The old Narvesen newsstand shop in Eidsvollsplass, Karl Johans street in Oslo, built in 1914
PHOTO: Adobe

A few weeks ago, Salesforce announced that it was buying Slack. It caught a lot of people by surprise but looked like a good move for a company that had not really developed in the key enterprise collaboration and communication space. This was especially at a time when the focus for organizations, many of whom were using the Salesforce platform for sales and marketing. Even still, the thinking behind it was not exactly clear.

However, last week, Salesforce announced that it is changing the way its employees will work in the future. In a statement about the new measures Salesforce announced that it will offer three different ways of working going forward:

  • Flex: When it is safe to return to the office, most of its employees around the globe will work flex. This means they will be in the office 1-3 days per week for team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.
  • Fully Remote: For employees who do not live near an office or have roles that do not require an office, they will work remotely full-time.
  • Office-based: The smallest population of the workforce will work from an office location 4-5 days per week if they are in roles that require it. Salesforce on Tuesday announced that its employees will have the option to work remotely full-time, even when it is safe to return to the office.  

The statement added: “Early on in the pandemic, we introduced employee well-being surveys to understand how our employees were feeling and help address pain points as we moved our offices to our homes. It’s led to real change in our programs and policies…”

And just look at what Salesforce is touting as the advantages of such a move. The San Francisco-based company believes that this work-from-anywhere model will unlock new growth opportunities that will help drive greater equality, drive a talent strategy is no longer bound by barriers like location, broaden its search for that talent beyond traditional city centers and welcome untapped talent from new communities and geographies. This does not even include the personal gains for individual employees like more family time, or even caring for sick family members.

There is, of course, the unmentioned advantage of not needing so much office space, which can only add to the cost attractiveness of the move.

To enable all this, and to ride the wave of a wider, global move to hybrid working models, companies will need something like Slack to enable employees and teams to communicate and work together. For those companies that are not committed to Microsoft environments and Teams, Slack is the obvious choice for now. 

Hybrid work is smart move for Salesforce and any other company that takes the leap. All that remains to be seen is how many other companies will do the same.

Microsoft Brings Webinar Capabilities to Teams

Meanwhile, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft is to offer a new "service plan" to Microsoft 365 and Office 365 education and business subscriptions in mid-March. The plan, called Teams Pro, will bring webinar and "meeting intelligence" capabilities to Teams.

First spotted by Petri.com in the Office Message Center, the notice does not include many details but does note that it will be available with M365/O365 E3, E5, A3, A5, Business Standard, and Business Basic licenses. It is not clear either whether it will be free or whether customers will have to pay more to receive it.

Earlier this week the Finland based Microsoft MVP Vesa Nopanen, tweeted about the new Teams Pro saying that he thought Teams Pro might add features like dynamic views and other meeting-related options.

Microsoft already offers meeting intelligence for Microsoft 365 in the shape of Meeting Insights. Meeting Insights provides AI capabilities that help users find information before, during, and after meetings as easily as if you had your own assistant to support you.

This seems to be different though. If it does add meeting intelligence and webinar capabilities as Nopanen suggests it would be a major addition to Teams and take it step further towards bringing all work and communication into a single place.

VisualVault Unveils ‘Most Significant ECM Release in Its History'

The week also saw Tempe, Ariz.-based VisualVault announce the release of Version 5 of its process-rich enterprise content management platform (ECM).  According to the company, this is the most significant release in the history of the platform and upgrades its capabilities in three areas functionality, user experience and cyber security.

Building on its existing analytics capabilities, Version 5 offers users the ability to pull predictive data associated with the high-value, high-volume data sets from the content silos in the VisualVault platform. These insights are compiled using new algorithms that are designed to optimize the business insights from existing data and content.

Built to be a robust business process automation tool, VisualVault has always possessed a full toolkit of workflow automation features and technologies. In this version, the company has improved on this by upgrading the graphical workflow design tool. The company believes this new, intuitive workflow design tool will be invaluable in enabling client organizations to accelerate new initiatives and accelerate the ROI on their investment in the platform.

It also comes with a new, modern graphic interface and an intelligent form viewer that represents a dramatic leap forward in reducing load and save times. 

VisualVault is an on-premises and cloud-based, enterprise content management platform that is low-code, highly-configurable and architected to efficiently process high-volume, high-value data and transactions. 

The platform is composed of five distinct components that can address a broad range of information and process management challenges across large organizations including healthcare providers public corporations and even government departments.

Texting as a Business Tool Is Spreading

This week, Seattle-based Zipwhip also announced findings from its annual State of Texting report, which surveyed over 2,000 businesses and consumers on mobile behavior and trends in 2021.  While texting is often overlooked as a business tool, the survey does seem to indicate that many organizations are covering any reluctance they may have had in the past to use it. Keeping in mind that Zipwhip develops texting solutions for businesses, the findings show that:

  • On average text respondents have only 32 unread texts but 715 unread emails 
  • 25% of businesses use texting for marketing and promotions and 22% use it for inbound and outbound sales 
  • As texting becomes a more popular form of communicating promotions to customers, only a little more than 50% of businesses are familiar with the dos and don’ts of TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) 
  • 58% of respondents say text messaging is the most effective way for a business to reach them quickly 
  • 54% of businesses say it is difficult to get a response from customers 
  • 70% of businesses use text messaging to communicate with customers or employees 
  • 83% of respondents have received a text from a business in 2020 
  • More than 87% of respondents say they check their personal cell phone within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning

Which all looks very positive for texting. However, most of the major communication platforms also have telephone apps that have effective messaging functionality that many users depend on for communication. The question is why use SMSs instead of these.  Clearly many companies have very good reasons as Zipwhip claims to have 35,000 client companies around the world.

Nexthink Raises $180m for Expansion

Finally this week, Boston based Nexthink, which develops digital employee experience (DEX) management software, has announced a $180 million Series D financing round giving it a valuation of $1.1 billion. The funding round was led by Permira, alongside existing investors including Highland Europe and Index Ventures. 

In addition to the investment, the company has announced that Bruce Chizen, former CEO of Adobe, and senior advisor at Permira, will join its board of directors. The latest round will be used to accelerate Nexthink’s growth and expansion, particularly in the US.

The company has 700 employees and plans to reach 900 by the end of 2021, hiring in all major locations in the U.S., Europe, and India. Last October.