Love it or hate it, group chat has a place in the day-to-day life of every agency. No more sitting in a pod with a designer, a UX lead, a project manager, and a developer to make decisions: newly available tools are changing the development process for the better. Group communication tools have increased transparency, improved efficiency, and strengthened collaboration with our clients.
Here at FortyFour, we have group channels for everything: for projects, for teams, for favorite TV shows, for random thoughts (and there are a lot of random thoughts). Catching up daily on the kitten and Nicholas Cage memes can be time consuming, but distractions aside, we’ve found that private and public chat rooms have enabled us to make decisions without losing momentum.
Before we sing the praises of group chat, it’s worth noting that it has its own drawbacks. According to research that I found online (it must be true), every distraction costs somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours of productivity. On top of having an open floor plan and a highly collaborative environment at FortyFour, our group chat never goes away. Everyone has to learn to manage the distractions in their own way.
Increasing Transparency and Efficiency
Developers don’t always agree on the best way to solve a problem, and that conversation can require a lot of back and forth. Being able to concisely make a point, gather feedback, and come to agreement with multiple people without leaving our seats saves us so much time. We use group chat to to share blogs and articles about the latest technology and to find common solutions for troubleshooting–seeing who is online at any given time allows real-time conversations that helps solve problems instantly. Plus, conversations aren’t siloed between two developers. That conversation is instantly turned into community knowledge, which makes us a better, smarter team.
Improving Client Collaboration
Between the client teams and our agency teams, it’s pretty normal to see an email with more than six carbon copies. And when everyone begins replying with their thoughts on the topic, the result can oftentimes be confusion and design by committee. Whether chatting through an integration with a client developer team member or clarifying functionality of a feature ticket with a designer, we use group chat to facilitate multiple people quickly weighing in on a decision. This allows us to write more code without stopping and looking for answers.
In our work with Case-Mate we’ve found this to be especially valuable. We have a designated channel where the Case-Mate team is always active and accessible. Similarly, we would be lost without our CREDO Mobile channel. We work in tandem with their development team, and chat makes our work much more efficient.
Giving Everyone a Voice
Group chat also flattens the hierarchy. In a conference room, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but there aren’t many meeting rooms where the ideas of twenty people can be considered quickly and fairly. In a group chat, everyone can voice their opinion. You shouldn’t always replace face-to-face meetings, but sometimes the online forum is a better substitute.
Gone are the days of drowning in email and worrying that you’ve left someone off of the cc: list. Allowing product owners, testers, project managers and developers to have the same access to project-based information, the playing field is more level and transparent than ever. Developers are dependent on their team members, and knowledge sharing is a critical component of developing and iterating. Through group chat, we’ve found ourselves making better products more quickly.