Product developments from Frontiers

The next generation of the Slack Platform

Steve Wood
Oct 8 · 6 min read

Steve Wood is VP of product for the developer platform at Slack. This recap is based on the Frontiers 2020 opening keynote, Transform the way you work, with Slack and Slack’s vision for the event-driven enterprise.

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Yesterday Slack kicked off day one of Frontiers, the first-ever virtual edition of our annual user conference. You might still be absorbing all the exciting news we shared, so let’s break down the most important Slack Platform updates.

The engagement layer for the event-driven enterprise

The next generation of our platform is Slack’s vision for the event-driven enterprise. That might sound fancy, but it’s what our platform has always been about. From onboarding employees faster to managing incidents in record time, our developer ecosystem is already building incredible event-driven apps on Slack.

Consider your company’s day-to-day business processes. Now imagine them on a spectrum — human events on one end, like status updates, feedback discussions and problem solving, and machine events on the other, like inbound tickets, processed payments and updated calendar invitations. Somewhere in the middle, software converges with human decision-making and tools intersect with the way we work.

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The spectrum of work, from manual to automated, from human to machine events, from ad hoc to repeatable.

All of these events flowing back and forth create an opportunity to implement a lightweight, low-cost fabric for system integration, tying everything together and allowing you to get more value from your existing software investment.

For example, let’s consider the final stage of a typical recruiting process. A recruiter gets notified by a tool like DocuSign that a candidate accepted an offer. Next, the recruiter navigates to an application tracking software, like Greenhouse, to update the status. Then he or she switches to the company’s HR software, like Workday, to make updates there too. And finally, the recruiter shares this news with the hiring manager and other stakeholders.

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Recruiters interact with a variety of human and system events. How might we make their working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive?

This recruiter is filling productivity gaps, and there’s an opportunity for automation, connectivity and less context-switching. These types of event-driven processes are areas where any business can make transformative improvements.

As we head into this new paradigm, let’s take a closer look at yesterday’s platform announcements and how they can help you build the next generation of event-driven apps.

Unlock more value from your existing tools

As businesses mature on Slack, there are opportunities to go deeper: to scale, automate, analyze, and implement customization to fit their specific needs. Sophisticated Slack usage increases the pace of individual work and team productivity, adding value from investments in Slack and other software.

We want to give you the tools and features to build event-driven app experiences on Slack to meet the real-time needs of maturing organizations. Here are a few steps we’re taking to do exactly that.

For the past year, Workflow Builder has automated routine tasks more than 25 million times — from onboarding new teammates and triaging everyday requests to hosting daily standups and streamlining approval processes. Previously powered by Slack-native triggers and steps, we are expanding Workflow Builder’s automation capabilities to everyday tools.

Generally available to you now is the ability to offer the most critical actions from your Slack app as steps in Workflow Builder. Steps from apps allow anyone to build workflows that connect with their internal or external tools. You can add this functionality to your existing Slack apps, or start new, without the fuss of building an end-to-end integration.

To learn more about how to add your app to Workflow Builder, check out our API documentation. Curious to see who’s already offering steps? Visit our workflow collection on the Slack App Directory.

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PagerDuty now offers a step in Workflow Builder, so teams can automatically create a new incident without leaving Slack.

Activity reporting is now available in Workflow Builder. You can monitor performance — from investigating a broken workflow to seeing usage metrics — to better understand the value and end-user experience of a particular workflow.

If you’re a creator or collaborator, open Workflow Builder, select the workflow you’d like to view, and click on the new “Activity” tab to see how many times it’s been used, including the status, timestamp and user information.

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The new “Activity” tab in Workflow Builder displays usage details about a particular workflow.

We want to make building on Slack simple, which is why we maintain a set of developer tools, libraries and SDKs to help you get going quickly. Here are the latest improvements.

Bolt is a framework that streamlines app development by wrapping our different Slack APIs and platform features behind a single interface. Previously available in JavaScript and Java, Bolt is now also available in Python. Use Bolt to speed up development of shortcuts, workflow steps and other event-based app interactions in Slack.

Block Kit is a UI design framework for Slack apps. Based on your feedback, we’re prioritizing state management, event notifications and powerful search experiences for better app design. Inputs are available in app home, and you can now build with radio buttons and checkboxes across all surfaces.

Next up, we’re working to make inputs available in messages, plus full state interactive components. You can get early access to these features by opting into our newly minted platform developer beta.

Build enterprise-ready Slack apps

Slack is committed to making continuous improvements to our platform to ensure that we meet and exceed the needs of our largest enterprise customers. We also want you to feel confident that your apps will reach their full potential without encountering security and compliance hiccups.

Let’s dive into the new and upcoming tools for building (and managing) enterprise-grade apps and integrations.

We know it’s challenging to build Slack apps that connect to on-prem applications behind your corporate firewall. In fact, if you want to build with the latest platform features, you must create HTTP endpoints that are accessible from the public internet.

Coming soon, socket mode will enable apps to run without exposing those public endpoints, greatly reducing security risks and admin overhead, while granting your apps access to our latest features behind the comfort (and compliance) of your company’s firewall. More to come early next year!

Soon admins and owners will have a centralized way to install apps across some or all workspaces in their organization, available on Enterprise Grid plans only.

Until now, installing an app across your entire organization was a repetitive, workspace-by-workspace process. We know that’s not scalable for customers who have hundreds or even thousands of workspaces, which is why later this year we’re giving admins a more efficient way to distribute apps across their entire organization.

Stay tuned for more details on building an org-deployable app. In the meantime, you can get a jump-start by making sure your app is migrated to granular permissions, which is a prerequisite for this upcoming feature.

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Org-wide app deployment provides a centralized and scalable way to install apps on Slack.

Soon we’ll launch an annual, paid certification program for apps listed in the App Directory that want to distinguish themselves as enterprise-ready. This new program will ensure that apps meet the requirements for our largest customers across security, policy, support and user experience. More to come later this year!

Stay in the loop

Monitor the Slack Platform blog for future developer updates, or tune into the Slack API changelog for product news.

Questions? You can always tweet @SlackAPI or email feedback@slack.com.

Slack Platform Blog

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