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This new Slack feature aims to take the drudgery out of everyday tasks

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15.10.2019

If you try to lump Slack into some established product category, you may end up defining it as something like “enterprise messaging,” indicating that it’s a place to talk to your coworkers. You wouldn’t be wrong. But the service’s very tagline—”Where work happens”—spells out its higher ambitions. Slack doesn’t just want to be a place for productive conversation about work. It aspires to help organizations actively get stuff done, including the mundane but unavoidable daily tasks that sometimes threaten to overwhelm those that matter most.

This aspect of Slack’s mission is getting a big boost today in the form of Workflow Builder, a tool that lets users build little bits of custom automated functionality. A workflow could notice that a new employee has joined a channel and point her toward important shared documents, then help her introduce herself to the group. Or it could provide a way for staffers to submit travel requests in a standardized way, get them approved, and then route them to a travel planner. Or handle a theoretically unlimited array of other tasks that involve routing information around an organization.

Now, Slack-related automation is hardly a new idea. Serious techies already use IFTTT and Zapier to make the service do their bidding and even hook it up with other workplace tools. But Workflow Builder doesn’t cater to automation nerds. Instead, Slack tried to create something that almost any user might embrace to streamline repetitive tasks. Unbridled power mattered less than ensuring that the experience was inviting to as many people as possible.

“Like everything else with Slack, it’s about making people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive and making that approachable for all types of users and all kinds of companies,” says Brian Elliott, the company’s general manager of platform.

Even though the initial version of Workflow Builder errs on the side of simplicity, it could lead to Slack embedding itself even more deeply into everyday workplace productivity. That would benefit both users and the company’s own competitive position. (Slack recently disclosed that it has 12 million daily average users, in a blog post that emphasized the level of engagement over raw head count—an apparent unspoken shot at archrival Microsoft Teams, which claims 13........

© Fast Company