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Slack Enhances Search, Guest Management

Slack this week announced search and guest management enhancements for its team collaboration solution.

For improved search, the company has introduced the ability to point users to the most relevant people and channels. "While org charts and team directories can help you visualize how departments within your company are structured, they don't always reveal who you should reach out to for a specific topic or question. Search in Slack now surfaces people likely to know about the topic at hand, along with the channels where you can reach them," Slack wrote in a blog.

Users who are on one of Slack's paid plans will be greeted with a new section, called "People & Channels," at the top of search results. When a user searches a topic, this new section will surface team members who frequently talk about the topic and any public channels in which they've had discussions about the topic. The user can then go to any of those channels to look for additional help, and can use @mentions to direct questions to the best people.

Irwin Lazar, UC analyst with Nemertes Research, gives the new search capabilities a thumbs-up. "Anything that improves the ability of people to find information is beneficial to Slack customers," he said.

In addition to enhancing Slack with a useful capability, the ability to search for people and conversations "underscores the continued blurring of lines between team collaboration applications and social platforms," he added, noting that such capability has been a core feature of social platforms like IBM Connections, Jive, and Yammer.

Lazar said he's also hopeful that Slack not only will continue adding to its own search capabilities, but also "extend data stored within it to other enterprise search platforms from vendors like Google and Microsoft."

Slack said its new search capabilities are available for teams on any paid plans with more than 50 members.

For guest account management, Slack introduced two new updates: time limits and enhanced guest profiles. "For most teams, work involves communication and collaboration with people outside your organization," Slack wrote in the announcement blog. "That's why over 65% of paid Slack teams use guest accounts -- with 15 guests on average -- to bring external people like vendors and freelancers onto their Slack team."

Besides being able to assign certain channels to guest accounts, admins are now also able to set time limits for how long a given guest account can remain active. "This way, admins no longer need to manually keep track of each guest and how long they should remain on a team," Slack stated.

For guest accounts that have a time limit set, two days before account deactivation, a Slackbot will notify the admin who set the limit and the guest user. Admins then have the option to extend the time limit, and guests are given information on who to contact if they need more time on a project. Guest accounts are set to remain active by default, but using the team site management tool admins can now set time limits either when they bring on a new guest account or at any time.

So that teams can better identify guest participants, Slack has added fields to the guest account profile that indicate who invited the guest, which channels the guest is in, and when access expires. Slack also added banners over guest profile photos that indicate whether that person is a single- or multi-channel guest.

"Whether your team already works with dozens of guest accounts or has yet to try them out, these updates reflect our commitment to keep every Slack team secure," Slack wrote. "After all, guests are lovely, but nobody appreciates one who overstays their welcome."

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