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Slack will let up to 20 organizations collaborate, extending reach and escalating Microsoft rivalry

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Slack is rolling out that will let up to 20 companies and organizations connect securely and work together in shared channels, seeking to further position its platform as a replacement for email.

Shared channels were previously limited to two organizations. The new technology, , has the potential to extend Slack’s reach and utility as a messaging and communications platform, escalating its competition with Microsoft, Zoom, Google and other collaboration technology providers.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, speaking with reporters and analysts in a virtual press event, described Slack Connect as a key step in the company’s larger ambitions in enterprise technologies, with the potential to connect different digital services across organizations much more seamlessly than currently possible.

“A measure of success for us, looking maybe three or five years into the future, is going to be what percentage of DocuSigns are signed inside of a shared channel, how many purchase orders are going across, how many invoices are sent, how many service tickets opened,” Butterfield said. “Slack, when it’s really working for an individual organization, becomes this lightweight fabric for systems integration. And that’s just as valuable across boundaries as inside.”

Slack Connect will require organizations to be on paid plans, available at no additional cost. Those on unpaid plans who are invited into a channel will be able to take advantage of a 90-day free trial.

That has the potential to accelerate the viral nature of Slack adoption, further expanding the dynamic across organizations, not just inside them.

The company’s primary rival, Microsoft Teams, has the advantage of being offered as a component of the Microsoft 365 subscription plans that include the Redmond company’s widely used Office productivity software. Microsoft this week sought to expand the footprint of Microsoft Teams, rolling out .

Slack says it has been developing the Slack Connect technology for four years. In recent months, Slack has been piloting the new capability itself, working with customers to test the product by communicating in shared channels, and collaborating on Slack Connect with the key players in

“Public market offerings are pretty complicated and involve lots of people from different groups — bankers, lawyers and other advisors,” Butterfield said in a prerecorded video. “Normally you spend a ton of time with all those people on the same room, ironing through lots of details. Everyone from Slack who was working on the deal was in a channel with our bankers, lawyers and consultants. The senior partners could see what the associates were asking about, and everyone knew what questions had been asked and answered.”

Other benefits over email include the ability to avoid spam and phishing messages, the company says.

In addition to the 90-day free trial, users on free Slack Plans will be able to participate in Slack Connect as single-channel guests for free, or as multi-channel guests, with the cost billed to the organization that hosts them as a guest.

The announcement comes as the global COVID-19 pandemic extends into its fourth month, fueling usage of technologies that support collaboration among people and teams forced to work from home. for the quarter ended April 30, to $201.7 million, with a net loss of $74.4 million.

Slack reported more than 122,000 paid customers as of the end of the quarter, up 28% year-over-year. The company , the last time it released that figure.

Based in San Francisco, Slack to include the use of AWS Chime to power voice and video calls for Slack users.

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