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Slack rolls out lists to help track and manage tasks within the platform

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright June 6, 2024
General availability of lists brings an important new no-code workflow automation capability to Slack.

Screen mock-up of a Kanban board in Slack lists

Coinciding with the arrival of Salesforce World Tour in London today, Slack has begun rolling out general availability of lists, a new feature which brings structured task management to the teamwork platform. First announced at Dreamforce last year, the roll-out now incorporates feedback from customers who have had early access. It allows users to bring to-do lists and similar tables into Slack rather than having to jump out to other tools such as Trello, Google Sheets or ServiceNow to track and progress these items. Katie Steigman, Senior Director of Product, Slack, says:

We want to eliminate context switching and we want to be able to get people all lined up on cross-functional projects in one place where hopefully they're already working, which is in Slack... The simple aim of lists is really just help teams manage projects, inbound requests, and do their team planning.

Lists is rolling out with templates for the typical use cases that customers have found for the tool, such as managing simple projects, executing marketing campaigns, or triaging incoming requests. Each item in a list is typically an action or request, with columns to add details such as who's been assigned the item, what is the due date, status tracking, and so on. Lists can be entered manually, imported in CSV format, or created from a predefined template. It's also possible to add an item to a list from within a Slack message.

There is a choice of views, including the ability to switch a list into a Kanban view in which each line becomes a card, sorted into categories such as status. Familiar Slack features such as message threads and at-mentions can be attached to any record in a list, and the function also connects with Slack's built-in workflow manager, so for example records can be entered using a form and then trigger alerts or workflows. Steigman says this is a particularly powerful capability for triaging and processing requests:

Imagine I have a legal requests channel. People can... submit their request, it will create the list item. Now I can track that item. I can assign it to someone, I can put it in a Kanban board, I can get it done. You can also use workflow builder for alerts and a lot of other powerful things. Say, for example, I want to alert a channel when one of my tasks has been marked at risk. You can set all of that up with alerts really easily with workflow builder.

I think that this is really going to be the puzzle piece, the cherry on top, of having really efficient end-to-end workflows in Slack. We were missing this piece of structured data that helps you get stuff done and keep everything in Slack.

Connecting lists to workflow builder

In addition to small improvements to the user experience, a particular focus based on feedback from customers during the early release period was the integration to workflow builder. She explains:

One of the things that stood out to me that we heard from customers is, 'I want to collect data like requests or problems, or ideas from workflow builder forms into a list, and I want that flow to be really seamless.' So we did even more work with workflow builder than we planned, because people wanted those end-to-end request and triage flows. That was something that we invested in a lot, where people felt like they were getting a lot of efficiency, and a lot of productivity gains with their teams. We found a lot of areas where we could do even more after we got that feedback.

Customers appreciate being able to consolidate this functionality within Slack, rather than having to use multiple tools. She goes on:

For large enterprises, the win is reducing tool proliferation, making employees more efficient. I think for SMBs, you get an efficiency gain, but the other thing there too, is just, you're even more conscious about how many licences that you have to buy if you're a small business. If you're already paying for Slack, 'Great, now I can use project management within Slack, and that's one less thing I have to do.'

The ability to embed a list in a Slack canvas will be introduced soon after the roll-out completes next month. This marks a further step in Slack's journey towards becoming a complete productivity platform. She adds:

We want to make it extremely easy to use a combination of our most powerful features — workflow builder, lists, canvas, huddles, channels — and we really want to package those together for people so that it's really seamless. You don't even need to be a power user to use all these things together to have these super-productive end-to-end flows for all different types of business functions.

Except for sales teams that use the Sales Elevate add-on for Slack, however, integration to workflows in Salesforce and to third-party tools is not yet available.

My take

My reaction when the lists feature was first announced is that it fills an important gap in Slack's no-code workflow automation capabilities. It seems that customers feel that way too, with early release users eager to use lists alongside workflow builder. It's something of a disappointment therefore that integration into Salesforce's own workflow builder and out to other applications hasn't yet been delivered. Enterprises are increasingly looking to teamwork vendors to help them reduce the proliferation of tools their people have to use, so that they can consolidate on a smaller number of key platforms within the Collaborative Canvas of enterprise teamwork.

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