Today, we ran a reported piece by Terri Coles detailing one of the persistent issues that collaborative platforms like Slack have introduced into the workplace. While the collaborative work platform is a great place for both synchronous and asynchronous communication, it can also be a black hole where information flashes into view briefly and then disappears. This opens an organization to legal risks, among others.
"We do expect to see more high-profile cases involving Slack and other team collaboration apps," said Peter Callaghan, CRO of PageFreezer, an enterprise archiving platform. "So many decisions are made over Slack -- and many organizations fail to consider the record-keeping implications, which inevitably will result in legal and compliance issues."
In addition, Coles found, when Slack use happens without good policies and practices for documenting conversations on the app, the platform can actually create more work.
Slack's been recommending practices against this for years. A blog post that's nearly six years old recommends that organizations set up different types of Slack channels, with the idea that people will use an #announcements channel differently than they would an #ask-the-ceo channel. The clear delineation of channel functions is a first step in a Sisyphean task: corralling and capturing information so it can be archived, searched, stored and retrieved, both for internal use and for compliance purposes.
As Coles' story makes clear, part of solving the Slack conundrum is to establish or introduce a documentation-first workplace culture: "Any of the general best practices for workplace documentation can also be applied to your company's use of Slack, whether that's in the office or in virtual workspaces."
Slack messages are where email was back in the early 1990s: a trove of electronic information that presents a variety of challenges in everything from discovery to storage. But like email then -- and now -- Slack messages are a way to boost information transmission, build and expand intraorganzational relationships, and normalize communication. Information discoverability and storage are vital, but they're possible only when information is not siloed. One of the best things Slack has done for the workplace in the past few years is normalizing the first step of a documentation-first culture: getting the information out of people's heads and into a shared digital space. Imposing some structure and process on that habit is a promising next step.