Last week’s successful public stock offering from Slack marks the team collaboration provider’s transition from upstart to serious player. As UC analyst Zeus Kerravala, of ZK Research, told me for my No Jitter post on the news, Slack comes out of the IPO with a strong hand but plenty of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that it’s up against five of the biggest names in tech: Amazon, Cisco, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. And it isn’t just the behemoths that have a play in this space. UCaaS providers like RingCentral have team collaboration apps, while the likes of Zoom are layering this functionality on top of a video play.
How can Slack come out on top against such a Murderers’ Row? It may not have to; just being in the mix might be enough.
About a week before the Slack IPO, Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research posted a blog at No Jitter where he summarized some of Nemertes’ findings about enterprise attitudes toward team collaboration. Among the results, Nemertes found that enterprises aren’t standardizing on a single team collaboration application. Irwin wrote that the most successful enterprises tend to have one such application deployed across the enterprise, while also supporting additional apps.
“For instance, app development groups may have already deployed a team collaboration app and integrated it into their workflows,” Irwin said. “Other groups may need to use additional apps to collaborate with partners, customers, and/or suppliers. More than 41% of our overall participant pool uses two or more team collaboration apps, and 22% of those using just one app will add support for additional apps in the future.”
There’s good reason to believe Slack can be one of those “add-on” team collaboration apps, even if the enterprise is likely to standardize on an application tied to one of its strategic vendors—especially Microsoft or Cisco, the two biggest players in this space. Slack built its run to “unicorn” status on the strength of the devotion accorded it by specific departments or types of workers—primarily developers and marketing folks, as well as vertical industries like media companies. Many enterprises may decide it’s not worth the struggle to try and get people to give up an application they chose, in favor of one that IT mandates, especially if those teams have a strong belief that Slack has made them more productive.
But as Zeus suggested in my post-IPO article, Slack still needs to convert lots of its “freemium” customers to paying licensees. However, you can easily imagine this happening in enterprises that decide to bring shadow IT-based Slack users into the fold. The tradeoff for supporting a second team collaboration app would be the security and compliance that Slack promises with its paid Enterprise Grid version.
In closing his No Jitter post, Irwin offered solid guidance for how to deal with the emerging reality of team collaboration in the enterprise: “The bottom line is that team collaboration applications are quickly becoming the primary user interface for access to collaboration services, as well as workflow management. Take a proactive approach to management, security, and governance, and plan for a future in which multiple applications live within your enterprise.”
The key word there is “proactive.” The team collaboration phenomenon caught many enterprise IT leaders by surprise, and Slack was the biggest reason why: It was the classic shadow IT app. Now it’s time to bring Slack out of the shadows.