Black-and-white photo of a man reading a newspaper on a bench outside while a woman next to him in a wheelchair covers her head with paper.
PHOTO: Chris Yarzab

It was inevitable that as soon as reports of the coronavirus (COVID-19) started emerging in central China the business world would be impacted. The rapid spread of the disease and the likelihood that this will cause an epidemic in localized regions, or even a pandemic, has meant that reactions have been swifter than originally anticipated. And the digital workplace is no exception. As the disease is spread person-to-person the argument for enabling more employees than ever to work remotely has never been stronger. However, it will be difficult to judge the impact until after the crisis has passed.

There has already been a considerable impact, particularly with the spring and summer tech conference season quickly approaching. Already, Facebook has cancelled one of the most closely watched conferences of the year as it has postponed its annual developer conference, from which there is generally many announcements about Workplace by Facebook and other collaboration possibilities. Instead, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of platform partnership, said in a statement, Facebook is planning more local event and live-streamed announcements.

The conference, which attracted 5,000 people from around the world last year, was scheduled to be held on May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California. "This was a tough call to make — F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world — but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners," he said.

Instead, he said, in place of the in-person F8 event, "we’re planning other ways for our community to get together through a combo of locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content,” said Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of platform partnership."

Microsoft too has warned that it too will be impacted by the outbreak. The company said that because its Chinese suppliers were shutdown, manufacturing operations have been affected. It also cancelled its participation in the gamers conference in San Francisco later this year. While not directly related to the digital workplace, it does indicate how the rest of the year is likely to pan out. In a statement, Microsoft said, "After a close review of guidance by global health authorities and out of an abundance of caution, we’ve made the difficult decision to withdraw from participating at Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco."

Earlier this month, The Mobile World Congress (MWC), the annual telecoms industry gathering, was called off after a mass exodus by exhibitors due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

However, there are signs that China is slowly getting the spread of the disease under control and, it is to be hoped, its impact will be limited on the tech industry and the conference season. More on this as it happens.

SocialChorus Integration Enhances Office 365

We have seen on many occasions in the past that one of the biggest challenges in the digital workplace is connecting workers at all levels of the company. In fact, this is such an enormous problem that there are a few tech companies that have been founded just to solve this problem. One such company is San Francisco-based SocialChorus, which is dedicated to helping companies connect with their workers. The driving mantra is alignment from the inside out. 

One of the most deployed platforms in the digital workplace is, of course, Office 365. It comes as no surprise then that SocialChorus has announced that it is deepening its existing partnership with Microsoft to provide deep integration with Microsoft Outlook, SharePoint and now Teams. The integration with Office 365 allows employees to consume personalized, targeted company information directly within Teams, SharePoint or Outlook to reach every worker, in every location, or through the channels they prefer. Workers using SocialChorus together with Office 365 will, as result be able to:

  • Publish once and send the content to any employee endpoint — Outlook, SharePoint or Teams — as well as to digital signage or any other digital workspace.
  • Target and re-target communications to the right person in the right place to drive the desired result.
  • Receive holistic insights by employee group, location and function across all employee endpoints with the ability to track initiatives.
  • Gain intelligence around which endpoint works best for which employee group to drive an outcome from communication.

The combination of the two enables managers to see the impact communications are having on strategic initiatives, including on digital transformation strategies. It also dovetails with an increasing demand on additional efficiencies across the workplace including, streamlined systems and better insights into the workplace using intelligence from analytics.

For managers looking to unify the many disparate elements in the workplace this will be a real bonus. Surfacing content and feeding into the many different channels in any workplace has always been a challenge. This is one flexible way of doing that.

Hyland Buys Blockchain Credentialing Provider

Elsewhere,  Westlake, Ohio-based Hyland has announced that it has bought Learning Machine — a blockchain credentialing provider for governments, companies and educational institutions to enable them to design their records, import recipient data, issue records and manage the entire credentialing lifecycle, rooted in any blockchain they choose. Learning Machine is based in Cambridge, Mass., and has developed its technology in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the MIT Media Lab.

According to Hyland’s President and CEO, Bill Priemer, the acquisition is a major step in revolutionizing the way organizations electronically exchange trusted records. The addition of Learning Machine’s digital credentialing solutions to Hyland’s content services platform will enable its customers to generate and manage digital documents that are both easily shareable and instantly verifiable. Hyland said it will continue to support Learning Machine's current solutions and customers as it integrates the technology into existing platform offerings.

Hyland has also just announced that it has bought out Streamline Health’s enterprise content management (ECM) business. The acquisition bolsters Hyland’s traction in the healthcare market.

Xerox Still Chasing HP

Meanwhile, if capture and computing are two of the most important elements in the digital workplace. Late last year, if you weren’t aware of it, two of the biggest companies in the space, notably Palo Alto, Calif-based HP and Norwalk, Conn.-based based Xerox, started discussing a buyout. To be precise, Xerox made an offer for HP and HP rejected it. However, the most recent news from both is that HP is prepared to explore a combination with Xerox for the first time since its rival launched a $35bn hostile takeover bid. However, the likelihood of a deal seems distant.

In a statement issued towards the end of the month (Feb. 24) HP said that while it believes there is merit in industry consolidation — the reason it acquired Samsung Printing in 2017 — it would only happen if there was benefit for HP shareholders. “It added: The revised Xerox proposal, announced on February 10, 2020, meaningfully undervalues HP, creates significant risk, and compromises HP’s future.” The revised Xerox proposal, the statement among other things, overstates the potential synergies by including HP’s existing plans for independent cost reductions and productivity gains. However, HP hasn’t written off the deal yet and says its reaching out to Xerox “to explore if there is a combination that creates value for HP shareholders” and which adds to HP’s strategic and financial plans.

To make things even more difficult for Xerox, the recent quarterly earnings release show that HP has grown by $10.5 billion over the last few years. This revenue growth is considerably more than Xerox's total company revenue. This is not finished yet and a conclusion to the discussions a long way away.

Process Street Raises $12m

Finally, this week, San Francisco-based Process Street has raised a $12M Series A from Accel, Atlassian, Salesforce Ventures and other investors. Process Street is a cloud-based business process management (BPM) solution that enables organizations to create checklists and process documents for recurring projects. Users can manage multiple projects, review ongoing projects, assign tasks and collaborate with team members.

According to the company the funds will go towards our vision of building what it describes as the "GitHub of no-code" where teams around the world can find and use checklists, workflows and automations to improve their productivity at work.

As the growth of distributed teams grows, the need for modern digital tools to produce and maintain evolving workflows increases, according to Process Street cofounders Cameron McKay and Vinay Patankar. The company claims to have more than 450,000+ registered users including enterprise customers like Colliers, Accenture, Spotify and Airbnb, as well as institutions like Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University.