How InVision uses Slack to power culture and communication

4 min read
Claire Karjalainen
  •  Jan 23, 2017
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At InVision, we ❤️  Slack. Building a design collaboration platform at our fully remote company—with team members in 19 countries and nearly 100 cities around the world—requires a lot of communication and shared vision.

“Slack is the heart of all the ways we interact for work and play.”

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Ways we customize our Slack instance

Slack allows for plenty of customization through bots, channels, feeds, and emojis. As a company full of creative people building tools for product teams, it’s hard to resist making our Slack installation our own.

Here are a few ways we improve our quality of life at work—and work quality—through Slack:

The most amazing custom emoji and GIF library in the land

Emojis and GIFs add crucial context to text-only communication. As a remote team, visuals help us express ourselves and be understood fasterTwitter Logo—and our custom InVision emojis add a whole new layer of inside jokes and team context.

It helps that emojis and GIFs are just so darn fun. We take advantage of the /GIF command and a suite of auto-response GIFs to insert the perfect lighthearted GIF for every moment.

Related: 7 tips for designing awesome animated GIFs

We have more than 1,150 custom emojis in our InVision Slack—everything from a dancing neon parrot named :partyparrot: to illustrations of memes like Grumpy Cat and Success Kid.

Make it rain Bonusly—inside Slack

We use peer-to-peer employee reward system Bonusly to recognize each other for teamwork, dedication, and helpfulness—and for birthdays, holidays, to contribute to fundraising efforts during special situations, or “just because.”

With a Slack integration, we can send and receive Bonusly instantly from any channel. A dedicated #bonusly channel tracks everyone’s gratitude.

All the news that’s fit to track

Did I mention that Slack is the heart of our communication? It’s also our central brain, in many ways. We track feeds and send all kinds of intelligence straight to our dedicated channels. This helps us keep everyone in the loop, share curated and relevant news, track deals, and more.

Among the things we track in Slack are:

  • iOS app store product reviews
  • Competitor activity
  • Industry news
  • Company and product mentions
  • Sales and enterprise pipeline deals
  • Zendesk integrations for support, with an automatic URGENT workflow for decision flow
  • And much more

Creating our own integration

Since we use InVision to design InVision, we created our own InVision + Slack integration. (If you want to do this, Slack makes it easy!)

This integration gives us the same benefits our customers get, including:

  • Automatic syncing of InVision project changes to Slack channels
  • Customized Slack syncs for each project (all changes, or only when screens need review)
  • Fast, simple feedback from anyone and everyone

Recreating the water cooler

As a fully remote company, we can’t meet around the coffee machine or ping pong table to discuss the latest episode of Westworld (though many InVisioners take advantage of WeWork spaces in hub cities around the world).

Enter Slack, the water cooler of the future.Twitter Logo Our aptly named #water-cooler channel is for everything fun, including our VP of Partnerships’ incredible sock combination.

At more than 260 employees, we’re tackling the challenge of staying connected as we grow.Twitter Logo Recently, we started using Donut with Slack to introduce us to fellow InVisioners, round-robin style. Members of our #yaynewfriends channel get a random direct message connection to a colleague every week.

“Let people create channels around shared life interests, not only work projects.”

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Of course, the best interactions spring up naturally around shared interests. We have more than 350 topic-specific channels, including ones for books, beer, fitness, and pets (we love our pets).

Tips for implementing Slack at your company

We get asked how our company Slack became such a reflection and extension of our culture.

Our biggest tip would be “don’t force anything,” but in the interest of being more actionable, here are a few ways we intentionally made Slack the natural center of our company:

1. Lay out the ground rules and etiquette

“Don’t force it” isn’t the same as “let everyone do whatever they want.” Be clear about the rules, and address potential problems head-on.

For people new to Slack, it’s easy to imagine constantly bouncing from one direct message to another—and productivity plummeting as a result—so ensure your guidelines address that.

“Give people permission to enforce personal boundaries on Slack.”

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At InVision, we have “online” hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern, where all team members are expected to be logged in. We’re not required to respond immediately to every Slack message during that time, and that’s made clear. Team members use the Slack notification snooze and Do Not Disturb features to get work done without interruption.

We also rarely use the ping-everyone-in-the-company @channel command due to our different time zones—we default to @here if we need to get everyone’s attention.

Guidelines around etiquette considerations like these can help your people feel confident jumping into Slack from day 1.

2. Allow your team the freedom to create

Once you’ve addressed ground rules and etiquette—release your team’s creativity. Let everyone come up with channel ideas. Trust your teams to use Slack in ways that make sense for themTwitter Logo (for instance, our engineering team has created bots to help with pushing and logging).

Let your people create channels for things they love, like learning design, books, pets, sports, fitness, and more. This gives them an instant community of colleagues with similar interests and way more reason to engage than if the channels get decided on-high.

3. Start the conversation—and keep it going

When we hear about company Slack instances sitting empty and sad, most of the time it’s because initial enthusiasm peters out and people fall out of the habit of chatting about anything but work.

Designate a few people to be “conversation starters.” We have certain people who are responsible for making sure birthdays get recognized or new people get introduced, for instance. Encourage your more social teammates to be themselves on Slack, asking questions and staying active in team channels to draw others out.

4. Align your project structure with your Slack channel structure

While having department-wide channels like #marketing or #product can be useful, you might find that sort of broad brush approach to be too generalized for how your team actually works.

At InVision, some teams (marketing, for example) create specific channels to align with individual project structure. If we have a project dedicated to building out a library of case studies, the “pod” team on that project gets their own dedicated Slack channel—#case-studies.

Doing this gives project-related conversations context, and helps our team members—many of whom are on multiple projects and teams—keep things straight!

“Your company Slack can drive and reflect your culture.”

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InVision + Slack = ? ?

Our love of Slack goes beyond the product. We admire and share in their vision to build the future of work, helping teams work smarter and better.

Slack reduces noise and removes unnecessary steps to streamline communication while adding all the right things to our culture—fun, visibility, creativity, and heart.

We can’t wait to see what we’ll do together next.

Automatically sync all your InVision project changes to Slack. Try InVision + Slack.

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