Slack cracks IPO, but can it effectively crack regulated industries?

Slack’s recent IPO marked a significant moment for the company – now valued at $17 billion. Launched just six years ago, the collaboration platform’s meteoric rise tells us a lot about the speed at which the workplace communications industry is changing. Considering the successful IPO of video-conferencing company Zoom earlier this year, it is clear that investors are paying attention to the companies leading the disruption.

Key to Slack’s success has been an understanding that the way we work has changed. From the outset, Slack put e-mail squarely in its crosshairs, questioning the logic of the overwhelming reliance on a technology that came to prominence nearly three decades ago. With instant messaging, group chats, file sharing, and multi-media compatibility, the platform offered workers access to the tools they needed to collaborate in near-real-time, effectively across multiple teams and projects.

These features, which match today’s fast paced and collaborative work environment, helped Slack to bring in 10 million daily active users, 3 million paid users, and 85,000 organisations that solely use Slack as their internal communications system.

And, tech giants have quickly followed suit, adding similar features to their platforms or releasing standalone collaboration tools. Since this industry-wide move, Slack’s most valuable USP has been its role as the ‘great connector’ for a wide range of software and apps that are now ubiquitous in the modern workplace. From social media tools to CRM software, Slack allows workers to use stand-alone software in a collaborative way, putting communication at the centre of these productivity enhancing tools.

In doing so, Slack has helped to define the future of the workplace as collaborative, connected and instant. However, while tech companies and start-ups have been quick to subscribe to this future, the one issue still facing Slack and other collaboration tools is how they penetrate new sectors, in particular those that operate under much greater constraints and oversight.

Companies in heavily-regulated industries have been slower to adopt tools like Slack across their enterprises. Of the 85,000 companies using the system, a minority are based in such industries. Regulated firms are often introduced through smaller pilots of the Enterprise Grid version within specific departments or tied specific business processes. For example, a workgroup collaborating around an upcoming company meeting or coordinating a new project with an outside partner such as investment research. However, firms are attempting to establish guard rails, for example, by warning employees against downloading the free version of the tool. Emblematic of this is the fact that the very Wall Street bankers who were advising Slack on their IPO, reportedly needed extensive training on the platform because they were unfamiliar with the technology.

Put simply, communications in regulated industries are subject to a variety of requirements by firms to capture, supervise and archive communications and collaborative content. They may be required to build ethical walls to maintain separation between groups of users, such as between investment advisors and traders. They may have to inspect content taking place within a persistent chat to identify a potential securities issue. And, many operate in multiple geographies and must maintain and store data to meet specific regulatory requirements in each region. The reality is firms must be able to search and review multiple, interactive collaborative sources like Slack in a way that preserves emojis, hashtags, and GIFs as well as changes to content, in order to understand the context of the conservation to guide legal or compliance team action.

While workplace communications technology has been turned on its head over the past six years, many solutions currently in place to archive and monitor these conversations simply haven’t kept up with the pace of change. However, if companies in regulated industries wish to keep attracting the next generation of talent, if they want to improve the productivity and collaboration within their teams, and if they want to use technologies suitable for the modern workplace, they will need to invest in archiving solutions that work as seamlessly with Slack as they do with email.

The Smarsh Connected Suite offers cutting edge supervision, discover and control technology across more than 80 communications channels. Our platform allows companies in regulated industries to monitor and store communications in their native file format and tagged with the relevant data needed to quickly and seamlessly search for any messages regardless of the platform they were sent on.

To find out more about the capture and archive of Slack, please visit our Capture page for Slack.

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Shaun Hurst

Shaun Hurst

Shaun Hurst is the Technical Director for International Markets at Smarsh. He has over 18 years of experience solving complex IT challenges for Financial Services Institutions, and is a subject matter expert in topics like E-Discovery, Regulatory Requirements, Data Privacy and Cloud Computing.
Shaun Hurst

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