Slack revamps platform as it aims for workflow automation, app integration

The rebuilt Slack platform also highlights how Salesforce is increasingly competing with ServiceNow for workflow automation mindshare.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Slack launched its next-generation platform with the aim of making the application a workflow automation and integration layer between multiple systems.

At Slack's Frontiers event, the Salesforce-owned company outlined how it revamped its platform to create an integration layer that will stitch together third party services and applications.

The rebuilt Slack platform also highlights how Salesforce is increasingly competing with ServiceNow for workflow automation mindshare and to become a platform that stitches together a sprawling set of enterprise applications.

In an asynchronous keynote, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said the new platform "is the culmination of what we wanted from the very early days. What we always wanted was to give the equivalent of blocks they can combine."

Work is going to be a lot more fluid where conversations will be the source of action, explained Butterfield. "We will have more conversational actions and systems of record. Slack will be the bridge between them," said Butterfield.

Slack said that its approach will enable everyday users to create apps and workflows without code. Slack also added developer tools that make it easier to integrate the system with other applications and workflows. Developers will get access to the new Slack platform this week in a closed beta program.

Tamar Yehoshua, Chief Product Officer at Slack, said the platform's new building blocks will make it easier to develop apps for both tech pros and non-technical business managers.

Workflow wars:

Slack also added features that will make it easier to use Slack Connect to work with more partners, vendors and third parties. Slack will increase the number of organizations that can be in a channel from 20 to 250. In 2022, Slack will enable companies to set up secure work environments within Slack.

The Slack Frontiers announcements highlight how the company, along with parent Salesforce, are trying to popularize the idea of a digital headquarters. This digital headquarters theme is designed to ride shotgun with hybrid work as well as digital-first strategies.

Meanwhile, Salesforce has pitched Slack as the user experience layer in its stack of clouds as well as Tableau. Yehoshua said the revamp of Slack's platform began before the Salesforce acquisition and that there will be integrations with its parent's clouds.

According to Slack, enterprise customers will be able to tailor Slack to multiple use cases and business needs. Customization additions include:

  • Slack's Workflow Builder overhaul, which allows teams to automate work for themselves without code. Customers can drag and drop pieces of existing apps to create workflows. The idea is that tasks like approving time off requests and resolving issues can be automated. Yehoshua said Workflow Builder will be the primary Slack workflow choice for non-developers.
  • Sign in with Slack Links, which enables users to sign into work apps via their Slack accounts.
  • Users will be able to subscribe themselves or a channel to custom notifications without an external app.
  • Slack is making it easier for its more than 1 million developers to build custom apps and integrations by using reusable workflow building blocks. Developers will also be able to host and store the data for apps within Slack.
  • Other developer features include:
  • Developers will be able to attach invisible metadata to messages the enable apps to communicate.

How apps share metadata behind the scenes within Slack's new platform. 

  • Slack is launching a new CLI tool as well as software developer kit. The new Slack CLI manages event subscriptions and code scaffolding with the Slack Create command.
  • Developers can run Slack apps locally and test in multiple environments.
  • The new SDK is built using TypeScript and targeting the Deno runtime.
  • Slack will offer optional hosting of apps and data.
  • Developers will also get a new set of admin controls to build and deploy custom apps.

Yehoshua said the flexibility of Slack's platform will be interesting to watch as customers remix building blocks and workflows. She added that Slack's 2,500 connected applications are likely to upgrade to the new platform.

Editorial standards