I don’t mean to throw cold water on its progress. If Microsoft releases a freemium Teams version, I’ll happily test it out for this blog.

What concerns me is the haphazard, inconsistent development. Every major software project comes with stumbling blocks, whether accidental or intentional. Accidental issues can slow down adoption. Intentional issues, such as ignoring the user base or doing things they don’t want? That can halt adoption entirely.

What are your thoughts on today’s Teams Take?

The Teams Take for March 1st: 3 Concerning Questions
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