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“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home” 
Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation [1977]

Dr. Slacklove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Technologydr-strangelove

The tech industry lives and dies by its ability to innovate and create new things, and on occasion, that pressure leads to some new products that miss the mark. Sometimes, a new technology just isn’t very useful. Other times, new things are just silly. And in a few cases, when the word ‘silly’ doesn’t cut it, it’s fair to say that sometimes, innovations are downright ridiculous.

But every once in a while, something new comes along that is really a game changer, even if, adopting its use takes a little long in beginning.

For me, this happened 15 or so years ago with texting. My initial thought was,“what’s the point? I’ve got a phone, voicemail and email…why would I possibly need to send a text?” Now, not only is texting indispensable, for most of my closest friends and family, it’s the preferred form of communication.

I just went through the same experience with Slack, a new business collaboration and productivity tool that first launched in August 2013. Slack started off as a gaming company, then made the decision to focus on its workplace productivity tool (the Slack we know today). This decision obviously paid off as Slack is now worth $4 billion, and the editors at Inc Magazine are describing it as “one of the smartest pivots in the history of business.”


“What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders” 
Michael Dell, Chairman/CEO of Dell Computers, when asked what he would do if he was CEO of Apple [October 1997]
Apple is now worth $746.4 Billion
Dell Computers sold to a private investor group in 2013 for $24.4 Billion

Slack for the Construction Industry?

If you’re reading this, then chances are you are somehow involved in the construction industry which is not necessarily known for its early adoption of new (any?) technology. Sure, construction tech is hot, and there are plenty of construction-specific technologies being introduced all the time. But Slack sounds like it belongs in an office full of millennials working on the next AngryBirds. What use could the construction industry possibly have for a cutting-edge app like Slack?

Plenty, in our humble opinion.

We recently came across a post by an Australian homebuilder called Ambient Constructions, describing how their adoption and use of slack has revolutionized their workplace communications, “significantly reducing [their] internal email and transforming how [they] monitor each of their job sites.” While zlien doesn’t have a relationship with Ambient, there are a few details about them that we gleaned from reading their post.

First of all, Ambient probably qualifies as a Small-to-Medium Business (SMB), but they’re pretty busy with up to 20 different projects going at any one time. They have 20 employees in the field and another 6 full-time employees in the home office. And in our opinion, their use of Slack is a perfect model for many construction companies – a best practice if you will that will have a huge impact on improving company-wide communications and efficiency.


“Two years from now, spam will be solved” 
Bill Gates, [World Economic Forum, January 2004]

Every Project Gets a Channel

#zlife-slack-channel-zlien

One of the most valuable features of Slack is the channel functionality, Slack’s way of organizing posts and content. Here at zlien, we use the channels much like any company would. We have channels for each department – #sales, #marketing, #user-success, etc – and channels for specific aspects of our operations and other company initiatives. We also have channels devoted to fun stuff – the #ballers channel is used to organize pick-up basketball games, #kick-our-saas is the channel that our kickball team members use to manage their team of the same name, and our #zlife channel is where we all share pics, posts and other content about what we do when we’re not at the office.

ambient-construction-slack

As a construction company, Ambient took the logical (if not ingenious) step of creating a unique channel for each of their projects (see screenshot, left), allowing them to group all of the communication (and documents, pictures, and other files) about that particular job into it’s own unique channel. The best part of the channel functionality becomes apparent when you need to track down some specific piece of information relating to the project. Instead of having to comb through hundreds of email messages to find the info you need, you are able to just search within the channel itself. While this may sound a little abstract, trust us – searching in Slack works beautifully.

Say goodbye to your over-crowded inbox

One of the biggest bonuses of Slack is that it has virtually eliminated the need for intra-office emails. Here at zlien, our intra-office email is near zero. Yes, you read that correctly – thanks to Slack, I, along with my 70 coworkers and freelancers spread (literally) across the globe, are able to do our jobs without having to send a single email to one another.

So, you might be wondering – well then, what do you use email for now that you have Slack? For the most part, my inbox is made up of emails to and from people at other companies that we do business with. It’s pretty amazing, really – internal communications live inside Slack, and external communications live inside my email.


“I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse” 
Robert Metcalfe, Founder of 3com [Infoworld, December 1995]

Ambient’s original post is a pretty quick read and is well worth your time. You’ll have to consult with Slack directly for any other questions you might have (other than being a customer, zlien has no other relationship with Slack, and they were not involved in the creation of this post in any way). But do yourself a favor and check it out – if your experience is anything like that of the good folks at Ambient or like our experience here at zlien, then you’ll have a chance to take a huge leap forward in improving your communications and productivity, especially between your office employees and your people out in the field.

We’re very interested to hear more about some new technology tools you might be using in your construction business. BIM, drones, project/document management, collaboration tools (especially in the field) and full-blown ERP systems for larger-sized companies, all seem to be gaining a foothold in the industry. What new tools have you adopted for your business? Are you happy with the results? Is the benefit you’re getting worth the time and effort it took to get up to speed? Please let us know your thoughts!