When I first came across the collaboration platform Slack at my former company, I was, to put it mildly, not a fan. But I’m glad to say I gave it a try, and now I am a convert to the power of collaboration applications.
Here’s my story, along with the benefits I’ve seen from adopting Slack. If you’re in the same place I was before—or if your organization struggles to embrace Slack fully—keep an eye out for an upcoming blog. We’ll share some recommendations for how organizations (and individuals) can promote the adoption of tools like Slack.
MY INITIAL ATTITUDE TOWARD SLACK
When folks at (my former company of ten years) started using Slack, I’ll confess that I rolled my eyes a bit. Another communication app? Who needs that? I already have email, plus the phone, plus face-to-face contact. Why did we need another way of interacting?
I also felt the resistance of not wanting to commit to yet another place to check for messages. My plate was pretty full between in-office notes, phone calls, voicemails, text messages, and emails. Keeping up with all of those communications was hard enough without adding any more.
So, I was passive about this new initiative. Slack was fine, but I told everyone that if you needed my attention, you’d better still send an email. Email as a communication platform was the primary driver for my day-to-day interactions. I organized my work around it and was clearly concerned about spending time dealing with another platform.
Now, before you conclude that I was hopelessly stuck in the past, you have to realize that this whole story unfolded over just a couple of weeks. In my favor was the fact that I was willing to interact with Slack and learn more about it. If I hadn’t—if I’d stayed stuck in my “I don’t wanna” headspace—I don’t know how long it would have taken to recognize the benefits.
But I did give it a chance, and almost immediately, I started to understand Slack's value.
WHY I GREW TO LOVE SLACK
Here are the benefits that I started to see with Slack, in approximately the order that I grew to appreciate them.
1. EASE AND SPEED OF COMMUNICATION
As soon as I started poking around in Slack, I saw how easy it was to quickly send a question to a team member or check-in with one of my reports. Slack’s instant messaging aspect meant that I could rapidly see items that needed my attention. Likewise, it was easier to catch the attention of anyone else I needed. Slack allows users to set channel-specific notifications based on their importance to that user. This feature makes it easy to see the messages that matter without being bogged down in trivial or irrelevant discussions. Slack’s casual nature also eliminates all of the formal structure and extraneous words involved in an email, making it faster and easier to use.
2. TEAM COLLABORATION
The more I messaged with my teams, the more I saw how Slack kept the whole group up to date and working together effectively. It’s incredibly easy to create a new channel in Slack that’s dedicated to a particular project or topic and then build an ad hoc team on the fly. Unlike Slack, my experience collaborating via email was very different, and often inefficient and cumbersome when trying to collaborate or communicate as a group. It’s invaluable being able to invite the right people to a project channel in Slack and immediately get to work. Everyone can stay current on the project’s status just by monitoring the communication in that channel, and new members quickly brought up to speed.
3. CREATION OF A HISTORICAL RECORD
As I saw how teams collaborated in designated channels, I also realized how each channel operates as a historical record of the project’s progress. Because you can add documents, links, and other supporting information directly into Slack, each project channel affords new team members to get up to speed almost instantly by looking back over the channel’s history. Slack, therefore, becomes a way to organize critical information around a project and revisit that information in chronological order.
4. INTEGRATIONS WITH OTHER APPLICATIONS
Once I started seeing the value of integrating other information sources into my Slack application, things took off. The more you use Slack, and the more you incorporate the rest of your digital life with your Slack application, the more powerful it becomes. Today, my direct integrations are my calendar app, Zoom for web conferencing, and Jira for project management. By plugging these tools directly into Slack, I’ve built myself a central home base for practically all of my work communications. I can create a calendar event or initiate a Zoom meeting without ever leaving Slack. I can check on a project’s status and tick off completed items in Jira without changing screens or losing my focus. It’s a great time-saver to have Slack as the single foundational platform at the heart of my in-office communications. We’re also extending these same benefits with those outside of the organization through the use of shared channels with partners and customers.
5. ORGANIZATION AND EFFICIENCY OF ALL COMMUNICATIONS
One of the most incredible things about using Slack is that it immediately points me to the areas where there’s something in which I need to pay attention. By organizing information and communications into channels, I can keep tabs on my responsibilities without taking much time. And still, check in on less urgent matters when I have a chance—all without cluttering up my email inbox.
I recognized Slack’s power to divert those general communications out of email when we created a channel dedicated to celebrating customer wins. I had always loved those messages, but they were company-wide, and everybody would respond, "way to go" or "great job!". They'd become a significant blockage in my email. When all of that shifted over to Slack, people could reply directly to the message or react with emojis or reacjis. That both streamlined communications in Slack and simultaneously cleared messages that didn’t need my attention out of my email inbox, improving my email processes’ efficiency and clarity.
If you’ve been reluctant to use Slack,you genuinely don’t know what you’re missing. Plus, as company cultures shift toward more collaborative communications, you'll find you have to go to the proverbial waterhole to connect successfully. I learned that day one when I first joined Hanzo. I sent an introduction email that everyone wholly overlooked until I went to Slack and introduced myself there. :)