As social media-savvy millennials began to emerge in the workforce, it quickly became apparent that the “old way of doing things” would no longer work for organizations. Instead of using email for project-related communication or – gasp! – face-to-face communication, younger generations want to experience the ease of access and familiarity of social media within their work lives.
To answer the call, enter organizational communication tools Slack and Microsoft Teams. These applications were built to bring company communication into the modern age, replacing email chains with text message-style notifications and direct message-influenced conversations.
While these applications can promise to revolutionize how businesses operate, there are hidden dangers within both, that can negatively impact most small to medium-sized companies.
How Slack & Microsoft Teams Destroy Small & Medium-Sized Businesses
Sound dramatic? Perhaps. However, it’s the very direct messaging capabilities of these applications can quickly spiral out of control due to unregulated messaging policies, a lack of documentation, and the breakdown of transparent, company-wide communication. Here are a few of the most significant flaws when introducing Teams and Slack into your business communication strategy:
The Horrors Of Automatic Channel Subscription
Imagine the ability to know everything being said about everything by everyone at all times. While the thought of open exchanges of information seems progressive and positive in a world that loves transparency, the ability to have access to every stream of communication can quickly become a nightmare.
Both Slack and Microsoft Teams automatically subscribe users to every unique channel available in the organization. While a few may be valuable, most are useless to users, and only create a jumbled, endlessly nested list of topics and conversations that break down effective communication. The louder the noise, the more numb users become to the sounds.
The Inability To Find Everything
While you may have automatically been subscribed to all channels, this doesn’t mean that you can easily find these topics. Teams and Slack require users to search for the channels that they wish to follow. Without proper governance and setup, users will be lost as to what @channel they need to follow for updates and vital information. Yet, with access to everything, business leaders often assume that everyone knows the latest posted update on every particular topic.
To help provide “ease of communication”, Teams and Slack both allow for messages in channels to accept responses in threaded messages. While this helps users respond to particular messages in a larger conversation, this can quickly create a nightmare ‘Russian Nesting Doll’ situation.
The size of most small to medium businesses won’t be large enough to garner the need for these multiple channels and threads, so it is likely that a single channel will be created for ease of communication – thus defeating the actual purpose of the service!
The Numbing Effect Of Endless Alerts
If you are using Slack or Teams, you are likely aware of the *ping!* that heralds a new message. Sounds practical, right? The hope is that treating inter-office communication like text messaging will help encourage faster responses. The problem? Too many alerts lead to a numbing to all notifications. This can quickly lead to team members turning off the application entirely to avoid the constant notifications – and destroying the benefit of quick responses. After all, who wants an update on your weekend plans at 4:30 AM? Your urgency is not everyone’s emergency.
Yet Another Vector for Socially-Engineered Hacking
Recent Ransomware attacks have utilized Slack and allowed malicious actors to pretend to be employees. In one of the latest attacks, hackers used Slack to message an IT Help Desk and request a password reset to allowed them access to the network. In many cases, these tools make it impossible for employees to know whether they are chatting with a colleague or an imposter.
Yet More Corporate Secrets in “The Cloud”
Services like Slack are convenient because they are delivered from the cloud. But do you know how secure your messages are? Corporate espionage is real and remains a threat to many businesses. Employees discussing new prototypes, possible acquisitions or legal matters over cloud-hosted messaging services puts an organization at risk that secrets may leak. If you must use messaging, consider using one that you host yourself, with traffic that is encrypted end-to-end.
Trading Healthy Communication For Novel Tech
The real evil of Slack and Teams for small businesses is the slow erosion of healthy communication that makes a company thrive. What sets these smaller companies apart from mega-corporations is the ability to interact with one another in person. While some businesses have employees located around the world, smaller entities are likely located in the same region.
Don’t trade the benefits of healthy face-to-face conversations for the novelty of a messaging app. The risk is higher than the reward – you can damage team unity by delegating everyone to a message thread.
In truth, most companies deploy applications such as Slack or Teams simply because they’re available. However, tech developers were so obsessed with socializing corporate communication tools; they never consideredwhether or not they should. In a sense, these programs solve a problem that didn’t exist in the first place. Sure, communication in businesses is essential regardless of the size. However, bringing every conversation to a centralized location without much user support or control can quickly snuff out innovation and creative expression.
Perhaps the best gift you can give your small business is to focus on human interaction rather than a universe of digital threads.