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Slack Tries To Shape the Future of Work, Zoom Readies Slack Challenger and More News

September 17, 2020 Digital Workplace
David Roe
By David Roe

It is rare that we report on rumors, especially from the crowded world of enterprise collaboration, but one report this week is worth taking note of. The report from The Information claims that Zoom has just hired a significant number of engineers.

That in itself is interesting but not surprising given the rapid growth the company has experienced over the past six months. However, according to the post, these positions will be dedicated to upgrading Zoom’s messaging functions.

As it is, Zoom, like many other platforms, offers some basic text messaging functions that meeting participants can use in calls. However, if Zoom ups its game and starts offering more sophisticated messaging functionality it could really have an impact on Slack.

While Slack is not the only other player in this space, the offerings of both Microsoft and Google are at the center of a much wider ecosystem and do not depend as much as Slack does on pure functionality. Google Meet, for example, feeds directly into G Suite and its audience, while Teams is increasingly centered at the heart of Microsoft’s productivity suite.

Zoom already has a working relationship with Slack since 2015 so why would it bother doing this? This is not just about competing with anyone, but about building something more than a video meeting platform. Where Zoom goes from here, and whether these reports or true or not, remains to be seen, but it does look like Zoom has wider ambitions than just video.

Slack To Shape The Future Of Work?

Sticking with Slack, the San Francisco-based company has announced that it has a new initiative that it thinks will put it at the forefront of discussions and debate around collaboration and unified communications.

The new Future Forum will be a consortium that will help companies with their transformation projects and help them shift to what Slack thinks is a better way of doing business. “The upside is phenomenal,” Brian Elliott, VP of Future Forum at the company wrote in a blog about the new drive. “[It will result in] diverse teams of talented individuals working together toward a common purpose, able to move fast to capture opportunity and be resilient in the face of challenge.”

It is an interesting concept and could end up producing some interesting technologies and advances, especially for the Slack platform. Keep in mind that the more companies are working and achieving goals by building digital workplaces, the more business Slack is likely to do with them.

While the idea of such a forum has been around for a long time, the current pandemic has pushed many of the questions that this think tank, which is basically what it is, to the fore. But this will be more than just a talking shop; it will also produce research that aims to provide insights into the current world of work.

The first piece of research is due to be released at the upcoming Frontiers (virtual) conference in October. However, as a taster of what is on the way, the first paper it releases will show that:

  • Only 12% of knowledge workers say they intend to return to working exclusively from an office
  • 72% want a combination of office and remote work
  • Top remote work advantages include eliminating the commute, saving money, and improved work-life balance

The biggest challenges include building relationships with colleagues, increased feelings of loneliness or isolation, and not being aware of what others are working on.

Moving forward, the future forum will also spread its message through a series of events that will include off-the-record discussions where executives can share best practices and work through their biggest challenges, and public-facing events where leading voices will share insights and debate solutions.

The Forum is an interesting step for Slack. While Microsoft, Google and the other big collaboration vendors all provide a huge amount of insights and research into the digital workplace, this Slack initiative provides a single place to bring all this together with, it seems, the intention of influencing the way business and tech companies look at digital collaboration. Only time will tell how it goes, but, if nothing else, it should offer a lot of material for debate.

Zoho’s New Workplace Ties Apps Together

Elsewhere, Austin-based Zoho is back this time with Zoho Workplace, a single software platform that brings together collaboration, productivity and communications tools and integrates them into other business processes.

Built around its existing mail and cloud office suite, this version of Zoho Workplace combines a bunch of mingled applications built on a common data model and unified through common search and AI across one dashboard

While productivity platforms from many vendors now claim to enable collaboration in teams, the problem for most is that there are too many data silos and not enough connections between them. The result is a workplace that is disconnected and often difficult to navigate

Since the beginning, Zoho has been tackling this problem by building a suite of productivity tools — there are now more than 45 — that are all interconnected through Workplace. Without this connection, platforms are unable to establish critical context for business problems and fail to provide continuity over the course of their resolution.

Zoho Workplace provides a unified platform with multi-faceted communications like email, messaging, audio and video conferencing; a cloud office suite with shared file storage; common team and collaboration paradigms built into each of the products; and AI, search, and other services that span right across the entire suite.  It also integrates the Zoho Workdrive file sharing platform, now updated with comprehensive sync capabilities. The timing of the release is good too. In July Zoho also released research about applications and integration in the digital workplace. It found that

  • 51 percent of employees categorized their work systems inadequate in keeping them aligned with company goals while working remote.
  • 52 percent of those surveyed found their computing systems not conducive to their work, with that number growing to 56 percent at the small and medium enterprise level (businesses under 500 employees).
  • 54 percent of enterprise-level employees (businesses with more than 500 employees) found the applications they work with not intuitive and difficult to integrate

The tech advantages of having such a platform are clear, but they are not the only one. Zoho comes at a price of $3 per user/month. This is worth investigating if integration and disparate silos are part of your digital workplace problems. Let’s face it, that includes just about everyone.

Nuxeo Connects With Salesforce

Also this week, New York City-based Nuxeo has released its next-generation Salesforce Connector for content management. The enhanced integration enables faster, easier and more secure access to Nuxeo's content services from within the Salesforce Lightning interface.

The goal, according to Nuxeo, was to create a completely unified user experience that exposes the platforms advanced content management capabilities from within Salesforce. It can also intelligently surface suggested similar items of content to Salesforce users to enhance productivity and access to key information.

Unlike legacy ECM systems, content services platforms were purpose-built to deliver content to other business apps and services. The result here is and experience that seamlessly blends with the native Salesforce experience to deliver the right information, at the right time, to enable better decisions, inform customer interactions, and deliver superior business results.

What is more, the tight integration between Salesforce and Nuxeo also ensures that information is available to any authorized Salesforce user while, behind the scenes,

Microsoft Makes Teams More Commercially Attractive

Finally this week, even with everything that all the other vendors are doing, Microsoft just keeps making Teams and Microsoft 365 attractive to enterprises, especially those enterprises that it still has not yet pulled into the net.

While there is hardly a week that goes by without Microsoft adding something new to Teams, this week what they are offering is not technical but commercial, announcing that some of the more widely used tools at prices that are designed to catch even the most reluctant.

Among those offerings is Audio Conferencing for free for Enterprise Agreement customers, 35% off Advanced Communications for Enterprise Agreement customers, and FastTrack support for Skype for Business customers. There is no limit to the number of users these deals cover.

Microsoft has done this kind of thing before many times with, for example, Office 365. The problem is that once you have been pulled into a Microsoft environment its very hard to get out. With the competition in the market for audio and video conferencing now hotter than it has ever been it really is a buyers’ market now. Let see who else is feeling generous in the coming weeks and months.

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