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I’m getting SlackChris Koehncke
Nursing a beer at a local tap, I’m bemoaning to a random stranger how email may well be the death of all of us. Starring into his beer, he nods in silent agreement but become suddenly animated. He’s discovered this real cool application that is part Instant Messaging, file share, Twitterish and has reduced his email traffic. He likes the service so much he’s was able to convince a few of his office colleagues to use it and now nearly the entire company is on this wonder of all systems.
The service is Slack.
Slack has made plenty of news, so I’m not breaking anything new to you. The news mostly about big names who like it and the money they’ve raised (plenty). The initial barrier to entry is low (free) and even the paid service is a mere $6.67 per user per month (how did they get to $6.67?).
Besides twisting the standard of messaging & collaboration, Slack offers integration with 59 other well known Internet service applications like Zendesk, Google Drive and Trello. Slack also offers integration with Yo for those times when a Yo simple isn’t enough. For those who want to roll their own, Slack has an early API in development.
Slack is indeed growing. In February 2014, they reported 16k active daily users. In August, the number was up to 125k across 13,000 domains (so around 10 users per company average). All of this via word of mouth promotion.
So what do I think? Glad you asked.
- If I were in the very wide collaboration market space, I’d be worried. The viral growth top line is scary enough but the bigger worry would be the deeper creep inside a company as the average users per company could explode.
- The multi-headed aspect of the client represents a real challenge for an existing collaboration player to morph into. One person commented, “Its like hipchat and irc had a baby” One baby is never enough. Ugh, a non-traditional competitor who is immune from your current array of weaponry.
- The numerous integrations and open API, create this atmosphere of an open extendable platform, versus just a service. Whether you do any integration or not (the Yo one is just plain silly), you likely think that Slack has plenty of runway to accommodate whatever you’re trying to do. If you really integrate something, you’ll be hell pressed to leave them.
- With this focus on integrations, Slack is all too well aware of what people are actually using, so they prop up an integration with a service, if enough people start to use it, they simply embed it into Slack. Thanks for playing along with us folks.
- Slack also has the ability to easily slap at other market segments. It’s not hard to fathom adding additional WebRTC elements like voice or video effectively klobbering a few on the sidelines, whether they execute it perfectly or not is initially immaterial. They’ll hold the user eyeballs on their browser tab.
So what do you do?
Product Managers get stuck all too often into incremental changes to an existing product. And when it’s a service, it’s even worse. The fear is always that any change will upset current users. So it’s a boring Roadmap of narrow cast changes. Raising the alarm usually has negative consequences to the PM.
Taking a product from point A to a new location is often hard/difficult/impossible. Usually it’s better to just go to the new location and start over. I’d focus on what Slack is doing right and simply copy n’ paste and start a new service called Klack, just to show’em you’re not scared. Confusion is a great weapon.
But I’d mostly focus on what current user are complaining about and try and synthesis how to best Slack at their own game. Slack’s growth has made the service response times unpredictable as they scamper to keep up, pray for a major outage or security violation to flatten a tire or two.
Slack is going to spend a fair amount of time going down dead end roads, so being a fast follower on things that do seem to make sense or stick is decent strategy.