two people sharing a newspaper
PHOTO: Leonard Rbe

Microsoft’s strategy of putting all of its communication and collaboration tools under one umbrella continues with the latest announcement that it is integrating its social network, Yammer, into Teams. Microsoft Teams users will be able to add a Yammer tab to their Teams channel that loads a specified group or topic feed from Yammer. This new feature will make it possible for members to follow and share conversations in Yammer without having to leave Teams.

It’s an interesting and even logical move by Microsoft, which bought Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion but never really found a place to put it. There was speculation at one time that it would become the communication tool in SharePoint and over the past few years it has indeed been added into SharePoint. It is also available as part of Office 365. But its use is not widespread.

Even still, Yammer's use in both Office 365 and SharePoint never felt natural, coming off as more forced than strategic. However, Teams is a different matter. Making Yammer available through Teams gives it added muscle and a real purpose. By pulling the two together, workers will be able to source all the information they need at the time they need it.

It also continues to build on the recent integrations of Skype for Business and Skype Room Systems into Teams, making Teams just about unmatchable for the moment in terms of functionality compared with competitors like Slack, Workplace by Facebook and Google's G Suite and Hangouts, even if access to Teams and Office 365 comes at a considerably higher price.

Salesforce’s Digital Workplace Training Platform

Enterprises already using Salesforce will welcome the announcement of myTrailhead, the company's long ago-promised learning experience platform which allows organizations to create customizable training materials based on the company's existing Trailhead approach. The company first mentioned myTrailhead at its 2017 Dreamforce conference and has been running a small pilot of the software in the interim. 

Trailhead provides a series of online tutorials that coach beginner and intermediate developers who need to learn how to code for the Salesforce platform. With myTrailhead, Salesforce is selling training software that can be personalized for companies to use. The platform makes it possible to:

  • Learn When Convenient: Employees can learn what they want, when they want and managers have visibility into their organization’s existing skill sets and areas for improvement.
  • Scale Onboarding: Help employees to skill up at any level or stage in their career with custom learning paths called Trailmixes.
  • Enable Employees to Re-skill and Upskill: Employees can learn what they want, when they want with bite-sized content that’s available on desktop or on mobile.
  • Track and Measure Learning: Leaders have a complete view of their employees' skills and expertise.

With myTrailhead, Salesforce claims companies can combine the Trailhead approach with their own brand, voice and tone in just a few clicks. Using the guided setup, companies can pull in their existing content (including videos or presentations), create custom new content or use the existing free, public Trailhead content to create their own culture of learning. 

This is not Trailhead’s first foray outside the enterprises. Previously, Salesforce offered it as a freemium model for people to learn how to use Salesforce's software, as well as skills for using software from Google, Amazon and more. To date, it has 1.2 million learners. However, this version costs $25 per users each month, and it's an add-on to Salesforce licenses.

Facebook Faces Further Data Abuse Use Action

Facebook’s data woes is a story that just keeps giving. While everyone knows that Facebook has been suffering since the Cambridge Analytica scandal 18 months ago, more and more problems about the way it has been using users’ data keeps emerging.

The New York Times this week reported that federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook made with some of the world’s largest technology companies. According to the reports, a grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users, according to sources cited by the newspaper, who were not identified. The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with Facebook.

There is little information here other than that, and it is not clear when the grand jury inquiry, overseen by prosecutors with the US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, began. However, it is likely that it started before Mark Zuckerberg outlined Facebook’s vision and principles around building a privacy-focused messaging and social networking platform. From that statement there are five principles that Mark Zuckerberberg will use to guide Facebook moving forward.

  • Private Interactions: People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.
  • Encryption: End-to-end encryption prevents anyone from seeing what people share on our services.
  • Reducing Permanence: We won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want them.
  • Interoperability: People should be able to use any Facebook apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.
  • Secure Data Storage: People should expect that we won’t store sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression in order to protect data from being improperly accessed.

Whether any of this will have any impact on the proceedings in the coming months remains to be seen, but probably more important is the impact it will have on Facebooks reputation.

Digital Assistants for All?

Finally this week, new research produced by Information Services Group (ISG) indicates that as enterprises move toward digital workplace technologies, all employees will be able to have their own personal digital assistants.

The ISG Provider Lens Digital Workplace Archetype Report sees enterprises adopting virtual assistants, including advanced agents that can book meetings on behalf of employees or suggest product changes based on end-user chat sessions.

Digital workplace technologies can also offer remote device support through augmented or virtual reality and can provide smart offices and meeting rooms, among other benefits, the report says.

ISG Provider Lens quadrant study on Digital Business Transformation, examines the requirements and capabilities of the provider landscape globally at the moment in the context of Digital Enterprise Operations and digital transformation platforms among others.