person wearing a VR headset pointing their finger at the camera
PHOTO: Hammer & Tusk

It's been a busy year in the digital whiteboard world. Only two weeks ago, Box unveiled Box Canvas, a visual collaboration and whiteboarding tool built natively into the Box Content Cloud. In January, whiteboarding platform provider Miro raised $400 million in Series C funding, raising its valuation to $17.5 billion in the process. This week, Zoom took its turn in the spotlight by pushing Zoom Whiteboard into general availability. According to the San Jose, Calif.-based company, the new tool is aimed at recreating some of the in-person collaboration opportunities for the digital world.

The whiteboard is available in Zoom’s desktop app, Zoom Meetings, and Zoom Room with the promise of support for Zoom Chat coming soon. The whiteboard will work much the same way whiteboards in physical workplace by providing users with a surface for collaboration in real-time or asynchronously as needed.  

The recent popularity of digital whiteboards as collaboration spaces comes as many organizations adopt a hybrid work model and organizations attempt to recreate the physical workplace in digital environments. 

We have seen in the past that one of the big challenges facing companies that have developed hybrid models is ensuring that employees who are dialing in remotely to meetings don’t get left out of any of the discussion or idea exchanges that my happen in the office. Zoom Whiteboards are one method to potentially solve the problem. The dashboards include: can be shared internally or externally y come with: 

  • The capability to share internally or externally, to download and save.  
  • Sticky notes to highlight important ideas.  
  • Pre-existing shapes to use to build collaborative diagrams. 
  • Ability to create up to 12 pages.  

The company has also announced the integration of Zoom Events and Zoom Rooms. Zoom Rooms offer HD-video collaboration in the office for those working onsite or remotely, while Events offers a single place that allows customers to host and manage multi-faceted online events. 

WhatsApp Upgrade Improves Business Appeal

Meanwhile, Menlo Park, Calif.-based WhatsApp has taken a significant leap into the enterprise with the launch of Communities for WhatsApp, which is expected to roll out in the coming weeks. While Communities will not herald the end of WhatsApp as a consumer tool, Communities will make it possible for users to engage in communication activities that have, until now, been largely restricted to organization-level communication apps and tools. 

According to a post from WhatsApp, Communities on WhatsApp will enable people to bring together separate groups under one umbrella and on whatever terms they see fit. It will, to all intents and purposes, offer a viable tool for communication in organizational departments or even small companies. Among the capabilities the new tool will offer are: 

  • File Sharing: Ability to transfer files of up to 2 gigabytes.  
  • Larger Voice Calls: Voice calling for up to 32 people with a new interface design to enable group calls with the press of a single key. 
  • Admin Delete: Content moderation capabilities so group administrators can remove errant messages from everyone’s chats. 

This will all be supplemented with the existing end-to-end encryption available in WhatsApp.  

Other functionality will make this particularly attractive for small teams. The company, which is owned by Meta, noted in a related post that while other apps provide group chats without limits, it has decided to stick with small groups to provide a way of communication between people that already know each other. This means that unlike other communication services, it will not be possible for people in a given community to search for, and discover, new Communities.  

Another interesting feature is how Communities are currently structured. Initially, communities can include up to thousands of users, but only Community admins will be able to send messages to everyone. The admin can break down the communities into smaller groups, and it is within those smaller groups that community members can participate and discuss. The company plans to increase the group sizes as it rolls out more controls for both administrators and members.  

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a Facebook post, arguing the development would be "an important evolution for WhatsApp and online communication overall."

“In the same way that social feeds took the basic technology behind the internet and made it so anyone could find people and content online, I think community messaging will take the basic protocols behind one-to-one messaging and extend them so you can communicate more easily with groups of people to get things done together."

At this point you may be asking what the difference is between the WhatsApp Communities and the existing Facebook Group functionality? The major difference is the Facebook Groups are groups — whose size are not limited — of individuals who do not know each other and who are united only in a common interest. Communities, however, are based on existing relationships between people. 

What remains to be seen is if this functionality is taken up in the business sector or if its use remains in the public realm. 

