man on train with a newspaper
PHOTO: charlotte

Businesses are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in a number of different ways. While many organizations appear to be panicking, Google has seen an opportunity. Last week, CEO Sundar Pichai sent out a tweet explaining that, in a response to the outbreak, Google will be offering some of its communications and collaboration tools for free.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company explained in a blog post that it is rolling out access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally as the company pitches its remote work tools as an option for companies looking to let employees work from home.

“Starting this week we rolled out free access to our advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally until July 1, 2020,” the blog reads. “We’re also adding resources to be able to support increased demand for public livestreaming on YouTube. We’ve seen increased interest in affected regions as people look to be able to connect virtually with their communities when they are unable to do so in person.”

As a way of increasing awareness, it is also providing $25 million in donated ad credit to the WHO and government agencies, and will provide more if needed throughout the year.

Microsoft made a similar move by offering a free six-month trial for its premium tier of Microsoft Teams. According to The Verge, Microsoft also stated on March 10 that it will "also roll out an update to the free version of Teams that will lift restrictions on how many users can be part of a team and allow users to schedule video calls and conferences."

The Google move is an interesting one in terms of products though. It is always very hard to stop the use of apps once you have introduced them into a workplace. Microsoft used a similar strategy with Office 365 when it was first introduced, offering the suite with major price reductions in order to pull people into the net.

While the offering of advanced Hangouts and other elements of G Suite will not have the same impact, it will expose new users to the advantages of G Suite and other Google tools. While making this offer was a generous gesture from Google, it also makes good business sense.

Microsoft Mover Migration Tool Now Available

Elsewhere, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has spent a lot of time over the past year heavily marketing its Microsoft 365 offering. Like Office 365, Microsoft appears to be betting on many organizations giving up on on-premises systems and moving their workplaces to the cloud. Until July 2017, this usually meant a move to Office 365. However, now it is also encouraging enterprises to look at Microsoft 365.

As a reminder, Microsoft 365 Enterprise combines Office 365 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security features into a single subscription. Microsoft is also offering Microsoft 365 Business, which will debut in public preview on Aug. 2 and includes Office 365 Business Premium alongside security and management features for Office apps and Windows 10 devices.

To get enterprises using it though, it needs to enable enterprises to move to the cloud, which it is doing with the release of a new migration tool called Mover.

“Since Microsoft announced the acquisition of Mover, our migration specialists have been working hard to bring the migration service, including admin-led and self-service offerings, to more customers as demand to move content to the cloud continues to grow,” Mark Kashman, senior product manager at Office 365, wrote in a blog.

Microsoft bought Mover in October 2019 for an undisclosed price with this very problem in mind. Mover supports migration from over a dozen cloud service providers — including Box, Dropbox, Egnyte and Google Drive — into OneDrive and SharePoint, enabling seamless file collaboration across Microsoft 365 apps and services, including Office apps and Microsoft Teams.

It also brought deep expertise and migration technology to Microsoft’s cloud business so that organizations of sizes would have the right tools, people and partners to successfully migrate to the Microsoft Cloud.

Mover will run in parallel to the existing SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT) for migrating content from on-premises SharePoint sites and file shares to Microsoft 365, FastTrack planning and onboarding, and a strong migration partner ecosystem.

It's a smart move by Microsoft, especially if Microsoft claims that Mover makes migration to the cloud easy hold true. In all the talk about the digital workplace in recent years, the problem of migration is often overlooked.

Contract Life Cycle Management Market to Consolidate

Meanwhile, Gartner recently published its first Magic Quadrant for Contract Life Cycle Management (paywall). Contract Life Cycle Management (CLM) refers to applications used for managing contracts, from initiation through ongoing management and eventual renewal or termination. If you think back to the early 2000s, this was one of the principle goals of document management systems.

According to Gartner, historically, the CLM vendor market has been highly fragmented, with vendors narrowly focused on specific groups of stakeholders making it difficult to evaluate them side by side. 

That has changed in recent years and a number of vendors are starting to excel in the space. This year, 12 vendors made it into one of the quadrants. The leaders were:

  • DocuSign
  • Agiloft
  • Icertis

These companies, the report reads, are in the best position in the industry to influence the market’s growth and direction.

As it stands, the market is a large one, with more than 200 vendors. However, this is likely to change as merger and acquisition activity increases, as acquiring vendors add CLM capabilities to their cloud-delivered suites of services. 

Digital Workers Want Flexibility: Deloitte

It may have slipped under the radar last month but it is worth a look. Deloitte released a new survey exploring the state of workplace flexibility among today’s US workforce. One of the key takeaways is that a majority of professionals are now opting for flexible work despite concerns about the impact it could have on professional growth. The takeaway: less stress, better mental health and a happier workforce leading to increased productivity. Other salient data points from the Deloitte survey include:

  • 80% of professionals agree that regular attendance at an office and working normal business hours are important for advancing their career.
  • One out of three professionals surveyed say that nothing would prevent them from taking advantage of work flexibility.
  • Among the professionals whose company offers flexible work options, 82% say they have used them — with flexible work hours and remote work being the most popular options.
  • Professionals cite less stress/better mental health (43%) and better work-life integration (38%) as the top benefits of work flexibility.
  • 52% of professionals say the CEO/management has the greatest impact on advancing flexibility within their organization.

While the figures — and the report — confirm what we have already seen on many occasions in the past, the focus on flexible hours is an interesting variation to the general trend in the digital workplace towards remote working. More on this soon.

OpenText Buys XMedius, Unified Communications Provider

Finally this week, Ontario-based OpenText announced it has bought XMedius for $75 million. XMedius provides secure information exchange and unified communication solutions. With it, OpenText hopes to expand its existing customer communications management (CCM) and workforce optimization (WFO) solution.

XMedius provides technologies to optimize the omnichannel customer experience and the connected business. These solutions will complement OpenText’s customer experience management (CEM) and business network (BN) platforms, according to OpenText.

There will also be a substantial customer win for OpenText as XMedius provides technologies to 50,000 customers globally.