A few weeks ago, Microsoft started talking about returning some of its workforce to the physical workplace. In a blog post about the move,  Kurt DelBene - executive vice president of corporate planning and strategy,  pointed out that the return to the physical workplace would be slow with the final destination a hybrid workplace with a combination of different kinds of work models.

This week Google has clarified its position on the workplace and how it intends to bring workers back to the physical office. In an internal document seen by CNBC and in response to the widespread vaccination programs across the U.S., Google is speeding up its plans to bring people back to the office. Already, it seems that many people are returning to work ahead of the Sept.1 return deadline that Google had mooted late last year. 

More to the point, an email cited by CNBC  from Fiona Cicconi, Google’s head of people operations, advised workers to get vaccinated but stressed that it wasn't mandatory. 

Other correspondence, though, points out that after Sept.1 workers will be allowed to work remotely for 14 days/year or apply for permission to work remotely for a limit of 12 months. However, even then, employees could be called back to their assigned office at any time. After Sept.1st, Google will reopen its physical offices and employees will be expected to turn up in person for three days per week. 

The move is interesting in the wider context of the discussion about the remote workplace. It has generally been assumed since millions of people started working remotely that companies would embrace the new reality and encourage employees to stay home. 

There is a lot to be said for it;  many workers have reported that they are more productive from home and clearly if more people stay at home the need for expensive real estate is not so urgent. 

However, not all executives are convinced that it is the way forward, or at least that it is not the way forward in the near future. In fact according to the recently published 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey from KPMG, remote work may not be the wave of the future everyone is expecting. 

In fact, KPMG found that CEOs no longer intend to downsize their physical footprint after the COVID-19 pandemic with the research suggesting that 17% of chief executives plan to reduce office space, compared to more than two-thirds (69%) of those surveyed in August 2020.  

At the same time, just 30% said they planned to have the majority of employees working remotely 2-3 days per week — potentially dashing the hopes of employees who hoped, or even expected, remote working to become the "new normal" in the post-pandemic workspace.  

KPMG said the results suggested that bosses were more confident about a return to normal office life thanks to the "positive momentum" of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. CEOs also feel they are on stronger footing than they were a year ago, thanks to successful digitization initiatives. 

In this context, Google’s decision to start returning people to the physical workplace is not surprising and is even expected. What happens in the future is still not clear, but it is clear that a move to the remote workplace is still some way ahead yet. 

The Big Pandemic Winners in Video Conferencing

One of the major changes that remote working brought with it, was that more workers and teams than ever before needed to communicate and collaborate. The result was the growth and traction of apps like Zoom, Teams and Slack. But there are many other communication tools. Even before the pandemic there were also Google’s offerings which now come in the shape of Hangouts and there was also Skype from Microsoft. 

For the past year, in fact, organizations have been using all kinds of tools to communicate and hold video meetings. It has been very difficult too, because of the global reach of these tools to really assess who is using what and for what. 

However a study carried out by EmailToolTester analyzed the number of online searches for 16 of the most popular video conferencing platforms around the world, in 122 countries, using SEMRush. While the results are not surprising, what is interesting is the variety of tools that people and organizations are using. 

2021_04_2 EmailToolTester global distribution of video tool use

Zoom, as might be expected, dominates in the UK and US, with a market share of over 55%. It also has other critical markets like Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, and South Korea. The platform has risen up as the most popular for Europe as a whole, with Spain, Finland, Germany, Norway, and many other countries across the globe.

The research also found that Skype, previously popular worldwide for free long-distance communications, saw the biggest drop in global market shares in the past year. In February 2020, pre-pandemic, Skype was top with a 32% market share. In 2021 Skype has seen a substantial loss of 26 points, to just 7% of the market share, losing out to Zoom. 
2021_04_2 EmailTool Tester gloabl distribution of video tool use 2020 vs 2021

Finally, despite Microsoft Teams being top in 41 countries, its global reach was only 15%, but it continues to grow as Microsoft 365 builds its traction in the enterprise. There is a lot more in the study for anyone looking at video conferencing and calling applications so worth taking a look. 

