Bruce Elgort happily ditched the online discussion forums he used for three community college Web development classes he teaches and replaced them with Slack, a group chat application that’s becoming the darling of workforce communication and collaboration.
Early adopters such as Elgort rave about Slack, the front-runner of a new wave of work-group messaging, chat and collaboration tools that includes Flowdock, Glip and HipChat.
Slack offers messaging, private and group chats and file-sharing, integrates with popular cloud-based services such as Dropbox and Twitter, and works on phones, tablets and desktops.
Best of all, said Elgort, who teaches at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, Slack replaces email and is so easy to use that he doesn’t have to deal with the school’s IT department. “That’s huge,” he said.
While older enterprise social networks and collaboration tools such as Chatter, Jive and Yammer reside on a company intranet, Slack works like any other iPhone, iPad or Android app. It’s also free, at least for the most basic edition. Versions with more message archiving, user support and analytics start at under $7 a month. Slack spokeswoman Katie Wattie said the San Francisco startup is working on a beefier enterprise-level version that will debut later this year.
Slack is something of a collaboration wunderkind, raising $180 million since launching in January 2014, including a $120 million round from A-list venture capital firms that put its valuation at a whopping $1.1 billion last year.
The company claims to have 60,000 teams, 135,000 paid accounts and 500,000 daily active users, and lists as clients Adobe Systems Inc., Airbnb Inc., Dow Jones & Co., eBay Inc. and Expedia Inc. to name a few.
Email isn’t going away, Wattie said. “But things are evolving. Teams that are using Slack have reported massive reductions in internal email,” she said.
Some users, however, are still testing the waters. “We see a lot of value in the unique features of Slack’s suite of tools, but beyond our testing teams, we’ve not arrived at a reasonably priced enterprise solution that scales to the size and needs of our company,” Yelp spokeswoman Katrina Hafford said.
Corporate social networks, some of which have features similar to what Slack offers, haven’t caught on as quickly as expected when they were first introduced. One reason is lack of direction and support from the C-suite, according to research from tech industry analyst Altimeter Group. That gives rise to questions whether newcomers such as Slack could encounter the same challenges. “An enterprise social network isn’t going to change the culture, no matter what you try to do,” said Elgort, who worked in IT for years before retiring and switching to teaching.
Those questions haven’t stopped him from embracing Slack. He said: “I’ve tried discussion forums before and Facebook group pages, but it never works; Slack does.”