“Happy Friday the 13th,” says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield in referencing the coronavirus impact on the stock market. “There are a lot of people who are moving to a remote work or work-from-home situation for the first time. A lot of executives who are struggling to figure out how to manage and maintain operational performance in this kind of environment. They have a lot of questions and a lot of uncertainty. We’ve seen a surge in new teams created and people checking out Slack for the first time.”
Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, discusses on CNBC the historic move to remote work by organisations large and small in response to the coronavirus. Butterfield says that this may have a lingering impact on businesses opting for more remote options and with up-leveling communications:
Slack Coronavirus Response: “This Is Our Moment To Help”
Happy Friday the 13th from the first growth company CEO to have to report into what was a pretty apocalyptic day on the markets. We’re seeing a lot from all different kinds of customers. We have 110,000 customers, SMEs, large enterprise, government, academic, and nonprofit. There are a lot of people who are moving to a remote work or work from home situation for the first time. A lot of executives who are struggling to figure out how to manage and maintain operational performance in this kind of environment. They have a lot of questions and a lot of uncertainty.
The reaction inside the company has been really fantastic. A lot of energy. I think the employees feel like this is our moment to help. We have a great collection of resources at Slack (Slack Remote). We’ve also scaled up a program to give people one-on-one consultations. Our customer success teams are very active with the enterprise customers. We’re running webinars and giving training. In some sense Slack was built for this. Not specifically for remote work but for up-leveling communications and communications is foundational to that way that business operates. In an environment where you’re suddenly making this transition it’s more important than ever.
The Crisis Will Have Some Permanent Impact On Business
I think it will (coronavirus crisis) definitely have some permanent impact. From where we sit today there’s not a lot of visibility into the future. You think about just what it felt like yesterday compared to Wednesday with moments like the Tom Hanks or NBA thing where suddenly the psychology really seems to shift. People start to have a different kind of perception of what the next couple of weeks are going to look like. So looking too far ahead I think is difficult. This will be a lingering factor and have a lasting impact for most organizations.
I got an email from a CTO last week who had just signed a huge contract with Slack, one of the biggest asset managers in the world. What he said is like hey, just letting you know, we just signed but this is the last PO we will sign before the doors kind of shut. I think you’ll see some clamping down on spending. At the same time we’ve seen a real surge in interest both from existing customers and from new customers. We’ve seen a surge in new teams created and people checking out Slack for the first time. It’s really hard to balance those two.
We feel great about (our competition with Microsoft Teams). Microsoft Teams has been out for three years now and enough time has passed. I think that’s the reception that we got on it from the analysts last night. This is our third quarter result report as a public company. One of the wins that were proudest of in the last quarter was with Veterans Affairs going to 20,000 users. They run the biggest integrated healthcare system in the United States. You think about the pressure that they’re going to be under with a lot of elderly patients and managing through that kind of crisis. This is in an environment where you’re having people work from home in an environment that’s so dynamic.
Leaders Need To Drive Alignment and Agility
I think about my own experience. Stuff is changing every day. We have 1,300 employees in San Francisco. Just last night school districts said that they’re shutting down all the schools. So people who are already in a situation where they were battling over kitchen table space with their spouse when they’re both working from home and now they are going to have two or three kids in the house as well. That’s not an easy situation to manage.
Meanwhile the disruptions of supply chains to the SMEs, restaurants shutting down, travel, that’s going to have downstream impact. It’s such a dynamic environment. Anything that leaders can do and employees can do to help drive kind of alignment and ultimately agility, because they’re in this kind of environment you need to be agile and you need to be responsive.