Laptop computer displaying logo of Slack.
Image: monticellllo/Adobe Stock

Slack’s native generative AI tool will be introduced in a pilot program in winter 2023, the workplace collaboration software company announced on Wednesday. Slack revealed new task automation and collaboration tools at the same time.

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New AI features will be put through their paces this winter

Slack’s built-in generative AI, Slack AI, will be available across Slack’s coverage regions in a limited pilot project run in winter 2023. General availability has not yet been announced, but a waitlist has already opened for Slack AI on Sept. 6.

In May, Slack introduced Slack GPT inside Salesforce, an integration with ChatGPT. This may seem like it performs some of the same functions as Slack AI, such as summarization. However, Slack AI is built on a proprietary LLM and is a separate entity from Slack GPT.

The plan is for Slack AI to sit within Slack’s existing channel format. Slack AI can perform:

  • Channel recaps.
  • Thread summaries.
  • And search for answers within an organization’s Slack platform.

“Slack’s channel-based model is a powerful way of building a repository of knowledge across an organization — but we also know it can be tough to parse through it all quickly and find the info you actually need,” said Rukmini Reddy, Slack’s senior vice president of engineering for the platform, in an email to TechRepublic. “With that, we’re starting with a focus on functionality that powers search results and allows for quick and easy information summarization.”

The Slack AI search function and summarization mean an employee could look for answers across multiple threads and find an overview of what their colleagues discussed. This might be particularly useful when an employee wants to catch up on conversations after going on vacation, Reddy suggested.

“How we work is rapidly evolving and is highly reliant on our ability to effectively evolve and adopt new technologies,” said Wayne Kurtzman, vice president of social, communities and collaboration for IDC, in a press release from Slack. “Slack continues to evolve with new, more intelligent tools and ways of working that drive alignment, streamline efficiency and boost productivity for teams across the business.”

Slack made sure to state that information put into Slack AI won’t be used to train the AI model. The company has put guardrails in place to make sure information from the AI doesn’t appear in front of customers’ eyes or third parties, and the Slack AI is hosted in Slack’s own virtual private cloud.

“Slack AI is powered by an LLM that’s hosted within our infrastructure, so native AI capabilities are built on a very secure foundation by default,” said Reddy. “It’ll adhere to the same security, compliance and data controls that our customers have already come to know and rely on.”

Workflow Builder automates tasks

A new version of Slack’s Workflow Builder is generally available across Slack’s global regions, as of Sept. 6. It automates workflow galleries and provides templates, opening up automation to any user who wants to adjust their own workflows, regardless of whether they know how to code or not (Figure A). Integrations with Google, Atlassian and Asana are available for cases where tasks require a third-party application.

Figure A

A screenshot of Workflow Builder's options.
A demonstration of Workflow Builder’s options. Image: Slack

With Workflow Builder, application developers can build and deploy custom apps that require internal systems or advanced business logic, Slack said.

Introducing Slack Lists in preview

Slack introduced a new feature called Lists in preview. It allows workers to track work and share information with colleagues and across teams about the progress of requests, approvals and projects.

SEE: How to link Slack and Trello workspaces. (TechRepublic)

In addition, Slack Lists is formatted to make communication and project tracking between teams easier. Employees familiar with Slack’s messaging will see the same types of channels and notifications in Lists.

Slack Lists will be available in limited fashion as a pilot project in winter 2023, with general global availability following in 2024.

Slack’s attempt to even the playing field with its competitors

With Slack AI, Slack is trying to position itself as more flexible and useful for more types of work. Slack’s biggest competition comes from collaboration software built inside giant productivity suites like Microsoft’s Teams or Google’s Chat. While adding summarization or workflow building won’t compete directly with those on the same scale, it does give users more reasons to stay inside the Slack application when planning ahead, not just when conversing.

Other alternatives to Slack include Trello for kanban boards, Chanty for a text and video messenger, RingCentral for audio and video, Bitrix24 for sales and marketing, Rocket.Chat, Basecamp for project management and Troop Messenger for app developers.

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