Corporate chat is becoming an office essential. It can bring teams from all over the county or just all over one office together in a unique way. Not as invasive as a stop at your desk or a phone call, but more immediate than sending an email, more and more companies are finding chat is in a Goldilocks zone of office communication.

I’ve been using chat for work for about 20 years now (shout out to AOL Instant Messenger, the original, and leaving us by the end of the year), but it’s only been recently that companies have started to make chat programs implicitly for work. There are a lot of them out there now like Slack, FlowDock, and HipChat. For the most part, they’re all excellent pieces of standalone software, but that’s the problem, they are standalone solutions. Everything that happens in these chat applications stay in these chat applications, and that’s a missed opportunity.

Microsoft has targeted this aspect of office productivity and are putting an unheard-of amount of development and resources into a field previously ruled by scrappy tech startups. Slack the current leader in corporate chat has already tipped its hand that it’s worried about Microsoft encroaching on their space, and for good reason, one look at teams and it’s obvious Microsoft hasn’t pulled any punches. Even when it was first introduced it was the fullest featured chat program I’d ever used. A year of refinement and improvements has made it positively peerless.

Enter the Grownups

At first, when I heard our company was going to give up Slack and start using Teams I was bummed. I thought surely Teams wouldn’t be the sort of polished, fun to use chat experience I had become accustomed to. However, you can tell Microsoft made Teams to be a real communication tool. Turns out the largest software company in the world can make up serious ground in a short time these days. They’ve taken the best parts of the existing chat providers and integrated the entire thing into Office 365.

What does this integration get you? A lot. First of all, it perfectly integrates with your outlook calendar. Time for a meeting? One click will get you from the calendar invite in outlook into a virtual meeting in teams. There’s also no need to setup users. Everyone with an Office 365 already has one. Another neat integration is that everything uploaded to teams is available across Office 365 via OneDrive and there’s no need to upload anything already in OneDrive. Meetings can seamlessly turn into a video conference and back into a chat without much ado.

What’s changing with Teams?

Rather than absorbing Skype for Business, Microsoft has developed an all new enterprise-grade service for voice, video, and meetings to be used in Teams. It currently uses Skype for this functionality just fine, but Microsoft is making way for some eye-opening improvements.

Teams will take advantage of cutting edge machine learning, speech recognition, cognitive services to improve the meeting experience and create a useful records of them. Forget what the group decided to do with the widgets? Search the meeting transcript and re-watch that portion of the recorded meeting.

But what's most notable about Teams' feature set is just how full featured and integrated with other services it already is. If you've been considering adding or changing your organization's chat service, then give Teams a serious look, you'll be impressed.