My Dreamforce 2022 top picks for education industry part 2: Slack

Slack allows you to manage all your work from one digital headquarters.

I must confess I do really like Slack. I use it in my daily work and I find it a great improvement on how work used to be before Slack. I hear many tout Slack as the heart of the new Digital HQ, and after getting more familiar with the tool I have to say I can understand what they’re talking about. Why is it then so great? I can share my own insights, and why I think it would be good for education institutions, too.

It’s just pretty

Slack first and foremost has a great user experience and interface. This, I know, is a bit of a personal preference. I have extensive experience with Microsoft Teams and Google Chat. Compared to the two, I think Slack is an improvement. What’s so good then, you ask?

The way channels work to break communications by context is quite clear, and they’re easy and fast to set up and manage. Threaded discussions work great and don’t clog up the interface (unlike with some other tools). Workspaces are clear and a good way of separating internal and external channels, and navigating is just really clear. I think some other tools like Teams suffer a bit from being not just a communications tool, but also often having file management set up as well so it all feels like a bit much and finding the right conversations can become a chore. And don’t even get me started on teeth-grinding use of threaded responses or search function in Google Chat. Now granted, it takes a little bit of configuration to your UI to really get the most out of Slack, but after about 10 minutes from opening settings, I was pretty satisfied.

Let’s be honest, however. Of course twin columns of UI and UX, although mighty precious in a tool you use daily, are not really a reason by themselves to pick one or the other. Let’s talk about what makes Slack great, especially for Salesforce users.

Plug in, baby

I have mused over this a fair amount and the number one great thing about Slack (if you are a Salesforce user) is that you can plug in Slack to your Salesforce to make Slack a really powerful tool in your workday. Let’s discuss an example. Salesforce just came out this year with the first (of many, I’m sure) OOTB Slack application for Education Cloud, Success Hub Alerts. This connects Slack to Student Success Hub, the Salesforce purpose-built solution for student advising, in a great way.

Let’s say that a lecturer notices that a student is skipping class and in danger of dropping out. They can create an alert in Salesforce that then feeds into a designated Slack channel where student advisors or counsellors can see the alerts and reach out proactively to help the student. This helps the instructors and student advising teams to work better together to support the students and creates a much more inclusive experience for the student.

In fact, you can set up Slack on Salesforce so that you can manage your Salesforce records in Slack, do data entry, create feed channels where information on important activity in Salesforce is published and more. It’s almost like you can manage all your work from one Digital HQ… imagine the possibilities of having your siloed teams who manage the student lifecycle from recruitment & admission, student support & administration, faculties, alumni, and even research and commercial activity, being able to collaborate efficiently together in one tool, empowered by Salesforce as one source of truth? One can dream.

Now granted, it’s never as easy as just plug-and-play, but this is definitely the direction I see Salesforce going more and more with future updates to the platform. Of course, it’s not just Salesforce. Slack has all kinds of great plugins you can activate, like Google Calendar, Miro, Jira, Lucidchart and Quip, to name a few. A lot of these tools are something used by the various teams in a university anyway, connecting them to Slack with Salesforce can bridge a productivity gap when your teams are collaborating, reducing the amount of context switching between tools and making it easier to share information.

One place to rule them all

Mount Doom has a similar effect on the One Ring as context switching has to efficient working: destructive! In the digital environment, you have to often constantly switch between systems as you do your work. This issue has only increased after COVID with so much work happening over virtual collaboration. Every time you switch it takes you just a little bit of energy to orient to the different UI/UX, retyping your credentials if you’ve logged out due to inactivity, copy/pasting information between systems and so on. Rarely does any one particular activity feel overwhelming, but the sheer amount of times you have to do that context switch during a given workday builds up as fatigue and you just feel your energy melt away like golden droplets into the hot lava flow of unproductivity.

Having one place to work from where you can manage your communication with peers and externals, and read and enter data for your day-to-day processes and activities, sounds like a cool breeze! Support for Salesforce automations will no doubt increase on Slack, which means you can handle even more business processes without switching tools. There’s also a built-in workflow builder in Slack, which can automate things like welcome messages to new teammates or setting up a process for people to easily submit requests to a channel.

I’ve experienced several different kinds of collaboration tools over the years and the things I look for in the best are Clarity, Efficiency and Ease-of-Use. Slack definitely offers all three for me as a Salesforce user, and I’m looking forward to even more OOTB and platform functionality becoming available via Slack in the future.

Kari Poutanen

Global Industry Lead, Education

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