Slack is a widely used workplace messaging platform

San Francisco:

Artificial intelligence is transforming Slack, the widely used workplace messaging platform, the CEO told AFP just nine months after taking on one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile jobs. Lidiane Jones was put in charge of Slack after co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield left the company two years after his company was acquired by Salesforce, the San Francisco-based enterprise software giant.

Life at Slack wasn’t always smooth sailing after the blockbuster $27.7 billion transaction, and Jones, a former Microsoft executive who rose through the ranks at Salesforce in just a few years, was named CEO to to ensure stability.

Jones took the job in January, just weeks after the launch of ChatGPT alerted the world to the superpowers of AI, and Slack has moved quickly to avoid falling behind, especially against its arch-rival Microsoft.

“It’s amazing what’s happened to the world,” Jones said of this AI moment that has captured the imagination of Silicon Valley and the world.

“We have introduced more features in the last nine months than in previous years.”

Jones was born in Brazil and lives in the Boston area. He was in San Francisco for “Dreamforce,” Salesforce’s big annual event where new products were unveiled and AI was the talk of the town.

Many believe that tools like Slack will be the first to be profoundly transformed by generative AI, which can generate text, images and sounds in everyday language on demand.

Originally designed to facilitate teamwork and internal communication, Slack, along with its counterparts such as Microsoft’s Teams, has launched new versions equipped with AI and acting something like an online assistant.

“When I returned from my two-week vacation this summer, I had to catch up on mountains of messages from clients and colleagues,” Jones said.

“I asked ‘Slack AI’ to summarize everything, and I was up to speed in two hours, rather than spending a whole day or even a week.”

She said this reliance on new AI tools works to aggregate all types of content or fully automate complicated administrative tasks, such as approving expenses or connecting users with internal expertise.

Unlike Microsoft, users can also speak directly in Slack with generative AI chatbots from various providers, such as Claude from the start-up Anthropic and soon also ChatGPT from OpenAI.

This availability of a wide range of third-party apps and tools “is our strength,” Jones said.

“We are very different from teams…We are first and foremost a very open platform.”

The comparison to teams is tricky. In 2020, when Slack was still a startup, it filed a complaint with the European Union against Microsoft over its bundling of Teams in its wildly popular Office suite.

With around 300 million monthly users, Microsoft’s conversation and video conferencing app is surpassing Slack with its 12 million daily active users, according to data from 2019, the last time it was released.

Microsoft has given in to many of Slack’s demands in Europe, but the EU’s investigation continues and the Windows giant could face further repercussions from European regulators.

However, thanks to its large investments in OpenAI, Microsoft has gained a lead in generative AI.

But Jones insisted that Slack is equally suited to excel in AI because of the quality of its data, the key ingredient in the technology’s magic formula.

“We have all of a company’s knowledge on the platform… employees collaborating across departments, all this unstructured data is there,” she said.

“That’s what makes our AI capabilities so powerful because they have so much context,” she added.

Currently, Slack has no plans to develop its own language model, the systems at the heart of generative AI that have made OpenAI a household name.

“We don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel,” Jones joked, while reserving the possibility of designing a more specific model one day.

In the even more distant future, Slack could one day develop highly personalized AI agents, a kind of digital secretaries that know users down to the most personal details.

“It’s definitely a plausible future. And look, I have a family, I work, it’s very busy… Isn’t it amazing that a system can track everything in one place?”

“But it will take time” for people to feel comfortable with it, she said.

“I think there is a possibility and a desire, but it will take a while before we reach the confidence limit.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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