How We Communicate Internally, v2

We published version 1 of this post in 2014. Now it’s 2016, and things have changed.

At Mindsense, we almost never use email to communicate. If that’s surprising, consider that we came up with Mail Pilot because we hate email. Here’s what we do use to communicate.

Slack (replaced HipChat)
Everything goes through Slack; it’s our home base. Almost always when any of the other tools are used, we also post a link to it in Slack (if an integration doesn’t do it automatically). Here’s our channel setup:

#content — content to share on social (this is a new one, I’m curious to see if it sticks around)

#devt-* — product-specific development. Don’t ask what cantaloupe is, it’s a secret.

#general — everything else that’s relevant

#github — hooked up to the GitHub integration to post updates when there are changes to branches, pull requests, and comments

#lil-bit-of-awesome — Shamelessly stolen from Alex at Groove: “Good news; positive emails from customers, press and blog mentions, metric milestones and more. Importantly, it’s also where people can give their teammates shout-outs for jobs well done.”

#making-mindsense — this channel predates our blog by the same name (it was the inspiration for the new blog’s name) and doesn’t have anything to do with the blog. It’s for working on the company itself (purpose, core values, vision, BHAGs, goals).

#marketing — you guessed it, marketing

#office — with lots of “@here”s, this channel is used to ping everyone currently in the office (for important stuff, like who wants to go get some Thai food)

#pets — when we’re remote, our cats make appearances here

#random — everything else that isn’t relevant. Lots of Hokie football stuff in the fall and technology stuff year-round.

#standups — when we’re remote, where we hold our daily standup

#support — where our support team asks questions of our development team

Here’s the integrations we have set up:

  • GitHub posts pull requests, comments, and new branches
  • Giphy keeps things fun and needs no further explanation (thanks to Christina at Heyo for the tip)
  • Google Drive & Twitter to expand links automatically
  • IFTTT to automatically post messages in #general when something is posted to our intranet

Why did we ditch HipChat for Slack in 2014? There was something about the relaxed tone, channels feeling better than rooms, and a million other tiny things. There’s no one feature that made us switch, Slack just ‘felt’ better. I know I’m not the first to say it, but it was true at Mindsense, too.

Trello (replaced ZenHub which replaced Pivotal Tracker)
We have an on-again off-again relationship with our scrum tools. With a team as small as ours, the clarity and focus that these tools give us is often already there. We defer to these tools when things aren’t so clear; usually when we’re starting a new project. But they always seem to fall by the wayside as we get into the groove.

I do have to say, we really did love ZenHub. It does a great job at bringing GitHub issues into a scrum board, so we don’t have to manage duplicates of everything. We eventually ditched it though since it had no free option for when we’re in the “off-again” part of our relationship with scrum tools.

Here’s our big new one since the last time we posted this. Groove is a fantastic help desk tool, and we use it to communicate internally about tickets and customer issues.

We also use Groove’s fantastic reports to help guide our issue resolution, since we can see what tags have been used the most, what knowledge base articles are the most read, what searches are the most common that don’t have articles, and which articles are frequently marked as unhelpful.

We still use GitHub’s wiki to keep important development information close to the code, pull requests and comments to discuss solutions, and issues to log and discuss customer requests and reports. (That’s only the first step in how we process feature requests, though).

Intranet on Google Sites (replaced Basecamp 2)
While I have great respect for the Basecamp team, I realized in 2014 that we were paying quite a bit for Basecamp and we were aching for features and customizations that it didn’t have. In its place, I scaled up an intranet with more features (but far less user-friendly) on Google Sites. It can integrate with Google Docs / Drive, IFTTT via email for posting notifications to Slack, and we’ve customized it so that the home page has our logo and our core purpose. (Thanks to Zach at Venveo for the tip)

Tools we’ve abandoned

  • Email — we’ve gotten better about using Slack exclusively, and with push notifications on mobile, no one misses a beat
  • Phone — we no longer have any remote team members which cut out our need for calls

What does your team use to communicate internally?