Digital project management toolkit series: Slack

by Jayne Hetherington

When we begin a project here at Fresh Tilled Soil, we fire up an arsenal of digital tools to help us keep the trains running on time. Although our project management process is flexible enough to adapt to the communication style of each of our partners, we’ve landed on a core suite of applications that has streamlined our daily work flow and maximized efficiencies.

This is the first in a series of posts outlining the Digital Project Management Toolkit. Up first is my #1 love: Slack

What it is:

Slack is a team messaging application that allows you to organize conversations by topic or “channel.” You can also send direct messages to individuals and groups, share files, and add “reactions” (emojis) to chats.

Internal or external communication: Both

How we use it:

Internally, we set up a separate channel for each project. All team members collaborate in real time from the mobile, web, or desktop app. Culturally, it helps inject everyone’s personality into each project; more importantly, it increases communication speed drastically. The friendly UI helps to keep the conversation organic and casual. Rather than stressing over the “permanence” of an email response, the app encourages natural discourse.

For clients and technology partners who use Slack already (or are willing to get on board), we also set up project channels to keep conversations moving without getting tangled in multiple email threads.

Why we use it:

It has cut our internal emails by 95%! I feel more connected to my project teams, more organized having conversations separated out by project, and less stressed when I’m on the go.

Although it’s no replacement for Google Drive, Dropbox, or Basecamp (all of which will be discussed in upcoming posts), in terms of file sharing, deliverable feedback, and design collaboration, there is an authenticity about Slack conversations that I haven’t seen replicated in other messaging apps. The UX is so on point – guided but not invasive onboarding, intuitive navigation, flexible information panes, multiple notification options – that conversations never get slowed by it.

In fact, we’ve found a few Slack hacks that speed up our conversation flow:

  • Pin to channel: Slack gives you the option to “pin” a message or document to the (collapsible) righthand panel. Key goals and the project mission statement get pinned and easily referenced throughout the project duration. We also tend to pin temporary passwords, working prototypes, Harvest project links, etc, and then unpin when they’re no longer immediately relevant.

Slack Harvest

  • Raise your slack hand if: This is basically the hand tally for multiple option questions. Quickest inline poll around.

Slack Polling

(Note: There are also third-party integrations for polls if you want to manage questions and results more formally.)

  • Instant crowdsourcing, idea building, decision making: For topics that don’t require a lot of deep thought, but do require a bit of crowdsourcing, Slack is an ideal tool. We leave our strategy and design discussions for in-person, video, or screenshare meetings, but straightforward decision-making happens so much faster with Slack.

Slack Scheduling

  • Quick Scheduling: Slack is perfect for minimizingschedule volleying and organizing the right team members quickly for a quick conversation. The ability to quickly add others to an existing conversation streamlines multiple chat threads, and the option to let them see the previous conversation or jump in fresh at the point of invitation keeps your privacy options open.

Slack Crowdsourcing


Slack Meeting

We’d love to hear your Slack hacks! Tweet them to us @freshtilledsoil.

About Jayne Hetherington

Jayne started her career as an adjunct professor teaching mass media, digital studies, and media theory classes while also working as a project manager at...