Slack Is Not a Chat Tool

Aaron Godby, CEO & Founder

Slack Is Not a Chat Tool

“But I use it to chat with my entire organization every day!”

You sure do. In fact, if your company uses Slack, you likely use it as a chat tool hundreds or even thousands of times per week. 

You also likely have an iPhone or Android device within two feet of you right now that you use hundreds or even thousands of times per week. How much do these devices have in common with a rotary telephone? 

Breaking Paradigms

One of the iPhone’s core, foundational use cases is basic calling. If the iPhone didn’t do that core use case well, it never would have replaced the Motorola Razr that lived in my pocket in 2009. Its initial value, to me as a consumer, was that not only could it replace my Razr, but it could also replace my iPod and provide a superior SMS experience. 

That was 2012. Do you think my personal paradigm around my iPhone has shifted since then?

Of course it has. Like everyone else, I’ve come to rely on the iPhone to manage my day-to-day life. But what does this have to do with Slack?

One of Slack’s core, foundational use cases is basic chat. If Slack didn’t do that core use case well, it never would have replaced GChat within our organization in 2018. Its initial value, to me as a business owner, was that not only could it replace GChat, it could also replace “internal Green Irony” SMS messaging, add logical channel groupings for focused collaboration, and, of course, add Giphy animated gifs to the mix. Mix in some basic integrations like Google Calendar and it was a no-brainer.

That was 2018. Do you think my personal paradigm around Slack has shifted since then? 

More importantly, do you think Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff shelled out $28 bil for a chat tool with animated gifs? 

The Adoption Problem

Just like starting with calling and text got the iPhone into pockets and at-scale usage to unlock more valuable use cases, Slack started with a chat tool, obtained at-scale usage, and is now at the beginning of the innovation curve where it will unlock much more valuable use cases. Slack will become a staple in putting needle-moving enhancements in the hands of users as quickly as possible to impact key business drivers. It will give users the tools they need to do their jobs much more effectively by providing in-context actions paired with the targeted, rapid collaboration that already takes place within its “chat tool.”

Doesn’t Salesforce already do all this stuff? 

It sure does. In 2017, we wrote that Salesforce is not a CRM. We’ve always seen it as a world-class platform for delivering key business workflows. With five additional years of Salesforce-specific digital transformation experience under our belts since then, what we’ve found is that our biggest challenge in delivering on these promises isn’t the technology platform, it’s adoption. And we’re not alone in this observation.

Within the last month, Gartner has applied a heavy focus on the CRM adoption and data problem with a keynote titled “CROs: It’s Time to Solve the CRM Data Problem.” My key takeaway from this presentation re-enforced what I’ve seen in the field: there’s a “spiral-like” impact between CRM data quality, user experience, and adoption. Poor UX drives low adoption, which drives poor data quality. Poor data quality further magnifies UX challenges, driving even lower adoption. The problem feeds upon itself. And with the CRM more and more connected to the rest of the IT system landscape, the problem is only getting worse. 

The dollars and cents to the business here are immense. This adoption problem exists outside of the CRMs as well, but we’ll narrow the focus to CRMs for this blog. Let’s examine a few examples of the impact of this problem: 

  • Lost rep productivity from sub-optimal tooling and manual workflows, resulting in lower deal size per rep, win rate per rep, and overall revenue per rep. 
  • Poor revenue attainment due to loss of basic or advanced CRM capabilities, depending on severity of issues. 
  • Poor employee experience across key CX-impacting sales and service reps with long-term impact on overall brand equity

No matter the industry, all of these are clearly high-impact areas to a business.  

Salesforce and other CRMs have become more like Systems of Record, catering to “thick work”  like sales forecasting, opportunity management, and complex product support. “Thin work” like collaboration, appointment scheduling, basic task automation, and data entry can pivot to a more natural, in-context usage pattern, solving the adoption issue. 

The Future of Work

We see “thin work” being forced onto users in “thick work” systems is the #1 driver of this adoption issue. We see Slack as THE key technology platform for solving it.

Because its first use case was chat, Slack is already ingrained within users’ day-to-day workflows. It serves as the communication lifeblood of an entire organization. Adoption of productivity-enhancing workflows for users will be a much lesser challenge. These workflows will all produce clean business data, powering more advanced workflows, and, in the future, AI.

Does anyone’s sales organization have a Slack adoption problem? If you’ve heard of one, please reach out and let me know. You’d be the first.

If the key inhibitor to the value proposition of the CRM is adoption, moving pieces of our workflows to a platform with sky-high adoption rates and allowing users to perform actions in-context seems like an area with massive potential. 

