An alternative to e-mail to improve business productivity


Do we wast too much time on e-mail? Slack can be a solution

Nowadays, a variety of “communication media” on the market pretend to make us more productive. Instead, communication media like Facebook, Twitter, and last but not least e-mail, lead to a productivity-killing communication overload with all its consequences (1).

Research undertaken by McKinsey showed that high-skilled knowledge workers spend on average 28% of their time on managing e-mail. Another 14% of their workweek is spent on ‘communicating and collaborating internally’ (2). Furthermore, research by Gloria Mark, professor of informatics at the university of California, showed that office workers are interrupted approximately every three minutes, where it can take more than 20 minutes before one returns to the original task (3). It goes without saying that increasing the productivity of social technologies, can result in considerable time savings and thus value.

In mid-2013, Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield launched a new workplace and collaboration tool called Slack (4). Not coincidentally, Butterfield and his colleagues intended to eliminate the necessity of e-mail as primary communication tool within organization. Slack offers a SaaS-based communication platform that enables employees to communicate through private groups, as well as chat rooms organized by topics and direct messaging (5). The content in the tool is archived (including e.g. Google Drive and Dropbox integrations) and can easily be accessed through several devices and operating systems. Slack for instance provides applications for Mac, iOS, Android and Windows.

All this sounds promising, but does Slack work? If we solely look at the market, one would be inclined to say yes. Shortly after the launch of the start-up, Slack entered the unicorn club – a select group of start-ups that soared to a $1 billion-plus valuation (5). Moreover, last week Slack confirmed that another round of funding raised $160 million, leading to a total valuation of $2.8 billion.

With its 750.000 daily users and customers including renowned companies like The New York Times, Adobe, HBO, PayPal, and the US State Department, Slack seems to work indeed. In contrary to communication media like e-mail, Slack’s technology appears to better fit employees’ tasks resulting in a better task–technology fit – “the degree to which a technology assists an individual in his or her portfolio of tasks” (Goodhue & Thompson, 1995, p. 216) (6).

Perhaps you might get a little too rosy picture of Slack. Of course the $2.8 billion valued startup looks very promising. Market insiders however expect that such a high valuation is not sustainable in the long run, simply because the fact that there are several other high-quality startups providing business collaboration software as well (e.g. HipChat, Yammer) (5).

Even though Slack might not become a big monopolist in the business communication/collaboration-tool market, an overall trend in which companies try to tackle unproductive communication overload, can be seen. One thing is for sure, by reconsidering communication and embracing collaboration tools like Slack, companies can save themselves a lot of time and money.

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2014/05/29/email-overload-is-costing-you-billions-heres-how-to-crush-it/
  2. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_social_economy
  3. http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324339204578173252223022388?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887324339204578173252223022388.html
  4. http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/16/used-daily-by-750k-workers-slack-raises-160m-to-value-collaboration-startup-at-2-8b/#.kdu0ca:khwv
  5. http://cio.nl/software/85983-waarom-duikt-iedereen-op-slack
  6. Goodhue, D. L., & Thompson, R. L. (1995). Task–technology fit and individual performance. MIS Quarterly, 19, 213–236.
  7. Header image: http://allthingsd.com/20130814/flickr-co-founder-stewart-butterfield-turns-to-workplace-communication-tools-with-slack/

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