What’s better than Slack? GSA is seeking options

The Slack logo. (Giorgio Minguzzi / Flickr)


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The General Services Administration is considering upgrading its office collaboration tools.

The agency’s IT team currently uses the team collaboration software Slack, but it doesn’t seem to be completely happy with this option. A recently posted request for information (RFI) seeks details about solutions that are “not limited to the functionality of ‘Slack’,” in the interest of finding something that “extends its capability.”

“GSA IT is seeking providers of a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) that provides an Enterprise wide collaboration platform allowing individuals and groups within different parts of the organization to securely collaborate,” the RFI reads. “As part of this process, GSA-IT is seeking information from vendors in order to determine which companies have the skills to support these efforts and how they would go about providing those services to GSA.”

The RFI includes some indication of the capabilities GSA is looking for in this tool. These include administrator retrieval of both public and private communication on the platform “for the purposes of FOIA or other e-discovery needs,” as well as “seamless file sharing,” simultaneous syncing of desktop and mobile apps and more.

Slack has at least some capability in most of the identified areas — the application has allowed subscribers to its “Plus” plan to download communications since 2014. But come April 20, administrators will be able to download the data without informing employees. Standard plan members will also be able to download conversations under certain circumstances — Slack says the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the reason for this shift.

One line of the RFI indicates that the agency is interested in using a future tool for a little bit more than just internal communication. GSA also wants to be able to allow “public, non-governmental members to join pre-determined collaboration spaces using 2 Factor Authentication method,” the document states.

Responses to the RFI are due via email by April 30.

GSA’s use of Slack has sometimes caused challenges — in 2016 the agency’s inspector general asked the 18F team to stop using the tool out of fear that it had inadvertently allowed unauthorized access to 100 agency Google Drives.

There are a variety of existing Slack competitors — examples include Atlassian’s Hipchat, Riva FZC’s Flock and Microsoft Teams among others.

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Collaboration / Unified Communications, General Services Administration (GSA), request for information (RFI), SaaS, slack