Slack launches Enterprise Grid, introduces intelligent search features

Slack has built a product to cater to the administrative, security, and compliance needs of organisations with 500 to 500,000 staff.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

Slack has launched Slack Enterprise Grid, a new platform built around the unique needs of large, complex organisations with between 500 and 500,000 staff. The company has also announced new search, learning, and intelligence features powered by machine learning that will allow Slack to behave more like a digital assistant.

Built on top of its team communications platform, Enterprise Grid provides centralised administrative controls and security integrations to ensure CIOs and other top-level executives feel comfortable deploying the platform across their organisations, including those in heavily-regulated industries such as finance and health.

On Enterprise Grid, administrators are able to build unlimited, interconnected "workspaces" around the structure of their organisation. Workspaces can be categorised by department, team, location, project, or anything else, and members have a dedicated place to access the people, information, and applications relevant to their projects. Conversation channels can also span multiple workspaces, allowing for easier collaboration across business units.

Image: Slack

For individual users, these workspaces deliver a similar experience to what they're accustomed to -- conversation channels, threaded messaging, and voice and video calling. But at an organisational level, administrators are able to manage permissions and configure security features like data retention on a per-workspace basis.

Enterprise Grid supports integrations with data loss prevention and e-discovery providers such as Palo Alto Networks, Bloomberg Vault, Skyhigh, Netskope, and Relativity by kCura.

"No matter what you use to get your work done, Slack is that central command system where you have access to all the plugins you need in addition to the communication you have with your team," Noah Weiss, head of Search, Learning, and Intelligence at Slack, told ZDNet.

Slack has achieved compliance with HIPAA and FINRA obligations and standards, giving the heavily-regulated health and finance industries the ability to use the platform.

Among Slack's early Enterprise Grid customers include IBM, Capital One, and PayPal, which have about 30,000, 12,000, and 10,000 staff respectively.

In addition to existing partnerships with Salesforce, IBM, and Google, Slack has secured a partnership with SAP that will see the enterprise solutions provider build Slack bots for its 345,000 enterprise customers.

SAP has also launched a Slack plugin for SAP Web IDE that will allow its 2.5 million-strong developer community to consume selected Slack channels within Web IDE and have real-time conversations while working on projects. The plugin enables a "push" into the Hana Cloud Platform Git via Web IDE to generate events into a specified Slack channel. Additionally, a new SAP SuccessFactors Slack bot will let employees conduct HR processes within the Slack application.

Slack is also looking to tackle enterprise information overload with new search, learning, and intelligence features. One of the features is "universal search", which will give users instant answers to questions powered by the collective knowledge of their organisation. The answer might be relevant messages, internal experts, channels, files, or links.

"It sounds like magic, but there is so much intense usage of Slack -- people are in it more than two hours a day. It's not just a place where communication happens, but where all work happens with all these platform integrations that are flowing through," said Weiss. "We just have this tremendously unique opportunity to take this collective knowledge that's generated and captured in Slack and make it something that's searchable in a really powerful way."

Other key machine learning-powered features include "channel highlights" and "daily briefings".

The former will visually highlight important messages within and across channels for users looking to quickly catch up on what they've missed; and the latter provides a bird's eye view of the top 10 most important messages to read in the morning or at the end of the day.

"We're trying to help make Slack feel like it's a personalised chief of staff for every person in an organisation that can help people focus on what's most important first and catch up quickly when they fall behind," Weiss said.

When asked about how importance is measured, Weiss said that behind the scenes, Slack has been building the "work graph", which is a representation of people, channels, and topics and how they're all interconnected.

"What we're doing is basically building a model to predict the messages that you're most likely going to want to interact with -- based on things like who are the people you care most about within your company. The predictions are powered by where you sit in that work graph, so it's personalised to you and also by all the interactions that happen across your company," Weiss said.

"The work graph that we built to highlight key messages is also one of the key components of how we build more personalised search rankings. If you search for something like Q4 goals, you'll see the goals for your local team instead of goals for a team that's in a different country."

Slack has surpassed 5 million daily active users, including 1.5 million paid users.

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