• Is Slack’s Team Communication App Attempting to Murder Email?

    What’s the deal with Slack? No, it’s not the beginning of a Jerry Seinfeld joke. But it is a question I was recently asked by a client. He had stumbled upon this new communication tool featured in Inc. magazine called Slack, and apparently it’s taking the business world by storm. In his research, my client had learned that Slack was used by large organizations such as NASA, Intuit, and Salesforce; the Slack developer was Inc.’s Corporation of the Year; and best of all, the app was free. I imagine it was after learning all this that he then felt compelled to send e-mails to me and his executive officers at 9:53pm on a Sunday evening, frantically seeking our input on this newly found Holy Grail of team communication tools.

    Team Communication Leaps Ahead

    So, what is Slack? Put simply, it’s a “messaging app for teams,” as described by Slack themselves. It is an instant messaging client that allows you to group conversations into “channels,” which can then be shared with other individuals in your group. Slack supports direct IMs for more private chats, as well as the ability to upload attachments to conversations, for the entire group to see. As mentioned before, the app is free, but there are premium packages available that offer additional bells and whistles, such as email and Active Directory integration. Slack is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. And that, ladies and gentlemen, in exactly 100 words, is Slack.

    Up until this point, I honestly hadn’t thought much of Slack. It was, in my eyes, just another in a long line of proof-of-concept products that happened to catch a little traction, yet had no real future. People tout it as “the email killer,” but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. My client uses Microsoft Exchange pretty heavily, which offers features that simply do not exist in Slack currently, regardless of third-party app integrations. Mailbox delegation, calendar sharing, inbox rules, email priorities, email categories, meeting room calendars—all common features of most corporate email solutions, which Slack lacks. It is perplexing that Slack developers push users to aggregate all of their communications into the app for full effectiveness, yet expect users to also abandon these email creature comforts we’ve become so accustomed to.

    Team Communication Recommendations from B2

    Despite my complaints as an email replacement, as an instant messenger, Slack is actually a stellar product. The ability to break conversations down according to topic, instead of by participants, is incredibly time-saving and intuitive. Need to recall a conversation you had with your project manager back in 2013 regarding one of your jobs? There’s no need to sift through three years’ worth of IMs with that person; simply locate the channel for that project. Want to make company-wide announcements at a moment’s notice? Create a public channel that everyone in your company has access to. Need to communicate privately with someone? Slack offers direct messaging, just like any other IM client, in the instance you don’t need to address a group of people or a particular topic.

    In response to my client, I ultimately told him to not put so much stock in the hype surrounding Slack, but to ask himself where he felt communication was lacking in his company. While the people behind Slack want us to abandon the stiff restraints of email in search of a “messaging app for teams,” forgoing mailbox delegation and calendar sharing only to obtain a glorified IM client is not practical. However, if you do not currently utilize an instant messaging platform in your company and believe you could benefit from it, Slack is definitely worth looking into. Now, if only they had a name that was as good as their product…

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