Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | May 05, 2016 |


How Much Slack Is in Your Enterprise?

How Much Slack Is in Your Enterprise? Enterprise IT must be proactive and develop a plan for dealing with the user demand that Slack and other unauthorized team collaboration apps satisfy.

Enterprise IT must be proactive and develop a plan for dealing with the user demand that Slack and other unauthorized team collaboration apps satisfy.

Team collaboration apps like Slack and Cisco Spark are one of the hottest topics in enterprise communications these days. I haven't seen a lot of data out there that drills down on just how enterprises are responding to the trend, so I was delighted to have Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research address this topic in a Collaboration track session at this week's Interop event (I'm the track chair for this sister event to Enterprise Connect). And as usual, Nemertes had some very interesting data about how its client base of enterprise IT leaders view this new class of collaboration app.

Here's a sampling:

  • Nemertes asked the general question, "What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about these apps?" The top response, at 38%, was "am interested." The next biggest and least surprising: 18% said they were concerned about security. Only 5% said they had no interest in collaboration apps
  • Only 36% of enterprises have any formal evaluation process for these apps
  • If the enterprise locks down mobile devices (as 45% do), workers can't download the apps; 19% of enterprises allow app downloads. But of course if your enterprise is pure BYOD or stealth BYOD, you may not know that users are using the apps on their own phones
  • As for who pays when "freemium" collaboration apps move into the paid tier, Nemertes found that the line of business pays in 39% of cases; central IT pays 31% of the time; and another 31% of respondents were unsure or still evaluating
  • Finally, when Nemertes asked if respondents believed this new class of applications would replace existing enterprise communications and collaboration apps, only 9% said yes; 50% were unsure; and 41% said the new apps would augment existing tools

The issue of security can't be understated. As Irwin pointed out that, for regulated industries like finance, apps like Slack that sit beyond IT's control are basically out of bounds. Since the enterprise doesn't control the use of the service, anything within Slack channels isn't available for regulatory compliance or discovery in legal proceedings.

This could be where Atlassian's HipChat, probably Slack's leading competitor, has a real opening, he added, since it's the only one of the apps that's unaffiliated with a platform like Cisco or Unify, yet is available for on-prem deployment.

Lack of control was clearly an issue for some in the audience as well. (On the obligatory show-of-hands question, about half of the 60-or-so in the room said their enterprises had been experimenting with Slack or a similar app.) One audience member pointed out that his biggest concern was that Slack channels can be kept private, so that the content is inaccessible to IT, even if IT is aware of usage going on. Then of course there's the issue of what happens if an individual who's been using an app like Slack without IT's knowledge leaves the company.

Here's where the apps built for the enterprise may have their play. There's obviously a greater ability to control and archive content from Cisco Spark or Unify Circuit than you have with Slack.

But this defensive rationale isn't the only reason that enterprises may consider the enterprise platform-linked apps. Irwin suggested a scenario where an enterprise might link its Cisco-based contact center infrastructure to the Spark cloud. In this kind of integration, a contact center ticket might automatically open a Cisco Spark "room" (the equivalent of a Slack "channel"), if the agent had a need to collaborate with someone else on the team to resolve the customer issue. This would create a space for immediate collaboration, and that space would live on as a persistent location where issues surrounding that customer or ticket could continue to be dealt with or reviewed.

The dilemma in all this for the enterprise is that, like Skype in its earliest days, Slack may very well be in your network now, and very likely isn't going away, because it solves a problem or offers users something they can't get at all or as readily from IT, Irwin noted.

So being proactive and developing a plan for dealing with the user demand that Slack satisfies, and the problem it poses, is likely a must for your enterprise.

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