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Slack is partnering with IT services and consulting firms to help midsize or larger businesses adopt and use its team collaboration app.
It is Slack's first significant step toward developing a partner channel that would help it compete with Microsoft and Cisco for large enterprises. Those vendors rely on an ecosystem of resellers and IT integrators to support businesses on a global scale.
But Slack's initial partners are small and midsize organizations. The vendor has yet to recruit the world's leading IT integrators. Until it does so, Slack will still be at a significant disadvantage against those larger rivals as it attempts to sell to businesses with tens of thousands of employees.
The move comes as financial analysts sour on Slack, worrying that the vendor will be unable to compete with Microsoft Teams in the enterprise market over the long term. Slack's valuation has dropped from $19 billion to less than $12 billion amid a steady decline in its stock price over the past several months.
The Slack services partners will help businesses with more than 250 employees build integrations, train employees and figure out where Slack fits into their move to the cloud. Slack is launching the program with seven partners across the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.
Slack could launch a reseller program in the future, said Rich Hasslacher, Slack's head of global alliances and channels. But, for now, the company will pay its services partners a finder's fee worth 8% of the first-year contract of any customer they refer to Slack.
The services partners are Robot & Pencils, Adaptavist, Abeam Consulting, Ricksoft, Rainmaker, Onix and Cprime. Slack plans to add additional partners to the program around February or March of 2020, targeting markets in continental Europe, Australia and Latin America.
Developing the right ecosystem of partners will be essential to Slack's long-term viability, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. Slack is more than just a messaging app. Yet, many businesses don't understand how to take full advantage of the platform, he said.
"When you look at long-term viability, that's always been around platforms, not products," Kerravala said. "I think if Slack wants to go down that route, [the services partner program] is part of what they need to do."
Developing a channel should also help Slack sell to IT departments, rather than to isolated business units and groups of end users. Slack has 12 million daily active users, but only 6 million paid seats. Winning more company-wide deployments would help Slack boost its paid user count.