So we tried Slack. And failed.

In my group, we use Outlook and Lync as our main forms of communication. The traditional, brick and mortar means of communication in the corporate workplace. Introduction of Lync a few years ago reduced the volume of email. After all, there’s no need to send an email to ask someone “Hey, did you deliver your changes yet?”. What Lync didn’t solve, and was never really meant to solve, is the ease of finding relevant information in a pool of hundreds of messages that end up in your inbox every day. 

Corporate email is broken, and most people know that, yet monolithic companies are slow to change. So here we are, in 2015, still sorting through piles of useless email. 

Enter Slack. 

One of our leading teams that started up a few months ago has tried to adapt as many new tools and processes as possible within our rigid corporate framework. Thanks to those efforts, Slack was given a fair shot and apparently has worked for them quite well, perhaps because that team has more external dependencies that pushed for Slack.

My agile team, consisting of three developers, a scrum master, a product owner, and four business analysts, was a perfect candidate for a tool like Slack. In the interest of improving our team processes, I’ve introduced Slack at one of our lessons learned sessions at an end of a sprint. 

Initially, the idea seemed very welcome. I’ve set up an account and invited everyone to join. 

Several people joined immediately - the scrum master and all of the business folks. It took me some repeat invites to get the 2 developers and the product owner on board. 

I’ve set up channels in Slack, for group discussions on various topics like #defects, #enhancement1, #enhancement2, #scrum, and so forth, to keep the conversations organized. In addition, I’ve set up email integration to allow people to “clip” relevant emails from external sources and send them to Slack.

From the very beginning, however, we’ve encountered some resistance from the team. Resistance is probably a poor word, since people just seemed to continue using IM and email, even when they were active on Slack. Old habits? Lack of interest in the new tool? I don’t know. But some team members more than others, consistently don’t log on to Slack at the beginning of the day and use email and Lync instead. 

I consistently tried to tell people “Hey, we've been having this conversation on Slack” and “I’ve posted my updates on Slack”, also consistently forwarding relevant emails back to Slack in an attempt to shift the conversation there. And here we are, in our 3rd week of using Slack, still conducting 60% of the communication via email and Lync, and 40% via Slack - in no particular, organized fashion. 

slack-resistance

I’ve noticed that half the time the same person can IM me via Lync, the other half, via Slack. 

What gives? How has a tool so successful for other groups failed in our team? Is it too soon to tell?

The run down of my main observation points after giving Slack a shot:

  • People are slow to accept invites - no urgent interest
  • Not everyone is online at the same time, unlike Lync
  • All other team members aside from me, naturally revert to using Lync and Email as main means of communication
  • While using Slack, people don’t seem to understand the concept of channels, that each channel is meant for a discussion around that particular topic