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Microsoft Adds New Elements to Viva, Box Gets Tighter With Slack, Zoom & More News

October 08, 2021 Digital Workplace
David Roe
By David Roe

Microsoft announced Thursday it had acquired Seattle-based Ally.io, a start-up that provides software to help organizations keep track of their progress on key goals. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. According to Microsoft, Ally.io will be pulled into the Viva offering which Microsoft launched last year.

You may recall the fanfare around the launch of Viva, which the Redmond, Wash.-based company said would shake up the enterprise technology space. It pitched it as an "employee experience platform," that pulls together "engagement, learning, well-being and knowledge discovery, directly into the flow of people’s work." When it was launched, it consisted of four main elements:

  • Viva Connections: Internal communications and access to reference information.
  • Viva Insights: Wellbeing metrics for individuals and managers.
  • Viva Learning: An eLearning marketplace that includes LinkedIn Learning and integrations with other sources such as Coursera, Cornerstone and Saba.
  • Viva Topics: Wiki-like cards that summarize terms and link to internal experts and resources.

The addition of Ally.io will give Viva added employee experience muscle by providing Viva users with access to goal management, goal sharing and objectives and key results (OKR) monitoring.

If the launch of Viva itself didn’t shake up the market, then this will provide direct competition to the likes of Asana and other performance management platforms like CultureAmp, Workboard, 15Five, Perdoo and others.

In practical terms this means that Microsoft 365 will offer performance management — along with everything else — at the very heart of Microsoft 365. Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft COO of experiences and devices, wrote a blog post explaining what will happen next: "We’ll be investing to bring Ally.io into the Microsoft cloud, evolve the existing integrations with Microsoft Teams, and weave Ally.io into Viva, Office, Power BI and the broader set of Microsoft 365 apps and services."

He added that from a wider perspective, the acquisition responds to the changing reality of work. Flexibility and remote work have always been important, Koenigsbauer wrote, but so is the desire to do meaningful work. The shift to hybrid has made it more challenging to keep every leader, team and individual aligned and moving to the same rhythm. Ally.io responds to this by giving everyone in the organization visibility and clarity into the entire work process, connecting everyday work to the company’s strategic objectives.

The OKR category is an emerging and fast-growing space. Microsoft intends to dominate the market by combining Ally.io with the other elements of Viva. How the market responds to this is difficult to predict, but competitors will face an uphill battle.

Microsoft Readies New Financial Cloud 

Before leaving Microsoft this week it is worth noting that its promise of new clouds focused on specific verticals is starting to take shape. The company has confirmed that its financial services-focused industry cloud will be officially available on November 1, 2021.

First unveiled in February, Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services promises a foundation of privacy, security and regulatory compliance. Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services integrates cloud services across the depth of all the Microsoft platforms and offerings, notably — Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform and is underpinned by an industry data model, with new capabilities and customization unique to the financial services industry.

It was also designed for even the most complex control frameworks and regulatory requirements facing the industry, with multi-layered security, compliance and trust commitments built-in.

The news comes just eight months after the company revealed it was launching three new industry clouds this year: manufacturing, not-for-profits and financial services. The new financial cloud responds to the fact that 81% of consumers in Capgemini’s World Retail Banking Report 2021 said easy access and flexible banking will motivate them to switch to a new-age financial provider.

As customers continue to engage digitally, continued focus to ensure data connectivity, interoperability of ecosystems, and actionable insights are key to retaining customers and winning over new ones. Additionally, employees need to have the right tools as well as change management in processes to adapt to the current environment to service customers and support each other and their respective departments. There are still no dates for the other new clouds mentioned.

Box Gets Tighter With Slack and Zoom

Elsewhere, San Francisco-based Box has announced new major integrations with Microsoft and Slack, as well as a series of product updates that include new, AI-driven malware protection. Box rolled out the updates during its annual BoxWorks conference.

One of the major upgrades is an enhanced Box for Microsoft Office integration to enable real-time co-authoring on Office desktop and mobile apps — including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint — with all edits automatically saved to Box.

Complementing the existing web-based Office Online integration, users will now be able to simultaneously collaborate on documents across desktop, web and mobile

There is also an updated Box for Microsoft Teams integration that will allow customers to default to Box as a storage option in Teams, helping to minimize content fragmentation. Box and Microsoft have tens of thousands of joint customers, and this enhancement will extend the ability to unify content in Box under a consistent security, compliance and governance policy.

The enhanced Box for Microsoft Office integration is expected to be available in early 2022 and the Teams integration is expected to be available by the end of the year. Box has also announced a deepened integration with Slack that will enable Box to be a content layer within the Slack environment. The new enhancements will enable joint users to:

  • Use Box as a content layer in Slack by uploading files directly to Box through the Slack interface.
  • Maintain Box’s security and compliance over any content, even when files are uploaded through Slack.
  • Streamline how they use Box within Slack by simplifying content processes and unifying content across Slack and other apps.

These new capabilities in the Box for Slack integration are expected to be available later this year and will be included in the core Box offering.

Finally, among the other announcements is a new Box app for Zoom. Announced in September, this in-product integration makes it even easier for customers to work together securely and effectively across distributed teams. The Box app for Zoom gives customers access to their Box content while never having to leave the Zoom platform, creating a more seamless experience between the two platforms. The Box App for Zoom is available today in the Zoom App Marketplace.

ServiceNow Partners With Celonis

Also this week, Santa Clara,Calif.-based ServiceNow, which develops a cloud computing platform to help companies manage digital workflows for enterprise operations, is entering into a strategic partnership with German software company Celonis, a data processing provider based in New York City and Germany, to enable users to identify workflow processes that can be automated.

The partnership includes ServiceNow making an unspecified investment in Celonis and will combine ServiceNow's workflow platform with the execution management system of Celonis that crunches data to tackle problems and automate decision making. Celonis, a competitor to German business software company SAP, raised $1 billion from investors in June to give the company a post-fundraising valuation of more than $11 billion.

ServiceNow is led by CEO Bill McDermott, who led SAP for a decade until 2019. McDermott compared the work of Celonis to an X-ray that shows what is broken and what needs to be changed: "ServiceNow will build on this with new processes."

Avocor Offers One-Touch Video Meeting

Finally this week, Wilsonville, Ore.-based Avocor, has announced the release of Avocor GroupShare, its new subscription-based meeting user interface, to help teams easily and quickly manage video calls.

Avocor’s GroupShare enables single-button meeting start from Avocor’s interactive display, personal mobile device or a PC, access to documents securely via a cloud drive, the room’s calendar, secure wireless screen sharing, one-button start to multiple UC software programs including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx and Google Meet.

It also offers a Microsoft-targeted version with Avocor GroupShare for Microsoft 365, which comes pre-configured for Microsoft enterprise customers. It features Microsoft Office 365 authentication and room resource calendar integration, one-click accessibility of the Microsoft 365 personal calendar, OneDrive access and secure, wireless screen-sharing.

The releases, follow similar releases earlier this month that accompanied the announcement of a global partnership with Google Workspace and the launch of two new all-in-one video conferencing and digital whiteboarding devices — the Google Meet Series One Desk 27 and Board 65 — to create meeting equity on the desktop and in shared meeting spaces. A GroupShare subscription is $595 annually and is now available for any new or existing Avocor display customer.

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