Will Your Job Be Replaced by Artificial Intelligence?

January 8 2018 10:56:54 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

Are you worried about computers, automation, robots or artificial intelligence replacing you? Futurist Brian David Johnson and I chat about the relationship between humans, technology and our careers.



Report: Embracing New Skills for the Future of Work

January 4 2018 04:26:35 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

The tools and techniques employees use at work are very different now than they were just a few years ago. This report examines three of the key areas in which employees will need to be proficient for the Future of Work:

  • Augmenting skills with artificial intelligence and automation
  • Leveraging data to make informed insights and calculated actions
  • Using creativity in storytelling to better engage with colleagues and customers

The full report can be purchased >> here <<.



3 Ways Employees Will Benefit From Digital Transformation in 2018

December 11 2017 02:00:00 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, today’s workplace contains a mixture of generations. Although each has grown up with very different technological and cultural experiences, all face similar challenges at work, like information overload and having to stay up-to-date with technology that’s constantly changing. But all is not lost! The future of work is an exciting one which will leverage new tools, technologies and techniques to help people get work done.

At Constellation Research, three of the top areas we’re tracking around employees in the digital workplace are:
1. using technology to augment how teams accomplish work,
2. using data to guide actions and prioritize projects and
3. using technology to encourage more creativity among teams. 

Here are some of the things we’re observing.

Augmenting our ability to get more done

No longer a thing of the future, AI is already all around us in a big way—powering the voice input on our phones or the content in our news streams.

While conversations about AI often turn to science fiction, the reality for knowledge workers is that AI is already enhancing how they work, and will continue to do so. We’re already seeing email clients that recommend replies, calendars that automate meeting scheduling, and video services that transcribe content.

The way we create, consume and interact with content is also changing. Legacy whiteboards in meeting rooms are being replaced by large, intelligent and interactive screens that allow people to collaborate whether they're in the same room or across the world. Augmented and virtual reality are moving beyond science fiction (and gaming) to mainstream use cases such as education, product design and retail. While today’s headsets may be cumbersome, soon augmented reality will be everywhere, turning any clear surface into a potential display.

In addition, new input methods including voice dictation and gesture recognition (hands and face) are allowing us to interact with our devices in new ways. I actually wrote a lot of this post by speaking out loud to my phone. 

Using data to derive insights and guide actions

How many miles have you flown this year? How many steps have you taken today? Our personal lives are filled with measurements of our accomplishments and actions. Everything is quantified. But can you say the same for work?

Imagine if you could understand which social media posts are most effective or which meetings lead to more customer wins. We don’t always have the information we need at work to help us be more effective employees. In order to provide employees with meaningful information, data needs to be collected and patterns need to be discovered. But the fragmentation of work across social networks, file sharing, web conferencing and business applications creates quite a challenge.

The solution requires charting the interactions between people, content and devices. These collections are called “graphs” in computer science, and they reveal things like who people work with and what content they interact with. This information can be used to discover patterns, leading to insights about the way people work. In turn, this data can help employees better determine what work should be prioritized and what can be postponed.

Everyone becomes a storyteller

Think about the types of content people use at work: email, chat, documents, spreadsheets, presentations. Compare that to your personal life which is probably dominated by photos and videos. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a similar level of fun and creativity at work? 

In the past, creating compelling graphics or videos was limited to professionals. Today, almost anyone with a camera phone can start creating highly visual content. Most camera applications provide lenses, filters, stickers and other digital tricks to enhance pictures. Some take gorgeous panoramic images and some even create 3600 content. Conversations in group messaging applications now include emojis and animated gifs. Photo-sharing sites can automatically create collages from our best images.

These advances in storytelling are starting to show up in the workplace as well, enabling marketers to create more effective presentations, financial workers to create visually informative spreadsheets and sales people to pitch products with more engaging content. The days of boring content at work are coming to an end.

