A few weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg may well have opened technology’s Pandora’s Box by announcing that he saw Facebook’s future as the metaverse. It was not the first time anyone had talked up the metaverse, but for Facebook it was painted as something that would be fun for consumers, but also a powerful addition for enterprises developing new ways of working. This week, the San Francisco-based company took another step forward in its metaverse plans. It announced that plans to hire 10,000 people in Europe build the metaverse. The metaverse, Zuckerberg said, is a virtual reality version of the internet that breaks the barriers down between the physical and digital world.
The possibilities are huge. It can put two people thousands of miles apart in a virtual room to discuss something in real-time. If the technology develops enough, it might even be able to hold entire conferences in a massive digital space. But enough with speculation. What we do know about the announcement is that the new European jobs will be spread over the next five years and will include "highly specialized engineers", but the company otherwise gave few details of its plans for the new metaverse team.
So why Europe? In a blog post, FB explains that it sees Europe as a prime investment opportunity for tech. Europe has a “large consumer market, first class universities and, crucially, top-quality talent. European companies are at the cutting edge of several fields, whether it is the German biotech helping to develop the first-ever MRNA vaccine or the coalition of European neo-banks leading the future of finance. Spain is seeing record levels of investment into startups solving everything from online grocery delivery to neuroelectronics, while Sweden is on its way to becoming the world’s first cashless society by 2023.”
Then there’s this. “Beyond emerging tech talent, the EU also has an important role to play in shaping the new rules of the internet. European policymakers are leading the way in helping to embed European values like free expression, privacy, transparency and the rights of individuals into the day-to-day workings of the internet.”
Facebook is already facing problems in Europe over its record on privacy. Recently, Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) said it plans to fine Facebook between $33 million and $42 million over an alleged lack of transparency over what it does with users' data.
At the heart of the spat is Facebook's claim that it collects personal data as part of a contract with users, who know that the platform requires personal data in order to run its advertising-based business model. European regulators are not so sure about the consent. Where this leaves Facebook and its European metaverse ambitions remains to be seen, but regulation and data use is going to be a key part of it.
Facebook To Rebrand?
Before leaving Facebook and the metaverse aside for this week, it’s worth taking note of a report that appeared in the Verge this week that suggests the company is going to rebrand to reflect its growing interest in the metaverse. Citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter, the report says the name change is due to be announced at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but that it might come even sooner than this.
The name change, while dramatic, would make sense. Earlier this Zuckerberg told the Verge that over the next several years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.” While such a change is unusual, it is not exceptional and has happened in the past. In 2016, Google changed its name to Alphabet to reflect the fact that it does a lot more than develop search. Will Facebook become synonymous with the metaverse? It remains to be seen.
IBM Rebrands for Consultancy Market
FB is not the only Big Tech company that is looking at profound changes in the future. Armonk, NY-based IBM has just unveiled the latest move in its strategy to become the player in the hybrid cloud space. During the week, it announced that it is buying the Adobe Workfront consulting unit and assets from Rego Consulting Corporation to further its hybrid cloud and AI strategy. The consultancy specializes in work management software consulting for enterprise clients.
Big Blue has been investing aggressively in recent years to bolster its hybrid cloud and AI strategy and capabilities with a heavy focus on acquiring high-value consultative services like the Adobe Workfront business of Rego. The acquisition of the Workfront business represents the 17th overall acquisition for IBM — and the ninth acquisition in cloud and AI services — since Arvind Krishna took over as IBM CEO in April 2020.
With this acquisition, IBM expands its Adobe service offering to meet the rising client demand for experience-led business transformation backed by intelligent workflows. That's not all that happened in IBM this week either. The company also offered some insights into what would happen once the planned spin-off of IBM’s managed infrastructure business, to be called Kyndryl, takes place at the end of this year. The spin-off, the company said in a statement, will see IBM examine the services it is offering and to focus on its consultancy operations. As result, IBM's sharper focus, it is renaming its services business, IBM Consulting.
IBM launched its management consulting division in 1991, with service lines in business transformation and IT strategy consulting and has evolved up into what it is now, notably IBM Global Business Services. As such it has 140,000 consultants and provides services in digital strategy and interactive, cloud application innovation, was well as cognitive process transformation
That has all changed, and IBM Global Business Services is changing its name to IBM Consulting, which, the company says, will re-focuses its teams, offerings, and culture around a new ethos — Accelerate Together. In practical terms, this means its brand and strategy focus will be hybrid cloud, AI and ecosystems. This is just the latest change in a list of major changes over recent years and it is unlikely to be the last. The spin-off will happen by the end of this year so watch out between then and now for major developments.
Zoho Upgrades Zoho One Productivity Suite
Also this week, Austin-based Zoho, which operates a productivity suite of apps that competes with both Microsoft and Google but at a much more modest price, has introduced new apps and services into Zoho One. You may recall that Zoho One was released in 2017. At the time, Zoho described it as an operating system designed to accomplish any work-related task. Zoho One integrates all the company’s apps as well as a bunch of apps for Android and iOS in one central system, accessible through single sign-on. In the intervening period, it also pulled AI into the mix.
According to the company, the new additions empower businesses to solve disjointed data challenges and close communications gaps across silos, so organizations can become more productive, adapt more quickly to changing market conditions. The bottom line is that Zoho One aims to resolve operational, digitization, and data retention challenges that businesses encounter.
It is impossible to note everything that has been added here but some of the most eye-catching features include embedded and conversational BI, which basically means conversational analytics enabling decision makers to drill down into their data and glean cross-departmental insights. To do this it is offering a new data preparation tool which is powered by machine learning. This will help business users integrate, model, cleanse, transform, enrich, and catalog data, as well as integrate with analytics or a third party for new-found insights.
Finally, it also offers Work Graph, a new back-end service for business software that maps interactions between people, resources, systems and processes by studying signals and their strength across the board to build a business-wide work graph that is specific to each individual within the organization.
Kofax’s Intelligent Automation Research
Also worth a look this week, Kofax has published it annual intelligent automation study, which focuses on the business workflows that more than 800 executives are prioritizing as they look toward digital transformation. It is now possible to automate virtually any business workflow, but some workflows are more attractive for enterprise executives then others.
According to the study, organizations are focused on the following high-value customer, operational and financial workflows:
- 85% accounts payable automation
- 84% Transaction processing
- 83% Bank statement processing
- 83% Document security management
- 82% Invoice processing automation
- 78% Onboarding
- 78% Other
Enterprises are prioritizing these workflows for a variety of reasons, from improving the customer experience to driving better decision making. Specifically, executives say automating these functions are providing the greatest benefits:
- 94% Optimizing customer acquisition and retention
- 93% Running the business
- 93% Maximizing the value of IT investments
- 93% Improving customer engagement across multiple channels
- 83% Ensuring compliance, data management and security
If you want to read more on this, the full study is here
Alfresco Muscles-up With Compliance Tech
Finally, this week, Boston-based Alfresco, which develops an open source, content management platform and solutions, has announced the addition of immutable, Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM) regulatory compliant storage to its Alfresco Governance Services. Through configurable policies in Alfresco’s Digital Business Platform, users can keep their storage data in an immutable state where content can be created and read but not modified or deleted — in order to conform to regulatory compliance, secure document retention or legal holds.
The immutable storage requirement is not limited to financial organizations, but also applies to other industries including healthcare, government insurance, media, public safety, and legal services.
Additional functionality includes enhanced manual and automated filing of records and record versions to reduce risk and minimize the impact of regulatory compliance on normal business operations.