Team management and project management had already been undergoing major makeovers before 2020. But widespread work-from-home definitely accelerated that process. Most companies and organizations are ditching full-time office work for hybrid, remote, and/or distributed models. For this reason and more, we need better tools for better team and project management. Enter: Slack.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about some core elements of effective project management and team management. You’ll learn how to use Slack to help automate and supercharge project management and team management. And we’ll discuss some of the challenges of team management with Slack. We’ll start with a brief overview of Slack and its core features.
What is Slack?
Slack is an online communication platform for teams. The mission is to bring transparency, speed, and focus to the way teams communicate. They seek to cut back on neverending email chains that are often hard to sort through. Lastly, they want to make work more enjoyable and productive.
At Slack’s heart are channels and direct messages (DMs), which is where the conversations happen. We’ll talk more about the benefits of channels and direct messages for team management later in the post.
Despite its foundation as a communication tool, Slack is much more than a glorified instant messaging platform.
Slack can also serve as a centralized place for your team’s important files. And with searchable messages, files, and channels, Slack makes it really easy to find what you need. Slack also has tons of integrations which you can use to streamline many of your workflows. Slack’s integrations span sectors with the expected ones like project and task management, to the not-so-expected like health and wellness and GIF libraries!
You can use Slack on your browser or with any one of their apps for desktop, iOS, and Android. To learn more about Slack check out Slack vs Teams.
What are the benefits of Slack?
- You can call your colleagues (video and/or audio) right from the app — no Slack integration required.
Slack has a built-in call feature, available on both the free and paid versions (though the free version only allows 1:1 calls). For our folks at home who hate having to switch between multiple apps, windows, and tabs, this one’s for you! Slack’s paid plans even allow screen sharing, which is a feature that’s becoming increasingly useful for today’s remote teams.
- You can use Slack to connect with people outside of your company.
Slack Connect is one of the platform’s newer rollouts, and it’s perfect for teams who work with external partners.
Here’s how it works: Companies can interact with each other in channels and direct messages, right from their usual Slack workspace.
With Slack Connect, you get to nurture your partnerships with the same level of transparency and speed that you do with your internal team, without having to create an entirely new Slack workspace for cross-collaboration.
How do you manage teams in Slack?
The basic tenets of team management are simple:
- Focus individual efforts towards a shared goal.
- Allow team members to work to their strengths.
- Create an environment that encourages growth.
- Practice transparency and effective communication.
It’s every leader’s responsibility to assess how their current tools and processes affect team management. Hint: If your team is heavily relying on email for day-to-day communications, then it’s definitely time to consider a tool that allows for real-time communication like Slack.
To start managing a team in Slack, create a workspace and invite your people. Within the workspace, you’ll have your teammates, channels, direct messages, and any files that your team uploads.
Let’s do a simple overview of each of these core features.
- Teammates. There’s no limit to how many people you can add to a workspace, even in Slack’s free plan. (We’ll talk more about how the different tiers stack up later in this blog post.)
- Channels. A channel is essentially a chat window that’s dedicated to a focused topic or team. All Slack channels begin with a hashtag. Let’s imagine that you and your friends created a workspace for planning a road trip. You might have channels for #foodie-stops, #beautiful-views, #hotels... you get the idea. A channel can be either private to a select few people, or public to everyone in the workspace.
- Direct messages. What about the odd message here and there, irrelevant to any of the existing channels? Going back to our example of the road trip, let’s say you need to ask your friend Alex a very important question: Barbeque or sour cream and onion chips? Direct messages, or DMs, are perfect for one-off messages like this, and you can use them whether you’re chatting with one other person or in groups of up to nine people.
- Files. Since modern teams don't communicate solely through text, Slack is a multimedia platform. You can share files uploaded from your computer or from apps like Google Drive.
Of course, these are only Slack’s foundational features. Slack has so many more awesome features, which we’ll briefly recap.
- Workflow Builder. In essence, Workflow Builder is how you can automate actions without having to write a single line of code. Some automations are available through integrations, while others work with Slack alone. For example, you could ask Slack to send welcome messages in someone’s DMs when they join a new channel. You can even build an automation to hold daily standup meetings right from Slack. Arrange your team members to receive an automatic Slack message everyday, asking them for updates on their progress. All they have to do is reply, and there you have it: updates without the manual check-ins. You can find templates for more workflows here.
- Huddles. Huddles are one of Slack’s newest features. Essentially, they’re voice calls, but they’re meant to “mimic the fast, informal discussions that took place when everyone worked from the office.” As such, they only involve audio (no voice), and they’re quick to launch.
Can you manage projects with Slack?
At its core, Slack is a communication and collaboration tool — not a project management tool. But that doesn’t mean it’s not helpful for project management.
For example, a well-managed project requires a standard way to communicate. Communication and project management apps go hand-in-hand. Second, Slack offers plenty of integrations with PM favorites, from Asana to Wrike. Long story short, while Slack is not intended to be a project management platform all on its own, it still makes for a great supplement to whatever project management tools you’re using.
