Are Robots Coming For Your Job? Adobe Think Tank 2017 - The Future of Work

February 9 2017 02:50:46 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

On Feb 9, 2017 Adobe Document Cloud hosted their 2nd annual Future of Work Think Tank. I was honoured to be the moderator for this hour long discussion, with an amazing group of participants:

  • Mayor Sam Liccardo of San José, CA
  • Dr. Frankie James, Managing Director - GM Advanced Technology Silicon Valley Office
  • Brian David Johnson, Futurist in Residence at Arizona State University - Center for Science and Imagination
  • Kate Kendall, Founder & CEO - CloudPeeps
  • Jeff Vijungco, VP of Global Talent, Technology and Insights - Adobe

Some of the topics we discussed were: What motivates people to work?  Where do they work? Who do they work with? Are robots coming for our jobs?

My friends at Acrossio have kindly annotated the video of the event, making it easy for you to see what was discussed.  

If the embedded video does not work, you can view the standard Youtube playback here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what the Future of Work may look like.



Let’s Talk! Adobe Future of Work Think Tank

February 2 2017 10:05:31 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

I'm honoured to be moderating next week's #FutureOfWork Think Tank hosted by Adobe. This event is part of the NewCo Bay Area technology festival

My incredible panelists are:

  • Mayor Sam Riccardo of San José, CA
  • Dr. Frankie James - Managing Director, GM Advanced Technology Silicon Valley Office
  • Brain David Johnson, Futurist in Residence at Arizona State University's Center for Science and Imagination
  • Kate Kendall, Founder & CEO of CloudPeeps
  • Jeff Vijungco, VP of Global Talent at Adobe

WalkMe Boosts Digital Adoption Platform With Acquisition of Abbi

February 2 2017 11:08:46 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

On Jan 12, WalkMe acquired Abbi. WalkMe is one of the leading vendors in the growing Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) market. DAP tools help guide employees though proper use of their business applications, and help assist customers while navigating a brand's website. Think of DAP tools as the modern evolution of the help file. Abbi, whos name flects their work on A:B testing Business Intelligence, uses machine learning to gather insights into what makes mobile applications most successful. 

I sat down with WalkMe's President Rephael Sweary to talk about the recent acquisition and what it means for their customers.


Lighting A Fire: Cisco Spark Is Building A Collaboration Ecosystem

January 26 2017 10:30:00 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

One of the main topics I’ve been discussing ever since I became an analyst is the struggles people face at work caused by the use of too many tools. We use email, calendar, contacts, tasks, files, chat, audio, video, social networks, and several more applications as we connect and communicate with our colleagues. This complex cornucopia of applications results in content and people that are rarely connected, leading to a lack of context which makes it difficult to work effectively.

Three years ago Cisco started out on a project to combat some of these challenges, and that work came to life a year ago in the Cisco Spark platform. This week in San Francisco, Cisco held an event for the launch of the latest version of Cisco Spark and introduced a new conference room solution called Cisco Spark Boards. I've documented the major announcements in this Twitter Moment:

The first version of Cisco Spark was primarily a group messaging application that people can access on the web or mobile devices like phones and tablets, but Cisco has been rapidly expanding functionality. Cisco Spark now includes voice calls and video calls, and with the latest enhancements not only have they improved the user interface, they have also added white boarding capability, which enables people to easily collaborate on ideas.

It’s important to note they have designed the white boarding capability of the Cisco Spark app to be very secure. When people draw, the system is not actually storing pictures of the content, but instead sending instructions representing the actions, similar to the way multiplayer video games work. So when someone draws a circle or arrow, th instructions for that action are encrypted and sent from their device to the server, then everyone else receives and decrypted those commands, resulting in the them seeing the picture.

