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.



Let’s Talk AI and the Future of Work

January 17 2017 01:52:18 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today on DisruptTV, I spoke with Constellation CEO Ray Wang, Salesforce Chief Digital Evangelist Vala Afshar and Wipro CMO Naveen Rajdev about AI and the Future of Work. Some of the things discussed include:

  • What does this mean for employees?
  • The balance between convenience and privacy.
  • Will AI replace human workers?
  • Why is now the time for AI?

DisrupTV On The Road from Davos 1.17.17 from Constellation Research on Vimeo.

What do you think? How will AI impact your job, and what are you doing about it?


#Davos17 #WEF

IBM Verse - Email Reimagined, Now Available On Premises

January 17 2017 09:50:07 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

In this video, IBM VP Ed Brill and I discuss the release of the on-premises version of IBM Verse. We talk about what this means for both customers and business partners, how Verse fits into the IBM portfolio, as well as the cognitive capabilities of IBM Watson, and finally the IBM Connect conference being held in Feb in San Francisco.


Atlassian Acquires Trello

January 11 2017 03:46:18 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

As organizations become "more social" and employees create and share information more openly, it's easy for people to get overwhelmed not only with the amount of information, but also the number of sources. To help alleviate some of this chaos, many organizations are using Social Task Management tools which help people organize tasks around projects and events. Recognizing this trend, Atlassian announced on Monday that they are acquiring Trello, a Social Task Management tool currently used by 19M people, for $425M. Both companies blogged about the new on their respective sites: Trello and Atlassian.

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.

Atlassian is not the first collaboration vendor to add Social Task Management to their portfolio via acquisition, as Jive Software acquired Producteev in November 2012, and Microsoft aquired Wunderlist in June 2015. Microsoft also developed their a new application called Planner, which they released in June 2016.

I shared my initial thoughts on the acquisition in this video on Twitter:

Dr Natalie Petouhoff looks at the some of the business aspects of the deal in her blog post: Atlassian Acquires Trello for $425M: Will It Remain Free?

So what does this mean for your company?  

Chris Kanaracus and I discuss this in the CRInsights article: Atlassian Buys Trello for Collaboration Tools: What It Means

"As organizations try and shift some of their communication away from email to more social tools, they can quickly find that information overload increases rather than improves," he says. "The abundance of information shared in social networks and chat clients can be overwhelming. Social task management tools can help reduce some of the strain, by providing structure to the content, enabling people to organize, prioritize and act on tasks in a more manageable and repeatable way.  Constellation recommends organizations invest in collaboration platforms that either have native task management capabilities, or support very seamless integration with dedicated task management tools."

Are you using a Social Task Management tool to help you get your work done? If so, which one and how do you like it? If not, let us know how we can help you with your vendor selection process.


News Articles About the Acquisition


New Report: Why Artificial Intelligence Will Power the Future of Work

January 3 2017 12:43:44 PM Add/Read Comments [1]

During the Fall of 2014 at Salesforce’s annual conference Dreamforce, I gave a presentation titled “From Clippy to JARVIS" where I explained how the next generation of software was going to assist people in getting their work done. Back then, terms like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning had not reached the massive level of hype that they are currently experiencing today. Instead, my presentation discussed topics like task automation, extracting insights, and providing recommendations. Since that presentation over two years ago, I’ve worked with dozens of enterprise software vendors, innovative new startups, and customers of Constellation on how AI can help their employees get work done. That work formed the foundation for my newest report, Why Artificial Intelligence Will Power the Future of Work.

This new report is intended for C-suite executives and Line of Business managers who want to understand why there is so much talk about AI these days, how it’s important to their businesses, the use-cases and benefits it can provide, and also prepare them for the challenges that the future of AI-enhanced software must overcome.

Below is a glance at what is contained in the report.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Artificial Intelligence Delivers a Game Changer to the Future of Work
  • AI-Enhanced Software Learns while Traditional Software Is Static
  • How Does a Machine Learn?
  • AI Requires Five Core Components for Success
  • AI Will Augment Humanity over Time
  • Expect AI to Rapidly Show Up in Applications
  • Where AI Helps People Get Work Done
  • AI Must Overcome Six Human Challenges
  • Recommendations
  • The Bottom Line

Executive Summary
Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as one of the most important trends affecting the future of work.  While the study of AI has been around for decades, advancements in computing power and access to huge data sets now bring AI capabilities closer to reality. Enterprise software vendors are working on new versions of their applications that use AI to help employees be more productive. For instance, these AI-enhanced programs can help bring to light important information, assist in expense reporting, automate content creation, and help connect the right people at the right time. This report serves as a Beginners Guide to AI, explaining some basic concepts and then providing examples of how AI-enhanced software can help employees get work done and augment humanity. Finally, Constellation provides recommendations on how organizations should prepare for artificial intelligence’s role in the future of work.

Constellation Research customers can purchase the full report, Why Artificial Intelligence Will Power the Future of Workby clicking here.