Collaboration hots up as Slack boosts enterprise cred

Published on the 02/02/2017 | Written by Anthony Caruana

Slack_office communication

Slack is a collaboration favourite for small workgroups – now it is targeting the big time…

Sometimes the tech space is fascinating as it produces winning newcomers in areas which, to the trained eye, look so mature as to be impenetrable. Does the world really need a new chat service? Turns out, again and again, yes it does. That’s how Slack, introduced in 2013, has quickly grown into a powerhouse of global proportions. And now, it is targeting the enterprise with a slew of new features, dubbed the Slack Enterprise Grid, and a partnership with the most ‘enterprise’ of all vendors: SAP.

The name, which conjures up Brad Pitt on that couch in ‘True Romance’, is in fact an acronym. It stands for ‘Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge’, which isn’t a great name for a product by any means.

However, as enthusiastic users of Slack in the iStart office can attest, Slack delivers the goods. Many systems have promised a lot but have been complex and unwieldy to use; where Slack excels is in keeping things simple, with an in-browser platform (bolstered by a mobile app) which makes it easy to connect with teams, use chat, share files and link up to Skype and other third-party applications.

Now, Slack Enterprise Grid, pitched at businesses with between 500 and 500,000 users, beefs this up with new data-loss prevention tools, the ability to integrate with identity and access management tools and tools for managing collaboration at larger scale. It also allows teams to have a greater say in how they use Slack.

So, while a team of developers might need to integrate with specific tools they need, they can do this without forcing the rest of the business to adopt the same extra features. This can be controlled at the workgroup level, rather than centrally.

And different teams can link up and share information, bridging the traditional workplace solos that can interfere with cross-functional collaboration.

A partnership with SAP brings in new bots – tools for adding third-party functionality to Slack – that integrate their TripIt and Concur travel and expense management tools as well as connectivity to SAP SuccessFactors for HR functions and SAP HANA so staff working on projects can work together more easily.

Additional features have a focus on putting pertinent information in front of users through improved search functions, message prioritisation and a ‘Daily Briefings’ tool that puts important information front and centre for the user.

The niche Slack has carved out, however, is being contested. Atlassian’s HipChat is a strong competitor, while Microsoft’s Teams software which bears a more than passing resemblance to Slack.

Microsoft’s advantage over Slack and HipChat is its ability to integrate Teams with its productivity and server platforms. And their new-found desire to work with other platforms in the Satya Nadella era has it well-placed to surge in the market.

But Slack is putting up a strong fight with new features and through the partnerships it is forging.

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