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Slack Unveils Canvas, ServiceNow Upgrades Now Platform, More News

September 23, 2022 Digital Workplace
Siobhan Fagan
By Siobhan Fagan

Slack has been relatively quiet since its $27.7 billion acquisition by San Francisco-based Salesforce finalized last year, aside from a few noteworthy updates such as the additions of video chat, multi-user screen sharing and a Huddle message thread that automatically saves to channels earlier this summer.

That may be changing. At Dreamforce '22 this week, Slack unveiled its new Canvas tool which the company described as a digital surface that allows teams to access or store more data directly inside the workspaces. When it is finally launched next year, Canvas will be able to curate, organize and share mission-critical resources according to a blog post about the release.

Fundamentally, Canvas will take advantage of the many third-party integrations to bring documents, messages, links and more into a single source of relevant information for a team, which the team can then collaborate on within Slack itself. 

The Canvas functionality in part comes as a result of yet another Salesforce acquisition, namely its 2016 buy of content management company Quip for $582 million. At the time, Quip was a cutting-edge productivity platform designed for teams, combining communication and content to enable collaboration within documents or spreadsheets, on phones, tablets, wearables and the desktop. 

Canvas combines Quip’s collaborative tooling together with Slack’s communication capabilities into a single solution.

Ali Rayl, SVP for product at Slack, said in a statement: “The new Slack canvas will complement the real-time collaboration experience in Slack today by offering a persistent, customizable place for files, multimedia, powerful integrations and more. It will better empower teams to stay organized, aligned and productive in their digital HQ.”

The release of Canvas will go some way to solving one of the biggest challenges in Slack, and one that has only been growing as new integrations were introduced to the platform.

With roughly 2400 available apps in the Slack App Directory available for workers to choose from, unless a company had a strict policy of which apps to use for different tasks, workers often ended up using dozens of different apps to complete the same tasks. With data and content for any given project spread across multiple apps, finding information was a challenge. As the company noted that every week, Slack users take about 15 billion actions in channels, which include sharing files, replacing meetings with huddles and using chat to notify colleagues on the status of projects.

Slack, until now, had no way to share information about a project in a persistent way.

Canvas aims to solve this problem. It pulls together essential information without the need to write or manipulate a line of code. It can also pull data from systems of record into an interactive dashboard that is easy to view, update and, ultimately, collaborate on.

One other noteworthy Slack-related announcement from Dreamforce is the roll out of new and updated huddles with features it promised back in June.  

Google Pushes Tasks to the Center of Workspace

Slack is not the only vendor announcing changes to its productivity tools. Google is also giving its Workspace suite some love, this time for Tasks.

Tasks is often overlooked in the cornucopia of offerings that make up Google Workspace, with Gmail, Docs, Slides and other tools grabbing the lion's share of attention. Yet the Tasks planning tools always held potential and that is what Google is trying to tap now.

The update will effectively make Tasks a central hub for all activities across Workspace, tying together the likes of Gmail and Google Calendar.

In a blog about the release, Google VP of product management Ilya Brown explained the upgrades will migrate reminders from Assistant and Calendar to Google Tasks, creating a single place to organize work.

“It can sync across your devices, so your lists and tasks go with you, wherever you are. Plus, you can easily access Tasks from your favorite Google Workspace apps like Gmail, Calendar and Chat,” Brown wrote.

The new Tasks is expected "in the coming months." Users will be alerted to their access by a notification on their desktop or phone. And there is more to come. "We are continuing to invest in Google Tasks and expand its capabilities to help you capture, organize and accomplish all you have to get done," Brown added.

ServiceNow Tokyo Release Upgrades Now Platform

Elsewhere, ServiceNow's Tokyo release added a number of new features to its Now Platform. The additions add enterprise asset, supplier and environmental management capabilities to the platform.

The additions continue the expansion of its overall digital workflow capabilities, which the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company believes will improve employee and customer experiences through simplified order management and scheduling functionality.

