woman in a sari sitting on a  platform reading  a newspaper
PHOTO: Naren Morum

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield's oft-repeated ambition is to end enterprise dependency on email. In the seven years since Slack launched much has been written about whether or not Slack will succeed at that goal.

Not many people believe email is going anywhere, but the release this week of Slack Connect might just take the company a step closer. With Connect, members of up to 20 organizations will be able to communicate with each other in a single Slack channel in total security. It also allows users in those channels to send direct messages to one another, even if they are with different organizations.

In sum, with Slack Connect, admins can maintain control over their organization’s data and monitor external access. And unlike email — which leaves users open to the risk of spam and phishing — when they work in channels, teams receive messages and files only from verified members. This might help communications in three ways. It can enable the enterprise to:

  • Manage its supply chain, share critical updates and optimize operations.
  • Work with partners to iterate on plans and sign off on deliverables.
  • Quickly triage issues and provide first-class support for largest customers.

This is a major move on behalf of Slack. By making it possible for users to communicate in real-time in a channel other than email gives it a level of enterprise appeal it previously did not have.

This is especially true in the current collaboration and communications landscape where Microsoft with Teams and Google via a number of different apps are providing communication tools with interfaces that many people have grown up with.

However, this takes social networks in the enterprise a step further and offers workers in just about any work situation the ability to talk to each other without ever having to leave Slack and, through its 1500 possible integrations, provides a single place to work in real time.

Slack is also touting Connect as a way to avoid the security issues posed by email. “Email is an open front door to security threats to an organization — $12 billion in losses are caused by business email scams, and 90% of data breaches are from phishing,” wrote Slack chief security officer Larkin Ryder in a blog post about the release.

To ensure that data exchanged in the channel is secure, Slack is also providing enterprise key management via Amazon Web Services, giving organizations increased control over their data and who can see it. Enterprise key management includes all enterprise locations and manages the full lifecycle of cryptographic keys, including creation, access, maintenance, decryption and destruction.

Forrester Finds Intranets Back In Fashion Again

Elsewhere this week, Forrester recently released its Forrester Wave for Intranet Platforms, Q2 2020 (paywall). The Wave, according to Forrester principal analystCheryl McKinnon, made a26-criterion evaluation of intranet platform providers, and identified what it found the 12 most significant ones, notably:  Akumina, Atlassian, Aurea (Jive Software), Igloo Software, Interact, Liferay, LiveTiles, LumApps, Microsoft, SDL, Simpplr and Unily.

However, for enterprises, one of the major points of interest is the trends these reports identify. In a blog about the report, McKinnon notes that while interest in intranets had waned for a period of time, recent queries, particularly about modernization and migration to the cloud, demonstrated a renewed interest in these tools.

“There are new requirements, new vendors, and a recognition that employee experience must drive any modernization effort. Intranet revitalization has consistently been among the top topics in my inquiry calls with customers over the last year,” she wrote. Globally, then, the report identified several trends that enterprises need to address as interest in intranets grows. They include:

  • Employee communication: Newer vendors have improved their ability to provide employee communications. Many reference customers of Forrester indicated that providing top internal communications was a priority, particularly with so many people now working remotely.
  • Cloud: Unsurprisingly, cloud is now the principle way of hosting an intranet with older intranets either being decommissioned or migrated to the cloud.
  • Integration:Most enterprises want to integrate their intranets with productivity tools like Microsoft 365 or G Suite. They also want to provide users with access to data stored in other apps.

“Internal communication and employee experience roles are driving these renewal initiatives, supported by their technology management peers," McKinnon added.

She pointed out that distributed governance and content authoring models are also required to keep new deployments fresh and relevant.

The Forrester Wave is not the only research report to uncover these trends. Earlier this year, Nielsen Norman Group's 10 Best Intranets of 2020 report found that clear vision, agile development and the goal to connect coworkers were the distinguishing factors of the best intranets. “Building personal connections at work results in happy employees, each with a network of colleagues they can lean on when needed,” the report found.

Whatever way you look at it, intranets are back, driven by the need of internal employee communications and supported by newer, faster and more responsive tools.

ABBYY’s Ethical AI Mission

Meanwhile, Milpitas, Calif.-based digital intelligence company vendor ABBYY has launched a global new initiative to promote the development of trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI) technology. As AI becomes ubiquitous across consumer and enterprise high-value and large-scale uses and more open source tools become available for digitizing data, the ethical use of accessing and training data is imperative.

According to ABBYY, a growing number of enterprises that are looking to AI for a business advantage are also looking for transparent and ethical systems to ensure their ongoing adoption in the digital workplace.

In fact, according toGartner, 30% of large enterprise and government contracts for the purchase of digital products and services that incorporate AI will require the use of explainable and ethical AI.

Furthermore, three-fourths of consumers say they will not buy from unethical companies, while 86% say they are more loyal to ethical companies. In response and under the banner of Trustworthy AI, ABBYY is committing to:

  • Incorporating a privacy-by-design principle as an integral part of its software development processes.
  • Protecting confidential customer and partner data.
  • Developing AI technologies that meet or exceed industry standards for performance, accuracy and security.
  • Empowering customers and partners to successfully implement digital transformation by delivering solutions that provide a greater understanding of content and processes.

ABBYY isn't the only company to commit to ethical AI. Along with other private firms, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has a long-standing reputation for cultivating trust in technology by participating in the development of standards and metrics, is also working on it.

Last year, an executive order launched the American AI Initiative, stating that the Federal Government would play a role not only in facilitating AI R&D, but also in promoting trust and training people for a changing workforce. ABBYY’s guiding principles and approach to adhering to and advocating for trustworthy AI principles are available here.

Alfresco Unveils SaaS Claims Management

Finally this week, Boston-based Alfresco has announced the release of a new solution to completely digitize claims management, aiming to improve claims handling productivity with a modern, fast and secure approach.

Alfresco Claims Management as a Service is a cloud-based, fully managed and hosted service that uses the core content services of Alfresco’s Digital Business Platform. It is designed to help insurance organizations migrate from legacy claims systems quickly with an easy-to-deploy solution.  Key capabilities include:

  • A centralization of all workflows, insurer details and supporting multimedia documentation into a single, digital, claim file view. This single “source of truth” improves the accuracy of claims operations, increases customer retention and reduces storage and handling costs.
  • High-speed viewing, annotation, and redaction functionality.
  • Side-by-side viewing of documents in a single view.
  • Provides a no-code, highly configurable user interface for intuitive operations and tailored customer experiences.

Having successfully deployed on-premises for multiple large home and auto, health, workers compensation and other claims processes, the claims solution is now available as a cloud-based, fully managed, and hosted service using Alfresco’s core content services.