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IBM Goes All In on Slack, Microsoft Teams Gets a New Boss, More News

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IBM officially welcomes Slack into the workplace, Teams and SharePoint get closer, HP will respond to Xerox’s offer and more workplace news.

Armonk, New York-based IBM announced it has officially become a customer of San Francisco-based Slack. This means it will use Slack to power its chat communications companywide for its more than 350,000 employees.

Details of the deal were revealed earlier in the month by Business Insider, which pointed out that while Slack has been on trial in IBM for some time — according to some reports since 2014 — the roll-out will now be across its entire digital workplace in geographies all over the world.

While this is without a doubt a big deal for Slack and a massive challenge to ensure it works correctly, it's unlikely to change anything at Teams or at Microsoft, a comparison which inevitably rears its head whenever a customer win of this scale arises. Microsoft has been pushing Teams as part of its productivity suite, and as such, selling to to companies searching for productivity suites, not standalone communication tools.

Nor is Slack underestimating the task in front of them. “Going wall to wall in IBM — it’s basically the maximum scale that there is, so we now know that Slack will work for literally the largest organizations in the world,” Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said in an interview with Business Insider.

After the launch of its Enterprise Grid service last year, Slack reported it had 165,000 IBM users. However, the official launch pushes this to 350,000, more than doubling the number of users.

According to business analyst firm Forrester, 30% of an employee’s time is spent interacting with internal systems, repositories and apps. Companies that use Slack, however, have a chance to give employees some of that time back by bringing data and tools into the same place where collaboration is happening. The average enterprise uses more than 1,100 cloud services. That’s a substantial investment—both in terms of licenses and subscriptions, as well as time. By connecting them through Slack, IBM will be able to optimize the productivity of the digital workplace and the value of the different tools and apps that have been deployed.

Whether the IBM deal means there are others in the offing remains to be seen, but this is clearly good news for Slack.

Teams and SharePoint Move Closer

Speaking of Teams, this week saw the announcement that Jeff Teper, sometimes known as the “father of Microsoft SharePoint” who is Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft corporate vice president of Office apps, SharePoint, OneDrive and Stream is taking over leadership of Microsoft Teams.

Corporate vice president Brian MacDonald, who has been heading up Microsoft Teams, is retiring. MacDonald conceived of the product that became Microsoft Outlook and served as general manager of the Microsoft Outlook team for its first release. In 2015 he wrote a document to pitch what would become Microsoft Teams

Teper has been one of the most prominent Microsoft executives in recent years and led SharePoint through many major developments over the years, including, of course, the development of SharePoint Online through Office 365.

His new role was announced as part of a bigger shakeup, with Microsoft combining its Windows client and hardware under chief product officer Panos Panay and corporate vice president Joe Belfiore moving over to Office.

The big question is what this means for Teams. What’s really notable here is that SharePoint and Teams have, since the launch of Teams and the ongoing development of SharePoint Online, gotten closer and closer. There’s no surprise there. In Microsoft environments Teams is the glue that connects all the different apps together, making it possible for users to work from a single place, while SharePoint is the productivity app par excellence particularly when it comes to managing and surfacing content.

With the same boss, this relationship is likely to get even closer. There are a number of ways this will happen, according to Microsoft, in the near future:

  1. Stream holds all Microsoft Teams meeting recordings, but still offers no easy way to share those recordings with people outside your organization.
  2. Private channels have to spin up a dedicated SharePoint site to ensure permissions are completely separate to the main team.
  3. The File Management Tab in Microsoft Teams offers a subset of SharePoint functionality.
  4. If you are syncing Microsoft Teams files locally with OneDrive for Business, when the Team gets deleted OneDrive client get stuck.

Remedies for all of these issues are on the way and, if resolved, will give Teams added reach and power. There will undoubtedly be more on this in the coming months. Launches Work OS

Elsewhere, Tel Aviv-based team management and productivity startup Labs has launched monday 2.0, a work operating system (work OS) which the company describes as a new software category that “addresses the needs of our modern way of working.”

According to a blog from the company, the new OS enables companies to build custom workflow apps in a matter of minutes. “The Work OS provides teams with a set of building blocks, which they can drag and drop to create applications that: capture and process data, automate manual grunt work, connect between tools to bridge data silos, and analyze important insights, at a glance,” the blog reads.

Learning Opportunities

Developers will now have infinite possibilities to create and package custom widgets, workflows, integrations, and more for internal or commercial use. This means that instead of time-consuming and error-prone repetitive tasks, you automate them with your Work OS.

Last July the company raised a $150 million Series D round, bringing total funding to $234.1 million. Earlier this month it said it had raised $120 million in annual recurring revenues (ARR) in 2019 and expects to raise $250 million ARR this year.

WhatsApp Touches 2 Billion User Mark

Here’s another milestone: Facebook’s WhatsApp now has two billion users worldwide, up from 1.5 billion two years ago. Given that quite a lot of this is in the consumer market, you might think this has little to do with the enterprise.

However, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart thinks differently and used a blog post to announce the milestone to reiterate the importance of message encryption and the fact that WhatsApp has no intention to decrypting messages in the new future. “Strong encryption acts like an unbreakable digital lock that keeps the information you send over WhatsApp secure, helping protect you from hackers and criminals,” he wrote.

He added: "Strong encryption is a necessity in modern life. We will not compromise on security because that would make people less safe.”

Yet even with the encryption and with the introduction of tools for businesses in recent years, WhatsApp is having little impact on Facebook revenues. It also faces pressure from countries like the US, India and Australia to discontinue encryption.

HP to Respond to Xerox Offer

Finally this week, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP has said it will respond to another offer made by Xerox to buy it out on Feb. 24 when it reports its earnings for the quarter. While it didn't give any indication as to what might happen, it did say in a statement that it would offer shareholders another way to boost the company’s value.

“At that time, when out of its quiet period, HP will share additional information about its plan to drive sustainable long-term value for its shareholders, including through the execution of the Company’s multi-year strategic and financial plan and the deployment of its strong balance sheet,” the statement read.

HP wants its shareholders to have full information on the company’s earnings and the value inherent in the company before responding to Xerox’s February 10 press release. 

Earlier this month, Xerox unveiled plans to ask all HP shareholders to sell their shares through a tender offer, starting "on or around" March 2. To sweeten the deal, Xerox also said it will raise its takeover offer to $24 a share, from $22 a share previously. The new offer amounts to a $34.9 billion acquisition bid for HP, up from $32 billion originally.

The webcast regarding the Company’s first quarter fiscal 2020 earnings will be available on the website.