Over the past few years, a lot of businesses have adopted cloud-based platforms for messaging to increase the collaboration of their team. These platforms are designed to decrease extraneous meetings, provide faster access to assets and make communication more efficient.
If you are thinking about adopting a cloud-based messaging platform, you’ve most likely come across Hipchat and Slack. For a while, Slack has been the biggest player in the field of online messaging, and with good reason – it’s a great platform. Hipchat might be newer, but it’s still has some great functionality. The two platforms offer similar functionality with just a few quirky differences. Hipchat offers you several of the similar features at an equal price point to Slack, and with some its own unique capabilities Slack has fast become recognized itself as the poster child of collaboration.
We’d been loyalists to Slack for some time, but this winter we decided to break out of the box and try Hipchat to see what we might be missing. It’s always good to change things up! As you can tell from the title, that migration turned out to be a temporary one as we flew back from our winter home to the familiarity of our original platform. Read on to find out why.
Communication is essential with virtual teams
Virtual teams require a much more in depth communication style than people who work together in a regular office environment. That’s because physical offices foster casual communication that can happen in real time. There no coffee breaks or casual brainstorming sessions built into virtual teams. What’s more, those relationships can be strained when communication is happening primarily over the internet.
Getting communication right is a make or break issue for business. The better connected your team is, the better and more cohesive your projects will be. Traditional forms of electronic communication like email just don’t cut it as more and more essential people are spread out further afield.
Communication platforms like Slack and Hipchat more closely resemble in person communication. It’s easy to see who is online and chat with them. You can access these platforms from any device, meaning that your virtual team communication is easy to make happen.
A bit about Slack
Slack is a primary communication platform for businesses. You just might know the story of Slack, the collaboration team tool that grew from an invalid multiplayer online game. The 2013 launch of Slack saw more than 8,000 customers sign up within just 24 hours. Today there are more than thirty thousand active users. Within just two years it had and attained a 1 billion dollar value as a company.
A bit about Hipchat
Hipchat has a vastly different startup story. In 2010, scholars at the Rensselaer Polytechnic organization formed Hipchat as a separate messaging application. Two years later it was acquired by software giant Atlassian, who added it to their beloved set of helpdesk, project management, and bug tracking solutions.
Though it’s owned by Atlassian, you don’t have to partake of any of their other products in order to get full use out of Hipchat.
Comparing these two giants of messaging
Let’s dig deeper into a comparison of these two platforms. What’s the big deal about? Messaging and integration are the two big places we’re concerned about.
Hipchat offers you a direct way to message your colleagues, similar to chat functions in Facebook or Google Hangouts. Hipchat offers rooms and individual chats, but if you want to have a chat with a couple people on your team and not the entire room, you are out of luck (unless you want to create a separate “room”).
Our biggest issue with Hipchat’s messaging functionality came down to notifications. They didn’t always work. If you are added to a bunch of rooms and have a large team, alerts didn’t always appear. This definitely created issues for us, as real-time communication is important.
With Slack, you have a range of different ways for teammates to communicate. If you want to send direct messages, you just have to search for a name and add them to the conversation. You can message multiple people easily and you can easily tell when a conversation has been updated. The updated channel becomes bold and moves to the top of your channel list.
Both platforms allow you to add attachments to your messages, but space is limited depending on the service level.
Chat services like Slack and Hipchat are only as good as their integration with your project management system. In this respect, Hipchat was the big winner. We use other Atlassian platforms such as Jira and Confluence, so the integration was seamless and easy to use.
If you make use of any other products such as Bitbucket, Service Desk or other Atlassian products, then Hipchat offers clear benefits. You can manage all of the tasks of Atlassian products, difficulties, projects, and code without touching back and forth among various systems. This platform also gives you a native integration with more than 130 third party apps counting. Here’s a small list:
- Google Apps
- Git Hub
Slack offers plenty of integrations and the list is growing, but the list doesn’t include nearly as many top project management and data integrations as Hipchat. At the end of the day though, we were able to integrate Jira with Slack, which gave us the best of both worlds.
Pros and Cons
Boiling down the major pros and cons for Slack vs. Hipchat:
- Seamless integration with Jira and Confluence.
- Ideal for Project Management.
- Inadequate notification system.
- Messages often went unseen.
- Multi-person chats were difficult.
- Easy to use.
- Multiple integrations,
- Reliable notification system so messages aren't missed.
- Limited integrations compared to Hipchat.
- Add-ons needed for video chats and file uploads.
Winter migration conclusion
Slack ultimately won out, mostly due to issues with notifications. This might not have been as big of a deal if we’re all in an office, but with everyone being remote; we couldn't risk messages being missed.
The reason that we love these communications platforms is because of their immediacy. The basic premise is that we want to recreate that easily communicating office style communication. When you come short of that basic function, it negates all of the other great features.
For the forseeable future, we’re sticking with Slack. Which messaging platform does your team use? Let us know in the comments!