For the past two years, collaborative workspace startup Slack has been in Microsoft's crosshairs. The Redmond company debuted competitor Teams in 2017, and has given the upstart collaboration tool a few significant advantages: Strong integration into Office 365 (thus giving it a built-in enterprise audience) and strong app integration within Teams. Microsoft's been focusing a lot of its office refinements away from individual apps and more toward workflows. In other words, it doesn't matter whether you open and edit a spreadsheet in Excel, Outlook or Teams; just open it and get your to-do done.
Today, Slack unveiled a set of features that dents Teams' home-field advantage. Slack now has the capability to connect Office 365 apps and allow people to execute on those work tasks without ever leaving their digital workspace.
“We’re going to be all about bringing your core office productivity into Slack,” said Ellie Powers, Director of Product and Platform at Slack. “What we’re doing is being really focused on bringing to Slack the ability to integrate more deeply with Microsoft products.”
Here's a breakdown of what's available now.
Connect Outlook Calendar to Slack
Connecting an app within Slack has always been a streamlined process, provided a Slack workspace's owner has chosen to enable the Approved Apps feature for the workspace. Any member of any channel within that workspace can click their Slack workspace name to choose the Apps & Integrations option in the menu, see what apps other members have added to the workspace, and check to see which apps they'd like to add.
Now, if a workspace owner (or permissioned channel member) connects Microsoft Outlook to the Slack workspace, people within that Slack workspace can take advantage of the following features:
- Be messaged within Slack the minute they get a meeting invitation in Outlook.
- Respond to meeting invitations with one click and be notified of any potential scheduling conflicts.
- Jump from Slack straight to a call in Skype for Business, Webex or Zoom -- no more switching apps to find that invitation or clicking through the Outlook notify hoping the call organizer has included dial-in information.
Connect OneDrive to Slack
Google Drive has been one of the Slack app integrations for a while; Microsoft's cloud-based storage repository now joins the party. Once the OneDrive app has been integrated into a Slack workspace, users in Slack channels can click the plus sign on their messaging bar, select OneDrive among the file-sharing options, then select the file they wish to share.
Once uploaded, members in a Slack workspace's channel can preview the files; the file content is also indexed and searchable. On a practical level, this means that users can scroll through full PowerPoint presentations, Excel worksheets and Word documents in Slack without having to download the files.
“One of the things we do best at Slack is say, ‘It doesn't matter were your files are, we can work with all of them,'” Powers said.
A Slack Add-In for Outlook Inbox
Once a user has installed the add-in in Outlook -- note that enterprise security admins may have disabled this feature to keep users from inadvertently installing malware -- they will be able forward an email from their Outlook inbox directly into any of their Slack channels or a direct message to a fellow Slack user. This can allow people to discuss the email without subjecting people to a bloated email chain. As a bonus -- because the user has to select the intended audience, there's one more safeguard between them and accidentally forwarding a message to the wrong person.