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Slack has digitized impromptu office meetings by introducing Huddles -- a feature that lets users of the collaboration platform start audio conversations on the fly.
Huddles, launched this week, is Slack's attempt to bring to the virtual world the sudden brainstorming sessions that can occur in the office cafeteria or when someone passes by a colleague's desk.
On the Slack platform, spontaneous conversations start with clicking an icon on the left taskbar that creates a meeting space open to anyone in the creator's channel. People can launch Huddles from a channel or a direct message and share their screens. Slack designed the feature as an audio-first way of communication.
"[Huddles] is more for lightweight communications," said Tamar Yehoshua, chief product officer at Slack, during an online meeting with analysts and media.
Companies using Huddles include PC maker Dell, data management company Tibco Software and Japanese recipe-sharing site Cookpad, Slack said.
Slack is the latest collaboration vendor to release capabilities meant to attract companies that plan to operate a hybrid workplace when offices reopen. This month, Microsoft introduced features to make Teams more conducive to meetings between people in and outside the office. In April, Cisco rolled out its set of features for Webex.
Despite the vendor activity, it's unclear to what extent businesses will allow employees to work at home and in the office as the pandemic wanes. However, analysts predict many companies will always have a percentage of employees reporting from home daily.
A scattered workforce could make it more challenging to schedule formal meetings. So, Slack introduced with Huddles separate tools to create and share video, voice and screen recordings in Slack.
Slack video recordings, Atlas
Rather than call a meeting for an idea pitch, a Slack user can record it in video with slides and distribute it among a team when convenient for each member. That way, people view the recording when they have time. The recordings, like Huddles, include a transcript. Slack plans to release the video recording feature this year.
Finally, for Slack customers with Business+ and Enterprise Grid plans, the company launched Atlas. The profile directory includes a company's organization structure, employee start dates and custom fields.
Slack offers Atlas to help new hires learn more about team members or old hands to learn about new employees. Atlas integrates with some human resource software, such as Workday, to keep profile data up-to-date automatically.
In December, Salesforce announced that it would acquire Slack for $27.7 billion. Analysts said the acquisition could make Slack a stronger competitor to Microsoft Teams. Salesforce said it will offer Slack as a standalone product after the deal closes this summer.