If you’re like many organizations, you might find yourself juggling a whole host of different communication tools. You have your email, an instant messaging application, a separate video conferencing tool, another platform for virtual water cooler talk… the list could go on.
The intent here is actually quite forward-thinking; especially now that Millennials make up the majority of the U.S. workforce, fostering collaboration in the workplace isn’t just about productivity – our ability to attract and retain top talent is heavily influenced by tools we offer, and how effectively our team can work with one another.
The trouble comes in when you accumulate more and more collaboration tools over time and find yourself overwhelmed with notifications, confused about which platform you’re supposed to be using for what, and wasting your time jumping from application to application just to communicate with your coworkers.
We found our own organization in a similar spot recently, and decided to give a potential solution a test-drive. Below we’ll walk you through what piqued our interest about Slack, and what we think of the product so far.
What is Slack?
Several members of our team had heard good things about Slack, a product that consolidates your internal communications. This tool grew from 1.25 million users to 4 million in just one year, which is nothing to sneeze at.
With Slack, you set up “channels” (public or private) for different projects, teams, client accounts, or other initiatives, and all communication is stored in chronological order. You can also send direct and group chats, and – depending on whether you have the free or paid version – video call one or more people directly from the application.
Your internal email, your instant messaging, your internal video chats, and your water cooler talk all have their home in this package. With different integrations, you can also pull in different productivity tools, social media accounts, and so forth, to centralize your operations even further.
At least, that’s that the marketing materials say.
Could this solution be the solution to our problems? To find out, we decided to pull in representatives from each of our functional teams, sign up with the free version, and run a pilot.
Review of Slack for Business
What did we think of this product at the conclusion of our pilot? Here’s our assessment:
- Usability. Slack does what we wanted it to do – get all of our communication into one clean, dynamic, easy-to-use platform. We especially liked the ability to jump into a channel, quickly catch up on what has happened, make our contribution, and leave if we no longer needed to be involved in the conversation. Ever wish you could remove yourself from an email chain that splintered off in 6 different directions? You won’t have that problem anymore.
- Searchability. Once this package become your hub for company communication, there’s going to be a LOT of information floating around. We were worried it would be nearly impossible to navigate, but the Search feature is quite robust. Messages and documents are indexed and searchable, and you can narrow your hunt by date, person, and channel. If you want to find something, you will.
- Mobile Access. This was one of our top priorities, and Slack delivered. The mobile app is clean, intuitive, and about as functional as the full desktop app. If you allow notifications on the mobile app, it shuts off your email notifications so you aren’t overwhelmed.
- File Sharing. This is one place where we thought Slack falls a bit short. If more than one person needs to touch a document, you’re going to have to use an integration like Google Docs or Dropbox for it to work well. Slack allows you to share a document within a channel, but you’ll have to share a new version if you make any updates. In other words, there’s no real improvement over passing a document back and forth over email, which we sometimes get frustrated with.
- Integrations and Development. There are integrations with tons of productivity apps, fitness apps, HR tools, marketing tools, and security tools, and you can create even more of them using IFTTT (If This Then That). Not only that, but the package is being enhanced constantly, which means that you don’t have to wait until the next “update” for bug fixes or new features or new integrations. The Slack team launched video chats during our pilot, and rumor has it that read receipts are on the list for implementation, too.
- Support. Since we provide IT support, the vast majority of our people are savvy enough to troubleshoot any problems they encounter. We haven’t had to contact Slack support, so we can’t comment on their responsiveness at this point. Given what we’ve seen on the development side, however, we suspect that the support machine is fairly well-oiled.
Ultimately, our team’s consensus after the pilot phase is that we should move full steam ahead with implementing the package company-wide. The gains we’ll make in efficiency and flexibility are undeniable, and the enthusiasm across our pilot group only grows as continue to take root.
We’ll plan the rollout, schedule training to get everyone up to speed and on the same page, and enjoy our newfound freedom from the clutter of Application Overload.