Slack's next phase is to close productivity gaps between humans and software

CEO wants to increase integrations so users never have to leave the collaboration platform to get work done.

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At the company's Frontiers 2020 conference, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said his vision for the next iteration of the platform will connect the productivity gaps between humans and software.

Image: Slack

Slack is steering into the idea that there's no going back to the old way of working and taking on the more challenging element of remote work. The collaboration platform is building new features to make it easier to onboard new employees and work with outside partners.

Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack, opened the two-day Frontiers conference on Wednesday. He said that the company's next phase will focus on closing the gaps between productivity software and building new workflows instead of reinventing old ones. He described the familiar task of taking a screenshot of a graph or image from one system and pasting it into presentation software and then emailing the document for review.

"Sometimes the task will be improving step 3 and sometimes the goal is skipping from step 1 to step 11," he said. 

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He also used the example of a recruiter hiring a new employee and then completing a workflow that spans several business systems and requires email updates as well. 

"These productivity gaps are everywhere and whenever we find one we think there are opportunities for improvement," he said.

Another focus is creating tools that allow synchronous processes to be asynchronous. He used the example of a daily check-in and showed a series of video updates. The idea is that team members could post a video update wherever it's convenient and other people could consume that update when it is convenient for them instead of at a set daily meeting time. 

Butterfield said the next generation of the company's platform is improving the interaction of human actions—decisions and conversations and software actions—such as purchase orders, customer comments. He describes this as the event-driven enterprise.  

"All of these events flowing back and forth create the opportunity for us to have a lightweight, low-cost fabric for systems integration to tie these tools and systems together," he said. 

Integrating Rimeto acquisition

Tamar Yehoshua, the chief product officer at Slack, said the company's acquisition of Rimeto will help customers manage the onboarding process when the workforce is 100% remote. Rimeto created a new type of employee directory by adding information such as areas of expertise and project assignments to the standard list of information like name, email, and phone number. Rimeto's directories are searchable as well. 

Yehoshua said that Slack has hired so many people since the pandemic shutdown began that she has never met almost a third of the company in person. 

"The addition of Rimeto to Slack will give customers a powerful cultural tool to strengthen employee ties to each other and to the company," she said.

Yehoshua said that Slack is also building analytics into the platform to understand and optimize the use of the collaboration platform. Slack engagement data will feed a business reporting tool to measure: 

  1. Member metrics
  2. Message activity
  3. Analytics APIs
  4. Workflow analytics 

Improving collaboration after a merger

Christina Kosmowski, vice president, Slack's global head of customer success and services, closed the session with Phil Wiser, executive vice president and chief technology officer at ViacomCBS. The two media companies merged in late 2019 and Wiser said Slack had been an important integration tool. 

Wiser said he deployed Slack's Enterprise Grid and did a large marketing and adoption campaign. 

"Before we went remote, we had a few 1,000 users across the company and we now have 13,000 active users," he said.

Wiser also said that Slack made it easier and faster to integrate the 700 applications used across both companies. 

"Slack came in as a neutral overlay to connect those communities together and then we integrated the applications in that framework," he said. "That supercharged our communication and knowledge sharing." 

Marcel Weekes, Slack's director of engineering in the network group, said during the event the company's new enterprise key management feature combined with Slack Connect makes it safer to send and receive files. 

"Only trusted partners can send you files," he said. 

ViacomCBS also uses Slack Connect to work with external partners on new productions and live events such as the PGA and awards shows.  

Slack is building a pre-release group for the Connect feature.

Disclosure: TechRepublic is a subsidiary of ViacomCBS.