Following testing of the beta version which came out last summer, Tiny Speck recently announced the launch of Slack, a collaborative platform that pulls together task management, information and messaging applications.
Internal communication and information management areserious issues for companies of all sizes. Employees have to process enormous quantities of information and they use a wide range of services such as Yammer, Hipchat, Asana and Basecamp to do so. However, these tools provide information via different IT platforms and the job of maintaining all these channels can therefore become just as time-consuming for an employee as if s/he did not use any of them. A number of startups are therefore looking to find solutions for centralizing and sorting all this various data and functionality. Last year Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield set up a company called Tiny Speck, which has developed Slack, a collaborative platform that enables company employees and other users to draw together in one place tasks, links and conversations from many other applications, to track the progress of various projects in a less fragmented way and so reduce email overload. In February the company announced the worldwide launch of Slack. This came after a successful, limited beta run that kicked off in August 2013, when the startup registered 8,000 customers in twenty-four hours. Firms taking part in the beta testing stated that they had succeeded in hugely reducing their email dependency.
Centralization and interoperability
The Slack service enables users to bring together on a single platform messages and files from around thirty different sources, including Twitter, DropBox, Google Drive, Asana, GitHub, Zendesk, and Mail Chimp as well as from various instant messaging services. It integrates announcements, alerts, follow-up and other data in a communication flow into the place and at the time when it is most needed. Slack enables users to share information – both trivial and vital – by creating dedicated ‘channels’ and ‘groups’. Teams can create open ‘channels’ for specific projects, groups and topics, and post personalized notifications. You can also track work in progress on an activity board.Team members can turn to Slack on a daily basis to help them use a variety of tools to work on projects together smoothly. Slack also has a search function, a document download facility and an ‘ambient awareness’ tool showing what other colleagues are doing. The system analyses all the activities going on and provides reports with user statistics. Slack is free-of-charge for ‘small users’, and there are paid versions at $8 or $15 a month per user, depending on storage needs.
Coping with the profusion of communication channels
Slack’s solution for managing content and centralizing online work tools has already been found to meet the needs of companies with a staff of between five and five hundred employees, including pick-up from such non-tech organizations as a building materials company, a US church, and a working group inside the UK government. Although Slack has been designed mainly for employees who use mobile devices at work, mobile currently only forms a small part of the traffic on the app. Stewart Butterfield’s aim in creating Slack is to address the problem of proliferating communication channels by pulling together multiple applications and rationalizing the different uses of digital and information sources. Meanwhile several other startups are also looking to help users of different online tools to rationalize their usage by providing interoperability solutions between a range of IT platforms. Companies such as Paris-based Jolidrive, which pulls together various Cloud services on to one interface; Boxcar – also based in Paris – which brings together notifications from different apps into one place; and Californian firm Entefy, which centralizes different communication channels – text, email, video, social networks, etc. By next year Tiny Speck expects to have set up a pricing schedule for additional services such as functionality enabling client access to archived information, administrative control and messaging configuration.