Slack wants to become the ‘long-term memory’ for organizations

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Slack CEO Denise Dresser this week laid out what she sees as her company’s primary use for artificial intelligence (AI) in the future: making it easier for users to find key channel conversations and turn them into the basis for tasks and projects.

Dresser, a long-time Salesforce employee who took the reins of Slack six months ago, sat down with members of the media on Tuesday after her keynote address at Salesforce’s World Tour event in Boston. Much of the focus was on Slack’s integration with Salesforce’s Einstein Copilot.

(Salesforce acquired Slack in late 2020.)

What Slack will eventually be able to offer both its own and Salesforce’s users will be a unified experience where AI oversees any influx of both structured and unstructured data and parses through it to offer users the most important summaries. Being able to find key moments in chats and knowing what happened in conversations is hard to navigate, Dresser said, and is at the heart of Slack’s AI integration.

“Sometimes AI can be the simplest thing that drives productivity,” she said. “So, we did Slack AI Search. With that, Slack becomes the long-term memory of your organization. …Being able to find things easily in a generative manner, where you actually get a summary of what you need to find, was a really big ‘Aha’ moment for us.”

AI’s adoption and integration into virtually every Slack function will continue to accelerate. Dresser pointed to an “evolution of skills” that has come with the adoption of the technology, including prompt engineering or the use of natural language processing to perform functions, such as the creation of software without traditional line-by-line coding.

“It took two months for ChatGPT to get to 100 million users, 15 years for the mobile phone to get to 100 million users, four years for Facebook to get to 100 million users. What I think we’re going to start to see is this [same] acceleration as people start to adopt it, and see productivity improvements,” Dresser said.

“We’re going to bring that into Canvas. It’s going to be in Workflow, it’s going to be in Huddle,” she continued. “So, you’ll see AI infused everywhere. It’s just going to be by your side in the application.”

Users, Dresser explained, won’t even know it’s AI with which they’re interacting; it will be a natural offshoot of the Slack functionality. For example, users would need to use a search window to weed through days of Slack messages they may have missed. Instead, an AI-infused Slack would quickly surface the most important message summaries.

In terms of future innovations, Dresser pointed to the recently launched Slack Lists feature, which automatically captures the most important parts of channel conversations and surfaces them to users.

Less than 34% of projects are completed on time and one budget, Dresser claimed, saying that users having to switch between tasks in applications was a significant drain on time and productivity. “We have millions of people working in Slack; why leave Slack?” she said. “We wanted to bring that capability for tasks, and lists, and projects into Slack. It starts right in a [Slack] conversation, where you’re able to start a task list from that conversation and start working on your project right there.”

The AI-infused communication and collaboration platform will eventually also suggest to its users the chat channels they should prioritize for project purposes. “That type of power in terms of capability is going to be ‘Aha’ moments for people,” Dresser said.

She noted that only about a third of employees in general use AI-powered platforms in their jobs — but those who do have seen an average 81% productivity increase by eliminating mundane tasks.

As AI continues to be integrated into Slack and Salesforce tools, one challenge will be maintaining the feel and “integrity” of what’s she called a “beloved” application.

“We’ve already integrated Slack, Sales Elevate, and Salesforce. Co-pilot’s integration is going to be great,” she said. “One of the things we thought deeply about was making sure the craft of Slack and the experience of Slack is maintained, even when thinking about architectural integration. Creating that experience that is very Slack-like and that’s efficient and productivity is something we’ve thought deeply about.”

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