Will Foldable Devices Go Mainstream?

5/5 (4)

5/5 (4)

As a technology analyst – primarily focused on how businesses use tech-based solutions to improve the customer and business outcomes – it is important to look across to the consumer tech world every now and then. Consumer trends end up driving many business technology initiatives. To that end, I keep one eye firmly on the mobile device segment – as consumer devices are the same devices that end up in businesses (as BlackBerry discovered the hard way!).

Samsung Device Launch

Samsung just launched their third generation of foldable devices – the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 (both 5G devices). The VERY clear message that Samsung gave through the pre-launch content and launch event is that foldable devices are no longer a niche segment. Samsung expects them to go mainstream over the next 12-24 months. They made some significant changes to the pricing and availability of their new devices to get them into more stores and retailers, to put them in front of potential buyers. They also reduced the prices by 15-20% (although they are still premium devices). By adding pen support to the Z Fold3 they indicated that this is their new “hero” device – (allegedly) taking the place of the Note series in Samsung’s line-up.

Samsung has made changes to make the phone more acceptable to the mass market – making it more durable, introducing IPX8 water resistance, improving speaker and sound quality, improving the brightness of the screens, and removing the “camera hole”. But some of the biggest changes have come in the software. They provide an experience that is designed for the larger screen – not just taking the existing content and stretching it. They have also taken an idea from Samsung DeX and introduced the ability for all apps to be stretched to the larger screen. While this is not a perfect solution, it works pretty well in the DeX world – and I’ll reserve my judgement on the Z Fold3 until I have some hands-on time with it.

The Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users. The price is very similar to the iPhone 12, and it is a well spec’d device with a large screen but a small form factor when folded. It needs to rely less on software to make the form factor usable but has a few tricks that will appeal to teenagers in particular (such as the ability to do a video call with the phone partly folded).

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users

Samsung Should Witness Strong Growth of these Devices

So will we see more foldable phones over the next twelve months? Samsung has gone a long way to (a) get more foldable phones into the hands of consumers, and (b) make that experience one that they recommend to friends and family – which was an issue with previous generation devices. Consumers who tend towards the “hero” device will be more tempted by this phone than ever before. Some previous Samsung Galaxy Note move to the Z Fold3 – others to the Galaxy S series. We will even see some Apple users make the switch towards Samsung to take advantage of the big screen on the Z Fold3 or the smaller form factor of the Z Flip3. Every iPhone user who is also carrying an iPad is a target for the Z Fold3 – they are (a) used to spending a lot of money on a device (b) already lugging around a lot of hardware.

So while it will be a slow burn to get the penetration of foldable devices higher, I believe Samsung has got close to the sweet spot. And while I don’t expect Apple will release a foldable device this year, if Samsung is successful, we can expect their development efforts to ramp up for a future device next year. And maybe it won’t be what we expect (maybe a foldable iPad mini?). But as batteries get smaller and more powerful, flexible screens get more durable and demand for larger screens continues, it feels like the opportunity for foldable devices will only continue to grow.

Samsung Product Journey

Enterprises Need to Prepare for Foldable Devices

This is important to enterprises:

  • Users with foldable screens will be your customers – they will expect an experience that takes advantage of the extra real estate. This might be a shopping app that has the items on the left and the cart on the right, or a transport app that has a map on the right and information about the transport services on the left; and
  • Your employees will bring these foldable screens into your business – and you will want them to use their devices to help them do their job better than they do today.

As discussed in my previous analysis when the original Fold was released – any employee that uses a tablet now could be a potential foldable device user. These might be truck drivers, warehouse employees or information workers. There may be an opportunity to save money and buy just one device for your employees – not two. Or there may be a business case to improve the user experience with a foldable device.

Samsung Should Seed the Foldable Developer Space

My advice to Samsung is to seed the development of Android apps that take advantage of foldable devices. Put a fund together that developers can access to improve the performance and experience of apps on foldable devices. Also, share knowledge between developers on best practices and shortcuts to make it easier to take advantage of this extra real estate. And understand that creating an app that works well on foldable devices is not a one-off activity. Microsoft originally gave money to app developers to create apps for Windows Mobile devices – but these apps were never updated and soon looked dated compared to their iOS and Android counterparts. So provide continued funding until the percentage of foldable devices reaches a tipping point and developers are incentivised to create apps for foldable devices because a significant proportion of their customers own foldable devices.

