Microsoft Teams v2.0 Debuts, Salesforce Shutters Future Forum, More News
Following the announcement last month that it was rebuilding Teams, this week Microsoft announced the public preview for commercial customers of the new Teams.
Other customers will have to wait until later this year for the new version, including the Mac version. Microsoft president of collaborative apps and platforms business, Jeff Teper explained in a blog that commercial users not currently in the public preview program would need an admin to opt-in first before being able to access it.
Until now, while Teams has been widely adopted — with over 280 million users per month, according to Teper's blog — it has a reputation for being resource-heavy and slow. In a market that still offers the relative flexibility of Slack, this is a distinct disadvantage.
With the new version, Microsoft claims it has dealt with these problems and that Teams v2 launches meetings twice as fast and makes channel hopping 1.7 times faster than v1.
“The new app is built on a foundation of speed, performance, flexibility, and intelligence — delivering up to two times faster performance while using 50% less memory. …We have also streamlined the user experience so that it is simpler to use and easier to find everything in one place,” wrote Teper.
The new Teams, he added, has been “reimagined” from the ground up, with re-architected network, data, chat and video to enable these improvements — and there's more on the way.
A new authentication model is a welcome addition, with synchronization and notification systems that enable users to collaborate and communicate across organizational boundaries and multiple tenants. This means users with multiple accounts can operate and receive notifications across all of them without having to sign out and sign in again.
And it wouldn't be a 2023 Microsoft announcement without some mention of AI. While the post doesn't mention GPT-4 or ChatGPT by name, it calls the new Teams "the foundation for next-generation of experiences,” including Copilot for Teams.
Explaining the decision to redevelop Teams, corporate VP of engineering, Sumi Singh wrote the continuous upgrades to Teams over the years have placed a strain on device resources. "Recognizing this," she wrote, "the team began analyzing available technologies, benchmarking, building prototypes, and defining the new architecture known internally as the ‘north star.'”
Salesforce Closes Slack-Led Future Forum
Elsewhere in the collaboration space, San Francisco-based Salesforce announced it is closing down Future Forum, the Slack-led consortium that carried out research on the future of work.
In an internal Slack channel titled #friends-of-future-forum, details of which were obtained by Fortune magazine, Future Forum president and Slack SVP Brian Elliott announced the group would be closed at the end of March. The article cites Elliott as stating it “is what’s best for Slack” and added the company was not abandoning its research.
However, he did not explain what drove the decision. Slack established the Future Forum with partners BCG, MLT and Miller Knoll in September 2020 driven by “the concept that companies need to make a comprehensive shift in how they operate.”
Elliott wrote in a blog post making the announcement: “Dissatisfaction with the status quo has simmered below the surface for years. The pandemic has caused things to boil over. ... The sudden move to remote work provides the opportunity to question decades of orthodoxy about a 9-to-5, office-centric, homogeneous work culture.”
The group quickly established footing as a reputable source of research, best exemplified by its quarterly pulse surveys of 10,000+ workers that, among other things, looked at the impact of remote work on workers and the workplace.
Salesforce, which owns Slack, and Marc Benioff in particular, were known as one of the big proponents of remote work and the possibilities and benefits of untying workers from the physical workplace.
It looks like the current economic uncertainty that has characterized the past year is having its toll.
In the #all-salesforce Slack internal channel, again seen by Fortune, Benioff claimed that employees during the pandemic had “much lower productivity.” He added: “Is this a reflection of our office policy? Are our managers not directly addressing productivity with their teams?”
Worth noting are the findings from Future Forum’s last research post from December 2022. Among the trends it identified are:
- Remote workers are completely engaged with their on-site office.
- Flexible work is the main factor contributing to improving company culture.
- Declining productivity is cited as the second most worrying concern for executives when considering flexible work regimes.
- Flexible work is cited by executives as one of the reasons for declining productivity.
The research concludes, however, that flexible work is most often associated with higher productivity.
Hardly a week goes by without one vendor or another releasing sponsored research about the advantages or disadvantages of one tool or another, or one kind of work model or another. While much of this research can be useful, the findings are generally skewered to promote that vendor's tools.
The Future Forum reports were one of the exceptions and a valuable tool for people working in and around the digital workplace. The closure is disappointing on many different levels and we can only hope that Slack holds to its word and continues to produce similar research.
Asana's New AI-Driven Insights
While vendors and organizations are still chasing their tails over effective workplace uses of generative AI, the "older," more traditional workplace tools used to improve productivity, collaboration and manage workforces continue to grow.
San Francisco-based Asana’s work management platform is a case in question. This week it announced the release of new AI/data-driven tools to give business leaders better real-time insights into the workplace.
