Collaboration is critical for every business. Yet whether it involves a handful of employees or multiple teams in different locations, the problems are often the same. Information gets lost, messages fall through the cracks, intent and action don’t quite line up. We’ve heard the excuses: “I lost the email” or “It’s on a different machine”.
Living in a world where there are so many more communication channels ironically means there are more ways for information to get lost. This is why everyone should take a look at Slack.
What is Slack?
In the previous article, we looked at Office365, the amazing email/calendar/office service that is loaded right through a browser or mobile app wherever you are.
Slack is similar in that it’s also a service that works through any modern browser and across a family of apps. But where Office365 is a new way to access powerful applications such as Outlook, Word, Excel and many more, Slack is a new approach to working together in a business. Slack calls itself a ‘collaboration hub for work’.
You can start using Slack for free at slack.com. The free version gives access to all of Slack’s basic features including chat channels, limited searches and 1-to-1 video calls. There are three paid tiers, starting at less than R100 per person, depending on if you take an annual or monthly plan. Each tier adds features such as group video calls and unlimited apps.
For a small business, the free option has more than enough to get started on. But if you go for a paid option, remember that it’s a subscription that you can cancel if you don’t need it anymore.
So sign up and let’s get started!
Setting up Slack
Slack creates central spaces where people working together can chat, share information and track progress. It’s like Whatsapp for your company, but on steroids. People can be grouped together, assigned tasks, create to-do lists, store documents, chat over video calls and track just about everything that needs tracking in busy offices. What Slack can’t do, its many third-party applications will. Best of all, you can do quite a lot in Slack without having to pay for any of it.
The way Slack operates is through workspaces. You can create a workspace for each team, project or whatever group you want to be represented. Members are assigned to a workspace, which is the sandbox in which everything else happens.
The real action takes place in the channels. Every workspace can have multiple channels, which look like chat clients. So members can use the channels to send messages to each other, commenting on ideas and more. This is very powerful because chats can be held across multiple devices so everyone is included.
Specific members can be assigned to different channels. So let’s say that you need some team members to discuss the budget of a project, a conversation that shouldn’t include all the project members. Create a channel for the budget and assign the right members. Done! They can share documents in that channel, list tasks, even import emails.
Each channel has areas for files and pinned messages. You can also create to-do channels and organise video calls with other members. Channels can be shared with external parties, so if there are other people not in the organisation that need to join in, it’s simple to do.
Slack requires very little setup, at least at its lower tiers. It can be hooked up to work with systems in large enterprises, but that is not something that will interest a small business.
The best way to understand Slack is to sign up, add a few colleagues and start trying out the features.
There are a lot of things you can do in Slack, too many to list. It is really worth reading Slack’s short guides for getting started, member tricks and tips for administrators. But we’ve selected a few ones worth knowing right here:
- Slack has apps for all popular mobile and desktop platforms choose which ones you like here. It’s a cloud service, so the data doesn’t reside with the app. This means you can use multiple Slack apps on different devices.
- Set up your profile. It’s quick, easy and above all only the people in the channels can see it. Don’t forget: Slack is a business tool, so look professional!
- You can star any file or chat message in Slack just look for the star icon and tap it. If you click on ‘Show Starred Items’ (a large star image on the top-right of the website), you can see everything you starred. This is a great way to save important messages.
- Is Slack being too distracting? Do you need some quiet time to focus? No problem tap the bell icon near your profile name and choose how long to pause notifications for. Administrators can also set Do Not Disturb periods for workspaces that apply to everyone, hopefully nixing those pesky messages at 10 in the evening.