Matthew Finnegan

About the Author Matthew Finnegan


Microsoft Whiteboard adds ‘digital canvas’ collaboration to Windows 10

Microsoft is bringing its Whiteboard ‘digital canvas’ app to Windows 10 users, providing a new way for employees to collaborate on creative work and share ideas.

Whiteboard, aimed at Surface owners, makes use of the device’s stylus and touch inputs to share drawings. Users can jot down notes, make precise illustrations or search for images on the web from the app. It can also create tables, diagrams and flowcharts, which are updated in real time and automatically saved to the cloud.

“It’s designed for teams that need to ideate, iterate, and work together both in person and remotely, and across multiple devices,” the Microsoft Whiteboard team wrote in a blog post.

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Alexa for Business paves way for smart A.I. assistants at work

Much as smartphones did in the late 2000s,voice-activated A.I. assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant appear poised to move from homes into the workplace. That’s the the idea behind this month’s launch of Alexa for Business by Amazon’s cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services.

The virtual assistant, unveiled at the company’s Re:Invent conference, is aimed at automating and simplifying a variety of tedious office tasks. It allows users to check calendars, reorder supplies, set up meetings and kick off video conference calls using voice commands directed at its Echo devices.

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Symphony targets collaboration users outside financial services

Symphony has been called a ‘Bloomberg-killer’ since its launch in 2014 because it offers a cheaper alternative to the chat function in the popular data terminals long considered a mainstay for traders.

The secure messaging and collaboration platform started out as an in-house chat tool at Goldman Sachs, providing secure communications between employees and allowing them to easily share sensitive documents. Symphony is now valued at over $1 billion, according to reports, and has 235,000 subscribers, with users that range from traders and portfolio managers to salespeople and risk managers.

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Facebook’s Workplace takes off with 7,000 users at Virgin Atlantic

The nature of Virgin Atlantic’s business means many of its workers are continuously on the move around the globe. Ensuring effective communications channels – a challenge for any company – isn’t easy: nearly half of the airline’s 10,000 employees are cabin or cockpit crew members.

Two months ago, the airline rolled out Facebook’s Workplace, the business version of the social network tool, in a bid to improve information-sharing between staff and senior execs. It currently functions primarily as an intranet for internal communications, though the company plans to integrate the software with other apps and processes, such as ServiceNow, eventually.

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With new apps and services, IT connects deskless workers to biz

Office-based employees have a wealth of software tools available to keep them connected with colleagues and the wider business. Even those working remotely can easily stay in touch with their team through email, enterprise social networks and group messaging tools such as Slack.

That’s not always the case for deskless workers – the vast, yet underserved chunk of the workforce that tends to fall outside the scope of IT, according to Stephanie Epstein, CEO of enterprise messaging app vendor Zinc.

Zinc specifically targets employees in non-office-based roles. They could be anything from emergency workers to construction laborers, nurses, retail workers or service technicians – employees who usually own a smartphone but don’t routinely require access to core business applications.

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Salesforce boosts Quip’s team collaboration cred with LiveApps integration

Quip is evolving from a standalone product into a full-fledged team collaboration hub.

Founded in 2012 and bought by Salesforce last year in a deal valued at $750 million, Quip’s software was designed to make team collaboration easier by offering capabilities such as chat-enabled documents and spreadsheets.

At its Dreamforce event today, Salesforce unveiled new integration capabilities for Quip that allow users to embed a range of applications directly into documents. LiveApps, as Salesforce calls them, can be updated in real-time, meaning that Quip users can carry out work on shared documents without switching between various apps related to a specific project. Relevant information can be accessed within the Quip app itself, bolstering collaborate and eliminating the need for long email chains.

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With Spark Assistant, Cisco adds voice-activated A.I. to videoconferencing

Virtual assistants are gaining popularity as Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant get better at quickly retrieving information and helping to organize things. Joining them in the office are smart assistant chatbots, which are being integrated into a variety of enterprise applications.

Now, Cisco wants to bring the power of voice-activated A.I. smarts to conference rooms with its Spark Assistant.   

The idea is for Spark Assistant to take some of the pain out of setting up meetings by allowing voice commands to be used to call colleagues or start, join and leave meetings without interacting with physical devices. The A.I. assistant is activated with a simple, “Hey, Spark.”

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What is Asana? Task management tracking made easy

Managing projects across teams both large and small isn’t easy. It can sometimes get complex and is often inefficient. That’s where collaborative task management firm Asana hopes to help out. It aims to make tracking work activities simpler, reducing the need for email and unnecessary meetings, or – as Asana calls it – all that “work about work.”

