A slack-bot won’t save your bad processes

10th September 2021

In an increasingly remote workforce, Slack-bots have become the saviour of many a company. But, they cannot save a poor process.

Remote working comes with unique challenges. You can’t just pop over to someone’s desk to ask a quick question, or catch someone for a chat at the coffee machine. We’ve become reliant on applications like Slack, MS Teams, and a bevvy of others to handle company communication in real-time as opposed to slow, and asynchronous email.

Can we use a Slack-bot to replace standups?

– A scrum master, somewhere

Why would someone want to replace standups? Is it because staff aren’t engaged? Is it because you can’t find time in the calendar where you can actually get everyone together? Because neither of those issues will be solved by a Slack-bot.

Can we automate our timesheets through a Slack-bot?

– Someone who thinks too much of Slack-bots

Timesheets are one of the biggest issues companies face. You need them to ensure accurate billing (and so contractors get paid properly), PM’s need them so they can make sure that projects are on schedule, and no one likes filling them out. They’re a necessary evil of the working world.

But people don’t fill them in! How can we solve that?

Corporate Noise

Our work comms have become flooded with noise. Work announcements, DMs, two channels per project, plus all the social channels which have sprung up recently.

I had to mute slack – the notification sound was triggering panic attacks

– Mid level IT manager

Part of a companies culture must include how it handles company communication. It’s all too easy to fall into the habit of expecting people to reply to you instantly. In an office, you could see that someone was busy. Headphones on, head down was the signal of “do not bother me”. But on Slack? There’s none of that. Yeah people could integrate their calendar but a calendar event doesn’t show that a person is “in the zone”. And there’s no way that people will a) set their status to busy or b) notice that someone has set themselves as busy.

But… Slack-bots…

No. Slack-bots will not save you.

If you can’t get people to fill in timesheets, then you need to actually assess why they’re not completing them. There are any number of reasons why staff might not want to complete a timesheet!

  • They don’t know what to log their time against
  • They resent having to track their time (especially if they’re full time on a single project)
  • Your time tracker is too arduous to use
  • They’re concerned that you’re becoming a micro-manager

Of those four issues, only one can be ‘solved’ with a Slack-bot. No bot will help staff know what project or task to log their time against. No bot will stop staff being resentful of being asked to track their time. No bot will stop staff thinking you’re being a micro-manager (it will, in fact, do the opposite). But if you have a super complicated time tracker… yeah a bot might help!

Noise with purpose

If you’re going to add a Slack-bot into your company setup, it needs to have a clear, and defined purpose. It needs to be actually useful and actually solve an issue. Bots which return links to documents are helpful, and only fire when a user summons them. Bots that send you the same tired message every day at 4pm will just become background noise and will get ignored.