Earnings calls are not the kind of thing that will keep you glued to your seat unless you are an investor, but in the case of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft there is always a lot to learn about the digital workplace in the commentary from the different board members. This year’s Q2 figures are just such a case.

For those communicating in the digital workplace, most striking figure — apart from the revenues and profits — is that Teams has now surpassed 270 million active users per month in the last quarter. This is up from 250 million in July. Prior to that, the company used the metric of daily active users, so the numbers aren’t directly comparable, but they do show how the growth has slowed.

There are now more than 1.4 billion monthly active devices running Windows 10 or Windows 11, which could mean that there is actually more than the 270 million Teams users cited in the report as Microsoft added a Teams Chat button into the Windows 11 taskbar last July in an effort to attract new users. In this respect it also introduced a new standalone Teams Essentials SKU for small- and mid-sized businesses.

Figures generated through Windows 11 may take time to trickle through as only some Windows PCs are able to run Windows 11 due to Microsoft upping the requirements for its newest OS release, which started rolling out at the beginning of last October. There are two other points worth noting with Teams.

According to Microsoft, over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies used Teams Phone this quarter, while monthly usage of third party applications and custom-built solutions has grown 10 times in the last two years. There are other highlights from the figures that are worth noting, too. Among them:

  • Office Commercial products and cloud services revenue increased 14%, driven by Office 365 Commercial revenue growth of 19%.
  • Office Consumer products and cloud services revenue increased 15% and Microsoft 365 Consumer subscribers grew to 56.4 million.
  • LinkedIn revenue increased 37% (up 36% in constant currency).
  • Dynamics products and cloud services revenue increased 29% driven by Dynamics 365 revenue growth of 45% (up 44% in constant currency).

It was always going to be a good quarter for Microsoft given that so many people are still working from home and the interest in its communications products and its productivity suites continues to grow. It also seems likely that this is not going to change in the quarter that has just started as many people will continue to work remotely even when the pandemic has finally passed.

Is IBM’s Hybrid Cloud Bet Paying Off?

One other set of results that we have been waiting for is the fourth quarter revenues from Armonk, NY-based IBM. The big issue here was whether the spin-off of its managed infrastructure services into a separate company would be the beginning of a change in fortunes that has seen some poor quarters over the past few years.

That has now happened, and all those services are now under a new company called Kyndryl. The spin-off will see IBM examining the services it is offering and focusing on its consultancy operations.

While it’s too early to say how this will ultimately work out, the figures show a 6.5% increase in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021 to $16 billion. This was on revenues of $6.2 billion from hybrid cloud, an increase of 16%, while software revenue was up by 8% compared with the same quarter in the previous year.

One of the other business streams that IBM was counting on, consulting, also paid off handsomely. Consulting revenue grew by 13% over the quarter. And it looks like the acquisition momentum is set to continue as IBM continues to build in the hybrid cloud space and develop its AI business.

"In 2021, we continued to invest for the future by increasing R&D spending, expanding our ecosystem and acquiring 15 companies to strengthen our hybrid cloud and AI capabilities," said James Kavanaugh, IBM senior vice president and chief financial officer, in a statement. "With the separation of Kyndryl we now have taken the next step in the evolution of our strategy, creating value through focus and strengthening our financial profile."

Late last year, Arvind Krishnan, who took over as IBM CEO in April 2020, outlined what the future strategy of Big Blue would be. There were three main business strands:

  • Refocusing the company to optimize its technology and business expertise.
  • Reorienting its entire portfolio around hybrid cloud and AI.
  • Reinvigorating its ecosystem with an expanded network of business partners.

Everything else seems secondary, a fact that was underlined earlier this month when it was announced that IBM would be selling the Watson Healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) business to investment firm Francisco Partners. Speaking of the deal, Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president with IBM Software, said the deal with Francisco Partners demonstrates how the company is becoming more focused on its platform-based hybrid cloud and AI strategy.

While the results here are encouraging, it’s still too early to say how this will play out in the future. The spin-off only become official at the beginning of November so anything could happen, but the strategy that Krishnan has been driving since he took over continues apace.

Collaboration Apps Top Enterprise Wish List

Meanwhile,  San Francisco-based Okta released its eighth annual Business at Work report earlier this week, which looked at which apps and cloud services on the Okta identity platform were the most popular from Nov. 2020 to Oct. 2021. The report is based on anonymized data from Okta customers across its network of companies, applications and IT infrastructure integrations.

