Slack Completely Changed The Way Our Team Communicates (For The Better!)

Slack

So my VP introduced us to this tool called Slack a few days ago. My first reaction? Greatttt. Another tool I need to keep checking for updates every 3 minutes. 2 days later, I’m absolutely in love with it.

It completely changed the way our team communicates in a matter of 2 days. We’re closer knit, communicating more clearly, and are more productive than ever before. It’s slightly magical. Why, you ask?

1. It’s elegantly designed. 

You can tell that the team that designed it really took their time focusing on the little big details. It’s simple to use and powerful at the same time.

2. Notifications are cleanly executed. 

There are badges in the Mac App, but they are subtle. Instead of things flashing in your face, there’s just a dot. Threads with new comments turn bold. They aren’t obnoxious stress inducing notification signals, they’re lovely.

3. The team conversations are fluid.

Tagging is an option, but it’s like a giant chat window for all members to see. Everything is archived, so there is no fear of missing out on an important interaction if you’re out sick or stuck in a meeting. That being said, rereading our team conversations is hilarious. We could probably create a season long sitcom script just by copy pasting our team chat transcripts.

4. Remote employees become fully immersed in team culture, without any effort. 

Our team has one employee who works remotely 4 days a week.

We’ve switched from Lync (which is absolutely horrible, it crashes every 5 minutes, deletes things, doesn’t send full messages without alerting you, there’s no a character limit warning, it saves conversations in a sketchy manner, I could go on and on) to Slack exclusively, for internal team communication.

Keeping remote employees in the loop with Lync is practically impossible. With Slack, it’s effortless.

5. We now have a permalink to conversing with our VP.

Our VP is incredibly busy, but always takes the time to chat with us and address our questions and concerns. Lync crashing was a stumbling block for clear lines of communication and emails were a stumbling block because he gets about 8734 of those per day. Slack is a direct line with clean communication flow. It’s not something that will disappear or crash and kill a conversation. It lets him reach out to us at any point of the day when he has the opportunity, and gives us the chance to respond as soon as we’re free from meetings/surface for air from our latest projects.

6. There are group conversations, and private conversations, and they all feel permanent. 

When using a normal chat client, or emailing a person, messages seem temporary, and folks tend to say things they wouldn’t say in person. They of course, AREN’T temporary, once you send a message on the net it lives forever, but still the transient feel remains. When you communicate on Slack, you can edit or delete, but it has a more permanent feel, because when you open the screen everything you’ve said previously is still in the window. I find myself thinking before I type, but not in a bad way, in a more organized thought process way. Try it for a few days to understand what I mean.

7. Tools are available, but tucked away in non obtrusive places.

You can hover over a message to display a gear icon that contains the options to delete or edit it. They aren’t in your face, they’re tucked away, which contributes to the fluid, clean feeling of the interface.

8. The ability to split apart channel topics has been mega helpful in assisting us in communicating more clearly.

We have a general tab where we do things like select our team superhero names and avatars (Have I mentioned how much I love my job and my team? Seriously. Best work environment on the planet. Oh, and #TeamIronMan ftw!) We also use that area to toss out ideas and concepts and figure out how to allocate projects. We have an inspiration channel to post awesome new tech we stumble upon, we have a process channel to discuss ways we can improve our work flows, and we have a questions channel where we can post urgent questions that need to be addressed to avoid impediments.

9. You can add media to your conversations with ease. 

You can add links and graphics & you can use threaded commenting to have conversations about the assets you add. It’s simple and lost in one place.

10. Slack replaced 3 other tools, by combining all of their functionality into one. 

We were using Lync for chat, we were using a hidden Facebook group for sharing inspiration and we were using Notable to toss out design feedback. Slack combined all 3 necessities into one elegant space.

I’m officially a huge Slack fan. If you’re looking for a new tool to improve team communication, definitely check it out.

5 Tools That Make Interdepartmental Collaboration a Breeze

One of the things I’ve noticed while talking with other UX pros is that keeping lines of communication and collaboration open between departments can be very challenging. If an organization isn’t adequately prepared, it can be even trickier when you add remote employees to the mix. I have put together this list of tools that keep our organization Schoolwires running smoothly when folks are in the office, as well as when people are remote.

  1. TargetProcess – Keep track of who is doing what and when. As far as interdepartmental use goes, our Product Management team comes up with features and requirements and puts them in the backlog. Our Design, Dev and QA teams go through the backlog and figure out how much time is going to be needed to accomplish the requirements and who needs to be allocated to each piece of the project. Once those pieces are determined the epic or story goes live and tasks are added for each team member that needs to contribute from the UX, Content Strategy, Design, Development and QA teams. Time tracking can be included in tasks as well. When a team member completes a task, they close it. This product is fantastic, because instead of people calling to ask when something is going to be finished or what is being included in a release, they can just look in TP and see a live update at any time.
  2. Balsamiq – It’s a wireframing tool with an awesomely simple yet powerful UI. It has a desktop interface as well as a web interface so you can design from anywhere. As far as collaboration goes, we have a design kickoff meeting where we come up with concepts and throw out ideas based on a market problem. After the meeting our Design and Innovation Team (VP, UX Manager, UX Designer, Content Strategist & 2 Architects) work together in Balsamiq to create mockups. Balsamiq shows live updates, so we can all be in the same wireframe working on different mockups and we see alerts about what the rest of the team is doing. It also has commenting enabled, with optional email alerts so we can discuss design changes right in the wireframe. After we finish the initial design mockups, our architects add all of the necessary charts, business layer and data layer info. Then our Content Strategist goes through and does a final sweep of all of the screen copy, labels, tooltips and any additional in product UA to ensure a consistently warm & friendly, yet professional product tone. Finally our UX Designer adds a final high res mockup to the project, and it’s ready to be passed on to Engineering. I LOVE this product. It is absolutely amazing for collaboration.
  3. GotoMeeting – It’s ridiculously easy to set up web conferences with GotoMeeting. We use this all the time for collaboration among teams. You can do a straight web conference or you can take advantage of their integrated HD video conferencing. Another great feature is being able to record your entire session. So, if you have a meeting and a major stakeholder can’t attend, just record it and they can play it back when they are able.
  4. Shared Calendars – We use Outlook, but there are tons of calendar sharing programs out there. Being able to schedule a meeting while looking at the availability of everyone who needs to attend is worth it’s weight in gold and it cuts out tons of unnecessary confusion and frustration. We use it to simultaneously book meeting rooms, which is also extremely handy.
  5. HipChat – A ton of our internal communication happens through chat. It’s perfect when you have remote staff members, but even people who are sitting right across from one another use chat to communicate in our office because it’s extremely difficult to code/design when people are talking loudly all around you. We still chat and joke around and collaborate out loud on a regular basis, but when it’s something small, being able to fire off a question via chat without disturbing the person next to you who is neck deep in code comes in super handy. We currently use HipChat, which is a completely awesome collaborative tool. You can create chat screens organized by topic, and assign members to the various topics. We have our HipChat broken out into project specific chat screens, one for research, one for sharing cool innovative finds, we even have one for future office decor ideas. It is incredibly helpful to have a one stop shop for team discussion when you have remote employees, they never miss a single detail. As an added bonus, HipChat has cross device compatibility, so you can use it on your PC, Mac, iPhone, Android Device or you can just fire up the web view. I’m a huge fan of this product, it has really opened our lines of communication!

These tools in combination with a completely awesome staff, keep our company running smoothly whether employees are all in one room or spread out all over the country.