We all want to be less busy, more productive, and work smarter, but this can be easier said than done. Often times, particularly at large organisations, poor tools and technologies are to blame.
While email has its place, it has become a noisy distraction. Email is an abused communications tool that consumes too much of our time, energy and focus. Most of us hate email, and for good reason - we send and receive too much, and sifting through the trivial many messages to find the vital few has become a chore. But it’s not just email that’s the problem. Enterprise technology in general - instant messaging, file sharing, intranets, team sites, and video conferencing - pales in comparison to consumer technology. At least until Slack came along...
For those who don’t know, Slack is a company communications/collaboration platform that:
- Puts everything in one place
- Easily integrates with our favourite apps and tools
- Can automate repetitive tasks using bots
- Enables us to easily find what we need, when we need it
- Can be customised
- Is fun and easy to use
- Has a slick user interface
- Enables us to get more done
Slack is the new email, instant messenger, chat room, intranet and social network all rolled into one. With Slack, there's no need to toggle your way through half a dozen other open programs – you have everything you need right there. Slack strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and sophistication, enterprise and consumer, synchronous and asynchronous communication.
Let’s look at some of the standout features and functions…
Whatever you need to find in Slack can be found in seconds. The advanced search indexes every file, and searches within shared documents and metadata - not just titles. Filter results by recency, relevancy, and file type to quickly get to what you need.
Search is quick and easy in Slack – when you click the search box, Slack will suggest search modifiers to help you narrow your results.
Using modifiers in your Slack searches will help you narrow your search to specific team members, Channels, files, and so on. Type + in the search box for a quick list to choose from.
Bots - which live alongside users in their chosen Channel(s) - enable various tasks to be put on autopilot. Users can issue commands to bots by sending messages or by using specific keywords.
There are two types of bots:
1. Slackbot – your assistant, notepad & programmable bot. 2. Third party bots - these can do everything from organising meetings to giving you weather updates and more.
Slack works seamlessly alongside your favourite services including Dropbox, Google Drive, Hangouts, Skype, Trello, IFTTT, Twitter, Asana and more. You can even order an Uber within Slack!
These app integrations put Slack’s capabilities on steroids, and users can work efficiently and effectively from one place.
With Slack, all your information can be placed in either public Channels or private groups. This means that you can easily access what you need, when you need it, and focus only on what's relevant to you. You can star your favourite Channels or groups for faster and easier access.
Slash commands allow users to interact with external services directly from Slack.
Messages that start with a slash / work differently from regular messages. There are native Slack slash commands - for example, /remind will let you add a reminder.
You can also configure your own custom commands.
Slash commands are essentially shortcuts that enable you to work faster, directly from the keyboard.
Notifications can be useful, but also distracting. Slack can send email and mobile notifications when you're offline, and desktop notifications when you're viewing a different team, or working in another application.
While all notifications are enabled in Slack by default, you can customize them using the following options:
App Icon Notifications Activity badges on your desktop app icon
Highlight word notifications Alerts for important words and phrases
Channel notification preferences Adjust your preferences for specific channels
Muting a channel Never be notified of unread activity or receive notifications for a channel
There's also a clever ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature. When you’re in Do Not Disturb mode, you won’t get any notifications or hear notification sounds on any device and your status will be updated with the Do Not Disturb icon. Everyone else can continue to send you messages without worrying about bothering you when you need some quiet time.
Use Slack Everywhere
In today's mobile world, we need to be able to access important information and do work across different platforms. Slack is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phones, as well as desktops including Mac OS X 10.9 and later, Windows and Linux. Alternatively, you can also use Slack in most modern web browsers.
So how much will Slack set you back?
One of the great things about Slack is that you can use it free for an unlimited number of people. The free plan is a great way to start and test the waters with your team. If you're looking for more features and functions, there are paid packages available.
Slack is not just another collaboration/communication tool - it's an intuitive platform that's fun to use. It’s fast, flexible, powerful and customizable. It's well worth investigating.
Jeremy Yancey is a corporate communications and marketing professional with a decade of experience working with multi-billion dollar global organisations. He recently wrote ‘The Ultimate Guide to Slack: How to Be Less Busy, More Productive, and Work Smarter’, which became a #1 Best Seller on Amazon in Business Communications.
Check out his blog at socialscoremedia.com
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jeremy_yancey
Get the book here.