While many organizations struggled to keep up momentum during the past year, the data shows that organizations who are managing the health crisis best are those that are relying on collaboration apps. In fact, it shows that collaboration apps were the top apps in terms of customer adoption with security tools close behind. Collaboration and security were the two most popular categories of tools deployed through the Okta Integration Network (OIN) in 2021. OIN is a list of pre-built applications prepared and ready to use for Okta customers.

In this respect, the fastest-growing apps include five collaboration tools — Notion, Figma, Miro, Airtable and monday.com. Keeper joined the list at no. 6, as a new leader in the security space.

In terms of services, Microsoft Office 365 is the most popular service, with AWS second and Google Workspace third, with 38% year-over-year growth. What is particularly noteworthy here, and answers one of the most interesting questions in the digital workplace, is what tools are being used in what circumstances. The research shows that enterprises are supplementing their productivity suites with collaboration tools, demanding best-of-breed functionality.

More to the point, while Microsoft, Slack and Zoom are often talked about as competitors, of Okta’s Microsoft 365 customers, 45% also deploy Zoom, 33% deploy Slack (even though Teams comes standard with a basic business subscription), and 38% deploy Google Workspace, which has a lot of duplicative functionality.

Learning Opportunities

While it is possible to draw all kinds of conclusions from this, it does show that workers will turn to whatever tool necessary to complete a task, even in environments that are dominated by Microsoft and the communication or collaboration tools it is offering.

One other trend that is worth noting here is the growing development of multi-cloud workplaces. The report shows that 14% of Okta customers who deployed a cloud platform in 2021 deployed two or more — a number that was only 8% in 2017.

The need for choice, the report said, is especially apparent when drilling down into the tech industry. AWS is the most popular tool in the tech sector. And, since 2018, the percentage of customers deploying both AWS and GCP solutions has more than doubled, rising from 1.2% to 2.6%.

There is a lot more here too especially on security, but even from this brief glance it can be seen that Okta users at least favor best-of-breed over the single-vendor approach of the past and more and more are accessing their technology not from one, but from several different sources.

Enterprises Lacking Advanced Collaboration Technology Skills

According to recent research carried out by San Francisco-based Salesforce, skills in collaboration technology are viewed as the most important digital workplace skill for workers today and for the next five years.

The recently released Salesforce Global Digital Skills Index, a survey fielded from over 23,000 people across 19 countries, measures how ready people around the world feel to learn and retain the digital skills needed to succeed both now and in the next five years.

But despite respondents’ prowess with everyday collaboration technology like social media, only 25% rate themselves advanced in those collaboration technology skills needed specifically for the workplace.

Everyday skills such as social media and web navigation don’t necessarily translate to the core workplace digital skills needed by business to drive recovery, resilience, and growth. Key insights include:

  • Over three-quarters of respondents do not feel ready to operate in a digital-first world, but only 28% are actively involved in digital skills learning and training.
  • There is a major gap emerging between everyday digital skills and those needed for work, especially among younger workers.
  • Using collaboration technologies is viewed as the most important digital workplace skill for workers over the next five years.

While reports like this are released regularly, this one has added gravitas given that it was carried out over such a huge sample and that it has been published by Salesforce, which has enterprise traction equal to none. What jumps off the page is that most digital workplaces need training programs to upskill their workforce and that despite ongoing investment in tech, most workers believe they are not ready for it.

SWOOP Offers M365 Analytics

Finally this week, Australia-based SWOOP recently announced the release of SWOOP for M365. The new product aims to give organizations and users insights into how they are using Microsoft 365 and in particular how they are using the collaboration tools in the suite. With it, Swoop is able to monitor seven digital collaboration habits over the most recent 30 days and then benchmark the user and the organization against a reference group of thousands of others.

The objective is to make it easier to take the first step to improve your online collaboration habits. While every developer of collaboration products aims to do this, in the case of Swoop the goals are quite specific. They include:

  • Reducing email traffic by moving internal communication into Microsoft Teams and Yammer.
  • Ensuring Teams Chat is used for tactical coordination and Teams Channels is used for team collaboration.
  • Connecting employees through communities, enabling interactions between leaders and the frontline to share knowledge across organizational boundaries.
  • Share files on SharePoint, and store personal files on OneDrive.

While email still persists in the organization, many people are in a transition away from email to collaboration tools to achieve better business outcomes. However, people are still learning how best to use Microsoft Teams, Yammer, SharePoint and OneDrive, while having to work in email as well. Living in the "new" and "old" world is creating friction and frustration, and people are craving better collaboration in M365. Swoop Analytics for M365 aims to solve that problem.