Collaboration phenom Slack is continuing its effort to move from a messaging app running alongside other office software to the hub where business teams coordinate anything and everything. Its latest steps, which

Slack, which is prepping to go public this year, has long integrated other apps and services, such as sharing files from Dropbox and displaying previews of Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. But its new bridges to email and calendar systems could further pull people into the messaging app.

Bringing in the Slack slackers

Throughout its history, Slack has often been seen as being on a mission to kill email. But despite its many annoyances, email lives on. And this round of Slack updates is focused on ensuring that folks who haven’t warmed to the service aren’t left out of collaborative work. “Today, we have users who are in Slack. But in the same organization, there may still be teammates of theirs who are just living in email,” says Andy Pflaum, Slack’s director of product management for interoperability.

Slack will now be able to bridge the gap, he says, by sending Slack direct messages or @mentions (by user name) in channels as Outlook or Gmail messages to team members who are not using the app. Those Slack holdouts will also be able to send replies, by email, that become DMs or posts in the relevant Slack channel.

Slack will automatically forward messages as emails to people not using the app (above), and they will be able to reply via email (below). View full size here [Images: courtesy of Slack]
Pflaum knows something about email. He was cofounder and CEO of email app Astro, which used AI to help sort and prioritize messages. Slack purchased (and, sadly, shut down) Astro in September, bringing on Pflaum and his team, “to make [email] interoperability much simpler and much, much more powerful,” said the company.

Today’s news seems a small step toward that goal, with no discernible role for AI in the email aspect. But Slack will use some mild AI to suggest and set up calendar appointments based on conversations in chats.

“What commonly happens in Slack is that people are discussing a topic [and say], ‘Hey, let’s dive in deeper on this by getting together. Can we meet today on this or meet tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.?'” says Pflaum. “We’re going to be recognizing intents around meetings and tee up those users to create a meeting and help them find that time when they’re both free.”