Coronavirus Pandemic Spikes Demand for Remote Team Collaboration

Slack’s cloud-based services and infrastructure have managed to keep pace as the surge of at-home workers has caused usage to skyrocket.

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Slack’s cloud-based services and infrastructure have managed to keep pace as the surge of at-home workers has caused usage to skyrocket.

Stephen Franchetti is Head of Business Technology and IT at Slack, a provider of cloud-based team communication and collaboration services. Before joining Slack in 2017, Franchetti held a number of IT leadership roles at Workday and, for close to 20 years, Cisco Systems.

As the coronavirus pandemic forced companies and other organizations to institute work-from-home policies, demand for Slack’s team communications and collaboration solutions rapidly spiked. Over the course of one week in mid-March. Slack saw the number of “simultaneously connected users” jump from a record high of 10.5 million to 12.5 million.

The creation of entirely new Slack work teams has also also skyrocketed. By the end of May, with most corporate lockdowns still in effect [updated statistics on number of simultaneously connected users, if possible, or some other current and relevant metric.]

Because Slack runs its IT operations on Amazon Web Services’ Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform, the exploding demand has put two of the promised benefits of cloud computing—agility and scalability—to the test.  

“I don’t want to tempt fate, but the elasticity of our infrastructure has met the promise of doing what we needed it to do,” says Franchetti.

Born in the cloud

Founded only six years ago as a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service provider, Slack built both its internal IT operations and its customer services on a modern architecture that supports a collection of best-of-breed software elements.

That architecture supports mixing and matching applications that support API access and integration, letting Slack select the best solutions for its needs in every functional area. Using that approach, Slack is now using about 250 different software services across the company.

With so many individual software elements at play, “we have to be thoughtful about how we build out our integrated architecture,” Franchetti notes. Still, he says, “our API-based architecture gives us a lot more flexibility. We want to stay agile as we grow.”

By using the APIs supported by modern software services, “we can bring different services together to create different experiences and to streamline workflows for users in the context of their business,” he notes.

Franchetti believes Slack’s best-of-breed approach has many advantages over multifunction ERP suites that claim to offer a wide spectrum of pre-integrated elements. In part that’s because “we don’t want to be held captive to, or limited by, the major suite providers,” he explains.

It can be tough to break away from a big ERP suite deployment because moving to alternative solutions can be the IT and business equivalent of performing open heart surgery, Franchetti cautions. By contrast, “If you have the right architecture, it makes it easier to switch out players who aren’t cutting the mustard and quickly move to the latest and greatest,” he says.

Keeping up with the pace of change

Beyond acquiring required functionality, Slack’s approach in selecting software and services partners involves finding those that can keep up with the rapid pace of change and innovation in its business – fast in normal times, supersonic in the era of COVID-19.

“We have a very dynamic business environment, we move really quickly, and we want to partner with like-minded players,” Franchetti says.

Still, even if a cloud provider is highly capable, it may not fit smoothly into the “patchwork quilt” of Slack’s overall business operations. Aside from cost – always a consideration – Slack evaluates the time-to-market speed of each solution, what out-of-the-box integrations it provides and, most fundamentally, it’s ultimate business value to Slack.

“The business value is much more important than the cost,” Franchetti says. “It’s really about how we can drive top line in our business.”

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