Introducing IBM Watson Workspace

October 26 2016 12:57:13 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today at IBM World of Watson, IBM announced the preview release (i.e. pre-beta) of Watson Workspace.
IBM Watson Workspace logo

This is an IBM collaboration tool that allows people to create shared spaces where they can post questions, share ideas, collaborate on projects, etc. Essentially it’s a group messaging client, but with a twist… it’s being built from the ground up to leverage the cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson.

What does that mean? Well IBM’s goal is to provide a client that helps eliminate the information overload often associated with today’s collaboration tools. Today employees hold conversations in chat clients, assign tasks in project management tools, manage customer records in CRM systems, share files in another tool, etc. Watson Workspace enables people to integrate multiple tools into a single stream, creating a more seamless experience versus jumping back and forth between multiple tools. 

IBM Watson Workspace with Redbooth Task Integration

But bringing multiple applications into a single stream is not what makes Watson Workspace unique. There are several group messaging clients like Slack, Glip, Cisco Spark and Office 365 Groups that already do this. Watson Workspace’s (current) differentiator is a new feature called Moments. Workspace Moments leverages the IBM Watson cognitive APIs to create a summary of the posts taking place in a Space. It groups together posts making it easier for people to digest the vast amounts of information being shared. Moments even labels the items in the summary as questions, actions or decisions to provide context around why these posts are the ones you should pay attention to. 


Watson Workspaces is in the early days. It’s not even a beta, it’s a preview. But that’s great. One of the main things I’ve criticized IBM about over the years is how slow they have been to move from slideware to software. IBM has been talking about adding cognitive capabilities to collaboration tools for years, and they are finally starting to deliver. It’s early, but they are already learning things from Workspace that will help with future versions of IBM Verse and IBM Connections. For example, the image below shows a concept for email that applies similar “action, question, decision” labels inside the body of the message making it easy to quickly scan and get the gist of what you need to know/do. 

By making IBM Watson Workspace available now, it gives IBM three months to gather feedback and improve before IBM Connect in Feb 2017.

Finally, I think it’s important to notice the name: IBM Watson Workspace. Watson is one of the main strengths of IBM these days. However, most people associate Watson as “that computer that played Jeopardy”. Those a bit more in the know think of Watson as “that computer that’s helping doctors fight cancer.” What’s missing is general knowledge of Watson similar to Apple Siri. Now IBM is offering a product with the Watson name that could potentially be used by millions of knowledge workers around the globe.

So go sign up for IBM Watson Workspace and feel free to invite me into a space. The mobile clients for iOS and Android are availble, but are currently lacking the Moments feature.




Salesforce Dreamforce 2016 Recap: Have They Hit the Suite Spot?

October 22 2016 01:00:00 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Each year at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference there is a central theme, this year it was clearly Artificial Intelligence, or AI. More specifically, it was the introduction of Salesforce’s new AI platform named Einstein, which adds intelligence to Salesforce’s core applications for Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, etc. However, in this blog post I’m not actually going to focus on Einstein, but rather on something more subtle that I’ve been observing about Salesforce for a little while now.

Even though the addition of AI was front and centre in almost every keynote and session, my main take away from Dreamforce is that they are now focusing less on the various systems of record themselves (example, the accounts, leads, support tickets, marketing campaigns, etc.) and more on the ways people can interact with them. In my opinion, Salesforce’s ability to surface those records within conversations, emails, calendar events and documents is one of their greatest strengths.

I’ve created the following image to explain what I mean.  

At the bottom of the image are three of Salesforce’s main products, Sales Cloud (CRM), Service Cloud (customer support) and Marketing Cloud (campaign automation). These are the applications where Salesforce customers create the systems of record that contain vital business information and processes.

At the top of the image are the ways Salesforce now enables people to interact with those records outside of the applications themselves:
- Community Cloud, which includes Salesforce Chatter (enterprise social networking), Files, and Communities
- SalesforceIQ, an email and calendar client (based on the acquisitions of RelateIQ and Tempo.AI)
- Quip, documents and spreadsheets

On the right there are examples how Salesforce is working with other software vendors such as Cisco and Slack to extend the reach of Salesforce data into other applications.

