I have mentioned in passing on several occasions the last couple weeks that I’ve been really testing out Slack with my direct reports since the early days of my arrival. I have also said since I got here that I really dislike email as a primary form of communication and collaboration. I have been on a quest for a very long time to eliminate as much back and forth email as I possibly can in and around the organizations I work in.
And I think I need to make sure I am clear, I am not saying we kill email. I am saying I believe that much of the email I get is more in the form of the “one to many” messages looking for some degree of consensus by members of a group. And to that point, how many of you get the individual replies back to the group responses of, “I agree” over and over again? I do not really mind a one to one email, until it turns into a ton of back and forth. In the past I have used wikis, basecamp, google docs, and Yammer as email substitutions for members of my teams to help support the idea of moving beyond email blasting and more into something that looks more like group conversations.
I have liked each of those for various reasons. Here at UChicago I am finding some email relief in Slack. Slack seems much more “in the moment” than the others, as it forgos the relatively fixed modality of the wiki and google docs text with comments, and the more Facebook like social work stream of Yammer. Slack has private groups and channels. It takes some getting used to as a communication tool, but in the short time I have used it with my direct reports and a handful of other brave souls in ITServices it is helping reduce the email avalanche that I am under.
At today’s senior leadership group meeting we decided we liked the service enough to start opening up our Slack network to all of ITServices. I think in time we will want to add our IT Partners to the mix as well. We are looking now at an enterprise network so we can assert our UChicago credentials for authentication, but know you may be getting an invite sooner rather than later.
I have been asked what jobs is Slack performing for me … how is it useful and under what contexts? A simple one is that I can ask my entire team a question in a private SLG channel and get quick answers that come to me wherever I happen to be connected … and it isn’t mixed in with all of my other emails. It is mobile and can be an always on access point to the people I need most access to during the day. Slack has integrations, so I can keep my eye on our Twitter account or a hashtag, embed a file from Box, or develop a custom script that a Slackbot can execute when certain things happen in the network. But at the end of the day, the most important jobs it is doing for me are reducing email and increasing collaborations.
So keep an eye out for the invite and when you get in, check out the #getstarted channel. Feedback, questions, thoughts are always welcome here on the blog or in our Slack network.