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Why Facebook should buy Slack to win the enterprise

Matt Kapko | Jan. 15, 2016
As Facebook prepares to launch its Facebook at Work enterprise collaboration toolset, popular messaging app Slack continues to gain passionate users. Experts say a Slack acquisition could help Facebook ride the smaller company's momentum into enterprise.

Slack would boost Facebook business cred

Facebook is first and foremost a consumer technology company, and it should aim to develop or acquire enterprise apps or features that utilize its expertise in social communications, according to Blau. "Facebook also needs to have businesses trust them with sensitive corporate data and … convince enterprises that their solutions are better than other social communications products that traditionally haven't done well."

If Facebook determines that buying Slack is the best way to achieve those objectives, the app could become the equivalent of its consumer Messenger app for Facebook at Work, the company's workplace collaboration tool that's been in development and testing for more than a year. Facebook plans to publicly release the tool in the "coming months."

"Slack is at the intersection of messaging and team collaboration," says Vanessa Thompson, research vice president at IDC. (IDC is a CIO.com sister company.) "With their focus on building an ecosystem and basic automation with bots, this would be a good complement to Facebook at Work, especially for those organizations who take on Facebook at Work in order to use the Messenger capability."

Today many small teams on Slack use the service for free, or pay up to $15 per month per user depending on their specific needs, but the company plans to release enterprise-specific pricing at some point this year. Facebook at Work will similarly be free at launch, but Facebook is expected to eventually charge for additional support, analytics and integration with other enterprise collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Google Apps, Box and Dropbox.

Slack isn't beholden to legacy interests or technologies

Slack appeals to many users because it wasn't developed by one of the "big dinosaurs" of enterprise or consumer technology, according to Josh Keller, president and founder of digital advertising agency Union Square Media. Keller and his team started using Slack about six months ago, and about 50 employees now utilize the tool for all of their internal communications, he says. 

Slack is the cool, new kid on the block that can move more swiftly than legacy providers, and it more tightly integrates with today's business needs, according to Keller, who also says Slack is one of the best workplace productivity products he's used in years.

Facebook certainly has the resources and funds to acquire businesses with valuations in the billions, but it must also weigh the impact of potential differences in company culture, according to Johnson.

A decision by Facebook to acquire Slack will ultimately come down to synergy, technology, talent and price, according to Gartner's Blau. "If Facebook does have ambitions in enterprise communications, then buying or building technology such as you find with Slack will be in their future," he says.

Assuming Slack's growth trajectory continues to increase, and its leaders raise more VC funding or pursue an IPO, Facebook may well make another blockbuster deal before the close of 2016.

 

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