Strivr VR Training Gets a Boost From Accenture and Workday Ventures

From Meta to the metaverse now, as Santa Clara, Calif.-based Strivr announced strategic investments from New York City-based Accenture and San Francisco-based Workday Ventures in its Series B funding round, which brought in $35 million for the immersive virtual reality training firm.

According to a statement from Accenture, Strivr will join Accenture Ventures' Project Spotlight program, which provides funding support and connects emerging technology software startups with the Global 2000 companies to fill strategic technology gaps. Strivr will also join the Workday Ventures Software Partner Program, with the plan to integrate its VR training with the Workday Content Cloud.

Strivr is an interesting development for Accenture considering the recent launch of its Metaverse Continuum business group. The group aims to help businesses transition into new realities through emerging tech, which it supports financially through Project Spotlight. 

The interest in Strivr’s VR training platform comes at a time of heightened interest in learning and development on the part of employers and employees alike as companies cope with the lingering effects of the so-called "Great Resignation." Recruitment, retention and employee support have all moved to the forefront during this era, making investments in more engaging and impactful skills development programs an essential initiative across industries. According to Strivr, its Immersive Learning is an experiential training methodology that uses Virtual Reality (VR) to simulate real-world scenarios and train employees in a safe and engaging environment.

The fact that it is through VR also answers the question of how to deliver dynamic, sticky and relevant training to a workforce who remains divided between remote locations and in office. 

The addition of Strivr offers Accenture an inroad in skilling and upskilling initiatives, while also delivering data-driven insights to further inform and enhance its broader enterprise talent development efforts. 

Research for LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report back in 2019 found that 94% of workers would stay with an organization if it invested in helping them learn. It also found that roughly a quarter of Gen Z and millennials stated learning was the number one thing that made them happy at work, while over a quarter (27 percent) say the number one reason they’d leave their job is because they did not have the opportunity to learn and grow.

Two years later that trend has only been amplified, with millions of workers looking to change jobs. Accenture and Workday Ventures are clearly betting on the kind of immersive training Strivr provides as one means to turn the tide.  

Microsoft Rolls Up Governance Products Into Microsoft Purview

Last September, Microsoft released Azure Purview into general availabity. Purview offered organizations a cloud-native data governance solution which made it possible for organizations to manage and govern their on-premises, multi-cloud and software as a service (SaaS) data in one place.

According to Microsoft, Purview gave organizations a deeper and more holistic understanding of their hybrid data and helped them keep it up to date with automated data discovery and sensitive data classification.

This week, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Purview which brings together Azure Purview and the former Microsoft 365 Compliance portfolio under one brand. The move is more than a rebranding exercise, as it offers organizations insight into all of their data across their entire "digital estates." As part of the move, Microsoft is also adding more than 50 new classifiers to its sensitive information type catalogue, which helps identify sensitive data before it is shared. The company is also opening the preview of multi-stage retention in Microsoft Purview Data Lifecycle Management (formerly Microsoft Information Governance). 

The rebranding extends across a wide number of Microsoft security offerings, which now fall under the Purview name. A listing of all of the name changes can be found in the Microsoft blog announcing the new name.

Device42 Reveals Insights+ Platform

Finally this week, Boston-based Device42, which develops a hybrid IT discovery, inventory and asset management solution, revealed its new Insights+ Platform, which is designed to give organizations the visibility needed into complex IT environments. The launch is expected on May 30.

Insights+ is meant to solve a growing issue within organizations, whose data stores and data-dependent apps grow by the day. Organizations need insights into what is happening across the technology stack to avoid the risk of investing in the wrong kinds of technology or challenges in resolving issues across the stack, not to mention reaching data compliance.

Among the capabilities that the new platform offers is AI-driven data normalization, business building blocks and application dependency mapping. Dashboards, reporting and visualizations provide administrators with the insights the platform uncovers.

Device42 was founded in 2010 and is headquartered in West Haven, Conn. To date it has raised over $50 million in funding. The company launched a multi-cloud migration and recommendation engine in 2021 that the company claimed was the first to support all major cloud providers.