Asana’s updates give organization leaders diagnostic tools to see how work is being done and to track progress and drive efficiency. Combined, they offer a complete overview of team capacity and resources, helping leaders rebalance workloads across departments.
Unveiled at Asana Forward, the new features align with the needs recent Asana research revealed. Last year, for example, the playbook titled An Executive's Guide to Effective Digital Transformation indicated that 49% of employees are experiencing what Asana describes as priority overload, while SaaS sprawl and mismanaged goals keep workers away from the work they should be focused on.
Earlier this month, Asana published its fourth annual Anatomy of Work Report, which found evidence that cross-functional collaboration leads to revenue growth, adaptability and business resilience. It also identified problems, including:
How McDonald’s Drove Productivity Through an Elevated Employee Experience
In the new remote/hybrid workplace, work/life boundaries are blurred and workplace stress is a top driver of mental health needs.
How to Future-Proof Your Employee Experience Strategy in 2023
A framework to navigate through economic uncertainty
Challenges to Efficiency in 2023: Your Employees Need the Digital Workplace of the Future
The era of asking employees to do more with less is upon us
The Essential Role of Communicators in Fostering Wellbeing in the Digital Workplace
Join us for practical insights on how digital communicators can support employees to thrive in the digital workplace
Addressing Employee Needs and Wants with a Digital Workplace
The workplace is getting more and more digital – both in how we work and where we work
Maintaining a Human-Centered Approach During Digital Transformation
When it comes to digital transformation - people drive change, not technology
- Workers estimate 4.9 hours per week could be saved with improved processes.
- Unnecessary meetings account for almost 4 hours per week for leadership roles.
- Skilled work only takes up 33% of the workday, with "work-about-work" taking up more than half (58%) of worker’s days.
While the problems associated with poor process and collaboration practices are widely known, problems of resource loading are less clear.
Asana is tackling the latter with Universal Workload, which provides a global view of the available expertise and technology across an entire organization. In doing so, it offers managers the information needed to decide what teams have the resources to effectively complete projects.
Worth noting here is the AI being used here is predictive rather than the generative AI which has captured all of the headlines of late.
One CMS May Not Be Enough, Storyblok Finds
Despite developments in the field of AI and other cutting edge technologies, we saw earlier this month that content management is still a workplace priority for many companies.
However, the use of content management systems (CMS) is more widespread than might be believed. According to research published by Austria-based Storyblok this week, more than half of businesses, need multiple CMSs to manage their communications. In fact, 14% are using more than four.
According to the research, though, the problem reflects not just a problem with communications but with the wider tech stack and the fact that many organizations are struggling to adapt their technology to the new realities of the digital workplace.
In fact, nearly a third of organizations (29%) said that they believed they needed another CMS in order to bridge the tech limitations of monolithic systems while a further 34% believe another back-up system was needed.
The research also shows that 75% of businesses in the US that upgraded their systems experienced substantial revenue growth.
It is important here to point out that Storyblok is the developer of a headless CMS.
Much of this is being driven by the massive increase in the amount of content being created, shared and distributed across multiple platforms in the digial workplace. In the absense of any other way of doing this effectively, content management systems and their devleopment is set to continue.
UiPath, Amelia Partner To Improve Employee Experience
Finally this week, New York City-based UiPath, an enterprise automation software developer, and New York City-based Amelia, which develops conversational AI-driven IT digital agent solution, have announced a new partnership.
According to a statement from the company, the partnership is designed to bridge the gap between automation and simplified user experiences with a solution that offers a better, AI-driven experience that offers measurable increase in productivity.
This comes at a time when recent analysis by Gartner, for example, found that even though investments in workplace technologies have been increasing, the employee experience with technology remains a black box for most executives.
By combining of UiPath’s Business Automation Platform and Amelia’s enterprise-grade Conversational AI, the new IT Service Desk solution will bridge the gap between automation and user experiencesThe idea here is to able employees make support requests using chat, messaging or voice when they are have difficulties with workflow automation and AI.
The result is a solution that can resolve everyday problems and refer more serious problems to support agents.
According to Crunchbase UiPath - was founded in 2005 and has received $2 billion in funding to date, while Amelia’s predecessor IPsoft - was founded in 1998 and has raised $175 million.
Have a tip to share with our editorial team? Drop us a line:
About the Author
David is a European-based journalist of 35 years who has spent the last 15 following the development of workplace technologies, from the early days of document management, enterprise content management and content services. Now, with the development of new remote and hybrid work models, he covers the evolution of technologies that enable collaboration, communications and work and has recently spent a great deal of time exploring the far reaches of AI, generative AI and General AI.