Slack incorporates everything necessary for a productive online workplace. Manage projects through the use of specific channels for collaboration and make video calls with teammates. The program lets users tag teammates to notify them straight away or notify the whole channel at once. Users can share files, view other users’ profiles, build lists, and send any necessary information to as many people as they choose. The paid version of Slack allows users to expand upon the features in the free version and streamlines the workflow of the whole team The service is available on most devices and is downloadable for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
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Slack incorporates everything necessary for a productive online workplace. Manage projects through the use of specific channels for collaboration and make video calls with teammates.
Confusion is costly, coordination is key
Collaboration can be challenging in many workplaces, with everyone diligently tuned in to their own tasks and duties. Marketers are especially feeling the crunch. According to a report on the state of marketing work by Workfront, 98% of marketers experience some kind of conflict with other departments, groups, and teams.
It’s also tough for marketing teams to stay coordinated in and of themselves, given the breadth of specializations and functions that need to come together to create top-notch work on deadline.
To get a grasp on the big picture when it comes to marketing team collaboration — the successes, the bottlenecks, and the opportunities for improvement — we rounded up the latest data from several reputed sources.
Here’s where marketing collaboration stands in 2018.
Marketers see room for improvement with workflow collaboration
56% of the most successful marketing organizations rate the project management flow during their content creation process as excellent or very good, compared with only 11% of the least successful. (B2C Content Marketing 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends)
Workflow collaboration issues stem from lack of organization
42% of content marketers point to staying organized as a top challenge. Another 36% say they struggle to gather multiple team members for planning sessions. (Content Planning Challenges, Trends & Opportunities)
The biggest barrier to collaboration? Everyone is busy
More than half of marketers (58%) say they’re “too busy” for content collaboration. Another 15% say they don’t have a culture that supports it. (Content Planning Challenges, Trends & Opportunities)
High-performing marketing teams rely on heavily coordinated efforts
Delivering a consistent and connected customer experience is what’s expected of today’s marketing teams. To do so, specialized teams within marketing must coordinate across functions (e.g., social media, email, website, product, brand), but this only gets harder when you consider that each team might use different tools and have distinct communication preferences and processes. The more variables to account for, the more difficult it becomes to coordinate work.
High-performing marketing teams are 12.8x more likely than underperforming ones to heavily coordinate efforts between touch points. (Fourth Annual State of Marketing report)
Inter-team conflict is costly
What about coordinating with teams outside of marketing? Out of necessity, marketing teams continue to become more closely intertwined with other departments and business units such as sales, customer support, engineering, and other stakeholders.
We mentioned earlier that Workfront’s report shows 98% of marketers saying they experience conflict with other departments, groups, and teams. Where is this conflict coming from? The most commonly cited causes include conflicting priorities (39%), lack of communication (31%), and a lack of understanding about urgency (14%). (2016–17 U.S. State of Marketing Work Report)
What are the consequences of team conflict?
Among the most frequently reported are lost productivity (37%), missed deadlines (22%), and lost confidence in other teams (20%). (2016–17 U.S. State of Marketing Work Report)
Lack of collaboration between sales and marketing hurts B2B organizations where it matters most
The majority of polled professionals said lack of alignment and collaboration between sales and marketing leads to weaker financial performance (60%), poorer customer experience (59%), and reduced customer retention (58%). (The Payoffs of Improved Sales & Marketing Alignment)
However, marketers at B2B organizations who exceed revenue goals are 2x more likely to participate in customer and prospect meetings than those who miss revenue goals. (2016 B2B Sales & Marketing Collaboration Study)
What might help improve marketing collaboration? When you look at what marketers report as the top inhibitors of workplace productivity, meetings and emails come up most frequently.
Marketers are miffed at meetings
62% of marketers say wasteful meetings get in the way of their work. The second most prevalent culprit is excessive oversight (51%), followed by excessive emails (48%) and a lack of standard processes for workflow (33%). (2016–17 U.S. State of Marketing Work Report)
And you probably won’t be shocked to learn that 45% of employees generally feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings they have to attend every month, which adds up to more than60 meetings per month on average, or about two per day. 47% of employees complain that meeting volume is the number one time-waster at the office. (You Waste a Lot of Time at Work [Infographic])
So much work to do, too little time to do actual work
After getting all their emails and meetings squared away, marketers say they have only 38% of their time left for their primary job duties. (2016–17 U.S. State of Marketing Work Report)
It’s clear that marketing teams understand the value of collaboration but sometimes get bogged down with conflicting priorities, an overabundance of meetings, and searching for critical information spread across a smorgasbord of sources. Effective coordination, unsurprisingly, drives higher efficiency and greater organizational success.
