​Slack: Agility means more than just a capital 'A'

In launching features in direct response to customers, Slack is showing it is eating its own dog food when it comes to what it means to be agile.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

With phrases like digital transformation and agile being flung around as meaningless catchphrases, Slack believes the way to survive is to adapt to the needs of customers and actually do the things the buzzwords are meant to describe.

Speaking with ZDNet while on the Gold Coast for Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Ilan Frank, who leads product strategy and direction for the enterprise product at Slack, explained how the word agility gets thrown around more than it should under a definition of what it isn't.

"One of the things that we're seeing specifically is that a lot of times companies think about that only in terms of technology and how agile their developers are, or how agile their IT or DevOps is and how responsive they could be," Frank explained.

"They should be thinking about that much more broadly and that organisational agility means much more than just agile with a capital A and developing software."

According to Frank, agility is really about the responsiveness, the speed, and the trajectory in which organisations can change.

"Change directions rapidly and with response to the changing direction of the market, competitors, their employee base, hiring practices -- really everything," he continued.

Sharing an example, Frank detailed how Target in the United States is using Slack for hiring.

"They set up a channel for every single candidate for corporate and they invite the candidate in as a guest into the channel and then they can basically work with that person throughout the interview process, sharing homework if they have to, interview questions, interview schedules, and even discussions about the hiring packet, the offer," he said.

"That allows them to accelerate that process of interviewing. It also allows them to basically show off the fact that they are a technology-first company, that they are an agile company, they are responsive."

Slack started its life as a place for a team of 40 that were building a game; the business model was basically about taking that and giving it to other teams of 40.

Frank said when he started with Slack about three years ago, the company was getting a lot of push from customers to address a larger collaboration need.

"Allowing companies not only to have team-based collaboration, but to have announcements and top-down information -- and other ways to improve culture, as well as basically have a team that's then connected to all the other teams," he explained.

"If you look at enterprise key management that we're building -- that is a direct response to customer demands. This is not [because] we just like encryption and want to build encryption tools. As we're getting into larger organisations and into industries like banking and healthcare, professional services, the CIOs and CSOs of those organisations came to us and said: 'I'd like to serve the needs of our employees asking for Slack, but we need you first to give us this feature before you pass our security audit and allow us to deploy'."

Disclosure: Asha Barbaschow travelled to Gartner Symposium/ITxpo as a guest of Gartner.

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