Slack’s latest update may seem small, but it could make your work day way more efficient

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield

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Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield
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Cindy Ord/Stringer

  • On Tuesday, Slack announced a new tool called Actions, which make it easier to update outside applications without leaving the Slack window.
  • Actions let users complete tasks like approving an expense report that’s stored on Expensify, or assigning a task stored on the project management tool Asana, from within the Slack app.
  • The launch of Actions also reveals a pivotal shift in how enterprise tech works. Competing companies are choosing to work together to improve the customer experience.

Slack wants to be a central communication hub for all-things work related, and its latest update does just that.

On Tuesday, the workplace messaging tool launched Actions, a new feature that lets Slack users engage with other business applications like Atlassian, Zendesk, and HubSpot without leaving the Slack interface.

Consider Asana, a project management platform that helps teams manage and organize projects. If you’re trying to take stock of what your obligations and assignments are, it may be useful to open up Asana and take it all in. But if you’re in Slack when a coworker asks you to take responsibility for a specific element of a project, it will save you both time and focus to add this new task to Asana without leaving Slack at all.

By simply right clicking on your colleague’s request in Slack, you’ll now be able to update your information within Asana.

It’s through alliances like this, which Slack has brokered with some of the most popular office software companies, that the company is enabling people to have a single continuous workflow within the Slack platform.

While Actions add a layer of convenience to Slack, such integrations weren’t possible in the corporate landscape of yesteryear. It’s a marked shift in how business software partnerships work.

Historically in enterprise tech, there was what’s known as vendor lock-in. If you bought hardware or software from a vendor like Oracle, for example, you could only use their products. And since many enterprise tech contracts involved thousands of dollars investments, companies were hesitant to switch vendors just to get a specific piece of software.

There was no way to make products from different companies talk to one another – primarily because companies weren’t incentivized to give up their competitive advantage.

But today, competing companies are a lot more comfortable integrating their products with one another if it improves the customer experience. Slack has over 1,500 applications in its app store including strategic partnerships with Google, Workday, SAP, Salesforce, Oracle and ServiceNow. And 94% of the paid teams on Slack use applications.

While companies don’t need to have a partnership with Slack to build an application or Action integration, it is up to system administrators to enable the tools for their staffs. So you may have an Expensify account, but the integration won’t work unless your company enables it.

Here’s how actions work:


Say you are a member of Project Nano. A colleague tells you that the last thing to do is send the project to legal for approval. You can right click on your colleague’s message to create a task for yourself in Asana.

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Slack

From your Slack window, you can fill out of all of the required fields. Click create to save the information and send it to Asana.

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Slack

Clicking ‘create’ will also generate a link inside Slack so you and your colleagues can easily reference the task in Asana with just one click.

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Slack

Once in Asana, the task includes information from the Slack conversation so that it’s always contextualized within the original conversation.

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Slack