As Google evangelists, we were (and still are) heavy users of Google Hangouts. Hangouts are a super convenient way for people to communicate on both their computers and their phones.
Slack, however, has been getting lots of press lately and growing at an extremely fast rate. We decided to start rolling out Slack internally in December for a couple key reasons. Here's why we went for it, and how it has gone over since the move.
Group chat made unique
To start, our team is expanding both in size and in geographic area. We have staff in California, Colorado, Illinois, and Indiana. On one hand, the group chat (channels) feature of Slack was appealing to encourage chatting between members not in the same physical office. On the other hand, it provides an easy way to dedicate group chats to employees that are all in the same location. This way the Denver crew doesn’t have to receive notifications when the Chicagoans are debating where to get lunch that day.
Additionally, group chat allows us to dedicate group chats by practice area or department. It’s easy for someone on the sales team to monitor the sales channel, or even hop into a channel dedicated to technical conversation when he has a tech question. Also, private channels helped hide Star Wars spoilers when it came out.
From a development point of view, Slack has an open API that allows you to connect your own internal applications as well as create bots (we made one). Hangouts doesn’t quite yet have a fully developed API.
I was also looking forward to easily sending GIFs to my co-workers.
The rollout was pretty easy. Slack has a nice self-sign up option that allows users from a specific domain (cloudbakers.com) to sign up without having an invite. You can also set the default channel settings so users are automatically added to your main company-wide channels.
After training sessions from our training specialist, everyone either went to the webapp or downloaded the dedicated client for their operating system, and we were off and running.
After a few months of using Slack, we polled everyone at Cloudbakers and I thought I'd share our results.
The Good (taken from actual responses):
- Slack is great for group communication.
- The integrations (Jira, Twitter, giphy) are awesome - who doesn’t love GIFs in a conversation
- Keyboard shortcuts - it’s easy to navigate between chats and rooms without having to leave your keyboard
- Slack API and Slackbot for setting reminders
- Customizable - you can change your color scheme
- Dedicated Clients for computers/phones
The not so good:
- Changing channels through the channel switcher is slow using the web client
- No read receipts - this was one of the nicest features of Hangouts
- No ability to tell what device someone is using - Hangouts lets you know if the person you’re chatting with is using a mobile device
- It takes too many clicks to create a Google Video Call
- Notification settings are confusing
- Living in two separate systems (Hangouts for client communication and Slack for internal)
- Separate window/tab/application
Note that despite the negatives, around 70 percent of employees still prefer Slack to Hangouts.
It’s important to note that Slack is not Hangouts. Hangouts excels in one on one communication and is extremely convenient if you live in your Gmail Inbox for most of the day. Slack can help improve group communication but it is another application that employees have to monitor. Many find it worth the extra application monitoring though; Sending GIFs and having external applications connect into our chat system is convenient and fun (you can integrate with Uber, amongst tons of other cool features). It is apparent that Slack will continue to grow and it wouldn’t be surprising if they closed the feature gap between Slack and Hangouts--that will be great. For now, though, we’re happy.
Gotta go--Chicago channel is blowing up, my guess is lunch is being aggressively determined.
Originally published on March 07, 2016