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Slack at Work

It is like a chat/messaging app that can be used across multiple platforms and devices, with features such as one-to-one and group messaging, file sharing plus integration into several popular apps and web services.

(Photo: Raj Verma) (Photo: Raj Verma)

Think about the often-pointless rigmarole of attending to work e-mails, then waiting for responses or following up and you know why productivity and e-mails don't really make the best bedfellows. This is a problem Slack is looking to solve by enabling real-time messaging between teams of all sizes. The lure is disarmingly simple - Slack promises to make work teams more productive by largely reducing the need for meetings and e-mails.

It is like a chat/messaging app that can be used across multiple platforms and devices, with robust features such as one-to-one and group messaging, file sharing plus integration into several popular apps and web services. The key to Slack is that it is fun to use - a word typically not associated with any sort of enterprise software. Slack allows professional discussions to turn into any shade of personable, thanks to liberal support for emojis and animated GIFs. The app is peppered with jokes and upbeat messages, offers a free tier that lets you browse and search only 10,000 most recent messages and a 5 GB limit to file storage. The paid pricing tiers - Standard ($6.67 per user per month) and Plus ($12.50 per user per month) - add a host of enterprise system support.

To begin using Slack, you either create a team or get invited to one. A team gets a unique sub-domain on the site, which serves as the central repostitory for all messages, files and accounts. Based on topic, department or task, you can group conversations into channels, which can be public or private. Past discussions are searchable, which lets new joinees scroll back hours, days or even weeks, and come up to speed with what has been said previously. Notifications for new messages are customisable, plus you can let a team snooze all notifications outside office hours.

Once you are familiar with the interface, and up and running on your channels, Slack also offers integrations to hundreds of third-party tools to transfer data in and out of Slack teams. You can, for instance, start up Skype sessions or add calendar entries from within Slack, or you could alert a channel when your company's name is mentioned on social media or when a help desk ticket is created. Sales managers can be alerted about every point-of-sale transaction if using a web-based POS system. You could even use it to wish employees on their birthdays. The programming interface allows simple integrations that even a modestly knowledgeable programmer can create, specific to your business.

One of Slack's most loved features, without a doubt, is the Slackbot, which the company's founder, Stewart Butterfield, describes as a "fairly stupid but earnest robot that helps you get onboard Slack". You can chat with the built-in helper bot, it can monitor messages and take action based on what it sees - like remind you about appointments, keep notes for you, manage private files or even respond to trigger words on your behalf with some predetermined text.

Slack has emerged as the communication service du jour for a ton of new media companies and tech start-ups. In a recent survey of its users, Slack found that the service reduced e-mail volume by close to 50 per cent. But it may not be for everyone, particularly if you need message threading - the ability of messages to form ordered and nested replies to an initial post to track specific discussions. Slack's format also allows distractions and tangential conversations to hijack the discussion. But that happens on e-mails, too, right?

Digital Dashboard: The social way of life



Published on: Apr 08, 2016, 1:54 PM IST
Posted by: Gurpreet Kaur, Apr 08, 2016, 1:54 PM IST