IDC research on the Business Value of Slack found that marketing teams using Slack execute campaigns 16% faster and spend 8% less time getting them launched. See how Slack eliminates unnecessary meetings and emails, improves cross-team communication, and boosts overall marketing collaboration. Create a workspace for your team, and make up for lost time.
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Where does marketing collaboration stand in 2018? was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
How choosing our words wisely leads to better work
In The Achievement Habit, Stanford professor Bernard Roth details how “word swapping” — a technique that replaces inherently negative words with positive ones — ultimately transforms our mind-set. For example, Roth suggests replacing “can’t” (a word that denotes impossibility and helplessness) with “won’t” (a word that implies choice). “I can’t code” becomes “I won’t code,” acknowledging agency rather than impossibility.
Our language choices, whether through tweet, text message, or even release note, deeply affect our daily attitudes. Here we’ve collected some of our favorite posts that explore the upside of taking greater care in our everyday communications.
1. Your brand is your culture speaking to the outside world.
Why is it that products for people, by people, rarely sound like… people? Let’s face it, words are hard. Here’s how we came to find our voice at Slack.
2. Writing algorithms requires mastery of coding languages — and human languages.
Today we code for machines that serve people — and so programmers have the very important task of creating for people of all backgrounds. Machine programmer and author Ellen Ullman talks to us about “invading the closed society where code is written” and makes a case for why programmers need the humanities to write algorithms.
3. Localizing a product is about more than just translation.
The meaning of a word can get lost in translation across different cultural contexts. That’s why products must be localizedand not merely translated: In order to build for diverse people, it’s necessary to understand them first.
4. The meaning behind what is said changes depending on where it’s said.
Digital etiquette is often eschewed in favor of convenience. Daniel Post Senning, author of Manners in a Digital World, walks us through when it’s OK to send a text and when we should break out the pen and paper.
5. How conflict arises is often beyond our control, but how it is resolved is not.
Compassion is a choice, rarely an instinct. Julie Elster, an accounts receivable assistant, explains how, along with choosing one’s words carefully and having plenty of persistence, compassion in conflict resolution may be counterintuitive but is surprisingly effective.
6. Unicode recognizes emoji as a language. And so do we.
Arguably the heart of digital language, emoji add much-needed human context to otherwise flat text conversations. In Slack, emoji don’t just allow people to be more expressive. Features like reacji — emoji used as reactions to messages — can also help people communicate more efficiently.
Technology may have altered how we communicate, but the intent behind our words remains important. Whether it’s as simple as changing our can’ts to won’ts, we should never underestimate the impact of the language we use.
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Watch your language was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Information designer Erika Hall on the relationship between collaboration and conversation
Conversation is the oldest interface, explains Erika Hall, co-founder of Mule Design. The purpose of conversation is essentially to cooperate and achieve a goal. The value of conversational tone is that it makes communication feel more personal, more palatable. And so interaction design must be about more than creating interfaces that talk and text. “Technology is valuable when it brings us more of what’s already meaningful,” she says.
In her new book, Conversational Design, Hall surveys the history of conversation and explores how people’s tone evolves as new mediums — like text messages — are introduced. She believes that this deeper understanding of the way people communicate can help designers and engineers develop systems that are more intuitive and simple to use.
Recently, Hall spoke with Slack about what engineers and designers can learn from writers and how these lessons can be applied to spark more meaningful and deliberate collaboration at work.
Slack: Why did you want to write about how conversational tone should influence software design?
Erika Hall: There’s been such a bifurcation between words and pictures. We create as though design and content are separate. Nobody interacts with code and words separately, but that’s how we do the work.
Conversational Design began as a talk I gave back in 2007 called “Copy Is Interface,” the purpose of which was to get designers to think about language as part of design. Language is how we interact with each other as people. Language is interface.
This book is part of my general struggle to get people to stop thinking about work as compartmentalized.
