Is Slack a product or a feature?

by Volker Weber

This is a very good article on the difficulties you face when you try to replace email with something else. We have been struggling with this for years.

Slack wants us to believe it is the future of collaboration. But is it truly a platform for that purpose or a readily replicable feature set?

I have a pretty simple formula for the success of any tool: people will use it if they get more out of it than they put in. And from this article I learned (again), how Facebook & Co tip that balance towards their favor. They feed on your addiction to likes and comments.

The real question I have for you is: does your team use Slack? Does it reduce your workload or increase your success? Can you walk away from it to do something else?

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For me, some of that resonates with an article I read a few weeks ago on Atlassian buying Trello ....

With Slack also being a "horizontal" Business their fate may be similar to Trello's

Frank Quednau , 2017-04-24

Currently using online services for company and customer data is prohibited in the company I work for.
They are discussing Data Privacy and Security now already for an eternity while our customers start to migrate into the cloud, obviously without us consulting them in digital solutions......

While I think that your approach tool choice is a valid one, that is not how software is chosen in Enterprises.

My main customer just moved from an Intranet site and Sharepoint onto Coyo. While the intranet part works on it quite well, Coyo is awful in collaboration and sucks even more than Sharepoint.

Patrick Bohr, 2017-04-24

we are using slack in our team mostly for short informations thats relevant to all others. In this case it replaces mail.
It's appealinig to look up new entries on a regular basis. In my opinion it is the same with all "always on" software - you have to diszipline yourself not to be the mental slave.

Michael Klüsener, 2017-04-25

Maybe I misunderstood the statement.
I never understood slack as a replacement of email, if to replace anything then maybe irc.
Shouldn't it be seen as an message bus, that is logged, is searchable and can moderate between a lot of data sources and sinks?
Aren't email or chat just two services that can connect to that?

Is it a platform or just a feature set? I don't care. It enables interoperability across borders and of the mentioned players it might be the only one interested in that interoperability.

I've been in several teams that used it even though it was explicitly disallowed. It increased workload, but I mean it in a different way. In the absence of other means of group communication, it allowed those teams to organize themselves and get work going.

Martin Funk, 2017-04-25

We use Slack extensivey in our Support and Development Teams. Slack has really helped improve communication and allows for virtual swarming of engineers to resolve issues. Its indexed, all the chat is saved, so over a period of time a more social based KB is being built up. Does it reduce your workload ? Well yes, you only have to answer one question and its available to be found again. Does it increase your success ? Yes, all Team Members have visibility of a message to a channel if another engineer needs assistance, and the collective minds collabrate togethor to resolve the issue. The only downside is giphy :-)

Andy Dennis, 2017-04-25

Persistent chat rooms is what people want it seems.
Slack, to me, is no different than any other IM or IRC program over the last 20 years, it is just this week's "what can we use that is not sanctioned" app.

IMs and such do not replace email for business purposes but support teams do get better effort by having group chats and side ones as well. But Slack really is no better than Skype for this purpose.

The laziness of tech people is what prevents proper documentation of issues and resolutions. The same laziness attacks sales people from entering CRM details or Finance people from doing their bookkeeping daily instead of weekly or monthly.

It's a long road filled with digital roadkill.

Keith brooks, 2017-04-26

+1 @Keith

Ian Bradbury, 2017-04-26

We introduced Slack 18 months ago to co-exist with traditional on-premise Office/Exchange etc. The product teams (Dev+QA) use it extensively and (in my view) effectively. For them it reduces workload (fewer meetings, less time spent on repeating stuff and on documenting) and increases success (more transparency of key decisions, better/wider/more-seamless collaboration).

Other teams - notably exec/management, sales and support - are at best inconsistent in their use of Slack *. They either try to use it as a broadcast mechanism or they use it in fits-and-starts (bursts of high-involvement followed by prolonged silence/absence). For them it is probably not reducing workload or increasing success.

There is talk - amongst the devotees in the org - about Slack replacing email. For me this is hopelessly unrealistic. We work in a highly regulated sector with many legislative constraints around what information is held where. Related to this, our customers and partners are often very old-fashioned and want to communicate with us via email. Personally, I find that Slack is great for some kinds of communication but there are some places - especially where you want to convey quite a complex idea - where the richness of email is necessary. The recent introduction by Slack of threading helps but there are still things that only email can do.

* Slack conveniently published stats on usage and I monitored them for over a year. In that time, 1-in-4 people that were given access to Slack did not use it at all. I don't have stats but from observation and anecdote I believe there is another cohort - probably smaller but still significant - who only pay attention to Slack and cannot be reliably communicated with using email.

Gordon Inkson, 2017-04-27

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