Most modern work teams and groups are resorting to Mobile Social Networking applications like WhatsApp and Telegram to stay connected. I have witnessed firsthand how a staff WhatsApp group transformed team dynamics positively. It can be argued that Tech tools which enable teams to work seamlessly can boost productivity. One of such remarkable tools for integrated workflow and team communication is Slack.
Slack is a centralized location for communication, files, thoughts, ideas, conversations, questions, and answers. Slacks’ quick and efficient short messages can replace email threads and formal conversations. Slack is fun and user-friendly. It is great for remote teams, small teams, large teams, any team that wants to keep in constant contact with each other on projects in real time. For teams which have tried Slack, it has replaced over 50% of email conversations. It has also provided channels for team members who had questions and needed immediate answers. Slack provides a hub of communication, collaboration and clarity instantly.
Think of Slack primarily as a group-messaging tool which simply and sensibly organizes teams into public channels (within-the-company) and private discussions. Most Teamwork and Office work happens in meetings and email. Slack is a platform for team communication which tries to combine and enhance the features of these two as follows:
Slack features group chat rooms called Channels. Messaging via Slack Channels is direct and Twitter-like. Apart from being forums for serious business, Channels can be an outlet to share ideas and inspiration. You can even have channels for music, inspiration, recipes etc. Channels include messages, files and comments, inline images and video, rich link summaries etc. When a link is shared, Slack pulls in summaries, images and videos like Facebook.
You can create open channels for the projects, groups, and topics that the whole team shares – increasing transparency by putting knowledge in everyone’s hands.
Slack features its own search and archiving tool. You can search through conversations, uploads, files, information and anything ever discussed readily. Everything public is searchable. A team, therefore, builds an incredibly valuable archive of project files. With Slack, you can store files and find them easily as opposed to email attachments.
Discoverability, complete history and search across all channels is built in. Slack is built around search from the ground up. Every discussion, every decision, and every document is archived, indexed, and available through one search box.
Slack integrates with a host of other software and applications like Google Docs and Dropbox. You can have all your messages, files and everything from these services including Twitter and dozens of other services altogether in one place. Slack’s integration with Google Docs and Dropbox keep external files in sync and searchable.
- Emoji – Slack supports emoji’s in chat.
Slack features automated alerts. This can be delivered through integration with other tools. You can turn off notifications for particular rooms and keep them on for others. For paying customers, features such as customizable notifications exist. For example, you can customize to get a notification whenever a specific word is mentioned.
You can paste images into Slack from your clipboard. This is a great way to share screenshots. It is simple to add your files directly with a single drag and drop.
Slack is for chatting. One-on-one direct messaging to another team member or private channels for specific projects/departments exists. This is extremely useful to ensure only the necessary people involved get the precise information.
There is an on-boarding process in Slack. This is done by the Slackbot, a friendly little help guide. You can dump details and information that you want to come back to later on Slackbot.
Slack has fully native apps for iOS and Android to give you the full functionality of Slack wherever you go. Slack acts more like a text message versus an email on a mobile device. Everything is perfectly in sync as you move between your desktop, iPhone, iPad, or Android device – file search and filtering, starred items, the team directory and, of course, all your messages.
You can sign up for free to use for as long as you want. You can have an unlimited number of people within your group. The Standard and Plus packages are however paid ones with enhanced features.
Some tips for using Slack effectively
- Manage conversations
Everyone in the company can join a conversation. A conversation can also be as discreet as a direct message session between two people. This two-in-one feature offers immense value. You can throw a question to the biggest public forum within the company for advice. You can sample ‘solutions’ to help your decision making. You can also contact someone on the side for a private discussion. This process of consultation makes people feel involved in some decision-making processes. When the problem is solved, anyone who has the same issue can later find the ‘solution’ by searching. It is not productive to involve everyone in every discussion. You have to find the fine balance between general discussions and ‘two-mans’.
- Integrate other services
Slack is designed to integrate with third-party applications. You can search for files stored in other repositories. You can also send out notifications triggered by changes elsewhere. When you set up your Google Docs in Slack, your file contents become indexed and searchable within Slack. You can also incorporate your Twitter account. You can get your Twitter stream, @mentions etc in Slack.
- Make use of Slackbot
You can customize the questions and responses Slackbot gives you. Maximize this feature by setting up an in-house FAQs. For example let Slackbot respond to frequently asked questions like, “What’s the WiFi password?” You can also use Slackbot as an ally for your to-do list. Just type “/remind me to do [a thing] at [a certain time or date]” in Slackbot.
- Make your Slack history useful
People looking for solutions to particular challenges can use the search history for answers. New staff members have a history of everything the company discussed publicly. As part of their on-boarding process, new employees can be encouraged to catch up on old Slack messages. This is an incredible resource for settling in.
- Control notifications
Part of Slacks appeal is the ability to collaborate anytime, anywhere. It is not a good idea to treat Slack like a 24/7 paging system. You will be pinged anytime anyone mentions you. Be mindful about keeping notifications under control. Use the ‘do not disturb’ feature available on both iOS and android phones to tune out at certain times.
- Fit Slack into your in-house style
Teams and companies use Slack differently. The bottom line is to increase productivity with Slack. One of the tools you can integrate with Slack is IFTTT. With IFTTT, you can post daily reminders to a Slack channel.
Are you using Slack? Would you try it?
Kindly leave your comments