In the year 2004 I was working in a development team and one guy suggested to use chat. I didn’t see the advantage to chat with other team mates next door. I could stand up and talk to them directly or pick up the phone. The chat client looked so ugly, I didn’t get notified on new messages, couldn’t see the history and so on. 2011 I joined Atlassian and they were using chat heavily. I must say, my opinion about chat has changed dramatically in the last 2 years. I think every organization should add chat to their communication tools to get rid of the email flood and be better informed what’s going on.
Here are my 10 reasons why I love chat:
1. Real time conversations
Emails are bad for conversations. Chat’s are designed for that. Asking a question, discussing a topic or just a group question: You normally get an answer instantly.
2. Team chat rooms
We have chat rooms for everything: Product development, product design, it administration, football, you name it. Chat rooms helps teams to discuss a topic or connects you with experts of specific topics.
3. Expert chat rooms
Do you know who to call in IT if you need access to a specific server? What was the IT guys name and is he maybe on vacation? A ticket system is too slow. We have expert chat rooms where IT experts or product experts hang around. It’s very easy to raise a question and get the answer within seconds with chat.
4. Real time development information
…at one place: build failures, deployments on the test server, new pull request: It’s our real time notification center for our code. When a build fails a developer can answer through the same channel that he’s looking into it. Our marketing has even connected our chat to Confluence and see edits of pages in a specific space.
5. Documented conversations
Our chat records every message. Even when I was not online I can look up what the team has been discussed. I also go back to conversations if I know that someone shared a link or a file with me that I can’t remember anymore.
6. Remote team discussions
I work remotely. I can’t imagine how I would share the link of our daily video conference, an update of a new presentation or just my actual experience at a dev conference with the rest of the team. No matter if I sit at home or being on the road: It’s my instant and always available connection to my team!
7. See who’s there
A green bubble next to my team mates name tells me if he/she is currently online and I can expect an answer immediately. When the person is not available I decide to write an email (yes, we also do that sometimes) or I write him/her anyway (see reason 8).
8. Offline notifications
When I’m offline or not at my desk for some time (yes, that happens) and someone writes directly to me or @mentions me in a room, I got a notification on my mobile and additionally an email. This way people avoid writing an email directly and I would answer through chat when I’m getting online again.
Never underestimate that: It’s hard to express emotions through text. In modern chat tools you have the possibilities to use emoticons, little pictures to show your emotions. If you’re surprised, just add (boom), which will look like (If you use HipChat here’s a list of all emoticons).
Bots are a great way to find all kind of informations: Which product version runs on our test server, when was the last deployment or ask if the current build on the master branch is green. Just ask the bot!
Chats can replace emails for a lot of situations, helps remote teams to grow together, can keep information in one place and act as a notification center… but it can’t beat face to face conversations and meeting people in person.
BTW: We use and love HipChat at Atlassian!