How sandwiches switched from email to Slack

It is starting to seems like everyone is using Slack for internal comms within teams. I have at least two clients using it and I know of a couple other small teams using it too.

(On a related note, the Slack referral program which gives you $100 in credit when you sign up expires at the end of November 2014 so click on this link if you want to take advantage of that)

I’m experimenting with how I can tie into my clients’ teams and use Slack to collaborate with them rather than our usual email+Skype+Hangouts channels. I also switched to a beta version of the desktop app which better supports multiple teams (the stable version allows you to switch between teams which also works), thanks to Richard Oakley.

I am not a huge fan of email but it works (most of the time). I do like the idea of using chat-style services for communications with clients. Email can become pretty painful when you just want to have short conversations in close to realtime. I also like the idea of not using email much for work comms too and Slack is a great service to use for that.

I had a discussion along these lines with Nathan Jeffery recently and the one thing that came up was whether it is productive to switch to more realtime comms with clients. We have become accustomed to pretty fast comms with email, calls and chat. Email still has a semblance of a lag because it is still asynchronous so you can manage expectations to a degree. If you switch to a realtime option like Slack, you risk creating an expectation that your responses will be realtime simply because the tech enables it. That means you spend all your time chatting and not enough time working. At least that is the risk. I’m not sure that shifting to something like Slack is the end of productivity. I think managing expectations goes beyond what the channel enables but it is worth thinking about.

One of the companies that moved over to Slack is Sandwich Video Inc. The story about their transition is documented in a Slack blog post which is a great read. It is, ironically, a series of emails between Slack’s co-founder and CEO, Stewart Butterfield, and Sandwich Video’s CEO, Adam Lisagor. Sandwich Video created an awesome video (as you would expect) explaining why they moved and beautifully animating their enthusiasm for the product. I had to share. Watch the video in HD. You may need to watch it more than once, it’s that much fun:

I’m curious how many people are using Slack. It is easy to look around your local bubble and think everyone is doing it and forget about the world outside that bubble.

Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

5 Comments

  1. The last few months have proven to me(again) how much I dislike Skype as a communication medium. It is great for voice but I truly despise, ok wait, hate it as an instant messaging platform. I have a lot of respect for what it can do in terms of voice, video and screen sharing, but I simply hate it. I stopped using it years ago due to it’s intrusive nature, but recently needed to install it to communicate with a UK based client and since then things have spiralled out of control and now I have clients contacting me on it on an almost daily basis.

    The problem I have with this(realtime) approach is that I can’t triage client communications. I seriously get tons of correspondence. At any given point in time we’re working on easily 10 or more projects of different sizes and complexity, all involving; client engagement, planning, development, internal review, client side review, refinement and implementation. I need to be able to provide attention to the important correspondence first to ensure the best possible service to our clients. IM gets in the way of this.

    I have found that clients(super generalisation) who make use of IM as a medium to report bugs or provide feedback on testing often send through information without any logical structure and don’t take the time to think of the impact of what they’re doing. They just hit send, because it’s easy and they’re used to the conversational nature IM. This results in numerous hours of wasted time, as IMs often deviant of topic. It’s also difficult to track as the correspondence is sitting inside of a separate app, outside of our business process and business tools.

    Since engaging with you on the topic of realtime availability and the abuse thereof, I have spent some more time thinking about it. I definitely agree that there is more to it, than availability alone, resulting in the abuse. We need to set clear guidelines and expectations in terms of what is expected and how people should engage with us.

    Internally our team is Google based. This means our whole team has Gmail open, all day, every day. The benefit of this for us is, we use Email for client communications and Hangouts as our primary form of internal communications. We apply filters and labels to email and leverage priority inbox to manage the follow and priority of mail.

    We have tried numerous tools for managing tasks, productivity and all those lovely things people keep building apps for. What we’ve found works the best(for us) is keeping it simple and using less apps instead of more.

    Due to the nature of our work, software development, we have one requirement which other businesses do not have and that is source version control.

    We use BitBucket and GitHub for this. We leverage the built in issue tracking functions to manage our task lists, contextually for each client and project. Any questions or comments relating to a task are logged on the task. This way we only ever have one version of the truth. Everyone can see what is being discussed and contribute in the open. Depending on our clients needs and the duration of the project we also add them to the repository and engage with them directly within the issue tracker.

    The resulting impact for us is that, all communication relating to specific tasks is in black and white, logged with the task, so if we hire new team members or need to work with external resources, it’s very easy for us to bring someone up to speed. It’s also super easy to go back to a bug report or feature request from a year back and see what was implemented and why.

    There are some clear advantages of Slack, especially for businesses that don’t run Google Apps or other toolsets with integrated IM. Another great advantage over Skype is that Slack does not require you to download and install an app to use it on your laptop or desktop, you can just log in. This suits me much better. Another reason, why I like hangouts inside of Gmail.

    I see WordPress have recently switched to Slack, I think this is great. I have recommended the Ghost dev team move public discussion to Slack as well. I think Slack has a great UI and overall I like what they have done with the product.

    Our team is distributed with two in one office, two in another and two working remotely from home, without group chats or one on one IM discussions our business would not be able to cope.

    1. Your business actually seems like a great candudate for Slack for internal comms. You’d probably find integrations for BitBucket and GitHub, along with your other services too.

  2. I fell integrations create additional noise and duplicate content also duplicate notifications. I’ve tried to like them, but it’s hasn’t worked. I like clean, simple, clutter free comms. 🙂

What do you think?

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