Understanding real-time collaboration tools for business
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Each quarter, the editors at SearchContentManagement recognize a content management technology for innovation and market impact. The product selected this quarter is Slack.
Slack collaboration software
Latest release dates:
Mobile apps: iOS 3.0 April 2016;
Android 2.10.0 May 2016.
Latest desktop applications:
Microsoft Windows 2.0.3 April 6, 2016;
OS X 2.0.2 April 26, 2016;
Chrome OS 1.0.3 December 6, 2013.
What it does
Slack is a cloud-based collaboration tool that enables users to chat one-on-one or in groups, as well as share documents. While Slack began as a communication tool, as it gains currency among enterprises, it is broadening into a collaboration platform with capabilities beyond just messaging.
Why it matters
While there are numerous collaboration tools on the market, from SharePoint to Jive to Huddle and Basecamp, Slack collaboration's claim to fame is a real-time communication tool that doesn't take workers out of their native application environments to exchange information.
With its various application programming interfaces and integrations, it's easy for employees to work in Slack, but also to build capabilities on top that access documents and information from within the application, rather than having to toggle between numerous apps to get information.
Slack is also known for being developer friendly. It's possible to build capabilities on top of Slack that meet particular business needs. At Spredfast, a social marketing company based in Austin, Texas, engineers built capability on top of Slack that enables them to send You Earned It (YEI) points to employees -- points redeemable for cash -- to recognize their good work. They can receive and redeem points seamlessly within Slack.
While the tool began largely as a chat platform, it is widening its reach into areas of traditional enterprise content management functionality to overlap with other collaboration software such as SharePoint -- Microsoft's "Swiss Army knife" tool for collaboration and content management.
Channels. This feature enables you to generate communication among team members, either internally within an organization or externally.
Private groups and one-to-one messaging. Slack supports more traditional communication among team members and groups, which enables teams to share sensitive information privately.
File sharing. Instead of sharing files via email, employees can share documents directly within the Slack collaboration app.
Open APIs. Slack is built on the premise of integration with other applications, so developers describe the tool as easy to build on top of and integrate with business processes and other applications. Spredfast, for example, built custom functionality on top of Slack to manage a large number of templates and visualizations. The Vizbot identifies where templates are stored by ID or name, indicates the last person to work on it and helps deploy Spredfast code into production with a custom process.
Mobile messaging. Through the Slack mobile app, employees get notifications on their phones. But it also recognizes that constant messaging can be disruptive, and new functionality, such as the Do Not Disturb feature, enables workers to set their phones to indicate their DND status.
Search. Messages and files added to Slack are immediately searchable, so users can return to documents and discussions when needed. Suggestions in the search box minimize the typing and effort associated with searching.
What users say
Given their off hours, Spredfast's engineering team members started using Slack to communicate on projects. Soon after, adoption spread to the rest of the company's 500-plus employees. With the ability to build capabilities on top of Slack, such as the redeemable YEI points, Spredfast finds the Slack collaboration tool flexible and easy to integrate with its roster of other tools.
"We believe that connections between your tools make things so much easier," Courtney White Lowell, Spredfast's director of global communications, said. "You don't want one tool to do everything halfway. You want best-in-class tools, but you want them talking to one another so the [experience for users] feels seamless."
Slack took hold at Spredfast because it didn't disrupt or refashion the way users worked, but instead enhanced existing processes, White Lowell said.
Tools like Slack enable workers to increase productivity rather than work harder just to communicate. "It worked for the way our teams work," White Lowell said.
All licenses are per active user, per month, as follows:
Standard: $6.67 billed annually or $8 billed monthly
Plus: $12.50 billed annually or $15 billed monthly
Enterprise: Coming soon. Contact Slack for details
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