Are you and your coworkers eager to get started on your March Madness bracket this year? Now there's a new way to do it from work: The BracketBot.
Starting on Sunday, March 12—two days before the official 2017 NCAA March Madness kickoff—you and your office mates can fill in your brackets through a new app on Slack. The app was created by Talla, a company that offers a way for businesses to craft, send, and automate messages on platforms such as Slack.
All you need to do is download the application, and everyone on your team will receive a DM prompting them to get started on their brackets.
Rob May, CEO of Talla, is from Kentucky, the home of college basketball. Last year, his company wrote a web application to manage their NCAA pool. This year, he decided to do it through Slack, where he thought it made the most sense to connect employees. It was free to create, and May said it helps showcase "how you can do cool stuff through Slack."
Companies are increasingly using Slack for communication, May said. An app like this could help people at larger companies, who aren't active on the platform, see that there are some interesting features available. With BracketBot, you can choose your teams, monitor your bracket, and get results back—all through the app.
March Madness can put strains on office bandwidth—but that's not the problem BracketBot is trying to solve. It was created primarily because so many people are working in Slack already. And while certain complicated tasks should not be done in Slack, this tool—in which you can make simple decisions, get feedback, see reports and analytics, and get notifications—seems to be a perfect fit for the platform, said May. Since Talla specializes in bots, it had infrastructure in place to pull from in the creation of BracketBot—basically, May said, they just had to add the bracket piece in.
May said he thinks that a lot of communication can now be done on a "single chat screen, where you don't have to leave." He believes we will see a trend where web apps still exist, but communication moves towards chat interfaces like Slack, where you can provide quick responses and answers to work-related questions, like approving someone's PTO request. This kind of thing eliminates the need for logins, and May said he thinks that the convenience of Slack is a reason it's become so successful as a business tool.
May said he expects that several thousand companies will try BracketBot out. The kinds of companies that use Slack, he said, may already be tied into events like the Super Bowl and the NCAA tournament. And while he thinks that most people who download BracketBot will be Slack users, he said it could attract some non-Slack users to adopt the platform. "It may get the people who have been on the edge to sort of try Slack out," he said. "Understanding and being able to try and compare that experience to Slack gives you an idea of what would it be like to do more work in Slack."
What makes March Madness a good fit for Slack? It's based around simple decisions, said May. For each game, you're picking one of two choices. These are scenarios in which information needs to be delivered, but it's not necessarily complicated information, and notifications are important. And the results—Who won the game? What was the score?—are also simple. And, finally, Slack works well for this because the information can be conveyed via basic text.
The BracketBot is not without limitations. It will not offer a large visual bracket. May said that looking at the bracket this way is difficult because so many use Slack on mobile devices. That's why it's displayed in a game-by-game view on the mobile app. There's also a web app presence, May said, on which you can view the entire bracket.
May said he thinks the success of BracketBot will help the company understand people's expectations in interacting with bots. It's a "personification of software," May said, and people interact with bots in very different ways. Having more information on how people use BracketBot will offer insight into these interactions.
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Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a journalist in Louisville, KY. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Playboy, Undark Magazine, VICE, Vox, and other publications.