Creating good work does not mean individuals must sit alone and suffer. Why do we think that’s how work happens?
Well, because we’re brought up in school and rewarded at work to think that’s how things get done. But the most useful applications are not built in silos.
Slack: What can designers learn from writers?
Hall: There’s a lot of confusion around the role of language in design. Some people think design is better without words, but language is how we interact with each other. Sometimes you can use two words instead of an icon, and that is simply the best way to get your point across. Writers understand important concepts like tone, getting to the point, and killing your darlings.
In good design, as in writing, you have to start from what’s meaningful to people. You have to be context-aware, which is hard. And speed is really important, which I think designers tend to forget. Good writers know they will get their meaning across faster if they are concise. If we only focus on and reward technical elegance, we’ll miss a simple solution that’s more satisfying.
Also, if you can’t explain the system you’re building using words, you’re going to have problems. Sketching something is fine, but then you should have to explain and talk about your design proposal. This is a great way to test a concept.
Slack: You refer to Wikipedia as an example of a unique intertextual design phenomenon, a collaboration between many different types of experts. What are some other examples of meaningful teamwork between designers and writers?
Hall: Some organizations — and hopefully more will — encourage pair programming, with two developers working collaboratively on a project. Writers’ rooms, like those for late-night comedy shows, are a space where everyone has to get together and work out material really quickly. Classical advertising — think Mad Men era — also functioned this way, when creative directors came from copywriting and everyone talked about and tested concepts.
Another example is Walt Disney Studios, which had a great org chart that shows how story drove everything. That story-driven process set Disneyland apart. That amusement park isn’t just roller coasters, and the process of the ride isn’t just physics. Patents on the ride vehicles show the relationship between the machine and story. Disney engineering was a story-driven collaboration.
Slack: You write, “Words are a fundamental part of the experience, and they should be the basis for defining and creating the design.” Why do you have to make a case for this idea?
Hall: We’re all contributing to systems as writers, designers, and software engineers, but no one knows how to describe that as work yet. We still write documentation as individuals because that shows we each produced something. But if we could just have conversations with each other, work would be so much easier.
Learn how millions of people are using Slack as their collaboration hub for teamwork at our Frontiers conference in San Francisco (Sept. 5–6), New York (Oct. 3–4), and London (Nov. 13–14). Tickets are on sale now. https://slackfrontiers.com/
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Designing meaningful interactions at work was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Everything we’ve covered on how to streamline teamwork
Most work that takes place in Slack happens in public channels — and for good reason. When team members have a shared space to ask questions, bring issues to light, and make decisions, progress can happen that much faster. This kind of transparency is also a boon for executives and other cross-functional team members on the lookout for insights and information.
Here’s a collection of posts that will take you through everything from setting up channels for your team to how to use them to improve team collaboration, and even culture, at work.
Rather than tell you the benefits of channels, we thought we’d show you six ways that channels can transform your work and how they help organize different kinds of projects happening across an organization. Next, we show you how to organize your work life into Slack channels and delve deeper into the ways you can structure and label channels to make key information easier to find.
Ways channels can improve your work
The 5 essential Slack channels you didn’t know your team needed covers topics ranging from how to set up dedicated company news and announcements channels to setting up more social channels that bring employees closer together and encourage them to exchange skills and expertise. But it’s important not to forget about celebrating and supporting your teammates in Slack, so we offered ideas for channels that help new hires feel welcome and channels that help teams celebrate wins.
The story of #beeftweets and our piece on how to foster good ideas from the inside share examples from how we use Slack with our own teams. Our #beeftweets channel is where we track easily solvable problems that customers report (and that can often be fixed within hours of them being reported). And then we have a series of channels that we use for brainstorming new product ideas internally. Both posts tell you how to replicate these processes with your own teams.
The power of machine-generated channels goes into all the ways that you can integrate Slack with tools and services (like Zendesk and Jira) that teams use regularly. Data from these various sources can automatically report updates, tweets, and new tickets into Slack channels for everyone to see.
How to work with others in channels
Once you get the hang of things, you may want to explore shared channels — a feature that creates a bridge between two companies’ Slack workspaces so that teams on either side can better keep in touch. To help you bring even more of your work into Slack, we also walk you through some examples of how to bring outsiders into your team’s workspace. On the flip side, shared channels can help freelancers and independent consultants manage working with dozens of other companies, too.
