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Microsoft Upgrades Teams Rooms, LumApps Debuts Employee Data Layer, More News

September 09, 2022 Digital Workplace
Siobhan Fagan
By Siobhan Fagan

In late August, Microsoft announced it was revising the price structure for Teams Rooms. Along with the price change, the company stated it would add a new version of the product that would be designed specifically for small businesses.

Rooms brings HD video, audio and content sharing to meetings of all sizes from small huddle areas to large conference rooms.

While Microsoft did not provide details of what the new Rooms would look like, this week the new version, which comes in two tiers, landed.

The two new versions — Teams Rooms Basic and Teams Rooms Pro — replace the Teams Room Standard and Teams Room Premium, but fulfill the same purpose, notably to improve the virtual meeting experience of users in companies of all sizes. 

The new Pro edition in particular is designed to enable hybrid meeting and communication experiences and, according to Microsoft, focuses on security, management, flexibility and inclusivity. Microsoft has done this by focusing on four principal sets of technologies:

1. Intelligent Audio and Video

Microsoft has improved sound quality in the rooms by providing top end video and audio features on Teams-certified devices. It is also offering front row layout as well as noise suppression and wider bandwidth. New AI capabilities for camera are also designed to make remote users feel like they are in a physical room.

2. Engagement

The importance of offering workers ways to engage with the workplace and other workers has never been more important. Microsoft is improving this in Rooms Pro by bringing features from personal Teams into Pro Rooms. Among those features are wirelessly sharing content, raised hands and live reactions. Chat bubbles are also being introduced to include conversations that are happening alongside the meeting.

3. Collaboration

Whiteboarding, Microsoft Surface Hun 2S and intelligent capture add to the collaboration features in the latest release.

4. Management and security

Microsoft has upgraded the security behind Pro to make collaborating with data safer. Among the additions, it has added access control, device analytics and IT service management (ITSM) integration.

Teams admins can assign up to 25 Microsoft Teams Rooms Basic licenses to Teams Rooms devices. Above that, they must use Pro.

Microsoft is playing into a massive market here, which the company claims has enormous potential to grow. In a blog about the upgrade, it noted that these kinds of virtual spaces enable hybrid collaboration, while most of what is available on the market favors people who are physically present in the workplace.

In fact, citing figures from its 2021 Work Trends Survey, Microsoft pointed out that less than 8% of the 90 million conference rooms worldwide are video enabled.

“The future of work is flexible," Nicole Herskowitz, vice president of Microsoft Teams wrote. “Now more than ever organizations need a single, integrated experience that makes working together easier and more engaging for their employees whether they are all in the same room, remote, or — for many of us — a mix of both.” Teams Pro effectively addresses this.

Microsoft’s Teper Joins Nintex Board

Remaining on the Microsoft ecosystem for a bit longer, Bellevue, Wash.-based Nintex has announced the appointment of Jeff Teper as its newest board member.

Anyone who follows Microsoft’s productivity portfolio will be familiar with Teper's name, as he serves as the president of the company's collaborative apps and platforms business, which includes Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive.

In a statement about the appointment, Stephen Elop, Nintex’s Board Chairman explained the company will be depending on Teper’s experience in the automation market to help guide their strategy: "As the process automation market evolves, Jeff's expertise will be a big help to the Nintex management team, driving product innovation and excellence to accelerate the company's growth.”

Nintex is a specialist in process intelligence and automation.

Jeff Teper joined Microsoft in 1992 to lead corporate developer evangelism for Windows NT. He then served as a group program manager in Microsoft’s Internet Business Unit. In 1998, he led the creation of SharePoint Portal Server, which became one of Microsoft’s fastest growing businesses, exceeding $3 billion in revenues.

He also served as Corporate Vice President for program management across Office 365 Services and Servers, and, along with Amy Hood, supported Satya Nadella’s development of the Microsoft mobile-first/cloud-first transformation strategy and acquisitions.

Organizations Still Struggle With AI

The role of AI in the enterprise continues to be a topic of discussion, as organizations explore how to best apply it to fuel the digital workplace, often through automation and RPA initiatives.

