Slack today introduced Workflow Builder, a new way to help employees of all skill levels build apps for their organizations inside the team collaboration app.
“What we’re doing with Workflow Builder is extending the availability of our platform to essentially everybody in an organization so that people without development skills and experience can build basic workflows and applications inside of Slack,” Slack platform product head Andy Pflaum told VentureBeat in a phone interview.
The Slack platform for automated bots and apps was first introduced for developers in 2015, and organizations have been able to create their own custom apps for internal use for years. Block Kit, a simpler, more media-rich way to create Slack apps, first became available in February.
More than 90% of paid Slack customers use some kind of app or integration, but Workflow Builder is designed to make app creation possible for anyone. Doing so will enable people to create workflows for any number of tasks with a visual builder without leaving Slack by using things like forms and surveys and sharing certain instructions, documents, and links.
Rich media like videos and SaaS solutions may be incorporated into Workflow Builder apps in the future.
“The first version we’re releasing is essentially for workflows built inside of Slack. So you’re inputting the information in Slack and the output goes to a direct message or channel or to the person who’s entered the channel, for example,” Pflaum said. “But subsequent versions will allow you to connect to other applications and services as well. So you can imagine your CRM or your help desk ticket system or your bug tracking system, connecting into these workflows and being able to develop not just workflows self contained, inside of Slack, but also connecting up to additional proprietary or third party apps and services.”
The news was shared today at the Slack Frontiers conference in San Francisco alongside other features like the ability to reply to Slack messages via email, deeper integration of calendars in Slack channels, and a shared channels beta due out later this year.
Slack joins a long line of companies inventing ways to make apps and automation accessible to people who don’t know how to code. Earlier this week, Microsoft declared machine teaching — teaching experts to transfer knowledge to automated systems — the next frontier in AI, and a number of conversational AI services have similar projects. Amazon’s Alexa, for example, introduced its Blueprint voice app templates for people to make custom apps at home as well as in the workplace with Alexa for Business.
Also new today: Slack is bringing shared channels to Enterprise Grid, its service for helping entire organizations join Slack, just not a handful of teams within an organization. Like shared channels for paid users, which was introduced at the first Frontiers conference in 2017, shared channels for Enterprise Grid can only connect two organizations today. A shared channels beta will be made available this summer.
Approximately 13,000 teams currently use shared channels on Slack, Pflaum said.