Why We Integrated With Slack (And You Should Too)

By David Mizne

“I just slacked you that file.”

Only two years ago that statement would have been nonsense. Now phrases just like it are typed or uttered millions of times each day, including by every member of our team.

Arguably the greatest team collaboration app of all time, Slack integrates with a large number of third-party services and supports community-built integrations. Some of these include Google Drive, Dropbox, Github and now…15Five.

This is the story of our relationship with Slack and how integrating with them is supporting our vision to strengthen company cultures through transparent communication.

Email Sucks

Do I have to say anything else?

While permanent “Inbox 0” remains an elusive dream, Slack is getting us much closer. Email threads are arduous to sift through and are taxing on my psyche. I treat long emails like someone who just walked in on their parents having sex. I open the door (or email), react in horror and quickly close it – then find something to do to make me forget what I just witnessed.

Instead of reading long email threads, shorter snippets of useful information are shared in Slack. Attachments or links are accompanied by handy preview images and text so I don’t even have to open them half the time. And just like email, the threads are saved and searchable. Oh sure, email still has value. I just can’t remember what that is at the moment.

The Virtual Water Cooler

We are a globally distributed team which means that we often miss out on those random daily interactions. We don’t run into each other at the coffee machine or water-cooler. (The SF Team actually has a water-cooler, but it’s room temperature and sourced from Shasta Springs. The water is full of minerals and devoid of any chemicals. Sometimes gatherings take place around it, but they look more like drum circles than casual conversations).

Among our many chat rooms in Slack we have a ‘water-cooler’ dedicated to friendly banter. People share pleasantries and personal experiences with each other, which increases camaraderie. Work is so much more pleasurable when it is punctuated with these human experiences:

Water cooler

This just doesn’t work with email. My psychology reacts to the Slack thread in a different, more inviting way. Other than a voice or video call, it’s the closest thing to a physical interaction I have experienced. Maybe it’s the happy little profile pictures and emojis.

15Five and Slack, Sitting In A Tree…

“Grant trust & be transparent” is one of our 10 core values and in many ways it is the cornerstone of our culture. In weekly 15Fives, employees openly share their goals, accomplishments, personal and professional challenges, and innovative ideas. These responses are shared with anyone who has the authority to review the 15Five (usually their direct supervisor).

Humility often prevents people from standing up at their desk and shouting, “look everyone! Look at this amazing thing that I did! All hail me for the next 20 seconds or so.” Every employee is asked what they are most proud of each week in their 15Fives, and their responses are typically only seen by managers or are passed-up the ladder. With this integration, managers can now share triumphs and other insightful responses with the rest of the team via Slack:

Melena sharedOther employees can offer congratulations and the person mentioned can feel a nice boost in morale without it being tarnished by shameless self-promotion.

Another way that we help keep our culture strong is to ask an optional question in 15Five’s each week. These questions are invariably requests for an appreciation of another team member:

Slack Question 15Five

Everyone exercises the option, because we all relish the opportunity to show our gratitude for a person’s contributions or ways of being:

Appreciate Shane

Imagine ending your week by reading 15 people’s reflections of how amazing you are, or getting a lift from sharing your gratitude for another.

Technically Speaking

Integrating with an API can be an ordeal but our lead developer, Krystian Cybulski, found the Slack API “delightful to use”. It sticks to the law of least surprise, with the proper API call easy to find. It works just as expected, and is designed in a way that makes sense.

With other APIs, Krystian reads the documentation to see what can be done, and then designs the interaction around the interface the API exposes. With Slack’s extensive API, he assumed something could be done, and just filled in the details. According to Krystian, “designing a good API is no easy matter, and complementing it with great documentation is a tremendous feat.  Slack pulled it off well.”

Being a slacker used to have a negative connotation. Today it means that you are using the most cutting-edge software to enhance communication and build stronger cultures of communication. Here’s how two of 15Five’s customers have been enjoying the integration:

At the very beginning I wasn’t sure it would make sense but we already have a channel called #prasing in slack and it becomes second skin for me to share a good comment to Slack so that others could see the great performance of their teammates. I also love receiving a notification when a 15Five has been submitted by someone on my team.  

Ricardo Garza, Softtek

The Slack integration is great. I’m a a fan of any tools that can help us get away from siloed communication like email, to a place where collaboration can happen. We now spend more time being focused on tasks and less time trying to communicate.

Cameron Shurtz, Lifechurch.tv

Already using 15Five? Click here to learn more about the Slack API integration.

Image Credit: Scott Schiller

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