With the launch of Teams Connect at this week’s Ignite conference, Microsoft Teams users can now collaborate with external partners and clients in shared channels.
Available in private preview ahead of a full roll-out later this year, Teams Connect shared channels are accessible within the main Teams app view alongside regular channels. Users can continue to access Teams features such as text chat, video and voice within shared channels, as well as share content and co-author documents with external users in real-time.
When launched, Shared channels will appear as an option from the channel creation menu along with standard and private channels. External Teams users can then be invited to join the shared space, with Teams admins given “granular controls” over external user access to data and information.
Requests for more detailed comment by Microsoft on the admin controls — and whether multiple organizations can access a shared channel — were not immediately returned.
Shared channels is a long-awaited feature in Teams, said Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC, and will help it compete with Slack and Google Chat in the team collaboration software market.
“The ability to easily collaborate between companies using Shared Channels was something that Microsoft Teams was sorely missing,” said Kurtzman. “Teams Connect helps solve that problem by extending Teams membership to partner companies.”
The announcement follows a similar move last year by Teams’ rival Slack. Slack Connect allows up to 20 organizations to collaborate in a single shared channel, an extension of the existing shared channel capability introduced by the vendor in 2017.
“Teams Connect, like Slack Connect, meets a growing market need for cross-company collaboration, in context, integrating messaging, meetings, apps, and data,” said Irwin Lazar president and principal analyst at Metrigy, in a blog post.
Lazar also pointed out that, as with Slack Connect, Teams Connect only supports “like-to-like federation” between Teams users.
“Those wishing to federate their Microsoft Teams instances with other team collaboration apps, such as Cisco Webex and Slack have other options,” he wrote. “They can use third-party federation services, including Mio and Sameroom. Or they can consider allowing guest access to team spaces in conjunction with deploying security solutions from Safeguard Cyber, Theta Lake, or Unify Square to minimize guest account risk.”