Advice for large teams on Slack is aimed squarely at large organizations with thousands of people adopting Slack. It’s filled with ideas and wisdom from other teams on how they’ve optimized Slack to collaborate at scale.
Channels break down all kinds of barriers in organizations, whether geographical or informational, and help everyone find what they need. A thoughtful setup helps set everyone up for success. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to do.
Got another minute? Check out:
- Six ways that channels can transform your work
- The 5 essential Slack channels you didn’t know your team needed
A guided tour through Slack channels was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Speed up onboarding with these integrations for Slack
While a well-equipped desk with a new laptop and a coffee mug might make for a nice introduction, it’s how you prepare employees for their new position that matters most. “Faster onboarding means employees can more quickly do the jobs they were brought on to do,” says a recent IDC research study, sponsored by Slack, that also finds that HR teams using Slack for employee onboarding are able to get people up to speed on their new jobs 24% faster.
Getting new hires fully briefed and trained up can be a lengthy process. By connecting various tools with Slack, you can run an effective and organized onboarding program that gives new employees immediate access to the tools and information they need to make a roaring head start.
Give new folks a friendly welcome
As the primary space for collaboration in Slack, Slack channels gather people from across the organization, allowing coworkers to get to know each other better and build the kind of trust and rapport that leads to frequent collaboration. Start by launching a new hire or welcome channel (we call ours #yay), and encourage new employees to introduce themselves. You can then urge others to create a welcoming environment by responding to these messages — whether through text or emoji.
Another idea is to use Donut — an app that randomly pairs up teammates and invites them to meet over coffee, donuts, lunch, or what have you. Simply create a dedicated channel for Donut (like #newbie-donuts), and employees can opt in to and out of the program by joining and leaving the channel as they wish.
Provision secure access to your organization’s tools and services
With the warm welcomes taken care of, it’s time to move on to the formalities. Okta — which provides identity and access management, or in other words: secure access, authentication, and single sign-on to software applications — lets employees securely connect to the suite of tools and services that you use at your organization, including Slack.
Enterprises use Okta to manage access to Slack and other applications, which increases security and maintains compliance across devices.
Give more context into projects and processes with searchable docs
The first few weeks of a new job are all about learning the ins and outs, both in terms of work that’s currently in progress and the history of past projects and initiatives. When you use Slack to connect file-sharing systems — like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and One Drive — documents are automatically indexed and searchable. That means that instead of starting with an empty inbox on day one, new employees can browse through channels for the background context they need and even pull information within files and documents right into Slack.
Create and share rich training material
With the Guru app for Slack, you can turn the wealth of knowledge exchanged between teammates in Slack into a robust repository of resources and training materials perfect for helping new hires learn how to navigate their new jobs. All new hires need to do is type the /guru slash command in Slack to search for and find all kinds of essential messages and documents, including answers to frequently asked questions like “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” and “Who is our benefits provider?” Another great example we’ve seen comes from sales teams who use Guru to build out libraries of sales-specific materials like pitch decks, instructional videos, and recordings of successful calls that anyone can look up whenever they need.
For concepts that require more detailed instruction, Loom is a good way to go. You can use it to record quick instructional videos that show both yourself and what’s on your screen, making it simpler to support new hires with step-by-step instructions. Videos shared in Slack can be played instantly, making it that much easier for new hires to get up to speed.
Check payroll, request time off, and look up internal experts in Slack
A good onboarding program teaches new employees where to find answers to their questions. Good software surfaces those answers seamlessly. When you connect your Slack workspace to apps like ADP (and soon Workday as well), employees can find immediate answers to questions about things like payroll, benefits, and the status of time-off requests.
Try adding a few of these apps to Slack to create your own custom onboarding experience for new employees. You can find more apps supporting HR and Culture in the Slack App Directory.
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Setting new hires up for success was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Get the information you need delivered right to you
If you’re planning to book some time off for a well-earned vacation or you suddenly need to look into the finer details of your last pay stub, you’ll likely want to get on those things right away.
Good news: Now with the new ADP Virtual Assistant app, you can get that information sent to you where you’re already working — in Slack. There’s no need to switch tabs, switch tools, or switch contexts, everything you need can be conjured up by typing “help” or using simple slash commands.
