The on-going argument of whether email is dead or not is still up for debate. This provides some good insight into whether it’s really dead, or it’s just morphing into something different than what we’re used to. Don’t worry, I’m not here to talk about email, but rather to share my experience on leveraging other messaging tools to use in addition to email, to increase efficiency in your organization.
Last week, I was in a meeting with a room full of executives, entrepreneurs and business owners, and this topic of internal communication came up. Most of these people are not a part of the millennial generation and don’t keep up with new digital products, so I wasn’t surprised when I shared about Slack and no one knew of it. A few people came up after the meeting asked about Slack, so I thought I’d share my personal experience in adopting this communication tool for my team at Enliven.
There are many messaging tools out there, but few that are making the marks of being widely adopted. When I first started Enliven, we had a small team of just two - Ian and I. We used whatever tool we found that made it convenient for us to communicate. But as our business grew, it became difficult to keep everyone on the same page without having a public place to share ideas through organic discussions, so we searched. We looked around and found Slack (among others). After a couple of years of using Slack, here’s what I’ve learned.
So what is Slack?
Simply put, Slack is a messaging tool to replace your email system for internally communication. Think of it like text messages, but it provides group messaging functionality, ability to segment your conversations through the use of channels (or topics), sharing files, and commenting among others. You can either use it to work on internal projects or you can invite people outside of your organization to collaborate.
Why Slack has been working out for us?
Enliven is a software consultancy. Our work consists of mostly is virtual projects, and we spend a lot of time communicating virtually. Slack as been working out pretty well for us as we interact with each other daily through our phones or computers. Here are a few highlights:
- Slack has been a great tool for internal communication - we got rid of emails when we communicate among ourselves. We get answers quickly (or sometimes, depends on who you’re talking to).
- It has a very different UI/design compared to rivals such as Skype, it is pleasant to use.
- One of the best usages of Slack is for companies with distributed teams (or team members who want to work remotely).
- It helps to replace the water cooler - it’s great for culture building! Our team members share their random thoughts, articles, interests, TV shows…and everything. No one misses out the conversations, and they can always go back and read it if they were not available at the time of the conversation.
- Slack is great for organic and random conversations such as brainstorming product ideas without having the barrier of officially creating a meeting. As we all know, getting people together in person for a brainstorming session often ends up wasting a lot of time.
So which parts don’t work for us?
- Slack isn’t great for documenting your decisions. When you’re communicating and asking for answers, once you get it, it will be in the conversation log forever. But since it happened in an organic way, when decisions are made, there is no possible way to go back and look for what the decision actually was, unless you scan through the conversations again to find the answers you’re looking for.
- While Slack is good for idea generation, it can also have a negative effect - ideas get lost. Our team has had so many conversations, sometimes with nothing being remembered or captured. It’s an infinite flow of paragraphs and words.
- Search functionality is tricky for non-technical people, and it’s hard to find what you really need. You have to learn a little command to do search in specific topics to narrow down the results you want.
- Slack does a great job of integrating many different services such as Trello or Skype, but you have to be a technical whiz to fully take advantage of it. Speaking of integration, I think it’s overload. While bringing other tools together in one place is great, it can become hard to manage and overwhelming at times.
The Enliven team uses Slack for internal communication, then Skype for video conferencing. I still use email heavily to interact with others outside our organization. It has been a good fit for our team, but like everything in life, there are pros and cons. Fortunately, Slack is free to try (with limited features), so you can test it before adopting to see if it makes sense for you and your team.
What other tools are you using? How do they work for you? Feel free to share your comments below.