How Seek got Slack

Although it first found a home in a single DevOps team, the use of Slack has spread throughout Seek

After initially being used by a single tech team, group messaging platform Slack has spread throughout Seek and eaten into internal email volumes at the digital employment services company.

Slack is used both for one-on-one communications within the business as well as for channel-based group chats and to house the diagnostic output of a wide variety of tools used by the company’s developers, according to Seek DevOps manager Andrew Hatch.

Members of Hatch’s team were the first to begin using Slack.

His team had been using Lync as a group chat application and then moved to Skype chat because they found it more useful for incident management. The shift to Slack came after a new team member asked why they weren’t using the app.

“We were like, ‘That’s a good idea; why aren’t we using Slack?’” Hatch said.

“We put Slack in, just in our team, and once the hilarity of animated GIFs and other things subsided we realised ‘Actually this is a really good tool for incident management’. Then we thought, ‘This is a really good tool just for our team comms’ and we told some other teams about it — they jumped on board, they loved it. And it pretty much grew from there.”

“I’ve often said that Slack’s one of those interesting tools where probably in a large organisation you would have to go through a business case and a whole bunch of bureaucratic processes to get it implemented,” Hatch said.

“With us it fulfilled a need and it proved to be such a useful tool that it just grew organically very, very quickly.”

Although it was first adopted by a tech team, in the last six to 12 months other areas of the business have increasingly been using the app, Hatch said.

“That’s not to say that all areas of the business use it,” he added. “Areas have their own tool suites that they use to manage inter-team communications including email.”

Across Sleek, Slack has around 1300 daily users.

“We’re seeing month on month, the number of people using it grows, the amount of channels grows, active users grows,” Hatch said.

“It’s definitely becoming more and more popular over time, but we probably aren’t seeing the exponential growth that we saw with it about two, two-and-a-half years ago.”

Although the impact on internal email was minimal in the early days of Slack’s use, it has since eaten into volumes, he added.

 “The bulk of messages on Slack are actually private messages — they’re not actual channel messages — which is saying something,” he said.

“What we’ve seen is that a lot of people are using it instead of email,” Hatch said. “We still use email and email is still largely useful when you want to have a formal communication across a very large audience — where you need mail groups which might have a couple of hundred people in them. In terms of day-to-day emails, Slack’s definitely taken over.”

Seek has around 400 public Slack channels in use at the moment.

“We actually have a bot that runs in the background and archives any that haven’t had a message posted in 40 days,” Hatch said.

(It’s not all work: “We see them used for general interests as well so we have Slack channels where people post pictures of their pets or things like a surf report,” Hatch said.)

From Hatch’s perspective, a key use of the platform has been to house and make searchable “huge amounts of diagnostic data” from a variety of sources.

The platform is also used for incident management. “If we have a considerable incident at Seek in terms of our production systems, we might create a Slack channel just dedicated to that where we’ll manage all comms and chats, especially if we’re communicating across a bunch of teams on different floors,” Hatch said.

“The other really nice feature about Slack is it has an API, so we have build pipelines that push information to Slack,” Hatch said.

“We have other tools that use web hooks into slack that can publish information there, so over time as we have evolved as a technology department we have found that Slack’s been able to fill a number of different niches.”

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