How We Use It: Slack As A Team Communication Tool

By Kris LaGreca

How We Use It: Slack As A Team Communication ToolNew Possibilities Group

As new method for us to handle project management (along with Trello), we’ve recently started using Slack. Even though it’s one of the relatively newer productivity tools that have hit the market, with a recent valuation of $1 billion, its clear that Slack is here to stay. 

What’s Slack, you ask? It’s a tool that makes team communication more efficient. It's not so much introducing revolutionary new features, but more about the way it presents existing features and makes it more efficient.

The most prominent feature is chatting: Slack organizes group chats into channels where invited members can have real-time conversations. Unlike older chat clients like Skype or iChat, Slack makes these chat channels archived and searchable so you can easily hop between conversations. Here, we’ve established different project-specific chats, chats for different departments, but also chats to coordinate group lunch orders and to share interesting things we’ve found around the web!

Slack incorporates "hooks" for all sorts of 3rd party integrations. With any integration, Slack funnels the messaging into it's channels so all the content has a similar feel and very much at your finger tips. Everything from server monitoring to RSS feeds all funnel into a channel and act as messages.

Among Slack’s numerous program integrations, you have the ability to:

  • Include and link to files in Dropbox and Google Drive
  • Start a GoToMeeting from within a channel discussion
  • Create a message in a channel when a new Zendesk ticket is created
  • Post to a channel when a payment is received from Stripe
  • Track commits in github within a channel

So imagine all your services sending all of their updates, statuses, and other communication to one central place. That’s how Slack can help unify communication.

In addition to group conversations, you can also have one-to-one “direct message” conversations. You can use this feature to eliminate the profusion of emails, IMs, and text messages, as well as creating less of an interruption to your workday or the workday of the person you need to speak to. Chances are, that quick question you have normally gets lost in the mountain of emails we all have sitting in the recipient’s inbox—but as a persistent message in Slack, it’s much easier for these little quips to not get lost.

Another highlight of its functionality is its search feature. Slack not only indexes the conversations for searches, but also files, notes, and other attached snippets. It includes context when presenting results so it’s amazingly easy to spot the exact conversation. I find Slack’s search presentation to be far superior to that of any email client when trying to locate a particular conversation in emails.

Finally, one of the most crucial points that secures Slack’s place as a superior team communication tool: it’s available on all the popular platforms! It’s not just a web service that you can run in a browser—it’s downloadable app for desktops, tablets, e-readers, and smart phones, making it a very responsive and quick to use. I find it quicker and easier to use than Skype when comparing the same workflows of finding someone and sending a message. The mobile and tablet apps are also well designed and easy to use. And of course, all the data is synchronized so you can effortlessly move from one device to another without skipping a beat.

With a professional policy of trying to give timely customer service, swift communication is a key element to our success here at NPG. Of course, we still do plenty of face-to-face talking when we’re in the office, but Slack is great for all the time that we’re not (or times when we’re busy with other tasks) and need a quick answer. Overall, we’ve found Slack to be a tremendously useful project management tool here with our staff.

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