In 2015 Cloud Construct switched to Slack from Microsoft’s Skype for Business as our primary inter-office messaging application. We are mostly a Microsoft shop, so this switch was not made lightly, especially since Skype for Business is free with our Office 365 subscription. Slack was embraced by the team pretty much overnight as the go-to application for communication. Persistent, real time communication, on an individual level and a project level made our lives so much easier. As a virtual company (100% remote employment), excellent communication is vital to the success of all our client projects and to Cloud Construct as a company. Our web development projects are now more transparent, issues are identified and resolved faster, and delivery is more reliable.
As the weeks went by, the team began to utilize Slack not just as an inter-office messaging application, but rather a full-blown collaboration system. The following are a handful of the key features that inspire our love of Slack:
- Pinned Items – You can add or “pin” useful information to the details section of a channel for easy reference. We pin items that are relevant to user experience and visual design such as final wireframes/prototypes and design compositions; items that are necessary for web and software development such as staging site links, production site links, credentials; and items that are general purpose project management like SharePoint and Visual Studio Online links. Pinning is a combination of bookmarking and document repository all in one easy to get to location.
- Uploaded Documents – Uploading a document is different than pinning a document. Uploading a document shares the document right in the slack channel. Our team primarily uses this feature for sharing screen shots and other small pieces of content that are useful to elaborate on the text discussion. If you see something on a website or application that you cannot explain via written correspondence, and you don’t want to get on a screen share, share a screen shot right in the channel. These documents also get saved in the Shared Files details section for future reference. We still use SharePoint for version controlled and complex documents.
- Search – Similar to searching for correspondence within your email client, Slack has a search feature to help you find all the correspondence you need. What is exceptionally useful, is that you can search the entire discussion, even including content from before you joined. This is powerful for onboarding new team members for our development projects.
- Slack On-The-Go – Slack is also available as a mobile app for iPhone, Android, and Windows Mobile. Not everyone is in front of a computer all day. With Slack, questions can be answered and the project can continue moving while employees are on the go. Our visual designer even has slack installed on her Apple Watch!
- Jenkins Continuous Integration Notifications – This continuous integration notification has saved our team many page refreshes and eliminated the need for our build manager to respond to questions regarding deploy status. As web development and software engineering work is checked in and published to staging or production sites, Jenkins notifies the channel that their work can be reviewed. Prior to Jenkins, non-software engineer employees would ask the software engineer if the work was published or they would need to periodically refresh the pages to see if the work was published. Jenkins eliminates both scenarios and all employees can wait for Jenkins to notify them to test their work and when work can go out for internal or external approval.
These bullet points only scratch the surface of all the features and integrations Slack has to offer. Cloud Construct is always looking for ways to improve our work flow, and Slack has been a significant part of our communication process since its deployment. No matter the size of your company or your office environment, Cloud Construct recommends you check out Slack.