Update 9: The value of problem area expertise

By Steven Hylands on April 20, 2020

I’ve been using Slack since 2014, and before that similar tools like Hipchat for the same purpose. That’s across various companies and communities as both a team leader and member. Also, I’ve spent the last eight months digging deep into the problems of Slack and real-time communication. It’s safe to say I have a lot of experience with Slack.

Accruing in-depth knowledge of the problem area you’re working in is vital for a startup to stand a chance to succeed. If you don’t understand every aspect of the space you’re working in, you are handicapping yourself — reducing your ability to spot potential opportunities or effectively solve the problem.

The value of expertise

Recently a mentor of mine at Propel, Tristan got me thinking about the value of my domain expertise. Specifically about other ways to use use it to benefit companies and as a result Lowdown.

Where could my expertise help?

Well, I know what the problems with Slack are. I hear them over and over again from people all different kinds of roles.

“I can’t keep up”, “I feel the need to read all notifications”, “I’m constantly distracted by notifications”, “Information is getting missed”, “I can’t find stuff I need’.

These are frustrating, time-wasting problems for team members, yet many companies don’t do anything to solve them.

Consequences of poor communication

Why companies tolerate the pains of Slack

I believe they fall into one of three categories:

  1. They aren’t aware there is a problem.
  2. They aren’t aware there is a solution.
  3. They don’t feel the pain of the problem strongly enough to warrant looking for a solution.

Most of the time before someone decides to solve a problem; they first need to feel the pain personally. It then needs to make it to the top of their list of pain points before they look for a solution.

To company leaders, the issues that come from Slack feel like side-effects of it performing the job it’s supposed to do (real-time comms) rather than big problems to solve. That’s if they become aware of them at all.

Plus the problems are usually encountered on an individual level first and vary in pain-level from member to member. Some will have taken the time to set things up to minimise distraction. Utilising tools available such as do not disturb or muting channels. But the majority won’t. Team members will live with Slack’s issues because that’s the way they think it has to be.

This is not their fault. It’s the companies fault. They are responsible for how their team functions. Many today drop their team members into Slack with no real guidance on how to use it productively. They let their team fly blind. Chat is obvious, right? The team will work it out.

The consequences

But without rules or information to guide them, there are consequences. They will try and keep up with everything. They feel the need to keep their notifications on in case a manager needs them. They don’t set up their Slack correctly because no one has told them how to. Worse still they are continually using Slack in unproductive ways developing bad habits that are hard to break.

If companies were aware of the side-effects of using Slack upfront I believe they’d see the value in stopping them. They would set up communication guidelines tailored to the way they want their team to function. They’d ensure team members followed these guidelines.

As a result, companies would find each team member is more productive. While it’s hard to quantify by how much, let’s say each squeezes out an extra hour of productivity per week. How much is that worth to a company? I’d say a lot. Goals achieved faster. Money saved.

Focused team

A service to help

Now it’s easy for me to say all of that because I have developed a lot of domain knowledge and experience. I much like companies today have felt these pains in the past and dealt with them. They might not feel like the most critical problems to solve a lot of time, but when fixed, the value gained is enormous.

So as a self-proclaimed Slack productivity expert, I’ve decided to offer a consultancy service that will help companies save money and achieve their goals faster by using Slack more productivity. Learn more about it at slackproductivity.com.

Hopefully, I can assist in the creation of happier, more productive Slack’s, and in the process, learn more that will aid Lowdown’s development.


What are you a domain expert in? How can you use it?

If you’re a founder passionate about solving a particular problem, I’d guess you’re already pretty much an expert in that area. I challenge you to think about how to use your expertise to get closer to your goals. Perhaps through content marketing, a webinar, a podcast, a consultancy? The possibilities are endless. Think outside the box and find what fits your expertise. Feel free to drop me a DM if you’d like help.


Steven Hylands

Steven is a co-founder and CEO here at Lowdown. He's obsessed with finding signal amongst the noise of real-time chat.