After only two years, Slack had 30,000 teams and was valued at over $1 billion. Clearly that level of traction indicates something good is happening with this increasingly ubiquitous app. In case you missed it, Slack brings all your communication together in one virtual place. It includes real-time messaging (chat), archiving and search for modern teams. Slack has both desktop and mobile apps, so you can have it wherever you go (I even get notifications on my Apple Watch). Is it all good? Well, it’s really good. But… There’s a but. As you will see, we have developed a compelling list of the pro’s and con’s of Slack. We hope you’ll use this list to decide how you can use this smart app to increase your productivity. Do more of the good things, but beware of the disadvantages. We’ve included tweets from actual slack users to illustrate points.
PRO’s of Slack
Slack reduces email traffic
I recently introduced Slack to a team I work with because I was being CC’ed on every team email. Not all of those messages applied to me, but people couldn’t be sure. Using Slack, now there’s far fewer emails, and they usually reflect something that isn’t necessary for everyone on the team.
— Henry Daubrez (@Upskydown) April 1, 2015
Slack helps connect remote teams
In our new economy, we regularly connect with colleagues in disparate locations. An agency may have a web developer in Vietnam, a graphic designer in Texas, the main office in Los Angeles and a remote main telecommuter in Long Beach. Everyone can collaborate in real time using Slack, bridging time zones and geography with ease.
. @SlackHQ is already the glue of our remote team. Can’t believe we lived without it.
— Michael Vosseller (@mpv) March 31, 2015
2am launch night: co-ordinating between offshore development team, a client, and our designers.. I’ve never been more grateful for @SlackHQ
— Jackson Alsop (@jjalsop) March 31, 2015
Slack enables informal communication like “water cooler conversations”
With employees and teammates overly committed, Slack provides an informal environment to chat. As with remote teams, Slack helps bridge time and space, but on a more human level. One team I work with recently had a chat about a near-death experience in a car accident. Everyone weighed in on their take of danger, self-driving cars and the meaning of life. The takeaway I regularly see is that Slack strengthens team bonds, not only with work but with friendship.
— Julie Haché (@juliehache) March 31, 2015
Slack keeps an archived message repository
“John is no longer with the company” can result in brain drain. If John’s email archive had all the results of the Summer 2016 marketing campaign, and he takes a job somewhere else, you may never know what happened. With Slack, far less tribal knowledge lives in email. With everything kept in perpetuity, indexed and searchable, you have a much better hub of information.
not only are we using @SlackHQ constantly today but everyone is discussing the way it helped centralized communication in their organization
— Gloria Kimbwala (@gkimbwala) March 28, 2015
Slack engages teams with a new perspective
If you take a step back in reading messages, you can learn a bit about your culture. Whether it’s a study group at school or an engineering team in business, Slack shows the flavor. Are people super formal or jovial? Are they collaborating or defending silos? On most Slack teams I’ve seen, the perspective is encouraging (perhaps those teams are the ones drawn to Slack).
You probably know this already but @SlackHQ is really slick, on top of everything else a whole new window into your business!
— Paul Hickey (@hickey_paul) March 27, 2015
Slack can help personal productivity
As indicated by reduced email (almost always a time suck), Slack can save time. I’m using Slack with a variety of teams, from non-profits to learning to software development, and the savings from quick glances compared with the overhead of email is significant.
— Patrick Bailey (@whiteboardcoder) March 27, 2015
CON’s of Slack
Slack can create a distraction
Just as checking your email every 5 minutes can reduce your productivity, getting sucked into every Slack discussion can be a negative. Slack has numerous beeps, buzzes and flashes, which create that stimulus to see what is going on (FOMO!).
Not everyone is tech savvy, and not everyone wants to collaborate in a manner like Slack offers. As such, some teams can be hobbled when key people don’t join into the program. It works best when everyone participates. If you find someone not in the mix, you’ll feel the pain quickly, falling back into the email trap.
Ideas to Maximize the Value of Slack
I got in trouble in the early days of email for using inappropriate language. That lesson still applies. Would you say the same thing to someone’s face? Stick to that philosophy, and also – would you want this read aloud in court? 🙂
Define Group Policies
One Slack team I work with found that Slack was draining them. Software developers really need dedicated blocks of time to stay in flow and finish work. As such, Slack’s beeps and buzzes were distracting. The solution was to allow “office hours” where someone could stay ‘offline’ and not be expected for fast responses in Slack. The team had to be comfortable with that, because HEY, I NEED THIS RIGHT NOW was a regular expectation. Set rules the team understands and adopts.
Set Personal Policies
Same as group policies – you need to set Slack boundaries. If you’re finding yourself losing time in the Slack zone, cut back. Make sure you’re using the tool to increase productivity. You don’t have to sit and watch for replies unless it’s urgent. Post, go back to work, and check in later. Progress comes from deep, uninterrupted work (we point that out in every post, I swear…).
The PRO’s and CON’s of Slack
Slack can be a great tool, if used properly. Look for ways to leverage the pro’s, and focus on our ideas to maximize the value of slack to overcome the con’s. Watch its continued permeation of our culture because it is truly a revolution over email. Just choose how to use it wisely.