This is arguably the most important section of this course. There are millions of incredible apps out there that are designed for businesses to facilitate communication, organization, and planning. In this section we will zoom in on the apps we use here at ZOOMcatalog. As a ten year old virtual company, we have gone through a lot of trial and error, and have found what works well for our team.
Communication is the lifeblood of your business. It’s imperative that your team knows what is happening throughout each work day, especially when you cannot be on-site. Sure, SMS and email are great, but quickly become a hassle when trying to manage more than one conversation.
There are many apps out there that are built to help you communicate with your team throughout the day, replacing the normal face-to-face interaction you may be used to. Our pick for best communication app is Slack. Slack is an instrumental tool for us at ZOOMcatalog, as it helps our entire team stay connected despite us being spread out across the world.
Slack is the business communication tool that breaks your company out of the inbox. Focusing on crisp and clear communication channels, they keep in-house teams, customers, and partners all connected with one another. Here are the features of Slack that make it the powerful tool it is:
Slack thrives on being organized, and your company can too. They keep it simple and intuitive when it comes to managing different teams, clients, or projects by setting up channels. These channels can be used both internally for communication between teams or groups, or externally between you and your clients. Think of channels as meeting rooms, where you can invite specific people based on the topic. The room can be private or have an open door, allowing anyone else in the company to enter if interested.
Private messages can be used for off-topic conversations between you and a team member, or a couple of team members. To keep channels organized, you can use this feature to discuss topics that do not not fit into a channel. They are also great for quick questions and for checking in on a colleague.
Do not disturb settings
In section 2: Staying sane, we spoke about your shutdown ritual. Slack’s “do not disturb” setting allows you to set the hours you will be online. By doing so, Slack won't send you any notifications outside of these hours. Set the hours to match your “office hours” to enforce your work/life balance.
Slack does a great job of connecting your most-used services so you don’t have to tab hop. With a massive App Directory, you can integrate Slack with your most used applications like Google Drive, Trello, Microsoft Outlook, and more to ensure all your communication is handled in one place.
Plan how to set up your channels before diving in to ensure things stay organized and emulate how your business is structured. Below is an example of how we use channels for teams, projects, and guests.
Make it fun! Slack allows you to connect with your team. It does not have to be all serious, all the time. Have a general channel for the entire team. Share accomplishments, jokes, and ideas.
Invite guests to your Slack channel when necessary. For example, if you are going to be working with a freelancer for a few weeks, you can start a temporary channel with them.
Don’t bombard team members with messages all day long. Slack can quickly become a distraction, so be cognizant of how many messages you are sending a day.
Don’t use Slack for action items. They will get lost. Make sure that all tasks and action items go into your project management app (we go into more detail about project management apps below).
Mix up topics. Try to stay organized and keep conversations on topic. This will ensure you have a clear record if you ever need to look back in your history.
How ZOOMcatalog Uses Slack
The ZOOMcatalog team depends on Slack for day-to-day communication. Our Slack is organized into projects, teams, and collaboration channels. Here are some examples:
Team channels are private channels that include certain team members. These channels allow teams to connect and collaborate together on an ongoing basis.
Project channels are mostly private channels, but are sometimes “public” as well. For example, we keep the blog channel open in case anyone on the team has an idea or wants to pop in to see what we are working on. We use these channels to ask quick questions or share ideas; however, we try to avoid using Slack for any actionable tasks. Actionable tasks must be added as a card in Trello (explained below).
Our open channels are available for the entire team. This is where we have some fun. These channels are where we share ideas, personal updates, and recognize team members for accomplishments. They are often filled with funny GIF’s and allow our team to bond on a more personal level. In a way, they are our virtual lunchroom. We also use an open channel (changelog) to announce feature releases so the entire team can keep up with what the product team is working on, and what’s new.