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Many organizations have done more digital transformation since the beginning of the pandemic than they have in the rest of their history. It's a difficult process at the best of times but in the current situation and in such a short span of time it's close to impossible.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, however, has been pushing its cloud products as way to overcome obstacles with the release of Business Application Platform. The new cloud-based platform offers API management, no-code application development, automation and data insight capabilities.

That alone is an interesting development for Google. But the fact the company is pushing its cloud services and now this platform as a way to solve business problems holistically is a strong marketing play. Google Cloud, the company says, offers a way to complete the digital transformation journey and not just solve individual problems. The new platform offers users a way to:

  • Consume services, data and functionality via APIs even where there are complex backends.
  • Empower non-technical employees to build data-driven applications even if they know nothing about coding.
  • Ease the complexity of integrating applications and automation of business processes.
  • Give users the ability to extract their own insights from data by offering self-service tools like Looker.

The new platform is the result of recent acquisitions, including Apigee, an API management service, which Google bought in 2016 for $625 million. It also includes the AppSheet no-code application development offering in the platform, which it bought in 2014 for an undisclosed sum.

Amit Zavery, vice president and general manager for business application platform on Google Cloud, said Google would also add new features built on its expertise in hybrid and multi-cloud architectures, artificial intelligence and machine learning, lifecycle management, security, and productivity and collaboration.

In terms of digital transformation, one other major addition is the ability to automate manual processes faster via AppSheet. In cases where business processes rely on manual actions, a huge amount of time is wasted updating systems instead of focusing on work that drives the enterprise forward. AppSheet Automation overcomes this by enabling business to build and run automations faster, without having to write code.

“We are confident the new category of business application platforms will help empower both technical and line of business developers with the core ability to create and extend applications, build and automate workflows, and connect and modernize applications,” Zavery wrote in a blog post announcing the release.

Microsoft Publishes Fluid Framework on GitHub

In May at Build 2020, Microsoft opened its Fluid Framework as a user preview for Microsoft 365 enterprise and education subscribers enrolled in Targeted Release, its program of early offerings to registered customers. At the time, the release was not a surprise as the Redmond, Wash.-based company had been talking about it since the 2019 Ignite conference.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, said then the new Framework would enable users to collaborate on dynamic content and create connected components that can be shared simultaneously and seamlessly across apps. He also promised it would be opened to the developer community.

Last week it published the code on GitHub, keeping its promise that the technology would be open source.

The idea behind publishing it on GitHub was to make it accessible to as many developers as possible and enable them to build web-based distributed apps for real-time collaboration.

Users can already insert tables, charts and task lists in Outlook for the web. Within Office.com, Fluid workspaces can be created and managed, including within document activity feeds, recommended lists, and @mentions. Users can also search for them across Office.com.

What's more, the components don't live in any one specific document so if you have a graph or table you want to include in a report written in Word but also use it in a PowerPoint presentation that accompanies the report, you only need one component for both.

Microsoft, when it started talking about Fluid in 2019, claimed it would give the company dominance in the collaboration market. Such a claim is always ambitious in the ever-changing market. That said, this is an interesting development and if nothing else will shake up  the document and content collaboration space in the coming months.

Slack Makes Its Work Experience Easier

Elsewhere, San Francisco-based Slack continues its mission to make work easier. To do this, it has reorganized its entire user experience which, given the amount of time people spend in Slack, is probably a good move.

According to the company, the average paid user spends more than nine hours each workday connected to Slack, including around 90 minutes of active use. That adds up to more than 5 billion actions taken each week. To help users, the new experience, which has already started rolling out, will simplify work in Slack by enabling users to:

  • Navigate channels and search across the organization with a new navigation bar.
  • Find key conversations, files, apps and other features.
  • Start a message from anywhere with a new compose button.
  • Organize channels, messages and apps into custom collapsible sections (like folders).
  • Access apps through new shortcuts.

Altogether, these improvements make it easier to use Slack, adapt it to individual work style and access essential tools. But that's not all it has done. Slack also released new templates for Workflow Builder, a visual tool that enables Slack users to automate routine processes.

The templates, the company explained, are designed to make working from home feel like work in the physical office by keeping everyone in the loop on team-orientated tasks without adding new notifications to their workload.

Making work easier is always welcome, and with more people working remotely, anything that facilitates that is going to be a hit. While it remains to be seen just how these improvements work out, streamlining the experience and offering new workflow templates are a sure way to gain enterprise traction.

Hyland Buys Alfresco

In the acquisition space, the big news this week is the acquisition of Boston-based Alfresco by Westlake, Ohio-based Hyland. Hyland builds content management software and has a strong customer base in the health sector, among others, while Alfresco Software, which offers digital business software and content services was bought by Thomas H. Lee in 2018. Thoma Bravo has backed Hyland since 2007.

In a statement, Bill Priemer, president and CEO of Hyland, said: "This acquisition will expand our global reach, enabling us to help more organizations achieve their digital transformation goals and become more informed, empowered and connected."

He also indicated the purchase was aimed at growing the global reach of Hyland and is looking to gain deeper traction in organizations that have digital transformation strategies in place.

Alfresco develops a modern, cloud-native digital business platform that delivers content services solutions to connect, manage and protect organizations' most critical information. Once the deal is closed, the entire Alfresco business is expected to be managed under Hyland software.

Jay Bhatt, president and CEO of Alfresco, pointed out that with the acquisition Alfresco is bringing significant geographic and industry experience to Hyland as well as an open source community that is a source of product innovation. Financial details of the deal were not released.

COVID Hits Enterprise Profitability, Productivity

Finally, this week, New York City-based Catchpoint, which specializes in digital experience management, released a survey of 200 enterprise CIOs and 200 enterprise work-from-home (WFH) managers today. It examined the differences between those enterprises who fared the best and the worst during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey found that top-tier enterprises were 2.6 times as likely to have grown revenue, 2.5 times as likely to have reached profit goals and 2.1 times as likely to have high employee satisfaction numbers. Improved performance was seen also within IT, where top-tier enterprises saw improved app reliability, network reliability and cyber security.

The survey included CIOs and managers from enterprises with at least 1,000 employees, geographically dispersed across the United States, and comprised a wide range of industries.

There is a lot in the survey, but one of the notable findings is that the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on most enterprises. The three biggest impacts on businesses were profitability, revenue growth and productivity. Within IT departments, the biggest impacts were security, app reliability and network availability.