Trade Me, New Zealand’s largest online auction and classifieds market, had already integrated its core software tools into the Slack collaboration platform before Covid-19 hit, and saw the true value of that when it shifted seamlessly to remote working under lockdown.

Paolo Ragone, chief technology officer for Trade Me, told Newsroom the company was already a big Slack user and had encouraged flexible working practices but those decisions had really paid off under lockdown.

“It was great to see it happened with such facility. People switched some of their physical processes to the online world and people were using a lot of the online tools, both boards for work and the collaboration spaces,” Ragone said. Among those physical processes that moved online were the whiteboards ubiquitous in any office where developers or product teams work, often with tiered arrays of Post-It Notes forming a physical ‘kanban chart of a new software release.

“Slack’s where you talk about work, but also a tool where you do work.”

Ragone says Trade Me has also integrated its own alerts system – known internally as Bergerac after the TV detective – for software and operational issues into Slack, allowing it to document and track solutions to critical problems.

“We use it in case of an incident. So if there’s an incident, Bergerac notifies people in a custom channel in Slack created specifically for the incident,” he says of an alerting system for everything from bugs to internet access issues. “It’s all driven through Slack. It communicates, brings people together and even takes care of creating the post-mortem process.”

Ragone said Trade Me has around 500 people on Slack spread across locations in Auckland, Wellington Christchurch and locations in Australia. While the collaboration platform was already heavily used, communication over it ballooned when staff began working from home, rising to 620,000 messages in April from 400,000 in the month before lockdown.

“We found ourselves working quite effectively from home. And it’s actually shaped our understanding of how effective people can be working from home,” he said.

*Paolo Ragone talks to Peter Bale about how Trade Me uses Slack*

Q&A with Paolo Ragone

Here are some key questions and answers from the video interview which might help you work out if Slack is right for your business or how to use it more effectively. If you have specific questions about Slack, email and we can get answers for you or include them in a video interview with members of the Slack team.

Q: How did you manage collaboration during lockdown?

A: “Trade Me is already an organisation that is online first. We have a high maturity in the adoption of Slack and all of the online communication tools. So, you know, through tools like Slack and others we were able to transition very seamlessly to work from home.”

Q: Was there one factor or feature that stood out in this period in your experience of Slack?

A: “I would struggle to point out just one thing but I can tell you it has been tremendously useful for us. It’s basically that communication is instantaneous. It’s much better than email and other traditional communication methods. Slack is not only a tool where you talk about work, but it’s also a tool where you can do work.”

Go here to learn more about apps and software integration on Slack.

Q: You’ve integrated your Bergerac early warning system along with Zendesk and Jira and other business-critical software, so Slack has become really central, right?

A: “It’s definitely part of the process. It’s a tool that enabled a few of our processes. When you share stuff, the context of what you’re sharing is on Slack, it’s immediately there, so it’s contextual. When we’re releasing updates it’s all communicated through Slack.

“Another simple one is password resets, there’s a bot (in Slack) you can notify that your password needs to be reset and it’ll help you through the process without any need for human intervention.”

Q: What would you say to people considering whether they need Slack?

A: “In a way, get with the times. They shouldn’t see these tools only as a replacement for email. Instant communication creates a very different dynamic in the way people work. It creates faster communication for people, but beyond that, it is a platform that integrates into your ecosystem of applications. Slack is not only a platform where you talk about the work, it’s a tool where you can do the work as well.”

– Quotes from the video interview have been edited for clarity and to focus on pointers you may wish to try in your business. Tutorials on Slack are available here at Slack 101.
– Remember, if you have specific questions about Slack, email and we can get answers for you or include them in a video interview with members of the Slack team.

Peter Bale is a London-based journalist and media consultant who has worked for the Wellington Evening Post, Reuters, the FT Group, The Times of London, and CNN Europe.

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