Slack moves to integrate with EMM for enterprise security

Slack will allow corporate admins to integrate its collaboration service with 21 different enterprise mobility management software platforms, enabling greater security, provisioning and management features through familiar software providers.

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Slack has enabled integration with more than a dozen enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms in order to offer security and policy management features to its four-year old, cloud-based messaging application.

The messaging platform provider worked with AppConfig, an open standards group, which allowed Slack to integrate through a set of APIs with 21 EMM vendors.

Slack said it also worked more closely with three EMM providers – VMware Airwatch, MobileIron, and Blackberry Good – "to ensure a smooth experience for our joint customers.

"EMM is a critical addition to Slack's enterprise-grade security feature set, which also includes data encryption in transit and at rest," Slack said.

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Prior to the announcement, Slack already came with its own encryption capability. It can now offer the same crypto security based on the EMM providers' technology.

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Slack's corporate version – Enterprise Grid –  enables admins to integrate Slack with their EMM provider to ensure that only approved devices that comply with  internal policies can sign into the organization’s Slack instance.

EMM is a comprehensive, hardware-agnostic method of remotely managing mobile devices, including their configuration and the enterprise content generated on them, through mobile device management and mobile application management. EMM is all-encompassing; it can control access to corporate apps, internal websites and even the data silos associated with them.

EMM integration affords Slack SCIM provisioning (an open API for managing user identities), SAML-based single sign-on capabilities, two-factor authentication and remote device wiping capabilities.

A new feature, "Profiles in Slack," enables admins to put faces to names and provide background information about the people on each corporate team using the messaging platform.

The feature allows first and last names, as well as where an employee is located, their job description and their business group.

If a company already uses an identity provider or internal directory, it can now sync that information with Profiles in Slack using the SCIM API, which helps admins consolidate identity management while building out a directory that's easily accessible by a business team in Slack.

Slack claims to have 6.8 million weekly active users, and more than 1.5 million paid users.

As is the case with many newer companies, Slack must determine what features to build internally – such as file-sharing and project management capabilities – and which to adopt through partnerships; its latest announcement is a clear indication that security is best added through partnerships, according to Alan Lepofsky, vice president & principal analyst at Constellation Research.

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"Profiles in Slack" enables admins to put faces to names and provide background information about the people on each corporate team using the messaging platform.

"They know it isn't their primary skill set," Lepofsky said. "Slack wants to make sure they can play in that space."

The lack of EMM integration has been a differentiator that competitors, such as Microsoft Teams, IBM Connections, Cisco Spark and Google with its new Hangouts Chat, have been able to point to as indicative that Slack is not as robust an enterprise application, Leposfky said.

In 2015, Slack revealed it had been hacked and some user data compromised, which prompted the company to add encryption and two-factor authentication.

Earlier this year, Slack announced Enterprise Grid, its product for companies with up to half a million employees. The new application offers corporate admins a single view of their collaboration environment and enabled identity management, and the ability to provision and manage teams of corporate users of unlimited size. Slack also plans to roll out search, business intelligence and analytics tools to Enterprise Grid later this year.

"Now, Enterprise Grid admins can integrate Slack with their EMM provider to ensure that only approved devices (those that comply with your internal policies) are able to sign in to the organization's Slack instance," Slack said in this week's announcement. "This enables admins to centrally manage corporate policies and approved devices in your EMM provider of choice, then automatically apply those permissions to Slack."

"When Slack launched Enterprise Grid, they spent the rest of 2017 fleshing out the pieces they need to be able to say they truly are an enterprise player," Leposfky said. "This is clearly a momentum announcement leading into their first enterprise conference in a few weeks."

While Slack's new EMM partnerships adds to its credibility for enterprise users, Leposfky said he'd still like to see the messaging platform work out its "partner vs build" strategies in areas such as file-sharing, unified communications including task management, voice, video, and screen sharing, as well as content creation via Microsoft's Office 365 and Google's G Suite cloud computing and application tools.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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