Review: Slack & Trello in the workplace

10/03/17

This year, we have implemented two new software programs to help streamline our workflow and in-house communication. 

Trello

Trello is a web-based project management app with support for iPhone, Android and Windows phones. It uses the ‘freemium’ model - the application is free to use with purchasable add-ons. Projects are represented by boards, which contain lists, and the lists contain cards (tasks). Team members are assigned to cards, and the cards progress from one list to the next (when the task is complete), visually simulating the project's overall progression from an idea to finished product.

Pros:

  • Organisation on projects - With individual team members being assigned tasks, it's easy to see what needs to be done and have a visual roadmap to project completion.
  • Google integration - We can sign in using Tandem e-mail accounts. Easy setup.
  • Can export/print boards - Can print/export boards as a PDF for a physical reference of progression. Useful for mid-project meetings with clients, catch up with the team, etc.
  • Versatility with ‘Power-ups’ - Add-ons for project boards; Attach Google Drive folders, Dropbox, Card repeater, Auto status reports, etc

Cons:

  • Limited communications - Can only comment on cards, possibility that you can message team members. Not solving the e-mail issue.
  • All in or bust - All team members involved in the project must use it and update their cards for Trello to be effective. Individual management of own cards and moving them to accurately show the project roadmap.

Slack

Slack is a web-based team collaboration tool - Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge (SLACK). ‘Slack teams’ allow communities, groups, or project teams to join through a web address or e-mail invitation sent by the team admin or owner. Channels can be created and titled with specific conversation topics. Public channels allow team members to communicate without the use of email or group SMS (texting). They are open to everyone in the chat provided they have first been invited to join the client. Private channels allow for private conversation between smaller sects of the overall group. These can be used to break up large teams into their own respective projects. Direct messages allow users to send private messages to a specific user rather than a group of people.

Pros:

  • All communications logged - All conversations/communications logged, perfect for reference later on when invoicing/answering enquires etc.
  • ‘Freemium’ - Unlimited sign-ups to a team - We can invite clients to channels created for their projects.
  • Secure - Can only read conversations in the channels if you have been invited to do so.
  • VoIP Calls - If premium is bought, channels can host VoIP calls (similar to Skype)
  • Integration with Trello - Trello boards (projects) can be connected to SLACK channels.
  • Free up Tandem e-mails - The in-house Tandem e-mail traffic should be passed over into SLACK - Less clutter!

Cons:

  • Strictly a communications app - The app is for conversations, using different channels as topics. Will still have to use e-mail for anyone who is not on SLACK. Project management done with Trello or as Tandem have done so far.
  • Informal - Because it is conversation based, like most messaging apps, you lose that formality of e-mails. Best used for Tandem staff working on projects together, with a separate channel for the clients of the project if they wish to receive feedback that way. Otherwise, good ol’ fashioned e-mailing to the client for feedback will be the simple way to do it.

Conclusion

Despite being completely different, both offer integration for each other and could be used together. However, we have not used them in the way we originally intended. Slack has improved response time between staff and reduced email clutter, but as of yet has not improved our communication flow. It has been a successful addition to the team and will continue to be used. Perhaps with this further use, it will improve our in-house communication more. 

We have been trialing Trello for all our new projects, set up with various lists in a board to track tasks through each job. However, this hasn't been as useful as Slack. It has become a somewhat convoluted process for the jobs we do and has therefore fallen into disuse among our staff. We are looking into other systems to replace Trello, that we can use for multiple tasks such as tracking workflow and logging staff hours.