Delivering in the digital workplace

We’ve witnessed incredible advancements in the tools we use at work over the past 20 years. However, these pale in comparison to what the next decade will be like. The future of work is going to empower employees regardless of skillset or seniority.

If you're ready to embrace the changes and become a digital employee, have your holographic assistant connect with mine so we can discuss this further! ...Or at least take advantage of some of the auto-scheduling features cropping up in your Calendar app.



Event Report: Dreamforce 2017 - Quip’s Digital Canvas Brings Context to the Salesforce Platform and Beyond

November 13 2017 12:00:00 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Monday Nov 6 - Thu Nov 9, Salesforce held their annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. This massive gathering of customers and developers covers the full range of Salesforce offerings, from Sales to Marketing to Customer Service and much more. Constellation Research had a team of analysts in attendance, with my focus being on the collaboration components of the event. Below I will discuss 3 key areas: Quip, Community Cloud, and Salesforce and Google partnership announcement.

For more information, please read the posts by my colleagues Cindy (Marketing and Sales), Doug (Data and Analytics), Holger (Infrastructure and application development), Andy (IoT) and Dion (leadership and business transformation)

Quick Summary

  • Quip: Introduced Live Apps, which enables people to embed a variety of content onto a Quip page, turning it into a Digital Canvas for collecting information in context on a single page
  • Community Cloud: Introduced Lightning Flow and Einstein Answers
  • Salesforce and Google partnership: Access Salesforce information in Gmail and Google Sheets. Salesforce customers can trail GSuite for free for a year. (* several restrictions apply)

Below is a short video where I discuss these items

 

Quip - The Digital Canvas That Glues Salesforce (and many other things) Together

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Quip, it started as an online "word processor" that combined documents, spreadsheets and chat into a seamless experience. They were acquired by Salesforce in August 2016, and since then have been rapidly expanding the variety of content that can be embedded onto a page, culminating in the announcement at Dreamforce of what they are calling, Live Apps. Live Apps fall into three categories:

  • Native features (tables, images, kanban boards, countdown timers, progress bars, Salesforce records, etc)
  • Business Partner integrations (currently: Atlassian Jira, Workplace by Facebook, New Relic, Lucid Chart, Smartsheet, Docusign)
  • Customer applications using the API (an example was shown where 20th Century Fox embedded a custom video player)

MyPOV

As the number of applications and websites people use to get work done grows, so to does the complexity and lack of context. Enter the concept of a "digital canvas", where multiple sources of content can be embedded together in a single place. When conversations can take place in context around these combined canvas, and updates to the content occur in real time, it makes work more productive, effective and efficient. Constellation Research sees Quip as the way Salesforce can tie together not only content from their own services, but those of their partners as well. For example, a Quip canvas could show information from a Salesforce customer record along with all their open customer service tickets, tweets about their products, support documents and files, the marketing campaigns they are part of, product images and a task list, plus enable the account team to have conversations about all these objects in a single place.

Quip faces a few obstacles for mass adoption. First, The concept of a "digital canvas" is new to most employees, so explaining what it does and how it works can be difficult. Does Quip compete with products like Box Notes and Dropbox Paper, or Microsoft Word and Google Docs, or Evernote and Microsoft OneNote, or Confluence and Socialtext? Second, Salesforce needs to reconcile (and vocalize) the long term roadmap between Quip and Salesforce Chatter. While there are differences, customers still need to know when and why to use each product. Third, licensing, purchasing and administration needs to become a seamless part of the overall Salesforce experience in order for it to grow within large enterprises.

Example of a Quip document I used while working on this blog post.

Ex of a Quip document

 

Community Cloud - Enabling Conversations, Knowledge Sharing and Commerce

The Salesforce Community Cloud provides digital experiences for use both externally with customers and internally with employees. At Dreamforce 2017 they made several announcements which can be seen in this keynote.

With respect to personal productivity, collaboration and getting work done... the two most significant items are Lightning Flow and Einstein Answers.

