person reading on a beach
PHOTO: Dan Dumitriu

At the heart of the digital workplace is process and automation. For many enterprises, one of the results of a digital transformation strategy is workplaces where many of the processes are automated. This is big business and many vendors have been targeting this space for a number of years to provide the technologies needed to put process automation in place.

So much so, that Forrester has dedicated one of its Wave reports to digital process automation (paywall). The research firm looked at 10 vendors and named IBM, Pegasystems, Appian, Bizagi and OpenText leaders in the Wave.

However, what is more significant, is that this year the main differentiators were the ability to address deep processes and low-coding capabilities as enterprises struggle to develop more process-driven applications.

The traditional business process management (BPM) market emerged to tackle companies’ most complex process automation and case management scenarios. The report points out that the solutions that address this are generally expensive and technically very complex.

Process automation has emerged as a critical requirement for many organizations as process professionals cite digital transformation as the primary goal of process initiatives within the next two years. 

The Forrester researchers stated the Wave follows a publicly available methodology that involves screening vendors, detailed questionnaires and customer reference checks. You can access the full report here (paywall).

Slack’s CEO Replies To Microsoft

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that Teams, now has 13 million daily active users and 19 million weekly active users, claiming it surpassed Slack in terms of users. Slack reported 10 million daily active users according to a regulatory filing in late May. So it was somewhat predictable that Slack would come back and put the record — or what it sees as the record — straight. Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield used the recent Brainstorm Tech conference to explain what he believes is really happening. 

There has been a lot of discussion across the internet about the figures Microsoft claimed, with many commentators pointing out that while they may be true, it is only because Teams is often bundled with Office 365 packages and users don’t have much choice but to use it.

For Butterfield, Slack’s 10 million users are all voluntary and continue to use the app because of what he claims is a superior user experience.

Microsoft Teams, he pointed out, while closely tied with Office, Skype and Microsoft’s cloud services, trails Slack in terms of the third-party integrations, which now include over 1500 apps in the Slack directory, a figure which does not include custom-built apps or integration partnerships with other organizations. 

There is a significant difference — and advantage — for Microsoft, though. Slack is still trying to make it big in the enterprise, while Microsoft has a many year head start in that area. The company can therefore push Teams into large enterprises with already established Microsoft environments. Slack lacks that kind of toehold in the enterprise, leaving it to sell its product to individual companies in turn. 

Butterfield is not worried. He noted that even with all the money and all its push, Microsoft was unable to overturn Google’s dominant position in the search market, even after billions of dollars invested in Bing. Bing still only attracts about 9% of the search market.

What all of this points to is Microsoft’s dominance in the enterprise, not an indication of Teams being any better — or indeed worse — than Slack. This will very likely be a big theme in the collaboration space over the coming year. For the Redmond, Wash.-based giant, attracting new customers and getting old customers onto Teams is going to be the big challenge. In the meantime, Slack will be snapping at its heels, feeling the pressure to keep everyone happy with new products and innovations, including the new investors who got on board after the recent IPO.

M-Files for SharePoint, Outlook

Sticking with Microsoft, Dallas-based M-Files has announced the general availability of significant enhancements to its Microsoft Office 365 solutions. M-Files latest release allows customers what it claims is seamless integration with the familiar user interfaces of Microsoft SharePoint Online, Outlook and Teams

This gives customers out-of-the-box document management, compliance and governance features via the user interface where they work most throughout the day.

M-Files has built its business on its ability to uncover content no matter where it is located. Using this, Microsoft users will be able to access enterprise data stored in a variety of external repositories and line of business applications, such as on-premises file shares, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Server, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, legacy ECM systems like OpenText, and CRM and ERP applications, including Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

M-Files is also using artificial intelligence to automatically analyze documents to classify them, extract information insights and ensure proper handling of sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information (PII), as required by regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.

Nintex Brings E-Signatures to SharePoint

That’s not all there is for SharePoint users this week. Earlier, Bellevue, Wash.-based Nintex released Nintex Sign, powered by Adobe Sign, for SharePoint customers. Nintex Sign will now be available to thousands of enterprise customers that use SharePoint 2013, 2016 and 2019. Nintex partnered with Adobe earlier this year to bring native e-signature to customers using the Nintex Process Cloud.

Nintex also announced several Nintex Sign user enhancements, including the option to designate roles (such as approver or acceptor) when routing documents; new authentication options; support for reminders and deadlines; and the ability to password-protect signed documents. 

E-signatures can dramatically accelerate review, approval and sign-off processes and reduces costs for printing, scanning, faxing, and shipping. Aragon Research predicts the e-signature category will grow to $25 billion by 2025.

Google Shelves China Search Ambitions

Finally this week, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google’s ambitions in China appear to have cooled off with the announcement that it has halted its plans to get back into the Chinese search market with a modified search engine.

Dragonfly was an internet search engine prototype created by Google, designed to be compatible with China's state censorship provisions. The public learned of Dragonfly's existence in August 2018, when The Intercept leaked an internal memo written by a Google employee about the project.

Buzzfeed reported during the week that at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Google’s vice president of public policy, Karan Bhatia, stated the tech giant’s much-criticized effort to launch a search engine in China had been abandoned.

“We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” Bhatia said of the controversial search app.