Working as a Project Manager at a full-service digital agency can lead to some serious FOMO. Every team has new technologies and tools coming out that can dramatically change up their everyday workflow. Whether it’s a new prototyping tool for the visual design team, or a new sketching tool for our UX designers, or something like React, or Elixir for the development teams, it always seems like there’s something new and exciting to experiment with.
Yes, there are always new PM tools coming out, but generally I can immediately tell when they are lacking something critical for our workflow, and even if it passes that test, I need the team to be on board with testing it which can be troublesome sometimes. I think this is the reason I was so excited when Viget adopted Slack. Slack is a tool for everyone, but I immediately saw how it could change my day to day work life. How it was something I could play around with, experiment with, and form into a critical part of my process. There are some great Slack hacks out there but now that I’ve had a lot of fun figuring out what works and doesn’t in Slack for digital project managers, I wanted to share the five most successful PM Slack Hacks I’ve found:
1. Set up a dedicated Slack channel for your team
The first thing I do on any project is set up a team-only Slack channel. Different organizations tend to handle this in different ways, but from my experience, a team-specific Slack channel is invaluable. It allows the team to talk with each other, no matter where in the world they are, and allows us to share early designs and prototypes quickly and efficiently. Slack should never be the only place someone can weigh in on something like a design or prototype, but for quick gut checks, it’s perfect. Keeping the conversation flowing between the team creates a better shared understanding of progress, blockers, and work remaining, while fostering a sense of team cohesiveness.
2. Use Slack to give reminders to your team
Now that you have a team-specific Slack channel, you have many options at your disposal for improving your team interactions. One of my favorite tools is, the “Remind” function.
/remind [someone or #channel] [what] [when]
On one project, we had variable deploy times, but always wanted to stop feature development two hours prior to a deploy. Once we decided on when we would deploy that week, it was easy enough to say /remind #myprojecteam @channel, feature freeze is ON! At 2:00pm Wednesday. You can also remind your team to review an agenda or post questions just prior to a client meeting, or even just remind them that they are awesome.
Reminders can be useful to you individually as a PM as well. If you are on multiple projects, chances are you have team members hitting you up multiple times a day on Slack. Keeping track of those DMs can be tough, so if you can’t respond to someone right way, give yourself a quick reminder to follow up. Reminders are quick, simple, and can make you look 100% on top of things!
3. Use Slack’s built-in formatting tools to make communication clearer
Slack provides you a plethora of opportunities to clarify, improve, and polish your communication.
First, formatting your messages in digestible, scannable snippets could not be easier. For a normal message, use ` ` ` before and after your message to wrap it in its own box. We often use this formatting for YTBs (Yesterday, Today, Blockers) to make those messages easy to scan and find:
But it can also be used for any simple list or callout:
You can also use the actual “snippet” function to write or post longer form notes that are still easy to access and don’t cloud up the Slack channel view, as they can be “minimized”. Snippets are great for quick notes from meetings, or even agendas.
I regularly use the Slack “post” functionality to draft and review critical or potentially sensitive emails and messages. Having the team weigh in on what we are telling the client and how can ensure a consistent, cohesive message is being delivered to the client team by all members. It couldn’t be easier to get reviews on your emails/Basecamp posts from your project teams, your PM teammates, or even just a single individual.
Remember too that as well as the built-in formatting, there’s a whole host of Slack apps that you can bolt-on, including project management apps for some of your favorite PM tools such as Asana, Trello and Jira that you can use to integrate into Slack to connect your project communication more directly with your projects management tools.
4. Get the client on Slack too
One of the biggest benefits I’ve found with the ubiquity of Slack is setting up Slack teams with our clients. Having a client in an easy to use group communication tool like this allows us to forge better relationships with our clients, and move more quickly throughout projects. Instead of waiting for meetings or posting formal Basecamp messages for small questions, we can hop in Slack, ask our questions, and get them answered quickly.
Having a client team in Slack comes with its risks of course, but through careful management and monitoring you can see whether the conversation is productive or destructive, and adjust accordingly. Don’t let the concern of a client potentially “abusing” the access Slack gives to you and the team prevent you from even trying it — you may be surprised in the benefit you see.
5. Have fun on Slack
As much as Slack can improve your team and client relationships, and your communication with each, it can also provide a source of fun and relief. Get the Giphy bot set up (and don’t forget to set the max rating of gifs to PG or PG-13 if you’re really daring), add in custom emojis that will make your team laugh, and find other fun games or plug ins you can add that your team will enjoy. Work is hard — find moments to have fun within it.
There are countless ways you can use a tool like Slack to enhance the work you do as a Project Manager. Experiment, take some risks, and always share back to other PMs what you find works and what doesn’t!
What are your #dpm Slack hacks?
Love Slack? What do you think we’re missing? What hacks do you use to manage a project using Slack? What apps are you using? We’d love to hear if you’ve got any more tips – why not share them using the comments below?