Frontiers 2019: Trends, best practices and leading insights

Coming together to make our working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive

Slack’s Chief Product Officer Tamar Yehoshua
Image Credit: Claudine Gossett

“We believe that the single biggest challenge facing all organizations, the one that is common, is the creation and maintenance of alignment over time—the creation of purpose and a shared understanding,” Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO, told a packed audience today at Frontiers, our user conference. “When we’re together with people and we have that shared purpose, we multiply one another’s strengths.”

That sentiment was echoed throughout the day’s sessions by our customers and partners, admins and developers. And it seems that everyone is on the same page: Work is exceedingly complex, and collaboration is more important than ever.  

Stewart Butterfield, Co-founder and CEO of Slack

As the day unfolded, insights like these were found around every corner. We learned how Slack is helping Electronic Arts fight against fraud in its blockbuster FIFA games. We dug into the details of our upcoming product rollouts with Slack’s Chief Product Officer, Tamar Yehoshua. We also got a little starstruck along with Butterfield as he spoke with special guest Serena Williams.

Here are more of the day’s highlights all in one place with a preview of Day Two. We are so glad you came!

Delivering new products and features

A central focus for Frontiers 2019 is to showcase upcoming products and features. Slack announced four features that build on our mission to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive: a bridge between email and Slack; Workflow Builder; Unified Navigation and Search; and Shared Channels for Enterprise Grid.

Shared Channels, for one, allows users and teams to work directly with customers, vendors, agencies and other external partners without needing to leave their own Slack workspaces.

“We’re already seeing over 13,000 paid customers using Shared Channels even though it’s still in limited beta,” said Yehoshua, who presented with Slack’s platform and sales leadership.

Attendees learned more about Workflow Builder, a tool that allows anyone to automate manual processes and build advanced workflows, no coding skills required. But the real crowd-pleaser came when we showcased details around the expanded integrations with email and calendars, particularly around the ability to swiftly bridge email and Slack communications.

Related content: Read full coverage of all these upcoming features.

Serena Williams on leaning into criticism

Kicking off Frontiers 2019, tennis great, entrepreneur and proud new mother Williams sat down with Butterfield to a packed house.

Their wide-ranging conversation touched on the importance of focus, the need for greater diversity in business, the power of feedback and much more. (Plus one adorable nod to Qai Qai, her daughter Olympia’s Insta-famous doll.)

“I have an incredibly open mind—for criticism, ideas, feedback,” Williams told the crowd at Pier 29. The root of her mindset comes from tennis, where hungry opponents work year-round to beat you. Williams’ core belief: Only hearing what you’re doing right isn’t how you get better. That same dedication is helping her grow her multiple business ventures today, and serve as a board member of top tech companies, such as Poshmark and SurveyMonkey.

It was a well-received message. If someone at the top of her field sees feedback as something integral to her own growth, then surely the rest of us can benefit too.

Her success is a team effort, she said, “of everyone bringing everything together to create a champion at the end of the week. When I look at people on tour, I see it as a total team.”

“I’m the CEO of that team,” Williams said. “I realized that I had to be a really strong team leader for everyone to understand my vision.” Williams continues to push boundaries as an athlete, a board member, a leader and a mother—which she credits as the greatest success of her life.

Serena Williams speaks at Slack's 2019 Frontiers conference.

Serena Williams, Tennis champion, entrepreneur

Heard at Frontiers: Three breakout tracks, so many lessons learned

Sometimes our pens and keyboards had to race to keep up with the array of industry insiders and organizational leaders who helped shape so many of our sessions today.

Here are some of our favorite insights, as they were shared:

“We can tell the day of the life of the restaurant through Slack. It starts off with communication between the farm team and the chefs team. The farmers know what the chefs want on a daily basis from the harvest; it was ordered on Slack the night before. All these images of things, what’s at its best, what’s at its peak, gets sent over on Slack.” —Kyle Connaughton, Owner and Chef, SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn, as heard in “Closing keynotes: Conversations with customers and special guests”

“Seventy percent of our people are on the road 80% of the time. If we can do this well, we’re successful; if we do it poorly, everything falls apart behind it … We have to think about how [a collaboration solution] works on planes, trains and automobiles.”  —Steve Damadeo, Senior Director of Information Technology at a professional services firm, as heard in “Notes from scaling from 10 to 10,000 users: Structuring Slack effectively (Part 1 of 2)”

“We created a Slack channel where we could collaborate with our platform users—we could send announcements, we could talk to them, let them know about problems before they’re aware of them. … And teams they never knew existed are starting to work together across the globe. It’s been a really powerful tool for us to bring a globally disbanded group of people together in one place to have a singular conversation.” —Cheryl Razzell, Global Head of Digital Tooling, HSBC, as heard in “Above and beyond: Exceeding your business goals with Slack”

