As companies increasingly use chat systems such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, other workplace tools have integrated with these messaging programs so workers can conduct business without needing to switch to another piece of software.
That trend, bolstered by coronavirus-era remote work policies, isn’t lost on Atlassian, the makers of software including the issue-tracking program Jira, the shared list-making app Trello, and the wiki-like collaboration program Confluence. On Tuesday, the company announced that it’s acquiring Halp, the Boulder, Colorado, company behind a program of the same name that lets internal company help desks take requests from within Slack. The companies declined to disclose financial details of the acquisition.
Atlassian executives envision software moving to messaging platforms such as Slack being a shift similar to when mobile applications rose with the coming of smartphones, says Steve Goldsmith, the company’s head of product integrations. While Atlassian once offered Hipchat, a significant Slack competitor—and later tried to replace it with a new offering called Stride—the company signed a deal in 2018 with Slack to transfer IP for Stride and the cloud version of Hipchat to the messaging company. At the time, it announced that it would continue to integrate its software with Slack.
“We think these types of applications are really going to change the way teams work,” Goldsmith says. “Just like mobile changed the way teams work 10 years ago.”
Internal corporate communications have generally been shifting from email to messaging platforms, says Halp CEO and cofounder Fletcher Richman. The company, founded in 2017, began by integrating Slack with the popular ticketing program Zendesk and evolved to focus on internal help desk-style requests. It has since launched integrations with Atlassian’s Jira Service Desk, its help-desk software. Richman explains that companies using Slack and rival platforms increasingly saw these systems used for making internal requests, such as asking IT departments for technical help, legal counsel to review contracts, or HR managers to explain benefits issues. But they didn’t have a way to formally manage and track those tasks, Richman says.
“We just found customers had a lot of chaos,” he says.
The emoji as support request
Halp lets users automatically turn Slack messages into tickets in a way that should be familiar to Slack fans: by flagging them with a special emoji reaction. The requests can then be automatically transmitted to special messaging channels internal to the team that can handle them, where a Slack thread can be used to discuss the issue.
In Slack, special menu options provided by Halp can also let help-desk staff set parameters for a request, such as setting a priority level or assigning a specific person to deal with it. That means help-desk workers don’t have to switch from Slack to a web browser or other program to log into ticket management software in order to field and manage requests unless they choose to do so, Richman says.
“It just feels like I’m working out of the environment I’m already used to,” he says. “I didn’t have to change any behavior.”
Halp has seen rapid growth, reporting the number of customers growing by a factor of 10 over the past year. Among its customers is Slack itself—Halp published a case study in February outlining how the messaging company adopted Halp’s tool to track internal tech requests.
Popular Atlassian programs including Jira and Trello already have some degree of integration with Slack for those who choose to use it, and the company is thinking generally about letting people engage with its software other than through its own web and app interfaces, Goldsmith says. But one benefit of the Halp acquisition, he says, is bringing in new customers that aren’t otherwise using Atlassian products.
After all, Halp can be used as a standalone product without integrating with Jira Service Desk or any other ticketing system. Goldsmith says Atlassian intends to keep Halp as an independent product and doesn’t have immediate plans to change current prices, which start at $25 per help-desk agent per month.
Just as programs that began as relatively simple mobile apps were beefy enough that some companies never needed to deploy more complex desktop or web apps, it seems likely that some businesses will never need to grow beyond in-Slack solutions for help-desk ticketing and other needs. But for customers that do need more advanced features, there’s a “natural upgrade path” from Halp to existing Atlassian products, Goldsmith says.
“There’s a whole set of teams using Slack today that are looking to, obviously, make their communications more effective,” he says. “But then if you look at the way applications like this are enabling those teams, it’s a whole new market for Atlassian, really, to explore.”