reading the business paper
PHOTO: rawpixel

It’s not unheard of that a cloud-based application would go down, even a Microsoft application. However, possibly because it's a victim of its own success, or possibly just the result of good old schadenfreude, but when the enterprise communication and collaboration tool Teams went down last week, Twitter and Facebook lit up with posts and tweets announcing the hiccup.

The result was that for three hours an unknown number of Teams users were unable to access Teams or the information in it. Given that Microsoft claims that 20 million workers access it every day, it is likely that the number of people that were left without this key digital workplace tools was into the millions. So what happened? Microsoft announced on Feb.3 that it was having an issue. The announcement went as follows:

“We're investigating an issue where users may be unable to access Microsoft Teams. We're reviewing systems data to determine the cause of the issue. More information can be found in the Admin center under TM202916.”

As it turned out the problem was with an authentication certificate that had expired.

And there you have it. All it took was a simple act of forgetfulness, or even negligence, and the whole digital workplace experience goes down. Even worse, Microsoft itself develops tools that monitor the condition of certificates and when they will expire. More to the point for Microsoft, is that it comes at a time when it has launched a full scale advertising campaign against Slack and for Teams on TV prime time.

There are many that will no doubt be taking lessons from the incident, even if the problem was solved very quickly. The point is that no matter how secure you think your digital workplace is, or many promises of uptime and downtime vendors provide, your digital workplace depends as much on human competence as it does the tools you have in place.

BlackBerry Enters Digital Workplace Fray

While it looked like, for a long time, that Ontario-based BlackBerry was just going to fade away, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact only this week BlackBerry made a major play in the digital workplace with the launch of BlackBerry Digital Workplace, which the company describes as  a secure robust workspace that provides users simple and secure online and offline access to corporate on-premises or cloud content.

In fact, anticipating the future popularity of Microsoft’s most recent digital workplace offering, Microsoft Office 365, the new release provides users simple and secure online and offline access to corporate on-premise or cloud content, including Microsoft Office 365 resources.  

But let’s get the mobile handsets out of the way. While BlackBerry built its reputation on what was at the time of its launch a novel handset, its real business now is enterprise software and securing that software. The company is predicting revenue growth of about $330 million over the next two years to be driven by that Enterprise Software business (+$190 million), with the rest coming from technology solutions and licensing. More to the point, handset and related services sales have declined from $687 million in FY’17 to just about $59 million in FY’19, as BlackBerry exited the handset space.

That's all the past, and the future is all about the digital workplace and the new digital workplace product. Explaining the release, Blackberry pointed out that the workforce is often a mix of full-time employees, contractors, seasonal workers, remote workers, and partners. Organizations need a way to enable this wider range of users to easily access firewall-protected business resources using either company-managed devices or, increasingly, their personal devices. With BlackBerry Digital Workplace, this mixed workforce can use their own devices to get to their corporate email, calendar and contacts, and remote desktop and files with many of the same capabilities they would have with a traditional corporate-owned and managed computer.

It also means that IT can then easily wipe all corporate data from the device, such as at the end of a contract or in the event of an emergency — without having to worry about a complex enrollment and deprovisioning process. This is a strong play by BlackBerry in a digital world that is obsessed with security. Providing secure access to Microsoft productivity tools is also a smart move that will give the company deeper traction in Microsoft environments.

LumApps’ New Microsoft Partnership

Last week we reported that SaaS startup LumApps had raised €63.1 million Series C funding round bringing the total capital investment in the company to just under $100 million. Among the things that the New York City-based company said it would be spending the money on is R&D investment with a focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning and product development to further enhance the customer experience.

This week, LumApps is back with a new Microsoft partnership that enables it to fully integrate with the entire Office 365 suite: SharePoint Online for document management, Microsoft Teams for real-time collaboration, Outlook 365 for email and calendars, and Azure Active Directory for centralized and secure user management.

LumApps, you will recall, provides collaborative, social intranet designed to simplify internal communications and increase employee engagement. The platform consolidates a company's working tools in a full-cloud digital workplace: corporate and personalized content, social communications, business tools and applications, all accessible at any time and available on mobile devices. As such, this is a pretty tight fit for Office 365, even if its not the only platform out there that can provide employee communications across the suite.

The partnership now allows LumApps to work upstream with Microsoft's teams to continue its integration of existing and future tools. 

This is not the first big integration though. LumApp also provides a similar experience in G Suite environment. With the $100 million under its belt, it is only a matter of time before it starts releasing new products for new integrations that will expand its enterprise footprint on top of the enterprises it serves already including Airbus, Valeo, Air Liquide, Colgate-Palmolive and Japan Airlines.

Office App Research Highlights Engagement Disconnect

Elsewhere, figures from Netherlands-based Office App show that there is a significant disconnect in employee engagement between executives and entry-level employees. According to the Happy Office Life report, workers actually want to integrate technology into their working lives

Overall, the goal of the research was to gain a better understanding of employees’ attitudes towards technological resources in the office. For this, over 2200 employees across Europe and North America were surveyed about their preferences and opinions on tech at the workplace in order to pinpoint the overlooked issues that they face daily. The respondents ranged from entry-level workers to executives from ages 18 to 54.

The figures show that 92% believe that technology and innovation are important in creating a better work environment while 99% of executives believe that employee engagement has a major impact on the company’s success, they proved to be the most out of touch with the reality of it. The gap between the importance and the actual state of engagement was much larger for entry-level employees and managers. Employees from corporate also have the lowest engagement, falling behind their co-working and multi-tenant counterparts.

Employees from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Finland proved to be the most susceptible to AI and Advanced Analytics with 80% of the respondents agreeing that it would improve their workplace experience. While contrarily, North America ranked at the bottom with only 45% of the U.S. and 38% of Canadian respondents agreeing to its necessity. Full details of the report are here.

Asana To List On Stock Exchange

Finally this week, San Francisco-based workplace productivity toolmaker Asana announced that that they have confidentially filed their S-1 and said in a statement that they plan to enter the public markets via a direct listing.

According to Asana, The public listing is expected to take place after the SEC completes its review process, subject to market and other conditions.

The announcement came after a strong 2019 during which it grew its workforce to 670 employees across nine offices and opened four new offices in London, Munich, Tokyo and Vancouver. It also announced that it now has 70,000 paying customers around the world.

Asana has raised a total of $213.2M in funding over 7 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Nov 29, 2018 from a Series E round.