However, if anyone suspected that AI use-case scenarios have lagged enterprise ambitions in respect of AI deployments, research from Oakland, Calif.-based Fivetran and Vanson Bourne appear to confirm those suspicious.

In fact, not only does the report (registration required) reveal that deployments remain slow, it also shows that despite having high ambitions for AI, the majority of organizations don’t trust AI enough to forego human-driven decision-making.

Among the notable findings is that while 87% of organizations consider AI vital to their business survival, 86% say they do not trust AI to make business decisions without the input of humans. It also found that 90% of organizations are forced to rely on manual data processes despite the fact that this often involves human error. Surprisingly, a related finding shows that 87% say that data scientists are not being used to their full potential.

Vanson Bourne conducted the survey online, with 550 senior IT and data science professionals in the US, the UK, Ireland, France and Germany participating.

Only 14% of respondents considered their organization's AI maturity advanced. According to Fivetran, the result means that just over one in 10 organizations uses AI to make predictions and business decisions.

“This study highlights significant gaps in efficient data movement and access across organizations. A successful AI program depends on a solid data foundation, starting with a cloud data warehouse or lake as its base,” said George Fraser, CEO of Fivetran.

However, this is likely to change in the future The research also showed that organizations expect to invest 13% of their global revenues in AI in the next three to five years compared to 8% this year.

One of the major problems is that three-quarter (71%) of organizations are struggling to find the data they need to run AI programs, workloads and models, while three-quarters also find it difficult to transform that data into practical, usable insights.

In recent weeks, AI Automation emerged as one of the major themes from Gartner’s  Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. This, however, implies mastery of data and data resources. From the Fivetran research, it would seem that AI automation is still a step beyond most organizations. 

LumApps New Data Employee Experience Layer

In other news, employee experience platform provider LumApps announced the introduction of a new data layer that sits on the platform and aggregates information on employees from all kinds of channels.

Combined with data from organizational devices and applications, the new layer makes it possible for organizations to deliver what it described as ‘hyper-personalized’ communications and interactions across all kinds of touchpoints in the enterprise. It will also serve as a foundation for advanced predictive analytics for workers in all departments.

Chris McLaughlin, CMO at LumApps, said in a statement: "We're taking the power of consumer personalization, and applying it to the employee experience. Similar to how Netflix recommends movies, LumApps' employee data layer will enable highly targeted and personalized employee interactions that ultimately help engage, enable and retain great talent."

The objective here is to give as accurate a profile of employees as possible using AI to inform the creation of contextual communications along with personalized experiences to all the employees in an organization.

The layer will work by aggregating historical employee information, including their interests, activities, reading material, content that they have interacted with and people they communicate with. The company claims this information will result in an experience that is not just more accurate, but will, as data is added to each profile, offer insights into actions and behaviors of the employees and how they will react changes or innovation in the organization.

LumApps has been building up its employee experience offering since its 2015 launch through partnerships, integrations and acquisitions. Its most recent buy was in February when it bought HeyAxel.

LumApps said at the time that it would integrate HeyAxel with LumApps' Employee Experience Platform. The integration of the two products, LumApps Journeys, released in May aims to provide an adaptable, omnichannel orchestration engine, along with broadcast capabilities, quizzes, surveys and HeyAxel's out-of-the-box journey engine.

Livestorm Improves Video Engagement

Finally this week, Philadelphia-based video engagement platform Livestorm, released a number of new features that are designed to improve virtual meetings and webinars. Among the more notable features are:

  • Marketing automation integration: Allows consumers to merge HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot automatically to the virtual event’s marketing and reporting.
  • Advanced custom reporting: Provides customers with tailor-made reporting dashboards built by Livestorm’s solution engineers.
  • Control over video-location: Invites users to join from alternative regions without experiencing delays due to video streaming regulations.

The aim here is to make virtual event planning easier, which the company aims to do with the automation integration feature. The result is that organizations can streamline all aspects of event planning in one place as well as host meetings with as few as two people and as many as 3000. The result is simplified video conferencing and one single tool for all meetings.

Livestorm is a browser-based video communication platform that connects teams to promote, host and analyze online events. Founded in France in 2016, it has raised $39.2 million in funding to date.

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