One of the most anticipated pieces of research every year from Gartner has just been published. The Magic Quadrant for the Content Services Platforms (subscription required) takes a dive into the one of the digital workplace’s most important technologies and presents what the authors believe are the top content services on the market in a given year.

So, let’s get it out of the way first. The following vendors made it into the Leaders Quadrant: Microsoft, Hyland, Box, OpenText.

There are no vendors in the Challengers Quadrant that normally contains the companies that might make it into the Leaders in the future. The other 14 vendors listed in the other quadrants are divided nearly evenly between Visionaries and Niche players.

While it's always interesting to see who might be in and who is out, what is far more important is the context and market conditions into which these vendors are selling.

According to Gartner, the content services platform market is a mature market with many vendors that have serviced this market for over 30 years. Keep in mind in this respect that, for Gartner, content services is the more accurate nomenclature of enterprise content management (ECM). The report identifies a number of key trends that have emerged over the past 12 to 24 months:

  • Slow growth: The overall growth of the content services market, including content collaboration tools, slowed in 2020 as organizations responded to COVID-19. However, content services platform market was the hardest hit, with negative growth of 1.7%.
  • Vendor consolidation: There has been a lot of consolidation and acquisition which started during 2019 and continued into 2020 and beyond. This has been partly driven by the slow market growth.
  • Move to the cloud: Client demand is increasingly focused on simpler procurement, deployment, operations and access to innovations. Typically, this means SaaS/PaaS solutions.
  • Embedded intelligence: Artificial intelligence is critical to content services. In the past, this has often been an interesting feature looking for a use case. However, it is becoming increasingly embedded within real business solutions.

There is nothing very surprising here for anyone following this market, but the report outlines in detail why these trends have emerged as well as the way different vendors are responding to it. It also shows that despite the emergence of new and advanced technologies, one of the single biggest drivers in the digital workplace is managing content wherever it is located.

Cisco, Lumen Release Cloud UC Manager

One of the other major technologies that enterprise has been investing in for the past 18 months is communications and collaboration tools (UC & C) that are necessary for remote work. As remote and hybrid work environments become commonplace and technology and enterprise have a wider range of technologies to choose, many of these same companies are looking for new ways to provide reliable, fast and secure collaboration solutions that maximize existing UC & C investments. Clearly, the idea of a technology rip-and-replace is not an option for many companies.

If San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco has been one of the major players in the communications market with products like Webex, it has also been looking for new ways to meet current market demand. The result is that it has just announced an expanded partnership with Denver-based Lumen Technologies to develop a new offering called Lumen Solutions for Cisco Unified Communications Manager Cloud.

This new product pairs Cisco's most advanced, cloud-based collaboration services with the speed of Lumen's global fiber network, and offers companies that have already invested in Webex a way to upgrade with cutting-edge technology. It also offers another reason for enterprises to make the jump to Webex if they are not happy where they are.

The partnership, like most of the emerging or improved technology at the moment, responds to the emergence of remote and hybrid environments that work off integrated calling, conferencing, file sharing and software applications. In sum, the new solution delivers a comprehensive, enterprise-level unified communications and collaboration service from the Cisco cloud enabling the introduction of services that are more flexible, agile and efficient.

Service features include calling, messaging, Cisco Webex integration, instant messaging, presence mobility, mobile and remote access, emergency call handling, collaboration phones and endpoints, network connectivity options, global availability as well as 24/7 support, something that is not to be dismissed.

Lumen and Cisco have a long-standing, multi-dimensional relationship, and a history of providing UC & C solutions that enable digital workplaces. While this initially targets enterprises that are already using Webex, it’s also a powerful incentive for others who have yet to sign up to make the jump.

SAP, Qualtrics Offer Experience Optimizer

Meanwhile, Bellevue, Wash.-based SAP and Provo, Utah-based Qualtrics have also come together to offer Concur Experience Optimizer, a new solution that allows companies to improve employee experiences and adapt travel and expense programs for the future of work.

Concur Experience Optimizer combines the listening and analysis capabilities of Qualtrics EmployeeXM with operational intelligence data from Concur Travel and Concur Expense to help companies design travel programs for the hybrid workplace, improve spend management processes and increase employee retention.

While much of the discussion about new technologies in recent months has been about enabling remote work, or making hybrid work strategies feasible, less attention has been paid to those that will be returning to pre-pandemic levels of business travel, with 70 percent expecting to go back to traveling as much as they did before the pandemic, according to recent research from Qualtrics.

A small majority (54 percent) of business travelers say traveling for business is still very important or critical to their role, and 84 percent say they are willing to travel within the next year. Yet, the experience of traveling for business is unlikely to go back to exactly the way it was pre-pandemic due to marked changes in employee expectations.

Learning Opportunities

Concur Experience Optimizer uses technology from Qualtrics and SAP Concur, plus expert services from SAP Concur Experience Management Consultants to help companies listen, analyze and act on employee feedback to create continuous feedback loops and understand the impact of adjustments made over time. Companies can capture employee sentiment with science-backed feedback templates and view the results through simple, intuitive dashboards that show the impact of sentiment against operational data metrics.

Leaving aside the product itself, what is interesting is the fact that so many workers believe they will be back to traveling sooner rather than later. If this is the case, then enterprises need to focus on on-site digital workplace technology as much as they do on hybrid workplaces, which makes up a lot the discussion about the future of the workplace at the moment.

Microsoft Buys Clear For Oracle, SAP Connectivity

From Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft this week, we have news that it has bought Clear Software, a Zionsville, Ind.-based startup developing enterprise software automation technologies. Financial details of the deal were not released.

Clear Software offers iPaaS and business process solutions with strong connectivity into SAP and Oracle. Microsoft’s interest here is Clear Software’s API access and system knowledge that will strengthen Microsoft Power Platform’s integration with outside systems and accelerate how customers use data and processes that reside beyond Microsoft first-party service.

Its integrations will make it a more seamless experience to use Power Apps and Power Automate to build business applications and automations over complex systems. It also comes with more than 100 pre-built abstractions over these systems and can be customized in UI to support each organization’s needs. Details of how Clear will fit in will be released later.

Keep in mind that this has been announced just a week before Microsoft’s Ignite conference where we are likely to hear a lot more about automation and more about this new buy.

Fuze Upgrades Communications Platform

Finally this week, Fuze, a Boston-based cloud communications and collaboration platform provider, has released two new upgrades that will strengthen communications between hybrid and remote workforces through enhanced integration capabilities.

Fuze’s new platform release offers expanded functionality for workforces that remain distributed as we move into the next phase of hybrid work, with faster and easier interactions for remote workers, such as background blur, enhanced voice and video quality, and a new screen share from chat functionality. The upgrade also expands the Microsoft Teams integration and embedded STIR/SHAKEN technology to help address illegitimate caller ID spoofing and “verify” the telephone number being displayed.

In addition, Fuze has expanded its manufacturing offerings with a hands-free communication option, Walkie-Talkie mode, as well as a RealWear solution that provides streamlined communications for manufacturing field technicians, facility floor employees and remote support experts. In addition, the RealWear solution reduces the need for experts to travel to on-site locations, speeding up the overall business process.

According to Gartner, in 2022 31% of all workers worldwide will be either hybrid in-office and fully remote, with the U.S. leading in terms of remote workers in 2022, accounting for 53% of the workforce. Gartner also estimated that remote workers will represent 32% of all employees worldwide by the end of 2021. This is up from 17% of employees in 2019. The Fuze upgrades respond to the needs of this hybrid and remote workforce.