Communication at Work

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Good communication (imho) is the most important factor contributing a successful project or product. Interestingly, the ways we communicate at work are pretty diverse. The recent acquisition of Slack by Salesforce had me thinking about alot about this. Here is a list of how I communicate at work:

  1. Slack for general conversation
    1. Including posts for longer form information
  2. Google Docs for information that requires quick comment and multi-user editing
  3. Google Sheets for information that has some matrix structure (that covers alot of ground)
  4. Google Slides (or PowerPoint) for presentations
  5. JIRA for engineering tickets, but it also has a bunch of stories, initiatives, use cases, etc.
  6. Confluence for pages that have a structure (like ten pages that go together in a tree) and are more about publishing and less about co-editing.
  7. Inline and other comments for all of the above.
  8. Zoom meetings including the recordings both downloaded and cloud with their transcripts. Don’t forget zoom chat.
  9. Aha! for feature prioritization
  10. Figma for design specs
  11. Lever for recruiting ATS
  12. Trello for lightweight lists
  13. Salesforce for various sales information
  14. Zendesk for customer support information
  15. Email for automated notifications and external communications, although for some reason people use this for new hire announcements too.

That’s quite a list of communication channels and systems isn’t it? Most of them are pretty free-form; you just type. Systems that have rich metadata like JIRA and Aha! are the hardest to use. Is it true that metadata automatically creates system usage complexity? Or is it possible that these systems are not very user-friendly, but that metadata and structure is so important that we will jump through hoops just to get it?

I believe that there is a way to have usability AND structure in work communication. But not with current products.

– glen, 2020

I imagine a product that combines the ease of slack communication with the richness of JIRA metadata. I think the key is to look at inline macros/objects can be inserted into a page. Confluence does this a little. You can insert a “Table of Contents” macro quickly and it would dynamically display the right information.

Imagine if you could have richer more interesting macros. Let’s take a customer interview as an example. I would love to be able to quickly type the following commands…

/meeting @JohnDoe @NancyWilson Subject:Going over new roadmap.
#FeatureXYZ +1 @NancyWilson
"I love that, it would make my life a million times better" @JohnDoe 

When you typed something like that it, it would automatically transform from text into data storage. It could count up all the votes for a theme or feature. There are countless little commands that could be made to do interesting things. I imagine an integration with IFTTT would be smart.

I think communication is still unsaturated in terms of good software products. There are many avenues that could improve it. Assuming a vaccine solves our “stay-at-home” problem, there are many companies that are convinced that remote work is the way to go. Remote workforces need all the help they can get.

I hope that remote becomes mainstream for information workers. It’s a good idea for people to move away from the cities and to spread out. It could have a major positive impact on our society if we do it right. (big IF in there)

Anyway, no big conclusion, just logging some thoughts as we end the year that was 2020. I am looking forward to a brighter future.

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