The the centre of the image you can see how Salesforce Einstein provides a layer of intelligence between the systems of record and the ways people interact with them.  For example,
- Community Cloud leverages Einstein to find answers to the questions people are posting communities
- SalesforceIQ (which was created via the acquisitions of Tempo.AI and RelateIQ) leverages Einstein to help people connect emails and calendar entries to the CRM and Service records of the people they contain

Quip - The Secret Weapon?

While Quip was only recently acquired, the teams have been quickly developing integrations. In the image below you can see that Salesforce records can be inserted as linkd into Quip documents, and values from CRM records can be inserted into cells in a spreadsheet.  

In my opinion, Quip is one of the most important acquisitions Salesforce has made. Today you can have conversations around a record via Chatter, and you can attach relevant files (say a sales presentation or product catalog) to a record. But imagine in the future if every Salesforce record has a “living document” as part of it, enabling people to collaboratively take notes, brainstorm ideas, generated reports, track tasks and more. Quip could be one of the most important pieces to a larger puzzle Salesforce has been working on.

Is Salesforce, the next enterprise productivity suite?

If you think back to just a few years ago, Salesforce was a product mainly used by a company’s sales reps. To expand their audience (and revenue) Salesforce added applications for other parts of the company such as customer support and marketing. Now, as the image above shows, they have provided several ways to create, share and discuss those records with colleagues, prospects and customers.
While Salesforce is not quite ready to compete with Microsoft (Office 365) and Google (G Suite) yet, they have assembled (via build, buy and partner) many of the components employees use to get their jobs done. Employee can use SalesforceIQ to access their email and calendar, Chatter for social networking and files, and now Quip to create and share documents and spreadsheets. Add Salesforce records to those applications, and sprinkle in some intelligence powered by Einstein and you can start to picture an environment where employees all across the company spend a great deal of their work day inside Salesforce products. Maybe it’s time for a name change from Salesforce to Workforce?


Introducing Workplace by Facebook

October 10 2016 01:40:08 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today Facebook officially launched Workplace by Facebook, their enterprise version of the Facebook social network. 

Workplace, formerly named Facebook at Work has been in private beta for over a year and is being used in over 1000 companies, dozens of which have more than 10,000 people using it. Current customers include Coldwell Banker, Club Med, Heineken, Royal Bank and Scotland, Canadian Tire and Telenor. Workplace is now available for any organization to signup. 

Workplace resembles the consumer version of Facebook, with a central newsfeed of posts, groups for specific topics, and a messenger client named Work Chat that provides group chat and 1:1 video. Some of the key Workplace features include events, polls and live streaming which allows organizations to broadcast content to employees in real time. 

It should be noted, Workplace was the name IBM gave to their next generation messaging platform in 2003, but was discontinued in 2007.

As outlined in my research report, “Can Facebook at Work Bring Collaboration to the Business World”, one of the greatest strengths of Workplace is that most employees will immediately be familiar with how to use it. The real test comes in how seamlessly integrated Workplace can become with the business workflows that employees use to get their jobs done.

At the time of launch, Workplace does not have integrations with popular enterprise software such as Office 365, Salesforce, Workday, ZenDesk, etc. Instead, Facebook has focused their initial development efforts on the security and administration aspects of Workplace. For example, customers will be able to use single-signon via providers like Microsoft Azure AD, PingIdentity, Okta and OneLogin. While SSO is critical for getting started and gaining adoption, Constellation Research recommends that Facebook quickly develop business software integrations or partner with companies that can provide this functionality.

Workplace does allow for multi-company groups which contain people from other organizations. This is extremely important for many collaborative use-cases, but the caveat (at this time) is that each organization must be using Workplace, there is currently no guest access. 

Rather than using the common “price per user/per month” licensing model, Facebook is doing something very customer friendly and only charging for what is used. Pricing is:
$3USD for each 1-1000 monthly users
$2USD for each 1001 - 10000 monthly users
$1USD for each 10,001+ monthly users

Can Workplace Compete With A Suite?

The main collaboration battle over the last few decades has been fought by Microsoft, Google and IBM. The core of these vendors' offerings is the combination of email/calendar + content creation (documents, slides, spreadsheets) + unified communication (chat, web-conferencing). Along the way vendors offering niche services such as file sharing (Box, DropBox, Egnyte, etc), task management (Asana, Clarizen, Trello, Workfront, etc) and group chat (Slack, Glip, HipChat, Ryver, etc) have each claimed their own spot in the market, but always as a layer in addition to the Microsoft, Google or IBM stacks. 

