The swift embrace of generative AI tools is opening new doors for business leaders. But embedding this tech into a business’ operational fabric requires seamless integrations.
“Instead of trying to focus too heavily on what is coming in the world of AI … I try to tie that back to the problems we have.”
Building those seamless integrations is the focus for Reid Robinson, lead product manager for AI at Zapier. Starting in 2022, Robinson became part of a small team dedicated to this issue at Zapier. “The focus being really to just experiment and build at the edge of this emerging technology to really push the limits,” Robinson said in a sit-down interview with BetaKit at SAAS NORTH 2023.
“Instead of trying to focus too heavily on what is coming in the world of AI—I just generally assume at this point, things are going to get more capable—I try to tie that back to the problems we have,” he said.
Robinson noted most businesses have a distinct set of long-standing problems. A good starting point for businesses exploring generative AI, he noted, is to think about those “skeleton-in-the-closet” business problems, and where AI could help provide a solution.
“When you start to get a little bit familiar with the capabilities of generative AI, and particularly where it can be reliable or not, you start to get some sense of what’s possible,” he added.
For Zapier, which provides integrations for web applications for use in automated workflows, generative AI presents an interesting opportunity. The startup launched integrations with ChatGPT in 2022, allowing users to connect the chatbot with thousands of apps. “Those ones quickly became some of our fastest-growing app integrations ever,” he said.
But Robinson sees even more opportunities for generative AI and systems like Zapier when it comes to automating workflows. “I think we’re only scratching the surface,” he said.
”I think there’s like a little light bulb moment that I always see when I talk to a user who’s like, ‘I use ChatGPT all the time,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, but you use Zapier all the time, have you used ChatGPT in Zapier?’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t know what you mean.’”
Robinson explained one use case where generative AI could “run in your sleep.” Users drafting emails to potential leads could feed ChatGPT templates that mirror their usual responses. The user would only need to review and finalize these drafts in Gmail.
Another key user pain point Zapier identified? Formatting data. Last year, the company launched Formatter with AI, which allows users to describe what they need in plain language to Zapier, seamlessly reformat any data and save time from manual editing. “This is a great example of where we’ve put AI under the hood for the end user,” Robinson added.
Listen to Reid Robinson’s full conversation below, and catch more conversations from SAAS NORTH 2023 on The BetaKit Podcast.