Should your team use Slack?

As web designers and WordPress developers, we tend to work in teams, with teams. When working remotely, we used to rely wholly on Skype, but it wasn’t perfect. Far from it. We recently moved over to Slack, the group messaging service. In our experience, it’s a brilliant tool. So will it suit the way you work?

The downside of Skype

We’ve been using Skype for years. It worked reasonably well as a one-on-one communication tool. But the busier we got, the more we started compensating for its limitations: it’s easy to miss things on Skype. Things you just wouldn’t miss in any other context. And it’s no good at all when you operate in a team, and team-led comms are the key to you delivering well.

Group conversations are so much better than one-to-one. We decided we needed something more suited to the way we work, something a bit different.

We’d already flirted with Slack about three years ago, but we didn’t get much farther than exploring the basics. After a particularly frustrating time with Skype, we swallowed our pride and revisited Slack. Team communications changed almost instantly.

Flirting with a new way to communicate

When we last explored Slack, it was still possible to run a smaller team through one-on-one conversations. But just last week we concluded that we were in real need of better group discussions, and more of them. It seemed the best way to avoid repeating ourselves, making annoying mistakes and playing Chinese whispers.

Most importantly of all, Skype gave us little or no chance to learn from the rest of the team, and our accomplishments didn’t get shared as widely as they could be. In essence, we realised we were at risk of turning into a production line, something we were keen to avoid. So we decided to revisit Slack in more detail.

The awesome magic of Slack

The moment we started using Slack, the improvement was instantaneous. Our team suddenly started talking. Even better – they didn’t stop. The cooperation was much more than a mere novelty. It was profound. Traditional barriers to communication just didn’t exist anymore. We set some basic ground rules, explained why we were making a move, and Slack – or even more amazingly the team themselves – took over.

Slack can do amazing things, much more than we’d initially expected. Next time we’ll take a look at cool tips for harnessing Slack to its best advantage. For now, here’s a peek at what it’s doing for us as a team, a business and as individuals. It also benefits our clients too, of course, which makes the whole Slack thing an enormous win-win.

How we use Slack

The ground rules we set helped us get to grips with Slack fast, and start using it usefully right away. Here’s what we expect from the team when using Slack:

  • We keep as many conversations as we can public
  • When we get into work, we send a message to everyone say hi
  • We go to lunch and come back with the option to let everyone know
  • When we go home or switch the computer off, we send a goodbye
  • When good things happen, we post it to @everyone
  • Whenever we’re online, we have Slack on in the background
  • Slack on our desktops and our phones
  • We aim to talk to each other as much as possible
  • Embracing and learning new Slack features together
  • We still give Asana president when organising work schedules

Important things we’ve discovered

The learning process delivered a handful of distinctions that separate it from other tools. Here they are:

  • Channels vs. private messaging – Slack has private messaging. Private messaging is like Skype that nobody can see. However, it also has channels. We can make as many of these channels as we want and add users. Everyone can see these and contribute to the chat, which should mean that everyone is happy to talk to everyone else.
  • Threads – Threads are very cool. If you’re talking about something specific, you can click on a comment and open a thread. Threads are mini-conversations that appear in the left-hand column. Think of it like chats within chats.
  • Public vs. private – It would be great to keep most conversations open, so we can all chip in and make contributions. But if you want to communicate privately, they’re private.

Hanging onto Asana

Having said all that, we will still manage client work through Asana, since it works so brilliantly. The trick is to use both in tandem, which means we’re getting more than the sum of the parts. For example, if a developer needs something from a designer they create an Asana task, assign it to the right team member and send them a Slack message. If someone needs a blog post written, they post into Asana and ask other team members to help via Slack.

What will Slack do for you?

It isn’t often we find a tool so useful that it revolutionises the way we work, but this is one of those times. Come back next week for our top Slack tips. In the meantime, why not have a play with it? If you’re anything like us, you’ll fall head over heels with it, and you’ll be hooked.