Asana was created in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and software engineer Justin Rosenstein after they saw a need to coordinate teams more effectively inside the social network’s operations. They soon realized that tech giants weren’t the only companies that could benefit from greater efficiency.

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Facebook, Slack and Google all roll out new collaboration features

The already competitive collaboration market got a little more competitive this week, with several leading vendors – Facebook, Slack and Google – trying to one-up each other with updates to their respective products.

Here’s a rundown of the features unveiled in recent days:

Facebook Workplace gets a desktop chat app 

Facebook today officially launched a standalone desktop app for its enterprise messaging app, Workplace Chat. The app forms part of the wider Workplace enterprise social network platform, which launched last year.

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Dropbox targets freelance pros with Showcase portfolios and Professional pricing tier

Dropbox has launched a new portfolio feature, Showcase, designed to help independent workers and small teams of professionals display and share documents more easily.

The idea is that freelance workers such as architects and designers can store content in Showcase before sharing information with clients. Documents are arranged in a branded portfolio in a “secure and polished way,” with customizable layouts, said Dropbox director of product, Vishal Kapoor. It is also possible to add text captions to files to introduce content topics to help create a narrative around what’s being shared.

Dropbox, which recently rebranded to appeal to “creatives,” has identified a large target audience: it is estimated that 35% of the U.S. workforce is now freelance, a group that as of 2016 totaled to 55 million people.

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Facebook’s Oculus targets enterprise VR with business product bundle

Oculus hopes to encourage corporate users to get on board the VR train with this week’s launch of a business-focused product bundle.

The Facebook-owned company sees a variety of uses for its headsets, from enterprise collaboration to employee training, in a range of industries. Putting VR technology in the hands of more businesses is a crucial step to growing the market, and Oculus wants to make the process easier with Oculus for Business.

The $900 package contains an Oculus Rift headset, Touch controllers, remote, three sensors and three Rift Fits headset foam pads. Business customers will also receive dedicated customer support and extended licenses and warranties.

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Facebook Workplace takes aim at enterprise users with desktop chat app

Facebook has rolled out Windows and Mac desktop apps for its Workspace enterprise chat tool.

Workplace Chat is the business equivalent of the company’s popular consumer Messenger app, which has 1.2 billion monthly active users. The chat platform is available as part of the Workplace enterprise social network, which is now used by more than 14,000 organizations; Wal-mart most recently became a customer.

Until now, Workplace Chat was only accessible via mobile app or through a web browser; Facebook launched its enterprise collaboration platform in October 2016, offering features such as voice and video calling.

The beta launch of the desktop client, which TechCrunch reported last week, will make it easier for employees who tend have many browser tabs open at once to view notifications. It is reportedly one of the most requested features from customers, and will be tested with beta users ahead of a wider roll out. 

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Facebook’s Workplace takes aim at enterprise users with desktop chat app

Facebook has rolled out Windows and Mac desktop apps for its Workspace enterprise chat tool.

Workplace Chat is the business equivalent of the company’s popular consumer Messenger app, which has 1.2 billion monthly active users. The chat platform is available as part of the Workplace enterprise social network, which is now used by more than 14,000 organizations; Wal-mart most recently became a customer.

Until now, Workplace Chat was only accessible via mobile app or through a web browser; Facebook launched its enterprise collaboration platform in October 2016, offering features such as voice and video calling.

The beta launch of the desktop client, which TechCrunch reported last week, will make it easier for employees who tend have many browser tabs open at once to view notifications. It is reportedly one of the most requested features from customers, and will be tested with beta users ahead of a wider roll out. 

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A year after launch, how has Facebook’s Workplace fared?

Facebook launched Workplace last October with the aim of bringing its immensely popular social network to the world of business. The service combines the look and feel of Facebook’s consumer app with features targeted toward enterprise users.

Its main advantage lies in its instant familiarity among end users. With 240 million Facebook users in the U.S. alone, chances are employees will already know their way around the application. From a business perspective this has a number of benefits. It means that there is less time spent training staff to use a new tool, and, in theory at least, increases the likelihood of strong uptake across an organization.

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A year after launch, how has Facebook Workplace fared?

Facebook launched Workplace last October with the aim of bringing its immensely popular social network to the world of business. The service combines the look and feel of Facebook’s consumer app with features targeted toward enterprise users.

Its main advantage lies in its instant familiarity among end users. With 240 million Facebook users in the U.S. alone, chances are employees will already know their way around the application. From a business perspective this has a number of benefits. It means that there is less time spent training staff to use a new tool, and, in theory at least, increases the likelihood of strong uptake across an organization.

