Last week I attended Slack’s Amazing Teams event in London – the first customer event that the real-time communications flavour-of-the-month has hosted in the UK. Because this was the first one, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was impressed by the way the event was structured and organised, and particularly with how it balanced the need to support existing Slack adopters with a marketing remit.
Headlining the show was April Underwood, Slack’s VP of Product, who delivered the key corporate positioning, emphasising Slack’s mission “to make peoples working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive”. Interesting from my point of view was that Underwood spent a substantial part of her presentation talking about the product roadmap, and addressing some of the key areas that Slack’s 100-strong engineer team is working on over the next three months. From a features and capabilities standpoint, these fell into three main areas:
- Communications, both between people and apps. This focuses on the collaborative features of the tool, as well as ensuring the UI is as easy-to-use as possible. Developments here include message formatting (such as bullets, underlining etc.), threaded conversations, and voice calls, which are currently in beta on desktop and Android, and are coming to iOS soon.
- Productivity, and enabling decisions to become more actionable. This relates to Slack’s integration focus, continuing to encourage the development of apps by third parties, and enhancing the platform to make it easier for messages to become interactive and enable workflows, for example through buttons in messages.
- Transparency, enabling information to be surfaced and findable. While this is partly about improving search capabilities, it also incorporates some other interesting possibilities, such as channel recommendations and expertise location. This is something that I’m particularly keen to learn more about, so I’ll share more in due course.
As well as product news, Slack brought together an interesting panel of UK customers, comprising Equal Experts, Transferwise, and The Times, who shared their own use cases for Slack, and some of the challenges (notably cultural) that they’ve encountered. They also talked about their use of Slack’s bots and apps capabilities, with Alun Coppack from Equal Experts describing the bot they’d created to prompt people to complete their profiles, for example.
The other topic that was clearly of interest to much of the audience was the promised Enterprise offering; Underwood indicated that the company is targeting a list price of $32 per seat, although it’s not written in stone yet. The ongoing work in this area is focused on how to cope with the scale of an enterprise deployment, primarily in terms of handling the larger volume of channels and information in general. Other issues being considered include admin capabilities, licensing of apps in a more complex environment, and change management. Again, I’ll be looking to dig into this further in a follow up conversation.
It’s clear that Slack has made an impression on the market already – its 2.7 million daily active users, and reported 800,000 paid users, clearly see the potential in this tool. However, as we highlighted in our recent survey report, the most significant adoption levels are in smaller organisations. Translating this to an enterprise solution will need a careful strategy, and the ongoing delay in the launch of Slack Enterprise suggests that the vendor is quite aware of the magnitude of this – and the risk to its brand if it goes wrong, as well.
There’s no doubt that the competition is watching carefully.