What 4 Million Slack Messages Tell Us About Collaboration

What value is your company getting out of Slack?

We’ve got the data. Using engagement analytics from Productiv’s SaaS Management platform, we looked at over 4,000,000 Slack messages across approximately 40,000 users. We compared this data to a similar number of messages from companies using other messaging tools. From this data we pulled concrete observations around how enterprises are using — and driving value — from Slack.

Read on to get the hard numbers on how Slack drives open collaboration, cross-team collaboration, and external collaboration — as well as how you can use Productiv’s engagement analytics to prove the value you’re getting from SaaS platforms like Slack.

Understanding Productiv and its Data

Before diving into the data itself, let’s provide context for where the data comes from. Productiv is an enterprise SaaS management platform. Our mission is to unlock productivity from your SaaS portfolio by giving you insights into how your employees are using their applications. Whether its collaboration, communications, project management, or any other SaaS application, Productiv serves as your central system of record for how these applications are used; licensing costs; and renewals.

Our focus on application engagement analytics, combined with this centralized system puts us into an excellent place to extract trends across many enterprises for any number of applications. All of the data presented below is derived solely from Productiv’s platform, and aggregated across customer environments. This data in turn can help enterprises better understand how they are getting ROI out of the applications they invest time and money into.

How to Measure Slack ROI

Slack is booming, as companies invest heavily in collaboration solutions that allow people to work more effectively, even as more people are working from home. But how do you know how much value you’re getting out of a collaboration solution such as Slack? 

We looked at the common questions asked by CIOs:

  • If we invest in Slack, how much will our employees actually use it? 
  • Does Slack improve collaboration between employees? 
  • How do we measure the value of this collaboration to show Return on Investment?

On a day-to-day basis, you might be able to measure messages across public and private channels. What does that really mean, though — are employees making the most of Slack? 

To understand the value your organization is getting from a SaaS investment such as Slack, it’s not enough to look at how many licenses you have provisioned. In fact, it’s not enough to look at daily average users either – what you need to measure is user engagement to see if employees are truly getting value from their tools. 

User engagement is how an individual interacts with a product or service.

Engagement looks at what features your employees use, how frequently they use it, and (critically) what kind of value they get from it — as value for employees translates into value for the business.

You can tell when employees are engaged with their collaboration tools and using it for deep work when they’re doing more with the platform than just using the basic features – for example in the case of messaging, lightweight private messages to other team members. Specifically, we break down value from this  engagement into three metrics.

An Analysis of The Three Metrics of Slack Engagement

Many think of Slack simply as a chat platform. Our data however supports the idea that Slack has evolved into a collaboration platform, with three types of collaboration that we can measure. Let’s break down these three types of collaboration and examine the supporting data.

1. Open Collaboration

The idea of open collaboration is employees freely working with other employees. Compared to rigid, hierarchical structures, open collaboration mixes things up. Anyone can join in. (Think company-wide brainstorming sessions, or town hall-style meetings.)

In Slack, “open collaboration” can be measured by how users utilize public channelsPublic channels are open to anyone in the workplace, with the exception of guests — they’re meant for company-wide announcements, updates, or general information sharing.

According to Productiv data, those who use Slack are more than twice as likely to use public channels for messaging than comparable messaging products.

Our analytics show that 74% of Slack users send messages through public channels, compared to just 34% of users for other enterprise collaboration platforms. Slack isn’t just a private chat platform — it drives open, public collaboration.

Anecdotally, we see Slack customers echo this philosophy. For example, Neal Obermeyer at TD Ameritrade noted, “Slack channels, virtual spaces for sharing information and files, cut through information silos by making company knowledge available across the organization. By moving communication to public channels, we removed the subjectivity of sharing information so internal knowledge could scale as needed.” This type of approach is well reflected in our data.

2. Cross-Team Collaboration

Beyond open collaboration (conversations that anyone can join), cross-team collaboration means teams using Slack to work together. For example, someone from HR communicating to someone in Accounting, versus accounting only talking to accounting or HR only messaging HR.

On average, we found that ~80% of Slack users send cross-team messages.

How a high-growth software company (1000+ employees) uses Slack between teams. (Source: Productiv analytics)

Our analytics show that companies see much greater cross-team collaboration with Slack than other messaging platforms. In fact, 90%+ of companies using Slack have 70%+ of their users engaging in cross-team collaboration. 

How a large technology company (10,000+ employees) uses Slack for cross-team collaboration. (Source: Productiv analytics)

3. External Collaboration

External collaboration refers to how well employees work outside your company — say, with suppliers, consultants, or customers. While employees certainly need to collaborate with each other, external collaboration leads to greater innovation, happier customers, and a more valuable business.

According to our data, Slack is effective at driving more external collaboration. For every ten messages in internal public channels, Productiv’s Slack users send an average of 4.8 external messages. In other words, the ratio is about 1 external message for every 2 internal messages.

And that number is growing: between August 2019 and August 2020, 43% of the businesses we analyzed have increased the volume of external messages sent through Slack.

Slack Connect allows teams to move the conversations they’re having with external partners, vendors, or customers into Slack channels.

How Slack increases internal collaboration (black line), cross-team collaboration (green line), and external collaboration (blue line). (Source: Productiv analytics)Slack: A Case Study in Measuring SaaS Investment

These are the hard numbers in how Slack increases engagement across the enterprise: the critical business case needed to justify your Slack subscription. 

All SaaS platforms share the same problem: how do you show the Return on Investment? How do you know you’re getting value out of the platform? 

Productiv can help.

Some SaaS subscription management platforms just track how many licenses you own. Productiv provides real-time, actionable insights on how employees are using your SaaS investments. By integrating with other enterprise IT solutions like Workday, Productiv can show you how many users for each department in various office locations are utilizing features of your SaaS applications — and the business results they’re driving.

Productiv provides you with granular data on how employees are using your SaaS applications — as well as the real business results.

Slack has the power to enable better collaboration, both inside and outside of your company. With Productiv, you can see how employees are utilizing Slack, and how they’re getting the most out of your SaaS investment. If you want these analytics, Productiv can help! Start with Productiv Essentials, the free tier of our SaaS Management Platform, or request a demo of our entire enterprise platform.