Snowflake, a cloud data platform based in San Mateo, California, centers its business around streamlining so its customers can thrive with data warehousing, data tools and the cloud all on one platform.
To be successful, the startup needs to effectively collaborate internally and externally on everything from IT support to vendor relationships. To do this, Snowflake has turned to Slack. It uses more than 150 shared channels—a feature that connects two separate organizations in the same Slack workspace so they can share messages, tools and files to get things done, sidestepping email entirely.
“Having the ability to message an external vendor via Slack provides next-level support. The run-around you usually have to go through via email does not exist when you use shared channels.”Marisa Guarino
IT systems engineer at Snowflake
Strengthening partner and vendor relationships through shared channels
At first, Snowflake used multi-channel or single-channel guest access on Slack to work with external partners such as data analytics software companies Looker and Luma, regularly leveraging those data platforms and customer networks. But external partners’ guest access allowed limited access to Snowflake’s Slack workspace.
Over time, Snowflake found that it was collaborating so heavily with these partners that bringing them in on a case-by-case basis was overloading its IT department.
“Those relationships are really the reason that we started using shared channels,” says Marisa Guarino, an IT systems engineer at Snowflake. “It became such a to-do for our IT team to have to individually guest-invite people. For example, there are like 250 people from Looker in our shared channel now. Shared channels allow us to talk to our partners on that scale.”
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Shared channels also help Snowflake maximize relationships with vendors it uses for internal services, such as incident response platform PagerDuty. By bringing communication into shared channels, Snowflake was able to go from one engineering team collaborating with PagerDuty to much wider internal use of the software.
“With shared channels, we can talk with PagerDuty directly, asking everything from, ‘Can your product do this?’ to ‘Do we need more licenses?’ ” says Guarino. “Having the ability to message an external vendor via Slack provides next-level support. The run-around you usually have to go through via email does not exist when you use shared channels.”
According to Guarino, shared channels have become essential to the way IT functions at Snowflake. “Every time I start working with an external vendor, I’m like, ‘We need to use Slack shared channels because I am so tired of sending emails,’ ” says Guarino. “It lets us have collaborative conversations without having a million emails sent back and forth.”
Making IT support and knowledge bases accessible with YetiBot
YetiBot, a custom Slack bot created by Snowflake, helps employees engage with IT support and access a robust internal knowledge base. It acts like a chat-based concierge for technical assistance, personnel queries and more.
“YetiBot has become our little one-stop shop for any questions people might have,” says Guarino. “Something as onerous as opening an IT ticket can be as simple as just talking to the bot and saying, ‘I need help.’ ”
A Snowflake employee can also ask YetiBot to query one of the company’s various databases. For example, an employee can ask who someone is or where they sit, and YetiBot will consult the company’s identity and access management platform Okta or its workplace operations platform SpaceIQ to bring back that information. Using MoveWorks‘ machine-learning artificial intelligence, YetiBot helps Snowflake’s teams navigate the company’s infrastructure, ticketing processes, help wikis and more.
“Before, we didn’t really have a ticketing process,” says Guarino. “Then we decided to start using [digital transformation platform] ServiceNow. But expecting people to go from nothing to ServiceNow is kind of like teaching a child about shapes and then expecting them to architect a 50-story skyscraper. YetiBot really helped with that transition.”
Transforming internal feedback with Workflow Builder in Slack
Snowflake’s IT team also programmed a new automation in Slack using Workflow Builder that prompts employees at the end of their interaction with an IT support person to react with a 🏄♂️emoji. When they do, they’re privately messaged a survey—called a “surfvey”—through which they can rate their experience and offer feedback on their own time, without having to switch contexts. That information is then fed into a private customer satisfaction channel, allowing managers to easily view their direct reports’ progress over time.
“You can move beyond just communication and productivity and towards creating internal programs and interdepartmental collaboration, all in Slack.”
“The IT team doesn’t spend enough time shouting from the rooftops about how well we’re doing, and a lot of our innovations sort of just go unseen and unheard,” says Guarino. “Slack makes things like surveys a fun, easy and personalized experience, without taxing the user. It’s really nice to be able to get that feedback instantaneously.”
Guarino also says it’s the success of workflows like the “surfvey” that has made Slack a critical component of how Snowflake does business.
“To me, the value of Slack really comes from the cultural buy-in,” she says. “Once you take down that first barrier, you open the floodgates for companywide adoption. You can move beyond just communication and productivity and towards creating internal programs and interdepartmental collaboration, all in Slack.”
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