What will the automated workplace look like?

If you haven’t read about it in the Times or heard about it on NPR yet, you are soon going to be replaced by a robot at your job. All the jobs we thought were safe because they required experience and nuance can now be done by computers. Martin Ford, author of the book the Times and NPR are reporting on, calls it “the threat of a jobless future.” A future where computers write our newspaper articles, create our legal contracts, and compose our symphonies.

Automating this type of complicated, quasi-creative task is really impressive. It requires super computers and uses the forefront of artificial intelligence to achieve this shocking result. It requires tons of data and lots of programming using advanced systems not available to ordinary people.

But not everything requires deep learning. Some of the things we do in our every day lives, especially at our jobs, can be automated. Though it used to be the domain of the geek, scripting and automation is invading all aspects of the workplace. Workers and organizations who can master scripting and automation will gain an edge on those who can’t.

We all have to face the reality that a well built script might be faster and more reliable than we can be at some parts of our jobs. Those of us who can create and wield this type of tool will be able to do better work faster.

Luckily, inside messaging tools like Slack, creating customized, interactive automation tools for business tasks is possible with a little open source code, some cloud tools that are mostly free, and a bit of self reflection.

“Bots” are apps that live alongside users in a chatroom. Users can issue commands to bots by sending messages to them, or by using special keywords in the chatroom. Traditionally, bots have been used for things like server maintenance and running software tests, but now, using the connected devices all around us, nearly anything can be automated and controlled by a bot.

An example:

A common task in many technology teams is the stand-up meeting. Everyone stands up, and one at a time, tells the team what they’ve been working on, what they’ve got coming up next, and any problems they are facing. Each person takes a few minutes to speak. In many teams, this is already taking place in a chat room.

If there are 10 people on a team, and each person speaks for just 90 seconds, they’ll spend 15 minutes just bringing people up to speed. Nothing has been discussed, no problems have yet been solved.

What happens if this process is automated using a “bot” in an environment like Slack?

A stand-up is triggered — automatically, or by a project manager.

Using a flexible script, the bot simultaneously reaches out to every member of the team via a private message on Slack. The bot has an interactive conversation with each team member in parallel and collects everyone’s responses.

I’ve mentioned how we use Slack heavily here at Flybase before, but this article was worth sharing as it touches on a few things we use Slack for, automating with slack bots. We use it for standups, triggering video chats, etc, and it gives us a nice way to manage our work day.

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