Slack and its project management capabilities
Here’s how to use Slack for project management, in two parts:
- How to adapt Slack’s internal features for project management
- How to leverage Slack’s integrations with external tools for project management
First up: internal features. To recap, channels, one of Slack’s core features, are dedicated spaces for predetermined topics. One way to use channels for project management is to create a channel just for your project. You might use the prefix “project-” or “proj-” to name your project, which is especially convenient if there are multiple projects or types of channels in your workspace. (Organization is always key!)
When you click on a channel’s details, you’ll get a further look at the channel’s topic and description. To tailor these details for your project and make it work for project management, you could insert your project’s why into the topic section — kind of like North Star for the project. That way, team members never lose sight of the main objective.
You might add the latest update from the project to the channel’s description so that everyone knows where the project currently stands. (We hope that in the future, Slack enables descriptions to automatically reflect the current status of a project.)
Slack’s internal features are great for project management but they don’t offer everything you need. That’s where integrations come in.
Slack’s project management integrations include:
- Jira Cloud
- You can see the full list of project management integrations here.
Let’s take the monday.com integration as an example of what’s possible. With it you can create new tasks — and update their statuses — right from Slack. So, when your team is discussing your to-do list in Slack, you can create an action item right then and there, without having to switch windows. This saves time — and focus.
The Jira Cloud integration offers another example. It allows you and your team members to get notifications in Slack, so you’re always up-to-date on what’s happening within Jira. You can also create issues right from Slack. To give your Slack conversations context Slack will even insert previews of issues right into conversations whenever someone mentions an issue.
The Asana integration is equally awesome, and takes advantage of Slack’s slash commands. For example, you can type /asana create to create a new Asana task in Slack. Or you can type /asana link, and link an Asana project to a Slack channel. The Slack channel will then show notifications for any important project updates happening in Asana.
These are just a few ways you can turn Slack into a project management companion. Slack can be a single roof over most, if not all, of your different tools. When all of your favorite tools and people are synced up, the whole project management process runs much more smoothly.
What are the challenges of team management with Slack?
It goes without saying that no app or software or tool is perfect. In this section, we’ll address some of the disadvantages of using Slack for team management — and some potential solutions.
- Slack limits message history to 10,000 messages with the free plan.
The ability to search message history is one of Slack’s most useful features. You can use it to trace a project’s progress, get new members up to speed, and figure out where you last left off on a project.
Unfortunately, Slack’s free plan only lets teams access the most recent 10,000 messages. 10,000 messages may sound like a generous amount, but you’d be surprised by how many messages a team of two can exchange in just a few months. Luckily, Slack’s next tier, Pro, offers unlimited history.
Pro costs $6.67/user monthly, which is moderately expensive compared to other team communication apps. The good news is that upgrading to Pro restores access to all of your messages if you had previously hit your limit on the free plan.
- Slack can be distracting.
This is a problem with any communication app, especially with push notifications. Slack’s default settings make it very easy for notifications to get out of hand — especially if your workspace is phttps://craft.getclockwise.com/admin/entries/blog/54890?draftId=509&fresh=1#articularly active.
Don’t get us wrong — staying in the loop is important. But Focus Time, without the noise of constant notifications, is essential for productivity. Luckily, Slack lets you customize your notification schedule, set yourself as away or active, and even set status updates. You can even automate your status update to say “In a meeting” based on your Google Calendar.
- Onboarding multiple workspaces is more complex than it needs to be.
If you plan on using the platform for more than one workspace, Slack requires you to create a separate account for each one. Though we appreciate the fact that you can use the same email address across all accounts, we have to admit that this extra step seems unnecessary.
As far as challenges to team management go, Slack doesn’t have any glaring disadvantages, especially if Slack’s Pro plan is within budget and you’re able to secure unlimited message history.
How much does Slack cost?
Now for what everyone wants to know: pricing. Slack offers four pricing tiers. Free, Pro, Business+, and Enterprise Grid. Here’s a really basic breakdown of how these plans stack up to each other.
- Free comes with 10,000 searchable messages, ten apps and integrations, 1:1 calls (video or voice), and two-factor authentication.
- Pro ranges from $6.67–$8 per user monthly and comes with unlimited searchable messages, unlimited apps and integrations, 1:1 and group calls with screen sharing, 10 GB per teammate, and Slack Connect (to use Slack with external partners).
- Business+ ranges from $12.50–$15 per user monthly and comes with everything that Pro comes with plus an extra 10 GB per teammate (totalling 20 GB per teammate), along with extra security and workspace management features like SSO and the ability to manage member accounts.
- Enterprise Grid requires you to contact Slack’s sales team for a quote and is the most powerful of the Slack plans — with 1 TB storage per member, unlimited workspaces, HIPAA-compliant message and file collaboration, and more.
The bottom line
Keep shared files in one spot, create a home for every conversation, and get in touch with your colleagues — without getting sucked into your inbox. Slack can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be, depending on what automations and integrations you add. All in all, Slack is a solid choice if you’re managing a team of any size.