Slack is targeting the enterprise in a big way with Slack Enterprise Grid, a scalable version of its business communications platform. Along with the expanded platform, Slack updated its Node.js and Python SDKs so developers can add the new features to their own Slack apps.
Enterprise Grid covers the enterprise basics. It adapts to how large companies are organized and provides IT with centralized controls to manage corporate data. Slack says the Enterprise Grid provides admins with a single layer that spans the entire corporation as well as the way to create infinite groups and bridges across the organization. Employees will be able to take advantage of search, one-to-one and group messaging, as well as discover new workspaces. At the same time, IT gains all the controls needed to keep corporate information siloed within specific channels or share it across groups.
The primary new end-user-facing functions introduced by Slack Enterprise Grid are unlimited workspaces for teams and shared channels for collaboration. Here's how they work.
Unlimited workspaces are a variation on a theme. They carry over basic features such as conversation channels, threaded messaging, voice and video calling, and support for platform-level integration. What's unique to Enterprise Grid are unlimited workspaces' ability to cater to the way your business is organized. That means it can accommodate varied departments, teams, locations, or groups no matter where they are. Admins can create workspaces for any designated collection of employees and create a space just for them to work, access coworkers, team data, and apps.
It's best to think of shared channels as bridges between two or more groups. Imagine you're a company like Apple and your iPhone and iPad teams need to collaborate on a project. Setting up a shared channel would allow the two groups to communicate with one another and share data while also maintaining their individual Slack channels for internal conversations. This way the teams don't expose one another to the other's chatter and eyes-only data.
What do developers need to know? Slack says developers should check out the Node.js and Python SDKs, which now include these tools. Slack didn't go into detail about how or what has changed in these SDKs. It's worth pointing out that Node.js is a wrapper around the Slack RTM and Web APIs. If you've created a Slack app for your business, it would be best to review it against the SDKs for compatibility.
"Customers can configure Grid any way they want, though we expect many apps in shared channels will serve a cross-functional productivity need," explained Slack in a blog post. "For instance, a shared channel is the place where the engineering and sales divisions can share progress updates and interact with apps relevant to both their teams. Say the engineering team wants to know how much revenue the company is bringing in on a monthly basis: a reporting app can share the sales team’s monthly numbers into a shared channel to keep the engineers informed. You could also imagine an app that does the reverse, sharing development blockers and engineering progress to the sales team on a regular cadence."
In addition to its own SDKs, Slack is working with Beep Boop, Botkit, and PullString so their SDKs support Enterprise Grid, too.
The end goal here is to help Slack make inroads against Microsoft's robust enterprise communications tools. Rob Bellmar, EVP of Business Operations at West Unified Communications, isn't fully convinced the new features will help.
"Slack has certainly challenged business leaders and IT teams to rethink the way they collaborate across different platforms while achieving ROI through adoption," said Bellmar in an email to ProgrammableWeb. "At the same time, Microsoft still has an edge on Slack since it … is a long-standing collaboration provider for enterprise-level organizations. I don’t anticipate these IT departments jumping ship for Slack just yet."