Home / Tech / Microsoft's marketing exec in charge of Teams defends the workplace chat app's rapid user growth numbers: 'passive actions do not count' (MSFT)

Microsoft's marketing exec in charge of Teams defends the workplace chat app's rapid user growth numbers: 'passive actions do not count' (MSFT)

Jared Spataro Microsoft

  • Microsoft’s workplace chat app, Teams, has grown rapidly, reaching 20 million daily active users in November and putting pressure on Slack. 
  • Microsoft’s head of marketing for its Microsoft 365 division, a bundle of business apps which includes Teams, Jared Spataro, defended Team’s daily active user numbers, addressing previous criticism from rival Slack, which said the user growth is not organic. 
  • Spataro said at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, that the value Teams can provide to a company looking to modernize its communication and culture is what’s driven its growth. 
  • Microsoft has increased focus on Teams after seeing this demand, adding more sales people and making sure that Teams can integrate well with the other productivity software in Microsoft 365.
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Microsoft has touted the growing popularity of its workplace chat app, Teams, sharing in November that the app had reached 20 million users, putting it well ahead of its chat rival, Slack.

On Wednesday, Microsoft’s head of marketing for its Microsoft 365 division, Jared Spataro, provided details about how the company measures Teams’ daily active user numbers, pushing back against critics who say Microsoft’s metrics aren’t all that they seem to be.

“Daily active users for us is the maximum number of users who take an intentional action over a 24-hour period … What we call passive actions do not count,” Spataro said at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco.

He added that Microsoft doesn’t count things like auto booting the app, minimizing a window, closing the app, or Skype towards its Teams daily active user count. 

His comments come as Teams has put competitive pressure on smaller rival Slack, which went public via direct listing last year. Slack’s CEO Stewart Butterfield has previously criticized Team’s user growth as inorganic saying that users of older Microsoft products are being forced to migrate to Teams. And the company has touted the value of its 12 million active users, by highlighting figures that show how engaged users are with the product. 

Teams is part of Microsoft 365, a bundle of business apps, what Microsoft introduced in 2017 and includes Office 365 – cloud-based versions of the company’s flagship productivity applications such as Word and Excel – collaboration tools like OneDrive and SharePoint, the Microsoft Teams chat app, and even the Windows 10 operating system itself.

This bundling approach has come under scrutiny from Slack, with CEO Butterfield previously calling Microsoft a “surprisingly unsportsmanlike” competitor.

Pushing a “4-in-1” value proposition

Spataro said to replicate what Teams can do it takes several competitors products. “If you’re trying to do what Teams does, you’re going to pull together Slack, Zoom, Dropbox and Google … Against each of those competitors, we have strengths and we have gaps. And I would just say that we are super clear on what our gaps are against the leaders in those categories and we invest every day, every day, every day to close those gaps,” he said.

The Microsoft exec ascribed the growth of Teams to the large numbers of companies in the process of modernizing their internal communications tools and their corporate cultures. 

“They’re able to say, Hey, this is a new way of doing things. There’s a 4-in-1 value prop there. There’s chat, meet, call, collaborate, and they say, we’re going to do certain business processes this way. So it has some kind of symbolic value to companies as they change,” Spataro said. 

As Microsoft started to realize the demand for Teams, it upped the resources behind the product — adding more “customer success managers” or salespeople, and making sure that Teams can integrate well with the other productivity software Microsoft offers. 

Spataro said his strategy to appeal to customers is to highlight the integration that Teams has with other Microsoft office productivity tools, so it can be a central workspace hub for employees. That both makes the process of working easier he said and provides the same security tools for all the tools a company may be using for productivity. 

Teams does not have a set user limit as it relies on Azure Active Directory, a cloud identity service that can support an unlimited number of users, a Microsoft spokesperson told Business Insider. But while an unlimited number of people can be on a company’s Team’s platform, each workspace or “Team” it creates within that can hold up to 5,000 users and 200 channels, which is the channel scalability limitation Spataro refers to. 

Slack has previously said that its product is more attractive to large companies because it can support an unlimited number of channels and users. Slack’s enterprise grid product, which is meant for large organizations, is currently able to hold up to 500,000 users, and a Slack spokesperson recently told Business Insider it would continue to expand that number if it had a customer who met that user limit. Slack allows unlimited workspaces in enterprise grid, 250,000 users per workspace, unlimited channels per workspace, and unlimited members per channel. 

SEE ALSO: Slack’s IBM deal is a signal to big corporate customers that the chat app is ready to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft, say analysts

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