Mmhmm Adds New Business Tier for the Enterprise

There are other companies too that offer video calling and conferencing but are only starting to grow so don't really make it into the surveys of video apps. Such is the case with San Francisco-based mmhmm, which has just released mmhmm Business, a way of offering usage-based enterprise accounts. Business enables organizations to manage all of your company’s mmhmm accounts under one umbrella as well as Invite people via link, claim an email domain for easy account management, and get one-stop billing for your whole business. 

Created by ex-Evernote CEO Phil Libin Mmhmm last year, according to a video presentation by Libin, mmhmm will enable workers to virtually share their screen with other people while also remaining in the picture. 

But it's more than just a screen share. The app will let you share your presentation, a web browser or even a live newscast by adding a virtual camera into your regular Zoom or Google Meet calls.  Libin says Mmhmm is already working with Cisco, Boston University, Sequoia, PWC Japan, Axel Springer Porsche APX, Shine Bootcamp with more on the way. 

Learning Opportunities

More to the point — and something that will endear it with enterprise managers, the new enterprise accounts are priced the same as individual Pro accounts, at $10/month or $100/year. However, unlike other enterprise packages from other vendors, when you sign up to an enterprise account, you only have to pay for the number of users who were active on mmhmm each month, rather than worrying about seats. 

Over the coming weeks and months the company says it will be adding some tools to make mmhmm Business more attractive for businesses. Watch for big jumps in collaboration, analytics, personalization, and productivity features soon! Finally, the company has also opened its Windows beta to anyone who wants to road test mmhmm.  

IBM, Red Hat’s and Celonis' Form a Digital Transformation Partnership

Elsewhere, Celonis, IBM and Red Hat have announced a global strategic partnership to help accelerate the adoption of the Celonis Execution Management System (EMS). The collaboration aims to accelerate how users apply process mining, intelligence and automation to the core enterprise system functions and processes that drive business execution. 

Despite trillions of dollars invested in technologies, solutions, and transformation initiatives, businesses often execute below their full capacity because of system and technology complexity, broken or inefficient processes, and fragmented data that sits across various IT and cloud environments.  

Celonis EMS sits on top of core enterprise systems such as ERP and CRM, and pulls real-time data from them. It then applies process intelligence in order to help identify and unlock execution capacity across a business. 

IBM Global Business Services (GBS), for its part, is boosting its consulting approach by implementing Celonis software as part of its methodology, alongside the application of IBM data and AI solutions. GBS is also helping organizations build new solutions using Celonis EMS. 

Additionally, Celonis is embracing an open hybrid cloud strategy using Red Hat OpenShift to deliver more flexibility for users in where they deploy Celonis' software — across any public or private cloud environment they choose. This flexibility is especially useful in highly regulated industries and enhances Celonis' interoperability across customers' existing systems, bringing another level of agility in how critical data can be moved and analyzed to drive new value. 

Red Hat OpenShift technology and experience can also enable agility, speed, security and scalability. Celonis is in the process of adopting Red Hat OpenShift across its entire software portfolio. 

Deloitte, UiPath Partner To Help Oracle ERP

Finally this week, New York-based Deloitte has announced it is teaming with UiPath to develop intelligent automation solutions around the Oracle Cloud ERP platform to power digital transformation. The new solutions, built by Deloitte and certified by UiPath, will help enterprise modernization efforts by optimizing processes around Oracle Cloud ERP to increase organizational efficiency, accuracy, productivity and standardization. 

According to a recent IDG study, enterprise organizations indicated improving scalability/agility, freeing up IT staff and lowering operating costs were their top-three goals for ERP modernization.  

Deloitte's intelligent automation solutions for Oracle Cloud ERP environments address those challenges by using  a persona-based approach to automate and augment repetitive human actions, saving time and cost for both functional and IT organizations. 

The new solutions from Deloitte and UiPath for Oracle Cloud ERP applications focus on automating deployment and maintenance of Oracle cloud applications, as well as automating the delivery of business processes built on the Oracle Cloud ERP platform and digital workforce