An outside news stand in black-and-white.
Catching up on the latest digital and customer experience news. PHOTO: Kenichi

While most of the enterprise collaboration and digital workplace chatter over the past few months has been about Slack and Microsoft Teams, Facebook made a comeback this week, despite recent data breaches and ongoing concerns about data privacy.

This week, at its inaugural enterprise workplace conference it announced a number of impressive upgrades for its collaboration application Workplace by Facebook, including the ability to set up new communication channels between companies, a “do not disturb” mode that lets employees turn off notifications from their colleagues, and a Safety Check for Workplace the enables teams to locate people quickly in the event of an enterprise emergency.

Collectively, the upgrades are aimed at providing enterprises with the tools needed by workers to communicate and collaborate and, of course, provide a viable alternative to Slack and Microsoft Teams. Facebook explained in a blog post: “We took to the stage at Flow to announce a number of new features designed to make work better, smarter and faster for people on Workplace. All these features have one thing in common, they empower people to make connections, work together and get more done. And they further our mission to help companies and organizations build meaningful communities at work.”

The big announcement, however, is the creation of a new way to communicate between multi-company groups. The ability to communicate and collaborate across the firewall had already been enabled through multi-company groups. With Workplace Chat, this will become a lot easier and faster.

All this bodes well for the 30,000 organizations that Facebook claims are using Workplace, but for those that still haven’t decided on one enterprise collaboration tool or another, it probably won’t be enough, at least for the moment.

Both Slack and Teams offer similar features and Slack has more than double the number of organizations (70,000) signed-up. Last month at Ignite, Microsoft claimed to have 329,000 organizations using Teams.

All that aside, Facebook has deep pockets and a record of accomplishment with research and development. In addition, those 30,000 client companies include giants like Walmart, Delta and Starbucks. Workplace is also ad-free with revenues coming from subscriptions. It's not clear whether this will be enough for Workplace to maintain its traction in the enterprise, but it would be unwise to write Facebook off without having a look at Workplace first.

Google Plus Enterprise Upgraded

Last week, Google announced that it was closing down Google Plus social network after it unwittingly exposed the data of hundreds of thousands of users. A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google Plus profile data between 2015 and March 2018, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. However, it failed to reveal it to users for fear of drawing regulatory scrutiny and causing reputational damage. But, that's not the end of the story.

Google’s response when the news went public was predictable — it announced it was closing down the consumer version of Google Plus. However, Google Plus has not disappeared. In fact, a blog post that received little attention compared to the closure announcement, stated that Google is upping its "Plus" game in the enterprise space with the release of a bunch of new features. "Over the past year, we've been building a new experience that's designed specifically to meet the needs of large organizations with distributed workforces," wrote David Conway, product manager at Google.

Some of those features include tags that make it easier for employees to engage in conversations across their company, custom streams about specific tags or people, engagement metrics for content and additional capabilities for admins.

The negative publicity over data exposure is likely to have an impact on enterprise leaders’ view of Google Plus. Even still, the company remains confident that it has a future. It offers the example of ATB Financial, which has been testing the new features. Donna Chornawka, managing director of Team Member Collaboration and Enablement at ATB, said that the features will make it even easier to get information to those in other regions and functions, and to engage in conversations at all levels no matter the size of the company. Looks like we shouldn't rule out Google Plus just yet.

Slack Finds Out What Digital Workers Want

In all the talk about enterprise collaboration and building digital workplace strategies, the users are often overlooked. What do digital workers really want, apart from top apps? Where do they see themselves fitting into the digital workplace? Slack clearly has a major interest in this, so for its recent Frontiers conference in New York City it commissioned a study to uncover some “important truths” about employee engagement and productivity.

The Slack Future of Work Study was conducted by Kelton Global among more than 1,400 knowledge workers across the US, 500 of whom are also Slack users. It showed that workers are not just looking for apps, they are looking for deeper and more relevant contact with company leaders and decision-makers as well as easier ways to communicate with colleagues.

The research uncovered three main themes of what workers are looking for:

  • Trust and transparency - 80 percent of workers want to know more about how decisions are made in their organization and 87 percent want their future company to be transparent. When asked about the current state of transparency in their organization, 77 percent of Slack users describe their organization as transparent, while 55 percent of non-Slack users answered the same way.
  • Team relationships and connection - 91 percent of workers are looking to feel closer to their work colleagues, while nearly 85 percent of workers want to feel more connected with their remote colleagues.
  • Modern communication tools - 31 percent of workers are “extremely satisfied” with their current work communication tools while 76 percent hope to have more communication tools available to them in the future. About 74 percent prefer the ability to send real-time messages at work.

There are a lot of figures here that are interesting, although a lot of it has a distinctive Slack slant. That said, they are still interesting findings and compare with research from other organizations and research bodies.

Zoom Partners With Atlassian

San Jose-based cloud conferencing provider Zoom this week announced it has partnered with collaboration software company Atlassian. The first phase of this partnership involves the development of integrated workflows between Zoom and Atlassian’s Jira Ops and Jira Service Desk products.

With the Zoom and Atlassian Jira Ops integrated workflow, a user of both services can start a Zoom meeting directly from a Jira Ops ticket when an incident occurs. A log of the meeting, including its recording and transcription are appended to the ticket.

In addition, a Zoom Chat channel can be associated with the Jira Ops ticket. All timeline updates to the ticket will be automatically posted to the Zoom Chat channel in real time, providing instant information to all relevant parties. The integrated workflow experiences in Jira Ops and Jira Service Desk will be available by the end of 2018.

Rencore Manages Outdated SharePoint Tech

Finally, one from the end of September that slipped under the radar, Germany-based Rencore announced the launch of a new product for organizations who have outdated technology built into their SharePoint environment, but who cannot move away from the technology.

The new tool-based solution first discovers all applications and customizations living in a SharePoint farm. It then analyzes and assesses the findings to single out legacy technology. It then provides next steps and guidance on how to move to modern tools.

According to Microsoft, 190 million users across 200,000 organizations are working with SharePoint today. With the new edition of SharePoint now on general release, the problem of redundant technology is going to get worse.

In response, Rencore plans to add two new replacement options in the upcoming months: InfoPath forms to Microsoft PowerApps, and SharePoint Designer Workflows to Microsoft Flow.