Don’t blame Slack, blame the people using it

I was pointed towards an article recently which was entitled “Slack is the opposite of organisational memory”, which looked at the tools used by many businesses these days to communicate or track their day-to-day activities. The list of services included not just Slack, but also Jira and Trello, and the basic premise was that these services just create noise for your business; they don’t make life easier; and the distractions they cause actually damage your business.

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I understand the viewpoint, and it’s no different to ten years ago when email was the bane of your life as everyone emailed everything to everyone and you drowned under a burgeoning inbox.

It’s also no different to non-work tools that have infiltrated our lives, from Facebook and Instagram, to Twitter and Snapchat. The notifications, the challenges of finding information in an ever-changing landscape, and the apparent need to constantly be engaged are the same in our personal lives as they are in our work lives.

My issue with the premise though is that the tool is just that, a tool. It’s the people using the tool, or enforcing the use of the tool, that are the real issue.

The problem with subject specific Slack channels going off topic is not a Slack issue, it’s a lack of control from those who post indiscriminately.

The problem with late night email notifications is not an Outlook issue, it’s those who send late night email expecting action, and those who keep their notifications switched on at night.

The problem with Jira’s formalised process isn’t a Jira problem, it’s a problem for those who haven’t set up the tool to match the process, or have decided that this is the tool to change their process.

Behind every use of a software tool is a person making a decision on whether to use the tool, and how to use it. Behind every disgruntled employee forced into using something that is making their life harder instead of easier, is a business that doesn’t have a way to understand the needs of those on the front line, or has no way of inspiring the front line to follow the organisational strategy.

I like Slack, but it’s only good for some things I do and I switch off notifications when I’m focused elsewhere. I also leave channels that aren’t adding value for me, and it isn’t a place to store files.

I like Jira, but I’m constantly adjusting how it’s set up based on feedback by the team on what works for them and what we need to achieve as a business.

I switch off most app notifications on my phone, and choose when to check things like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It’s important to know who needs to do what and then match that to the app and the process, and not the other way around.

It’s long been the case where large corporate businesses appear to follow process for process sake, and that’s due to the disconnect between the business and the work.

This is starting to creep in with the numerous productivity and management apps that are working their way into our businesses, but the opportunity is there to put the people at the centre of everything.

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Helping people kick start their product management career at * Product person at Watchfinder

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