Why Slack should have task management built in

What’s good for users should trump what’s good for software tools companies

Michael Muse writes an insightful description of how ManagedByQ implemented a support request mechanism on top of Slack and Asana.

The company started out with a willy-nilly, freeform overuse of Slack’s direct messaging or @mentions , so when someone in marketing had an urgent issue for his product team they would simply DM some product team member they happened to know, or worse yet, would @all or @channel to the product team.

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@here in Slack

After realizing the costs of this unstructured, unprioritized regime, Muse structured integrations between Slack and Asana, so that messages created in designated Slack channels with specific microsyntax (‘$request’ in the text of the message) would be converted into Asana tasks accessible to the product team and managed in a more controlled fashion (no fire drills). When the tasks are checked off, the state change is messaged to the requester of the task, automatically.

This is both ingenious and immensely practical. And at the same time this story points out a weakness at the core of Slack. Perhaps task management should be deeply integrated into Slack, so that this use case would be a simple affordance of the tool and not a double integration with Asana? Certainly, a large proportion of communications with teams and across teams are linked to discussing and managing activities that might be best represented as tasks (as currently implemented Asana, Trello, or whatever task management tool). However, the friction involved in moving back and forth from those external tasks and Slack is considerable.

While I understand that Slack wants to be a platform on which many task management tools (and other third party solutions) can play, the lack of integrated task management in Slack is a hindrance to teams actually using the platform to get work done. Task management may be a special case, so central to the heart of managing work that the short distance to an outside service becomes a real headache when it is traveled hundreds or thousands of times a day. A tighter integration of at least a subset of task management capability would give back an enormous amount of time to teams using Slack.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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