With more than 1.7 million daily users as of December 2015, Slack serves as a prime example of effectiveness in driving alignment between its business and operating models. It is a team chat and workplace collaboration tool that was originally released two years ago and shows no signs of slowing its growth anytime soon.
The program was created for internal use at a game development company, originally existing as a set of incremental improvements to a basic instant messaging service. As the team added more and more features it became clear that the product would prove to be useful at other companies as well. Slack relies on group channels and private direct messages to allow team members to communicate with each other. At the same time, it has native integrations with countless other enterprise services – including Box, Dropbox, GitHub, Google Drive, Twitter, and Wunderlist – to act as a single place for people to interact with each other and their company’s data, files, and alerts. More importantly, all of the chats and linked files are searchable, and the entire system is accessible through a browser and native desktop and smartphone applications.
Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO, explains that beyond just providing a polished chat experience the tool further creates value for users by increasing transparency in an organization across different functions and projects and by serving as “the digital manifestation of [a company’s] institutional knowledge.” The entire business model is noteworthy as it underlines the role of a wide range of data sources in the success of modern firms: users rely on the Slack interface to not only communicate with their coworkers but also to access aggregated information related to their their business.
The company’s operating model has a pricing policy with several tiers that reflect the amount of value captured for teams by the app. The pricing scales with the number of features provided to users, and Slack’s revenue is directly related to the support it provides its customers. As the levels increase, companies are given larger message archives, more extensive search features, stronger support, and greater access to usage data, message compliance, and security. Teams pay per user, and workplaces can use the free tier for an unlimited time without ever upgrading to the next level if they do not need anything more than the basic package.
Slack’s own development process is in line with both its business model and origins as features continue to be added incrementally and are prioritized based on user need and amount of value provided. It leverages both direct feedback from customers and an active community of developers building their own Slack add-ons to maintain momentum in its product roadmap. The company uses its own service, and Butterfield has not sent an email to a coworker in over four years. It is very easy to set up a new team in the app, and the continuous roll-out of new integrations and features makes it increasingly difficult for companies to switch to alternative platforms because the tool’s competitive advantage only grows as teams build longer historical archives and orient their own workplace communications and operations around Slack as a central hub.
Slack’s astounding performance directly reflects the effectiveness of its strategies. In early 2015 the company was adding $1 million in annual subscription revenues every two weeks and revealed that users were connected to the app for over 9 hours during the course of the workday. Its high-profile paid customers include Pandora, Venmo, Airbnb, Adobe, Foursquare, Yelp, Nordstrom, eBay, and Expedia – just to name a few – and many of these companies have started listing use of the chat app in their offices as an “employment perk.”
Slack has proven itself as the clear choice for startups and large corporations alike, whether they just need a clean chat app or require a robust suite of collaboration tools, and the set of features it provides to its customers only continues to grow. Based on current moment there appears to be no end in sight to the number of Slack-ers in the workplace.
 Rachel Metz, “Three Questions with Slack’s CEO,” MIT Technology Review, November 21, 2014, http://www.technologyreview.com/news/532606/three-questions-with-slacks-ceo/, accessed December 2015.
 Ellis Hamburger, “Slack is Killing Email,” The Verge, August 12, 2014, http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/12/5991005/slack-is-killing-email-yes-really, accessed December 2015.
 Eugene Kim, “Billion-dollar Startup Slack Says It’s Adding $1 Million in New Contracts Every 11 Days,” Business Insider, February 12, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/slack-growth-after-one-year-2015-2, Accessed December 2015.
 Mat Honan, “The Most Fascinating Profile You’ll Ever Read About a Guy and His Boring Startup,” Wired, August 7, 2014, http://www.wired.com/2014/08/the-most-fascinating-profile-youll-ever-read-about-a-guy-and-his-boring-startup/, Accessed December 2015.