Just for admins: tips for managing channels that are shared with external partners

Connect your teams with agencies, clients and vendors in Slack

Admin holding a key that opens locks on Slack
Image Credit: Skinny Ships

As a Slack admin, you’re already unlocking productivity for internal teams. Today, with the release of Slack Connect for all paid Slack subscriptions, you can bring that same boost to the work that your teams do with outside organisations.

Slack Connect allows your teams to work with multiple organisations in one Slack channel. Each organisation joins from their own Slack workspace. From there, everyone can share files, keep colleagues in the loop and quickly make decisions, just like they do with internal teams.

Let’s say your company is experiencing an issue with a software product. If you start a channel with your vendors, you can quickly collaborate with them to solve the problem, right in Slack. This kind of real-time coordination gets work done faster, saving your team from context switching between inboxes and apps, keeping everyone in the know and keeping all company information secure.

Now that you know why you might want to use Slack Connect, here’s what every admin needs to know about creating and managing them.

Draft your internal policy

You might already use guest accounts for freelancers, interns or anyone who needs limited access to Slack. Channels, on the other hand, are ideal for collaborating with multiple stakeholders from one or more organisations – particularly because members from all sides can add colleagues as a project scales up, without needing to get an admin involved.

To make sure that everyone on your team knows when, why and how to start sharing a channel with outside organisations, send a company-wide announcement in Slack.

This isn’t just about taking the reins and publicising instructions. It’s also a good opportunity to highlight the benefits of collaborating with external partners, vendors and customers in a single channel, along with one or more use cases for creating them. For example, you might recommend that your sales team share a channel with every new customer once a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is in place.

Start a channel to handle requests for shared channels

Similar to what we’ve previously covered for guest requests, admins should create and publicise a dedicated channel to gather all external access requests. This way, your members don’t spend valuable time searching their workspace for instructions, and every admin has visibility into the request pipeline. Follow your organisation’s channel-naming conventions, such as #plz-external-access or #help-external-access..

Pin a brief note to this channel that explains:

  • What to include in each request, such as partner organisation name, contact info, project name and expected duration
  • Where to find or how to get a signed NDA from a partner, e.g. Check in #help-legal
  • How to work in a channel that you share with external organisations – specifically what not to post (passwords, personal information, news of upcoming releases or business wins, and so on)

Start sharing a channel

Inviting another organisation to a channel is as simple as sharing a link. Follow the prompts when creating a new channel – or go to the channel settings menu of an existing one – and you’ll find a short invitation link to send to your external partner. Depending on your settings, the invitation may be sent to an admin on each team for approval. Once all parties have accepted, your partner will join the channel and your teams can start working together immediately.

Each organisation can customise the channel name for their shared workspace. For instance, Company A can call their channel #2020-winter-campaign, while Company B can name it #accounts-company-a on their side.

Just like channel names, each organisation can have different privacy settings for channels that they share with others. These controls mean that each side can choose a channel name and visibility that’s right for them.

Managing channels that you share with outside organisations

For org owners and admins on Enterprise Grid, an org-level dashboard gives you visibility into all the external organisations that are connected with your own.

On this screen, you’re able to see how many channels you’re sharing with each partner and which workspaces the channels are in. This dashboard is also the place to stop sharing channels with an organisation if you stop working together.

Need to give other members the ability to create, edit, disconnect or archive a channel that’s shared with external partners? You can grant these permissions under ‘Who can share channels with external organisations?’ in the Settings > Channel administration tab of the Grid dashboard.

Quick tip: keep direct messages open after closing your channel

When you stop sharing a channel, DMs with members from the other organisation will remain open unless explicitly disconnected. If you do want to disconnect DM access, you can do that from the admin dashboard.

Are you an admin on a Standard or Plus Slack subscription? The admin dashboard is your home for managing channels that are shared with external parties. Here, you can see which organisations share channels with your own, and disconnect them if necessary.

Related content: Take a look at how Zendesk, Seek, Deliveroo, Iress and Fastly are using Slack Connect to transform communication with their customers, partners and others.

Tips for working in the same channel

Once org owners or admins from both sides of the relationship have given their approval to sharing a channel, it’s time for everyone to get to work. When you enter a channel that’s being shared with others, you’ll see the connecting organisation’s name just above the message input to remind you that you’re working with an external party.

We recommend sharing a set of best practices with the connecting organisation when your project kicks off. This could include:

  • SLAs for response times, which should consider time zones and any differences your orgs might have in working hours
  • Best practices for using do not disturb to convey availability
  • A glossary of the emoji reactions your team use and how the other team should interpret them (e.g. 👀 when a request is being reviewed and a ✅ when an asset is approved)
  • Expected etiquette for notifications and threads, which can help keep channel noise to a minimum and conversations focused

Once this note is shared, pin it to the channel for easy reference. Members from both organisations can add others to the channel over the life of your project and pinning this guide helps those people get up to speed quickly.

Slack Connect brings all the benefits of Slack to the work that your team does with outside organisations. As with the channels that you already use, all the files, conversations and context that you and your partners need are in one dedicated place. That makes channels a more productive way of working for both you and your partners.

Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.