If you’ve played FIFA, etcetera, you know there’s fraud involved. The games team is integrated now with the interaction from the game, and with any [fraud] detection … we have a live ops team that basically gets to know if they detect any fraud in real time, and that triggers a sequence of events that will handle these fraud responses very quickly.”  —Gopi Parampalli, VP of IT, Electronic Arts, as heard in “All in on Slack: Strategies for cross-functional engagement and collaboration on Slack”

“Oftentimes the person with the best answer is not in that biweekly status meeting … With Slack, the person with that knowledge can just answer that question in real time or give their point of view or perspective on it without waiting or inhibitors, and we find that ends up being more empowering to people and it allows us to learn off each other.” —Rahul Singh, Executive Mobility Director, Ford, as heard in “Executive view: Transforming your business with transparency and agility”

“I would have days when I didn’t check email, because all of the work was done on Slack.” Jeanne Jang, VP of Innovation Labs, E*TRADE, as heard in “All in on Slack: Strategies for cross-functional engagement and collaboration on Slack”

“It’s time for the tech community to be true leaders. You lead in technology, but how can you lead humankind to the right place? And that is just not only thinking about companies, but they have to think about the people, the consumers, the people they want to affect and then think beyond them and figure out ways to connect with them.” —Common, as heard in “Closing keynotes: Conversations with customers and special guests”

A new paradigm for returning citizens and tech

The closing session of the day shed light on the importance of fair-chance hiring and highlighted tech’s opportunity to help formerly incarcerated individuals find work and succeed in the industry. 

Common, Founder of Imagine Justice, Oscar and Grammy Award-winning author and activist; La June Montgomery Tabron, President and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Scott Budnick, CEO of One Community; founder of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC); Kenyatta Leal, Director of Re-entry, The Last Mile

Kenyatta Leal, Director of Re-entry at The Last Mile, led a lively panel with La June Montgomery Tabron, President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Common, founder of Imagine Justice as well as an Oscar and Grammy Award–winning author and activist; and Scott Budnick, CEO of One Community and founder of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC).

Breaking the cycle of mass incarceration and creating avenues of opportunity for training and employment benefits families and society, and the tech industry has a key role to play. Slack for Good and Flikshop have also partnered to help conference participants share messages of hope and support with incarcerated individuals.

Flikshop, an app created and founded by Marcus Bullock, helps families connect to their loved ones during incarceration by allowing them to easily and regularly send postcards. Attendees were encouraged to take and wear pins declaring “Fair chance hiring is the new frontier.” For every pin taken, Slack for Good will send a postcard to an incarcerated individual.

More key takeaways to share

Software is a massive investment for organizations, both in terms of cost and sheer ubiquity—the average enterprise now uses more than 1,100 cloud services. Here’s what stuck with us from the session “Apps in Slack: Getting more value out of your tech stack” with Michael Chen, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Slack; Kirk Pedersen, Senior IT Leader, IBM; and Michael Solomon, Product Strategy Director, Hearst Magazines:

  • Time is wasted on context-switching and using separate tools—but enterprise companies need them.
  • According to a 2018 Forrester report, 30% of workers’ time is spent “interacting with dozens of internal systems, repositories and reporting apps.”
  • Bots can help surface data to the right people at the right time, and it’s not difficult to create them.

And Rahul Singh’s thoughts on executive engagement and knowledge sharing at Ford made us think about what happens when knowledge trumps hierarchy. Singh is Ford’s Executive Mobility Director.

  • People are connecting in ways that they didn’t connect before now that Ford uses Slack.
  • A key focus for him as an executive is to build trust, and Slack helps him do that. Part of that trust is recognizing it’s a two-way street. He tries to be an equal participant, and employees need not wait for a Q&A meeting—they can have conversations in Slack.

A little room for fun

The first day of Frontiers 2019 will be capped off at San Francisco’s beloved Exploratorium at Pier 15, a collection of more than 1,000 interactive exhibits rooted in science and art. A fitting venue for this year’s themes—alignment, agility and focus.

Related content: Slack’s Frontiers 2019: 10 things to do in San Francisco

Tips and tricks

Giant Troops.ai robot

In case you were too mesmerized by the giant Troops.ai robot or couldn’t choose between actual doughnuts or the company Donut, here’s a pro tip for tomorrow: One of our featured customers has a real sweet side. Once you find the highly interactive Slack Station, look for a small fridge and enjoy!

What’s on tap for Day Two

We have another packed agenda tomorrow—including a first-ever Frontiers Slackathon. Looking forward to seeing you there.  

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