Microsoft Teams is a juggernaut and is quickly becoming the de facto collaboration tool for organizations using Office 365. However, with the reliance on email, MS Outlook is still king. It provides email, contact and calendaring capabilities. So, should Microsoft consider integrating MS Outlook into MS Teams so that users have an all in one collaboration experience or is this counterintuitive for users and Microsoft itself?

We all know that the world still relies on email for the majority of communication and collaboration within organizations. Outlook is Microsoft’s most popular business application and is probably the first thing that users install when receiving a new computer since email is so important.

Screenshot of Mobile and Desktop displaying a Microsoft Outlook email inbox

Image 1: Mobile and Desktop displaying a Microsoft Outlook email inbox

However, with Microsoft Teams a new way of working is being pushed that is much more collaborative and offers many advantages compared to using email. With Microsoft already retiring Skype and integrating it into MS Teams could Microsoft Outlook be the next to go?

Microsoft Teams – All in One Collaboration

Additionally, more and more features are being rolled into Microsoft Teams, which is becoming an all in one collaboration application for organizations. This currently includes:

  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 meetings’ capabilities are improving quickly with functionality getting close to Outlook.
  3. Voice: Calling and telephony 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: MS Teams is growing super rapidly and addressing other needs such as those of frontline workers with the new walkie-talkie feature or shifts to manage workers.
Samsung mobile displaying Walkie Talkie in Microsoft Teams

Image 2: Samsung mobile displaying new Walkie Talkie feature in MS Teams.

Advantages of Integrating MS Outlook into MS Teams

Below are just a few reasons why combining these two tools could be a winner:

  1. Simplified Tooling.  Anecdotally users are switching between Teams and Outlook as they collaborate. The switching between these tools may be reasonable for now but it would be great if in the future all communicative and organizational features sat within one ecosystem negating the need to swap between systems. 
  2. Increased User Adoption. Users always lament that they need to learn yet another tool. 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 organizational adoption of new tools. Many organizations are resistant to even pilot new tools because they don’t believe that users could change. If users were cajoled to see how email isn’t the best tool for collaboration, by at least being exposed to a tool like MS Teams, it could accelerate adoption in organizations that might not be willing to take a risk.
  4. True Integration. Microsoft Teams with the power of Microsoft Outlook could open more possibilities for integration making an even more seamless experience. One issue that Office 365 has is the lack of integration between some tools and even though MS Teams has done lots to dispel this integration with MS Outlook could make for a killer application.
Screenshot of Mobile and Desktop displaying a MS Teams Channel

Image 3:  Mobile and Desktop displaying a Microsoft Teams Channel

Disadvantages of combining MS Outlook into MS Teams

  1. Microsoft Politics: Politically speaking would MS Outlook integrate into MS Teams or would Microsoft Teams integrate into Microsoft Outlook? Within Microsoft, I am sure that different product groups are all vying for attention, hence internally this could be a disaster waiting to happen.
  2. Tool Bloat: Microsoft Teams already is 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 on with new functionality in the future?

Final Thoughts: Microsoft Outlook & MS Teams Joining Forces

Personally, I think that the approach might be to offer a slimmed-down version of Outlooks capabilities in Teams for the 80% of the functionality that is commonly used, whilst still retaining the full Outlook for the outlying capabilities.

We know that new workers are working differently – with 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? I think that the integration of at least the common features of Outlook could be a good idea and this is already starting 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.

Thank you for spending some time on my site and reading my blog. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them. For now, let’s just wait and see what route Microsoft decides to take with both MS Outlook and MS Teams. 

Links to Other Articles

Microsoft 365 Roadmap By Microsoft
8 new ways to empower Firstline Workers and transform the way they work with Microsoft 365 By Microsoft
Get Started with Shifts in Microsoft Teams By Microsoft

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