Slack: Team Communication for the 21st Century

Slack: Team Communication for the 21st Century

Effective communication is a huge part of being on any team. When it comes to communicating in the workplace, there are a lot of options. Of course you’ve got the standard emails, instant messaging, and face-to-face meetings, but sometimes each of these methods fall a little short.

You might find yourself searching through mile long email threads to find one snippet of information. Or maybe that info was sent in a text...or a Google chat...or was it said at the last meeting? In today’s always-plugged-in business world, it’s easy for all the various forms of information to run together, and it’s not like you can hit "ctrl + f" to search your brain archives.

Or can you?

Well, no, you can’t. But Slack, a new team communication tool, definitely gets you one step closer. Slack was originally created by the team at Tiny Speck (now known as Slack Technologies) as an internal communication tool while they developed the now-defunct online game Glitch. Although Glitch didn’t pan out, their hard work wasn’t all for naught, and Slack now offers businesses and everyday folk a one-stop shop for their group communication needs. If your organization is looking for ways to communicate more effectively, Slack is one option you may want to consider. Here are some of the ways Slack can help improve your team's communication:

Large-Scale Integration Over Dozens of Services

Within each Slack conversation, users have the ability to share files from Google Docs, DropBox, GitHub, Twitter, Asana, and dozens of other services. Everything your team uses to create or communicate can all be joined together in one easy place. Sharing the files is smooth and intuitive, too. When you paste a link into a Slack chat, it will automatically pull the title of the webpage, a snippet of content, and possibly even an image from that page. When you share a YouTube video, you can play the video right in the chat window. When you link to a tweet, the entire tweet is displayed. And all this without any fancy extra steps on your end. Unfortunately, while many services are covered, Slack doesn’t currently offer the ability to voice chat or screen share. If this is a big need for your business, Slack might not be a perfect fit for you (at least not as a standalone tool).

Automatic Sync across all Devices

Slack offers a robust mobile app (for both Android and iOS users), as well as the ability to run Slack on your desktop (Mac or Windows, naturally). Whenever you read a message on your phone, it will show up as “read” on your laptop, and vice versa. You can choose to receive notifications by email, directly on your desktop, and/or by mobile, so you’re in charge of how to keep up with everything.

EVERYTHING is Searchable

This is the game changer. With all your communication taking place in one location, Slack lets you find everything from one search bar. Simply type what you’re looking into the search bar, and Slack will comb every channel and chat for whatever it is you’re looking for. Slack’s search goes one step further and also searches the content of files you’ve shared within Slack. You can search the content of Word docs, Google Docs, PDFs, Photoshop files — anything you’ve shared with your team.

Transparency and Accountability

With real-time conversations, everyone on your team is kept consistently up-to-date on every project. Everyone has access to all the necessary files, knows what assignment they’re supposed to be working on, and can immediately ask any questions they have. Many businesses who have implemented Slack (including The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and SoundCloud) have noticed a significant decrease in the amount of meetings they’ve had to schedule, simply by virtue of the fact that everyone is always caught up on what’s going on in the company.

Support for Private Groups and 1:1 Messaging

No more accidentally hitting “reply all” — Slack offers users the ability to chat one on one and maintain some privacy. You can, for example, have channels for each separate team in your company, one for the whole workplace, and one for the people on your Fantasy Football team. You could also have channels devoted to several different topics or projects (ie. blogs, newsletters, payroll, etc). Simply add the necessary team members to each channel, and let the conversation begin. And of course, each channel is completely searchable — users of the free Slack service can search their last 10,000 messages; for about $7/month you can search everything you’ve ever said or been told on Slack.

As you know, security is a high priority for any business. It's important to know when considering Slack that they did experience a major hack several weeks ago. They have since released two-factor authentication (which was in the works at the time of the hack, but not yet active) and a kill switch that can be activated at any time if security concerns emerge. That said, Slack seems to be a very robust and effective business tool.

In the workplace, it’s easy to get bogged down by things that are secondary to your day-to-day operations. Receiving, responding to, and juggling multiple threads of emails has long been considered one of the necessary evils of the business world. But with Slack, there’s a chance it doesn’t have to be. If your business is looking for a better way to communicate, Slack might be just what you need.

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