Asana, Hall, Jive, HipChat, Slack and Sqwiggle. It sounds like a group of superheroes that are going to save the world but in fact, it’s a band of new messaging startups – most from San Francisco – aiming to be the ‘go to’ product for your team to work more effectively.
These startups are making email look dated, which it is. These days, our inboxes are full of messages that really aren’t that important.
Many of these messaging products are free at least for the first versions but that’s about where the similarity ends. Right now, if you were doing a short list of these newcomers, then it’s likely that HipChat or Slack would be on that list.
Slack vs HipChat
HipChat was created by Australian firm Atlassian and has a simple interface with reportedly good customer service. But the market seems to be backing Slack, which has 750,000 active users and growing. It is clearly a market favourite with a staggering market valuation of $2.8 billion. Note that Atlassian, with a full suite of products, is valued at $3.3 billion.
Slack is essentially a group messaging tool that has memory which is searchable. All the conversations are organised into different channels for public versus private and group discussions.
This is a great example of success coming from failure – in this case an online game, Glitch that was abandoned and messaging became the focus.
What makes Slack different is that is not just a simple chat tool. At first glance it provides for synchronous messaging across all your devices, including the Apple Watch. But it’s much more than that, and allows you to stay within Slack to read all messages, alerts, tweets etc.
Slack integrates your messages and has strong integration capability with other services such as Google Drive, Hangouts, Dropbox and Github. It also allows users to create a searchable virtual archive service.
These integration and archiving capabilities are where it stands out from other platforms. If you receive tweets, emails or a hangout from within Slack, you don’t need to jump in and out of different applications.
The product also has an RTM API, which provides real time event updates on everything that occurs both from servers and team members.
Improve customer experience, social media listening
It’s frustrating when you have had a poor customer experience and then you tweet or share this on social media. Afterwards you receive a slow response or worse, no response at all.
Products like Slack are not built for social media monitoring but they allow for a smart integration when you mention a product or company name.
For large enterprises that receive volumes of tweets, this is where a product such as Slack can help to prioritise and share this alert in the appropriate forum and team.
That’s where the listening and responding comes into play. And it’s important to know the history of any prior dialogue, which is where Slack’s archive feature is useful.
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Although Slack has made some inroads with a great product, it hasn’t quite won the race yet.
Microsoft is not going to give up this battle easily and is the corporate incumbent with their customers already using Lync, Yammer and Skype. Google for Work will also be wanting to play in this space and although the search giant failed with Google Wave, I would expect the company to be in the game.
Facebook for Work is also one to watch.This is being tested, but it is not that easy to get over the name – which I would believe doesn’t belong in the corporate world.
Finally, a dark horse would be have to be LinkedIn, a company with aspirations for taking its current platform to a different level and inside the building so to speak.
Personally, I would vote for Microsoft, mainly because it has Office 365, Yammer and SKYPE for Business in its stable.
So where do these products fit in your roadmap? Tools such as Slack can help improve customer experience. Indeed, they can be superheros inside your business.
But products like Slack are currently being used heavily by software coders and developers and not by large enterprises so perhaps they don’t yet fit into your corporate IT strategy.
Information overload is a big issue and these products don’t address the root cause of the problem – humans need to interact but the sheer number of channels that are at their disposal means that decisions are possibly being made without the right information.
I suggest that organisations evaluate how their existing tools can operate in the same manner as these new entrants. But I’m not being ‘slack’, I just want that same integration between tools for some parts of my business. I’m just not sure it is needed everywhere.
For me, when the role these tools play is based on knowledge and the need for collaborative intelligence – then they make more sense. Conversely, if these tools play a 'widget processing' role, they will perhaps create more distraction than value.
David Gee is the former CIO of CUA where he recently completed a core banking transformation. He has more than 18 years' experience as a CIO, and was also previously director at KPMG Consulting. Connect with David on LinkedIn.