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双语:Office Communication: The Slack Generation
发布时间:2017年09月25日     Economist 译  
来源: 英语世界
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Office Communication: The Slack Generation

办公通讯:Slack一代


How workplace messaging could replace other missives

职场通讯工具如何取代其他沟通形式


Stewart Butterfield, the boss of Slack, a messaging company, has been wonderfully unlucky in certain ventures. In 2002, he and a band of colleagues created an online-video game called “Game Neverending”. It never took off, but the tools they used to design it turned into Flickr, the web’s first popular photo-sharing website. Yahoo bought it in 2005 for a reported $35m.


通讯工具公司Slack的老板斯图尔特·巴特菲尔德在一些创业经历中上可谓因祸得福。2002年,他和一群同事创办了名为“游戏无止境”的网络视频游戏。该产品并未成功,但他们用来设计游戏的工具后来却发展成为互联网首个广受欢迎的照片分享网站Flickr,后于2005年被雅虎收购,据称出价达3500万美元。


Four years later Mr. Butterfield tried to create another online game, called Glitch. It flopped as well. But Mr. Butterfield and his team developed an internal messaging system to collaborate on it, which became the basis for Slack. In Silicon Valley, such a change in strategy is called a “pivot”; anywhere else it is called good fortune. Today, Slack is one of the fastest-rising startups around, with $540m in funding and a valuation of around $3.8 billion. “I guess the lesson should be, pursue your dream and hope it fails, so you can do something else,” says Cal Henderson, Slack’s chief technology officer.


四年后,巴特菲尔德试图创办另一款名为Glitch的网络游戏,同样以失败告终。但巴特菲尔德和他的团队在创业过程中开发了一个内部通讯系统用于协作,奠定了Slack的基础。在硅谷,这种战略上的转变被称为“转型”,要是放在其他任何地方都会被称为运气。今天,Slack已成为上升最快的创业公司之一,融资5.4亿美元,估值约为38亿美元。“我想这给我们的经验是,追逐梦想,希望梦想失败,这样你就可以做点儿别的了。”Slack的首席技术官卡尔·亨德森说道。


It is rare for business software to arouse emotion besides annoyance. But some positively gush about how Slack has simplified office communication. Instead of individual e-mails arriving in a central inbox and requiring attention, Slack structures textual conversations within threads (called “channels”) where groups within firms can update each other in real time. It is casual and reflects how people actually communicate, eschewing e-mail’s outdated formalities, says Chris Becherer of Pandora, an online-music firm that uses Slack.


办公软件很少能唤起什么情绪,除了厌烦之外。但有人对Slack赞不绝口,称其简化了办公通讯。Slack不是把电子邮件都堆在一个收件箱里让人处理,而是按话题(称为“频道”)组织文本对话,便于公司中的团队实时沟通。这种形式较为随意,反映出人们的实际沟通方式,并且避免了电子邮件那套过时的形式,在线音乐公司潘多拉的克里斯·贝赫勒说道,该公司就使用Slack进行办公通讯。


Its other selling-point is efficiency. A survey of users, admittedly conducted by the firm itself, suggests that team productivity increases by around a third when they start using the software, primarily by reducing internal e-mail and meetings. Slack has decided to open itself up to other apps, becoming a platform by which employees can log into and use other software tools. Today it has 2.7m daily active users, up from 1m last June. Around 800,000 of them are paying subscribers; their firms pay around $80 or more a year for each employee using the service. The firm has $75m in annual recurring revenue and is breaking even, says Mr. Butterfield.


它的另一个卖点是效率。Slack自己做的用户调查显示,在使用该软件后,团队效率提升近三分之一,主要是由于内部邮件及会议的减少。Slack已决定向其他应用开放,成为企业员工可以登陆并使用其他软件工具的平台。去年六月时,该软件的日活跃用户为100万,目前已上升至270万,其中约有80万是付费用户,公司为每位使用服务的员工支付至少80美元的年费。巴特菲尔德表示,Slack的年度经常性收入为7500万美元,公司正逐渐实现收支平衡。


Slack’s rise points to three important changes in the workplace. First, people are completing work across different devices from wherever they are, so they need software that can work seamlessly on mobile devices. Messaging naturally lends itself to this format. Second, communication is becoming more open. Just as offices went from closed, hived-off rooms to open-plan, Slack is the virtual equivalent, fostering a collaborative work environment, says Venkatesh Rao of Ribbonfarm, a consultancy. Slack’s default setting is to make conversations public within a firm.


Slack的崛起昭示着职场的三个重要变化。首先,人们现在会在不同地点,通过各种设备来完成工作,所以他们需要能在移动设备上无缝运作的软件。发送消息天生适合这种形式。第二,通讯正变得越来越开放。正如办公室从封闭小隔间变为开放式空间一样,Slack在虚拟领域引领着同样的变革,打造协同工作环境,咨询公司Ribbonfarm的文卡泰什·拉奥说道。Slack的默认设置就是让员工在公司内公开对话。


Third, software firms are trying to automate functions that used to be done by people in order to make employees more productive. Slack has made a big push into “bots”, algorithms that can automate menial tasks which used to be done by humans. Slack offers bots that compile lunch orders and projects’ progress reports, or generate analytics on demand. In the future employees will be able to chat with software agents to get more done, working alongside bots as well as their peers.


