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Slack CEO describes 'Holy Grail' of virtual assistants

Clint Boulton | Oct. 18, 2016
Stewart Butterfield wants to build a super bot that retrieves and correlates information from any enterprise application to find employees answers to sophisticated questions.

Slack is building an enterprise version that will include many of the necessary attributes CIOs have come to demand from productivity and collaboration tools, including the capability to provision and de-provision users and have fine-grained control and policy setting over channels through a single web dashboard. The software, currently in testing with half a dozen businesses, will feature metrics about consumption and other analytics. When it does launch, platforms from Microsoft, IBM and the just launched Facebook Workplace platform will be waiting.

Such options are good news for knowledge workers who have chafed for years under the scourge of email systems, where it can be hard to find what you wrote last night let alone what you wrote last year. Social software platforms, hailed as the natural reprieve for email, mostly just created more noise and for users fell under the “Yet Another Enterprise App” category.

Slack aims to be the all-in-one, Swiss Army Knife of workplace productivity platforms. “It can be a front-end the way the web browser is the front-end,” Butterfield says.

Butterfield says Slack has benefitted from fortuitous timing.

“We’re clever and we work hard but we also have had unbelievable luck and timing in all of this,” Butterfield says. “The world obviously wanted something like Slack. We ended up in the most strategic position in all of enterprise software for the next couple decades in what I think the category that is going to be most important.”


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