Here’s how the new ADP app works.
Quickly check your time off balance
Before you plan your next vacation, you’ll probably want to know how much time off you can take. Easy peasy, just type /adp time-off into your message input in Slack and the ADP app will respond back to you with your vacation balance, pulled directly from your ADP account.
Instantly submit time off requests
Now that you know how many days off you have left, it’s time to start actually booking your time off. Type /adp time-off-request in Slack and the ADP Virtual Assistant will prompt you to add the details of your request. Once completed, you can use the same command to check on the status of your request and see if your manager has approved.
Find pay stub information directly in Slack
When you use the slash command /adp pay, ADP’s Virtual Assistant will provide you with your total gross and net take-home pay. It even breaks out details like how much was deducted for taxes, benefits, and retirement savings. Rest assured: When using these slash commands, only you will be able to see the requested information in Slack.
Simply download the ADP Virtual Assistant app by visiting the Slack App Directory. But if you’re more of a learn by doing kind of person, go ahead and use one of these slash commands in Slack — like/adp pay — and the Virtual Assistant will prompt you to log into ADP, then asks your permission to pull your information into Slack.
And here’s a pro tip: While only you can see the information provided by ADP, we suggest typing “help” or using these slash commands in a direct message to yourself for safekeeping.
Ready to explore more apps?
Connecting your Slack workspace with the apps and services that you use every day helps teams stay more informed and better coordinated. Find tools for Marketing, HR, Customer Support, and more, in the Slack App Directory.
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Slack and ADP: Looking up pay stubs and booking time off just got a lot easier was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Oft-enjoyed, perpetually useful shortcuts and customizations
Focusing on only one element of Slack’s functionality is like using a Swiss Army knife exclusively as a bottle opener. Slack is a collaboration hub, after all, designed to bring the right people together with the right information through features like search, shared channels, apps and integrations, pinned items, and more.
Here we’ll highlight several Slack features that make everyday teamwork more efficient and that help team members — whether in the same office or around the world — stay aligned and focused on their goals.
Pinning messages and reference links to channels
In each channel or direct message, you can pin up to 100 messages, files, or documents, but approaching that total sort of defeats the purpose as you want to make sure to only pin the most useful and important messages and documents. Many users find it helpful to pin a message or two pertaining to the channel’s purpose: That way, channel members can quickly ascertain what information they will find.
Managing and tracking documents
To help you get all your work done in one place, we’ve integrated with several popular apps and tools, and we are always adding new ones to the mix. Syncing up with file management mainstays like Google Drive and Dropbox Paper helps cut a ton of back-and-forth for busy teams because you can access and discuss files directly in your channels.
Advanced search modifiers
Much like a Google search, the search function in Slack helps you find what you need in a snap. You can put a term in quotes to dial up exact matches, or even add an asterisk after a partial word to search for any instances of that fragment. Additional filters give you more options to narrow in on the exact message or file you’re looking for.
Not sure which file contains the information you seek? Linked files are indexed, which means all of their contents can be instantly searched for in Slack.
Learn all about searching, sorting, and filtering in Slack.
Using shared channels across workspaces
From small shops to dispersed global enterprises, Slack connects individuals in the same organization — not to mention freelancers, contractors, and remote workers — to keep everyone on the same page. But did you know you can use Slack to collaborate with people outside your organization, too?
Shared channels allow you to connect across Slack workspaces, creating a direct line of communication between you and another company or organization that you’re working with. This capability is only available on paid plans, but it can be tremendously useful for coordinated efforts between two organizations or business units that require ongoing and secure communication.
Streamlining your sidebar
The sidebar menu offers options to sort channels and direct messages to your specifications. Star channels that you need to keep up with regularly and watch those channels ascend to the top of your sidebar, where you’ll never lose sight of them.
You can also customize your sidebar theme. Bright colors making your eyes hurt? Go with a muted style. Your favorite team made the World Cup? Whip up a color combo to honor them. Whatever pleases your palate.
On both the mobile and desktop versions of Slack, you can adjust your theme and color scheme to your personal taste. Simply go to Preferences and then Sidebar, where you’ll find predesigned themes plus an option to create your own flavor.
