13 min Analytics

Do you build your Digital HQ with Slack, Zoom, Teams or Webex?

Do you build your Digital HQ with Slack, Zoom, Teams or Webex?

Over the past 12 months, we have been working on a Techzine digital headquarters. We tested several tools for this purpose. In the end, you need an application that can easily and properly integrate with all your other applications. That proved to be quite a challenge, but now that we have a year of experience, it’s time to take a moment and reflect.

First of all, why a digital headquarters? The definition of a digital headquarters comes from Salesforce or maybe even Slack. Salesforce bought the messaging service Slack in mid-2021 and presented their vision for a digital headquarters during Dreamforce in 2021.

What is a digital headquarters?

When you founded a company in the past, one of the first next steps was to rent a building for your office. This is somewhat outdated, as today you no longer need a physical office. The priority today is more on registering domain names, making sure you can be reached by e-mail and building a website. An organization’s digital presence is many times more important than the physical one.

If you take that line further and look at how employees work today, they have dozens of applications. Whether we are talking about sales, marketing, support, HR, every department uses specific applications. With that comes an immediate challenge, how do you keep track of the activities in all those different applications? As an employee, you already use multiple applications that you have to open to gain insight, let alone as a manager or director.

That’s where a digital headquarters comes in. One application where a lot of information flows together, but also where you can perform all kinds of actions, without having to open a dozen applications every day. There’s a huge efficiency gain to be made. If you can get a global overview of current affairs in a single application with just a few clicks, or if you can quickly request or approve a day off, or submit a cost declaration without having to open the entire HR portal. This saves an enormous amount of time, especially in large organizations with many employees.

This is more or less Salesforce’s vision around the digital headquarters. One application that brings everything together and makes it easier. According to Salesforce, that’s what Slack is going to be for many organizations.

We were curious and built our version of a digital headquarters

That vision and efficiency drive piqued our curiosity. Internally, not everyone saw the need for a digital headquarters, but we still thought it was worth finding out if it would be of benefit to a smaller organization, like ourselves.

Salesforce, of course, had just put billions on the table for Slack, so their vision for the digital headquarters putting Slack at the center is not a real surprise. However, we decided to start our research from scratch. We looked at Slack, WebEx, Zoom and Microsoft Teams to be our digital HQ. All these applications should be able to perform the function of digital headquarters. At least on paper, because when we took a dive into the solutions, we found a lot of hurdles. Especially when we looked at our wishlist.

How can we as Techzine design our digital headquarters?

We started thinking about what data we could collect and report in a digital headquarters so that we keep an overview of our business processes. Building an extensive list of applications we wanted to integrate was quite easy.

We started collecting information:

  • Information from the CRM system; deals, sales, etc;
  • Statistics from visitors on Techzine.nl and Techzine.eu;
  • Podcast statistics;
  • Newsletter statistics;
  • Notifications from Twitter when Techzine is mentioned;
  • Notifications from Facebook when Techzine is mentioned;
  • Notifications from LinkedIn when Techzine is mentioned;
  • Project management overview, when tasks are due or completed;

Then we started thinking about actions we want to do from our digital headquarters to the outside world.

  • Posts on Twitter;
  • Posts on Facebook;
  • Posts on LinkedIn;
  • Posts on Instagram;
  • Retrieve information from project management;
  • Retrieve information from the CRM system;

Creating a list of requirements for a digital headquarters is not that complicated. When you start integrating an building, a list can become quite a challenge. In our case, it means integrating at least ten applications: Teamleader, Google Analytics, Buzzsprout, ActiveCampaign, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Nifty. Finally, as a tenth, the application that should be our digital headquarters. For a first version of our digital headquarters, we thought starting with ten applications was more than enough.

Choosing a digital headquarters

After developing a wish list, the adventure of determining which application was best suited to be our digital headquarters began. For this, we really only had two main requirements. The front-end had to be user-friendly. In other words, we didn’t want to write a manual on how to use the digital headquarters; it had to be immediately clear. We also wanted it to be fast.

The second requirement is a bit more technical. It concerns the APIs, the way applications talk to each other at the back-end. These integrations must offer sufficient features, but also be simple. We want to be able to quickly tie all applications together to start exchanging information.

With these requirements, we looked at Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Webex. All of these platforms have advantages and disadvantages. Below are our conclusions for each solution:

+ Fast, with a simple interface;
+ Clear API;
+ A lot of information can be dropped in message channel;
– Forms to build apps, lacks file upload;
– Internal video calling not so good, third party support via external apps;
– Requires subscription;
Microsoft Teams:
+ We have a subscription;
+ Interface is simple;
+ Good video calling capabilities;
– API to add photos or attachments is terrible;
– Requires us to build apps, these are not really fast or easy and are hidden in the application;
– Interface with applications not very clear;
+ Fast, with a simple interface;
+ Clear API;
+ Good video calling capabilities;
+ A lot of information can be dropped in message channel;
– API supports text or attachments, but not at the same time or combined;
– Requires more expensive subscription;
+ Fast, with a simple interface;
+ Good video calling capabilities;
+ Lots of information can be dropped in message channel;
+ Clear API;
– Required subscription, is even more expensive than Slack and Zoom;

In the end, this was our list and based on this we had to make a choice. We ended up doing some testing with Slack with a free subscription (up to 10 apps you can integrate for free). From Zoom, we got a one-month trial subscription. Microsoft Teams is included in our Microsoft 365 subscription. From Cisco, we got a trial license for WebEx for one year. All in all, we had the opportunity to test all the services properly.

