What gets most product managers out of bed in the morning? Frameworks. How do most product managers like their coffee? Frameworks. Why did the product manager cross the road? Frameworks.

One big question that PMs have to answer is, “Why should we build this feature now?” Fortunately, there’s a great framework for that: the Mom framework.

A few months ago, I was home visiting my family for a long weekend. We sat down at our usual dinner table spots and started eating. A couple bites in, my mom asks me, “Alex, what’s Slack?”

So it was decided. We were going to build a Slack integration. Thanks Mom…framework. 

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Why a Slack integration? (actually)

“The medium is the message, is my message” — Mclusky, Medium is the Message

At BetterWorks, we start every product decision at the same place: with the user. We have lots of distinct user personas within our product, who all have very distinct needs and problems to be solved. Whenever we see a global problem, a problem that affects all personas, we know we need a solution. When we see that same problem with our own BetterWorks team internally, we really know that solution is important.

The problem was very clear: I communicate in Slack, but my goal and progress insights from BetterWorks aren’t in Slack. Dani Stepensky, Director of Product at Fusion, put it best during one of our conversations:

“Most employees have left email for Slack…If people are going to see or act on things, those things have to be in Slack.”

How can this help me and my team?

If you and your team are using Slack for a majority of your conversations at work, this integration is for you.

  • BetterWorks allows you to automatically capture progress on your goals (check out our Salesforce or JIRA integrations in particular). Measuring that progress information is only half the battle though.
  • Understanding that data, and surfacing it in real time, is where cool things start to happen, and behaviors start to change for the better.
  • For members of your team who have completely moved away from email to Slack, the BetterWorks + Slack integration is the crucial link between simply measuring progress, and actually understanding what that progress means.
  • You, and your team, will never have to worry about missing important updates in your email again.

What does it look like?

The BetterWorks Bot looks like any other user in your Slack team.Screenshot 2015-08-18 09.29.24

BetterWorks goal updates are individually tailored for each user, so we don’t want those updates going to a public channel. The BetterWorks Bot updates you in a direct message, so those updates stay private.

It’s also helpful if you’re ever searching for a specific goal update. Rather than go searching through other channels or threads, you can simply open your conversation with BetterWorks Bot, and find the update there.

The messages themselves show you all of the information you need.

Screenshot 2015-08-18 09.40.55

(We’ve included an invite for the meetup, but it was last week. Sorry! Stay tuned for the next one.)

They also provide links to the relevant pages in BetterWorks if you want to see more.

Screenshot 2015-08-18 09.38.37

(Easily navigate to the goal in BetterWorks, or to Menaka or Randall’s profiles)

How to enable Slack + BetterWorks

The integration is for BetterWorks customers only. For current customers, our setup documentation can be found here in the help center. At a high level though, setting up the integration is a snap.

For BetterWorks administrators, all that’s required is pasting an API token from Slack into the integrations section of the app.

For individual users, check out the documentation here. If your administrator has enabled Slack for your company, all you have to do is hit the Activate button in your settings page.

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What’s next?

As much as we’re loving this first iteration of the Slack integration, we know there is so much more that can be done. We uncovered a number of smaller, but really compelling use cases, as we did our user research. Some things we are thinking about:

  • Completing goals is a cause for celebration. How can we share these celebratory moments with groups and the company as a whole?
  • People have established workflows within Slack, and we are obsessive about preserving existing workflows. How can we harness these Slack workflows, and have actions taken within BetterWorks?Screenshot 2015-08-19 09.22.43
  • Emoji reactions have taken the world by storm. Could these reactions trigger events in BetterWorks too?

For those with a taste for the technical… why did we choose a bot integration?

Slack has an awesome and robust set of APIs that address a number of use cases. There are solutions ranging from simple webhooks, to the standard Web API, to a real-time messaging (RTM) API for most bots. That final solution, the bot integration, caught our eye for a number of reasons.

In its API docs, Slack mentions that building bot integrations is, “not easy, but it’s fun.” To that we said, “Yes and yes!” Bot integrations do require some serious code to be written, but that’s what gets our stellar engineering team out of bed each morning. So “not easy” actually sounded pretty great to us. That being said, we never go out of our way to choose the more technically difficult solution. We chose it in this case because the benefit to user experience far outweighed the technical challenges.

Here are some of the pluses to a bot integration:

  • With us doing the heavy lifting, bot integrations are as easy to configure as a webhook. Our admins paste one token and our users hit one button.Screenshot 2015-08-19 13.47.10
  • While the RTM API powers most bots, bot integrations can still harness methods from the Web API, making it really easy to post messages.
  • Our updates needed a private channel (i.e. using the Web API and posting to Slackbot’s channel, or the bot integration and creating our own “BetterWorks Bot” user).
  • This decision between Web API and Bot was a no brainer for us. Slackbot (Web API option) is a powerful feature, but it has a very strong and unique voice. Our platform has its own unique brand voice too, and we thought competing voices in one channel would confuse users and muddy the experience. Now, the experience is crystal clear: BetterWorks Bot cares about all things goals and progress.
  • Further along the lines of experience, we are obsessed with understanding user workflows at BetterWorks. We want users to track progress and get credit for their goals, just by doing their work. Since Slack is a big part of workflows, users should be able to initiate actions and have conversations inside of BetterWorks without leaving Slack. The RTM API holds a lot of potential for a more conversational future.

If you’re a customer looking to use the Slack integration, please reach out to your BetterWorks administrator to enable it. If you aren’t a BetterWorks customer, but think this stuff sounds pretty cool, please reach out to us at hello@betterworks.com.