There is a pleasant circularity in the recent career of Pip White, who in November assumed the role of SVP & General Manager EMEA at collaboration software business Soft.
Previously, White had spent several years leading the sales operations at CRM titan Salesforce, before going to work at Google cloud arm. In the summer of 2021, Salesforce finalized a Slack acquisition worth $ 28 billion, and now White finds himself in familiar company.
A few months in his new role, TechRadar Pro spoke to White about Slack’s ambitions for the coming year, as the pandemic continues to confine many workers to their home offices.
The official party line looks a bit like this: Slack is the only viable digital headquarters for the hybrid operation era, where we will all work smoothly and asynchronously from various locations. This is a message that we have heard time and time again now.
However, White also provided some insight into the nature of the company’s relationship with its new parent organization, as well as how it views its competition in the collaboration industry.
When asked why she swapped her job at Google Cloud for one at Slack, White explained that the acquisition by Salesforce played a big role, as did the role of the platform in the evolution of work. .
“The opportunity to lead Slack in the EMEA region was compelling, especially in the context of the integration into Salesforce and the doors that opened from an existing customer perspective and growth,” she said. Explain.
“It was also about where we are in the world right now, in terms of how people see the different ways of working. Slack presents a truly exciting opportunity at the forefront of this transformation.
After deploying Slack internally prior to the acquisition, Salesforce already had a “really good tech feel,” White told us. And going forward, the new parent company will help guide product development, as well as seek opportunities related to the integration of Slack and Salesforce products.
Slack founder and CEO Stuart Butterfield now reports to Bret Taylor, who was recently appointed co-CEO at Salesforce. White describes this relationship as a “close connection and collaboration” from a product perspective.
“It’s a matter of collaboration, not a takeover by Salesforce, or vice versa,” White said. “It’s about what is in the best interest of our clients and how we can help them on this hybrid work journey. “
“Slack will be critical in minimizing disruption and accelerating collaboration opportunities in this new digital economy, and more so because of the new use cases we’ve been exploring since the acquisition. “
It just might turn out to be the case, but Slack will first face increasingly fierce competition from several directions.
Due to the pandemic and the shift to remote work, collaboration and video conference market has never been so hot or more competitive. According to a recent Gartner survey, there has been a 44% increase in the use of collaboration tools since 2019.
These types of services have also become more and more amorphous over the past couple of years, as the bigger players continue to borrow features and design concepts. In a Venn diagram that maps features, platforms like Microsoft teams, Zoom, Slack and others would overlap significantly.
However, White does not accept the idea that Slack can be easily compared to other services, nor that the platform faces serious competition. Asked specifically about the rivalry between Slack and Microsoft Teams, she replied: “This is not necessarily a comparison of apples to apples.”
It seemed a bit misleading, given the commonalities between the two services; both offer text chat, group channels, audio calls, file sharing, and integrations with third-party apps. To our mind, someone could be forgiven for thinking that Slack and Teams are roughly the same tree.
In 2020, Slack also filed a antitrust complaint against Microsoft on the regrouping of teams and Office 365 services, which, according to the company, constitutes an unfair advantage. White’s and Slack’s communications agency declined to be involved in discussions of the legal dispute, which has yet to be resolved, but its existence implies that there is a rivalry there.
Nonetheless, White is ardent that Slack offers a unique value proposition, thanks to its push towards asynchronous collaboration, short and spontaneous caucuses instead of tedious meetings and rich third-party integrations.
“We will continue to innovate around these themes,” she tells us. “All employers think about how to approach cultural changes and flows in the work environment; a lot of employees want different things.
“The situation will continue to evolve, so it’s about anticipating change and being extremely flexible. Technologies that allow asynchronous work away from the physical office will enable this journey. “
An automated future
Regardless of whether Slack faces direct opposition from services like Teams, the company obviously has a clear vision for the future of its software.
Like announced in mid-November, Slack has “rebuilt and redesigned” large parts of the platform from the ground up. The main improvement is the introduction of a “building blocks” library in Slack Workflow Builder, which simplifies the development of automations that eliminate the need to juggle many different business applications.
The construction of these automations does not require any coding; Lego-style blocks can be chained together via a simple drag-and-drop mechanism, meaning workers don’t have to rely on overworked developer teams to code new features.
If there is no building block available that fulfills a particular task, a developer can step in to create one on behalf of an employee. This new block will then become available throughout the organization and can be “remixed” into various other workflows.
According to White, customers are starting to use this feature and other news to good effect, in ways that are not possible on any other platform.
“We see the ability to integrate work into the channel as a key differentiator for us. The way most of our customers start using Slack with anger, so to speak, is based on the ability to endlessly collaborate across processes, ”she said.
“We are only beginning to see the beginning of changes in the way we work. A lot has changed in some industries and the digital transformation has undoubtedly accelerated, but we are still only at the beginning of this journey. I think this is a great opportunity for all of us to reconsider the way we work.