For teams that rely on Slack, the first day back at work in 2021 was a bit of a rude awakening. Down for hours the morning of January 4th, those accustomed to immediate chatification wondered what the backup plan was. Email? Asana? Carrier pigeon... or Morse code? We prepare for all sorts of real-world vulnerabilities like blizzards and earthquakes, and companies certainly have crisis plans in case of a serious threat to the business—but what happens when the way we normally talk to each other is interrupted? There's never a bad time to make sure that your best laid plans are as solid as they can be, starting with the health of your company’s internal communications.
1. In case of an outage, what’s the backup plan—and do people know what it is?
At Guru, we don’t use email internally. We mostly use Slack (and Zoom) to communicate. So when our favorite chat platform goes down, the most intuitive thing for us to do is not to simply email each other. After all, some team members may only check email once or twice a day! If the outage lasts longer than we can realistically wait to collaborate, here’s our backup plan, as documented in Guru. We use easily findable language (Slack outage) and we don’t bury it among all of our other tech stack or comms documentation.
If this were to change, our IT team could easily push an announcement out with this Card, letting us know what the new policy was while also completely bypassing our first-day-after-vacation inboxes. Phew! Crisis averted.
2. When things are normal, does everyone know how they’re expected to communicate?
OK, so we don’t use email internally. You might, though. But maybe a few teams have access to Asana; maybe you have both Slack and Microsoft Teams; maybe you have a homegrown solution. In order to cut down on confusion and time lost due to missed messages, you should have clearly documented guidance on how all of your communications platforms fit together.
3. Are the right conversations easy to find?
Say you’re newish to a company and you’re taking over the lead of a project. You don’t know what had been happening with it beforehand, and you scroll through the channel listing in Teams and can’t find what you’re looking for between “Britt’s Team Updates”, “PROJECT TEAM New Releases”, and “The Litter Box: Everything Cats”. So you open a new channel, invite a bunch of people, only to find out a month in that a channel already existed, it has different people, and you had no idea it was there? “Now I’m in 3 channels for the same project,” someone gripes.
It’s time to get control of your channel names! Work through the channel naming conventions you want to standardize, and give everyone a timeline to get them updated.
Another way to maintain chat health is by making sure that people aren’t in more channels than they need to be, and that moribund channels are archived so you don’t end up with one person talking to herself in there (uhhh, I mean, that’s never happened to me; I don’t know what you’re talking about). Be aggressive about leaving and archiving channels! You can always rejoin or unarchive them.
Note: Teams doesn’t currently have archiving capabilities, so find a naming convention for archived channels. Here’s what we advise for archiving Microsoft Teams channels.
Here are some good rules of thumb on auditing your channels:
Internal communications shouldn’t be a stumbling block; nevertheless, it’s something that most companies still struggle with. But getting a handle on all of it now, before your communications channels fragment further, will allow your company to accelerate growth without also accelerating confusion.