Salling Group is the biggest retailer in Denmark and one of the biggest in the Nordics. It encompasses the discount supermarket chain Netto, grocery chains føtex and Bilka, as well as Salling Department Stores, the toy store chain BR and associated online stores. It also operates the American franchises Starbucks and Carl’s Jr. on the Danish market, online florists and meal box delivery service Skagenfood. Salling Group has around 2,000 stores and 50,000 employees.
In response to changing shopping and work habits in recent years that were accelerated by Covid-19 lockdowns, the company has increased its online focus – setting a target to achieve the same 34.9% market share it commands via its Danish stores through online sales. At the same time, it aims to support hybrid working teams with tools to optimise collaboration and productivity.
For Salling Group, Slack is just that tool. Initially adopted by a handful of developers in the digital technology department who were frustrated by the limitations of other collaboration tools in facilitating group exchanges, Slack’s huddles feature was a big early hit for synchronising. Use of the platform has since grown organically, to the point where it’s become an indispensable resource for over 200 users and is recognised for its near limitless potential across Salling Group.
‘We actually saw a productivity increase at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic because people were so inclined to communicate extensively through Slack.’
Embracing the future of collaboration
Starting with just five users, curiosity about Slack grew as staff soon realised the tool would allow real-time conversation, asynchronous collaboration and held numerous possibilities in terms of integrations, automating processes, receiving notifications and connecting operations. ‘We continued using Slack because it offered capabilities we didn’t have anywhere else in our corporate setup,’ says Ismael Garcia, the digital technology chief at Salling Group.
Software developers, managers, architects, designers and product owners – Salling Group’s digital team – account for around 70% of Salling Group’s Slack users, who collaborate daily on the platform. ‘Most of the team use Slack for workflows and applications. You can do so much more than just one-to-many messages,’ explains Garcia.
Increasingly, the team is leaning into integrations and automations, with clear benefits. They can connect to third-party systems of record so that when any systems go off, the right teams are notified in real time. Having a clear, succinct overview of their monitoring tech stack and the ability to react directly is in contrast to the previous, more cumbersome reliance on email for altering and communication.
For example, instead of having large email chains with project clarifications, the team utilises project channels where all relevant parties are represented. Two people can easily work out details in a thread, whilst others can see the flow of communication and chime in only when necessary. Using the search AI function makes it super easy to pinpoint when, how and why a decision was made in regard to a project, freeing up time that might otherwise be spent tracking down the correct email in a long chain. As a result, response times are significantly quicker.
Having multiple defined channels for different conversations across the entire workspace, plus private and social groups, has encouraged other Salling Group employees to get onboard. ‘We’re seeing people jump into Slack very easily,’ says Christian Moller Pedersen, a software development manager at Salling Group. ‘We can also use Slack Connect with a variety of consultant houses and external vendors. Inviting them onto the platform as a single or multi-channel guest allows us a lot of flexibility when shuffling information around – that’s another huge win for us.’
Empowering digital creativity with integrations
Salling Group’s digital team has integrated several apps into Slack. One such example is Datadog. The group’s monitors for Salling’s services are connected directly to Slack, so that instead of having to rely on someone responding to an email, warnings and alerts go directly to Slack channels. The different subdivisions within the digital team each have their own alert channels. The team has configured Datadog to send alerts for division-owned projects to those channels, enabling the entire team to be instantly notified and allowing everyone to contribute, without the burdensome task of bringing people up to speed.
Staff have also added fun integrations too. A popular addition is the lunch channel with a bot that each morning writes what’s on the menu that day, appearing on-screen five minutes before the cafeteria starts serving. Slack engenders a spirit of experimentation, discovery and excitement at Salling Group, with staff custom building their own applications and bots and trying out workflows.
For software developers, shipping code has become streamlined and swift. Collaborators can share an open channel and use it to gather all relevant information in a specific place for quick access and easy communication. Automations and features are closely tied in so that developers can see how deployments are going or, if issues occur, they can ensure that the right people know about it, promptly and swiftly.
‘With Slack, the more we can put into it the more we can avoid context switching from one task to another – the killer of all productivity for developers,’ says Moller Pedersen. ‘Slack’s always-on functionality and visibility means there’s no need to switch programs; there’s a constant flow of communication.’
‘If something goes down, we can handle it through Slack, simple and straightforward,’ says Garcia, recalling a pre-Slack scenario that involved multiple emails, phone calls and having to bring each person involved up to speed with the history of a situation. ‘With Slack, you can jump into an incident, see the whole history and hit the ground running.’
‘It’s obvious that Slack simplifies so much of our operations, but also our everyday development processes. Everything is there, and it’s very easy to collaborate on multiple things. It’s been clear from the beginning that it brings value.’
Enabling flexibility and productivity
For a team whose members are just as inclined to work from home as the office, ‘Slack enables us to communicate just as easily as if we were sitting next to each other. There’s no limitation in the way we work, as long as we have Slack and an internet connection,’ says Garcia. By keeping everything inside channels, having searchable logs and initiating huddles, the team has all the tools it needs to work effectively.
Slack’s early adoption by Salling Group’s digital department, pre-Covid-19, made lockdown simpler because essentially, the team kept working the same way it had before. ‘Our team couldn’t go for coffee together, but collaboration still occurred,’ observes Garcia. ‘From a productivity perspective, we didn’t really notice the lockdown, teams went from having a morning in-person standup meeting to a huddle, where one member would open a board and others would use the drawing function over someone’s screen. It was business as usual.’
Extending the benefits beyond digital
Having experienced all that Slack can do, there is no doubt in Garcia and Moller Pedersen’s minds that Salling Group’s digital team will continue to use it as their key tool for communicating and collaborating, as well as for utilising workflows, canvas and integrations. The ambition now is to extend Slack’s usage to other business units.
‘We already utilise Slack heavily and gain tremendous value from it,’ says Moller Pedersen. ‘But that needn’t be a finite value. The more an organisation can get involved with Slack – especially with automation and getting everyone connected – the more value you gain. That’s our dream scenario.’