Slack channel management admin feature
Image: Slack

Slack unveiled its new set of admin tools on Thursday to help company leaders better engage with and manage teams within the platform. New features include detailed message activity, analytics API, integrated calendar authentication, and better channel managing and assignment capabilities. The company also announced its formalized Slack Certified program.

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The collaboration platform has experienced significant user growth as remote work accelerated amid the coronavirus pandemic. Between Feb. 1 and March 25, 2020, Slack added 9,000 new paid customers, which is an 80% increase over the quarterly total for the previous two quarters, according to a blog post.

Not only are more people adopting Slack, but current users are utilizing the platform more. Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack, noted in a recent series of tweets that during that same February/March time period, the number of messages sent per user per day increased by an average 20% globally.

“The main thing that we’re seeing is the scaled out usage of Slack across organizations,” said Ilan Frank, vice president of enterprise product at Slack. “Organizations that had departmental use of Slack are now [connecting with] the entire organization using Slack, because they need a way to communicate within the organization as quickly as possible and email, obviously, is not cutting it.

“Then the second thing is for every project that’s being done where there was some reliance on interpersonal [communication]—running to that person’s desk or running into them in the hallway—has also all moved into Slack,” Frank said. “It’s more people in Slack and every person using Slack a lot more. All of that is weighing on administrators: They have more channels to archive and clean up, they have more onboarding to do, they have more management of Slack and keeping up with the deployments.”

The new admin features

The following updates are intended to help admins more easily deploy Slack across a company, as well as boost employee engagement, according to a blog post.

  • Message activity

“Message activity allows you to see for a specific message, the read rates. Think of it as the same thing you would have for email, when you send out corporate announcements over email. Now those corporate announcements are moving to Slack,” Frank said.

“You want to know, are people able to see this? You could even segment that by department and see some information by department, as far as reading the corporate announcement-type messages,” Frank added.

Available for Plus and Grid plans, message activity pulls data on the reach, impact, and engagement of Slack messages to help admins manage internal communications.

For messages in public channels with more than 50 members, admins and owners can see reach and engagement over time, device breakdown of where users are viewing the post first, top replies by the number of reactions, and viewers by department (if available through SCIM), according to the post.

  • Analytics APIs

Slack is also releasing a set of analytics APIs that merge Slack engagement data with business reporting tools, according to the post.

“We’ve had an analytics dashboard for adoption for probably three years now, but this allows you to bring that information in a more granular way into a third-party application,” Frank said. “Something like a Tableau Looker and be able to actually analyze that information and make sure that your deployment is going well.”

Available for Grid plans, the APIs allow admins to bring Slack data usage into their existing dashboards. Through the APIs, admins can track all software engagement in one location, automate routine reporting tasks, and compare Slack engagement with other tools, according to the post.

  • Calendar apps at scale

Integrating apps within Slack has proved extremely useful for organizations. More than 150,000 teams have already integrated calendar apps with Slack, for example. This reduces the time users spend jumping between tabs, according to the post.

Now, available with all plans, admins can boost the adoption of calendar apps like Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar at a faster pace. Rather than requiring every employee to authenticate their accounts, admins can automatically authorize calendar apps across the company, Frank said.

“If you are using Google or Outlook and you are already authenticated into that calendar application, when you install it into Slack, you will automatically be able to authenticate into that application without the user having to go and re-log in to that calendar application, which is what happens today,” Frank said. “It is a much easier way to deploy an application inside Slack. The user is just magically already connected.”

  • Centralized channel management

Available for Grid plans, admins will now have one dashboard to view and manage channels across the organization. Admins can also automatically add employees to relevant channels according to their department, making the onboarding process much smoother, according to the post.

“Admins can…use your IDP either Okta, Azure, AD, LDAP, etc., to map [employees] directly into channels. For example, the sales team needs access to a certain set of sales channels, you can map the sales team from Okta directly into all the channels that they should be members of,” Frank said. “If someone new joins the organization, they would automatically be in the right channels.”

This makes “Onboarding for new employees much easier; they don’t have to go and find the channels that they should be members of,” Frank added.

Admin certification program

The other announcement Slack made is associated with its admin certification program.

As Slack adoption grows, the demand for experienced Slack admins increases, too. Many customers like IBM, Oracle, and Verizon have roles dedicated to Slack administration that standardize working with the tool at scale, according to the post.

To equip these admins with more skills, the company announced the Slack Certified program, in which candidates receive an official badge, boost credibility, and more.

“The official certification really helps them be able to put on their resume, to be able to put on their LinkedIn, that they’re an official certified Slack admin,” Frank said. “We’re both announcing an online scaled out certification program, and we’re going to be offering scholarships to make this easier for people to obtain that certification.

“It will really help build their career out…we want to be able to make that available to them at no charge,” Frank added.

While all of these updates had been planned before the pandemic, Slack views this as the perfect timing sd remote work has been more widely adopted, Frank said.

For more, check out Slack wants to replace email, and thinks this new tool can finally make it happen on TechRepublic.

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