Developer-darling Slack found more success as companies turned toward communication tools to sustain operations during the pandemic. But it faced friction on its way to broader adoption as a business platform.
Slack faced stiff competition from Microsoft Teams. Microsoft's tool sprinted past Slack's user base in size, thanks in part to the inclusion of the tool on its productivity package, Microsoft 365.
Slack's post-acquisition play to leverage the strength of Salesforce will require better integration capabilities, a sharper focus on third-party communications and a clearer tie between technology and efficiency.
"One of the challenges that we see most often in our customers is that they may have a great internal communications and collaboration tool, but there's a continuous struggle for employees to communicate effectively with outside parties such as customers and vendors," said Carrie Marshall, CEO of Talk Social to Me. "I'd like to see if Slack may be able to fill that need, considering Salesforce's customer focus."
The selling point must be potent enough to override Microsoft's ubiquitousness in enterprise tech. The enhancement of Slack Connect can help shape part of that roadmap. Playing up Slack's popularity among software developers can't hurt either.
Aside from the efficiency of end-to-end communications, there's a virality component to Slack Connect that can help it thrive in a post acquisition reality. It had already been taking effect in enterprise, said Angela Ashenden, principal analyst, workplace transformation at CCS Insights.
"They've used that as a fantastic way to grow adoption from company to company," Ashenden said. "People invite somebody else to the Slack Connect channel, they start working with them there, they find it really useful then they start using it in their own teams."
The kind of work this technology can power also enables further integration of previously disconnected business functions. In an earnings call Tuesday, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff described customers having access to a "hub of productivity, of collaboration and integration and applications" which can also be equipped with data previously living on Salesforce through the Slack integration.
Slack's exit to Salesforce delivers two needs for further expansion: additional technical capabilities with the resources to address more of the enterprise.
"It wasn't necessarily surprising that Slack would try to seek out a strategic partnership or seek out an acquisition with somebody with a little bit more heft and an established presence," said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks Ziff Davis.
"In many cases, it's not only your product, it's the ecosystem and the backing that you have, the organization behind you, that will help your product succeed," Tsai said.
Initially, Slack was perceived as a developer's tool. It took hold and built a passionate user base.
"I have never in my career, and I've been at this over 35 years, seen a user community that is so rabidly devoted to an app," said Art Schoeller, VP and principal analyst at Forrester.
The challenge for Slack lies in selling IT decision makers on the capabilities of its platform over the free collaboration capabilities already bundled in Microsoft 365, which has wide adoption in the enterprise space.
Slack and Salesforce are trying to "rethink the way that communication works in general, making them more seamless between all departments, between marketing, sales and customers and sales support," said Tsai. "I think they're on the right track."