Managing Slack at scale: Roll out shared channels for your organisation

Tips for admins to help connect their teams to 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. Now with the release of shared channels for all paid Slack subscriptions, you can bring that same boost to the work your teams do with outside organisations.

Shared channels work just like typical Slack channels, but spanning two organisations. Each side joins from their own Slack workspace. From there, everyone can share files, bring coworkers into 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 set up a shared channel with your vendors, you can quickly collaborate with them to solve the problem straight in Slack. This kind of real-time coordination gets work done faster, saving your team from context switching between inboxes and apps and keeping everyone in the know and all company information secure.

Now you know why you might want to use shared channels, 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. Shared channels, on the other hand, are ideal for collaborating with two or more people at another company – particularly because members from both sides can add coworkers as a project scales without needing to get an admin involved.

To make sure everyone in your team knows when, why and how to request a shared channel, send a company-wide announcement in Slack.

This isn’t just about acting as a traffic warden and publicising instructions. It’s also a good opportunity to highlight the benefits of shared channels, along with one or more use cases for creating them. For example, you might recommend that your sales team should request a shared channel with every new customer once a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is in place.

Start a channel to handle requests for shared channels

Similarly to what we’ve previously covered for guest requests, admins should create and publicise a dedicated channel to gather all shared channel 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, e.g. #plz-shared-channels or #help-shared-channels.

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 shared channels, specifically what not to post (passwords, personal information, news of upcoming releases or business deals and so on)

Creating a shared channel

For every shared channel request, you’ll need the other organisation’s Slack workspace URL and the email address of an owner or admin of that workspace. Once they accept your invitation, they’ll join the channel and your teams can start working together immediately.

In shared channels, each organisation can customise the channel name for their workspace. For instance, Company A can call its shared channel #2019-autumn-campaign, while Company B can name it #accounts-company-a on its side.

Just as with channel names, shared channels can have different privacy settings for each organisation. These controls mean that each side can choose a channel name and level of visibility that’s right for them.

Quick tip: Use shared channel naming conventions

To make it clear which organisation your team are working with, consider adopting a naming convention for shared channels that includes both parties or the project name, e.g. #a1-beacon-collab or #slack-a1-campaign.

Managing shared channels

For org owners and admins on Enterprise Grid, a new org-level dashboard gives you visibility into all the external organisations connected to 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 shared channels? 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 a shared channel closes

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 shared channels. Here, you can see which organisations share channels with your own, as well as disconnect them if necessary.

Tips for working in shared channels

Once org owners or admins from both sides of the relationship have approved a shared channel, it’s time for everyone to get to work. When you enter a shared channel, you can 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.

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

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.