There are several tools in the market that people could use to communicate, such as Email, Skype, Whatsapp, Messenger, HipChat, Slack, etc. How do you pick the right communication tool for your organization? And does it even matter which one you choose? One tool which is considered as the latest and greatest among tech startups is Slack: a chat tool designed for companies. We decided to give Slack a shot, and started using it late last year at Capital Float.
There isn’t one clear solution to choosing a chat engine for office communication, but we recommend companies give their communication channels some serious thought. Slack has features which make it distinctive from other popular tools like Skype and Whatsapp – we won’t go into that here, but do read up for more context. We’ve definitely witnessed a positive impact from using Slack.
Here are a few things a great chat tool like Slack can help you do:
1) Get things done faster
Chat enables real-time communication, and hence collaboration. Discussions can happen in real-time, rather than asynchronously over email threads. Scheduling meeting times becomes much simpler. Email communication reduces, freeing up productive time. Slack fits better into workflows: the mobile app enables people to respond on the go and great keyboard shortcuts on desktop app enable rapid usage. This leads to quicker action being taken resulting in faster decision-making.
2) Organize your information
Conversations on Slack become an archive of internal information. You can create a different “channel” for each group or topical discussion. Channels help keep discussions focused. Slack’s search feature makes it easy to find data across the medium, either by channel or by person. Files shared are compiled into a list. You can ‘star’ things for later and you can pin messages in conversations.
3) Enable people to focus on the right things at the right time
Having a separate company chat tool enables people to keep work and personal communication separate. Work related messages won’t get lost, and people will be less tempted to start replying to personal communication. On the flip side, people can choose when it’s important to tune in or out. Notifications can be customized by channel on Slack and also by time of day. People can schedule notifications to turn off in the evenings, but be notified on an urgent basis if needed. Essentially, people can focus on what they’re doing while at work, but also be engaged and plugged-in when they are with family and friends.
4) Have more control over user access
It is important to keep control of who can access company data – even conversations. You can create private channels which limited users can see, and also control what specific users can access (e.g. a consultant could be made a restricted user). With Slack, you can enable Google App login or other single sign-on (SSO) mechanisms, which has a couple of benefits. Firstly, people can add themselves without creating new accounts, and no one has to ‘add’ contacts. Secondly, it ensures your chat user list is synced to your user management. When someone leaves your company you just have to remove them in one place to ensure they no longer have access to company info.
5) Innovate, connect dots in your business, and have fun
Being a cutting-edge tech company, Slack constantly innovates and also enables innovation. Slack has integrated with many applications, enabling you to play around with a myriad of other tools your business may use. Do you use Zendesk? You could create a channel which gets notifications when a ticket is created. How about Google Hangouts? You could spin up a new Hangout link for a channel. Slack also provides API access which can allow you to create workflows even with your internal systems. Slack’s funky interface and other cool in-built features can prove useful (e.g. a bot that can remind you of stuff) or simply give you inspiration.
While we’re excited about Slack, we realize it isn’t a perfect solution. A few things to keep in mind: Slack may not quite work as well for companies with primarily external-facing communication, since it’s built for intra company conversations. Even if Slack does work for your organization, there are still kinks in the machinery with pertinent features missing from the module. Video/ voice calling can be initiated from Slack (e.g. you can create links for Google Hangouts), but this feature isn’t built into the system. And while Slack has a high uptime and reliable message delivery, for companies in India, Slack isn’t quite optimized for our existing infrastructure. When used over a flaky network, Slack can perform inconsistently while Whatsapp functions adequately.
If you do decide to go down the path of trying something like Slack out for your company (which you should!), be prepared to work initially on getting people to use it. Here are a few tactical ideas to help you get your colleagues on board: have a few champions for the product. Go for grassroots growth, not taking a top-down approach. Create shameless plugs via email with simple instructions. Create channels which people really need to be a part of, otherwise they’re missing out. Be patient, and be positive! You’ll soon see desired results!
Sakshi leads the investor facing product at Capital Float. Before that, she did product at KPCB backed Turo, a p2p car rental marketplace in SF. Her experience is in a mix of tech, design thinking, and strategy. She enjoys building delightful solutions to problems in traditional industries. At Stanford, she built her core foundation in CS, design, and economics. Beyond building products, she tries to sing and simultaneously play the piano, runs in Cubbon Park, and rolls out fresh pasta.
Sakshi is the Senior Product Manager at Capital Float.