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Slack Now Lets Up to 20 Businesses Connect With Each Other

The Slack Connect service represents a significant expansion of Slack's efforts to support collaboration between customers and their business partners.
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Slack  (WORK) - Get Free Report is expanding its efforts to get workers at different companies to use its platform -- rather than e-mail -- to communicate with each other.

The Slack Connect service, which was unveiled on Wednesday morning, allows up to 20 organizations to communicate via Slack’s Shared Channels feature, with a larger number of organizations expected to be supported over time. Previously, only two organizations were able to communicate via Shared Channels.

In addition, Slack aims to make Connect a broader solution for connecting users and apps at organizations doing business with each other. The company notes app integrations can already be used to do things such as schedule meetings, sign off on deliverables, receive order/inventory data and provide customer support, and expects a variety of inter-company tasks to be automated over time as firms make use of Slack’s Workflow Builder tool.

Also, in the wake of a deal with  (AMZN) - Get Free Report that among other things integrates the Amazon Chime collaboration service’s voice and video calling features with Slack, Slack indicated that additional business-to-business communications features will arrive in time. During a press briefing, chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua said that these features will include direct messaging support for individual users, while adding that Slack is “being very cautious” about rolling out this feature to prevent spamming.

Multiple Slack execs stressed that the company put a lot of legwork into addressing the security and compliance concerns that businesses might have regarding a service such as Connect. Among other things, organizations can grant and revoke access to security keys that allow business partners to see their data, and they can set strict policies related to content retention and data loss prevention.

Slack noted that its own employees have already been using Connect over the last few months to communicate with business partners -- for example, to work with bankers and lawyers to carry out its recent convertible debt offering. Previously, during Slack’s June 4 earnings call, CEO Stewart Butterfield said that he was participating in a Shared Channel with the CEOs of 15 other SaaS firms, including the CEOs of Shopify, Twilio, Splunk, Atlassian and Okta.

For the time being, Slack Connect is only available to companies signed up for one of Slack’s paid plans. However, Butterfield said that Slack could open up the service to free users in time, and that those trialing a paid plan would be able to try out Slack Connect for a “a very healthy amount of time.”

Already, Shared Channels have been adopted by 41,000 of the 122,000 paid customers Slack claimed as of the end of April. This includes, per Butterfield, the lion’s share of the enterprises that are paying Slack more than $100,000 annually.

As a result, like Slack’s app ecosystem, Shared Channels and Slack Connect have the potential to be important long-term differentiators for Slack’s collaboration platform as it continues dealing with heated competition from Microsoft’s  (MSFT) - Get Free Report Teams platform -- both giving non-customers whose business partners are using Slack Connect an incentive to sign up, and giving existing customers who have begun actively using the service an incentive not to defect.

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