Slack is methodically working to eat the workplace. More specifically, the wildly popular office group-chat tool is aiming to be the place people go to access the wide array of software used for work. And to do that it’ll need to enlist some help...from bots.
Last year Slack opened up its platform to outside developers, allowing them to build automated bots to help chatting co-workers complete tasks like submitting expenses and booking travel without having to leave Slack and lessening the need to jump between an often overwhelming number of enterprise tools, each with their own login. That was step one.
Today, the company announced it is making these bots more accessible — and, arguably, more powerful — by adding buttons into their chat dialogues. So instead of having to figure out what you need to type to prompt the bots to do tasks, you can simply click through a series of more intuitive prompts. Expense filing software Abacus will allow managers to approve or deny expense reports with a single click within Slack. The company is introducing these buttons with 12 partners to start, including Abacus, travel booking site Kayak, and Kyber, a task management and productivity tool.
The buttons should help solve one of the most annoying things about bots; with a blank chat-compose field, it’s hard to figure out what exactly you should write to make the most of them. “Conversations are hard sometimes, especially if you want a simple, quick answer,” Slack senior product manager Buster Benson told BuzzFeed News in an interview.
The adjustments come at what feels like a crucial time for bots inside larger social apps. Bots are increasingly thought of as the way to navigate the complex social and productivity platforms, and companies like Facebook are betting big on them. The company opened its wildly popular Messenger app to developers in 2015 and recently introduced automated assistants into its apps,
Slack is now used by 3 million people every day, who spend an average of 10 hours each weekday connected to it, and an average of over 2 hours in active use of the service. Slack’s command of workers’ time is what makes it appealing to developers of outside software, since they believe they have a good chance of capturing customers' attention inside a platform they use so heavily. And by allowing bots to do all the searching and heavy lifting and logistical work, Slack and others are ensuring that their platforms are not only more intuitive, but much harder to leave.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
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