slack themed coasters
If Slack was looking to stir up some controversy by saying its new Shared Channels would put an end to email, it succeeded PHOTO: Giorgio Minguzzi

Earlier this week, Slack announced the release of Shared Channels.

Shared Channels, according to a blog announcing the release, is a space in Slack where you can work with teams inside and outside the organization.

“Shared Channels are a new kind of channel that connects two separate organizations, creating a common space for both sides to make use of Slack’s communication features and platform integrations when working together,” the company stated in the blog.

Would You Like Some Controversy With Your Product Release?

The product release created a considerable amount of interest. However, like many of the San Francisco-based company's announcements, it wasn’t without drama.

Slack promised the solution meant, “Goodbye to email for work with external vendors, partners, clients and more.”

Introducing controversy isn't exactly a new tactic for Slack. For example, when Microsoft announced the release of its Teams collaboration solution, Slack took out a full page ad in the New York Times to explain why it believed its offering was better.

It didn't damage Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft at all, but it did get Slack a lot of attention.

Let's just state the obvious: it seems unlikely Shared Channels will replace work email. When the company launched its core solution in August 2013 Slack management claimed that it, too, would replace email.

Seven years later, and Outlook and Gmail seem to be doing just fine.

But one thing is sure, if Slack was looking to get some attention with its latest release, it succeeded. Below are reactions to Slack Channels from those in the industry.

Are Slack Channels a Game Changer?

Greg Arnette: Interoperability Is the Name of the Game

Greg Arnette, founder and CTO of Waltham, Mass.-based cloud-based email archiving and analytics platform Sonian, noted a solution like Shared Channels has been high on the wish list of many users since early on.

“Although this Shared Channels isn’t revolutionary for Slack, it is meeting a long-requested need from users to be able to more effectively communicate between companies outside of email,” he told CMSWire.

“Creative teams and project-based businesses will especially benefit from this new feature, as they’ll be able to live in Slack instead of relying on email for inter-company projects. However, if companies have different communications policies and routines, it may cause roadblocks in determining which one should be enforced for a shared channel between two different organizations.”

He added that leaving the new features aside, the rise of systems like Atlassian Stride and Microsoft Teams combined with the need to connect across the enterprise, will force enterprises to link disparate systems.

“As Slack is rising, so these 'walled gardens' will be compelled to interoperate with each other, which is ironic since interoperability has been the reason email endures over the years despite many people complaining about email inefficiencies,” he said.

Chris Rothstein: Potentially Broad-Reaching Impacts

This is also what Chris Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of San Francisco-based Groove sees as the payoff.

“The new feature has the potential to impact all the major communication and collaboration tools. If more companies continue to adopt Slack, the other major players such as Google Hangouts and Facebook Workspace will adjust their models accordingly,” he said.

“Ultimately, Slack has the potential to change the way companies communicate with each other which would impact all tools with the same business model.”

Emily Wiese: Streamlining Communications

For day-to-day team communication, Shared Channels will simplify the communication process in enterprises. Emily Wiese is VP of Digital Skills at Nashua, N.H-based Skillsoft. She says Shared Channels will make inter-organizational communication easier.

“Slack’s new feature helps to put another layer on how teams are engaged on a project within an organization. Instead of creating a new channel, users will be able to bring teams together in a single discussion,” she said.

“This will help streamline communication across separate organizations, making workspaces accessible to a team relevant to that project. Slack’s new shared channel feature also helps the company offer more enterprise-level solutions to its customers.”

Are Slack Channels an Email Killer?

David Lavenda: No, No and No Again

Even still, neither the new addition, nor Slack itself is going to replace email, and its not just a question of opinion. David Lavenda, VP of Product Strategy and co-founder of Boston-based harmon.ie said there are practical reasons why it never will.

“Say goodbye to email? Poppycock. Get real. Slack isn’t going to replace email. Why not? Here are just three of many reasons,” he told CMSWire.

“Firstly, Slack is not a standard like email: you need to install and use Slack to realize their vision for the end of days. All your external vendor, partners, clients and ‘more’ will need to abandon email for Slack. Yeah right.

“Secondly, Slack, like other chat products, just doesn’t scale. When more than a certain number of parties join the conversation or the thread runs too long, people get frustrated and quit. This has been borne out by research looking at chat groups. Slack isn’t solving this problem.

“Thirdly, Slack is ‘one more place to go’ to see information. Even with all their integrations, all you get is an enterprise 'Twitter feed.' Good luck trying to make sense out of that.”

He admits that there will eventually be a technology to replace email, and Slack-like products may be part of that equation, but it’s there yet, and it won’t happen until chat becomes a standard.

Bradley Shaw: A Reduction, But No Replacement

Bradley Shaw, an SEO consultant working out of Austin agrees. He said Slack may not replace email, but it is still a very useful workplace tool.

"Slack has always provided a way of bringing outside contacts into a Slack channel through individual invitations,” he said.

“Slack claimed it would do away with the need for work emails when it first launched and that hasn't happened. It seems unlikely Channels will be the end of email or make a significant impact. The new feature will certainly cut down on email between companies that share channels, but what percentage of businesses use Slack and what percentage will adopt this feature. Email is so engrained into our daily workflows.”

Ian McClarty: 'A Game Changer'

So what exactly was Slack trying to do with Shared Channels? Clearly it was about communication, but was it about dispensing with email? Ian McClarty, president of Phoenix-based PhoenixNAP Global IT Services says it was all about reducing the amount of messaging needed to get work done.

“Teams of vendors, clients and partners are now able to communicate and collaborate within Slack, instead of inviting specific individuals to be guest accounts within one company’s Slack or using other tools like email,” he said.

“The new feature will reduce email communication between companies that share channels, just as Slack has cut down on internal email. My inbox is nearly 100 percent free of messages from my colleagues, as we rely on Slack. This is a game changer."

Putting Shared Channels to Work

Adam Pearce: Productivity Gains as Long as People Use It

Adam Pearce is co-founder and marketing director of Evesham, UK-based Blend Commerce. He says the new feature will improve their productivity, but argues the key question is user buy in.

Paula Dunne: An Efficiency Booster

Paula Dunne is co-founder and president of Silicon Valley, Calif.-based Contos Dunne Communications, which specializes in the deployment of emerging technologies such as big data and analytics, cloud and mobile.

“Slack’s shared channel feature does a fantastic job of enabling myself, my employees and our international partners (colleagues at partnering firms and our shared clients) to collaborate,” she said.

“We share vital information in real-time; bypass time zone differences and the difficulties they can introduce and track what we need done. The end result is that we can get our job done with greater efficiency."

Patric Palm: A Reflection of the Enterprise's Evolution

As a final thought, and looking at the bigger picture,  Patric Palm, CEO and founder of Favro, a Swedish company with US headquarters in San Francisco, points out that Slack and its ongoing development shows a deep understand of the way the enterprise is evolving, which in turn is impacting on buyers are looking at Slack. Ultimately, he things it could eventually do away with email. Palm added:

“Slack’s new shared channel feature is super significant for two reasons. The first reason is that this new feature shows that Slack understands how a modern enterprise works. The modern enterprise works across multiple internal and external teams on a daily basis. So, not only is Slack killing internal email, it is now killing external email as well,” Palm said.

“Secondly, this new feature will create a shift in the buyer’s perspective. Now that external teams can communicate with one another via Slack, each one of these external teams and subdivisions will need to invest in the tool in order to collaborate. That said, this new feature has created several new buying units for itself.”

The only consensus appears to be that Slack — and other networking solutions like it — are and will continue to disrupt the way we work.