screen grab of a work chat tool similar to Slack
PHOTO: Pankaj Patel

No, this isn't yet another diatribe about the new Slack logo — that's irrelevant to me. What is relevant, however, is what's currently happening in the group messaging market, from the announced end of Watson Workspace to the recently revealed user numbers for both Slack and Microsoft Teams. 

The influx of group messaging tools has delivered benefits, such as a drop in workplace emails, but has also resulted in a flood of often overlapping channels and information — and information silos. These tools demand our attention, often interrupting and distracting us from our work. 

We've reached a point with group messaging tools that we've already gone through with email and other collaboration tools. How do I effectively use the tools at my disposal? Can new tools — Twist, for example, is a more task-oriented alternative to Slack — provide the solution? I have my doubts. 

Which begs the question: Have we reached the plateau of group messaging use and are we now diving into the valley of disillusionment?

Related Article: Is the Answer to Information Overload More Technology?

Information Silos Aren't a Slack Problem

The problem isn't only a group messaging problem. All too often, we find ourselves in a jumble of tools and channels: group messaging apps are currently en vogue, but we also have enterprise social networks, video conferences, online meetings, document repositories and enterprise content management, intranets and, of course, email.

And people continue to use email to accomplish tasks for which there are other, better tools. Large file attachments are sent in bulk, information is hoarded in personal silos and people try to handle collaboration and workflows via email. Many workers still don't seem to know what to use for what and when. When do we use Slack? When email? Often these decisions are made based on personal preference or group dynamics.

This kind of ad hoc approach leads to the information silos previously mentioned and the creation of information islands, which exist scattered in the enterprise in departments or project groups. Even integrations, which there are many for Slack, don't really help. (It strikes me as rather the opposite, yet we still need these integrations.) 

We have dual, complementary problems: information overload and a lack of filters to parse through the information.

Related Article: The Digital Workplace Is All About Connectivity

We Need to Reach an Agreement

So what comes next? 

We need to agree on which tools we should use for what. Of course, the IT department would ideally like us to agree on a company-wide defined toolbox. But is this realistic in the era of bring your own applications, independent project groups and agile teams? Or does the demand for agility necessitate that we redefine the tool mix for each project?

Whatever the case, coaching is necessary once you've selected the tools — whether by the community manager, the agile coach or scrum master. Sharing information, communicating and working together are skills that need to be learned and latently trained. If you just throw a new tool over the fence, it will create more chaos and silos than benefits. We have seen this in all phases of collaboration tools: in the proliferation of Notes databases, in the confusion of SharePoint islands, in the wide variety of connection communities, or in the flood of Slack channels.

We're getting too many messages. We need to start finding answers.