What Slack Is Doing to Connect With More Businesses

May 22, 2018, 4:30 PM UTC

Slack is taking another step to be the de-facto way for employees to communicate with each other.

The business chat service debuted on Tuesday a feature that lets corporate apps built to work with Slack capable of doing more tasks within Slack. The goal is to reduce the need of users to constantly open multiple corporate apps during work and instead conduct much of their work through Slack.

For instance, customers that use workplace software company Asana’s tools to manage their projects can now create and assign tasks inside Slack without having to open the actual Asana project management app.

Slack is unveiling the new feature with a handful of workplace software partners like Asana, Atlassian, and Zendesk, along with marketing technology company Hubspot. All of these companies have used the feature, called “actions,” to more deeply incorporate some of their software tools into Slack’s chat app.

Bradley Armstrong, Slack’s head of business partnerships, explained during a press briefing that one way Slack intends to grow its business is by making its chat app more compatible with other workplace software tools. If more third-party corporate apps hook into Slack, “the more powerful Slack becomes,” Armstrong said.

Slack chief product officer April Underwood said that Slack has no intention of creating certain services, like software to track sales leads. The company does not want to build services that are not central to its core workplace messaging technology.

But, the more that companies integrate their workplace tools within Slack, the company gains additional features that it didn’t have to spend money and resources building itself.

Still, companies like Atlassian and Asana that integrate deeply with Slack, risk becoming merely “features” of Slack if their users decide to only use their services within Slack as opposed to their own respective apps. Underwood disagreed with that notion and said that the new actions tool isn’t intended to downplay the importance of other company’s workplace software tools.

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She said that the tool is intended to allow for “short, bite-sized tasks” and is not intended to replace the need to open other business apps. For instance, while a manager can approve an employee expense report within Slack, human resource staff will still need to access the actual expense software app for more in-depth information that is unavailable within Slack.

Although Slack is growing quickly, it’s still a baby when compared to larger competitors like Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) that can afford to spend lots of money building and selling multiple workplace tools.

Slack is trying to court more companies and developers to improve its basic chat app with more functions to better compete against larger rivals that sell a wider variety of workplace tools.

In the case that a company like Atlassian or Zendesk gets acquired by a larger company, Underwood said that wouldn’t impact the integrations these companies made with Slack. Even if one of these companies were to be acquired by Microsoft or a similar corporate giant, Underwood believes that these larger companies understand the need for competing tools to work with each other, because that’s what customers demand.

“This is the way that the world is going,” Underwood said. “Companies want to be able to choose tools, they want great tools for every job they need to do, and they want those tools to work together.”

“No matter what the geopolitical landscape is of the tech industry, that is where things are going,” she added.

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