Slack blanks the channel: no foreseeable plans to engage

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Slack blanks the channel: no foreseeable plans to engage

At its recent Ignite conference, Microsoft went out of its way to say that new adoption of its Teams collaboration tool had out-paced adoption of Slack.

That Microsoft let this be known is notable because it shows that Microsoft has decided it wants in on the messaging-driven collaboration market that Slack pioneered.

Microsoft is using its usual playbook to get Teams moving: it’s integrating with its portfolio, making sure licences are nicely-bundled and making sure its channel is ready to take Teams far and wide into end-customer organisations of every shape and size.

And Slack? It has zero plans to build a channel or engage with it for the foreseeable future.

I learned this yesterday when meeting the company’s Ilan Frank, global director of product for enterprise, and head of growth for APAC Arturo Arrarte.

The latter exec suggested that system integrators might one day be useful to Slack, and certainly had proven useful to Salesforce. But Arrate and Frank both felt that Slack had so much end-customer demand they didn't need outside help.

Slack, however, is making sure it has the people who can impart advanced Slack skills to customers to help them get the most from the platform. The company is also engaging with enterprise ISVs to make sure their wares integrate well with Slack.

But that’s it.

The company’s even turning its back on a ready-made channel it just acquired when it bought Atlassian’s HipChat. When I asked Arrate what happens to those organisations he said they’ll still be free to resell Atlassian products.

Maybe Slack will do fine with this strategy. And maybe Slack has to use this strategy: as a startup it only has so many resources and building a channel ain’t cheap and can bring a reduction in margins.

But Slack’s principal foe – Microsoft – is a channel master and has already used it to achieve faster growth than Slack is experiencing today.

CRN imagines plenty of channel players wouldn’t mind a chance to sell and consult around Slack. But by the time they get the chance to do so, the company could be an also-ran.

One way Slack is trying to avoid that fate is with the introduction of enterprise key management, a technology that will let users in regulated industries bring their own encryption keys to the product to give them greater confidence in its security and integrity.

The company announced its intention to add the technology in September, and yesterday talked it up as its Next Big Thing ahead of a formal debut late in 2018. To be followed, presumably, by more demand for direct sales.

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