• Olli Junnila

Choosing your Social Intranet Platform

Photo via Shutterstock

There’s a lot of platforms out there and it’s really hard choose one. Often we hear people comparing Slack and Workplace. When you look at reviews from the Internet, they don’t point out the differences clearly. The best way to understand is by trying, but having a good portion of your organisation trying two different solutions is not really efficient and quite disappointing for the ones who started to build their communication threads into the system which eventually was not chosen.

So what actually sets these platforms apart?

Both of them have a good reputation, are solid cloud services, priced ok, strong emphasis on user experience and have a well built integration and application development farmework.

Here’s my two cents on the major differences:

Slack is like a well groomed and easily approachable IRC. IRC was back in the days THE system used for chatting among your colleagues, especially in the software industry. It was built by engineers for engineers. Slack brings the fast paced chat into a corporate environment, now for everyone - not only the techies. It supports multiple chains/topics, you can easily ping people, get notified, attach files, have a video conference, edit documents with your peers and even has well established integration and bot capabilities. It links to a whole bunch of other online services without coding. It’s nice to use and it’s engaging. What Slack does not have, is an algorithm. You have to spot the message in order for you to see it. Good for knowing what your fellows have been up to in the last day or so, but finding relevant discussions from even a few weeks back can be tedious. Also often there are several chats going on in one group at one time, which often leads to confusion, which in turn might also be quite amusing at times. Slack is excellent for group work, team and project chats and announcements, but what it’s not best of bread is building up a corporate culture and bringing everyone together in one single environment.

Workplace is a closed and secure internal “Facebook” for your corporation. The power behind Workplace is that everyone knows how to use it and every one wants to use it. There’s a very nifty algorithm bringing up relevant content to your feed that you otherwise would have missed. The content is reach and the algorithm really provides a pulse on the organisation. People start to interact across borders and communicational barriers start to tumble down. Workplace also has it’s own instant messaging app called Workplace Chat. It’s just like Messenger, but you can only communicate with your own organisation. The part where Workplace is lacking compared to Slack is in collaborative team work. For example when a large cross functional team is actively solving a problem and it needs to be stored and easily followed. Say software engineers building an integration between two systems:

  • Message sent…did you receive it?

  • Nope!

  • Ok, let’s try again.

  • Still nope!

  • Ah, now I see them, there seems to be an issue in the XML. Wait a sec.

This is too much like a chat for Workplace, the UI does not really support this kind of chat and Workplace chat is not really best suited for this kind of discussion either. Don’t get me wrong, Workplace can be used for this kind of messaging as well, but it’s not what it’s meant for. What it is meant for, and where Workplace is absolutely killing it, is building a corporate culture and tying the entire organisation into one communication environment. Managers and executives might have a hard time figuring the channels they should be attending in Slack, since most active channels are communication among peers on very specific subject. The less structured channels seem to have low participation.

What would be the ultimate solution?

Merging best of both worlds! Workplace for internal communication for the entire organisation, Slack for fast paced specialist team work and Workplace Chat as the corporate Chat environment. Also a bot enabling a Slack message to be sent to a Workplace group or vice versa would be ultra cool! My advise is; if it’s about building or enhancing your corporate culture and sense of belonging - choose Workplace. If it’s about getting work done - choose Slack. If you need both, don’t hesitate to use them both, just remember to align them properly; Workplace is the corporate communications platform for everyone, Slack is the platform for team & project work.

You can’t go wrong with either one!


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