Slack: how a bizarre dream became reality

I remember that day – we all had a big laugh.

About 5 years ago, the corporation I worked for announced the “zero e-mail program”. The global policy was meant to do exactly what it said – make our inboxes obsolete. Back then it seemed like a joke. The rumors said we would be using a hybrid of Facebook and Skype, invented specifically for businesses.

As we kept sorting out the tens of e-mails that were cc’d to us last night without any specific reason, sarcasm filled our rooms. We refused to take the whole idea seriously. It often happens when low-level employees are presented with a bold managerial vision. They are the soldiers on their front-line, and they know that their assault rifles will not be swapped for plasma guns, even when the president says so. Not in their life.

5 years later, I’m not sure if the plan worked. I left the company soon after it was announced. My guess is that there may have been some obstacles – not only because of less than enthusiastic employees, but also due to the lack of a tool, that would pose a real threat to good ol’ POP and IMAP.

But now, the world is different.

I started using Slack at FINGO a while ago, and as usual, I was a late adopter. The developers had already been hooked, but I did not see the purpose in the beginning. After experimenting a bit with Yammer, I was less than enthused by collaboration/communication tools. But I must admit Slack really made a difference.

SlackBot-header-blog

I found three things that really, really boost my productivity, and surprisingly, the relations with my colleagues.

First – the instant response.

I think that in most cases, people get so overwhelmed by their mailboxes, beacuse they feel obliged to write a “letter” rather than a “message”. And for letters you need time and focus. So when an e-mail arrives, you don’t respond immediately. You flag it, you color-code it and put it in a specific folder. You will get back to it, but later, much later. Slack messages are shorter, more informal and much easier to respond right here, right now, with just one word or an emoticon.

Second – the reminders.

We all need reminders. For me, it was always the easiest and most natural to tell somebody: “could you remind me to call the air-con guys tomorrow”. But it is imperfect, because the other person will forget. And it is rude unless you are talking to your PA. On the other end of the spectrum there are Outlook’s to-dos. But setting those things up can be a chore. Create task. Right click on task. Click add reminder. Your eyelids are becoming heavy. Click follow-up. Click new reminder. Set date. Set time. Snooze…

Slack is a robot that understands natural language. Try writing in any chat window: /remind me to call air-con guys tomorrow at 10am

It will not forget:

slackbot

Third – the social aspect.

There are things too small to walk up to your colleague and too urgent to write an e-mail. In slack just type “are you there?” and wait. Half the time you will get an immediate response and ask whatever is nagging you. That wouldn’t have happened without Slack. I wouldn’t have talked to many people in the company without it.

For me Slack is doing exactly what it promises. It is killing my inbox. At the same time it is killing my calendar. And it is making me a much more social person at work.

Grzegorz Motriuk
About

I'm a sales and marketing manager specializing in IT. I believe that agility in a tech organization means that it has to reinvent itself as often as possible.