TEN7 Team Communications on Slack

Why We Can’t Live Without It

What Is Slack?

At its most basic, Slack is a utility for synchronous messaging between team members. It’s a place to share information and files: images, documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, code snippets and, oh yeah, GIFs. Beyond texting, it enables voice and video calls, and with hundreds of potential app integrations, you can customize it to your team’s needs.

Slack at work

The genius of Slack is that conversations are divided by topic, which makes them more contextual. It’s the opposite of your email inbox, where conversations are sorted by date and only searchable by sender, making finding anything a challenge.

How We Use Slack

Our team uses Slack all day. It’s our primary mode of communication. The office can be pin-drop silent, while constant chatter is happening via keyboard. We have created internal channels for each client, and for larger projects by client. We also maintain separate channels to converse directly with client contacts, which they have joined by invitation.

Other channels allow the business team to discuss initiatives in Marketing, Sales, Finance, Operations and our own website (including this blog post). Our attendance channel has updates on where we are working (home/office), lunch breaks, vacation, illness and moments when we are AFK (away from keyboard) and BAK (back at keyboard). Sometimes these updates are expressed solely as emojis. We use emojis liberally to react to posts. 👏

The General channel is for office-wide discussions. The Random channel includes other co-workers that share our office space. It’s where we file personal stuff, jokes, thoughts on random topics and the lunch specials from the nearby Be’Wiched Deli.

We also maintain several client accessible channels where we can chat directly with client contacts that have been invited to join our Slack instance. These public channels allow anyone on the team to view the thread and keep on top of each project. There are also private chats called Direct Messages, where you can take a conversation offline with just one person, or a small group.

How Slack Improves Productivity

Every TEN7 team member would agree that Slack enhances productivity. Whether we are in the office or working remotely, Slack is the communication vehicle that ties us together.

  • Multiple channels subdivide out the communication – You decide which channels to review occasionally and which to stay on top of more often. The ability to scan across channels is key when managing several projects or roles.

  • Instant audible alerts sound when you tag @someone in a message – You can get an answer quickly, which keeps the team moving forward.

  • Impromptu meetings and brainstorming sessions – Setting up is only an @here or @channel away.

  • Doesn’t disrupt your work flow – This is particularly important for developers! Slack messaging is less intrusive than the phone and far less cumbersome than email. When we’re involved in a thought-intensive task, we can ignore Slack for a few minutes. It allows us to maintain a balance between productivity and open communication.

  • Immediate, transparent and informal communication – Informality is a hidden strength. It fosters a more open, more cohesive team, more willing to come together to resolve problems and achieves quicker resolutions. Slack lowers the barrier to having effective communications with its immediacy (full sentences not required).

  • Searchable repository of knowledge – The conversation thread becomes an ad hoc repository for the entire team. Everything you post to Slack is searchable, even the content within attached files.

  • Pin an item for future reference – Mark important items by clicking the star. You can also pin an item for everyone in that channel.

  • Available on all platforms – We can use Slack as a desktop app, via the browser (particularly useful on Linux where no desktop app exists), and as mobile apps for iOS and Android.

  • Integrates well with the productivity tools we use  – Such as JIRA (we use JIRA Bot), Google Drive and InVision.

In fact, one of Slack’s greatest strengths is that it doesn’t try to look act or be professional, which makes it pleasant to use. Slack makes communication more informal (and dare we say, fun!) which goes hand-in-hand with a casual, less buttoned-up culture.

Large corporations may not be comfortable with the concept of open information channels and even the name, Slack. Probably sounds suspiciously non-value-add. Having moved to Slack (and Google Chat before that) however, we would never go back to the email standard where requests for information become buried in someone’s inbox and answers are hours or days in coming.   If your company is lacking a key communication channel, try Slack. You may just find your productivity soaring! Want more information? Give us a call.

Tess Flynn

DevOps Engineer
 

Tess is a recognized expert in the Drupal field with experience in Drupal 7 and 8 development. She has assisted in the creation of web platforms for Fortune 500 companies, and is the module maintainer for Flag 8.x, Examples, and Flag Friend. Tess is a world-class mentor and educator, having spoken at Drupalcon, BADCamp, and Midcamp.