We ended up with two choices

In the end, we used the method of exclusion, which applications we couldn’t use. Microsoft Teams was excluded because off the terrible API for photos and attachments. We suspect you have to put images in a OneDrive shared folder before you can share them. We’re not entirely sure. In any case, there is no mention of a user-friendly API; when we saw references to Sharepoint, we eventually gave up. Besides, Microsoft Teams was not the fastest application a year ago. Certainly not in terms of internal navigation. CPU and memory usage is also something many colleagues had complaints about.

We were really excited about Zoom, it’s fast, it’s user friendly, video calls are excellent, and the API is quite simple. However, it turned out that in their API they completely separated attachments and images from text messages. That is seen as two separate messages. Our desire to be able to send messages on social media conflicted with their API. This would mean we could only post pictures without captions, or just text messages. We decided to exclude Zoom.

In the end, Slack and Webex remained. Slack’s biggest downside was its lack of video calling with external parties. Webex, on the other hand, is much more expensive than Slack (19 euros vs. 6.75 euros per user per month). In terms of API, they are pretty much equal. Also, the applications are both fast, although we find Slack a bit easier to use.

In addition, Slack had an edge because you can easily create forms that you can then link to a workflow. However, the forms lack file-upload functionality, which we find unfortunate. We had hoped Salesforce would fix that flaw, unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

Finally, we decided to go with Slack as our digital headquarters and rolled out Webex as our primary video calling application. The irritations about CPU and memory usage of Microsoft Teams were running pretty high within our team and Webex didn’t have those problems. With that, the foundation was set, but our adventure was just beginning.

Welcome to the world of APIs

Now that the digital HQ application was chosen, we entered the next phase, actually building a digital headquarters.

Slack apps

Because we chose Slack, we could also use Slack Apps to help with this. For example, one of the apps we use for this is the Twitter app. If Techzine or Techzine.eu is tagged on Twitter we get a notification of this in a Twitter channel on Slack. Furthermore, we could easily integrate Webex into Slack as an external video calling app.


For all other integrations, we used Integromat (now called Make.com). This is a platform that lets you use workflows to let applications talk to each other. Large organizations often use Dell Boomi or MuleSoft for this, but for smaller organizations, Make.com is a very affordable alternative. A similarly popular service is Zapier.com.

Manually building API calls and webhooks

For a large number of applications we use, Make.com provides support. Unfortunately, not for all services. For not supported applications, you have to build the integration yourself, you can simply make an HTTP call or create a webhook at Make.com. This still allows you to receive or send data to APIs. To be fair, this is not something the average business user can do. Surely this is where the development background of one of our employees made a big advantage.

The same goes for exchanging data between different applications working with different date structures. Some APIs communicate a linux timestamp (time since January 1, 1970), others use d-m-Y H:i:s or even add a time zone. You will have to correct the date format yourself so that it is also be exchanged between applications. That requires some knowledge of a platform like Make.com.

Receiving data at digital headquarters

We have now built quite a few advanced workflows that involve multiple routes to get the desired data to all locations. We have a number of statistics workflows, which fetch the latest podcast stats every 24 hours, the latest website stats and the open rate and clicks in our newsletters. All of that is published in various Slack channels.

Less editorial but more business applications have also been integrated. We use Teamleader as our CRM solution, when deals are created and approved by the client we get a notification. We can also push projects and content productions directly into various tools and send notifications in Slack when necessary. Some tasks require specific employees to perform work and they get a direct notification.

Sending data from the digital headquarters

To make managing the various Techzine social media channels a bit easier, we also have several Slack channels from which messages are directly forwarded to our social media accounts. This can also include an image or photo. This way we don’t have to give new editors or freelancers direct access to our social channels, they can easily use these Slack channels. In these cases we are not receiving data in Slack but sending it from Slack.

For larger organizations, you can also think of integrations with requesting vacation days or submitting expenses. Approval of these can also be done by a manager from Slack. This is all quite easy to implement.

The future of Techzine’s digital headquarters

We also evaluated internally what we think of the digital headquarters after a year. In the end, everyone agreed, even the employees who didn’t see any added value at first, that it does offer many advantages. Every morning, we can just click on all kinds of channels in just a few minutes and quickly see how certain things have performed, what deals have been approved, what tasks are still open, etc.

The only downside we got internally is when we develop new integrations in our digital headquarters they usually get a new channel and that need to be muted manually. In other words, making sure our employees don’t get an extended notification on a PC or push message on their smartphone. You can’t currently set that up in a channel from Slack.

Moved back to Microsoft Teams, bye Webex

We also decided to switch back to Microsoft Teams and leave Webex for what it is. We have several reasons for this. One of them is that the integration between Outlook and Webex does not always work well, you have to install a special tool which sometimes causes problems. More importantly, many people we speak to for the first time do not have Webex on their PC, they have to install the client first. Somehow that often does not work well. As a result, many first meetings don’t start until 5 to 10 minutes later. We are positive about the steps Webex has taken in recent years. It has all become faster, more accessible and simpler. However, they are not there yet. The native support for Microsoft Teams Rooms from Webex devices indicates the direction Cisco is thinking toward the future.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has made improvements within Teams, so we dare to use that application again for just our video calls. For our chats and our digital headquarters, we are sticking with Slack. We just extended our license for another year.

Automation and Canvas

So all in all, a digital headquarters really does add value. The biggest drawback is that you have to build it yourself, and that’s not something that can be done in two or three clicks. For very large organizations, this probably means that an employee has a day job to build all the integrations and keep them working. We have decided to go ahead with it and are already building new integrations. Should Salesforce succeed in using MuleSoft technology to make it all even simpler in terms of integration, the adoption of the “digital headquarters” could probably go a lot faster. In any case, we are looking forward to the introduction of Slack Canvas, in addition to textual overviews we will probably be able to create visual reports more easily.