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Slack plans to use the technology gained from its acquisition of Missions, a division of the startup Robots & Pencils, to make it easier for non-developers to customize workflows and integrations within its team collaboration app.
A Slack user with no coding knowledge can use Missions to build widgets for getting more work done within the Slack interface. For example, a human resources department could use a Missions widget to track and approve interviews with job applicants.
The Missions tool could also power an employee help desk system within Slack, or be used to create an onboarding bot that keeps new hires abreast of the documents they need to sign and the orientations they must attend.
"In the same way that code libraries make it easier to program, Slack is trying to make workflows easier for everyone in the enterprise," said Wayne Kurtzman, an analyst at IDC. "Without training, users will be able to create their own automated workflows and integrate with other applications."
Slack said it would take a few months to add Missions to its platform. It will support existing Missions customers for free during that time. In a note to its 200,000 active developers, Slack said the Missions purchase would benefit them too, by making it easier to connect their Slack integrations to other apps.
Slack integrations help startup retain market leadership
The acquisition is Slack's latest attempt to expand beyond its traditional base of software engineers and small teams. More than 8 million people in 500,000 organizations now use the platform, which was launched in 2013, and 3 million of those users have paid accounts.
With more than 1,500 third-party apps available in its directory, Slack has more outside developers than competitors such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams. The vendor has sought to capitalize on that advantage by making Slack integrations more useful.
Earlier this year, Slack introduced a shortcut that lets users send information from Slack to business platforms like Zendesk and HubSpot. Slack could be used to create a Zendesk ticket asking the IT department for a new desktop monitor, for example.
The automation of workflows, including through chatbots, is becoming increasingly important to enterprise technology buyers, according to Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif.
But it remains to be seen whether the average Slack user with no coding experience will take advantage of the Missions tool to build Slack integrations.
"I believe the hurdle in having regular knowledge workers create them is not skill, but rather even knowing that they can, or that they should," Lepofsky said.