Workplace by Facebook is not a complete collaboration suite. Since it does not provide its own email, task management, file-sharing or content creation tools, customers will still have to purchase those other products. So can Workplace succeed as a Corporate Social Intranet or Enterprise Social Network? Options such as Yammer, Jive, SocialCast, Thoughtfarmer, and Igloo have been around for years, yet none have dominated the market the way suites like Microsoft’s Office 365, Google's GSuite (formerly Google Apps for Work) and IBM Connections have. Also vendors like Salesforce, Workday, SAP, Oracle, Cisco and Infor have all added communication and collaboration features into their platforms.

In order for Workplace by Facebook to really become a critical business tool, they will need to provide deep integration with email, file-sharing, task management, and as mentioned above business process software such as CRM, ERP, HR, financial, etc. or else they risk the same fate as many social business software platforms that came before them.

So can Workplace provide enough value on it’s own to warrant being an additional tool for employees to use? If early customer interest is any indication, it would appear it can. Leveraging Facebook’s name recognition, Workplace has a big opportunity to become a leader in enterprise social software. Look at the level of attention newcomer Slack has obtained, and that was starting from ground zero. Slack claims to have 3M active daily users, it will be interesting to see how many Facebook cites in 6, 12, 24 months.

The strengths of Facebook’s name recognition and massive business partner ecosystem are certainly assets that can help their road to success. Constellation Research has already received a great deal of customer interest in Workplace (when it was Facebook for Work) and expect interest to increase with today’s official release.



Google Rebrands Apps for Work to GSuite: Is That Enough?

September 29 2016 11:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today at Google Horizon the company announced they are rebranding Google Apps for Work to GSuite, "Google's intelligent apps designed for business."

GSuite, contains the same applications that Google Apps for Work did; Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites but now Google+ is included as a fully supported product. GSuite starts at $5/user/month and doubles to $10/user/month for unlimited storage and admin controls for areas like discovery and compliance.

The announcement of GSuite comes around the 10 Year anniversary of the launch of the original Google Apps for Your Domain offering and Google is now claiming 2M paying business and enterprise customers use Google Apps for Work.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

Google Apps for Work provided a clearer definition of what the offering did, where as GSuite is a more generic term akin to Microsoft's Office 365, which they have always struggled to explain. I can see the marketing benefit's of reducing the perceived boundaries between personal computing and business tools, but is that in the vendor's best interest or their customers? Also GSuite does not instantly convey that this set of products will leverage Google's considerable experience in Artifcial Intellignce. That said, at the end of the day it's just a name, and once people get past that the products and the benefits they provide are really what matter. 

So what's new about GSuite?

Google says they are focusing GSuite on 3 areas: employees, teams and organizations.

For employees, they want to make creating content easier. To do this they have enhanced the former feature called Research into a new tool called Explore. Explore searches for information, images and other content on the web (via Google search) and makes it easy to insert into Google Docs. Microsoft Office offers similar functionality, and takes it a step further with tools announced this week that help you automatically format the content. Still, users of Google Docs should find the new Explore function helpful when creating content.

Other tweaks Google has made to GSuite to help people get work done include:

- Find A Time, a smart meeting scheduler that help people book meetings.
- Quick Access, which makes it easy to add attachments from Drive by placing your newest and most frequent files just a click away


For teams, Google has introduced Team Drives, which can make files available to everyone at the domain level, instead of individual owners which then have to grant access to other colleagues. Hangouts have also been enhanced, making it easier to dial into meeting and record meetings and save the recording to Drive.

At the organizational level, GSuite will allow administrations to configure Springboard, Google’s new cross application search feature, to search not just GSuite applications, but also 3rd party content as well.


While GSuite provides a few nice new features, it seems more like a point release than a product worthy of a complete name change. For a company with such an image of innovation (Google Glass, self driving cars, AI winning Go, etc) I’m disappointed that they have not seized more of a leadership role in redefining the way employees work.

