As 2015 draws near, Red Argyle has been abuzz with discussions looking back on 2014 and looking forward to the new year. We recognize the importance of studying ourselves and our company to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and how we might operate better in the future. As part of this introspection, I have been thinking a lot about the software tools that we use. Since everyone at Red Argyle works remotely, effective communication is crucial and it’s important that we use software tools to help us with that.
Moving Away from Email
This past spring, we recognized the need for change in our chat software. And with an increasing desire to move out of email, we began a transition from using Google Hangouts and email to HipChat. The main driving factors behind this move were a desire to find a chat client that served as a more permanent solution (we can go back and review chat history on a project) and to increase visibility for team members on a project’s status. This has helped us reduce the number of emails and as a result has increased efficiencies. I’m happy to say that the transition was actually quite easy and successful. HipChat now serves as a central communication tool for Red Argyle, in which we have chat rooms for the whole company (both serious and laid-back), dedicated chat rooms for specific projects, and 1-to-1 chats for connecting directly with co-workers. In addition to messaging, HipChat offers 1-to-1 video chats to allow for face-to-face communication when necessary.
Deciding on HipChat
There is certainly no shortage of software tools meant for improving company communication, and when researching our transition away from Google Hangouts we tried to look at as many as possible in order to find the best solution for Red Argyle. Slack is a direct competitor to HipChat and is currently the hottest offering in the chat software market after receiving a huge valuation and a number of successful investment rounds. However, at the time of our research, Slack offered similar features to HipChat, despite being 4 times more expensive per user. We also looked at more complex software tools such as Asana, but ultimately concluded that simpler is better when it comes to getting the whole company to adopt a new tool.
The most helpful feature of HipChat so far has been all of the integrations they offer. We currently have Bitbucket, JIRA, RSS, GoToMeeting, and other services pushing relevant notifications into our chat rooms. The Bitbucket setup is straightforward and easy, allowing for specific project chat rooms to receive a message whenever the repository receives a commit. Setting up JIRA notifications, on the other hand, is complicated and time consuming, which was surprising considering JIRA and HipChat are both owned by Atlassian.With setup complete, the notifications now work well and allow project team members to track the progress of JIRA tasks from notifications in HipChat. Unfortunately, RSS integration is not supported in HipChat by default, but that was easy enough to set up in Zapier by creating an RSS -> HipChat task.
So far, I would consider HipChat adoption at Red Argyle to be an overwhelming success. It is now much easier for us to stay informed for each of the projects we are working on, and email between coworkers has decreased. HipChat has unlimited chat history, making it easy to go back in time to search for previous discussions or information. The 1-to-1 video chat is a great feature that I use daily, but we are all eagerly awaiting the rollout of group video chat, which would mean finally leaving Google Hangouts behind. (HipChat has stated group video chat is coming, but hasn’t given an ETA.) In looking forward to 2015 we are fortunate to have found a tool that improves company communication and helps us be as efficient and effective as possible.