After a couple of failed attempts, I’ve finally migrated to Slack for all communication at work. It’s not perfect, but I’m confident that it’s an improvement on email.
The benefits are significant. I spend much less time in my inbox – it’s no longer the center of my work life, no longer a weed I have to hack back to submission.This is the main shift I’ve experienced, and it’s a big one.
It’s also cleaner to have email be for external correspondence, separate from Slack, which is internal. This makes it easier to track things and easier to know why I’m going into my Inbox.
Plus, Slack, in addition to feeling lighter and more responsive, has huge benefits in terms of transparency (easy to ‘see’ what is going on in channels even if you’re not the recipient of a message) and for new team members (who can see and search history).
This is my second attempt at Slack. After failing the first time, I’d been intending to shift over for more than a year but couldn’t muster the courage. I ended up following some braver folks at Acumen, and I’m very happy with the results.
In case you’re about to jump in, or thinking about it but not sure if it will work, here are my suggestions about how to achieve Slack success.
- All or nothing: this is the most important one. On the day (after you’ve set up Slack, channels, etc.) move your entire team to Slack. You can start with one team, not with your whole organization. But it won’t work if half of your team is on Slack and the other half is on email.
- No more email for internal communication: this is connected to #1. You have to agree that, for a period of time, everyone is going to use Slack for everything. Here’s a cue: if you find yourself sending someone an email and a Slack message because you’re not sure which tool to use, something’s wrong.
- Three month trial period: when we started, I hoped a two week trial period would be long enough. I was told I actually needed to give it three months. That was good advice.
- Set up the channels right: Have someone on your team/in your organization set up the right channels at the outset, a person who is detail-oriented and likes that sort of thing.
- Create a Learn Slack channel: Create an #all-learn-slack channel where folks can ask questions and your super-users can answer them. This eases the onboarding and empowers your super-users to do an important job
- Use the Google Docs or Dropbox integration: Slack has a million add-on tools. If you’re using Google Docs or Dropbox for shared files, integrate them into Slack. This allows you to see GDocs comments directly in slack, upload links to Dropbox files instead of the whole files, and a bunch of other magical things.
- Download the app: Slack is good on desktop but feels optimized for iPhone/Android. You definitely want both the desktop app and the phone app for the best experience.
- Be ready to ‘tether’ your laptop more: Slack doesn’t work offline. This is a bummer and the one major drawback. If, like me, you have a chunk of time each day when you’re offline but on your laptop (say, on a train), you’ll want some way to get online. I’ve been using the Personal Hotspot on my iPhone through AT&T nearly every day. It’s intermittent, but workable, you just need a cellphone plan with this option. Same thing goes for flights – you will want to pay for wifi more often.
- Use the ‘star’ ‘reminder’ ‘mark unread’ or ‘pin’ tools: the biggest adjustment I’ve had in Slack is the (bad) email habit of reading emails when I don’t have time to respond to them. I find it a bit harder to re-find things after I’ve read them in Slack, and am using the Star a lot to keep a running list of things that I have to go back to. I’m guessing that a combination of all four of these tools will work for me once I master them.
- Use Slack help: one of the best things about Slack, which is completely counter-intuitive if you’ve been living in Windows land, is that (nearly) every question you might has an easy-to-find answer. Start with the Slack Help Center and go from there.
All of this has made for a smooth transition to Slack, better communication, and time and energy freed up for the important stuff.
As a bonus, here’s the Masters of Scale podcast about Slack: The big pivot – Stewart Butterfield, Co-founder & CEO of Slack. It’s a good one.