Slack: The Future of... Everything?

A funny thing happened on my way to the Slack Frontiers Conference.  I was expecting to learn a bit more about their API and development tools, which I did.  I was also expecting to hear more about their business strategy, which I did.  I was also expecting to meet some young, excited, diverse people who seemed intent on building better collaboration tools to make business better, friendlier, and funner, and I did that too.

But the thing I did not expect was to happen upon an Enterprise Integration success story in flight.  After building software for organizations large and small for 28 years, I have seen my share of enterprise integration strategies.  I have seen services frameworks come and go.  I have seen BPM standards and tools surge and re-surge and then drift away to niche implementations.  I have seen truly impressive service-oriented-architectures take hold and in some cases, fulfill a portion of the enterprise integration puzzle.

But many of these solutions felt either extremely vendor specific, or extremely like backoffice plumbing, or extremely not-ready-for-such a large and diverse market as enterprise integration.  Or they were driven by platform vendors (Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP) that seemed to be driven primarily by the desire to own the whole operating stack.

But what if owning the whole operating stack was not the goal?  What if enterprise integration truly meant providing the glue and not the business rules or the persistence?  What if this was all built on an affordable platform that users typically had up and running 7-8 hours per day?

Enter Slack.  Slack!  Such a simple tool - yes it's a better email, and possibly a better file share or a better SMS or even a better phone than what we have today.  But enterprise integration?  That doesn't seem likely.  Well, enter the Slack App Store.  Interesting because it leverages a consumerization model of app deployment made successful on end users cell phones and personal computers.  Successful because it relies upon a low-friction deployment model, and supports an ease-of-use that is unheard of in enterprise applications.

Now what if Slack got a few major vendors to buy into this app store?  What if Slack got them to deploy their front-ends for expense reports or defect submissions, or dashboard entry into a small app that exposed just what users needed for that application?  What if this allowed most business users to remain in an "always-on" environment like Slack and respond to alerts or post information into these various enterprise applications that are seldom used but have a simple entry point from the Slack interface.  And what if these apps began to expose self-teaching bots that allowed users to learn as they go, and be prompted and supported throughout the process with custom prompts and information that made accessing teh apps easy and accessible?

That would be cool.  Except if it were only a few vendors who did this, and you still had to move to other applications, it still feels like a partial solution, right?

Well, what if Slack signed on Salesforce?  And Constant Contact?  and MailChimp? And Zoom?  And Microsoft O365?  And Google?  And Trello?  And Dropbox?  And Github?  And Outlook?  and Gmail?

Oracle just deployed Slack on 139,000 workstations worldwide.  Think they're far behind?

I went to San Francisco with a song in my heart, looking for some information on a cool collaboration tool, and I just might have seen the future of enterprise software integration.

Stay tuned, tech lovers!