Slack rolls out new features aimed at a digital-first way of working

3 weeks ago 7
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The communication company's Huddles, Atlas and Scheduled Send were detailed during a briefing Wednesday.

Slack screen

Image: Slack

Slack unveiled a series of features Wednesday designed for a digital-first way of working. During a briefing that included a Q&A with the president of 1-800-Flowers Amit Shah, the company announced:

  • Slack Huddles—described as a "lightweight," audio-first way of communicating, by Chief Product Officer Tamar Yehoshua. Huddles is designed to let users create and share video, voice and screen recordings more easily. Users can record and upload short videos or voice clips with screen sharing that others can watch and respond to either synchronously or asynchronously.

    Users can create "spontaneous channels for chatting," Yehoshua said. Up to 50 people can participate in Huddles, which will begin rolling out to customers Wednesday.

  • Slack Atlas—an enterprise directory to connect to colleagues. Slack Atlas enhances profiles with dynamic information that includes a company's organizational structure, employee start dates and custom fields. It integrates with systems including Workday, so profile data automatically populates and is always up to date. 

    Slack Atlas will broadly launch in 2021.

  • Scheduled Send—the ability to schedule when a user wants to send messages. Instead of having daily meetings, Scheduled Send is designed to let someone record their ideas and contribute to the conversation. When a recording is shared in Slack, anyone can watch on their own time.

Recordings are archived with transcriptions that can be searched. Scheduled Send will launch in the coming months, Yehoshua said.

The world has moved from a model where digital supplements the in-person experience to "in-person now supplementing digital,'' said Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. "Ideally, we'll get to a place where we transcend location."

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Instead of businesses pondering how many days people should work in the office, they should be asking whether they have put in place adequate digital tools to enable digital work, Butterfield said.

He also suggested that people think in terms of how the workforce is going to evolve now, rather than what is going to play out in the future. "If you start from that, life gets better," Butterfield said.

He stressed that "Slack is a lover, not a fighter—we're not trying to kill email," and referred to it as the "cockroach of the internet" that will be around for many years to come.

The company has adopted three principles for digital-first work: Giving people the flexibility to do their best work, inclusivity to ensure equitable access to opportunity and build inclusive teams and connecting with transparent communication channels to fuel collaboration regardless of time zones.

During a Q&A following the features announcements, Shah, of 1-800-Flowers, said Slack enabled the company to "bring all stakeholders together on a flexible, consistent platform to solve problems and build a sense of community" during the pandemic.

For example, every Sunday, company officials sent out an "open-ended letter to further the idea of communicating and the ability to interact with folks as the pandemic progressed. That sense of real touchpoints and leaning in and taking charge of a very difficult set of circumstances actually created deeper, more meaningful communications," Shah said.

Slack was also used by the company to maintain contact with suppliers and growers nationally and internationally, as well as clients and employees, he said.

Shah was also asked by moderator Nadia Rawlinson, chief people officer at Slack, about the vision he has for the future of work. Continued engagement will be emphasized "not just in an organizational context" but in "acknowledging important life events or [engaging] with a coworker who may have suffered a loss." This, Shah said, will continue to create "meaningful communications. Catalyzing engagement and communicating even deeper … will create a much deeper connection among us and collectively, as a society."

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