Slack transformed how we communicate at work. But the demands of workplace communication are still evolving — is it time for something new?
Walk into any modern office today and there’s a good chance you’ll find its employees using Slack. After launching in late 2013 and gaining momentum through 2014, Slack rapidly became the preferred method of communication in the workplace. Today, the platform boasts over 8 million daily active users and has been adopted by a whopping 43 percent of Fortune 100 companies.
According to its early marketing, Slack was initially designed as a communication alternative to address the shortcomings of email. Slack provided a space for users to send casual communications, receive real-time responses, and resolve problems quickly. With its user-friendly interface, Slack enabled organizations to build teams and channels with a few simple steps.
In an interview for CNBC earlier this year, Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield predicted that “over the next five to seven years, […] conventional email will phase out.” Companies, Butterfield argued, will soon prioritize more informal, direct messaging. While that has been proven to be true in some ways, this free-form, constant communication style has also presented new pitfalls.
The Limits of Slack
When Slack initially set out to prevent communications from being lost in lengthy email threads and losing relevance, it found success by designing a channel similar to the social media applications that users were already familiar with. Employees adapted quickly to Slack because the fast, casual style of conversation mimicked consumer-centric tools they were already using outside of work. But after years of the exponential growth of this model, Slack has found its critics.
Employees have begun to become overwhelmed with Slack’s constant notifications and its numerous channels. Critics argue that Slack effectively splits employee attention between work and multiple ongoing conversations. Instead of waiting for meetings to address key issues, the expectation to respond to Slack messages can make the workday feel like one continuous meeting with many different people. While Butterfield and his team initially conceived of the application as a tool to enable more productive communications, detractors now argue that Slack actually negatively impacts productivity.
The pressure to provide real-time responses means that employees spend more and more time responding to internal messages. Additionally, workers feel obligated to participate in chats, “hanging out” during the workday instead of focusing on the task at hand. And it’s no wonder this happens, when it’s so easy for conversations to devolve from work to socializing because of Slack’s free-form nature. Enterprise social networking applications like Slack do an amazing job of making team workspaces more visible and transparent, but they lack the structure necessary to coordinate activities and strategic plans.
Furthermore, even if Slack had an appropriately structured environment to make strategic plans, the fleeting nature of its messages means that decision-making within Slack often lacks context. Despite its continuously growing list of integration capabilities, it’s difficult to use Slack to get a bird’s-eye view of tasks, events, or insights.
While most organizations appreciate having a place for casual conversation and immediate troubleshooting, the criticism is clear. To enable true workplace productivity, employees need more than fast, casual, and responsive communications. They need workplace collaboration tools that provide purpose and structure, with clear workflows to drive operations forward.
How Coolfire’s Sessions Enable True Workstream Collaboration
When it comes to operations, Slack isn’t always going to cut it. Sessions in the Coolfire System take the features of Slack one step further to provide meaningful workspaces for productive collaboration. Sessions offer some of the same services as Slack, such as group chat and file sharing, but synthesize these capabilities (and more) in a whole new way. A Session centers around a specific operation, whether that’s a task or an event, and gives context beyond what enterprise social networking apps can offer.
Because Sessions are centered around these operations, they have a definitive beginning, middle, and end. New Sessions can be initiated by an event — for example, a sensor alert or a scheduled delivery. Relevant tasks can be assigned or automatically generated from existing settings. Internal communications are prompted and guided by workflow and data, so they stay on track. Finally, when closing a project, organizers can end the Session and effectively use the closed Session as a valuable data set. Users can retroactively apply metrics, conduct analysis, and extract insights.
Slack has transformed internal communications in the past six years, but workers today are looking for more purpose and actionability. Coolfire’s Sessions enable productivity by providing users with the relevant contextual data and services that expedite existing projects and keep communications on topic. By marrying communication and workflow around a unified purpose, Coolfire offers a game-changing workstream collaboration tool to truly get things done.
The workplace is evolving, and so are the internal communication tools we need. If Slack’s original purpose was to address the shortcomings of email, Sessions are the next step in the evolution of workplace communication.