Many innovative and team-oriented organizations, especially IT and development firms where communication is a must, are leveraging a cloud-based messaging service called Slack to pick up the *ahem* slack that can occur from trying to organize communications among team members.
What is Slack?
Slack is a free – yes, free – direct messaging platform that launched in August 2013 and was developed as an internal tool by the founders of Glitch, a now unpopular online game (although you have probably encountered some popular artwork from it). The “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge,” or Slack app, is like an online chatroom for teams. All files, conversations, and people are searchable and it’s a great way to win an argument with a co-worker who claims they never saw a post.
How does Slack work?
Team leaders sign up for a free account, create a workspace (usually the name of the organization), and invite team members via email and or links to create a Slack account or use their existing Slack account to join the workspace. It’s that easy to get started. The users are automatically subscribed to the undeletable main channel, called #general. The workspace administrator can create as many channels as they wish, such as marketing, campus life, or team 1.
Users can download the app to their mobile device, use the web-based site, or download the app to their computer. Users can even go as far as deciding which notifications they would like to receive if group chats get busy. Slack also allows for private messaging, file uploads, and calling. It should be noted that heavily using features, having unlimited message history, and guest accounts for larger teams may require upgrading to a monthly plan, starting a few dollars ($6.67) a month. The FSJ is communicating on Slack on the free plan, and will probably never need the paid plan. It’s a very generous platform, to say the least.
Users can use an @username command in a message to notify a user that they were mentioned or to get their attention, much like commenting a username on an Instagram post before the share button was introduced. The /remind command can set a reminder for a member or an entire channel. And there’s plenty more. How nifty.
Integrations and apps
Tying multiple apps together to share data and streamline processes is becoming the smart way of working and for good reason. What required one process to be recorded in multiple programs, like transferring online e-commerce sales to invoicing and accounting software, can now be handled through integrations that perform the task securely and automatically while reducing workflow and eliminating the risk of human error. Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, Box, GitHub, Zendesk, Zapier, and dozens more, to name a few.
Slack even hosts a ton of great apps that can boost the workflow even more by expanding available commands and sharing data between apps, as if a central channel for communication wasn’t helpful enough. Using Google Analytics? Then use Arc. Searching the news? DiggBot. Scheduling meetings with colleagues? Meekan. Testing websites? Monkey Test It. Organizing your time? Hour Slack. There’s so many, and you can even build your own.
With so much emphasis on teamwork these days, many organizations – not just IT and development teams – are heavily relying on Slack to get the job done.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a mention of your tech troubles in the subject. If you are interested in getting involved with the Front Street Journal, ask to join our Slack to find out meeting dates, activities, and more.