  • Lightning Flow (MyPOV conspicuously named similarly to Microsoft Flow) enables people to easily create rules that automate common actions that occur inside communities. For example, if someone selects a certain topic, you could automatically move them into a certain marketing campaign. It will be interesting to see what templates Salesforce (and their partners) provides to help guide people in creating flows.
  • Einstein Answers leverages Salesforce's artificial intelligence engine to enable community members to ask questions and have the most relevant answers returned to them, as well as recommended subject matter experts, without the need for human intervention. 

Salesforce Community Cloud

MyPOV

With partner integrations for everything from ecommerce to video conferencing, custom branding, integration with the rest of the Salesforce portfolio, and new features like Flow and Einstein answers, Salesforce Community Cloud provides a very robust platform for both internal and external communities. With one of their main competitors Jive Software struggling in 2017, the market is ripe for Community Cloud to gain traction with new customers and expand their usage within existing Salesforce accounts. I would like to see Salesforce push the internal intranet use case stronger than they currently do, as I believe getting employees hooked can lead to expansion into other areas, especially around collaboration via Quip and Chatter.

Salesforce and Google - The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

One of the "surprise announcements" at Dreamforce was a tighter partnership with Google. The announcement involves several areas, so I will focus on the productivity and collaboration tools, while my colleague Cindy will cover Marketing and Sales Cloud integration with Google Analytics 360, and Holger will discuss Salesforce's use of Google's data-centres.

At Dreamforce 2015 Salesforce and Microsoft announced several strategic partnerships. However, since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016 the future of that partnership has been in question. The new announcements with Google hint at a new (but not exclusive) direction for Salesforce with Google's products. The new partnership includes:

  • Salesforce Lightning for Gmail: Users can surface relevant Salesforce CRM data in Gmail, and interactions from Gmail directly within Salesforce.
  • Salesforce Lightning for Google Sheets: Users will be able to auto-update data between Salesforce Records or Reports and Google Sheets.
  • Quip Live Apps for Google Drive and Google Calendar: Teams will be able to embed and access Drive files (e.g., Google Docs, Slides, Sheets) or their Google Calendar inside Quip.
  • Salesforce for Hangouts Meet: Within Hangouts Meet, users will be able to surface relevant Salesforce customer and account details, service case history, and more

Also, Salesforce customers who are not currently Google G Suite customers will be able to trail G Suite for up to a year. There are several restrictions and details to this offer which can be viewed here.

MyPOV

Stronger integration between Google and Salesforce's products will be very welcome to their joint customers. It also could influence customers making a decision between Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite, and similarly customers deciding between Salesforce CRM or Microsoft Dynamics. It will be interesting to see where this partnership is in a year; including how many customers have taking advantage of the trail and how far along the product integration has come.

Conclusion  

Salesforce Dreamforce is one of the "can't miss" tech events of the year. This year there was not a major product announcement like there has been in previous years (ex: introduction of Salesforce Lightning or Salesforce Einstein) but rather an overall "maturing" of the product lines. This includes new features, new integrations, new customers and new partners... which is a good thing. Sometimes incremental improvements mean more to customers than a big bang. For my coverage of personal productivity and collaboration, obviously the introduction of Quip's Live Apps is significant. The ability to bring context to content on conversations via a seamless "digital canvas" is going to play a important role in the Future of Work.

 



My Future of Work Coverage Areas

November 3 2017 11:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

I often get asked about which areas/markets/companies/products I cover, so I thought I'd make a graphic and a video that discusses some of them.

