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How Spotify harmonises external collaboration in Slack Connect

‘Slack Connect has empowered the employees of Spotify to define how they want to connect with and talk to the people they work with every day.’

Jennifer KnodeSenior Engineering Manager, Spotify, Spotify

Getting work done in a distributed workplace requires quick, creative thinking. While new tools and platforms can speed up remote communication – especially with external partners such as contractors and vendors – they can also introduce serious security risks. According to a recent Citrix report, 54% of IT leaders saw a surge in employees installing unauthorised collaboration tools and software in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cyberthreats are also on the rise. Research shows that 90% of data breaches are caused by phishing emails, resulting in USD $12 billion in losses to businesses each year, according to FBI reports.​ But Spotify, the go-to streaming service for exploring new tunes, playlists and podcasts, has found a better, safer way to work with its external partners using Slack as its digital HQ: Slack Connect.

Designed to replace email, Slack Connect makes the work that happens with outside organisations faster, more productive and more secure. That’s because Slack Connect moves conversations out of unwieldy, siloed email threads and into a single digital space that’s easy for all the right teammates and partners to access. All Slack’s enterprise-grade security features and compliance standards apply to Slack Connect. Plus, admins can set granular controls to safeguard their organisation’s data.

Jennifer Knode, a senior engineering manager in Spotify’s Digital Workplace department, operates at the centre of the company’s robust partner network. It’s her job to evaluate, implement and manage the communication tools that keep employees connected in a digital HQ, including Slack Connect. Here, Knode shares how Spotifiers use Slack Connect to stay in sync with partners so that work keeps humming along.

Spotify puts security first with Slack Connect

With more than 172 million subscribers in 184 countries and territories, Spotify’s reach is global. And like every global company, Spotify depends on its partnerships with international vendors. Slack Connect helps Spotify to keep communication and data secure across its 14 international offices and its external partnerships.

‘In almost every meeting, we’re discussing or onboarding a new vendor,’ says Knode. ‘If the vendor uses Slack, it’s a relief because we can skip the step of emailing and the formality.’

As part of its security policy, Spotify requires external partners to sign a non-disclosure agreement before work in Slack begins. With Slack Connect, admins maintain control over their organisation’s data and monitor external access. And unlike email – which leaves users open to the risk of spam and phishing – when everyone works in channels, teams receive messages and files only from verified members. What’s more, all of Slack’s enterprise-grade security features and compliance standards extend to Slack Connect, including retention settings, support for data loss prevention and e-discovery, and Slack Enterprise Key Management.

‘We default towards openness after the NDA,’ says Knode. ‘Knowing that our data is protected, knowing that we could walk away from a connection at any time and retain the things that we said, makes us feel confident.’

In Slack Connect, customising and managing settings is a painless process for administrators. Spotify, for example, has disabled Slack Connect direct messages. ‘The amount of Slack Connect channels that we’ve established has actually headed off the real need for the DMs,’ Knode says. ‘The people I’m connected to in channels are the people I want to be connected to. And Slack Connect keeps me out of email – I love that.’

Headshot of Jennifer Knode

‘Knowing that our data is protected, knowing that we could walk away from a connection at any time and retain the things that we said, makes us feel confident.’

Jennifer KnodeSenior Engineering Manager, Spotify

A simpler way to navigate mergers and acquisitions

Spotify’s star is only getting brighter. In just a handful of years, the company has acquired renowned brands such as Gimlet Media and The Ringer, and it plans to keep expanding.

When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, there’s a laundry list of items that organisations must work through: conversations between lawyers and key stakeholders across the company, ledgers to be balanced and pre-deal research. With Slack Connect, Spotify communicates with partners across multiple organisations, in channels. All parties involved in the process of due diligence have the ability to chat and exchange files securely. When each relevant stakeholder joins the channel, they can simply scroll up to see previously shared documents and conversations – without the hassle of catch-up phone calls or emails.

Slack Connect also breaks down the all-too-familiar communication silos that burden large, growing organisations. With Slack as a single source of truth for communication, Spotify nurtures a more inclusive work environment for those who join the company through M&A efforts. ‘We’re able to protect the company’s culture and communication norms, while welcoming [newcomers] into the larger Spotify organisation,’ says Knode.

A more productive workday for admins and employees alike

Adopting Slack Connect has saved Spotify’s Slack administrators serious overhead time and costs, Knode explains. Before Spotify began sharing channels externally, administrators created individual channel guest accounts for each external partner. That meant managing individual permissions settings and access end dates – to the tune of thousands of guest accounts.

Now, with Slack Connect, Spotify simply works with its long-term partners in secure channels. Slack verifies the authenticity of organisations by checking that they’re a paid customer of Slack, and both users and admins will see a visual cue denoting verification status before they accept or approve a Slack Connect invitation. And instead of tapping an admin each time a guest needs access to a new channel, anyone in a Slack Connect channel can quickly add their teammates as the work scales.

Administrators can also:

  • Monitor the Slack Connect dashboard for a bird’s-eye view of all of the connections happening between employees and external partners. View who initiated and who approved the connection, for easy audits down the line.
  • Manage access, assign permissions and set granular controls to safeguard communication.
  • Pre-approve requests automatically for trusted partners.

‘Slack Connect has created a net positive in the administration overhead,’ Knode says. ‘There are many cases where you might use a guest account, but for more permanent connections, channels are valuable. Everyone at Spotify is empowered to request a Slack Connect channel.’

Perhaps best of all? Slack Connect is easy to use, since it mimics the way that Spotify teams already collaborate with one another internally. ‘Slack Connect is a natural extension of the way we’ve always used Slack,’ says Knode. ‘It’s empowered my team and the employees of Spotify to define, with more granularity, how they want to connect with and talk to the people they work with every day.’