If you can't lick 'em, join 'em. And that is exactly what Slack is doing.
In the face of slowing year-on year growth (from an unprecedented 568 percent growth in daily active users in October 2015 to 135 percent in October 2016 according to Quartz) and new competition from Workplace by Facebook and Microsoft Teams, the team chat app provider announced yesterday it was joining forces with Google.
The companies announced via separate blog posts that the partnership would strengthen their relationship and increase their mutual product and engineering efforts to deliver "a suite of deep integrations."
Slack and Google Integrations: 'Just the Start'
While Google and Slack have already enjoyed some shared success —"millions of Google Drive files are shared in Slack each month," as the Slack website notes — the companies now want to offer their mutual customers more.
Here is what "more" will look like according to Slack's blog post:
A Google Drive Bot
Right now, if you want to make comments on or request access to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, email is your communications channel. But not for long for Slack users.
Google is building a bot that will use message buttons to enable you to approve, reject and settle comments directly from Slack, or by opening up Google Docs to resolve issues there.
Instant Permission Checks
Sharing files at work is serious business because not everyone has permission to see everything.
Soon when you share a file with your team in a Slack channel, Slack will check to ensure your teammates have the proper permissions to access and view the file. If not, the system will automatically send an alert to review your sharing settings.
Preview and Notifications
Soon Slack users will be able to preview Google Drive content without leaving the app and receive notification when content changes.
Slack Channels Connected to Team Drives
Google's Team Drives are set to become broadly available next year. Once that happens, content uploaded to the associated Slack channel will be automatically backed up to a Team Drive, and Team Drive updates will be shared in Slack.
Slack also plans to offer IT administrators an option to designate the Team Drive as the storage default for files shared in Slack.
Slack Provisioning from G Suite
While end users (sort of) get to choose which tools they use at work, IT grants permission and pays the vendors, so making IT's job easy is smart. G Suite administrators will soon be able to provision Slack with a few clicks in the G Suite admin console.
Google has, up until recently, had mixed success in its push into the enterprise. All of that began to change when the company hired former VMware CEO Diane Greene to lead its Cloud business. While we have yet to notice much of an impact on G Suite, it will be interesting to see if it now gets a lift from Slack.
Will the partnership pose a threat to Office 365?
Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky doesn't think so.
"Office365 will keep its own customers happier (with Microsoft Teams), as it creates a more seamless experience across Skype, Files, Planner, OneNote ...." he told CMSWire.
But Workplace by Facebook, especially once it starts providing integrations with productivity solutions, could prove problematic for Slack, according to Lepofsky.
"Workplace has more large customers at this early stage in its life than any other social platform I've seen. They have dozens of 10,000 or larger user deployments,"he said.
How Far Will the Slack-Google Partnership Go?
Digital Clarity analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe also isn't sure that the partnership will keep Workplace at bay, but he did offer this: "It's a good move for Slack," he said.
"The Google enterprise tools are really pretty good, but haven't been able to unseat Microsoft in any meaningful way. Slack has a huge footprint but folks tend to hop in and out of it. Integrating with the Google apps has the potential to make it a true digital workplace rather than just a hip collaboration tool,"he said, noting that, "of course a strategic partnership may be the first step toward Google acquiring the firm."
Still Something Missing
The Future of Work has yet to be delivered, according to Lepofsky, who didn't mince words driving his point home.
"Think about the number of tools that are part of the employee toolset: Email, calendar, contacts, chat, blogs, wikis, social networks, tasks, file sharing, web conferencing, note taking, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, maps, expense reporting, flight bookings and on and on and on and on. The problem is each of these things are discrete tools. They do not provide a seamless experience based around specific actions, or the purpose of a specific thing you're trying to accomplish. They act alone. Integration can help place them into a common UI, but they retain no context of each other. Our tools don't work as well as the should. Incremental change is not enough. Moving to mobile or the cloud is not enough. We need a complete radical rethink of our productivity and collaboration tools."
The question of this moment is, who will deliver that?