Citing research from Gartner earlier this year, the company noted that 52% of CHROs identified a shortage of critical talent as a top trend and one of the trends that is likely to affect most organizations. As a result, organizations are investing in technologies to improve engagement, which in turn will have a positive impact on productivity.

The Now Platform Tokyo is ServiceNow's response to this and builds on the company's March upgrades to its user experience with the Next Experience release. The new workflow modules added in Tokyo include options for supplier lifecycle management, enterprise asset management, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) management.

In a statement from ServiceNow, Blake McConnell, senior vice president of employee workflows explained the thinking behind the upgrades: "Leaders often underestimate the impact great technology can have on the employee experience. By giving employees better digital tools that are as easy to use as their favorite websites, the features in the ServiceNow Tokyo release give employees and customers a better experience, which benefits the whole business."

Upgrades include:

  • Order Management enhancements: Make management of product catalogs easier, and makes product-related content easier to find.
  • Schedule Optimization for Field Service Management (FSM):  Makes scheduling easier for companies that manage high volumes of work across a large number of resources. It does this by assessing large numbers of objectives simultaneously including job priorities and skills required.
  • Manager Hub: This aims to addresses the problems associated with keeping employees happy and engaged across dispersed teams, a significant challenge in a world of remote and hybrid work models. The new hub provides a single destination for managers to establish and review employee journeys and respond to requests.
  • Issue Auto Resolution for Human Resources!: This new offering brings natural language understanding (NLU) to analyze requests and delivers self-service content to whatever channel employees are working in like Microsoft Teams, SMS and email.

ServiceNow has been pushing hard in the experience space as it competes with companies like IBM, Zendesk, Freshworks, SolarWinds and Jira. Last year, for example, it teamed up with Qualtrics to combine ServiceNow’s digital workflows with Qualtrics’ experience-management technology on a single platform. 

Zoom Phone Offering Gets a Boost

San Francisco-based Zoom is back this week, this time with the release of Zoom Phone Local Survivability (ZPLS) module.

The module was designed to ensure connectivity for organizations even when Wi-Fi or other networks go down or are weak. According to release by Zoom, if the Zoom Client can’t contact to a Zoom Phone data center the new module allows the organization to contact the Phone users even in the event of a storm or other natural disaster.

Zoom Phone, is a simple cloud-calling solution designed for Zoom users who want to set up quick calls without video. It offers enterprise-grade features such as centralized management, contact center integration, and global call routing and offers offers a 99.999% availability SLA target.

So the ZPLS release is a logical next step for the company. Earlier this month, Zoom announced it has sold more than 4 million phone seats — marking more than 100% growth YOY, with 700,000 licenses sold in the last quarter alone.

With these kinds of figures and Zoom's stated ambition of making it big in the telephony market, making sure the core phone functionality works is clearly a priority.

Messagepoint Releases Semantex

Finally, Toronto-based Messagepoint announced the launch of Semantex, its new division that develops a content intelligence platform that aims to offer enterprises a solution to complex content problems.

The platform operates on an AI and natural language processing foundation, making it possible for developers to use APIs to get a clear view of the organization's content. In a statement about the launch, Messagepoint CEO said, "Through our robust set of APIs, developers can easily leverage and deploy powerful AI content intelligence services to extract, classify, compare, search and analyze any amount of content required, while getting faster, more accurate and intelligent results. This makes it possible to automate content analyses and tackle content clean-up or migration projects that were previously considered too complex, time-consuming or costly."

This not the first release from Messagepoint this year. In June, it released a headless customer communications management (headless CCM) capabilities to support dynamic digital experiences with highly personalized content delivered via RESTful APIs.

Its CCM platform supports organizations in regulated industries in the end-to-end process of authoring, managing, producing and orchestrating customer communications containing personal variable data across all channels.

Founded in 1998, Messagepoint is a hybrid cloud-based content management platform serving the customer communications management needs of large enterprise customers. According to Crunchbase, it has raised $27 million to date.

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