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How we Work part 3:
Slacking… on?

How we Work is an ongoing series where we talk about the software and services we use every day to communicate, collaborate and generally get the job done. In this third instalment, we’ll take a look at Slack, an online space where everyone in the organization gets together to talk.

Slack-logoCommunicating around the office, across different offices and across continents can get a little challenging. So it is that we’re always on the look-out for tools that make things easier.

We’ve tried a bunch but recently, we’ve settled on Slack.

Settled on Slack doesn’t quite do it justice. We were really happy to find a secure IM and cross-team communication platform that just seems to get it. That’s flexible enough to bend effortlessly to how we work and so well thought out that it makes it look easy. That doesn’t require a lot of training for people to get started. Whose “rules” for use within the team can be created at a high level and / or that can evolve naturally.

Slack’s tagline is “be less busy.” We like that for its simplicity and its ambition.

At its core, Slack is a web and mobile app that lets teams communicate. It’s kind of an instant messenger client, but it goes beyond by being one-to-one, one-to-several and one-to-many. It’s also very flexible, allowing for integrations with a whole host of web apps that teams already use.

When sharing files in Slack (another strength of the platform), you have the option to send to an individual or to a group. Any comments added will be part of the file on Slack and said file can be searched for (and more importantly, found) at any time.

Teams divide up into their own channels to discuss the stuff that relates to said team. Channels each have their own purpose. Some have rules in place to preserve the original intent of the channel. For example, we have an #all-company channel that’s supposed to be used like an all company email list. Which is to say, sparingly and only when it’s something the whole company needs to hear.

Screenshot 2014-07-23 15.43.32We have over 30 of these channels that the company and various teams use. Some are work related, some are social and others are a place to discuss things that are tangentially work related. People join the channels that relate to them, whether personally or professionally.

The basic division we use for channels is this:

How we Work part 2: Staying on task with Asana

How we Work is an ongoing series where we talk about the software and services we use every day to communicate, collaborate and generally get the job done. In this second instalment, we’ll take a look at Asana, the one app that keeps us all on track.

AsanaIn the previous instalment of How we Work, we discussed development on Ting happening in two week “sprints.”

In these sprints, the product, design, user experience, customer service, front and back end development, marketing, content and other teams all contribute to get features that are planned for Ting off the drawing board and onto the live site / service.

Asana, which operates with the tagline “teamwork without email,” is what keeps us all on the same page.

Asana gives the various teams working on Ting a place to communicate and stay organized. In addition to being a handy personal task and to-do list, Asana gives us one centralized place to get together online.

The key benefit of Asana is that everything is kept in one place and every comment and discussion that’s relevant to a specific project remains tied to that project. Compare that with email where different people get cc’d at different points along the way. Late additions miss out on all the context unless they take the time to read through a wall of email replies and forwarded messages.

How we Work part 1: A look behind the scenes at what makes Ting tick

How we Work is an ongoing series where we’ll be talking about the software and services we use every day to communicate, collaborate and generally get the job done. In this first instalment, we’ll lay the groundwork to give a bit of background into the culture at Ting.

ting_logo_3Here at Ting, we’re a diverse, in some cases geographically dispersed team. We’re basically a start-up within an established Internet company. If there’s ever a problem, be it with communication, collaboration, meetings or whatever, our first instinct is to look to technology for a solution. As with any medium sized company, we have an array of teams and departments, each with their own needs, skills, goals and work styles. Obviously, it’s important to ensure that everyone is working toward the same larger goal. Development on Ting (both the service and the website) uses agile methodology. Development milestones come every two weeks. Everything the various teams have been working on for the prior couple of weeks is committed to the live site. We call these two week period “sprints.” True to its name, agile methodology allows us to be more responsive and to make changes and improvements quickly. It’s not uncommon for a customer-driven request to be brought up early in the week and show up on Ting later that same week.