Slack: the Good, the Bad, the Lacking

Hermione at Pangea.ai
Mindy Marque Pham
Published: 21.10.2022

Slack has been a ubiquitous presence across a range of projects, companies, and platforms. In fact, it’s hit the highest social honor that any brand could strive for: verbification. “I’ll Slack you” isn’t as popular or quotidian as “I’ll google it,” but it goes without saying that Slack is reaching the heights of work and social relevance. Despite its well-deserved reputation and growing loyal fan base, we have to ask ourselves if Slack is truly the end-all, be-all.

Every project and company has its own unique, individual needs for internal communication. Just because it may be the most convenient and well-known option in the short-term, doesn’t mean Slack is necessarily the most cost-efficient and ideal choice in the long term. Is the hype real or has its extreme accessibility hidden some of its less savory aspects? Let’s take a critical look into why Slack has snowballed into what feels like the most natural overnight success in the world and conduct an investigation to see if it’s the right choice for the success of your business operations.

A close-up view of the Slack icon on a phone screen.

The Good

Some of us remember a time before instant messenger – a time when emails reigned supreme. With the rise of texting came new demands for smoother, rapid workplace communication that transcended the cubicle and brought a new spin to what “home office” meant.

That’s where Slack comes in. Slack saw the need for a simpler, instant form of digital communication that did not rely on the refresh button. Combining the basic appeals of instant messaging to the requirements of 21st-century digital workplaces afforded Slack the upper hand on the market. Transparency, flexibility, rapidity, collaboration, and automation are just a few of the things that Slack purports to help progress on its official website.

The best part about Slack and one of the reasons why it’s so commonly used is that it is still free to use and install for as long as you’d like.

Beyond being just user-friendly, Slack cleverly hones into the untapped market value of casual consumers by keeping its introductory version free. It’s not just international banks who need a simple communication app for collaborative projects, but also students and hobbyists who may or may not want to spend a chunk of money on something they may only need to use semi-regularly or temporarily. They even offer discounts and special offers for non-profits, students, and higher education institutions. Now that’s a fast way to build customer loyalty.

From task management, to tagging, to streamlined channels; Slack sticks to its branding of being for everyone. Now it’s even beginning to increase its range of external app integration in a bid to compete with much more complex communication and digital management apps, all claiming to be more utilitarian than the next.

All in all, a good round of applause for Slack for being sensitive and perceptive to a vast range of digital consumers. No wonder it’s achieved verbification!

Now although Slack ranks consistently high on its user-friendly design, it’s definitely up for some improvements.

Slack’s rapidity comes at a price. Communication channels can easily become overwhelming and without a clear sense of internal organization from the start, this could prove to be a challenge to maintain later on in the future. The casualty of communication that Slack supports may not also be the best for supporting a focused and defined work atmosphere, since not all companies are proponents of the “start-up” vibe.

To accentuate the risk of miscommunication, Slack’s search engine is not the best. Reports and user experiences have shown frustration with how difficult it is to get back to a previous message, especially when there are numerous channels and different subthreads that can be found on every channel.

Additionally, it is still not as customizable as many companies would like and does not position itself as the ultimate solution for all things communication. Report features, charts, schedules, customer insights, and timestamps are all day-to-day essentials that Slack just does not have yet.

What’s on the Market?

Negatives put aside: Slack may not be going anywhere from its throne, but we have a couple of hefty contenders looking to usurp its steady reign.

Discord, Microsoft Teams, and Facebook Workplace Groups are just some from the list of alternatives for Slack. All offer the same main functions, such as instant messaging, groups, and channel organization. They just have different philosophies and thus, user experience designs.

For example, Discord is a main rival of Slack. The main benefit is that it is more suited for audio and video. This is a top choice for Youtubers, streamers, and gamers who need the video quality for digital face-to-face interaction. However, Slack is more private and centralized. It keeps the company in mind, while Discord is aimed at more casual use and its interface allows for more movement and interaction between different channels.

If you want more community-based interaction and want to grow an audience, go for Discord. For private business matters regarding employment, Slack would be the better option.

Another example would be Proofhub. Proofhub is on the opposite spectrum, where it targets more towards larger, developed businesses, rather than fresh start-ups. They have kanbans, calendars, automations, instant messaging, channels, groups, customized admins, and email integration all in one product. The features go on and on, which is an intimidating thing in itself for those working with limited resources.

Centralized project management apps like Proofhub take pride in being the core of any company’s digital structure. They don’t want to transfer and they want you to build your communications, storage, and security needs all with them. This design, of course, can make for an extremely rigid and inflexible structure in the future if a transition in management or shareholders does happen and incompatibilities arise.

Like many other megaliths, Proofhub doesn’t offer any free services, beyond a free trial, which says a lot about its target groups. In comparison to Slack, which has retained its free use despite its international success, we can see where the core values of the company are aligned.

the Slack logo appearing on a dark background

Image Source

Future Viability of Slack

So what are we hoping for Slack’s future? Even though it’s been quite reliable and consistent, could a good thing be improved?

Contrary to how it would like to advertise itself, it’s obvious that Slack is far from a digital HQ. It is a great tool for simplified business communication and can take the load of heavier projects with some help from add-ons and external parties, like Google Drive or Asana, but Slack’s main strength is found in its attunement to more intimate and closely-linked businesses.

Slack is for everyone, but you shouldn’t be putting all your eggs in one basket.

Young professionals will find a great, simple, and long-lasting tool for their work. Slack even has some free Slack communities for tech professionals popping up! It may not be as community-focused as Discord or a powerhouse in business reports, automations, and boards like Proofhub, but Slack’s greatest strength is in its indispensability. Chances are that it just won’t get in the way of anything you may or may not choose to use! However, more established businesses will want to relegate Slack to short-term projects, goals, and maybe, company-bonding day.

FAQs:

Q1. Why does everyone use Slack?

Slack is easy, accessible, fast, and familiar. It capitalizes on being a better version of instant messaging and makes itself the perfect fit for fast communication that does not require a long onboarding time or setup.

Slack offers a straightforward dive into its own mechanisms. It’s often that the first application you use to build your communication foundation will stay in some form or another.

Q2. What is Slack not good for?

Slack is not good for intensive specialized needs. It does not offer a centralized storage system or task management system. It also does not offer kan bans, or digital boards which may be extremely important in teams of more than 300 employees. Its audio and video services are not as well developed as other apps.

We suggest sticking to smaller teams or smaller departments with more simplified workflows than hoping to use Slack as the central nucleus of all your internal communication needs.

Q3. Is Slack only good for business?

No, Slack is great for all internal management and communication matters. Slack wants the casual user to not feel alienated. Students of all ages use Slack to keep in touch with their assignments, projects, and group plans. You could even use it for your family vacation or larger personal events, like planning your yearly high school reunion or for neighborhood fundraisers.

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