Slack will add video to impromptu meeting app Huddles

Slack brings video meetings to Huddles this fall to encourage people to hold quick conversations without switching to Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

Slack, which is becoming the collaboration hub for Salesforce customers, plans to offer the option of video conversations on the impromptu meeting tool Huddles.

The fall update, which also adds screen sharing to Huddles, will let workers deal with minor issues without opening another collaboration product, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

"Especially when it's informal, [moving to another app to talk] feels really arduous," said Katie Steigman, director of product management at Slack.

Salesforce, a SaaS provider of customer relationship management and salesforce automation, strives to make Slack a critical communication tool for the service. Salesforce acquired Slack in 2020 for $27.7 billion.

"Slack is the starting point for any type of interaction, workflow [or] data visualization [in Salesforce]," Gartner analyst Jason Wong said. "It makes Salesforce, as a platform, much easier to use, [and] much more useful."

Tight integration with Salesforce applications means the company can sell Slack as an essential part of employee workflows instead of a generic business collaboration tool, Wong said.

Slack Huddles
Slack will add video meetings as an option for impromptu conversations on Huddles.

Slack launched Huddles last year to let workers conduct audio conversations from the product's taskbar. The feature is the virtual equivalent of drop-in visits possible when everyone works in the same office.

Slack data shows employees are using the tool as intended. The median Huddle lasts about 10 minutes.

Video creates additional use cases for Huddles, like onboarding and training, Steigman said. For example, managers can let new team embers reach out for unscheduled, face-to-face discussions.

Huddles conversations will default to audio-only. Workers need to click a button to start a video call. The extra step avoids video fatigue and encourages the use of audio to preserve the impromptu feel of Huddles conversations, Steigman said.

"[Video] can be exhausting if it feels compulsory and you're doing it from nine to five," she said. "We want to keep it feeling optional."

Exhaustion with video meetings has been a common pandemic-era complaint. More than 40% of office workers have experienced video conferencing fatigue since the pandemic began, according to a survey by staffing firm Robert Half.

Beyond the Huddles improvements, Slack will launch a government version of its product in July. GovSlack meets government security standards, runs on AWS' government cloud service, and allows external collaboration with other organizations that use GovSlack.

GovSlack will compete with Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex, which already have offerings that meet federal security requirements, according to Metrigy analyst Irwin Lazar.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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