In late July of 2018, Atlassian announced it would be entering a “strategic partnership” with Slack.
HipChat will shut down for good on February 15, 2019, which means that businesses using the service must be fully transitioned to Slack (or another collaboration platform) before that date. This news came as quite a shock to HipChat users, given Atlassian’s stated commitment to carving out its own corner of the busy real-time team communications market (the company released Stride, a new workplace communications product, just a few months ago). But Atlassian’s sudden and dramatic about-face was an inevitable reaction to the pressures of its chosen marketplace.
The evolution of the team communications market
As Joff Redfern (Atlassian’s VP of Product Management) pointed out in the Slack partnership announcement, there have been some pretty dramatic changes to the real-time team communications space. Old-timer HipChat arrived on the scene (in beta form) in 2009, while Slack was launched in 2013. Now, in the past year or so, a number of competitors have begun to muscle in on their space:
In 2017, Microsoft, ever the 800-pound gorilla in the technology market, launched its Teams app as part of the Office 365 package and will use it to replace Skype for Business “over time.”
Google officially released Hangouts Chat in late February 2018 and added the app to its G-Suite package.
Cisco rebranded its Spark team messaging app in late April 2018 as WebEx Teams, folding it into the existing WebEx Meetings infrastructure.
Even Facebook has made a move into enterprise-level real-time team communications; it released its Workplace collaboration app last October and purchased Israeli team messaging company Redkix just last week to add more development muscle to the app.
In short, the real-time team communications market has become extremely crowded, particularly in the last twelve months. Despite Atlassian’s best efforts, the company simply wasn’t able to build market share in the face of such intense competition.
Why Slack won
Unlike Atlassian, Slack has been gaining market share at a remarkable rate: the company boasted in May that it had reached over eight million daily users and that 65% of the Fortune 100 companies were now paid Slack subscribers.
Slack’s impressively broad integration options are a core component of its success; users of InVision, Trello, GitHub, Salesforce and many other popular SaaS platforms can install plug-and-play apps to link these platforms with Slack. That makes it a much “stickier” team collaboration option than, say, HipChat (which has a far smaller pool of available integrations) and greatly reduces customer churn.
Whatever commercial software products and platforms you work with, there’s likely to be an app for that in Slack’s App Directory. Even direct competitors Google and Microsoft have worked with Slack to develop integration apps for their products. Slack’s API also makes it fairly easy for companies to build custom integrations with their internal systems.
Finally, Slack users also benefit from a galaxy of bots that can automate away a number of business processes. Bots, a.k.a. chatbots, are essentially bodiless robots that communicate with users through a chat interface. They’re a cheap and easy way to add an AI component to your workplace.
Beginning your transitioning from HipChat to Slack
Atlassian has added a migration hub to its website that includes specific technical directions for exporting HipChat users and messages into Slack. At this time there are no directions for exporting data from Stride, although the migration hub page claims that instructions are “coming soon.” Slack also has a page on its website with instructions for importing HipChat data:
Plan - Create a corporate Slack account and invite the former HipChat users to your workspace.
Import - Click your workspace name within Slack, then select Administrator > Workspace Settings > Import/Export Data and follow the prompts.
Map - Members and messages should be automatically mapped into Slack during the import, but you may need to make a few manual adjustments.
At this time, Atlassian does not plan to migrate its apps from HipChat to Slack. However, the company does intend to provide resources to help customers and partners quickly master the Slack API tools so that they can create Slack-friendly versions of their own existing HipChat apps. The good news is that since so many apps and integrations are already available in Slack, you’ll likely be able to find either the same apps you currently use in HipChat or some excellent replacements. Here’s a sampling of the best Slack apps and bots in various categories to get you started.
HipChat customers who currently use the HipChat Jira app will be relieved to hear that Slack has several different options for Jira integration. Jira Integration+ by Nextup is likely the fullest featured option and is certainly one of the most popular; other options include Jira Cloud and Jira Server Alerts.
Documents: Microsoft and Google
With integration options for both Microsoft One Drive and Google Drive, most HipChat users will have no trouble integrating their documents into their new Slack account. As a bonus, Google users get apps that allow them to link both Google Calendar and Google+ Hangouts to Slack.
Teampay is software that helps modern businesses request, approve, and track purchasing in real-time in Slack.
Teampay gives finance teams real-time visibility into company-wide spend, while giving employees autonomy over their purchasing process. We do this by seamlessly integrating into existing workflows, payments and transactions as it happens while reconciling with your accounting software.
If you can’t find the integration option that you want in the Slack app directory, Zapier can help. This “app of apps” lets you set up custom integrations between Slack and thousands of other platforms. And the price is certainly right: Zapier’s core feature plan is free.
Slack’s Salesforce app makes it easy for your sales team to pull information out of the CRM using the Slack interface. You can even give Salesforce objects their own Slack channels for the ultimate in remote access. Note that you’ll need access to the Salesforce API to make this app work, making it somewhat less plug-and-play than most Slack integrations.
Making the most of Slack’s app ecosystem
Moving from HipChat to Slack may not have been in your plans, but since you’ve got to find an alternative to HipChat in the next few months anyway, you might as well make use of the competitive advantages that propelled Slack to its current position in the team collaboration market. Once you’ve sampled Slack’s automation and integration options, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them.