Tools of the Trade (TotT) Series – Slack helps keep communication manageable and tight
By: Zach Detweiler, Ph. D.
Date: January 6, 2021
Tags: Slack, communication, organization, software, apps
Handwritten letters are a lovely gesture to the individual receiving them, but in a business setting, this form of communication was made obsolete by email. Email arrived instantaneously and was disseminated readily, as well as provided a form that was amenable to record keeping.
However, email is not perfect. If you have ever tried to locate a specific, month-old email, then you have likely felt the pain induced by wading through hundreds to thousands of emails, especially with certain services (*looks bitterly at Outlook). Additionally, much like actual mail, anyone who possesses your address has equal opportunity to draw your attention and fill your mailbox. American workers receive an average of 126 emails a day and over 50% of all emails are spam.(1,2)
The advent of text messaging took connectivity even further, allowing constant communication. It also narrowed down channels to those who had your phone number and allowed important information to be supplied omni presently to key stakeholders. However, the use of text messaging as an official method employed by a business has remained unusual due to tracking issues, lack of structure, and the superficial depth of information that is transmitted. Communication among a group in an organization is a challenge. Email and text chains rapidly get convoluted, lose focus, and are difficult to capture and disseminate. This becomes even more difficult if the content is highly technical, as it is often necessary to cite extra-thread content (articles, reports, data, etc.). The normal tools used by businesses do not serve communication needs adequately. Now, software such as that provided by Slack, is trying to bring communication one step further into the modern, computing-information age. Slack provides a platform that allows you to establish communication channels between selected parties on selected topics. The key being intentional “binning” of communication. Slack allows documents to be attached to a channel thread, ensuring that relevant information can be readily viewed.Slack is a freemium product, with up to 10,000 messages and 10 integrations with other tools available for free, and a host of other features available at cost. Standard service equates to $6.67 per month, per person, which allows unlimited messages, unlimited apps, group video, screen sharing, and secure connections with external organizations. Further administrative tools, priority service, and data loss prevention security can be had with the upgraded packages.
Forrester found that Slack provided an ROI of 338% over three years, paying for itself in less than 6 months.(3 )Interestingly, the report finds that roughly two-thirds of the return were due to technical team productivity improvements, and one-third due to improvements in general productivity. There were minimal returns in replacing other tools, speaking to the need for Slack to fill a communication niche. Some of the major attributions for these savings were the reduction in engineers having to switch between applications and interfaces to view relevant information and tasks, as well as supporting both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Return was generated in the form of freeing up engineer time by decreasing the number of emails and the amount of time spent in status meetings. This methodology found similar, though lesser, returns to the general productivity of an organization.
In my experience, Slack provides a vastly superior platform for communication for several reasons. It is effectively a pre-organized messaging app, integrates documents and data seamlessly into threads, and provides a much-needed balance between the formality and delay of emails with the informality and expediency of text messaging.As with most communication and connectivity tools, there is the risk of allowing work-life to overstep into home-life. In order to ensure buy in on use of such a tool, rules and intended use should be established organizationally, and it is important to avoid policies that force employees to be “on” 24-7. That said, remote work and the flexibility demanded by today’s work force are well supported by the use of Slack.
If you feel like communication could be better at work, or in other settings (Slack is replacing message boards and community sites all over), then I would recommend trying Slack FOR FREE. I am not familiar with other similar platforms such as Telegram and Discord, but these are among the potential alternatives you may be interested in. I think you’ll be surprised by how much simpler communication can be and how effective Slack is at tightening up group communication in a technical setting.
(1) Email Usage Statistics in 2019 https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2019/07/email-usage-statistics-in-2019/ (accessed Jan 6, 2021).
(2) 10 Interesting Facts & Statistics About Email https://neverbounce.com/blog/10-interesting-facts-statistics-about-email (accessed Jan 6, 2021).
(3) Slack. Introducing Forrester’s new study: “The Total Economic Impact of Slack for Technical Teams” https://slack.com/blog/productivity/forrester-study-total-economic-impact-of-slack-technical-teams (accessed Jan 6, 2021)