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Messaging software company Slack sees huge potential in generative AI and large language models that enable greater automation to improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace, said Steve Wood, SVP product management at Slack at the VentureBeat Transform 2023 conference on Tuesday.
“To me, I think automation, integration and artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on how we experience software in the future,” Wood said in his panel discussion with Profitable Good founder and CEO Brian Evergreen. Company, a leadership consultancy.
Launched as a start in 2013 by former Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield e acquired by Salesforce for nearly $30 billion in 2021Slack has embraced automation technologies and leveraged Open AI and Anthropic Large Language Models (LLMs) to more efficiently summarize busy channel activity in the instant messaging platform. It also generates new workflows from contextual information found in a company’s online discussion.
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After reflecting on how automation appeared in Slack, the platform saw a need to rebuild to “make it friendly to things like AI,” Wood said.
Automation for everyone
Another change Wood highlighted was the move to “flexible, modular building blocks,” which would allow people with low- or no-code to automate the features of their favorite apps or potentially have developers put things in place that could be better understood by AI in the future.
“I think too many organizations are clinging to automation as a professional’s role. And I think we need to open it up and… (allow) everybody to build and automate things, and they may not be doing it perfectly well,” Wood said. He says the institutional comfort level is going to have to grow to enable a future where tools AI-powered automation tools are accessible to everyone in an organization.
Wood says integrating the external insights contained in LLMs with unique data found in individual companies’ Slack conversations could be the key to quickly unlocking business intelligence tailored to users of the collaboration tool.
The ubiquitous corporate chat app released a report in May outlining three trends shaping the modern workplace and driving employee productivity. The 2023 State of Work survey highlighted the underuse of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation, the transformation of paperwork and design in the hybrid work era, and the direct influence of employee engagement and of talent development on productivity.
“There are all these pervasive productivity gains through these tools today, and we just have to let them discover,” Wood said.
Automating repetitive tasks is an underused way to improve productivity across teams in the era of hybrid work. While it found that people found automation useful, only a small fraction of the companies it surveyed ended up using the new tools to address these challenges.
“It’s something like the average of about five hours saved per week by using AI technology in their work, which translates into one month per year. This is a non-trivial push,” Wood said. “So it’s time to rethink software and how we engage with it, for sure.”
Wood further said that he believed the true value of generative AI to Slack and society had yet to be fully realized and could not be accurately projected yet as it likely involved changing society’s behaviors. He likened GenAI to the advent of Uber and ridehail apps, pointing out that the total addressable market (TAM) was not just people who took cabs, but everyone who changed their behavior once they realized they could easily order rides. ran from their phones.
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