In this week’s post, I’ll be reviewing the cloud-based project collaboration tool, Slack.
Background and Purpose
Slack advertises itself as being able to simplify communication and streamlining workflow. It does this by unifying communication and tools. You can access Slack through the cloud using a browser, or by downloading the desktop application.
Slack allows you to manage projects by proving you with a workspace where you can chat and share documents all in one place. Slack also integrates with a lot of other tools, such as Trello, Google Drive and Zoom, to name a few.
You start by creating a Workspace; this can be project-based or company based. You then create Channels within the workspace which can be used to organise different topics of conversations of different parts of a project. For example, you could create a new Workspace called My Company, then within this workspace, you could create channels for different departments, such as IT, Finance, Sales, etc. To help with privacy, you can set user access restrictions to channels.
Within channels, you can start conversations, which works the same as a traditional online chat application like Skype. You can also start threads in chats, which work like sub-chats, e.g., someone in IT might send a message asking, “Who can work on call support this weekend?” everyone who has access to the channel can then reply to this chat in a thread, this helps to keep the channel organised.
Review and Experience
I have used many different collaboration tools, but Slack has to be my favourite to date. I use Slack for University but mostly for work. I used to use Skype at work but have now moved over to Slack just because it really is a central place for chatting and sharing. At work I belong to multiple channels split by department and project, everything is still there when I log back in and I can catch up on what has happened if I have been away. You can also ask Slack to email you when you receive a new message.
The feature I like most about Slack is App Integration – you don’t have to ditch all your existing tools! I use Trello for task tracking, and Slack enables me to ingrate Trello, as well as Google Drive and Zoom. I use Zoom at work for conference calls so being able to launch a call from Slack is great for productivity and keeping track of when meetings have occurred.
Slack can become very disorganised very quickly and if you’re used to chatting on Skype, the thread feature can be difficult to get to grips with.
Overall, it’s a great tool for productivity and centralising lots of communication methods.
Benefits and Challenges
Below are what I think the benefits and challenges are to using Slack.
- Central place for chatting and sharing ideas
- Intuitive and easy to use
- App integration makes collaboration even more centralised
- Slack is just a tool and is not going to revolutionise your project – if you put crap in, you’re going to get crap out!
- You need to be organised with channels and threads from the starts – it’s very easy to become disorganised
- User education – newbies to Slack aren’t always aware of how powerful the tool can be and don’t realise you can integrate most apps into the application