- Google has access to so much content and context via email, calen dar, maps, photos, videos and docs, and such advanced AI algorithms and search features, that I’d like to see them pushing the boundaries of the way people work together in more innovative ways. For example, on our phones Google Now is an incredibly powerful personal assistant, often surfacing information proactively, I’d like to see a similar level of automation within GSuite. I’d like to see Google using their AI capabilities to automate many of the common and repetitive tasks that employees do everyday.
- GSuite does not offer anything new in the way of project/task management. Products like Google Keep do not offer the functionality that Microsoft OneNote, Wunderlist and Planner provide.
- What is GSuites's enterprise strategy for messaging? While Google Hangouts is being enhanced, should customers expect to see Enterprise versions of Google's new consumer tools such as Allo, Duo and Spaces?


Current customers will be happy with the new GSuite features, but at this time Constellation Research does not see enough product differentiation to cause Microsoft Office customers to switch.

BoxWorks 2016 Event Report: From File-Sharing to App Platform

September 11 2016 09:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

This week I attended BoxWorks 2016, Box's annual conference in San Francisco.

If you don't have (15m) time to watch the video below where I review the major news, then just read this one thing:
Box is no longer just a cloud file-storage service, it's a platform for building content-centric applications.

My coverage of the event is mainly focused on the collaboration/productivity tools. If you'd like more details on the application developer/infrastructure/platform side of things, please click here to view my colleague Holger Mueller's event report.

Here are the key product announcements:

In the video below, I discuss the news in detail, including my advice on areas I think Box should improve in.


FutureOfWork: The Combined Microsoft and LinkedIn Graphs

August 23 2016 10:20:13 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

On June 13, 2016 Microsoft announced their intention to acquire LinkedIn for $26B, Microsoft's most expensive takeover to date. Why is Microsoft willing to spend that money? What's in it for them, for customers and for partners? My Constellation Research colleagues Steve Wilson, Cindy Zhou and I examine what this combination means and how it impacts the future of work... from personal productivity and team collaboration, to changing the way career paths and hiring are managed, to the impact of marketing experiences.

To find more information see the complete report: Microsoft Acquires LinkedIn, Shaping the Future of Work.


Table Of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Microsoft’s Priciest Acquisition Reveals The Vision Of An Intelligent, Integrated Workplace
  • Linking In To Microsoft’s Vision
  • Linkedin Data Is Safe With Microsoft
  • Looking Ahead : Upcoming Challenges
  • What To Expect In Microsoft’s Future Of Work


FutureOfWork: Atlassian HipChat Adds Group Video Chat

August 18 2016 01:40:47 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Atlassian, best know for Jira (project management for software development teams) and Confluence (enterprise team collaboration), has released an update to HipChat, their group chat and video conferencing product. Prior to this release, HipChat could be used for group text conversations and 1:1 video chat, but now you can have group videos chats with up to 10 people. HipChat can be used as a standalone communication tool, but excels when combined with Jira and Confluence, enabling people that have conversations right within the context of the work they are doing. Atlassian acquired HipChat in 2012, and has continued to expand its functionality via additional acquisitions such as BlueJimp and Hall. 



MyPOV on Enterprise Video - Culture Needs to Catchup to Technology

Tools like Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and Google's new 1:1 video application Duo make it easy for people to have real time video conversations with their friends and family. It's amazing to be able to say hello when on a business trip, share an experience while on vacation, or even ask for advice before making a purchase... but are employees ready to be on camera during meetings? Video lends itself to great product demos, but does that translate to real business scenarios? 

The ability to video conference has been around for decades in products like Lotus (now IBM) Sametime and Microsoft Lync (now Skype for Business) or via tele-presence solutions from Cisco, Avaya, Unify and others but ask yourself how often do you take advantage of them? With so many remote or home employees it's great to be able to see your colleagues, smile and share a story for a few minutes, but is the main reaction to video: "Oh no, now I need to shower, shave and get dressed before that meeting!" 

Don't get me wrong, consumer technologies such as email, chat and social networking have all become commonly used tools at work, and video certainly will as well. With laptops, mobile phones and tablets becoming entry points the meetings it's now simple for anyone from developers to doctors, architects to zookeepers to participate in a video chat. But In contrast to our personal lives where we ourselves are the content for the video, at work most often it's documents or applications that need to be shared. Finding the right mixture of "humans on screen" to "content on screen" is important, and tools like HipChat are helping make this a reality.