Slack launches Slack Enterprise Grid

Bees and honeycomb
COMMENTARY
 
Earlier this week, Slack finally unveiled its new offering addressing the needs of large organisations, called Slack Enterprise Grid.

As I noted in my article on Slack a couple of weeks back, the new offering is an entirely re-architected platform which ties together the various pockets of Slack adoption across an organisation, bringing centralised security and administration, as well as unifying employees under a single enterprise-wide people directory, with universal search, shared channels and enterprise-wide direct messaging.

At its launch event in San Francisco (a recording of the event is available here), Slack’s executive team shared details of the culmination of more than 12 months’ work. Slack Enterprise Grid aims to build upon the company’s existing momentum with teams inside large enterprises, enabling teams to retain their flexibility and autonomy with regards to how they administer their Slack workspaces (formerly called “teams”), while meeting the needs and expectations of central IT departments.

Connecting teams

Targeting organisations with between 500 and 500,000 employees, the product is designed to enable the best of both worlds; supporting teams in their day-to-day communication and collaboration to get work done, while at the same time taking advantage of the scale of the organisation, allowing individuals and teams to work, connect, and find information and people across departments, breaking down the silos that would otherwise exist.

For IT, Slack Enterprise Grid provides a new admin dashboard that allows for centralised management of users, integrations, security and compliance, with support for FINRA and HIPAA standards, and integration with third-party data loss prevention, e-discovery and off-site back-up providers.

Slack also announced a handful of major enterprise customers that have been using Enterprise Grid for the past few months, notably IBM (with whom Slack announced a partnership to integrate with its Watson technology back in October) and Capital One, which both have tens of thousands of employees using Slack. The big partner announcement of the day was SAP, which has developed Slack integration with the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, as well as for SuccessFactors and Concur.

Now and next

While the product is available now, it’s worth noting that not all the new features that were announced are available yet; in particular, the enterprise-wide analytics will not be rolled out “until later this year”. Part of the launch showcased the work that Slack is doing in its Search, Learning and Intelligence team, with developments including smart filters, which will intelligently suggest ways to refine search results, channel highlights and daily briefings, which will surface key (i.e. not all) unread messages and identify the most important and relevant conversations that you might have missed. This is particularly interesting in the light of IBM’s focus on “cognitive” capabilities in its own team collaboration tool, IBM Watson Workspace (which I wrote about yesterday).

Overall, I think this is a really smart move by Slack; it’s already got a major lead in this emerging area, but with giants like IBM and – more importantly – Microsoft entering the space, it needed to find a way to sustain its growth rate and respond to the criticism of its team-based focus. This “grid” approach makes a lot of sense to me, and its growing list of enterprise-class partners suggests that it is winning over those that dismissed it as a start-up. What’s more, there’s clearly a lot of work still going on under the hood at Slack, so I’ll be keeping watch throughout 2017 to see how this evolves.

COMMENTARY

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