Slack _can_ be hard, but a little planning can do wonders

There’s a thread going around that Slack is making work worse or less efficient. But the tool is often not the problem, and I believe that’s the case with Slack.

Without a little conscious organization, Slack can turn into a large, at times complicated tool. This simply means it needs a clear purpose with rules, or at least guidelines, in order to effectively solve an organization’s particular problem.

Maybe you can just toss everyone in and hope for the best. But you can dramatically improve your chances by creating or adopting a style guide similar to the one Slack is beginning to build for all of us.

A key portion to think about, which I believe is coming in a future post on Slack’s (Medium-powered) blog, is defining a purpose for each part of your Slack account and the integrations you add. How many channels do you actually need? What is the point of each channel, and should everyone be allowed to create them? What kind of do-not-disturb hours (one of my favorite features) can you set for a good work-life balance? Should a channel be open to your whole org or, if it’s for a specific team, would it be better for that team to have privacy and focus?

Slack can be much more than a centralized IRC or list of chat rooms, and I highly recommend you think of it as such, otherwise it very well may fail to be the great replacement for intra-org email that it can be. Here’s a use case to consider: if you set up a channel for a company task or department (CS, marketing, dev, whatever), you can take advantage of Slack’s ability to collect files shared in that channel and star messages for posterity. Share links in that channel to Quip or Drive of key docs for department processes, style guides, and other resources, then star them all. Now you have most, possibly all the onboarding materials you need for you next recruit in one easy place where they can ask questions and get feedback from other team members and leaders. When you combine this deliberate approach with its large and growing list of integrations, Slack can become incredibly powerful and enabling—as long as you spend a little time thinking critically about these options and which can actually work for you.

If you’ve found yourself curious about or using Slack but stumbling over whether it’s a help or hindrance, I highly recommend following Slack’s blog for the rest of the series.