How do you manage a distributed workforce? That's the question Slack has been focusing on, and the circumstances of the past year have added more urgency to finding an answer.
At Slack Frontiers, a virtual event dedicated to demonstrating the next steps the collaborative workspace platform will take, the answer to managing a distributed workforce is three-pronged: Connect your people, connect your partners and connect your systems. The company's announcements at its Slack Frontiers event fell into those categories.
Connect Your People
"We're building tools around engaging in open culture," said Jaime DeLanghe, director of product management for Search and Discovery at Slack. The first tool the company is rolling out is a product of its industry consortium, the Future Forum: A quarterly Remote Employee Index.
The first Remote Employee Index was released today and found after surveying 9032 knowledge workers that a majority (72%) want a hybrid model of in-office and remote work. The index also gauges employee sentiment on productivity, work-life balance and overall satisfaction.
Connect Your Partners
The company is building out its customers' abilities to use Slack as a secure communication space with contractors and customers. The two most notable developments from Slack Frontiers 2020 are Slack Connect DMs, which will let partners send each other DMs. Slack says the feature allows users to "easily collaborate with any external partner on Slack; simply send an invitation to a trusted collaborator and begin direct messaging once they accept."
The second development aimed at boosting communications is verified organizations: "Certain organizations will be eligible to signal their authenticity with a checkmark – ensuing you're working with trusted partners." A little window shows that the organization has been labeled a "trusted partner" by Slack and the company has verified an organization’s identity, confirming the organization’s name and public URL (i.e. website) is correct. (In the future, Slack will work with a third-party vendor to automate and verify that this information is correct.)
Both features are coming soon.
Connect Your Systems
Slack also announced at Slack Frontiers that it's adding some benefits that IT pros responsible for supporting their service will appreciate. The three that are most relevant are below.
Socket mode: Developers can send events and interactivity without leaving a closed environment, i.e. behind a firewall. This helps ease security concerns.
Organization-wide deployment: Admins will be able install in-Slack apps across all workspaces in their organization with a few clicks – they no longer have to go channel by channel or group by group. This streamlines both app rollout and administration.
Enterprise-ready app certification: The company will be offering a service where they assess a vendor's app for fitness in the enterprise – does it comply with or enforce regulatory policy? Does it have enterprise-level security? Does it have enterprise-level support. Once the app is vetted, it's listed in Slack's app directory as enterprise-certified by the company. Within the program, developers will also be required to comply with requirements around yearly penetration tests and developer verification.
Getting an app in the enterprise-ready directory isn't a one-and-done deal: Each time an app directory developer makes changes to their app, they're required to resubmit the app for review. The example Slack gave: If a developer adds new functionality that requests access to additional Slack data, the app directory team will review and test the app before allowing the developer to publish it. Once the app is published, customers with app approvals turned on will also have the opportunity to approve or deny the app's request for additional permissions.
Slack is also expanding its low-code/no-code option for building workflows within its workspace environment. A Slack workflow can integrate external apps and processes and allow people to trigger the workflow if the app is part of the customer's tech ecosystem. For example, if someone were on-boarding a new employee, they could create a workflow that directed the new hire to fill out a training request, then route that request to the proper in-house trainer. The company now has connectors for workflows in Zapier, Datadog and Polly.
Slack also has teamed up with DocuSign. DocuSign users can now remain in Slack while doing DocuSign tasks like sending envelopes, using templates and receiving notifications from DocuSign.