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Zoho Cliq is the latest group chat tool to rival Slack and Microsoft Teams

Zoho has unveiled the latest challenger to Slack and Microsoft Teams with the launch of Cliq — a team messaging tool that integrates into its range of business apps.

The core features found in Cliq will, for the most part, be familiar to users of established workplace collaboration tools, with group chat, file-sharing, video and voice call functionality. Separate channels can be set up for discussions with individual teams or around specific projects.

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WorldViz eyes enterprise VR as the next step in collaboration

Though virtual and augmented reality have largely been seen as consumer-focused, there are growing indications the technology could quickly gain traction in the enterprise.                                                                                                        

WorldViz is among the companies that see a bright future for virtual reality (VR) as a corporate tool. The company has been involved in VR for more than 15 years now, selling software development tools and building applications for customers.

Next month, WorldViz plans to launch a new service, Vizible, designed to connect sales staff and  clients – delivering an immersive VR experience that will “help close deals faster,” according to CEO Andy Beall.

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Microsoft plans to replace Skype for Business with Teams

Microsoft’s Skype for Business will be replaced by Teams, which is slated to become the primary communications client within Office 365.

The Teams instant messaging platform – which is bundled with the company’s Office 365 productivity suite – was launched only six months ago as a rival to Slack. According to Microsoft, there are now 125,000 organizations using the software globally.

Teams is already running on Skype’s cloud-based infrastructure for video and audio calls, which Microsoft is “evolving rapidly.”

“We are excited about this new infrastructure because it will provide both speed of innovation as well as higher quality communication experiences,” the company said in an announcement pegged to its Microsoft Ignite event in Orlando, Fla.

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Keybase takes on Slack with new end-to-end encrypted team messaging tool

Keybase has unveiled a Slack-style team messaging service that promises to protect private communications with end-to-end encryption.

The company launched in 2015 with the aim of making encryption technology more accessible to consumers. Its latest service, Keybase Teams, has a look similar to Slack with features such as chat rooms and channels. Admins can add set up groups of users to work on a particular project, and encrypted files can be uploaded and shared.

An early release version of the software is now available for download for desktops and mobile devices. 

The key advantage, Keybase said, involves enhanced security and privacy.

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What is Trello? A guide to Atlassian’s collaboration and work management tool

Trello has grown quickly since it spun off from software firm Fog Creek three years ago, adding millions of users every few months. And it shows no sign of slowing since its acquisition by Australian collaboration software firm Atlassian: it now has 25 million user signups, up from 14 million last year.

What’s driving interest in the work management application?

“The popularity of it is that it is a very easy to use, highly visual tool that allows people to get themselves organized and work effectively,” said Margo Visitacion, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, “and without a lot of effort it can bring other people into their circle to work on various types of projects.”

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Trello adds desktop apps for Windows and Mac users

Trello users can now access the project management tool directly from their desktop after the launch of native Windows and Mac apps.

The software had previously been browser-based only, meaning that Trello boards could easily get lost amid a multitude of browser tabs.  The company said in a blog post that the desktop app should make the software simpler to use, since Trello has added a navigation sidebar to help keep track of boards in a similar fashion to channels on collaboration tools such as Slack. 

Other features include “more granular” keyboard shortcuts and desktop notifications. Those using the latest Mac Book Pro laptops will also be able to open boards and create new cards from the Mac’s Touch Bar.

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Slack launches shared channels to connect teams across companies

Slack is introducing shared channels to make it easier for employees at separate companies to collaborate using its messaging software.

The service, announced at the Slack Frontiers event that kicked off in San Francisco on Tuesday, is available as an open beta release to Slack Standard and Plus subscribers.

“About two-thirds of existing customers use guest accounts in some capacity to work with individuals or other teams,” said Slack product manager Sean Rose. “Shared channels make that process much smoother and much closer to how you work with your own company, using channels in your own organization.”

Slack has supported guest accounts since 2014 – a feature Microsoft added to its competing Teams software just this week.  But while it had been possible for separate organizations to communicate via Slack, workarounds were often required, Rose said, such as using a mix of guest accounts and email

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Sapho to add IBM Connections integration in ‘micro app’ platform update

Sapho is including new software integrations in the latest version of its “micro-app” platform, adding IBM Connections to its list of supported collaboration tools. Other integrations in the 4.2 release include BlackBerry Dynamics and SAP SuccessFactors.

The California firm, founded in 2014, creates front-end applications that sit on top of enterprise software and systems of record. These single-purpose apps enable employees to interact with legacy corporate applications more easily, simplifying complex workflows and pushing data out to a range of channels such as email clients, mobile apps and collaboration platforms.

Saphos plans to formally unveil the changes Wednesday. 

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