Slack Enterprise Grid adds functionality, eyes big business adoption

With increased security, search and analytic features, Slack looks for more adoption by enterprises with at least 500 employees.

Business communication tool Slack has set its sights on some big fish with its latest product: Slack Enterprise Grid.

Slack currently has roughly 5 million daily users among small and medium-sized businesses. The new Slack offering is aimed at adoption by businesses with more than 500 employees.

The move into larger businesses comes with new functionality, including search, business intelligence and analytics tools. These improvements will allow for easier communication between teams, better search to look for information across a company's entire system and will suggest content and contacts to a user. Employees will also be able to communicate and interact with those in other departments in their enterprise through Slack without being bombarded with every message.

"When dealing with enterprises that have a lot of different departments, you can't have a Slack team with 30,000 employees," said David Markovich, founder of ChatOverload, a New York-based Slack consultancy. "Some enterprises already use Slack but would have one group for accounting, another for marketing and so on. Those individual teams, if they wanted to talk to each other, they didn't have that option."

Slack Enterprise Grid opens up the ability for enterprise departments to communicate with each other. By using these "federations" of teams, different departments can interact where and when they need to without being bogged down by every incoming message.

"[Slack's] announcement is significant in that organizations can now try the free version of Slack, then migrate to Grid if they find that adoption has grown across multiple departments," said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Cupertino, Calif.-based Constellation Research Inc. "This satisfies the need of IT -- scalability, central licensing, administration -- while still providing the teams the flexibility to customize usage for their own needs."

[Slack is] going to be offering more services for enterprise.
David Markovichfounder, ChatOverload

These workspaces for teams can be organized by administrators who can control permissions and configure integrations on a per-workspace basis, according to the Slack Enterprise Grid blog post.

Hoping to move into regulated industries, Slack Enterprise Grid is HIPAA and FINRA compliant as well as SOC 2 and SOC 3 certified. Financial corporation Capital One was one of the beta users for Slack Enterprise Grid, moving roughly 12,000 employees onto the product, according to public reports. 

"They're going to be offering more services for enterprise," Markovich said. "They'll work with IT on security and offer more in-depth analytics. Those things definitely held back large enterprises from moving over to Slack."

Slack is also partnering with several other technology enterprises, including SAP, where Slack will build a portfolio of bots that will integrate with SAP. The bots will assist with travel expenses by integrating with Concur and with performance management by integrating with SuccessFactors. In September, Slack had partnered with Salesforce to integrate the functionality into the Salesforce platform.

"It's important to see enterprise software vendors like SAP creating integrations for Concur and SuccessFactors," Lepofsky said. "As this validates that Slack is not just for techies and developers."

While Slack has been working on its enterprise move for some time -- including writing all new code, according to public reports -- the timing can be interpreted as a shot across the bow at Microsoft, which announced Teams in November, a similar company communication tool that is expected to focus on large enterprises.

"For Microsoft, it's a potential upsell in the enterprise space where companies are using Office 365 and Outlook," Markovich said, "unlike Slack, where you have to go in on the ground floor for an enterprise."

The gamesmanship between Microsoft and Slack continued this week, as the day prior to Slack's unveiling of Slack Enterprise Grid, a blog post from Microsoft said that in the last month "30,000 organizations across 145 markets have actively used Microsoft Teams," even though the product is still in beta. Microsoft expects Teams to be available in the first quarter of this year.

This back-and-forth comes after Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield wrote a blog post and took out a full-page ad in The New York Times the day after Teams was announced in November.

"We're glad you're going to be helping us define this new product category," the blog and ad both read. "We admire many of your achievements and know you'll be a worthy competitor. We're sure you're going to come up with a couple of new ideas on your own too. And we'll be right there, ready."

A price for Slack Enterprise Grid was not available; businesses must apply directly to Slack to obtain its new offering. Slack for Teams has three pricing scales including a free option, an $8 per month per user standard option and a $15 per month per user plus option. Both standard and plus have discounted rates for annual billing as opposed to monthly billing.

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