第三,软件公司正尝试把以往需要人工处理的职能自动化,借此提高员工的工作效率。Slack已大量运用“机器人”, 这些算法可以自动完成以往需要人工处理的低级工作。Slack提供的机器人服务包括确定午餐订单,编写项目进度报告,以及按需生成分析等。未来,员工将可与“软件员工”对话,与这些机器人和同事并肩工作,取得更多成果。


Mr. Butterfield is not the typical leader of a striving startup. Called “Dharma” by his hippie parents, he spent his early years on a commune with no running water or electricity; he changed his name to Daniel Stewart when he was 12. A self-professed introvert, which is fitting for a company that sells itself on textual communication, he values efficiency and candour. After Yahoo bought Flickr, he worked there for a few years. “Everything was horrible, ugly, slow, difficult to use and confusing,” he says, frankly.


巴特菲尔德不是那种典型的拼搏型创业企业领袖。被嬉皮士父母称为“达摩”的他,早年生活在一个没有自来水或电力的公社中;12岁的时候他把自己的名字改为丹尼尔·斯图尔特。他自称性格内向——这恰恰适合靠文本通讯谋生的公司——并且珍视效率和坦诚。雅虎收购Flickr之后,他在那里工作了几年。“一切都很可怕、丑陋、缓慢、难用、混乱。”他毫不掩饰地说道。

 

Dharma chameleon

达摩变色龙


In retrospect, Flickr was sold too soon. The sale marked the beginning of the technology industry’s resurgence after its crash in the early 2000s. Now, Mr. Butterfield has a second chance. Investors do not want to see him sell Slack too early. Earlier this year there were reports that Microsoft considered bidding around $8 billion for the company. Mr. Butterfield says that Slack has never received a formal offer from anyone and is planning to go public. Last year it started submitting itself to voluntary audits, in what appears to be preparation for a public debut. But it seems even more likely that a large tech giant will see the strategic value of Slack and try to snap it up first for an even splashier sum.


回想起来,当年卖Flickr卖得太早了。那一次并购标志着科技产业在经历21世纪初崩溃后的复苏。如今巴特菲尔德有了第二次机会。投资者不愿意看到他过早卖掉Slack。今年早些时候有报道称,微软考虑出价80亿美元收购该公司。巴特菲尔德则表示从未收到任何人的正式报价,而公司正计划上市。去年,公司做了一次外部审计,似乎是为公开上市准备。但貌似可能性更大的是某家科技巨头会意识到Slack的战略价值,以更高的出价抢先将其收归麾下。


Mr. Butterfield says that Slack could achieve $10 billion in revenue if it signs up 100m knowledge workers, of which there are around 850m worldwide. That is far easier said than done. For one thing, Slack still needs to woo larger companies outside the technology world. Currently it holds particular appeal among workers at firms in the internet, media and advertising industries, and among teams of software developers within larger firms. Conquering traditional businesses may prove harder. Slack’s yearly minimum of $80 per employee is steep for companies with tens of thousands of workers.


巴特菲尔德表示,假如全球约8.5亿的知识型劳动者中有一亿成为Slack的付费用户,那么公司的年收入将达到100亿美元。这说起来容易,实际难度却大得多。一方面,Slack还须博取非科技业大公司的青睐。目前,Slack特别受互联网、媒体、广告公司员工的欢迎,大公司内部软件开发团队的员工也很爱用。但征服传统公司可能会更难。Slack每人80美元的最低年费对拥有数以万计员工的企业来说是一项不菲的开支。


For another, Slack has rising competition to fend off. Already, rival products are taking aim at the market for workplace collaboration, including one, Atlassian, from an Australian software company, which is called HipChat, and bundled with its other services. There is also Symphony, a rival startup backed by several banks that specialises in highly regulated industries such as financial services, which require more compliance controls. Tech giants such as Microsoft, Oracle and Facebook have collaborative work apps, but these are only modestly successful.


另一方面,Slack还要抵御不断加剧的竞争。已有不少竞争产品瞄准办公协作的市场,其中包括澳大利亚软件公司Atlassian推出的HipChat,该产品还捆绑提供公司的其他服务。另一对手是拥有多家银行支持的创业企业Symphony,其产品专门针对金融服务等受高度监管的行业而设,这些行业要求更多的合规控制。微软、甲骨文和Facebook等科技巨头也有协同工作应用,但都成绩有限。


Slack’s greatest challenge may be people’s own habits. To some, its endless stream of chatter may be worse even than e-mail, because the barriers to commenting rapidly are lower. The introverted Mr. Butterfield should welcome the chance to appeal to people who do not want constant interaction, even when it comes in textual form.


Slack面临的最大挑战可能是人们自身的习惯。一些人认为,这种没完没了地唠叨也许比电子邮件还要糟糕,因为不假思索地大发议论的屏障降低了。内向的巴特菲尔德也该考虑怎样吸引那些不喜欢持续互动的人,即便是以文本形式互动。


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