In addition to the latest Cisco Spark enhancements, the big news of the day was the expansion of the Cisco Spark ecosystem into the physical world, with Cisco Spark Boards. These are 55 or 70 inch 4k resolution monitors that are mounted in offices or meeting rooms. They have 4k fixed lens cameras and a 12 microphone array which delivery very high resolution video and audio which they claim makes everyone in the room, no matter how close or far from the screen sound like they are sitting right next to you. The Cisco Spark Board can be used for presentations, white boarding, or video conferencing. The boards work in conjunction with the Cisco Spark app to make things easy, for example proximity detection finds all the people near the board who are using the app and can automaticly identify them.


There are several vendors that are doing parts of what Cisco Spark does; there are other group messaging apps, web conferencing apps, file sharing apps, whiteboards, etc. But it’s the way that Cisco is bringing this all together in a simple, secure and affordable ecosystem that makes this pretty unique.

A few of the areas that point to success for Cisco are:
1. Customers are very interested, and adoption is happening quickly. Cisco has millions of people already using WebEx and Jabber, so the potential pipeline for Cisco Spark is already there compared to vendors that have to start working with customers from scratch.
2. They are taking partner ecosystem for building integrations and bots very seriously. Last year Cisco announced $150M developer fund, followed later in the year with  Cisco Spark Depot, the catalog of applications and bots that can be added into Cisco Spark spaces. I would like to see more integration with core business applications such as CRM, office document suites, file sharing services, marketing tools, HR systems, etc. Without breaking any non-disclosure agreements, I can tell you many of these things are already in the works.
3. Vision. I often say shipping software is more important than slideware, meaning vendors need to deliver products not just tell me what their plans are. However, vision is still important and I have to say I really like what I’m hearing from Rowan Trollope (leader of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group), Jonathan Rosenberg (CTO) and several other Cisco Spark leaders. I can’t share many details with you now, but their vision and roadmap has Cisco Spark going far beyond what is currently available. For example, think about areas like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, wearable computing and more. Cisco Spark is the essentially the cornerstone of almost everything happening at Cisco, including their call centre business, WebEx, the work they are doing in IOT and more. Cisco's CEO Chuck Robbins has made it clear that Cisco Spark is a linchpin for the company. Hearing this from the top of the company down, and seeing what they are building gives me confidence they will deliver on their vision.

As with any product, of course there are things missing. I’d like to see more progress in areas like project management, integration with mission critical business applications, as well as automation and workflow via AI. Cisco’s recent acquisition of Worklife (one of the top vendors list in Constellation ShortList™ Meeting Management Tools) points to them being committed to filling some of these gaps.


When I work with Constellation’s customers and the major collaboration software vendors, I always focus on what’s needed to really change the way people work. The biggest challenge to the adoption of any new tool is not cost, security, or user interface… it’s status quo. People are used to working the way they do, and unless they can be shown significant benefits to changing, they won’t budge. I really like what I’m seeing in the Cisco Spark platform, and I think their focus on simplicity, integration and security is creating a solution that every customer should have on their shortlist to evaluate.  

Have a few minutes to spare? Take Constellation's 2017 Digital Transformation SurveyConstellation will send you a summary of the results. 

Zoom Video Conferencing Raises $100M

January 22 2017 09:20:02 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

On Jan 17, web-conferencing vendor Zoom raised $100M  (series D) from Sequoia capital. I spoke to Zoom's CEO Eric Yuan about this new funding, about the integration of AI into conferencing and more.

Planview Acquired by Thoma Bravo

January 19 2017 07:41:45 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

The social task management market is hot! Last week Atlassian purchased Trello for $425M, and today private equity firm Thoma Bravo acquired Planview, maker of Trello competitor ProjectPlace. (their product portfolio also includes Innotas, Troux and Planview Enterprise)

I discussed today's news and future plans with Planview's Chief Product Officer, Patrick Tickle.

