How to make the most out of Slack, the corporate communication platform

This productivity tool replaces the endless internal emails from a company or a workgroup.

We mentioned it recently as an example of the fierce evolution that the market of productivity suites aimed at the corporate sector is going through. A war of clouds on two levels, with Google and Microsoft in front of the highest spheres, leering at an  Amazon that threatens to take away a slice of the pie, and HipChat and Slack to a second level, closely followed by Facebook and LinkedIn.

The fact is that most of the services that added some value to  present communication processes had already been covered both personally and professionally with Google (Google Docs and Chrome are a delight for collaborative and decentralized work). So when it comes to organize the communication of a diverse group of people (geologically and ideologically speaking), the endeavor may become at times chaotic, since its participants may use Twitter DMs, Hangouts, emails, WhatsApp groups, private calls or Facebook messages.

I, Don Burns, will show you what the experience of creating a work routine, both group and solo (as will be explained later, Slack can also be used to automate notifications that affect you only) is like with this instant messaging tool.

What is Slack and why should my company or project should use it?

Slack can be a great tool for work, but there must be a clear and unequivocal willingness to change from each and every one of the members. After all, we’re talking about including an external service (in other words, installing yet another app), which should from now on centralize all internal communication. Otherwise, the proposal will not lead you anywhere, as there will be some who either end up not learning anything, or will continue to encourage the rest to use the other “traditional” media, breaking the centralization of information that is sought.

To implement Slack in the company, there must be a real willingness of all members.

But it’s not like we’ll start using Slack and forget about the fact that there are more services. The email will still be present, but surely the amount of internal mail will decrease, using it only for those times when you really need it. In fact, the interesting thing about Slack is precisely that it can be synced  with most existing services, which is not to say that we’ll stop using them, but the information that came from them before will now appear in the timeline of any Slack channel, with the option of managing it (or not) from its interface.

That being said, we could define Slack as a tool of instant messaging aimed at the corporate sector. With it, you have an account that depends usually on corporate email, and you can only communicate with others (if permissions allow it, of course) within a “group”.

Slack_tools for communication in startups_don burns
Image courtesy of Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta at Flickr.com

Slack’s potential is based on aspects such as the following:

Centralizes the communication of a company:

All internal communication of the company goes through the same tool, and can be consumed from within its walls, although it has been created abroad. This is vital, since in practice “forces” to be attentive to one medium, not several. The base is also instant messaging, a traditional one, with some interesting and widely known add-ons in the digital collective to simplify its use.

Boosts information:

The tool has a very complete notification manager. Within a workgroup (a domain of Slack), we can have many chat rooms (channels) as we want, and in each we can define the notification system and appropriate permissions. We must also make it clear that not all members have to “subscribe” to each channel, but only those that they intend to use. In this way, we can add by default channels to each worker according to their department, without them having to be aware of what they do in a different department. There are also private channels, which can be used to segment each department, and of course, private messaging, both within groups and from person to person.

It has hundreds of integrations to third-party services:

This is where, for someone who likes tinkering and automating as much as possible, an infinite number of possibilities will open up. A free account allows 5 integrations with third party services. But if you consider that one of them could be IFTTT,  that in itself already includes many other possibilities. For the worker, the most direct result is that for example they can share files both locally and some of the most classic cloud services (Google Drive, Dropbox, among others) just by dragging the file to a channel in which you want to share it. Slack is responsible for setting the permissions. Fast and easy!

The search bar:

The search bar is simply wonderful, and it’s one of the best systems to retrieve the history on any subject. It is so powerful it can even get information about shared files, or filter by any type of document, chat or user, so it is very easy to retrieve issues that would be crazy to manage with usual mail.

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