While the pandemic and the rush to remote work pushed many organizations to speed up their digital transformation, there still remains a lot to be done. Among the most important of those things is automating workflows. At Slack Frontiers this week, the San Francisco-based company, bought by Salesforce in 2020, announced it was completely rebuilding its Workflow Builder.
Currently, Workflow Builder lets people automate work processes in Salesforce and other business applications. But it hasn’t always been part of Salesforce, and since it introduced Builder in 2019, Slack claims that 400,000 users have built workflows. More to the point, 80% of customers building workflows in their digital workplaces are non-developers.
The new platform will improve this and give anyone the power to automate everyday tasks in more flexible ways. Developers, the company said, will be able to create and ship apps and automations in minutes in an environment that’s secure and compliant by design.
This will be powered by a completely new way of developing workflows for Slack where developers will be able to create reusable workflow “building blocks” that can be shared with other developers and non-technical users to deploy and remix for their custom use cases. Users can then drag and drop building blocks to create a string of actions that comprise a task. The platform also comes with a new building-block user interface that will increase the number of tasks users can automate in Salesforce and third-party applications.
“Everyday Slack users can now build and automate workflows for their teams without leaning on IT or writing any code. For developers, not only are they now free to focus on more interesting work, but we’ve also cut their deployment time down from days to minutes,” said Steve Wood, vice president of product, developer platform at Slack, in a statement.
Slack Expands the Reach of Connect
There is one other Slack tidbit that’s worth noting this week. You may recall last year that Slack introduced Connect. With Connect, members of up to 20 organizations were given the ability to communicate with each other in a single Slack channel in total security. It also allowed users in those channels to send direct messages to one another, even if they are with different organizations.
With Slack Connect, admins could maintain control over their organization’s data and monitor external access. And unlike email, which leaves users open to the risk of spam and phishing, teams receive messages and files only from verified members when they work in channels.
In sum, Slack Connect extended the power of workflows and app integrations to an entire network, in theory making work more simple, pleasant and productive for everyone. And, according to Slack, it too has been successful and experienced huge growth over the course of the pandemic, with 200% endpoint growth year over year (every organization in a connected Slack Connect channel represents one endpoint). Translated into organization numbers, this represents more than 100,000 organizations working with customers and external partners every day in Slack.
At Frontiers, Slack announced that it is going further and introducing new functionality into Slack Connect. Coming early next year, organizations will be able to collaborate with up to 250 organizations in one channel, and by the end of the year customers will have the ability to set up secure work environments for large, complex projects with thousands of partners inside Slack.
Connect is one of the reasons Salesforce bought Slack, which by the time Salesforce is finished will be the interface that connects everything in Salesforce. The Connect tool will enable Salesforce to bring everyone together inside and outside the organization for whatever common projects they happen to be working on.
And here in a nutshell is why Salesforce paid just under $28 billion. While it’s not quite Microsoft Teams, it is easier to use and effective at getting people together and communicating. Salesforce may have missed the train in terms of social networking and UC in the early days, but Slack has changed all that.
Google Meet Expands Reach of Meetings
And then there’s Google, or Google Workspace to be exact. If the Mountain View, Calif.-based company has been more of an afterthought in the video conferencing space for a long time, with Meet this may be slowly changing. In fact this week, a small update that Google announced for certain Workspace Editions could have a big impact for small and medium-sized businesses.
For listed Workspace editions, users can now host meetings in Google Meet with up to 500 participants. While 500 falls short of what is possible with Teams, for example, for many SMBs this should be more than enough. That said, if they need to host an even larger meeting, they can enable live streaming and allow up to 100,000 viewers to watch at once.
In a post about the update, Google said: “We hope that by increasing the meeting size, it will be easier to connect and collaborate with your colleagues, clients and customers.”
The new participant limits will occur automatically for all meetings in the domain. For Rapid and Scheduled Release domains, there will be a full rollout (1–3 days for feature visibility) starting on Nov. 16 for Google Workspace Business Plus, Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus and Education Plus customers.
The new functionality is not available for Google Workspace Essentials, Business Starter, Business Standard, Enterprise Essentials, Education Fundamentals, Frontline, Nonprofits, the Teaching and Learning Upgrade, or G Suite Basic and Business customers.
Meta Gets Tighter With Microsoft Teams
It’s still easy to slip up and forget that Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta. The switch hasn’t changed its business strategy, though, and instead of Workplace from Facebook, the company’s enterprise collaboration and communication platform, we now have Workplace from Meta.
And now there’s a new upgrade, or rather a new partnership. This time, Meta appears to have accepted that Teams is the collaboration space in the digital workplace, for the moment at least, and has announced two new integrations that will enable enterprises that use both Workplace and Teams communicate with each other easier.
The integration between Workplace and Teams will give employees access to content from Workplace within Teams without having to switch back and forth between the two apps. This will make it easier for employees to stay up to date with content needed to complete tasks and will open up more opportunities for company-wide feedback and engagement.
Workplace is also adding the ability to stream from Teams Meetings into Workplace groups. This will allow employees to watch live meetings and events on whichever app they are using or catch up later by watching a recording on Workplace.
The announcement deepens the relationship between Microsoft and Meta. Last year, Workplace jointly committed with Microsoft to bring together tools to help mutual customers securely connect, collaborate and communicate. Joint customers can already integrate Workplace with SharePoint, OneDrive and the Office 365 suite.
In this respect, it is worth noting that Workplace was named one of Azure AD top 15 most used apps. Workplace announced Microsoft Azure AD integrations for Work Accounts to help businesses better manage their Meta tools. Teams and Workplace customers can use these integrations for free while companies will be able to stream meetings and broadcasts from Teams into Workplace starting in 2022.
Everyone Wants Automation
Finally this week, some insights into automation and how the wider population view it from New York City-based automation company Hyperscience in its 2021 Automation Pulse Report, which was based on the findings of a survey of 1,000 adults in the US.
According to the research, 75% of respondents believe they know what automation is. However, when asked to define that understanding 55% elevated popular misconceptions, such as technology existing solely to replace people (17%). Even still the research showed that:
- Automation is overwhelmingly in demand: 81% of respondents believe that automation in the workplace leads to more meaningful work being done.
- Employee experience is a priority for tech adoption: Nearly half of respondents (43%) believe that the most important aspect of the technology is the employees, and the way that technology impacts the overall employee experience, with the customer (34%) and company (23%) experience following.
- Shifting generational mindsets on automation: 35% of millennials believe humans and machines can work together, with 31% of all respondents in agreement, signaling a positive shift towards technology’s role in the workplace.
While we have seen some of these findings in other places before, what is interesting in this research comes from a wide group of the general population and not just people that are technology specialists.