Zip from channel to channel without moving your mouse. While in Slack, type /Command + K (or /Command + T) on a Mac or /CTRL + K on a Windows computer to pop up the Quick Switcher. Type in the first couple of letters for your desired channel destination, and you’ll be there in a flash.
With so many things to keep track of in a standard workday, it’s all too easy to let important matters slip. Use the /remind command to remind yourself or someone else of an event, meeting, deadline, message, file, or what have you. It’s a feature that people love and is easy to use.
The /remind feature of @SlackHQ is currently the best "AI" in my life. It is easy to use, easy to access, fast and unobtrusive. No bells and whistles needed.
I love that in @SlackHQ you can set reminders using the simple `/remind` command - and that it does such a good job of understanding natural language. #human #computer #interaction
You can also add the Google Calendar app to stay on top of your schedule and commitments and even customize your notifications by channel, so you can concentrate on your work without worrying about missing important comments and updates.
Subscribing to RSS feeds
Slack channels are the perfect place to share industry news and information with your team and track competitive intelligence. Add RSS feeds to Slack to stay tuned to your favorite blogs, news outlets, and aggregators. Once you’ve installed the app, all you have to do is type /feed subscribe [feed address] and you’re off to the races.
Try these Slack features on for size
Try one or try them all, but either way, we hope these features bring you much productivity and much joy. And in our ongoing mission to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive, we are always open to your feedback and suggestions. (Or feel free to find us on Twitter @slackhq.)
Ready to try out these features and functionalities? Create a new workspace, invite your teammates, and start exploring.
Got another minute? Check out:
Slick features and capabilities you didn’t know about in Slack was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
May was chock-a-block with releases, news, and features. Let’s spring right into the latest updates from the blog this month.
Actions is our newest feature that lets you turn any message in Slack into a task, comment, or follow up in other apps you use everyday (like Asana, Zendesk, and Jira). If you want to check them out, we posted demos of apps supporting Actions, with many more coming to Slack’s App Directory soon.
We put a new coat of paint on the image viewer, so whenever someone uploads an image to your Slack workspace, you’ll find handy zoom and pan controls from here on out. In localization news, we’ve translated our default custom statuses into all our supported languages (Spanish, French, German, and Japanese) and now allow international characters in highlight keywords as well.
We also published our annual update on the growth of our customer base and business.
We threw our first developer conference, Spec, and released a comprehensive update on the growth and usage of Slack’s platform. If you’re a programmer and missed it, here’s a wrap-up of all the news that went down that day. If you’d prefer to catch the talks in action, we have all of the sessions on YouTube, too.
Tips and tricks
We added two new entries to our Office Hours series, which aims to provide you with a slew of tips on how to make the most of Slack. The first piece is about handling fast and slow information in Slack, or how to find the balance between real-time conversations that come and go with things like planning documents that you need to have on hand. The second piece is about how custom emojis work in Slack and a handful of ways we’ve seen teams use them.
All sorts of teams use Slack in all sorts of ways and the team at Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris use channels to share animal sightings in the field. For PATLive, teams of assistants provide on-call support to first responders during times of disaster and their use of Slack is also at the center of their organization.
If you’ve ever wanted a quick 2-minute summary of how Slack helps teams improve communication and collaboration, our CEO Stewart Butterfield explains it in this, well, 2 minute video.
Slack is where work happens. Learn more at slack.com.
Come what May was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Stewart Butterfield talks about clarity, collaboration, and culture at the Wharton People Analytics Conference
“There’s a huge degree of overlap between what executives want and what workers want,” Slack’s CEO Stewart Butterfield said at the 2018 Wharton People Analytics conference in Philadelphia. Knowledge workers, in particular, share a common vision for how they’d like to work: “People want to move quickly and feel engaged,” he explained. “To operate in alignment and have the autonomy to make decisions.”
In a keynote conversation with Professor Mae McDonnell, an expert on organizational design and a professor of management at the Wharton School, Butterfield discussed how his responsibilities as a CEO have led him to explore the wider factors that often leave people feeling disaffected, disenfranchised, or alienated at work.
Everyone, he contends, is looking for the same foundations to their working life. They want to be trusted, and to be able to trust the people they work with. They would like to be respected, and work with people they respect. They want to have clarity around the goals and priorities, and to understand how the outcomes will be evaluated. To the extent these conditions are absent, they will become unhappy because, in addition to these prerequisites for healthy work, they also want to feel effective, productive, and like they are having an impact.
