What Is Slack?
If you don’t use Slack, you’ve probably at least heard of the popular workplace software, and you may have even heard people turn it into a verb synonymous with text. (As in, ‘My co-worker Slacked me.’) Here’s a guide to how you might use Slack for your business and some of the advantages and disadvantages.
What Is Slack?
Slack is a tool for group collaboration that is especially well-suited to teams that work in different locations. At its core, it’s an instant messaging system based on channels that can be organized by project, client, team, or any other way your business might find useful. Slack Technologies Inc., based in San Francisco, says more than 12 million people and 65 of the Fortune 100 companies use its software, which comes in free and priced versions.
How to Use Slack for Your Business
There are a variety of ways that you can use Slack in your business. The most basic is as an instant messenger, for both one-on-one communication and group discussion. This allows teams to discuss a project in real time, share files, and in the paid versions, invite outside guests to participate in specific chats.
New channels can be created at any time, for any purpose, and users can move in and out of them whenever needed, offering lots of flexibility. Within channels, you can create threads that help organize multiple conversations going on at once. These side chats help prevent tangents from distracting from the primary focus.
One of the most useful features of Slack is its search feature. Slack keeps a history of all communications, so any shared posts—messages or files—can be retrieved at any time.
Beyond messaging, Slack can be used for phone and face-to-face calling as well as screen sharing. And it integrates with more than 1,500 outside applications: everything from Gmail and DropBox to Simple Poll, GoToMeeting, ZenDesk and JIRA.
Search this list to see if the apps you use will work with Slack.
What Kind of Business Is Slack Best For?
Slack is especially useful when you can’t walk over to someone to ask a question, whether it's because you work from home or in an office on another continent. Besides co-workers, you can bring clients, contractors, or guests into specific conversations. This can help to keep important players who aren’t part of your core team up to date on a project.
It may also be good for fast-growing companies, since new employees get access to any previous conversations once they’re added to a channel. Businesses with many time-sensitive elements and a wide range of constituencies (vendors, customers, regulators) may also benefit, given how quick and flexible it makes the communication.
Is Slack Free?
Slack has a free plan that it markets to small teams. You can use this plan for as long as you want, but there are limitations. For one, you can only search the most recent 10,000 messages. The free version also integrates only 10 third-party or custom apps and doesn’t allow guests to have access to channels.
Paid plans remove these and other restrictions and offer extra security and file storage. Slack markets them to small and medium teams or companies, charging $6.67 to $15 per active user each month, depending on the plan level and billing frequency. A separate product called Slack Enterprise Grid is for large companies.
Pros of Slack
- Instant communication: Slack operates in real-time and can be used on nearly any mobile connected device.
- Searchable history: This log of interactions can be invaluable. In the paid versions you can search every file and conversation in Slack.
- Integration with other tools and services: The list of applications you can use with Slack is impressive. And they are adding new services all the time.
- Public and private channels: This gatekeeping feature of Slack is very useful. You can limit channels or group chats to just the individuals involved in a project or open it up to the entire company.
- Shared files: Documents can be shared in real time right within your Slack channels. You can comment on a specific document and get instant feedback.
- Push notifications: If you turn on push notifications (and most people do), Slack will alert you when there is a new message in your group.
Cons of Slack
- Messages can get disorganized fast: When you have several people collaborating on a project in a chat format, the information you need—even with the search function—can get buried quickly.
- Addictive in nature: With push notifications and emojis, Slack has much of the addictive quality of social media. This may mean your team spends too much time checking Slack and less time actually doing their work.
- Can be shallow: It’s hard to have substantive conversations over instant messages, and even harder over group instant messages.
- Chaotic pace: Slack moves quickly and it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on. This can be solved in part by integrating with a planning tool like Monday.com.
Slack. "Make work life simpler, more pleasant and more productive," Accessed Oct. 11, 2019.
Slack. "The collaboration software that moves work forward," Accessed Oct. 11, 2019.
Slack. "Slack for Teams," Accessed Oct. 11, 2019.