Late last year, we started experimenting with Slack. This was when Slack was still relatively new, and most people were using HipChat or some other group chat.
We have been using QQ for years. The Chinese (China version) of QQ is loaded with features such as screen-sharing, voice chatting, video calling and of course, plain text messaging.
QQ is free to use and, until WeChat came along, was the dominant tool for PC-based communications. Fetion, a Web SMS service from China Mobile, could not compete despite the huge base of China Mobile users. Fetion required senders and recipients to be on the China Mobile network. Each of the three telcos had their own offerings but none could compete against the network-agnostic QQ.
We use QQ for group chats. We have a general company-level group where our entire “global” team that is scattered across cities in China, in the US, in Southeast Asia, are placed in one group. Each of them download and create their own QQ UserID but when they join, group admins give everyone nicknames based on their functions. For eg, someone in the investment team would be “Analyst-NAME”.
In addition to the company-level group, we also have smaller project- and function-based group chats.
We also use QQ for voice and video calls internally. Call quality between users inside and outside of China used to be bad but it has improved significantly in recent months such that we seldom use Skype as a backup anymore. The QQ mobile app is a delight to use.
Slack is as good in all the areas above, if not more so given its rapid new releases. There is only one problem with Slack and it is significant enough that we hesitate to adopt it. That problem is we do not know when Slack will be blocked in China.
Right now, to access our mails, we either use a VPN to get into our Google Apps for Work, or, like many of us, we forward our mails to QQ Mail or 163 or one of the local email services. This also means that we forgo many of the collaborative features of Google Apps. Since VPN can be unstable at times too, we decided to have a blend of East and West — for instant communications, we use QQ; and for all other purposes, we use Google Apps. This ensures that there is always at least one way to reach us.
This has worked for us for the last three years and we don’t see it changing soon.