8 highly useful Slack bots for teams

Collaboration has never been easier. With the help of these bots, you can schedule meetings, check up on your colleagues’ progress, track who’s out of the office and more, right in your Slack workspace.

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Designed expressly for business environments, Slack helps co-workers collaborate in real time through its cloud-based chat interface. One of Slack’s strengths is that it allows the installation of third-party apps and bots to add features to the basic chat platform.

Bots are apps that are designed to interact with users via chat; most respond to requests from users, while some operate in the background and chime in to the conversation as needed. When deployed to your team’s workspace, bots can perform a variety of useful tasks, such as gathering feedback from members of your team, reminding them of events, or tracking their work progress. Others perform less crucial tasks like telling jokes or helping a group decide what to have for lunch.

We sorted through the hundreds of bots available to install in Slack workspaces, zeroing in on those that are most helpful for teams looking to get serious work done together. In the list that follows, we’ve grouped together similar bots that might be equally useful depending on each team’s particular needs.

1. Task management bot: Teamline

Alternative: Ace

Teamline turns your Slack workspace into a simple project management tool. The bot converts any Slack message into a task that you can assign to yourself or others on your team. You can set due dates and deadline reminders, tag tasks with labels to organize them, add to-do lists and subtasks to tasks, create a shared team task calendar, and more. Teamline’s free plan offers unlimited task building, but to have advanced features like to-do checklists and syncing with calendars, you have to pay for a plan starting at $49 per month for five users.

slack bots teamline Teamline

Teamline provides team task management within Slack.

Ace offers similar “messages into tasks” capabilities and can track expenses as well. It also lets you create and deploy simple polls and surveys that use number ratings; the bot summarizes the results of your team members’ responses. Ace is free, but its survey feature is limited to 100 responses. After these are used up, paid plans start at $49 per month.

2. Email bot: MailClark

With Slack’s own Email app, you can have emails sent to a particular address automatically delivered to a specific Slack channel or DM. That’s handy for support requests, customer inquiries, alerts, automated reports, and so on.

But MailClark takes email and Slack integration to the next level by letting you and your team members not only receive emails, but also write and send emails from inside a Slack conversation window. MailClark can also handle Twitter and Facebook messages, allowing you to centralize external communications. You can assign messages to particular members of your team to respond to, and MailClark can send reminders if messages are left unanswered.

slack bots mailclark MailClark

With MailClark, you can receive and respond to emails from within Slack.

MailClark offers a free basic plan, but to take advantage of the team features described here you'll need to sign up for one of the paid plans, which start at $5 per active user per month.

3. Meeting scheduler bot: Meekan

Alternative: Meeting Bot

One of the toughest things to figure out for a group of people is finding a day and time when everybody is free for a meeting or other event. Meekan analyzes the online calendars of all members of your Slack team or channel to compile a list of times when everybody will be free. When you choose a time, the bot books the meeting and syncs everyone’s calendars. It can also reschedule meetings, book conference rooms, show you a list of your upcoming meetings, and more.

Meekan is free and works with Google Calendar and Office 365 calendars. Your team members need to grant it access to their calendars.

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Meekan makes scheduling a team meeting quick and easy.

Meeting Bot is another free tool that helps find mutual meeting times; it supports a slightly broader range of calendar platforms than Meekan. In addition to Google Calendar and Office 365, Meeting Bot integrates with Microsoft Exchange.

4. Time zone assistant: Timezone Butler

If just want a simple tool that will help you figure out good meeting times for team members who are spread around the world in different time zones, check out Timezone Butler. The free, open-source bot calculates and suggests the best times when your team is available during their own local work hours.

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Timezone Butler helps find convenient meeting times for employees in different parts of the world.

5. Team check-in bot: Olaph

Alternative: Scrumbot

Olaph can automate, save and track your team’s stand-up meetings. A technique that originated with agile software development and has spread to many different kinds of teams, a stand-up, or "scrum," is basically a set of simple questions asked of each team member: What did you work on yesterday? What are you working on today? What are the obstacles to your progress? These questions can be asked at the start of the work day, in the middle of it, or more than once during the day. This information is gathered to track each member’s work status and to provide an overall picture of progress for your team.

