Slack-ing as a Project Manager

Ben Myers
Ben Myers
Aug 24, 2014 · 4 min read

Hey! Ben Myers here. I’m an App Designer & Product Manager at Robots & Pencils. Just wanted to share a few bots I’ve set up on on our Slack #channels that could help you fellow project managers with agile development process.

First off. If you haven’t heard of Slack, you should check it out.

Slack is a platform for team communication: everything in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go.”

One of our developers Neal Sanche is a huge photography buff and closely followed Flickr back when it was the de facto photography site on the web. He managed to get his hands on a beta invite to try out the pre-release of Slack and a few of us hopped on. Before we knew it, every one of our team had moved over from Skype to Slack and we haven’t looked back.

Standup Bots

In SCRUM, the standup is helpful in understanding what the team is working on, what they worked on yesterday and if they have any blockers. I set up a bot that chimes in every weekday at the same time to ask those questions.

Where this gets fun is Zapier allows you to set up named variables based on what people type into Slack. If the team follows the correct syntax, zapier will listen for those keywords…

…and send the info into a Google Spreadsheet for me.

From here I can put together some cool burndown charts based on other spreadsheets I have created. This will be my next step in making my job obsolete. ;)

Here’s how I set this up.

Step 1: Set up a new Zap in Zapier that listens for a new message in Slack and creates a Spreadsheet Row in Google Docs.

Step 2. Set up your Google Spreadsheet.

NOTE: Fill out the second row manually. For some reason Zapier doesn’t recognize the table unless that is done.

Step 3. Filter the Slack messages.

There’s probably a better way to do this. I’m all ears. ☺

Step 4. Type in the variables you want to use in Slack.

This is so Zapier can listen for these keywords from Slack and fetch them. EXAMPLE type “hours(9)” to expose the hours variable. Do the same for all of your spreadsheet columns.

Step 5: Hook up named variables to Zapier.

When you click on “insert slack fields” your named variables will display. Hook them up to the corresponding spreadsheet column.

Step 5: Set up a new calendar and name the events the same name as the #channel in slack.

By default, Zapier & Slack listen to every public channel for these keywords so all I really needed to do was hook up the bot to post to every channel I was managing. Here’s where Google Calendars comes in.

Note: I’d suggest setting up a new calendar for this so you can store all standup triggers in one spot.

There! You did it. ☺This might take some tinkering to get exactly right. I’ve used this same method to set up a Sprint Review & a Sprint Planning bot. You can see how this could be used in a variety of ways.

If you have any suggestions on how we could make this better, I’d love to hear from you. Just send us a message at @iamhabitat or @robotsnpencils on Twitter.

Thanks for reading my first Medium post. This was fun.

    Ben Myers

    Written by

    Ben Myers

    Co-Founder of @NonsuchBeer // Slack Experience Designer

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