For more than 25 years, global creative agency Sid Lee has offered clients such as The North Face and Dos Equis everything from brand design and digital solutions to architectural services. Sid Lee’s creative output is grounded in innovation, strategic human insights, design, storytelling and data. The agency, with offices in Europe and North America, prides itself on adapting and embracing change.
This includes staying open to new kinds of technology and processes, which is why in 2015, Sid Lee’s creative community in the New York office started using Slack, the secure channel-based messaging system, on its own. Marc Lalande, the Chief Information Officer at Sid Lee, got in touch to understand why. ‘We did our due diligence,’ he says, and after careful analysis, the agency decided to take the next step forwards. ‘It was clear that Slack was a perfect fit for our culture.’
In 2016, Sid Lee’s entire organisation, creative community, management team and clients adopted Slack. The roll-out took just three months thanks to ongoing communications, documentation and training videos and sessions.
‘Sid Lee employees were well-prepared and trained as we went wall-to-wall with Slack,’ Lalande says. ‘That’s why we were sending more than 150,000 Slack messages a week not too long after we went live, showing us how successful this implementation was and how Sid Lee employees were loving this new way of collaborating.’
Sid Lee’s globally dispersed team of 900 now relies on Slack to optimise their operations, move work along faster and drive engagement across the company and with external partners, all in a secure manner.
‘There’s no other tool that’s as efficient as Slack for communication,’ Lalande says. ‘We’ve really increased our productivity.’
‘Slack made Sid Lee so much more efficient, and we no longer have any internal emails. That’s a game changer.’
Using Slack apps and automation to scale business globally
When Lalande joined Sid Lee in 2012, the teams were in a constantly reactive state. To effectively scale, the agency needed to manage IT costs and drive operational efficiencies. For Lalande to deliver the process and content that he had in mind, he needed to double his team. But Slack offered a more effective solution.
‘To be as efficient as possible, we automate as much as we can with Slack,’ Lalande says. ‘This makes us less reactive and more proactive.’
Sid Lee employees optimise their time and efforts by following a set of guidelines designed to build organisational continuity. ‘If you follow these best practices, that means you’re using Slack to be most efficient,’ Lalande says.
This includes opting out of internal email threads entirely in favour of Slack channels – digital spaces to share messages, workplace automations, tools and files. Instead of getting stuck in an endless email loop, employees have total control over their communication. ‘As a manager, that has a big impact, because you decide where you want to be involved,’ Lalande says.
Sid Lee also integrates its tools and workflows directly into Slack. ‘When we have a need, the first thing I do is go to the Slack App Directory,’ Lalande says. Even if some clients work with Office 365 and others prefer Google, Lalande explains, it can all coexist in Slack.
‘Slack is the heart of the ecosystem for us. If your application is not integrated with Slack, we’re not interested.’
Previously, all contract renewals for Sid Lee’s IT software ecosystem were managed through Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Now, one person from Sid Lee’s operations team manages everything using the Expiration Reminder app for Slack. Here’s how it works:
- Slack notifications are automatically sent to
#it_glb_renewals, tagging those responsible for renewing the IT software contract
- The contract lead creates relevant tasks within Sid Lee’s project management system
- Those tasks are assigned accordingly, complete with deadlines and links to the tasks
‘Receiving everything for IT contract renewals in Slack has been transformational,’ Lalande says. ‘It’s so much easier to manage in Slack than email.’
Sid Lee further streamlines processes with Workflow Builder, a no-code tool for automating routine tasks in Slack. To open a new project, for example, employees start in the
#internal_project_request_mtl channel and fill in a simple form that triggers a corresponding process in Workday.
Early into the Covid-19 pandemic, a form created with Workflow Builder prompted employees to answer a set of questions before they were allowed into the office. ‘It was a good, temporary solution for us until we could find our footing,’ Lalande says.
Encouraging external partners and clients to collaborate in Slack Connect
Even though Sid Lee already embraced internal collaboration, Slack Connect effectively replaced email and extended channel-based messaging to external clients and partners as well. ‘That mindset of separating external and internal is gone because we use Slack Connect,’ Lalande says.
During onboarding, Sid Lee encourages external clients to work with them in Slack Connect or via single-channel guest access. ‘If our external partners aren’t familiar with Slack, we help guide them in terms of how to use it for shared communication and collaborative efforts,’ Lalande says.
Sid Lee is part of kyu, a collective of ten companies that offer their clients the full gamut of creative services. ‘Every company within the collective has their own IT management team to choose the technology they want to work with,’ Lalande says, ‘and we use Slack Connect to stay connected with each other.’
‘It’s much more efficient to work with external parties in Slack Connect.’
Elevating a remote culture and driving engagement at all levels
Like much of the world, Sid Lee is currently operating in a hybrid mode, with all of its creative community working remotely. With Slack at its cultural centre, the agency enables meaningful engagement and empowers teams to connect at all levels, no matter where they are. ‘There’s no doubt that Slack empowers our culture, now more than ever,’ says Katia Aubin, Sid Lee’s Vice President of Global Communication and Brand.
With offices in Montreal, Toronto, Paris, London, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, it’s important to ensure that no location exists in a vacuum. ‘During these trying times, communications with our teams are crucial,’ says Aubin. ‘Slack provides a direct, authentic connection between our leadership and our community, facilitating meaningful and impactful engagement. The number of Slack channels and smaller communities that have been created is really phenomenal.’
#sidcares channel was created at the very beginning of the pandemic for teammates to share resources, articles, mental health resources and tips for boosting morale. Some other popular Sid Lee channels include:
#news-gblfor company-wide announcements
#newsfor local updates specific to each market
#freeleechannels in every office, where employees post just about anything, from memes to flat enquiries
#press-coverageto add recent clips, such as when Sid Lee won its recent Emmy Award
The creation of channels not related to work also skyrocketed, such as
#sid-fami-lee, where fellow parents swap time-management tips, fun activities and stories about working from home while taking care of family members. ‘As an organisation, we got to discover what our employees are interested in and what matters to them,’ Aubin says. ‘These channels provide solidarity and comfort, as well as a ton of fun and creativity for the team.’
‘It’s essential for us to foster creativity among our teams and Slack certainly helps when it comes to recognising, supporting and engaging with our people across the globe.’
‘Developing clear messages is one thing, but we need to know if it resonates with our people,’ Aubin says. ‘So we’re focusing a lot on how to optimise Slack for internal comms by measuring sentiment and engagement by team members.’ For the internal communication team, a light-hearted key performance indicator tracks the number of emoji they get under each post.
To stay connected, keep employees informed and share company news, Sid Lee’s leadership holds an all-staff call through the Zoom app for Slack. They then follow up with additional messages in the
‘Slack ultimately gives the team additional accessibility to leadership,’ Aubin says. ‘And as we continue working from home, we are discovering many new aspects of Slack that help us enjoy a fuller experience using the platform.’
Sid Lee knows that connection and collaboration drive creativity, and the agency will continue to use Slack to unlock its employees’ potential and deliver unforgettable experiences to each client.