There are tons of communications platforms out there such as Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Zulip, and so forth. But there’s one really important & useful one you might not have given much thought to: Slack.
With its numerous robust features and integrations, this innovative “team communication” solution can easily turn into the central hub for all your team activities. It can even become a central part of your project management process.
If you haven’t used it yet, here’s what you need to know.
What is it and why use it?
Slack is basically a workplace communication tool on steroids, in other words it’s an instant messaging system with lots of add-ins for other workplace tools. The add-ins isn’t necessary to use this workplace chat app, though, because the main functionality is all about talking to other people. All chats happen in the so-called channels (group chat) and through DM (person-to-person chat).
Within just a few months of its launch (by Stewart Butterfield in 2013), Slack raised over forty-two million dollars from investors. Slack recently announced that it now has twelve million DAUs (daily active users) on its workplace collaboration platform (up approximately 37% year over year), while also suggesting that its user base is more engaged than those on its biggest rival Microsoft Teams.
The real reason behind Slack’s success (apart from their great marketing campaign) is its robust features. Following are the features which make this platform special:
- Cloud base: Slack is a cloud-based platform aimed at storing all your company’s documents, plans, meeting schedules and so on. You can always find your old reports or schemes. It is extremely important to keep all your product-based notes in one place. Slack was made to help you share memos and snippets.
- Channels: First, they represent a stream of conversations that revolve around a predefined topic. Second, Channeling has never been as easy as it is in Slack. You can easily create, join, and leave channels, bringing an almost social-media like experience to the workplace. Every channel comes with its own access rules, member sets, and the like (all set by you), also you can sort out your discussions according to their topics, so that you won’t lose yourself in the pile of corporate spamming. There are tons of other things you can do with channels which you’ll find out once you start using Slack yourself.
- DM (person-to-person chat): DMs are always private, although they can include up to 8 people, enabling them to communicate without their messages getting lost in a larger stream of messages. They can be used repeatedly so team members can look back on what they talked about previously.
- Files Sharing: Slack enables you to share all types of files, even those stored outside of the solution itself.
- Search History: It’s really easy to get a Slack channel absolutely packed full of messages. And that can make it really hard to find the one you’re looking for. But with Slacks robust search functionality, you have nothing to worry about. You can search within a channel or for content from a certain team member, and results can be sorted by date and relevance. You can even search inside of a document you’ve shared or for a specific emoji!
- Hashtags and Mentions: If you think that hashtags and mentions exist only in Instagram, you are terribly wrong. To make your life easier, Slack enables you to notify individual users with @ sign. For example, @john_watch, are you going tonight to the pub with all of us? And Jenny is to answer.
- Customization: You know what else is great about Slack? It’s customizable. Unlike other workspace messengers, Slack allows you to choose any theme you want from the given list. You can even modify the notification preferences.
Also, each Slack command starts with a slash sign / for e.g. “/archive,” you will see a popup telling you what commands you may use. There are a number of predefined ones, but you can also create custom commands according to your team needs.
- Emoji Reactions: This is another interesting feature that allows you to react to messages with an emoticon. On smartphone, you tap and hold the message and choose from the wide variety of emojis (including animated emoji) by hitting ”Add Reaction” option. You can also upload your own emoji to use throughout the workspace.
- Integration with Other Services: For even more advanced functionality in Slack, workspace administrators can integrate other apps with it. Slack offers three types of integration:
- Pre-Built Integrations: Asana, Blossom, and Trello are only some of the project management integrations for Slack. Bring in cards, tasks, and notifications from a variety of your apps to make Slack your central space where your team can discuss and take action on each.
- IFTTT and Zapier: You can use both If This Then That recipes and Zapier zaps to integrate Slack with many more systems and solutions. Currently, there are over five-hundred ways to extend your Slack integrations.
- Build your own: Slack also allow you to build your own integrations.
- Useful Bots: Slack also hosts bots. Slackbot is built in, and helps you with note-taking and reminders. There are thousands of bots out there that you can connect to Slack:
- The DiggBot will deliver interesting sites and news to your Slack channel.
- PaperBot will organize all of the links you post into a single handy website.
- The Monkey Test It bot will help you test your website for broken links, missing files, and SEO issues.
- The Spacetime bot translates local times zones, so you can help everyone get to meetings on time. Pretty handy if you work with a remote team.
- Team O’clock facilitates your Scrum standup meetings, even with video for distributed groups.
- And so forth.
- Privacy and Data protection: Being a cloud-based company, Slack takes its security seriously. It have received internationally recognized security certifications for ISO 27001 (information security management system) and ISO 27018 (for protecting personal data in the cloud), so you have nothing to worry about.
- Audio and Video calls: Slack also allow you to start a voice or video call or share your screen with up to 15 teammates. This means you won’t need to switch from Slack to Skype or Google Hangouts to make your work call. The free version only allows you to make 1:1 voice and video calls.
- Platforms: Slack is an app on-the-go, meaning it provides mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone (beta). At your desk, Slack offers apps for Mac, Windows and Linux (beta). You can log-in on more than one device and then sync all of them. Being logged in on all your devices helps employees stay in touch if something unexpected occurs.
How much does it cost?
As mentioned above, there is a fermium version of Slack; you can use it as long as you want. However, apart from the 1:1 voice and video calls limitation, there are also other limitations such as you can only access the ten-thousand most-recent messages, only 10 integrations, no single-channel or multichannel guests, limited administration features and so forth. Although, if you have a small businesses, that may be all you need.
In order, to truly make the most of the solution, they offer reasonable per-user pricing at both monthly and annual rates. The Plus edition gives you features like single sign-on and compliance exports (both of which are essential for any decent-sized business) and costs $12.50 per active user, per month if you pay annually, or $15 per active user, per month if you pay monthly. The Standard edition costs around $6.67 per active user, per month if you pay annually, or $8 per active user, per month if you pay monthly. There is also an Enterprise Grid edition, for extra large businesses or those in regulated industries.
Why is Slack better than..?
As mentioned in the very first line of the first paragraph of this article, there are other communications platforms too, all intended to serve for corporate demands. Now, it will not be right to say that one is significantly better than the others since each of them has its pros and cons which are of different importance to each person. That’s why we can’t say that Slack is for sure better than everything else. Though, I’ve listed its points for superiority above to help you make up your own mind.