Many teams have taken to holding stand-up meetings via Slack rather than in person. The free Olaph bot helps save time by asking members of your Slack team these questions simultaneously, and then posting the responses to a channel in your Slack workspace to update everyone on each other’s status. You can customize the day(s), time, and questions asked in the stand-up, as well as the channel to post responses to.

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Olaph collects and posts your team’s status reports.

Scrumbot, which is free and open-source, is a similar tool for compiling your team’s status reports. You can schedule Scrumbot to send team members reminders to file their work progress updates. Either tool frees you from having to message members individually with your questions and gather up their replies yourself.

6. Security bot: DBot

Alternatives: Chronicle, Lighthouse or Watchtower

Demisto’s DBot acts as a watchdog (watchbot?) that scans files and links that are shared in your Slack workspace. If it finds a file that it thinks contains malicious code or a link that could lead to malware, DBot alerts you and your team members before you click the item. While the bot works in the background, you can also use it to actively check files and links that you want to ensure are not fishy: just upload the suspect file or post the link to your workspace and wait for DBot to scan it and provide a report. DBot is free and based on open-source code.

slack bots dbot Demisto

You can have DBot scan suspicious files and links.

Three bots that perform similar security sweeps of content shared in your Slack workspace are Chronicle, Lighthouse and Watchtower. (Watchtower can also keep an eye out for sensitive personal information — such as credit card, driver’s license or Social Security numbers — appearing in your Slack workspace.) All are available for free, and more security features are added if you sign up for a paid plan. For Chronicle, such plans start at $20 per month for up to 50 members in your Slack team. For Lighthouse, it’s $1 per month for each user. Watchtower’s developers will provide an estimate if you need further protection features beyond their free plan.

7. Survey bot: Polly

Alternatives: Lyte or Survey Monkey

With Polly, you can create surveys to gather feedback from members of your team, such as gauging their satisfaction on a project or voting on a team initiative. The surveys are deployed in your Slack team’s conversation window on a set time or recurring schedule that you specify.

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Polly’s more advanced poll formats let team members type in comments.

Under its simplest poll design, team members reply to a question by choosing from a selection of emoticons, each representing an answer. Advanced poll formats let members add comments or respond anonymously. With Polly’s free plan, only 10 team members can respond to a poll. Paid plans start at $50 per month (billed annually) to raise this limit.

If you’d prefer a bot that surveys your team members about their work satisfaction, have a look at Lyte. The free bot is designed specifically to ask them about their mood and to rate how they feel about their progress on assignments, although you can create custom questions as well.

If you’d like to deploy more general kinds of polls to your team, the website polling service SurveyMonkey has a bot that you can add to your Slack workspace. The bot lets you send quick one-question polls to your teammates and can be used for free under a free SurveyMonkey account.

8. Time off tracker bot: TimeBot

Alternative: PTO Ninja

Through TimeBot, employees can schedule when they’ll be away from the office — for instance, on sick leave, on vacation, on a business trip, or working at home. An employee enters the dates they’ll be away and the reason why, and the free bot presents the time-away request to the employee’s manager for approval. When queried, TimeBot lists who’s out of the office, the start and end dates of their absence, and the reasons why they are out.

slack bots timebot TimeBot

TimeBot can show a list of everyone on your team who’s out of the office and when they’ll return. (Click image to enlarge it.)

A second Slack bot to consider for managing employee time away is PTO Ninja. It offers similar features to TimeBot’s, plus it lets job assignments be handed from an absent employee to another; it can send an alert when an employee hasn’t taken enough vacation days or has taken too many; and it integrates with enterprise HR systems such as ADP, Ultimate Software and Workday. PTO Ninja plans start at $2.50 per user per month; contact the developers for details.

With its HR software integration, PTO Ninja may be a better choice for HR managers, while TimeBot might work well for project or team managers.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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