I first wrote about this market in 2012 in the Constellation Research report: Getting Work Done With Social Task Management. More recently we've published two Constellation ShortLists™  Social Task Management: Enterprise Suites With Project Features and Social Task Management: Stand-alone vendors that highlight the key vendors in this space. These recent acquisitions validate the importance of social task management as one of the critical tools employees should be using to organize, prioritize, and collaborate on their work.

Today's acquisition gives Planview a huge boost to drive their next major stage of growth.  Constellation Research will be monitoring their progress in both new product innovation and customer success.


Slack Adds Threaded Conversations

January 18 2017 12:00:00 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today team collaboration vendor Slack announced the addition of threaded conversations to their group messaging application. Slack customers will be very happy to see this addition, as this has been one of the most requested features  since the product's original launch. What is a threaded conversation? It's when a message has replies directly linked to it, rather than each reply just being posted on it's own in a "flat" chronological order. Think of it this way, instead of having a dozen people in a room all talking over each other at the same time making conversations nearly impossible to follow, people tend to discuss one topic, then move on the next, etc. If you want to go back to an older topic, people say "Remember when we were talking about so and so?" Structure is important in conversations, as it helps reduce the clutter and the chaos that can occur in a channel when there is no organization. 

You start a thread by hovering over a message, and clicking the new "Start a thread" icon. Given Slack's focus on user design, friendliness and fun, I'm a bit I'm surprised by the choice of the rather technical term "thread" versus something more natural like conversation, reply or comment, but naming aside, threads are a very welcome addition.

This opens the message on the right hand side of the screen, which Slack calls the Flexpane. There you can read the entire conversation and add new replies.

After you send the reply, the original message is updated indicating the number of replies. 

Better Late Than Never

You may wonder why it's taken Slack a while to add threaded conversations. Slack spent almost 2 years working on several designs, testing both internally and with a few customers to make sure they released a design that is both simple and effective. There were many design elements to consider, including:

  • How many levels of nested replies should they allow? Meaning should there just be replies to the initial message, or should you be able to reply to a reply? 
  • How should threads be displayed in the main stream? Should they be expanded or collapsed by default?
  • Should posts with new responses be bubbled up to the top of the stream, or just kept in line with when they were originally created?
  • When and how should people be notified about replies?

It's interesting to note, there is very little consistency in the answers to these questions across the various enterprise software vendors. Threaded conversations are handled differently in Facebook, IBM Connections, Salesforce Chatter, Microsoft Teams, etc. So far there does not appear to be a specific "right answer". For Slack's part, rather than cluttering up the main stream with replies, they allow people to open the conversations they want on the right. This is similar to scanning through a long list of email subject lines, then opening the email you want to read in a preview pane on the right. Slack's approach here is similar to IBM Connections, which also shows conversations on the right instead of inline in the stream like Facebook and many others. Time will tell how Slack's customers react to this.

One of the things I like the most about Slack's threaded conversations is the addition of the "All Threads" view.  This view allows you to easily see all the conversations (sorry, threads) that you started, replied to, or you've been mentioned in - across all your channels in one place. You can also manually choose to follow threads that don't automatically meet one of those 3 criteria. The All Threads view enables you to easily keep up with the threads you're engaged in, without having to jump between several screens of information.  

Slack All Threads View

A Crowded Space

The group messaging market is very competitive, with offerings coming from several directions including:

  • standalone vendors like Glip, HiBox and HipChat (see the Constellation ShortList™ Enterprise Group Messaging: Standalone)
  • traditional UCC/PBX vendors like Cisco Spark and Unify Circuit (see the Constellation ShortList™ Enterprise Group Messaging: Unified Communication)
  • enterprise collaboration/social networking vendors like Microsoft (Yammer and their new Teams product), Salesforce Chatter, IBM (the upcoming Watson Workspace) as well as Workplace by Facebook

Slack's addition of thread conversations eliminates one of the talking points these competitors have been using when selling against Slack.

It's clear Slack put a great deal of thought and testing into this feature, and Constellation Research looks forward to speaking with customers about how they are using it.