What is Slack Connect?

Slack Connect was introduced by Slack on 24th June 2020. After three months of testing with customers like Xero and Boldstart Ventures, Slack released their latest extension of shared channels to the public.

In this post, we dig into what it is, who the target audience is, and how to use it to your advantage.

Jump to:

What is Slack Connect?
Is Slack Connect different from Shared Channels?
How do I use Slack Connect?
Slack Connect DMs
Who is using Slack Connect?
Can I use Slack Connect with Microsoft Teams?
1 – What is Slack Connect?
Slack Connect enables Slack users to connect with up to 20 different organizations within the same Slack channel.

Originally focused on internal collaboration, Slack fast became the go-to messaging platform for small businesses and startups. Slack expanded to use in enterprises, often as an alternative to an existing tool like Microsoft Teams.

Through Slack’s rapid adoption and loyal user-base, an internal collaboration between Slack users has almost got to the point where email is no longer required. But, the long-standing issue is external collaboration.

What happens when I want to message someone outside of my organization?

Slack introduced shared channels in 2017. Shared channels allow two separate organizations to work together in the same channel – without leaving their workspace. So, now you don’t need to revert to email when your contact in another company also uses Slack.

Like Slack’s shared channels, Slack Connect allows you to create a channel and allow another organization to collaborate with you. Both parties stay in their respective Slack workspaces and communicate without having to switch between multiple workspaces.

Slack’s new feature takes the principle of a shared channel and allows you to connect to up to 20 organizations per channel.

The ability to connect to Slack users in other organizations is already a huge differentiator to its biggest rival, Microsoft Teams.

Users report the current guest experience in Teams is clunky and Microsoft has been working on different and better ways to grant external access in Teams.

At Microsoft Ignite in March 2021, Microsoft announced its intention to introduce Teams Connect later in the year.

Few details are available as to the number of users or organizations that will be supported.

You may also like: Slack Best Practices: For New Users and Those Using It More Than Ever
2 – Is Slack Connect different from Shared Channels?

Slack Connect extends your shared channel to up to 20 different organizations. The standard shared channel functionality only allows for one organization to become part of your channel.

Slack confirmed in a tweet that shared channels are now a part of Slack Connect.

Shared channels provide a collaboration space for you and one other organization.

Use Slack Connect when you need to bring in a third, fourth, or even twentieth organization.

You may also like: The Importance of Message Threads in Team Messaging Apps
3 – How do I use Slack Connect?
The new experience will be exactly like using shared channels. The interface and experience remain the same as using Slack for internal use.

The only difference? Up to 20 different organizations will be part of your shared channel.

Slack shared channels
Slack Connect pricing
To get access, you will need to subscribe to any Slack paid plan.

Users in paid plans can invite any company to a channel. In the case your external contact is not a paid Slack customer, they’ll be invited to start a 90-day trial upon joining. A clear sign of Slack’s plan for increasing virality and adoption.

In her article for No Jitter, Angela Ashenden, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight, points out Slack opens up a host of new possible usage scenarios. These include industry groups, communities, consortiums, holding groups of companies, and supply chain networks.

Available integrations
An important part of Slack’s strategy for adoption is making as many integrations and workflows available on a cross-domain basis.

Slack points out key integrations like for external collaboration as:

Google Drive
Google Calendar
Adobe Creative Cloud
The integrations highlighted for external collaboration tell their own story. Rather than shoehorning file and video features in Slack to compete with Microsoft Teams, Slack is sticking to its integration roots.

Further emphasis on meetings is clear. Ilan Frank, VP of Enterprise Product at Slack, says one use case is setting up external meetings.

“Setting up an internal meeting is time-consuming enough. External meetings are even more time-intensive.”

In Slack Connect, all your meeting participants are already in your channel so arranging meetings is simple. One message becomes a thread. Participants respond with their availability.

How many emails did that just save?

4 – Slack Connect DMs
In March 2021, Slack announced Slack Connect DMs are generally available.

This feature extends the functionality of Slack Connect, which was previously limited to channels only.

Thanks to Slack Connect DMs, you can now send direct messages (DMs) to people outside your company if they also use Slack.

To use Slack Connect DMs, you must send an invitation to the user in another organization. They will have 14 days to accept your invitation and you can start chatting cross-company.

Following some initial unrest between Slack users who weren’t expecting an invitation from another company, Slack now lets you restrict who can and can’t send a DM invitation to your company.

To send an invitation to a Slack member in another organization, click the compose button in the top left-hand corner and type the email address of the person you wish to DM with.

Slack Connect DMs
You may also like: You Can Now Send A Direct Message from Slack to Microsoft Teams
5 – Who is using Slack Connect?
It’s a safe assumption that this will be an enterprise play. The need to collaborate with 20 organizations in the same channel is an unlikely scenario for small businesses.

Slack already has 41,000 paying customers and more than one million individual Slack users using shared channels.

Customers include:

Cole Haan
Boldstart Ventures
Xero using Slack Connect
Slack CEO, Stewart Butterfield, stated in the launch video that Slack used Slack Connect to collaborate when preparing their public offering.

Joining Slack staff in their extended shared channel were bankers, lawyers, and advisors. Instead of gathering these people together in meeting after meeting, or sending email after email, the whole team communicated via Slack Connect.

You can imagine a scenario where education providers invite all their schools and universities to Slack Connect. Or healthcare providers all hosting their local hospitals and surgeries instead of emailing to and fro all day long.

You may also like: Ultimate Guide to External Federation in Slack, Microsoft Teams, & Webex
6 – Can I use Slack Connect with Microsoft Teams?
The only way to use Slack Connect with Microsoft Teams, without installing another app or finding a workaround, is to convert your shared channel to a universal channel.

Universal channels allow you to stay in Slack and invite external guests who use Microsoft Teams. Like shared channels but cross-platform.

Slack Connect and Microsoft Teams
When you install a universal channel, you enable clients, freelancers, and suppliers to share files, reply to threads, and edit messages—all from Slack.

The same is true in Microsoft Teams. Your external contacts stay in Teams and use their app of choice.

See how universal channels work in the video below.

To get started, install the Mio app to Slack.

You can create universal channels for free by clicking here.

You will be asked to choose your current chat platform and follow the install flow.

Once installed, send your unique channel URL to any contacts you wish to invite into the channel.

When your contacts join your universal channel, you can start to chat cross-company and cross-platform!

You may also like: 6 Ways to Connect Slack and Microsoft Teams in 2020
Slack Connect is the first step in achieving successful inter-company collaboration.

By bringing together users in different organizations who all use Slack near removes the email need and speeds up the collaboration process.

Projects will complete faster, customer queries will get responded to quicker, and sales cycles will become simpler.

To take inter-company collaboration to the next level, cross-platform collaboration must be included.

Using universal channels in conjunction with shared channels or Slack Connect ensures all external contacts are catered for.

If you use Slack but your suppliers or customers use Microsoft Teams or Webex, create a universal channel to set up a connection between your Slack workspace and their preferred app.

If you click the button below, your first universal channel with up to three organizations is completely free.

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