Slack, the popular workplace communication tool, now has a workflow generator to help you automate recurring tasks. Here’s what it does, what it can do and how you can use it.
Workflow Builder is only available in Paid plans Slack: Standard, Plus or Enterprise. If you are in their free plan, you will need to upgrade to use Workflow Builder, although you can get one Free trial from paid plans if you want to play with it.
What is Workflow Builder?
Workflow Builder allows you to define a trigger and then a sequence of actions. When the shutter is activated, the sequence of actions appears. Using one of examples from Slack, the trigger action could be when a new person joins a channel. The sequence of actions could be to automatically send you a direct message with useful information and a short form to introduce you to the other members of the channel.
You can choose from the following triggers:
- Actions menu: someone manually selects the workflow from the channel menu.
- New channel member: someone joins the channel.
- Emoji reaction: someone reacts to a message with an emoji.
You can have as many steps in the workflow as you want, but you need to choose one of the following:
- Send a message: to a person or channel.
- Submit a form: to a person or channel.
Although these are triggers and simple actions, you can still create fairly complex workflows, such as approvals or data collection. The next planned addition to Slack is support for enable workflows using an API. In theory, this means that you can use services like IFTTT or Microsoft Flow to start a Slack workflow or to create a trigger in your own application.
However, for now, all triggers and Slack actions are internal.
How can Workflow Builder be used?
You can create a workflow and then publish it when you want it to be available to other users. To get started, click the arrow next to the workspace name to open the main menu, then click «Workflow Builder.»
In the Workflow Builder panel, click «Create Workflow.»
Give a name to your workflow; others will see it, so make it descriptive. After naming the workflow, click «Next.»
Choose an activation action to start the workflow. For this example, we will use the «Action Menu», because we want people to be able to use this workflow whenever they need it.
The next step will vary depending on the trigger you choose. If you select «New channel member», you must choose the channel on which you want the workflow to run. If you choose «Emoji Reaction», you need to select the emoji you want to activate.
Because we have chosen the «Action menu», we need to choose the channel in which people can start the workflow and then give it a name so that they can select it. After that, we will click on «Save».
The workflow is created and displayed on the «Workflow Overview» page. Click «Edit» to edit the details. For a «Action menu» workflow, you can change the workflow name and channel in which it appears, but you cannot change the trigger action; you need to create a new workflow to do this.
Now, you need to add one or more actions to run the workflow, so click «Add step.»
You can choose «Send a message» or «Create a form». For our example, we will click on «Add» next to the «Create a form» option.
In the «Create a form» panel, enter a title and a question, then select the question type from the following drop-down menu options:
- Short answer
- Long answer
- Select from a list
- Select a person
- Select a channel or DM
For our example, we will choose «Select from a list». We also add a value to the list of options and then click «Add list item» to add another. Repeat this until you have listed all the options you want someone to choose from.
You can use the buttons on the right to move items up and down or to remove them from the list. You can also choose a «Default Selection» (if you want one) from the drop-down menu below the list items.
Once your question is complete, you can make it mandatory and then add another. You can add questions until you fill out the form and then choose the channel (or person) to which you want to send the results.
When you have finished the form, click «Save».
«Workflow Overview» now shows the step you added. Click «Add Step» to add more steps until the workflow is complete.
When the workflow is ready, click ‘Publish’ at the top right of the page.
A panel appears saying that the workflow was published with a rain of confetti.
A message is posted to the channel to inform everyone that you have posted a workflow.
We’ve added our workflow to a channel that anyone can use, so that the workflow symbol (lightning) is now visible. If you click the icon, the workflow will be visible to everyone and they can click the icon to select and use the workflow.
When you click the workflow, the form you created is displayed.
To edit or change the workflow, click the arrow next to the workspace name to open the main menu, and then click «Workflow Builder.»
The Workflow Builder panel opens.
To edit your workflow, just click on it. Click the three dots on the right to open a menu that allows you to perform other actions, such as unpublishing or deleting the workflow.
Over time, we hope that Slack will add even more functionality to workflows. In the meantime, however, it is a useful tool to improve communication and collaboration.