Riddle is a fairly unusual company. We are registered in Delaware, have a small virtual office in the Silicon Valley, an office in Munich, a small team in the UK, in New York and a development office in Bangkok – staffed partially with British developers and partially with locals. This virtual setup gives a lot of benefits (I’ll talk about those in a later blog post), but it does make communication a challenge, which is where Slack comes in.
Our team was initially using Google Mail, Skype and Google Hangouts – all good tools, but we fell in love with this promotion video by the awesome team from Sandwich Video:
Add in our task and bug manager for our engineers (JIRA), Intercom.io for customer satisfaction and of course Drop Box to share files – that’s quite a few tools to manage, but not all that uncommon for a nimble, fast-growing start up.
The most annoying tool, though, was email which initially seemed like the way to go, especially for internal team coordination. We had many of our conversations happening in different time zones and not real time. But, as anyone who has a groaning email inbox knows, email is really hard to classify and structure – and more often than not, things got lost.
Then we tried Slack and life got a lot easier.
Sure, just as with any new tool, it took time to get people to use it. But everyone fell in love with Slack after just a few days.
At first, we used Slack like a high end messenger.
Slack allows for 1:1 private conversations, private groups and public groups. They do a great job introducing the product to the user very slowly. For example, initially you are notified for every single message. But as your team uses Slack more frequently, and more and more is happening, Slack automatically changes this setting and you are only notified when someone types your name or when you get a private message. Nifty!
There is no limit to how many groups you can have. We structure our conversation into topics like marketing, customer support, engineering, design, PR and many more. Then we got a lot of private groups so people that work in a team can have a conversation without bugging others. No more endless and useless CC emails.
Anyone can read along in public channels if the conversation is of interest. If you want someone notified and want to make sure your message is read, all you do is mention that persons name. Of course each user can configure Slack so that certain keywords trigger events or notifications or that you get notified whenever something is typed in a particular channel – we use a Red Alert channel to notify our engineers if parts of Riddle.com go down.
That alone would be great already, but where it really shines is when you start integrating your other tools. The simplest integration is DropBox or Google Drive. Drop a file link and depending on the file type a preview or just a link to the file is added. The integration with intercom.io (another amazing tool) allows us to send alerts to the customer support channel in Slack whenever we get a support inquiry from a user. That way, no one needs to constantly check the intercom dashboard or email, all you need is an alert set up. You can also set up any other intercom.io alert to show up in Slack.
(Image courtesy of Slack.com)
JIRA – our bug and task tracker – is also integrated. As soon as someone creates a new task or a task is updated, everyone gets a notification. That way our marketing or editorial team never need to fiddle around JIRA to see where we are in terms of bug fixing or feature development. A quick view into the Engineering Channel tells you all you need to know.
We still use our other tools where needed, but email has become almost meaningless for internal communication. Slack allows us to focus our daily attention on just one place to know everything that is going on within Riddle. The only time we leave Slack for communication is for our daily video calls for which Hangouts or Skype is still necessary. If Slack would add simple video calls and record the calls as it records all other conversation, that would make it a true killer app of all other forms of electronic communication.
As usual, there is always one more benefit. In this case it’s how much Slack improves on boarding new employees. If you allow new employees to read the Slack archives of all public channels, they can immediately get a feel for how the company works. This beats starting a job and looking at an empty email inbox any day.
Check out Slack here – free to use, but if you want to have access to more than your team’s last 10,000 messages, you’ll need to go down the paid route.
Any questions about Slack or Riddle? Please feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!