A few key questions to ask yourself as a business leader:

  • How could our user productivity and happiness be impacted when we can automate common pain points within our critical revenue-driving and customer-impacting processes? Imagine the at-scale impact of being able to automate the build of a first-call deck so that a rep only has to spend 5 minutes validating and fine-tuning the output.
  • How will our sales KPIs like deal velocity and close rate benefit from our additional rep productivity? Imagine the business impact if reps saved an hour per-day on poor CRM UX and applied that time savings to relationship building, prep, and additional prospecting.
  • How will key EX metrics across reps be impacted by eliminating annoying tooling issues? Everyone’s CRM has a workflow that is hated by every rep because of how much time it wastes. Imagine the morale boost of eliminating it with in-context time-savers in Slack.
  • How will the increased data quality as a result of adoption allow me to better analyze and fine-tune my key business workflows? All of the promises of a fine-tuned CRM that are rarely realized due to adoption and bad data can be realized when these challenges are overcome.

Finally, a question from the blog author: why are very few companies taking advantage of this huge opportunity?

Perhaps we’re just early in the innovation curve and it’s only a matter of time. Or perhaps another reason is a challenge we are all too familiar with: Integration.

Integration Drives Innovation

Through the lens of a CIO charged with innovation, if Slack allows me to design user workflows that impact key business drivers and adoption is no longer a huge challenge, what’s my next challenge?

It has to be integration.

On the technical side, the biggest implication to this type of shift is an even greater strategic need for a scalable integration strategy focused on business agility. We’ll have a need to touch a large number of systems within our technology landscape in order to design the best possible workflows to impact these key business drivers. 

Slack is simply the user control panel, allowing users to perform work in-context more easily. It places an even greater emphasis on what’s happening “behind the scenes” to make the in-context work actionable. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of what’s required to build custom integrations in Slack in a future blog from Green Irony’s engineering team, but suffice it to say, APIs become much, much more important in this sort of environment. If our goal is to avoid the negative impact of our users wasting time in systems to perform specific in-context actions, we must have a well-designed API network. Without one, the one-off integration requirements levied to the engineering team will kill our delivery timeline and derail our key business priorities. 

This means we need a scalable integration strategy focused on delivering reusable assets that can be used to create a composable business and automating key business processes across the IT landscape. 

Doesn’t this sound like the value prop of something else you’ve seen Marc Benioff acquire in the past five years? 

Betterer Together

We’ve seen the “Better Together” MuleSoft and Salesforce campaign for a few years now. We fully believe in it ourselves, having created a fictional story to highlight the concept at a high-level technically

It’s our view that Slack and MuleSoft are even “Better Together” than the previous pairing. The reason for this is because Slack’s #1 use case in every organization is always going to be chat. But that doesn’t mean it’s a chat tool. It means that savvy organizations with control over their API strategy can leverage this “chat tool” to ensure they conquer the adoption problem that impacts all businesses. Conquering this problem is going to be a bigger and bigger competitive advantage in today’s digital world.  

We’ve written ad nauseum about MuleSoft’s ability to shine in key areas and won’t repeat them here. Some reading for interested parties can be found below:

In a nutshell, MuleSoft allows technology departments to create reusable API assets that model the company’s core business. These assets can be composed into critical business processes and orchestrations of the behind-the-scenes technology interactions required by these processes, dubbed an “Application Network.” These processes can then be surfaced in the exact way necessary for a consumer to interact with them.

This is exactly what’s needed technologically to capitalize on the immense business value unlocked by the Slack platform. This pairing was meant to be.

Are You Prepared for the Future of Work?

All visionary executives must ask themselves one critical question: am I prepared for what’s to come with the future of work? 

If the answer is no, you are essentially relying on your competition to be equally unprepared. Because if they are, you’re toast, aren’t you? Your competition will be ahead of you in several key areas:

  • They will have the business agility to competitively differentiate themselves rapidly under new market conditions such as pandemics, geopolitical situations, or inflationary impacts.
  • They will have a superior set of data upon which to make actionable business decisions and drive future AI scenarios.
  • Their workforce will be much more productive than yours, dollar for dollar.
  • They will be able to continually improve high-impact metrics like revenue, CX, EX, and cost of sale by making the employee workflows and communications that drive these metrics more effective. 
  • They will be able to quickly open new revenue channels and attack new business models without the friction of user adoption.
  • They will see the business results that get organizations to buy into these types of technology platforms and 8-figure “digital transformation” or “modernization” initiatives.

Does this sound like a competitor you want to deal with from your current position, or do you want to win by planning, executing, and evolving?  Talk to us today about gaining your competitive edge through a scalable integration strategy tied to your business outcomes.