How we collaborate, communicate, and do business is vastly different from what it was two years ago. Every industry needs to adapt to the digitally transformed environments, with each line of business (LOB) and individual needing to understand what digital workflows work best for them. Video calls and meetings have adapted to the hybrid world and become more inclusive to those working in hybrid workflows.
The most interesting aspect of it is that technology has made communication and collaboration equal in terms of productivity to the legacy way of communication and collaboration and in other ways, advantageous. The question then becomes, for collaboration software like Slack, is how to implement features to help make teams and individuals more collaborative without compromising what has already been established? At Slack Frontiers 2022, Slack is addressing this question one way with new features in Slack Huddles.
Slack Huddles is unique within the video call solution space
Salesforce officially acquired Slack around this time last year; in some ways, it was risky, and time will tell if it was a win-win for Slack and Salesforce. Whether you look at Microsoft, Google, Oracle, or Salesforce, full stacks are becoming increasingly important.
Salesforce wanted an integrated solution to address hybrid work's collaboration and communication challenges. It also needed the data to feed its other apps and increase intelligence. Slack received a large enterprise to build it up into a competitive communication platform with Microsoft Teams and Google Workspace.
Within the past year of Slack being under the provisions of Salesforce, it has tried to address hybrid work with Slack Huddles uniquely.
Slack Huddles is Slack's quick and informal medium of communication that replaces the informal walk to a colleague's desk or huddle near the water cooler. Slack Huddles is unique in that, on the one hand, it seems like a medium to slackoff, yet in the same instance, those informal discussions and everyday talks have great benefits that you cannot get from a Zoom call or a Google Meet. Slack Huddles encourage informal meetings, which is a breeding ground for new ideas and an exchange of ideas.
Meetings are great for productivity but being able to express creativity through communication creates organic growth within a team. Informal conversations are also great for the health and well-being of teams. Working from home has many pros, but one of the cons is that it can be lonely. Users of Slack seem to agree with me as well, as the company says Huddles have become the fastest-adopted feature in Slack's history, with millions of people using it every week. Slack's goal with Huddles is to maintain the lightweight and unintrusive feel while adding new capabilities for teams to fuel the flame collaboration that comes from informal huddles.
Slack Huddles new features
Slack Huddles is adopting lightweight video support for up to 12 users on-screen at a time. Video supports blurred background and allows for up to two users to share their screen at once. Slack also keeps to its audio-first nature by keeping the video off by default.
I like that Slack is not turning Huddles into something it is not. Huddles is a communication and collaboration feature within Slack, but I do not see Huddles as something that directly competes with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet. I believe Slack is likely heading in the right direction by maintaining its informal nature and keeping to what its good at. By keeping the video off by default, Slack keeps Huddles in its lightweight form and allows users to take it further with a deeper level of collaboration and communication with video and screen share. I believe the new video and screen share features could make Huddles more of a common medium of communication within Slack.
Slack is also making Huddles more interactive with other parts of Slack. Huddles calls can now reference conversation history and resources with Huddles message threads that save to a new thread. Huddles users can also create and name topics to the huddle, change backgrounds, and add reactions all of which are similar to a Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet call. I am interested to see how well these features work within an informal setting like Huddles. Slack reports that each Huddles call lasts, on average, about 10 minutes, and by creating interactive features to personalize a call, Slack is encouraging longer Huddles calls.
I believe Slack is taking Huddles in the right direction by maintaining its informal nature while introducing features that spur collaboration and fuel the flames of creativity. Both of those are hard to do, and we understand that there are aspects of the legacy office workflow we shouldn't eliminate, like the casual walk to the water dispenser or a stop at a coworker's desk. All of these actions are natural and organic. Implementing them into today's hybrid and fast work environments where the expectation is only productivity is difficult. I don't see Huddles directly competing with a formal video call solution like Zoom, but I do see its place within video call solutions as a niche.
Slack is launching GovSlack
As I switch gears away from Slack Huddles, Slack is launching GovSlack, its secure communication solution for governments. One of the difficulties of government software is navigating through strict government regulations when communicating and collaborating with key partners. It is no secret that governments of all kinds can be slow and unmoving. As everyone, including the government, shifts towards digital-first collaboration, I hope and pray it speeds up the process of governmental work.
GovSlack is built to support government security standards such as FedRAMP High, DoD IL4, and ITAR and provides encryption keys for advanced auditing and logging controls. I believe that much of the slowness that stereotypes governments is their inability to communicate efficiently and across other forms of government. GovSlack enables external collaboration with other GovSlack-using organizations through Slack Connect. I believe these features should make collaboration faster and less taxing on government resources.
GovSlack runs in AWS GovCloud data centers which is maintained by U.S. personnel, making it an easy transition for government organizations that use AWS GovCloud. It also includes integration with curated applications such as DLP and eDiscovery apps. Although a lot of the reasons why the government is so slow are inherent to the government, I believe GovSlack as a companion to Salesforce's Government Cloud Plus, should make collaboration and communication within government systems quicker.
Huddles could become a disruptive form of digital communication and collaboration. Navigating through hybrid work environments is difficult, and we often have productivity and efficiency as the main focus. I see Slack Huddles encouraging creativity and ideas through an informal medium by mimicking what workers already do in the office. This is where I believe a lot of great ideas come from and what Slack is doing with Huddles is difficult to do.
GovSlack should be a well-received companion to Salesforce's Government Cloud Plus. GovSlack meets all of the difficult compliance requirements of any government solution. While governments are known to be slow to adopt new technologies, I believe a portion of that sluggardness is in communication, and GovSlack should be a useful solution.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.