When Slack burst on the scene a few years ago, enterprise communications vendors were spooked by the upstart’s rapid viral adoption among business users—here was a communications client that users actually embraced instead of just tolerating. Admittedly, Slack’s early adopters tended to cluster in a few vertical industries or disciplines: Developers, media, advertising, marketing, to name a few. Still, with its app, Slack seemed not only to have stolen a march on the Unified Communications vendors with their barebones, instant messaging-focused clients, but also to have a more comprehensive vision of how communications could be integrated with document sharing and other important features for knowledge workers. The big UC vendors paid Slack the compliment of hastily moving to build their own Slack-like clients.
The big question with Slack was always how it’d successfully monetize its freemium product and really challenge the Microsofts and Ciscos of the world at an enterprise level. The release of Slack’s Enterprise Grid in early 2017 gave the startup a product aimed specifically at the enterprise, but it was only last month that Slack moved to fill a major gap in its platform vision, by acquiring a company that does… email.
Slack and its partisans had railed against email and boasted that they were going to kill this most hated of all communications channels. Their big competitors bought into the argument, with their execs touting how much their new Slack-like products reduced the email load.
But it turns out that, while Slack helped prove that “unicorns” may be real, ultimately installed bases and legacy technologies are also very real. Slack seems to have learned the lesson that there’s no such thing as killing an old technology. You can diminish it, you can co-opt it, but you can’t force people to abandon it.
With all this as background, it’s looking like 2019 is going to be an important year for Slack as the company reportedly plans an IPO for next year that could value it at $7 billion. It’s also likely to be a critical year for the Team Collaboration market in which Slack plays. Microsoft used its recent Ignite conference to reaffirm its push to migrate enterprises from Skype for Business to Teams (its Slack competitor), while Cisco will spend the rest of this year and next rebuilding trust in its own Webex Teams platform after the recent major outages it’s suffered. These moments of transition may offer Slack an opening, but if Slack can’t capitalize on that opportunity next year, the window may well close significantly as enterprises start to make their strategic decisions around Team Collab.
At Enterprise Connect and No Jitter, our enterprise audience has consistently told us that Team Collaboration is their number-one topic of interest over the past year. That’s why we’ll once again devote a conference track to the subject at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2019. Our track will look at the compliance, technology migration, and organizational issues around Team Collaboration, as well as address the major challenges and risks that have emerged for enterprises rolling out these products.
We’ll begin posting sessions next week for our Team Collaboration track, as well as the eight other Conference tracks; we’ll then continue to build out the program over the course of the month. I’d encourage you to check out the program, and I hope you can join us next March for a deep dive into all the technologies and strategies that enterprise communications organizations must consider today.