Slack teamwork? Get collaboration into Stride, says Atlassian

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright September 6, 2017
Digital collaboration takes another step forward today as Atlassian launches Stride, built to outpace the likes of Slack with more purposeful teamwork

Atlassian Stride - Focus Mode screenshot 740px
The continuing evolution of digital collaboration tools takes another step forward today with the launch of Stride, an all-new messaging, meetings and workflow platform from teamwork vendor Atlassian. And as its name implies, Atlassian believes Stride will allow teams to work more productively and purposefully than alternative message-centric platforms such as fast-growing Slack, Microsoft Teams and others.

Atlassian denies it chose the product name specifically to invite comparisons with Slack. But it's promoting Stride as an antidote to the perceived failings of existing messaging-led collaboration platforms — Slack included — which often leave users feeling overwhelmed or distracted by the constant stream of messages. Oji Udezue, Head of Product for Stride, says its name is intended to convey a focus on making progress towards an outcome:

We don't want to have infinite conversations. We want to say that we make people more productive, that together they get work done.

Stride seeks to achieve this by combining messaging with instant meetings and a set of tools that help team members keep track of decisions and important actions within the message stream. There are several distinctive features that set Stride apart from other messaging-centric platforms.

Frictionless meetings

The rise of messaging platforms has in part been a response to increasingly distributed teams, with participants spread across different locations and frequently across organizational boundaries. But there are often times when a direct conversation is needed to resolve issues that become too unwieldy for a message thread. Most messaging platforms force users to move to a different meetings application to have those conversations, but Stride has it built in.

The Meetings functionality can instantly pop up a one-to-one or one-to-many meeting, which team members and other invited participants can join via video, voice calling, screen sharing or remote control access, across a range of devices including mobile. Participants can be brought in directly from the Stride directory.

Recording decisions and actions

Once a decision has been reached or an action taken, Stride lets any message be marked as such, and these Actions and Decisions are highlighted in the workspace sidebar. This surfaces important milestones so that people can see what progress has been made without having to follow or read back through the entire message stream.

Focus Mode

Probably the most striking feature of Stride is the ability to disconnect from the message stream in order to focus on a specific task. This is called Focus Mode and once engaged, other team members can see that it's on, discouraging interruptions. It's an important acknowledgement that sometimes people need quiet time to get work done, says Udezue:

Focus Mode gives people cultural permission to put the application in a state where you don't get notified all the time, you can step away and do work. All notifications are calmed and the only messages passed through are those addressed to you personally — they have to pass a higher social norm bar.

Once Focus Mode ends — either at a predetermined time, or when the user ends the session, they see a 'While you were away' panel which summarizes what's been going on in the meantime (see featured image at top of post).

Stride API

As I've noted in recent coverage of the collaboration space, the ability to plug applications and workflow automation into messaging platforms is another important differentiator. While Atlassian is not emphasizing that aspect of Stride in today's launch, it is publishing details of the Stride API. This supports bots that can listen for specific message or events, or chat with users that call them up within a room or a conversation. Customers can also build their own apps or install third-party Stride apps in direct conversations and rooms. As with any ecosystem, the capabilities offered by third parties will grow as the product expands its user base.

Upgrade from HipChat

Prospective users can sign up for early access on the Stride website, while customers of Atlassian's existing messaging platform HipChat Cloud will be offered the choice of a seamless upgrade. Stride is not a replacement for HipChat — the on-premise version "remains a big focus for Atlassian," says Steve Goldsmith, General Manager of Stride — but he implies that existing users of the cloud version will be keen to make the upgrade, which brings all of the existing messages, team members and other history directly into Stride:

HipChat isn't going anywhere. It does about a third of what Stride does. It's a free, zero-click upgrade from HipChat — open up the Stride client and it's all there.

Atlassian is aiming for widespread adoption of Stride, making it available under a freemium model for unlimited teams, users and rooms. The paid version of $3 per user per month kicks in when customers decide to add special video functions or go above limits of 25k messages or 5GB file storage.

My take

This is a big move by Atlassian and brings it into strong contention in the messaging segment of the enterprise collaboration market. Combined with its existing workflow and content collaboration platforms in Trello, Jira and Confluence, this significantly strengthens the breadth of Atlassian's collaboration family and is testament to its continuing ambition to be a leading player.

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