Part 1: My Love-Hate Relationship With Slack
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I cringe every time a colleague asks me this - “Did you check your Slack?”
No, I didn’t. If I did, I would have replied to you. And, if I read it and chose not to reply, it can probably wait. It reminds me of how wishing “Happy Birthday” to my niece on social media has become more important than giving her a phone call.
Meaningful conversations among team members (remote or in-house) is the foundation of company culture, which further culminates into efficiency and team performance. Is Slack adding more meaning to these conversations? I am not sure. Walter Isaacson has quoted Steve Jobs saying, “There's a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That's crazy! Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'Wow’, and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas."
The truth, however, is that while Steve Jobs is right, it is equally necessary to learn how to use tools like Slack and still keep our creative ideas alive when we bump into our colleagues in the workplace.
This article started with a frustration over conversations I’ve had on Slack, but resulted in me developing an open mind regarding the obsession people have with this tool. For me, it was noise and distraction in the middle of an urgent copy I had to write, an article I was editing, or the creative campaign I was thinking about. For many, it is faster communication and more transparency. Nine of out of the ten people I interviewed for this two-part article series love Slack.
It is oxygen for the coworking space I work in every day, and an integral part of many young startups I work with. You can call it an addiction or merely an acceptance of the fact that the use of Slack is more of a necessity than a choice.
“Yes, it is a distraction but your whole life is a distraction. In my head, I have three use cases for communication- phone, email, and Slack. Don’t do tasks on Slack, only use it ad-hoc when the response you need is urgent. All planning should happen on email and if an email goes back and forth three times- just pick up the phone!” says, Marc Weimer-Hablitzel, Principal at etventure, a Berlin-based company which connects corporates to startups and has 250 employees. This means Slack is complementing other communication tools, not substituting them, and companies probably need to define this well within the organisation.
First thing’s first: Respect for what Slack has achieved. According to Statista, as of May 2018, Slack has over 8 million daily active users, with approximately 3 million of those being paid subscribers. This is phenomenal growth, considering the company launched in August 2013. Statistics show that nearly half of its daily users come from outside North America, with top foreign markets being Great Britain, Japan, Germany, France, and Australia. According to data analytics firm Tracxn, as of August 2018, the total funding raised by Slack stands at $1.27 billion. The amount infused in the Series H round this year was $427 million, with a post-money valuation of $7.1 billion. This adds another $2 billion to the company’s last valuation in September 2017, when Slack raised $250 million from SoftBank at an estimated valuation of $5.1 billion, implying a revenue multiple of around 26.
No matter what I personally feel about Slack, it is a successful startup story- which I love to hear. Not only is it dominating workplace communication; the Slack Fund (in partnership with Accel, Index Ventures, KPCB, Social Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Spark Capital) is also supporting younger startups now. The fund was created to support teams building products on top of Slack that enable simpler, more pleasant, and more productive workplaces. For instance, one of the latest contributions of the fund is to Pitch, a Berlin-based software technology startup. Pitch claims to make it significantly faster and easier for presentations to be created and shared — both by individuals and teams.
As a business columnist, I am all praises for Slack for its expanding user base and immense support to the startup ecosystem (We definitely need more success stories like you, dear Slack). As an advocate of strong interpersonal relationships at workplaces, I feel the need to train myself and many others, to use this tool better. I remember how I trained myself to use Amazon Kindle better and love it eventually. At one point, I was reading 10 books simultaneously and was completing none. My reading speed was deteriorating and there was a lack of focus. I was simply spoilt for choices and overwhelmed with 50 books at the same time in one device/app. But now, Kindle is probably the best gift I could have to save space in my apartment and time in my hectic days.
This article series is an attempt to find out why people love Slack and why they don't; what it lacks and how I am going to use it better. A blog on the Slack Medium channel rightly says : Tools alone won’t fix issues inherent to an organization’s culture or team dynamics, but they can be helpful to leaders in shedding light on common breakdowns and pitfalls, and they can spark ideas for how people can work together more efficiently and achieve more meaningful results.
The Slack website claims that,”If your team is starting a project, hiring new employees, implementing code, checking a contract, approving the next year's budget, doing an A / B test, planning the next location opening, or using one of many other opportunities, then Slack is just right for you.” Let’s figure out “how” in the second part of this article series.