Recently I’ve had several discussions with people about ways to improve team performance, often centered around improving team communications. This is one of the biggest areas where organizations can make significant strides in improving efficiency and at the same time increasing job satisfaction. So much so that players like Facebook are getting into the game with their Workplace product offering.
There is, however, one tool that stands out because it is already a few years old, offers a free, stable and mature platform, and has over 5 million daily active users: Slack. It has routinely been called “the email killer“, and while it offers some signifigant advantages, it’ll never actually kill email.
Areas Slack excels vs. Email
- Synchronous vs asynchronous communication. A phone call is synchronous – both people can talk and listen at the same time. A postal letter is asynchronous – each person must wait to receive, then read, before responding. That is Slack vs. Email in a nutshell. There are very few instances where slower, asynchronous communication is desireable.
- Slack organizes conversations into channels. This allows users to focus on certain discussions and ignore others. Email forces users to review each and every message to determine if it requires action.
- Good for quick questions that need a fast answer.
- Zero spam. No external distractions. Email boxes contain communication from ALL sources. The average office worker already receives 120 emails PER DAY! With emails streaming in from all sources, it is easy to miss important messages.
- Encourages near / real-time brainstorming. Conversations play out very quickly in what would have taken much longer via email chains.
- Allows for integrations. For example, notifications to a channel when a form is submitted on a website.
- Provides a central auditable communication medium suitable for organizations with requirements for record retention.
- Vast number of shortcuts and tips for Slack, not possible with Email.
- Email is considered old fashioned. Generations after Gen X (1965-1976) largely ignore email now. And given that younger generations are earlier adopters, it’s much more likely that over time future generations will prefer tools like Slack to email.
It’s not all fun and games. Implementing Slack means having “one more thing” to keep up with, and sometimes feeling a little “too” connected since messages will come as an unrelenting stream from everyone in the group. It requires you to develop a new internal discipline mechanism that allows you to ignore the onslaught. It can be a good idea to set Do Not Disturb hours.
Areas Email excels vs. Slack
- Communication with members outside your team. Email is the only standardized method for contact when someone is not, or can not, be a member of a Slack team.
- Long messages with a more informational or formal tone. Although POSTS in Slack can also do this, but not from mobile apps.
- Messages that require retention – as compared to the FREE version of Slack. If something needs to be retrievable for a long time, email (depending on the user) can be better since there isn’t a theoretical limit for retention.
Weak areas for both Slack and Email
Slack and Email both have important roles within an organization when it comes to communication, but they are not the only tools necessary to get the job done. They have significant downsides when it comes to certain tasks:
- File storage and retrieval. Both platforms lack logical and organized file management systems. Attachments are random and entirely reliant on search functionality for location, requiring the user to remember something about the file in order to locate it. That’s not always possible when it was created and sent by another person.
- Project management. Neither platform are appropriate for use in any way as an organizational tool.
Some of the most popular tools for group file management include:
Wait – Back Up… What is Slack?
Ok, if I went too fast for you there, here’s a video overview of Slack:
You can also download apps for almost every type of device:
Questions? Comments? Let er rip below…