For about half a year, we in the Customer Experience & Digital Marketing team at Atos Consulting have been using the messaging supertalent Slack to communicate and coordinate in our often distributed team. In this post, I want to outline, why we are doing so, what challenges we faced and why you should also consider using Slack.
Slack appeared on our radars last fall as it was being more and more discussed in Social Media and the geeky news outlets we love to read. It is basically a browser-based group messaging solution with some extra features and somewhat replaced Hipchat as the go-to tool for cool web agencies. We in the Customer Experience & Digital Marketing team immediately felt intrigued by the features that Slack offers as we were looking for a tool that supports our team-internal communication when we are located at different client sites:
- Zero e-mail
At Atos, we have the “zero email” initiative that intends to decrease the overall workload caused by e-mail. Employing a tool like Slack is perfectly suited for that as it stresses social collaboration over lengthy e-mail threads with more and more recipients
- Browser or app
Slack can be used in a browser or via one of the available desktop and mobile apps, thus offering great flexibility for end users. Don’t feel like discussing things using your phone’s nimble keyboard? Use the browser version on your laptop. Always want to be up-to-date, regardless of where you are? Use the mobile app.
- Flexible audiences
We use Slack to communicate to and with the whole team but also with smaller groups and even 1:1 conversations. You can create public channels that are visible to everyone or private channels that are only visible to a sub-group of your team. When we organized the last “Digital Transformation Thursday“, we set up a channel for the involved speakers and the organizing committee and coordinated the whole event using just that channel.
Screenshot from our Slack instance: topic-centered channels and direct messages to team members
- Customizable notifications
There are two different kinds of users: ones who have Slack always open and follow every conversation, others who want to get notified when it is relevant to them. With Slack, this is customizable per channel and user:
- Easy document upload
Slack supports the upload of any common file format via drag&drop. Additionally, if you are using Dropbox, Box or Google Apps, they integrate seamlessly into Slack as well, allowing you to collaborate in real-time.
- 3rd party integrations
Whether you’re looking for integration with Jira, Trello or other productivity tools, always getting the best curated news via Scope or just direct access to millions of Gifs to get your point across, Slack integrates with all of them and even offers an open API to write custom integrations if deemed necessary.
Naturally, using such a tool also comes with certain challenges. Here are some that we have encountered and how we dealt with them:
- The tool is not the solution
One is often tempted to say “we need that!” when coming across a really cool tool. However, the tool itself is never the solution to whatever problem you are addressing. You need a strategy and processes behind it in order to make it work. In our case, we needed to define what Slack is to be used for (–> internal communication), what channels it replaces (–> e-mail) and certain guidelines for day-to-day conversations (dedicated private channels per project, mentioning people directly if a question is directed to them etc.)
- Internal system rollouts need promotion, too
Just like in any client project we are executing, just handing people their login and then disappearing will not work. You need to actively promote the new tool, explaining why it is being implemented and you must set an example by being its power user the first few weeks (also, at first you might need to send people a reminder e-mail to check Slack … old-school, I know, but it works!)
- Is it secure?
I don’t know – I’m really not the expert for assessing the data security of Slack and related legal questions. Consequence: we don’t post anything sensitive or secure on it – period. Sensitive client information or files should not be in Slack as there are better suited homes for them and try to mistrust whatever I don’t control.
Nonetheless, the advantages clearly outweigh the challenges, in my opinion. Bottom line why I think Slack is a great tool to work with: it’s easy, fun to use and gets the job done. We are often spread out across all of Switzerland or even abroad when working on different client assignments and I need something easy and non-intrusive to keep in touch with my fellow teammates, get second opinions and expert inputs or organize and coordinate activities outside of my current project.
Never miss an update by following us and subscribing to our monthly newsletter!
Latest posts by Damian Amherd (see all)
- Omnichannel Commerce: You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention - October 9, 2015
- The Challenges of Omnichannel Commerce - September 17, 2015
- Why we use Slack (and why you should look into it, too) - August 16, 2015