 

 



IBM Forms Strategic Partnership with HCL Technologies for Future of Notes and Domino

October 27 2017 11:58:45 AM Add/Read Comments [1]

On Oct 25th, IBM announced that they are transferring the development and support of Notes, Domino, Verse and Sametime (plus a few other products in this family) to HCL Technologies. For a better part of the last decade IBM has not prioritized these products, instead directing their focus on IBM Connections and the new Watson Workspace products. The goal of this partnership is to reinvigorate the Domino-based family by putting it in the hands of a dedicated team that will have the necessary resources (money and people) to properly continue the development. While IBM has not released a new major version of Domino since 2013 (there have been fix packs), HCL currently plans on releasing Domino 10 in 2018. IBM will maintain the core sales and marketing efforts, but HCL will be allowed to do their own additional marketing, and they can even extend the portfolio with new products. For customers, nothing should change. Support calls will still go to IBM, and the HCL employees working on the resolution will access IBM's support systems.

MyPOV

My advice to IBM/HCL would be to not call the next version Domino 10. Instead, separate out the email component of Verse, then rebrand the application development aspect of Domino as something new. (I sarcastically blogged about this almost a decade ago.) The email market is dominated today by Microsoft and Google, but the low code application development market has no dominant player. If HCL can create a platform to complete against Microsoft PowerApps, Google Application Builder, Salesforce Lightning, Zoho Creator, Quickbase, Outsystems and others then it could become a serious contender in this market. I get pitches every week for new products that can't do a fraction of what Notes could do a decade ago. However to be successful, ecosystem is key. Let me say that again, ecosystem is key. One more time, ecosystem is key.

Ecosystem involves a few things:

  • Business Partners. The key word being partner. HCL needs to treat partners like equals, make them feel valued, and reward them appropriately.
  • 3rd party integration. It's not enough to make a good (or even the best) stand-alone platform, today you have to have deep integration with the most common business applications
  • Developer support: Example applications. Code samples. Documentation. Certification. 
  • Community. Both online and in person. Forums and events. Large official conferences (HCLSphere?) down to smaller geography and industry events. Customer want to feel like they are part of something big, they don't want to feel like the last person on the ship as it goes down.

As someone who started with Lotus Notes and Domino in 1993, I feel quite a personal connection to this announcement. In my current profession as an industry analyst covering the collaboration market, I get very few inquires about Notes/Domino. However, I do know it's more popular in some parts of Europe and Asia than it is in North America. The Notes/Domino journey has gone from Iris to Lotus to IBM to HCL. I look forward to seeing what HCL will now do with the portfolio, but we know it takes a lot more than just a product to be successful.

 



Event Report: Box Adds A Layer of Intelligence to Cloud Content Management

October 17 2017 04:32:23 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

On Oct 11th and 12th Box held their annual BoxWorks conference in San Francisco. There were several announcements for users, developers and administrations, but the most significant for my research area of Personal Productivity, Team Collaboration and the Future of Work was the introduction of Box Skills, a set of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities which can enhance the content stored in Box by automatically adding additional metadata such as tags, sentiment, transcriptions and more.

If you don't have time to read this entire post, here is a quick summary of Constellation's analysis:

 

 

Key Announcements and MyPOV

  • Evolution of their messaging around “Cloud Context Management”
    • Box is much more than just Files/Folders: KeySafe, Zones, Platform, Relay, Drive, Notes, Capture, Governance, Insights, …
    • 76K customers, 65% of F500, 100k developers
       
  • Box Relay - Workflow product (co-developed with IBM) will be available (price has yet to be announced) for all customers on Nov 13. Box Relay allows anyone to fill out a series of guided questions which then creates the conditions and actions to organize business processes.
     
  • Box Files - the core file storage and sharing experience of Box
    • Enhanced commenting: Threaded comments and the ability to mark a thread as completed
    • Annotations: Leave comments in specific locations on documents
    • Versioning: Visually see the key differences between two versions
    • Presence: You can see who else is currently viewing a document
    • Tasks: You can assign a task to a person with a date. This is just the start of a larger roadmap for task management
    • Shortcuts: Create links to files or folders in the left side navigation bar
    • Integrations with Workplace by FB, Slack, Microsoft Teams. Future: IBM Watson Workspace, Google Hangouts Chat, Cisco Spark

MyPOV: Box has done a good job over the last year or two improving the file/folder experience. However, I would like to see more innovation here, such as enabling content to be organized in ways that break away from the hierarchical "file manager” experience. I would also like to see more intelligence around popular content, recommended content, recent files, etc. I’m pleased to see Box working on tasks, but more work is required in this area to truly make it usable for managing and tracking assignments and status of deliverables.