Tools alone won’t fix issues inherent to an organization’s culture or team dynamics, but they can be helpful to leaders in shedding light on common breakdowns and pitfalls, and they can spark ideas for how people can work together more efficiently and achieve more meaningful results.
You can watch the full session below, but here’s a look at a few key takeaways from Butterfield and McDonnell’s conversation.
Professor Mae McDonnell: Can you talk about how Slack fits in with the shifting nature of work and articulate its value?
Stewart Butterfield: The simplest articulation is that it replaces email inside your company. But there’s more to it than that. Email isn’t just a series of messages typed in boxes, stacked on top of one another.
Most of the information in your inbox is composed by machines: There are receipts from purchases, password reset links, newsletters you’ve subscribed to, notifications about new comments or updates on documents — it’s actually a window into all the work that’s happening throughout an organization. It’s where contracts are negotiated. It’s a file storage system. It serves a bunch of roles, none of which are particularly suited to the medium.
Slack is a collaboration hub across the company. Messages and conversations are organized into channels, which can be broken up by broad functional groups and projects. There can be channels for teams, projects and goals, office locations.
By their very nature, channels increase transparency — and I like to say that with a big asterisk, because transparency is often defined, in the business context, as bosses and leaders being more forthcoming. In this case, we literally define transparency as the opposite of opacity: People can actually see what’s going on in different departments and working groups in a way they couldn’t with email, because emails are addressed to individuals, or mainly received individually.
Take the process of closing a deal as an example. It’s incredibly complex and involves a lot of participants, from sales to legal to engineering. When I wanted an update on how work with Oracle was coming along, which is one of our biggest accounts, I didn’t have to ask anyone. I just went into the dedicated #accounts-oracle channel and I could see everything that’s been happening.
Channels have opened my eyes to the importance of alignment and clarity for people. Now someone in engineering who may not be involved with the account on a daily basis, but might be working on a feature that’s blocking a customer deployment, can go into a channel and get context behind requests and understand the potential impact of their actions. They’re not just getting a message into their inbox, dropped from the top.
MM: So, to riff on this idea of access to information being important for employees to learn and navigate complex situations, how does Slack mitigate the risk of information overload?
SB: I would say it attenuates the effects more than mitigates the risk. The nature of an organization is that it produces a lot of information. Depending on the organization’s size, the volume of information can increase by orders of magnitude — from 10 to 100 to 100,000 times more. But you don’t have to read all of it. It’s not being pumped into an inbox. With Slack, you have choice. There are channels you can elect to join or view as you see fit. We give people tools, like notification settings and comprehensive controls, so they manage what they need to see.
We’re also working deeply on search, not just in terms of the retrieval of documents, files, and messages that you already know exist. We also look at search in terms of searching for topics that you’re interested in and surfacing people who might be experts in those areas within the company, then pointing you towards the channels where they’re having those conversations. There’s a lot we can do by having this really large corpus of information to draw from.
To the extent that we are able to offload those capabilities that computers are so good at, and that human beings are fundamentally lousy at — like comparing a hundred million things all at once and finding things that are similar or remembering everything perfectly forever — we’re all better off.
MM: What do you think is Slack’s role in enabling corporate culture?
SB: I think Slack is a very powerful instrument for affecting the kind of change that leaders across the organization, not just executives, want to see happen. Because of the increase in transparency, the anti-pattern of management — which is “I withhold information as a means of exercising power or control in the organization” — becomes more and more difficult.
Imagine there’s something big happening: There’s an acquisition, a change in suppliers or organizational design. What you want in those kinds of cases is a higher degree of alignment, more clarity. If people have questions, you don’t want there to be a lot of uncertainty. You want people to hesitate less while taking more effective actions. So you want decision-making to be enabled at all levels and for people to feel empowered and autonomous.
In that sense, Slack is a very effective way to get people the information that they need, but it’s also an effective place to put information so that the right people and decision makers can participate.
I hope that the net impact for organizations that move from email as their primary means of communication to Slack is that, whatever the cultural goals or aims that they have, they’re easier to achieve as a result of using our product.
MM: What are some of the ways AI and machine learning will empower workers in the future versus extinguishing their jobs?
