IBM Watson workspace
Workspace Moments leverages the IBM Watson cognitive APIs to create a summary of the posts. PHOTO: IBM World of Watson

IBM Watson wants to make Slack smarter.

Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM and San Francisco-based Slack today announced a partnership that combines Slack’s digital workplace with he cognitive computing capabilities of Watson. The goal is to use Watson's artificial intelligence (AI) learning engine to power offerings such as bots and other conversational inferences to improve the Slack user experience.

IBM-Slack Collaboration

Developers can use this enhanced cognitive functionality to tap a wide range of Watson services, such as Conversation, Sentiment Analysis and speech APIs, and build new tools for the platform, IBM noted in a statement today.

Look for an updated Slackbot — the platform’s popular customer service bot — powered by Watson and an IBM Watson-enabled bot for IT and network operations. Specifically:

  • Slack will adopt Watson Conversation to help power its Slackbot to improve the accuracy and efficiency of trouble-shooting on the platform
  • IBM is building a Watson-enabled Slack chatbot for IT and network operational incidents, so enterprise teams can more efficiently identify, address and fix these issues
  • As part of the collaboration, a number of IBM groups including marketing, design and engineering are tapping into Slack as part of their work to create new cognitive solutions that can be used on the Slack platform.
  • IBM and Slack will offer tools that make it easier for developers to integrate into Slack

In addition, IBM said it will work with Slack to share learnings from their collaborative efforts through "specialized tutorial resources to accelerate how developers can tap into Watson."

World of Watson

The partnership news coincides with IBM's World of Watson conference, which runs through tomorrow at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. Formerly known as IBM Insight, the event revolves around key topics like data science, advanced analytics and cognitive computing.

At the conference yesterday, IBM announced a pre-beta release of Watson Workspace, a collaboration platform that "learns how an individual works and interacts, and consolidates multiple work conversations from various communications channels into a single space."

Using Watson, the technology highlights the "most urgent action items, points to the right content needed at the time, and automates everyday tasks so employees can focus on the most vital business tasks."

Alan Lepofsky
Alan Lepofsky
Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, described Watson Workplace in a blog post yesterday as a group messaging platform with a twist, explaining:

  • IBM’s goal is to provide a client that helps eliminate the information overload often associated with today’s collaboration tools. Today employees hold conversations in chat clients, assign tasks in project management tools, manage customer records in CRM systems, share files in another tool, etc. Watson Workspace enables people to integrate multiple tools into a single stream, creating a more seamless experience versus jumping back and forth between multiple tools.

What Differentiates Watson Workplace

Lepofsky said the differentiator is a feature called Workspace Moments, which leverages the IBM Watson cognitive APIs to basically sum up things people say in a Space. He added:

  • It groups together posts making it easier for people to digest the vast amounts of information being shared. Moments even labels the items in the summary as questions, actions or decisions to provide context around why these posts are the ones you should pay attention to.

Lepofsky said it's a smart more for IBM to capitalize on the Watson name — which too many people narrowly view as either “that computer that played Jeopardy” or “that computer that’s helping doctors fight cancer.”

He noted that Watson is one of the main strengths of IBM these days, adding, "Now IBM is offering a product with the Watson name that could potentially be used by millions of knowledge workers around the globe."

In an email to CMSWire, Lepofsky wrote that employees are challenged by a lot of overload: information overload, input overload, interrupt overload and task overload.

"Collaboration vendors," he said, "are looking at ways to leverage artificial intelligence to help people reduce the noise, remove the clutter and focus on the things that need their attention.”

No More 'Mess of Information'?

Luis Benitez, project management leader for IBM Connections, IBM's social collaboration platform, compared Workspace Moments in a blog post to CliffsNotes. It is unclear whether Workspace will replace Connections or provide some sort of integration.

"You know how painful it is to catch up when you've been away from work on vacation, out for a meeting or just lunch," Benitez wrote. " You come back to a mess of information, and the time you spend catching up, is time that you are falling behind. No more. With Moments, Watson gives you summaries of conversations ... and at a glance you can see what was talked about, who was engaged, the content that was shared, etc. In seconds, you are caught up and aligned with your team."

Cognitive APIs

IBM also released Watson Work Services (formerly Project Toscana), a set of cognitive APIs that developers can access and integrate into existing work products and applications such as IBM Watson Workspace. The technology uses natural language classifiers to predict the next action.

IBM champion Lars Samuelsson blogged yesterday that it's a way for IBM to dig into a "space where everyone wants to be at the moment." He continued, "If this sounds negative, it is not. It is merely stating a fact that Slack started something that all the big players in the market wanted to get in on."

He cited IBM Watson Workspace for a "good looking UI to a fully working persistent chat client to be used for small team collaboration."

Analytics, Content Enhancements

But that's not all from IBM Watson this week. The company also unveiled a series of new cognitive solutions for professionals in marketing, commerce, supply chain and human resources.

IBM also released Watson Customer Experience Analytics and Watson Content Hub. The new analytics engine allows marketers to track behavioral data to help them understand which customers should be targeted with campaigns. Officials touted the platform's ability through Watson's cognitive tech to reason and process new behavioral data and models.

On the content side, IBM will use cognitive capabilities to understand and learn about the data in a company’s content management system. Watson will understand what has been stored in a CMS and automatically tag content including images, videos and documents.

Harriet Green, general manager Watson IoT, Cognitive Engagement & Education, said in a statement that IBM is extending Watson capabilities to professionals in new areas, "helping them harness the value of the data being generated in their industries and use it in new ways.”

IBM also released a commerce solution, IBM Watson Order Optimizer, which aims to help online commerce practitioners fulfill orders across all channels, and IBM Watson Supply Chain Insights, which will continuously learn about a company’s normal supply chain patterns to analyze and spot trends in data from multiple systems.