Slack Announce Email Bridge & New Features at Frontiers 2019
Slack's annual conference, Frontiers, has been taking place in San Francisco this week so we bring you all the latest news from the event
As one of the forefathers of modern collaborative tools Slack has been holding its annual user conference, Slack Frontiers, in San Francisco this week. The event brings together Slack partners, customers and technology evangelists to examine the latest technologies and ideologies that might enhance collaboration. During this year’s conference Slack have announced a host of new platform updates that build on its ethos of making it more simple, pleasant and productive for organisations and their people to react, adjust and maintain focus on their most important tasks.
Earlier this month UC Today brought you the news that Slack had enabled closer integration with the Microsoft Office 365 suite of productivity tools. Now, with the latest set of new updates showcased at Frontiers 2019, Slack have bolstered this provision.
UC Today spoke to Slack’s Director of Product Management for Interoperability, Andy Pflaum, so he could give us a sneaky preview of all of the latest features that have been revealed on stage at this week’s event. Pflaum explained that the announcements this week all have the same goal.
“We want to ensure true collaboration, and that users are able to collaborate inside of Slack.”
“We can do that by bringing together the teammates they need to be working with, all the information they need, having that at their fingertips. But in particular by connecting up the various applications and services they use, well beyond just Slack.”
This focus on integration with applications and services, that are independent from Slack, is nothing new. Slack already offer over 450 thousand 3rd party customisable apps within Slack, but this latest set of announcements take this provision to the next level.
Let’s take a looks the key new announcements.
Bridging to and from Email in Slack
We are all aware of those users within an organisation that haven’t embraced the new synchronous chat tool and still prefer to use trusty old email. This can lead to task duplication and an inefficient workflow, having to jump from one application to another to reply on different channels. Slack are aiming to solve this with the latest announcement.
Compatible with any third party email tool the feature will allow a user inside Slack to contact a secondary user, who doesn’t yet use the application, via email as Slack will route the messages into their email inbox. The recipient then has multiple options they can chose to click a link to join the discussion in Slack directly or they can reply to the message, seamlessly from their email account and this will be translated back to the original sender as a message within the Slack platform. Pflaum is incredibly excited about the potential of this particular development.
“For the first time we are bringing together people who are participating in a collaboration hub with people who continue to work from email and allowing them to connect and work from the tool of their choice and stay connected in the conversation.”
Slack have already started to roll out this new feature so it should be available universally over the next few months.
Smarter Calendar Integration
Slack aren’t just focused on improving the process of email communication. In the recent announcements we heard that users will be able to sync their status in the Outlook Calendar with their Slack status so colleagues know when they are “in a meeting” or “out of office”, this feature should be available to Google Calendar users soon too.
But now by the end of 2019 Slack users can expect further calendar enhancement features for both the Google and Outlook calendars. Slack will use its platform’s native intelligence tools to recognise when two colleagues are talking about a potential meeting and pop up with suggestions that fit within the diaries of both parties. A statement within a chat like “Let’s meet tomorrow and discuss” will prompt Slack to suggest possible slots.
Currently creating customised workflows can be a complex process requiring technical coding skills, but Slack are aiming to remove that barrier by providing a simplified workflow builder. This will allow all users to create customised, secure automation without having to utilise a single line of code.
The new Workflow Builder will allow users to streamline manual processes for their teams and organisations. For example the processes of sending out surveys or the automation of HR requests would all be possible for standard users to create.
Consolidated Search Tool
Finding the relevant information within a collaboration hub is critical to its efficacy, and therefore search tools are a vital factor. Up until now Slack has had two primary search functions but now it has enhanced and consolidated the navigation functionality to make it easier for users to transition between the channels, direct messages, and documents that they need.
Users will be able to access the universal navigation hub with commands, such as ⌘ + k on mac or ctrl + k on windows or linux device, or by simply clicking into the upper-left search box. Designed to reduce time searching for relevant information this feature should be available to all Slack users within the coming weeks.
Slack is also expanding Shared Channels to its Enterprise Grid customers starting this summer. This means that organisations will be able to collaborate with customers, vendors, suppliers or any other external partners from within their own Slack environments.
All of the new features are designed to enhance Slack’s appeal to users. Making integration and transition between critical applications smoother holds huge appeal for customers who want to improve efficiency by enhancing workflows, as Pflaum acknowledges.
“We respond to what our customers tell us they want to work with in terms of other services, whether it’s from the conferencing space or the mail and calendar space.”
“We really strive to provide these integrations across all the key applications that our users want to improve their experience.”
Slack have hinted that there may be more news to come from Frontiers 2019 this week so make sure that you stay tuned to UC Today for all the latest news.