SB: There was a time when “calculator” was both a job title and a computer. Benedict Evans, an investor in the Bay Area, wrote this essay where he has a couple of stills from the 1960s movie The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.
Jack Lemmon’s character works at an insurance company, and he has an electromagnetic adding machine on his desk and a typewriter, and there are all these people pushing carts and handing him sheaves of papers. He literally reads over data, does some calculation, types up the results, then hands it off to someone else. The whole floor operates like a worksheet. And what is he? He’s a cell on a spreadsheet.
Nowadays, insurance companies probably employ just as many people, but once you give them actual spreadsheets, they can do a lot more things: Financial planning and analysis becomes a subdiscipline. You can do all this kind of sensitivity analysis with the modeling that wasn’t possible before.
Similarly, I remember when it became mandatory to start buying calculators and bringing them to math class, when before that we were focused on long division to solve complex math problems. But suddenly we could do trigonometry on our calculators and we could move up the stack in terms of the kinds of calculations that we were performing and the kind of math we were expected to do. I think we’ll see much more of that.https://medium.com/media/ede575da59d4db9822acd7358662fd40/href
Got another minute? Check out:
- Wired founder Kevin Kelly on letting go of AI anxiety
- Author Steven Johnson on cultivating creativity
Channeling the inevitable: Slack and the future of work was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
How partners and developers are powering the present and future of work in Slack
When we say that Slack is a collaboration hub, we don’t just mean people sending messages to one another, but more broadly, the work enabled across teams and the many business systems, data and applications that power productivity for our customers around the world. When all of these elements come together in Slack, that’s when we truly deliver as a collaboration hub — and our developers and partners are what make it a reality.
Three years ago we introduced Slack’s platform, and today, 94% of paid teams on Slack use apps and integrations to get their work done every week. We thought it was high time to celebrate what our greater ecosystem has accomplished and share some new tools that we’re releasing to further improve the ways we’re serving Slack’s 8 million daily active users together.
Celebrating platform growth
We’ve seen significant growth in our developer community, with developers who are not only building for our App Directory, but also customers who are building internal integrations that tailor Slack to their unique needs.
Our ecosystem has expanded rapidly in the last few years, thanks to partnerships with many of the largest software vendors in the world — like Google and Workday — and upstarts building new businesses with Slack.
The benefit of bringing apps and integrations into Slack isn’t ours alone. Partners like Dropbox have found that customers who use Slack and Dropbox together are significantly more active in Dropbox and have higher retention rates. And that’s exactly what we’re aiming for with our platform: to increase the value of our products for our shared customers.
We’ve also made 6 new investments through the Slack Fund since our last announcement and are pleased to welcome Aptly, Clara, Learnmetrics, Pullrequest, Zylo and Epistema. On top of these new additions to our portfolio, eleven Slack-funded companies have gone on to raise additional capital since investment.
To give you a picture of how these companies and their products are shaping people’s working lives: Donut, which is a bot that facilitates new employee onboarding and introduces people to one another, has been used to onboard over 10,000 individuals and has made over half a million introductions.
Expanding platform capabilities
As our platform continues to grow, we’re focused on expanding how we serve our customers and partners alike, which is why we’re introducing new tools to increase the range and usability of apps and integrations inside of Slack.
The newly released Actions let you create a task, comment, or follow-up from any Slack message in other tools like Zendesk, Asana, Hubspot, Bitbucket, Jira, and more. For example, when a coworker asks you to do something in Slack, you can turn the message with their request into an Asana task in just a couple of clicks.
And while we continue to bridge new partnerships and bring even more apps and integrations into the fold, we’re also focused on making sure that people have the best experience building on our platform. Soon, we’ll be releasing a brand new Block Kit: a nifty UI toolkit for developers replete with resources for designing rich integration experiences that feel native and intuitive to conversations in Slack. The kit will provide standard designs for things like date pickers, task objects, overflow menus, and more, to make apps both more powerful and easier to use.
Thank you sincerely to our many partners, developers, builders, and tinkerers for your efforts and support in helping us reshape the future of work.
Got another minute? Check out:
- From Tokyo to Tallahassee, Target to Ticketmaster, Slack is where work happens
- Get ready: Spec, our conference for builders, is almost here
Building the modern collaboration hub was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.