Slack is a platform built for team communication and it works very well for a team of developers. Aside from having a simple name, it is also very easy to be adopted by a project team. With Slack, we at 2359 Media hope to enhance our workflow and deliver better, more efficient products for our clients.
Integration is the core function of Slack – currently at 2359 Media, we use 3 integrated services: Pivotal Tracker, Google Hangouts and Github. These are only three of the myriad of available integrations that Slack works with to streamline communication processes within a team.
By hooking Pivotal Tracker (a project management platform for agile software development) to Slack, our project managers and team members can be accountable for all the stories via the chat interface on Slack, which are all available in one place.
If a project team gets too big and it gets too hard to track what is happening, any users can start a new Channel and integrate the available services to the new channel to facilitate continued communication with a more focused group of people (e.g. with designers or QAs only).
Channels are essentially open chat groups with hashtags (e.g. #hungrygowhere #branding #moviethisweekend) and can be created based on project groups or any topic that the group might want to talk about. Channels are visible to every member of your Slack team (i.e. your entire company/team who are on Slack) and they can join any channel, search through the channel’s history, read and send messages to the channel.
This is in contrast with another feature called Private Groups that is visible only to the group’s creator and its invited members.
By integrating with Hangouts, Slack turns into a video-calling platform that is well suited for developers. Skype is awesome for video calls due to its undisputed call quality, but it is not built for software development teams. One of the reasons Slack is suited for our developers is because with Slack, we are able to share a Text Snippet or a Post right in the middle of the chat interface, both of which are very useful for code sharing. In addition, developers can Star messages in the chat that he or she thinks is important and needs to be referred to again.
However, the feature that set our decision in stone to move to Slack was its searchability. Search is a function that is not a main priority in many of the other communication tools that we use – files that have been uploaded to Skype are usually lost in the myriad of messages that come after it, which is a real pain for a software development team. Being able to search for specific files is a crucial requirement and with Slack, our developers are able to search through whole conversations and through all channels.
The question, of course, is whether this software is free. Since the best features of Slack are its integrations and searchability, these two functions have limited free options and for more freedom of use, there are several paid options that you can choose from.
With the free option, the team can link up to 5 integrations and have a total of 10,000 searchable archived messages.
Our experience with Slack so far has been outstandingly positive. We used to heavily rely on Skype for team communications and while we still use Skype to communicate with our overseas offices and clients, Slack has been perfect in increasing the productivity of our development team.
If you were wondering about mobility and being able to bring Slack around with you, Slack has fully native mobile apps for iOS and Android which sync almost real-time with its desktop counterpart. And from personal experience, it drains less battery as compared to Skype on our Android phones.
If you are in a software development team or are leading one, do consider including Slack into your workflow. If you have been using Slack and have more feedback about it, do drop us a comment here!