If there’s any organisation that requires clear communications between its many different divisions, it’s the Aussie media staple, Nine. As our largest locally-owned media company, Nine delivers content to Australians across multiple mediums including television, radio, print and digital, every day, all day.
Up until recently, Nine’s internal connections were based on legacy norms and systems that at times could cause more issues than they were designed to solve. Not only that, but Nine’s departments and teams were working with a whole range of disjointed tools that siloed information and challenged productivity.
That changed once Nine streamlined collaboration and communication through Slack. Recently, their CITO Damian Cronan sat down with us during World Tour Sydney 2022, offering advice on how organisations can onboard Slack and get the most out of the feature-packed platform.
In recent years, ‘the future is digital’ has evolved into ‘the present is digital’. Organisations across every industry have been moving to digital, with the pandemic super-charging remote work and the use of digital tools.
But it’s not enough to add every hot new tool to your digital arsenal and hope for the best. In fact, too many channels and tools can backfire — employees may be unsure of when and where to use certain communication methods, and you’re likely to end up with very little standardisation. A digital headquarters allows every member of the organisation to see through the same lens.
Slack, while often mistaken for a mere chat application, includes a wide range of features that enable asynchronous work and even collaboration with external partners. It’s a place where work gets done — from communication to collaboration, to sharing and project development.
Traditionally, organisations have heavily relied on email to manage internal information and move projects forward. As Damian puts it, email is a static tool and isn’t always the most effective when working with complex flows of information.
Six years ago, Nine’s publishing arm began exploring Slack for collaborating and bringing teams together. From there, the organisation discovered just how much it can speed up and streamline processes. Instead of wading through hundreds of emails and threads that are difficult to follow, Slack allowed teams to form channels and group conversations around specific projects, tasks or problem-solving.
Further, Slack allowed passive observers — including executives like Damian — to dip in and out of channels and discussions, observe progress across entire departments, and only intervene if necessary.
“Tasks that used to take days are now taking no longer than 30 minutes,” explains Damian.
One of the primary benefits of Slack is that it allows collaboration on multiple tasks, at the same time, in parallel. This means you’re not waiting for one person to complete a task or answer a question before momentum regains. It means you’re able to trigger new or complementary actions within the same channel, while maintaining clarity and transparency across entire projects.
It also means you don’t have to spend hours briefing a team member you’re bringing into a project, as they can enter the appropriate channel and quickly get up to speed on everything that’s already happened and currently in the pipeline.
In any publishing business, information and trust are critical. That means it’s vital to get even the smallest details right — and, in an organisation as large as Nine, you need smart solutions to ensure small details don’t slip through the cracks. Damian says they’ve been able to use tools like Slack to automate more manual, detail-oriented processes.
Take the process of sub-editing. Previously, in order to ensure what Nine puts out is grammatically correct, team members would need to flag an incorrect detail (often close to deadline), send out and wait for a response to an email, or rush over to the desk of the right employee to discuss the correction.
Slack enables teams to streamline this process through bots in editorial channels that double-check any article slated for publication. And it’s easier for employees to jump in, too. Correcting details is now crowd-sourced — anyone in the newsroom that notices an error can pop into a channel and fast-track the correction.
When Damian was exploring the idea of rolling out Slack to other corners of the organisation, he discovered that many employees were already making use of the tool without any formal mandate. Whereby most other tools are usually only adopted when instructed from management, Damian learned that Slack’s intuitive and user-friendly interface gives it the unique ability to “sell itself.”
This ensured that a wider roll-out of Slack was faster and easier than if they had chosen a solution requiring extensive training or buy-in. Damian noticed that most individual employees take to Slack automatically, finding it easy to adopt and intuitive by nature. And many of the more organic interactions — which used to happen in meeting rooms, kitchens or congregating at someone’s desk — could now happen virtually, all in a single application.
Moreover, employees will still use other tools and platforms. Slack’s broad range of integration capabilities means they can connect their favourite apps to ensure a single, centralised workspace.
Relative to other digital applications, Damian says that Slack has been the easiest to roll out to employees across the organisation, regardless of their experiences, preferences or digital skills. However, he warns that it’s important to remember that different people move at different paces.
This is where Slack’s popularity can help. While individuals respond to change at their own pace, it’s easier to warm to a new tool when most of your teammates are happily exchanging gifs and collaborating in easy-to-use channels.
While Slack tends to come with very little training overhead, it still helps to ensure that teams have access to tips and guides for getting the most out of Slack.
Damian suggests a variety of ways for employees to get familiar with Slack, including a traditional telephone help desk. However, he also encourages organisations to create dedicated Slack support channels for any questions about the app.
Not only do these types of support channels offer a quick way for employees to troubleshoot or clarify features, but even seeking help through Slack is great practice and hands-on experience. No more inquiring, receiving a ticket and hoping someone gets back to you — a dedicated Slack support channel that is regularly manned means real-time, anytime Slack training.
Additionally, encouraging employees to share tips and discoveries is a great way to get slower adopters on board. Something as simple as a helpful keyboard shortcut or connecting other apps can make a big difference.
With the hybrid workspace becoming the norm, collaboration is more important than ever. Damian reminds us that it’s not only about everyday collaboration inside your usual teams, but also across teams that wouldn’t ordinarily have easy access to each other.
For instance, Slack is bringing together teams who don’t always work with one another every day. For Nine, The Sydney Morning Herald newsroom can now easily reach out to the Channel9 newsroom when required, and The 60 Minutes team can collaborate with The Age team on, say, a new exposé. This sort of cross-department collaboration can be arduous over email, but seamless on Slack.
And, of course, this includes external partners like agency teams or contractors.
As Slack continues to change how we work, new and powerful capabilities are constantly introduced. For instance, Slack Connect is a product that allows an organisation to harness the application’s benefits when communicating with third parties such as partners, vendors or even customers.
Slack Connect is one of Nine’s most recent Slack-related adoptions. The product strips away the clunkiness and formality of email, allowing more personalised communications with those outside your organisation. This gives a company like Nine the ability to not only maintain, but deepen their relationships with an endless list of esteemed third parties.