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Slack from a CEO's perspective

June 29, 2015

Slack from a CEO's perspective

Recently I promoted a great guy named Ganesh Samant to Vice President responsible for my India-based Global Services Delivery.   When I met with him I asked “What plans do you have the team?”  He said “The first thing we need to do is implement Slack.”   I had never heard of Slack before. Based on its name I thought it might be a project management tool that identifies slack, critical path, etc. So I asked him “What is Slack?” He smiled and said “You’ll see. It will change how we communicate.”

That conversation was two months ago, and I can tell you he was right, it has changed how we communicate. But from my perspective, as CEO, it’s done much more than that.

Before I get into that, there are probably a few of you reading this who were like me, blissfully unaware that Slack existed. So what is Slack?   The folks at Slack will tell you that “Slack is a platform for team communication: everything in one place, instantly searchable, wherever you go.”   It enables companies, group, virtual teams, etc to create public “channels” and private “groups” to communicate amongst each other.   The communications can take many forms: text, links, photos, video, and numerous feeds from other cloud services (more on this later).   It allows you to have public channels (for example an “HR” channel for communications amongst all staff and HR), private groups (for example a senior management team group) and private direct messaging with individuals. It’s cloud-based and readily available on multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.   So it’s always on hand.

So how has it changed how we communicate? From my perspective as CEO, the impact was immediate and across many areas.   Here is my top four:

1. It has opened up the communications between senior management and the rest of the company

I immediately got much more visibility into the pulse of the company – who’s doing what, employee sentiment, operational issues that previously were hidden, etc.  And my employees have much more visibility into what I’m up to, what I care about, and what’s happening with the company.   This two-way connection is much deeper than we had prior to Slack. The ability to share photos, opinions, guidance, links, etc, and do it in real-time has had a huge impact on bringing the company closer together and a more fun place to work.

2. It has shortened the distance between our locations.  

My company, WCS India, develops and implements India strategies for some of North America’s leading SME technology companies.   These strategies include market entry into India, global customer support strategies for B2B SaaS companies, and software engineering. By our very nature we span the world, with offices in different parts of India and Canada, and customers in North America coast-to-coast.   Communicating across 12 hours of time zones is challenging.   But with Slack these distances seem shorter due to the immediacy of communications, the ability for all relevant team members to huddle and collaborate instantly, and the multi-device support. An additional benefit is that employees across multiple sites feel part of a larger company and “in the game” as opposed to an outpost team on their own.

3. It has opened our eyes up to multiple other cloud-based tools and allowed us to integrate them all into one communications platform.

For example, we have now implemented Trello for project management and Trello cards are posted in different channels on slack, such as “Office Move” where at a glance everyone in the company can see how the office move down the hall is progressing.   We have integrated Nagios alerts into an “IT Alert” channel, so that all employees instantly are aware of critical IT infrastructure issues.   We have a “Customer Tweets” channel so we can all follow our customers’ communications.   Lastly we have developed our own integrations through the public Slack API’s to customize Slack to our own requirements.

4. Email chatter is down.

Way down.  If you’re like me you probably receive hundreds of emails a day.   And your spam filter is stressed to the max.   It’s easy to miss something.  With Slack everything is organized into the appropriate team or individual bucket.   Also with Slack there is no spam clogging everything up.

Having said this, we did have teething pains. Initially a couple of people accidentally posted comments into public channels that were meant for private groups.   And “Slack etiquette” needed to be communicated to ensure that the communications were respectful and constructive.

So where are we going with this?   One of our customers has asked us to look into Slack integrations for their products. We are looking to see how we can further use Slack to gauge employee sentiment. We are working with key customers to give them the ability to collaborate with the teams.   We are keen to be able to share dashboards from Klipfolio to the entire team, so everyone can see how we measure ourselves.   I can also see further integration with customer support platforms like UserVoice.   There are lots of possibilities.

In summary, give it a try. There’s a free trial on their website. Perhaps trial it with a team that is geographically separated, or virtual. Ensure your senior management team participates.   I think you’ll be surprised as to the benefits, as I was.

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