Slack adds Actions feature, highlights dev community growth

Slack adds Actions feature, highlights dev community growth

As the company’s first developer conference, Spec, kicked off in San Francisco, Slack stressed efforts to integrate its software with third-party apps.

Slack users can now create action points directly from a message post in the app with the introduction today of a new Actions feature. 

Announced as Slack kicked off its first Spec developer conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Actions deepens integration with third-party apps such as project management tool Asana and issue-tracking app Jira.

An Asana task can be created by clicking on the context menu in the right hand corner of a Slack message, for instance; it will capture relevant data directly from the message menu such as due date, what needs to be done and the project involved.

Slack officials highlighted additional integrations with Bitbucket, HubSpot and ZenDesk, and said  more are on their way.

Third-party integrations have long been a key part of Slack’s appeal, and Actions will make these even more helpful for users, said Bear Douglas, head of developer relations for the company. “Actions makes it easier for people to do work in other apps right from Slack,” Douglas said.

“It is super exciting because it is a shortcut for users, it makes the whole part of data entry a lot faster,” she said.

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said a benefit of Slack Actions is that they let users “perform real actions directly within the stream, not just have basic conversations. 

“While it's nice to integrate content from business applications, the real power comes in interacting with it in real-time in context,” he said.

Wayne Kurtzman, research director at IDC, agreed the move should make the use of third-party integrations easier. 

“Slack wants to remove barriers to getting work done, and deeper application integrations is key to that goal,” he said. “The easier it becomes for apps to talk with each other through Slack, the more valuable collaboration becomes to individual users and the enterprise.

“This feature could open a realm of possibilities, including significantly more helpful A.I. and enterprise analytics.” 

In addition to simplifying processes for end users, the updates will benefit developers, Douglas said, by making apps and integrations more visible and easier to access.

As the company highlighted in a recent blog post, there are now more than 200,000 weekly active Slack developers and in excess of 1,500 apps in the Slack app directory. 

Douglas said 94% of Slack teams are actively using third-party apps and integrations; that’s up up from 90% of teams who did so last year. Furthermore, the number of integrations created internally within organizations – and thus not available in Slack’s app directory – has also been growing rapidly. Slack estimates the number of new in-house integrations at 15,000 a week.

Against the backdrop of an increasingly competitive collaboration market, Lepofsky said that fostering a strong developer community is “not just important, it's critical.

“The best products succeed because of a vibrant partner ecosystem filling in gaps and extensions for features that are not native to the core product,” he said.  

That said, the quality of partnerships is more important than quantity. “The total number of partners and applications is far less relevant than the number that are actually providing real value, and those that are being leveraged by customers,” said Lepofsky.

Among the other announcements at Spec was a preview of updates to Workspaces. When fully launched, this will let Slack admins deploy apps faster, installing them organization-wide rather than on one workspace at a time.

Douglas explained: “So if, for example, you are using Box as your file storage provider, it doesn’t make sense to roll that out one group at a time: you want that for the entire company right away. [The Workspace apps] update is making it easy to do that straight off the bat.”

The company also touted new investments in startups via its Slack Fund, with money going to  Aptly, Clara, Learnmetrics, Pullrequest, Zylo and Epistema. The Slack Fund, launched in 2015, provides financial support to companies building tools on top of the Slack app.

Slack has now invested in 38 startups, 11 of which have gone on to raise additional rounds, Doulas said. 

The announcements follow a recent update from the Slack on customer adoption levels. According to the latest user stats released by the company, Slack now counts 8 million daily active users across more than 500,000 organizations. That’s up from 6 million last September, when the company touted $200 million in annual recurring revenues.  

There are also more than 150 businesses using its Enterprise Grid product.

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