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Slack in the wild: Is the collaboration app a hit or a myth?

John Brandon | June 9, 2015
Slack is one of those rare business tools that comes along once in a while that shifts the technology landscape. In a nutshell, Slack is a team collaboration app that essentially turns email into a group effort, allowing users to create channels where discussions take place in public so everyone can participate. While Slack has some serious competition from apps like Convo and Circuit, it seems to be gaining the most momentum.

Slack is one of those rare business tools that comes along once in a while that shifts the technology landscape. In a nutshell, Slack is a team collaboration app that essentially turns email into a group effort, allowing users to create channels where discussions take place in public so everyone can participate. While Slack has some serious competition from apps like Convo and Circuit, it seems to be gaining the most momentum. 

It all sounds great on paper, but to find out how it's being used in the wild, CIO.com tracked down several companies using the app to learn how they're collaborating as a team, which features they use most and whether it's changing how they actually work on a daily basis. 

Replacing all other communication channels. The Internet privacy and security company Golden Frog uses Slack for all company communication. Andrew Staples, a company spokesman, says they've been surprised how it has cut down not just on email but also on meetings. They've completely eliminated all instant message chats; when there are one-on-one discussions, everyone can see them. They use a few obvious channels (e.g., sales people use the sales channel), but will also create channels for trade shows that they eventually archive. 

[Related: The rise (and rise) of Slack, Silicon Valley's hottest startup] 

Going private when needed. An interesting feature in Slack is the capability to make a channel private. This would seem to go against the "everyone can see conversations" mentality. For instance, a marketing group can create a private channel that the sales team can't see or participate in. This is a mindset change for a company like TicketCity that wants the benefits of team collaboration, but with some degree of privacy between departments. Ashley Kubiszyn, TicketCity's marketing director, told CIO.com they use the privacy settings as a way to control inbox clutter. 

Reducing total email volume. Speaking of controlling inbox clutter, one of the primary reasons companies are using Slack has to do with reducing email volume. That's what originally attracted Vector Marketing to the collaborative platform. It's changing how they work, too. With teams spread out all over the U.S. and Canada, they've found that Slack helps them brainstorm about ideas (something employees used email to do in the past), comment on news and even tag people as you can do on Facebook. Slack has also allowed them to track social media and marketing campaigns as a group, and answer questions through a forum where everyone can see the answer, not just the recipient. 

Solving the open floor-plan conundrum. An open floorplan is a wonderful mechanism that fosters collaboration and team-building. Ironically, it's also a problem when people actually need to focus and work in private. One intrinsic use for Slack is to create "private offices" for employees. Aron Susman, the co-founder of the real-estate brokerage firm TheSquareFoot, told CIO.com they use Slack as a way to get some sanity for employees who want to have private discussions. No one needs to head to a conference room, they simply initiate a new channel. 

 

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