One nice thing about the rise of design thinking within enterprise software has been the emergence of workplace tools that people actually like to use. The meteoric rise of Slack is one of the best examples of this, and now Atlassian, which has an extensive background in communication and project management tools, thinks it has come up with something better.
Later this year, Atlassian plans to release Stride, a new workplace collaboration tool that attempts to bridge the gap between group video chat, task management, and those dreaded remote meetings in one package. Stride is available as a preview as of Thursday for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and even the rare Linux desktop user, in a nod to the company’s longstanding relationships with software developers.
Stride lets you move right from group chat into a separate “meeting” mode that can be conducted over video chat, with support for screen sharing and something called “actions and decisions.” Participants in Stride meetings can mark something as a “decision,” which is then visible in a separate column outside the main chat feed and visible to team members that need to be aware of that decision. “Actions” are specific assignments coming out of that meeting that also live outside the main chat feed, where it can be very easy to miss messages if you’re out of the office for more than a couple of hours.
“The one thing you bring to the office every day is the time you’re giving,” said Steve Goldsmith, general manager for Stride at Atlassian. “And we look at a lot of (other workplace collaboration products) as actually chewing up a lot of that time instead of enabling you to do your work or focus on making communication more efficient.”
There’s also a fancy do-not-disturb function called “focus mode,” which lets you set a timer blocking notifications for a designated period of time and a status message to let colleagues know what you’re working on.
“Based on all the research we’ve done and experienced around other products around ‘do not disturb’ and ‘busy’ is that the challenge with those is that people set them and then forget,” said Asanka Jayasuriya, head of engineering for Atlassian Stride.
Focus Mode immediately surfaces any direct messages, “decisions” that Stride administrators have decided involve you, and “actions” that you’re involved with, letting you catch up with the main chat feed as you like.
It’s hard to avoid it: the first thing I thought of when I saw Stride was, “wow, that looks like Slack.” The design philosophy was based around other Atlassian products, Jayasuriya said, and it’s not hard to see elements of Atlassian’s Hipchat and Trello in Stride, but the similarity to the plaid-loving team chat product from California is also evident.
Goldsmith downplayed any comparisons to Slack (which is his job), noting that Atlassian has been working on team chat software for a long time and that everyone working in this space moves the ball forward each time they release a new product. Stride appears to integrate video chat and the aforementioned actions and decisions in a more default way than does Slack, which was designed to let individual organizations configure their Slack experience in whatever ways make the most sense for their teams through a marketplace modeled on the App Store.
Atlassian isn’t the only company that would like a bigger piece of the workplace collaboration market. Microsoft Teams launched last year as a would-be Slack killer, and Workplace by Facebook also hopes to become the center of your work life, much the same way it has become the center of many people’s personal lives. But Slack’s momentum is clear: the company reportedly raised $250 million in new funding this summer valuing it at $5 billion, after kicking the tires on possible acquisition offers.
In addition to Hipchat and Trello, both of which are popular in the tech product development world, Atlassian makes Jira, a bug-tracking product used by software development teams. All of those products integrate into Stride, Goldsmith said, along with popular document services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, with more product integrations coming later in the year.
Companies can get started on a free tier of Stride that offers limited message history and doesn’t support the video chat features, but a fully featured version of Stride costs $3 per user per month. Hipchat Cloud customers will get the first crack at Stride, but other companies interested in demoing the software can request an invite.
(Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the new name of Facebook’s collaboration product.)