  • Box Notes - Box’s own word processor/note taking application
    • Inbox to see documents
    • Visual differences between versions
    • Presence
    • Templates

MyPOV: The addition of a desktop version of Box Notes (the web application wrapped in Electron) was very welcome and should help drive usage of the product. The features of Box Notes lag behind competitive offerings such as DropBox Paper and Salesforce Quip, so hopefully we’ll see continued enhancements to Box Notes in 2018.

  • Box Skills (Beta planned for 2018) – bringing artificial intelligence to content stored in Box.
    • Images: automatic tagging of content
    • Audio: transcribing text, keyword indexing, sentiment analysis
    • Video: everything from audio + facial recognition and indexing

MyPOV: This is the most important announcement of the conference. More details on this significant feature further down in this post.

  • Box Graph (Beta planned for 2018) – Box has begun working on an underlying architecture that will map the relationships between content and people.
    • Potential applications: A newsfeed to show top content, anomaly detection

MyPOV: This is a very critical part of the future of Box functionality. Other vendors such as Microsoft, Facebook and Slack leverage their graph to help people avoid information overload, discover content and colleagues, detect patterns and more. Making the API for Box Graph available to developers will be a powerful addition to the Box Platform for creating customer applications.

  • For Developers
    • 100K+ application developers are now making 12 billion 3rd party API calls/month
    • New Analytics Dashboard to show API usage
    • New Box Element: "Open With"
    • New Training Center / certification
    • Solutions Gallery to showcase applications

 

Augmenting Content

The most significant news from BoxWorks (with respect to people and applications interacting with content) is the introduction of Box Skills. These enhancements leverage capabilities from IBM Watson, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure to add functionality to files stored in Box. The first set of skills Box is developing are for image, audio and video files. The architecture of Box Skills has been designed to be platform agnostic, thus enabling developers to use best of breed AI capabilities from multiple vendors instead of being limited to a single choice. At this time Box has not announced how Skills will be charged for, but someone will have to pay for the API calls being made to the commercial AI platforms. For example, each time an image is tagged, Google will require payment. Box has stated they will make this as frictionless as possible for customers, with more details coming in 2018. Skills are an optional feature, and must explicitly be turned on, so customers don’t need to worry about this unless they decide they want to use them. Custom skills can also be developed to meet specific business needs.

Images

The example below shows tags which have been automatically added (via Google Vision API) to the file’s metadata which describe the image. Also, any text on an image is scanned and transcribed. I hope similar functionality will be available for presentations, enabling people to easily find files based on the content in specific slides.

Audio

The example below shows how using IBM Watson, audio files stored in Box can be scanned for keywords and sentiment. The audio can be transcribed, and people can jump to any of the indexed times in the recording.

Video

The example below expands upon the audio use case, showing how video can also be indexed. In addition to pulling out keywords, facial recognition can identify specific people and provide navigation through a video based on faces. I have been using similar functionality in Microsoft Stream and it can make a dramatic difference in the way you view content, enabling you to focus on the areas you want while easily skipping over those you don’t.

Conclusion

At last years conference (BoxWorks 2016) Box emerged with a very strong message of evolving from file storage and sharing, to being a platform for building applications. This years event successfully continued that story by introducing future functionality in the form of Box Skills (AI) and Box Graph (analytics). I was very impressed with the customer references and business partner announcements, both of which show that the ecosystem around Box is quite healthy and growing. I would like to see Box innovate more around the way content is created, organized and shared, as the competition in these areas is quite strong. Overall BoxWorks 2017 was an excellent event, and the customers and partners I spoke with are looking forward to getting their hands on the new functionality.