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Slack improves workflow automation for Salesforce, other apps

Slack has retooled its Workflow Builder, intending to make automating work with Salesforce and third-party apps as easy as building a Lego set. Workers can use the tool next year.

Slack will upgrade its Workflow Builder to let people automate work processes in Salesforce and other business applications. Experts said the additional workflow customization will make the Salesforce-owned company's platform more central to getting office work done.

Slack introduced the new Workflow Builder at its Frontiers conference this week, and said the tool will be available next year. People will use it to drag and drop building blocks to create a string of actions that comprise a task. Steve Wood, vice president of developer platform at Slack, likened the process to using Lego bricks.

Slack unveiled Workflow Builder in 2019, providing templates for workflow automation. Executives said the revamp introduces the building-block user interface and increases the number of chores users can automate in Salesforce and third-party applications.

For example, a high-priority alert in Salesforce Service Cloud could create a channel in Slack and invite everyone available in the PagerDuty app. Wood said a workflow could also respond to a Zendesk incident report by setting up a Zoom call and creating an item in the Jira project management tool.

Slack launched a private beta for Workflow Builder this week. Wood said the beta will allow developers to create workflow building blocks before Slack releases the tool to the public.

Metrigy analyst Beth Schultz said the Workflow Builder improvements help Salesforce position Slack as the center of an employee's workday.

"The ability to automate workflows within Slack should make the platform appealing for a wide range of Salesforce customers and an attractive option compared to competitive offerings," she said.

Gartner analyst Mike Gotta said tools like Microsoft Teams had commoditized everyday collaboration. But Slack can set itself apart by streamlining complicated processes for workers. Simplifying workflow creation means regular employees can tailor Slack to meet those use cases, he said.

"The more Slack advances its platform to enable professional and citizen developers to deliver high-impact collaborative applications … the more Salesforce can differentiate its solutions from alternatives primarily used for general productivity," he said.

Slack's Workflow Builder lets employees drag and drop items to create an automated work process.

In other news, Slack will let more organizations collaborate with Slack Connect. Slack introduced Connect last year, providing a tool that allows employees to communicate with workers at other companies securely. In early 2022, Slack will increase the number of organizations participating in a Connect channel from 20 to 250. Slack will also allow thousands of partners to communicate in a shared space by the end of the year.

Ilan Frank, vice president of product at Slack, said Slack Connect's primary use case had been customer support. He said some companies easily hit Connect's 20-organization limit while creating customer advisory boards.

"[Building customer relationships] is lacking today in a virtual world, where we're not getting on airplanes and buying customers steak dinners," he said.

Analysts have noted that Connect is a crucial early step in folding Slack into Salesforce. With Connect, Salesforce users can bring together customers, service agents and experts inside and outside the organization to handle problems.

Salesforce announced its $27.7 billion purchase of Slack in December 2020. Executives have said they intend Slack to serve as the interface for the Salesforce platform, displaying information from various applications in a single location.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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