Sep 5 and 6 Slack held their user conference Frontiers in San Francisco. The flow of the keynote was very well done, with Slack executives and customers (including 21st Century Fox, WeWork and others) working together to tell a consistent story around how Slack is evolving from just group messaging (a place for people to chat) to a collaboration hub (a place that integrates together multiple applications to enable people to do work). This theme of stream or newsfeed based tools becoming a place to "get work done" fits in well with the concept of Purposeful Collaboration that I've been writing about since 2013.
Logistically Frontiers was very well done, with a combination of entertainment, education and philanthropy. They recapped product highlights of 2018 including
- Improved search (speed as well as interface)
- Application actions (enable posts in the stream to be interactive, not just information)
- Shared channels (allow two companies to collaborate securely via Slack)
- Acquisition of Missions.ai (a workflow/automation product that enables people to define trigger events and actions)
- Atlassian partnership (the shutdown of HipChat and Stride and ideally migration to Slack)
and discussed several future features (ranging from Q42018 to "sometime in 2019")
- Enterprise Key Management (EKM) which will allow administrators to encrypt channels
- Improvements in administration features like device-level security, compliance and governance
- Making the editor more usable for non-technical people - example WYSIWYG rich text editing
- Improved initial experience for new Slack users, showing fewer features when they first start
- A new web and desktop client that is significantly faster (ex: 1s load time vs 6s), uses less memory, and even supports offline usage
- Network channels - the next phase of Shared Channels, enabling multiple companies instead of just two
but unfortunately, there was not a lot of "new and available now" type news. I would have liked to have heard:
- Updated statistics about growth. They cited the same 8M daily active users and 3M paid users numbers that they announced in May.
- News around partners and the Slack Fund
- Advancements in how they are using AI
Here is my quick video recap of Slack Frontiers 2018
Slack certainly deserves credit for reinvigorating the enterprise collaboration market. Their rise to tech-stardom caused the traditional tech giants Microsoft, Google, Cisco and IBM to react and develop their own similar channel-based collaboration tools. But now with the market being so competitive, what comes next for Slack? I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on Slack Enterprise Grid, their platform for use at large companies.
As I pointed out on Twitter, I believe their future will involve more native functionality that enables them to evolve beyond just messaging to becoming more of a platform for executing core business workflows.
News: @SlackHQ raises another $427M via series H funding.— Alan Lepofsky 🇨🇦 🇺🇸 Future of Work (@alanlepo) August 21, 2018
MyPOV: Slack's future is expansion beyond group messaging or even being an integration hub to include more native collaboration functionality.
VIDEO: https://t.co/iiKQzho1L2#futureofwork #employeeexperience #socbiz #esn
The way most people work today, struggling with information overload as they constantly switch between multiple applications is not the optimal way to work. Slack as well as several other vendors know this, and are working on ways to improve the employee experience. I've written about this future of work in what I refer to as Digital Canvases, and I look forward to seeing Slack continue to try and help employees work better together.