Cut Us Some Slack: Keeping Inter-Office Communication Open and Productive

Slack

The Centresource office recently made a collective shift over to Slack, an extensive messaging application that just launched in February of this year. We’d previously relied on a handful of tools and good ol’ email to keep people in the know, keep projects moving ahead, keep track of decisions made, and so on. Despite our best efforts, however, this cobbled approach left a lot to be desired: pieces of information slipped between cracks, stakeholders weren’t getting cc’d, and knowledge was getting siloed. Simply put, it kinda sucked.

What we were missing was a single gathering point that allowed us to collate our individual notes, project documents, off the cuff questions and daily communications in an organized and structured way. Enter Slack.

Why it Works

I think a key step towards success from our end was the almost wholesale adoption of the application by our office in a short amount of time. We were asked by senior management to give it a thorough test run and people happily complied. We had fun kicking the tires (Slack is a good-looking app) and we were really pleased to see how it could handle our varied needs.

What stood out to most of us immediately was the categorization of communication, the search feature and the multitude of 3rd party integrations — all creating a complete (and pretty kitted-out) dashboard.

Communication Categorization

As opposed to using several tools to handle the sliding scale of communication every office has, Slack provides three distinct tiers right out of the box. These delineations are great for funneling information to the proper destinations, that can be parsed as needed.

  • Direct Messages: for the wide range of person-to-person conversations that we all have every day

  • Private Groups: for conversations among a specific group of people with invite-only permission. We use private groups on a project basis, bringing in the team members directly working on the project

  • Channels: for company wide conversations that users can opt in or out of. We have a general channel that’s reserved for must-know information and company-wide announcements or reminders. We also have channels tailored to the various departments and points of interest (UX, Dev, Content, etc.) that anyone can hop into

You can also upload a file, create a text snippet or create a category-specific posts (complete with nifty markdown) within any of the messaging tiers.

Search

Slack allows you to search for a term across entire conversation chains. You can then filter the results by a specific user, channel or group. The amount of time spent hunting down an comment or document is greatly reduced, making this feature fantastic for increased productivity. And the search isn’t restricted to Slack-specific content:

Slack indexes the contents of every file, whether you upload them directly or through integrations. That means you can search inside Word docs, Google Docs, PDFs, Photoshop files, commit messages — anything you add to Slack.

(from slack.com)

Which brings me to the next great feature…

Integrations

The broad range of 3rd party tools that integrate with Slack is really impressive: Trello, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, MailChimp, Pivotal Tracker, GitHub… the list goes on.

The most helpful integration, to my mind, is Trello (a great project management application, by the way). By linking a project’s Trello board to the correlating project-specific private group in Slack, we get alerts any time a comment is made or an action is taken in Trello (by the client or one of our co-workers). We maintain the internal conversation around any project in Slack, while incorporating the client-facing conversations in the communication thread for easy reference. It’s comprehensive and awesome.

Slack is constantly adding to the list of integrations and is looking to its users to help them prioritize which 3rd party tools should be brought in next.

The benefits of Slack were clear within the first day of our testing and our adoption rate was practically breakneck. Sure, you’re still going to need email to communicate with clients, but Slack has become pretty essential to the structure and organization of our interoffice workflow.

Do you have a favorite work organization or management tool in your arsenal? Tell us about it in the comments!

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