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Microsoft, Zoom Look To Hybrid Workplaces, Box Buys SignRequest & More News

February 05, 2021 Digital Workplace
David Roe
By David Roe

While most companies are still struggling to stay alive in the current pandemic, many tech companies are starting to look beyond the pandemic to a digital workplace that has been drastically changed by COVID-19.The pandemic has created numerous difficulties, especially with the new challenge of remote working as a rule rather than the exception it was before the pandemic, and companies like Zoom, Slack, Google and Microsoft have all risen to the challenge in their different ways.

It is now generally accepted that the future workplace will be hybrid with some employees working from home and others from the physical workplace and others straddling both. In a survey of 12,000 professionals, 60% of employees said that they want flexibility in where and when they work (Boston Consulting Group). To address this, San Jose, Calif.-based Zoom has added updates to its Rooms software that will make business meetings easier and the workplace safer. In sum this addresses the problem of employee experience in a world that is overshadowed by COVID. The new additions include the ability to:

  • Pair a Zoom Room with your mobile device
  • View real-time people count data for each room:
  • Monitor a room’s environment and air quality
  • Create a virtual receptionist/kiosk mode
  • Control shared desktop from Zoom Rooms for Touch
  • Save whiteboard to chat

But there is more going on here. Zoom has received a massive boost in audience with the pandemic while even its telephony system Zoom Phone has announced it now has one million users.

Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg has previously said that the company’s focus for 2021 is on “Zoom as a platform,” rather than simply a stand-alone videoconference app.This is not new. In the middle of January speaking to the financial news service Forbes, Steckelberg describes Zoom as platform even if there is still work to be done to arrive at that point.

However, its ease of use and scalability is a major step in that direction enabling the company to move from an average of 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019 to 300 million daily meeting participants.  Steckelberg says Zoom is focused on building a platform that is “where you live and work and spend your day” which with web video conferencing, software for live and virtual meetings, chats and voice calls looks increasingly possible.

Microsoft Releases Viva for Hybrid Digital Workplaces

The digital workplace has always been about enabling workers and pulling all the disparate element of that workplace into a single place and enabling workers with all the collaboration, communications and content creation tools they may need without having to move around too much.

In a wide ranging discussion about the release David Lavenda took an in-depth look at where Viva stands in the Microsoft environment and how it enables collaboration. In his conclusion he points out that Viva is a huge step along the worker experience journey and one that will help at home and hybrid workers be self-sufficient, independent and mentally sound.

Viva looks forward to a time when the pandemic has passed and organizations are back to normal, although it is clear from much of the research done over the past few months that this normal will be a new, hybrid workplace where there are workers working inside and outside the physical workplace.

To enable that, Microsoft has built Viva to, in its own words, bring tools for employee engagement, learning, wellbeing and knowledge discovery, directly into the flow of people’s work.  Yet again the focus on is Teams.

In a blog post announcing the release, Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft explains: “Every organization will require a unified employee experience from onboarding and collaboration to continuous learning and growth. Viva brings together everything an employee needs to be successful, from day one, in a single, integrated experience directly in Teams.”

Viva focuses on four key areas of the digital workplace - Engagement, Wellbeing, Learning and Knowledge — in an integrated experience. Initially at least there will be four modules:

  • Viva Connections: A personalized gateway to the digital workplace where employees can access internal communications and company resources
  • Viva Insights: Gives individuals, managers and leaders personalized and actionable insights based on internal data as well as third-party resources like Zoom, Slack, Workday and SAP SuccessFactors.
  • Viva Learning: Makes training and professional development opportunities more discoverable and accessible.
  • Viva Topics: delivers a knowledge discovery experience that helps people connect to information and experts across the company.

The release also responds to changes in the workforce that has turned the employee experience platform into a $300 billion market. It spans what is today a fragmented market of services, infrastructure and hundreds of tools, many that go undiscovered and underutilized by employees at the companies that have invested in them. This is only the start of the road here. There will be a lot more to look at here as Microsoft continues to build Viva

Skype for Business Clock Is Counting Down

Before leaving Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash.-based company has warned companies again that the clock is ticking on Skype for Business Online and that the need to move to Teams before July 31, 2021

Skype for Business Online users have had plenty of time to prepare for the move, having first been informed of Microsoft’s intention to retire the solution on July 30, 2019. In a blog about the move, Microsoft explains that there is still time to migrate, but time is getting short. The blog reads:

Some organizations may not be far along in the Teams upgrade planning process. It is understandable as the events of the past year have impacted strategies, priorities, and resources for so many. Do not worry, you still have time. In fact, there are numerous examples of organizations that have made the upgrade from Skype for Business Online, or hybrid deployments or Skype for Business Server to Teams in a matter of months.

The retirement of Skype for Business Online does not affect the Skype consumer service or Skype for Business Server products.

Box Buys SignRequest for E-Signatures

Elsewhere this week, Redwood City, Calif.-based Box has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to buy SignRequest, a cloud-based electronic signature company.

It has also already previewed Box Sign, an e-signature capability that will be developed on SignRequest’s technology and natively integrated into Box. Box Sign is expected to be included in Box business and enterprise plans, enabling customers to improve the way they work and digitize important processes.

Streamlining digital transactions has been an integral part digitizing business and the e-signature market is increasingly important for companies that want to digitize even sensitive documents.

Content management and securing content have always underpinned mission-critical business processes, from closing deals with sales proposals and contracts. Box has been working to enable all these processes in the cloud, particularly over the past year when so many workers were forced to work from home.

The result, according to Box is that more than 100,000 businesses, including 69% of the Fortune 500, are now using Box to create, share, and govern their content in the cloud. The addition of SignRequest and introduction of Box Sign will make it easy for workers to have access to simple, secure electronic signatures natively integrated into Box where their content already lives.

The Box content cloud provides businesses with a secure platform for managing all their content in the cloud, making it simple to collaborate from anywhere, automate workflows, and keep their data secure and compliant. With the addition of e-signatures, Box customers will be able to manage the entire content lifecycle in the cloud, turning their content in a real business asset.

SER Group Buys Swiss ECM Provider Interact Digital

Elsewhere, Germany-based SER Holding International (SER Group) has bought Interact Digital AG (Interact), a Swiss input and content management provider. To ensure continuity, CEO Richard Cop will remain in the management team.

Interact was founded in 1991 and has since become the largest Swiss provider of input and enterprise content management solutions. The company has a team of approximately 50 employees which provides business-critical solutions in document management.

Headquartered in Bonn, Germany, SER Group is an international software vendor in the enterprise content management (ECM) and content services market. With 35 years of experience, SER Group has 550 employees across 22 locations around the globe.

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