The abundance of messaging applications in today’s mobile world is staggering. The following immediately come to mind:
Email: Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, etc. | Outlook, Airmail, Entourage, etc. (all mail platforms)
Standalone: GroupMe | Facebook Messenger | Viber | WeChat | WhatsApp | Twitter
..then, there is SLACK.
When it comes to the use of messaging applications within a professional setting at a startup or corporate firm, user needs differ from simple personal messaging needs. File sharing is a priority, security protocols and systems integration are requirements, and the underlying goal of conveying integral conversations to all those who are relevant persists.
The last point is worth noting again; my opinion is that any internal communication at a company is, at its core, meant to propel forward conversations that need to be had even if the relevant individuals are not standing right next to one another. The state of many inboxes today signifies how dependent companies have become on email to have these exact conversations. In 2014, roughly 122,500,453,020 emails were sent every hour (1).
As Professor Kane has mentioned in class on occasion, a stark contrast exists between the professional world and the collegiate world when it comes to email usage. Every small detail – that if dealt with in person might only take a few words and a nod of the head – becomes yet another notification, another unread email, another minute or two of your day.
This is where Slack comes into the picture.
Described by some as an updated AOL Instant Messenger, for use between your colleagues rather than 13 year old best friends, Slack is catapulting into the workspace and throttling employee inboxes.
Slack was initially launched in August of 2013 by the same individual who founded Flickr, Stewart Butterfield. While 8,000 customers signed up within the first 24 hours of its release, over 2.7 million daily users are now active on Slack as of April 2016.
I was introduced to Slack by a friend of mine who graduated last year from Boston College and works in one of the hottest tech companies right now (HubSpot). His team at HubSpot uses Slack for all communications entirely – or so he says. As of January, this individual had not sent one, single email since he started with the company in October. As a product engineer, he requires input from various team members for approval of code and guidance in his daily work. Formal emails are clunky and inefficient for that kind of information, so Slack is a truly perfect fit.
Slack has done what no other collaborative software has been able to successfully do – “recreate the casual banter of a real-world office” (2). It is not an “email killer,” nor is any other app that exists right now. Slack is a beautiful, well designed app that makes communication amongst team members almost effortless. With a simple command-tab keystroke on a Mac one can switch between their current window (maybe it is the Excel spreadsheet they’ve been poring over or their Facebook News Feed that they’ve checked for the 10th time that morning) and their Slack chats, seamlessly bringing the instant-message like communication to the core of their working experience.
Behind the basic chat room style interface exists a plethora of added features. First off, one can belong to any number of Slack “teams.” For example, my brother currently uses Slack both for work and for personal use. Amongst a number of my friends we have a “team” that is active most workdays with random posts about news, an article that is worth sharing with everyone, plans for that evening, and even some random thoughts that one of us wanted to share. My brother can toggle between that team and the one he is on for his company based in New Zealand. Within that Slack “team” he is able to converse remotely with co workers who are 16 hours ahead (time zones are crazy). Each team creates its own “channels,” or dedicated chat rooms. In my brother’s case, he has many channels of which some are devoted to bugs he has found in their program, one that is simply for general use, and even one that is solely about new features that should be added.
With an open API (application programming interface), Slack allows other applications to interact with Slack chatrooms in ways that provide even more benefits to its users. Google Docs, GitHub, Twitter, Skype, and Uber are just a few of the app integrations stemming out of this “open” relationship with other companies.
This openness is the crux of Slack’s success. One of the company’s own descriptions of itself is that, “It’s all your communication in one place, instantly searchable, and available wherever you go.” In order to position itself so that it might one day replace email entirely it needs this transparency and broad applicability. For now, with its ease of use and instant efficiencies, Slack is here to stay.
Curious? Give it a go.
1. http://www.emailisnotdead.com/ 2. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/bd7dbf46-d24c-11e4-9c25-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=uk