Slack Connect Is Where Business Happens—But How Do You Manage the Risks?

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If your organization uses Slack, you’re already familiar with its benefits: rapid, streamlined internal communications without the hassle of emails. You can set up a meeting with a few quick messages and an internal Zoom integration or share files for collaboration without ever leaving the app. Slack is, as its tagline says, where work happens.

At least until you need to loop in an external partner—and then you’re suddenly back to emails and an overstuffed inbox. 

That’s why Slack created Slack Connect, which allows users to access all the features of Slack while collaborating with external partners. Of course, the data within Slack Connect is business data and must be governed accordingly. And that, it turns out, can be a challenge. 

How Slack Connect Is Replacing Email

Slack Connect enables users to invite external organizations to a collaborative Slack workspace, including direct messages and shared channels. It’s still Slack, so you can send an instant message, share files, and use Slack’s integrations (like Google Drive or Zoom), but now you’re not limited to your internal team. 

In Slack’s words, Slack Connect is “designed to replace email—or however, you collaborate with external organizations, customers, and clients.” Slack boasts that a sales team that works with clients over Slack Connect completes deal cycles four times faster. For example, a technical team saw a 50 percent reduction in weekly meetings after adopting Slack Connect to communicate with its third-party contractors. 

Some pretty big names have already adopted Slack Connect, including Twitter, Hulu, and IBM. But data within Slack Connect is still business data, which means organizations need to plan for governing it and managing its risks.   

Risks Associated With Slack Connect Data

Any time an organization faces pending or anticipated litigation, it’s obligated to preserve data that is potentially relevant and proportional to the issues—and that includes data within Slack, whether internal or external. Many organizations have resisted this conclusion, but as Slack replaces email, it’s become an inescapable fact: conversations within Slack are business discussions, so they’re potentially relevant to many litigated issues. In short, if it would have been discoverable in email form, it’s discoverable in Slack. 

As such, proactive organizations don’t want to keep Slack data around forever. For one thing, the more data you have, the more you have to sift through to identify what’s relevant to a matter. In addition, the more information you have, the more likely it is that some of it will hurt your case or undermine your defense. The bottom line is that organizations should dispose of data that no longer serves a business purpose. 

With Slack Connect, that poses some interesting questions. Who controls the data within a shared channel? Slack is quick to point out that the organization whose member created a message can determine the settings for its retention, editing, and deletion. So, within a shared channel, you can have your team’s messages deleted after 30 days, but the other side of the conversation may remain (or vice-versa). Slack also enables data exports from Slack Connect channels, depending on the type of license your organization uses. The Discovery API allows exporting all sides of a conversation, not just the messages originating within your organization. Other license levels only export public channels and only the current version of a message.

That said, exporting data from Slack—Connect or otherwise—is not a straightforward process. Slack data downloads in the JSON format, so it generally looks like a jumble of code and text rather than a familiar or easily navigated text file. Trying to preserve or collect Slack data also raises all of the common challenges associated with collaboration data, such as the informality of communications, the complexity of Slack data, and the overwhelming volume of messages that organizations generate. 

To translate exported Slack data into a review-ready format, the IT team generally has to invest substantial time to create databases and workarounds. Even then, those solutions are fragile: all that work can be disrupted by a simple change in the Slack API, forcing IT to re-architect its solution. 

Fortunately, there’s an app for that. 

How to Mitigate Risks and Manage Slack Connect Data

We’ve been using Slack for years here at Hanzo—and for much of that time, we’ve been urging organizations that use collaboration platforms like Slack to integrate that data into their corporate ediscovery and information governance workflows.

Slack Connect enables teams to do great work, but it’s not without risks. Smart organizations are planning to preserve and manage Slack data.

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