tools

Why I Re-Instated Slack For Team Communication

I’m sure of it all of you know that there are far too many messenger apps out there. Each and every person that we communicate with seems to have their own personal preference. About a year and a half ago, I thought that slack would be the perfect solution to all of my messaging problems.

But to be quite honest, I think I just simply didn’t understand what Slack actually does. It felt odd for me to work in different channels. And having to tag people all day in order for me to get their attention. Working with Slack, to me, felt like I had to put in a lot more work than before to get my message across.

Why I use so many different messaging tools

The team set up on my GANDT ventures team is somewhat special. Some of the consultants on the team work remotely at the offices of our clients, some work from home for most of the time and a number of especially IT and Design guys work in our offices in Munich (Germany).

Our general team calls are usually done on Skype. Next to that we save our most important information in Evernote and use the messaging work chat tool to communicate. But whenever we want to do a screen share or talk to each other face-to-face we use different apps for each and every person.

We have a core team WhatsApp chat, some prefer iMessage because they have Apple devices, some prefer hangouts because they have android, but we certainly don’t use Skype for everything. Trust me, we have tried. The biggest challenge with Skype is that we have started creating too many chat groups. Whenever you post something to a group, there is always someone who is left out and needs to be invited. The person then cannot see what was said before, or shared before.

The same issue applies to using the work chat in Evernote. Whenever you share something with someone, you need to make sure that you select the right people to share that information with. Decentralized chats are the biggest problem within our company. I have noticed that I spend a ridiculous amount of time getting people up to speed.

Team size matters

When you have a small team of 10 to 15 people, this is very well possible for one person to handle. But I know for a fact that it will get out of hand as soon as the projects start to grow and we are more than just our core team.

Planning ahead can be a challenge especially for a young company. Because you simply don’t know what your requirements will be in 6 to 12 months from now.

However I think it is important that we create as much transparency as possible within our company. Knowledge transfer and transparency are two of the most important elements of our team. We need to make sure that whatever we learn is shared within the group.

I personally think that your company needs to have a certain amount of project stakeholders for a tool such a Slack to make sense. Whenever there are more than 4 to 6 stakeholders that work on one project, a central messaging and knowledge sharing tool can definitely makes sense.

Re-introducing Slack

Alright, as you have probably understood by now I have decided to reinstate Slack as our main messaging tool. Having continued to struggle with Skype, iMessage, Trello, WhatsApp, Evernote and a few more for more than long enough, I have decided to re-introduce Slack and give it another shot.

Actually a lot has changed since I first started using Slack about two years ago. We now have the possibility to share our screens directly from the app, make phone calls and the integration with a third-party apps has definitely improved.

How do we use slack, my favorite features

For starters, we continue to use Evernote as our primary knowledge base. But we can now share our notes directly with a simple command in slack channels. This is relatively easy and we can comment on documents that we share in Evernote directly within our slack channels. This works like a charm and everyone is up-to-date on the current state of affairs.

We have started using the calling possibilities to host our team calls. Simple enough but it works. Even if there are still some limitations to using the calling options on mobile devices. You can for example not share your screen on a tablet or do a video call. That is quite a pity, because I use my phone for about 80% of that when I do in the day. But for now it will do just fine.

I hope that Slack will continue to work on making the calling quality even better and connectivity faster. This is certainly still a point to further improvement.

My by far favorite feature in Slack is the remind command. This helps me set a clear deadlines for tasks within my team and follow ups. It is super easy to set a reminder at the end of a conversation for a certain task and this way I know that it will not be forgotten.

I don’t send nearly as many whatsapp, imessage or skype messages as I used to and trust me, that is a good thing.

Last but not least, I have significantly managed to reduce the amount of time that I need to spend on getting everyone up-to-date. I seem to have a lot more time on my hands right now. I’m not sure if I can really put a number on it or an amount of hours that I have saved, but it definitely feels like I have more time for other things. I spend less time worrying about who I need to call next to make sure that things get done and everyone is in the loop. I don’t send nearly as many whatsapp, imessage or skype messages as I used to and trust me, that is a good thing.

Biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge, is making sure that people use the channels instead of direct messages within Slack. In the first four weeks, only 25% of all messages were posted in channels. Which meant that 75% of all communication still happened on a bilateral basis. Slacks monthly status update reminded me of the fact that something needed to be changed.

I had to teach and show the full team that whenever something did not only apply to one person, it had to be shared with an a channel. Of course this creates a transparency on who does what that not everyone loves to show. And it is a cultural, and mindset change that needs to happen within organizations in order for Slack to work.

The last few weeks I’ve seen that the number of channel messages has significantly increased. Much to my satisfaction the whole team seems to love working with it. So at the moment I am very happy with the decision to give it another go.

I hope that these insights helped you to think about your messaging setup a little. Using the right and especially not too many “cool” tools, can really help you streamline your workflows – save time, create transparency and help your team be more productive.

Enjoy the rest of your day,

Remco

PS: I am not endorsed by Slack or anyone to write this, I just want to share my Tips & Tricks (T&T) with you guys and hopefully help a few young companies and organizations out there. Feel free to reach out if you would like to find out more about how we work with Slack at GANDT Ventures.

PPS: Let me know if you liked the post – I really appreciate your feedback. That helps write better and more interesting insights that might help You, Entrepreneurs, Organizations and many others.

Remco Livain
I’m a digital entrepreneur, online performance marketeer, founder and CEO of the digital innovation consultancy GANDT Ventures (based in Switzerland). We support organizations (SMBs, corporates and later stage ventures) in their digital efforts. I learned the trades of the (online) business at Venture Stars (MIFLORA), Rocket Internet (Westwing Home and Living) and Insparx (C-Date and be2).

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