Most digital teamwork platforms start from the perspective of either messaging, content or workflow. That's fine for workers who spend most of their time at work in one or other of these modes. But what about those who spend most of their time in a specific business application, such as Salesforce or Workday? Connecting this final dimension of digital teamwork into the enterprise collaborative canvas often seems like an afterthought, leading to disjointed workflows and gaps in communication.
One vendor that's taking a fresh approach to this question is up-and-coming work management platform ClickUp, which last week announced its acquisition of Slapdash, a tool designed to connect into various popular SaaS applications. Bringing Slapdash on board will add a search and command capability into ClickUp, which allows users to search across all their connected applications and take actions on the results. Slapdash currently connects to more than 40 SaaS applications, including Slack, Google Drive and Salesforce, with more on the way. Contextual search results are returned almost instantly, and users can then take actions including editing, sharing and commenting. This ability to take actions on search results is particularly distinctive, says Ivan Kanevski, co-Founder and CEO of Slapdash:
We give you this bird's-eye view across the applications. But I think the one interesting thing that we do as well, it's not about just search and reading, we can also write to those applications.
Interestingly, the inspiration for Slapdash was Kanevski's experience as a Facebook employee of the tools that company has built for its internal use. But few businesses have the IT resources to build their own internal productivity tools in the way that the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon have. So after leaving Facebook, he and his colleagues decided to create a packaged tool that would put the same capabilities in the hands of any business. He continues:
We built what I like to colloquially describe as, 'the file system for your cloud apps.' Then we discovered new ways to work with that cloud, with that file system, letting people do things like open any document much quicker than they would otherwise, or find out what a person is working on ...
What people were getting out of Slapdash [is], they were able to do things much faster, they were saving people time.
Bringing that capability into ClickUp, which is a work management app along similar lines to Asana, Monday.com and Wrike, provides tight integration into the ecosystem of applications that businesses use today. The numbers of applications at the average business have grown dramatically in recent years, reaching an average of 80 last year according to metrics from SaaS management platform BetterCloud, and more than double that in organizations with more than 2,000 employees, according to Okta. It's essential to be able to connect into that ecosystem, as Shailesh Kumar, ClickUp's SVP of Engineering, explains:
The broader ecosystem is very fragmented. Slapdash is an amazing technology to build a layer on top of the broader ecosystem and let you operate on that ecosystem more broadly. That fits very well with ClickUp technology — ClickUp's vision of how we are saving people's time, how we are making them more productive — because ClickUp will be the master record of your task and your work, but it recognizes and acknowledges the ecosystem that you play in.
You're able to create, and go to other applications and have interactions both ways, read and write interactions with other applications, very fluidly from ClickUp. That gives us the superpower of just the breadth of actions you can take — the breadth of things you can do inside ClickUp to other systems is huge. That's the unlock that we saw with Slapdash technology and the product itself.
The acquisition is much more than simply a technology play, with the Slapdash team expected to make a continuing contribution to ClickUp's evolution. Kumar says:
It's amazing tech, and the people that Ivan built together — the team that we are acquiring — every person is outstanding. Every person has a proven track record, and is really a powerhouse by themselves.
We often hear about work management tools connecting into content platforms or messaging platforms, but most people's work in an organization revolves around core applications where their work is focused — sales automation, service management, sourcing, design, and so on, depending on their role. It's less often that work management tools reach directly into these apps.
For all that ClickUp's current advertising tagline is "One app to replace them all," it's good to see from this acquisition that the company recognizes the inevitability of co-existence with this large ecosystem of other applications. Forcing everyone to use the same tools is unrealistic. Different work needs different apps. Therefore the tools that an organization uses to co-ordinate work must connect to all those other apps.
This new acquisition brings proven technology to achieve that, but also a strong team that is likely to bring much more into the ClickUp platform. There's a graph data structure underlying Slapdash that is mapping a great deal of useful information about the relationships that connect people, data objects and workflows. One of the insights I had when I first started mapping how enterprises co-ordinate digital teamwork is that technologies that provide search, sync and people connections are all essential ingredients alongside the collaboration tools themselves. It will be interesting to see how ClickUp evolves its functionality now that it has this new team on board.