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An introduction to Slack workflows

Automate recurring tasks, from greeting a new colleague to coordinating a service outage

By Team Allma

Our workdays are full of repetitive tasks, like sending out periodic communications to a group of people, or responding to that question everyone keeps asking no matter how many times you answer it. Luckily many of the tools we use for work make it easy to automate these kinds of tasks—and in Slack, these sorts of automations are called workflows.

What is a workflow?

At the most basic level, a workflow is a series of steps you program to complete an objective. Within Slack, workflows are a way to automate recurring tasks that you’re currently handling manually. Since Slack offers a variety of step options and workflow triggers, you can customize your workflows to do everything from sending a welcome message to a new colleague to posting a DataDog dashboard with an emoji. And if you started to sweat when you read the word “program”, don’t worry—Slack’s workflow builder is incredibly easy to use and requires no coding skill whatsoever.

How do Slack workflows…work?

There are two key elements to Slack workflows:

  • Workflow steps
  • The workflow trigger

Workflow steps

When building a workflow, steps are how you tell the workflow what to do. In Slack, there are three step types which can be repeated and combined to fit your needs:

  • Send a message: Just what it sounds like—when this step is triggered, Slack sends a message to your designated channel or user.
  • Send a form: A massive help for anyone whose job involves gathering information—you can select from both free answer and selection menu question types to get the exact info you need.
  • Incorporate an app: If you’ve integrated your other tools with Slack, you can fold those apps into your workflows to trigger app actions automatically.

The workflow trigger

The trigger sets everything in motion. There are a variety of ways to trigger workflows:

  • On a schedule: For automating weekly tasks or sending one-time reminders.
  • New Channel Member: Say hi or share any channel rules when someone new joins your channel.
  • Shortcut menu: Give your team easy access to request templates or commonly used actions.
  • Emoji reaction: One of the coolest ways to trigger a workflow—simply react to a message with a specific emoji to set the workflow in motion.
  • Webhooks: Trigger a workflow with a webhook request from an outside source (this one requires more advanced technical knowledge).

When you set up a workflow, it will look something like this:

A screenshot of a Slack workflow

What can I do with a Slack workflow?

Depending on how complicated you want to make your workflow, you can do everything from automatically greeting a new colleague to coordinating a service outage across multiple apps and teams.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few ideas:

Faster support ticket creation

Set up a comprehensive form that will ensure team members provide all ticket requirements the first time—no more back-and-forth asking for details and supporting materials.

Standup reminders

It can be enough to dig out of your inbox first thing in the morning, let alone remembering to post your standup notes. Use a message workflow to remind your team to post, and create a form to keep everyone’s responses consistent.

Data in a click

When you’re having a conversation with a colleague in Slack and you want to share specific data points that support your ideas, you could try to get them to navigate to the right Datadog dashboard or switch over to grab the link. Alternatively, you could share the exact dashboard you want by reacting to a message with a graph (or any other) emoji. The Datadog workflow will pull in the dashboard attached to the workflow automatically.

Work is messy—Allma brings together humans, data, and logic to problem solve and learn.

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