good news is coming
PHOTO: Jon Tyson

Google announced a dramatic revamp to its Gmail email service. This update is the first step in creating a true unified workplace for workers, providing the capability to manage as well as plan projects and chat with co-workers from one location. The move puts it directly on a collision course with Microsoft’s communications and collaboration platform Teams as well as purported email killer Slack.

In a blog post about the development, Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of G Suite explained it as follows: “G Suite now intelligently brings together the people, content, and tasks you need to make the most of your time. We’re integrating core tools like video, chat, email, files, and tasks, and making them better together, so that you can more easily stay on top of things, from anywhere.”

In practical terms, this means putting Google Docs, Drive and Calendar in a single place along with the newly unveiled Rooms, which provides similar capabilities as Teams or Slack in terms of enabling teams to collaborate in real time. In Google's version, people can chat, swap files and edit Google Docs without switching tabs.

This new integrated workspace also makes it easy to access third-party apps, including DocuSign, Salesforce and Trello, so you can get updates and act within any kind of conversation — across Gmail, Chat and Rooms.

And there is more on the way. Without giving detailed timing, Soltero explained that these integrated workspaces will expand even further down the line with features like picture-in-picture video calls within Gmail, the integration of Google Meet into content tools like Docs, Sheets and Slides, and more.

While Google may appear to have been slow in developing a unified workplace, it is making up for it now. All the tools that have been pulled together here will be familiar to Google users so adoption should be relatively quick.

What remains to be seen is whether it can entice new enterprise users into the mix. It offers much the same functionality as the other big platforms and use of the familiar Gmail interface cannot be overestimated. Something to watch out for.

Microsoft’s Outlook Organizes Digital Work

Google isn't alone in launching dramatic email-related updates this week. During the week Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft announced a number of new experiences in its email service Outlook, which the company said were designed to give workers back a little more of their time.

According to Gideon Bibliowicz, director of product marketing for Outlook and Exchange, managing time has become even more challenging over the last few months of remote working. Microsoft’s own research and telemetry, he wrote in a blog post, shows “the changes people are facing are real and contribute to declining employee experiences.”

The research found a 30% increase in scheduled meetings and a 1000% jump in video calls over the last few months. The rise in the number of meetings, combined with 30% of them running over the scheduled time and a 52% jump in the number of instant messages between 6pm and midnight, are also blurring the lines between work and personal spaces.

Bibliowicz continued: "It is understandable why many people are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. People report feeling the need to be 'always on' now more than before, without time to disconnect and recharge as we see a month over month surge of 30% in created tasks starting in March. In a time where people feel the need to be 'always on,' not even the weekends are safe as a 200% increase in Teams chat on Saturdays and Sundays was recorded."

Microsoft’s additions to Outlook management is an attempt to solve this problem. Among the changes are:

Calendar management within your inbox: These new features allow you to triage your calendar directly from your Outlook inbox rather than having to toggle between your inbox and calendar, with a collection of small adjustments like a one-click Join button in Outlook, mini-calendar in message list and more.

Meeting Insights for Outlook mobile: Outlook will now bring email messages and files related to your meeting right to the meeting invite and the calendar event, so you can easily and quickly find what you need.

Integrated personal and work calendars: This means more accurate time management: the new ability to add your personal Outlook.com or Google calendar to your Outlook work account, so that your personal time commitments are reflected in your work calendar for a more accurate view of your free/busy availability.

An expanded and updated task experience: New features to help easily create a task out of a highlighted portion of an email, add tasks from My Day into your calendar so you can book time to complete the task, and the ability to create tasks from an email in Outlook mobile.

With these changes, Microsoft hopes to help workers manage their overcrowded calendars as well as handle the prep and follow-up work that comes with the overabundance of meetings.

There is more on the way too. Microsoft’s annual Ignite even this year will be held at the end of September as a virtual event. Expect to hear more about employee experience and digital overload, and how Microsoft intends to tackle it through its productivity apps.

DocuSign Buys LiveOak, Slack Acquires Rimeto

It's been an interesting week for acquisitions. DocuSign bought Liveoak and Slack bought Rimeto.

For San Francisco-based DocuSign, the agreement to buy Liveoak builds on their existing partnership which saw esignatures integrated with Liveoak's secure agreement-collaboration platform. Liveoak uses web-based videoconferencing, rich collaboration features, identity verification and other tools to help complete an auditable transaction remotely.

However, given the cut-throat competition in the unified communications space, the Slack deal is potentially the more significant of the two acquisitions.

Rimeto helps companies build directories to find employees using tools like Microsoft Active Directory, homegrown tools or corporate email programs. According to Slack, Rimeto’s profile and directory features will be integrated into Slack directly, but will continue to be offered as a standalone product and will support its existing enterprise customers.

In a blog post about the deal Slack explained the acquisition helps workers stay connected. Employees with weak social ties to their colleagues are not as happy or productive as employees at companies with a thriving, healthy culture, a post about the deal read. In a world where so many people are working from home, this tool is particularly useful. The tool sits between corporate systems like HR, CRM and other tools that contain additional details about the employee to create rich profiles of employees.

Rimeto was founded in 2016 by three former Facebook employees, and raised $10 million investment last year. In a statement about the deal, co-founders Ed Zagat, Neville Bowers and Maxwell Hayman wrote: “Slack is a special opportunity to accelerate Rimeto’s mission and impact with greater reach, expanded resources, and the support of Slack’s impressive global team.” 

AODocs Upgrades Content Services Platform

Elsewhere, AODocs, an Atlanta-based developer of a content services platform that is tightly integrated with Google Drive, has also announced a series of additional features today that enhance the functionality, flexibility and usability of its platform.

The new features include low-code configurations, fine-grained administration roles to manage privileges, and the AODocs Templating Services, which allows users to insert dynamic data into attached Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. This means the attached file content is then automatically updated when the source information changes in AODocs.

It also comes with low-code configurations that enable non-technical users to manage calculated fields (which value is automatically computed based on a user-defined formula) in a similar way as cells can be defined by a formula in a spreadsheet.

These calculated fields can be used for a variety of use cases including document naming conventions, date computations, validation rules and more, without the need for scripting or development.

AODocs has been building out its platform and reputation at the same time. Last November it made its way into Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms while more recently, in May, Aragon Research positioned it as an “Innovator” in its 2020 Globe for Enterprise Content Platforms.

Newgen Enhances Web Capture Tool

Finally, this week, Newgen Software, which develops a low-code digital automation platform for managing content, processes and communication, has launched OmniScan Web 5.0, an enhanced web version of its document scanning solution, designed for distributed high-volume office environments.

OmniScan Web 5.0 uses Newgen’s core products — contextual content services (ECM) and intelligent process automation (BPM) — to accelerate business processes by capturing data and translating it into actionable business information.

The software enhances organizational efficiency by automating scanning and delivery of documents. It is equipped with remote distributed capture capabilities and can capture information from multiple sources, including physical documents and scanners. It extracts, analyzes, classifies and validates the captured content and delivers it to the intended recipients.