Break down walls with shared channels

A better way to work with people outside your company

Two Slack users from two different Slack instances reaching across the gap to shake hands and connect
Image Credit: Skinny Ships

Millions of people use Slack every day as a better way to get work done: with faster and more effective collaboration, deeper connections with colleagues and seamless integrations with the apps and programs we use every day.

But what about all the work that happens outside of our organisations with vendors, partners and contractors? Why compromise there?

For that, there’s shared channels, a new feature that allows Slack teams in different organisations to use Slack to collaborate together as easily and productively as they do internally. It’s officially out of beta today and available for all paid subscriptions.

A shared channel works just like a normal Slack channel, only now connecting two organisations. This means a team from Company A are communicating in the same Slack channel as their partners at Company B. New people coming into a project can readily access a project’s archive, allowing them to catch up swiftly. Teams can easily share updates and files, bring in the right people and quickly make decisions – all from a single place in Slack.

Say you’re working with an auditing firm, and each year the firm has a new set of junior auditors who join the project. Using a shared channel, when the junior auditors start, they see a full history of prior work. It’s all right there in the channel, not siloed off or out of sight in the previous junior auditors’ inboxes.

As projects and relationships grow, so do shared channels. Either team can add new teammates and create as many new shared channels as needed.

Productivity without borders

More than 20,000 paid Slack customers have already used shared channels during the beta period. Among them is Fastly, an edge cloud platform that helps power online experiences for Vimeo, Pinterest, the New York Times and many more major brands. As part of its premium support package, Fastly offers enterprise customers a shared Slack channel. The company uses shared channels to solve its customers’ problems faster.

“We’ve got a very proactive model and try to get ahead of challenges,” says Fastly’s Vice President of Customer Success, Kim Ogletree. “Offering Slack as one of our communication channels makes a difference, and we hear that from customers all the time.”

In Chicago, the iconic Portillo’s Hot Dogs uses shared channels to drive its business forwards, even in fast-changing conditions. If a Portillo’s delivery vendor can’t complete orders – e.g. when a storm closes roads – they need a fast way to communicate, and email doesn’t cut the mustard. Always in sync in a shared channel, Portillo’s and the vendor share updates instantly, enabling “HQ” to turn off delivery options until fulfilment is possible, which avoids a truly frustrating customer experience.

Collaboration as a competitive edge

All organisations need to work with people outside their walls. Working more effectively with partners makes organisations more efficient, more competitive and more successful.

When engineers can better manage delivery timelines and features, they deliver higher quality products faster for customers and partners. When subject-matter experts can help answer questions and come up with solutions alongside customers or partners in real time, they can stop small problems from snowballing into big ones. As companies work through mergers and acquisitions, shared channels make a difficult process smoother and less stressful for employees.

Every day, teams around the world use shared channels to:

  • Coordinate campaigns and projects with outside agencies faster, with feedback on creative work and expedited approvals all happening in-channel
  • Create a direct line with customers, resolving issues efficiently and building trust
  • Sync and share data with business and finance consultants, helping everyone stay organised
  • Stay close to shared projects and milestones even on the go: Slack users can do virtually everything on Slack on a mobile device that they can do on desktop, including using shared channels

Other features allow for control and customisation. Each side can set the name of their shared channel, as well as whether the channel is public or private for their respective workspaces. Also, if you’re added to a shared channel, you’ll always know if an external partner is in the discussion thanks to a small reminder just above the message field.

Of course, it’s not just about what you gain. There’s plenty that shared channels allow you to leave behind:

  • No more fragmented work. With shared channels, everything is in one place – no more context switching between inboxes, apps and documents with partners and vendors.
  • No more lack of visibility. Shared channels make it simple to get (and stay) on the same page with external teams. Now everyone knows what’s going on.
  • No more wasteful communication. Collaborating with external partners via email can get frustrating fast (unless of course your new brand campaign is “fwd, fwd, fwd”). Why not collaborate at the same speed as in your internal channels?

Integrate the apps you use every day

You can use Slack apps in shared channels as you would with Slack internally. Here are some apps to try first. See the Slack App Directory for more.

  • Google Calendar for Team Events. Post reminders of upcoming meetings to your shared channels
  • Zoom to launch video conferences straight from Slack in a shared channel and post a recording afterwards for reference or for anyone who couldn’t attend
  • Google Drive or Dropbox Paper to collaborate on drafts and plans – no email back-and-forth necessary

Getting started

To share a brand-new or existing channel with an outside group, get in touch with the owner or admin of your workspace. Once the request has been made and your partner accepts, the channel will be shared and you can begin working together right away.

Let us know what you think

Share feedback by dropping us a message or tweeting us @Slackhq. Thank you!

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.