Talking up the Slack

Emails have been both a blessing and a curse, and now there are better ways of managing communication within a project, team and organisation.

We have all enjoyed the benefits of email – the instant sharing of information and ideas, documents and designs – but we’ve also had to put up with its issues – failure to deliver, spam email and so forth – and, of course, its users.

There are those who feel the need to ‘cc’ everyone into an email, which in turn encourages everyone in the circulation list to ‘reply all’. Then there are those who don’t reply to the last message in the chain, instantly creating two competing branches of the same email conversation that makes it hard to keep track. And because some use different email software, you can’t be certain every person involved can find a particular email or an attachment.

I have found managing a project when using email as the primary communication tool increasingly frustrating and last year sought to find a new way of working that would make my life a lot easier. Step forward the cloud, platforms and apps.

There are a number of solutions out there – I have used Freedcamp, HipChat, Trello – but unquestionably my favourite is Slack.

Slack is beautifully simple to use, intuitive and provides the ideal communication platform upon which to manage a project through a mixture of group and individual messaging, document uploads and time-ordered workflow. At any given moment, any member of the team can login to read the latest messages, view documents and quickly execute a search, all in real time. No out-of-sync comments, no one using an old version of a document (assuming the file names are clear!) and everyone on the same page, metaphorically.

Along with it’s simplicity, the beauty of Slack is its mixture of public and private channels, plus one-to-one messaging and file storage by individual and channel. Financial issues, for example, can be limited to those who need to know in a private channel, while the design of a new logo can be viewed and discussed by all. Documents uploaded to private channels are only visible to users registered for that channel, and similarly one-to-one messages remain between the two individuals involved in the conversation.

Adopting Slack for the new Barts Guild website project worked incredibly well. The implementation team included a doctor, a cleric and a busy retiree, and Slack enabled the team to work seamlessly together through use of the desktop and mobile versions of the app, plus web-based access via a browser. Slack dramatically reduced the email traffic within the team, increased efficiency and improved our decision-making processes.

I am currently using Slack for another website project I’m coordinating, as well as Trello for another, and I much prefer Slack. I’m sure there are many out there who would disagree and argue for their own favourite, but Slack is the communication platform for me.

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