Experience Economy
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Ecosystm Snapshot: Uniphore Consolidates Agent Assist with Jacada Acquisition

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

Uniphore, a provider of Conversational Automation solutions, has announced their intention to acquire Jacada, an Israel-based autonomous customer experience solution provider. Jacada’s low-code/no-code platform will help Uniphore solve complex contact centre challenges using AI and automation. Jacada’s strengths include a low-code optimised interface and AI-enabled contact centre capabilities leading to automation across agent and customer engagements, enhanced knowledge-based guidance for agents and end-to-end analytics and insights.

Jacada has been in the market for around three decades and over time they have built various unified desktop and process optimisation products including RPA for customer service and support.

The acquisition follows Uniphore’s USD 140 million Series D funding round led by Sorenson Capital Partners in March 2021. Earlier this year, Uniphore acquired Emotion Research Lab to add AI and machine learning video capabilities that identify the emotion and engagement levels over video-based communications.

Growing Importance of Agent Assist Solutions

With agents facing pressure in offering customers satisfactory outcomes and at the same time having to manage the high volume of inbound transactions, Agent Assist solutions are high on the agenda for organisations. Remote working has made things even more complex where agents are cut off from their supervisors and not able to walk up to them to seek guidance. These “immediate challenges” have not yet been addressed in every contact centre even a year after the crisis. This presents a good opportunity for Uniphore to own the front and back-office integration piece. The back-office integration segment has become increasingly important as there is a need to fulfill customer requests by ensuring the conversation thread with back-office systems is followed through and communicated back to the agent. This need was heightened during the pandemic due to delays in product arrivals, in shipments, and other delays and miscommunication.

The big challenge also lies in making Agent Assist help the agent perform better and not make their lives more stressful! The design element of Agent Assist is critical. The solution must fit well into the other systems and applications such as CRM, Knowledge Management, and Speech Analytics. You don’t want another solution being pushed on to the agents when they are under pressure to meet customer demands during a 15-minute call.

Conversational Automation and Agent Assist must be evaluated carefully as you are integrating the solution into multiple environments with the clear objective of ensuring that agents only get the right information, in a manner that makes sense for them and at appropriate intervals.

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The Growing Importance of Low-code No-code (LCNC)

As contact centres focus on business agility and pivoting fast to cope with sudden market shifts, organisations will benefit from moving programming closer to the contact centre – requiring very little assistance from IT teams.

Having a LCNC platform will now allow Uniphore to build front and back-office experiences in a multi-vendor environment. The need to use intelligent APIs to build workflows is high on the agenda and it helps eradicate the costly efforts and time spent on developers to further extract and build new capabilities at speed.

Jacada has been pushing their value proposition on RPA and Conversational Automation for some time now and this blends well with where Uniphore is going with AI and Automation in the contact centre space. The acquisition will also give Uniphore access to other contact centre technologies that will help them to compete better with a wider range of solutions. With the challenges in managing the agent experience, we can also expect the Workforce Experience Management (WEM) segment to play an important role and intersect with Agent Assist to manage and elevate the agent experience.

More Insights to tech Buyer Guidance
0
Business Aware IT Service Management Finally Delivers on its Promise

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

Many years ago – back in 2003 – I spent some quality time with BMC at their global analyst event in Phoenix, Arizona and they introduced the concept of “Business Service Management” (BSM). I was immediately a convert – that businesses can focus their IT Service Management initiatives on the business and customer services that the technology supports. Businesses that use BSM can have an understanding of the impact and importance of technology systems and assets because there is a direct link between these assets and the systems they support. A router that supports a customer payment platform suddenly becomes a much higher priority than one that supports an employee expense platform.

But for most businesses, this promise was never delivered. Creating a BSM solution became a highly manual process – mapping processes, assets, and applications. Many businesses that undertook this challenge reported that by the time they had mapped their processes, the map was out of date – as processes had changed; assets had been retired, replaced, or upgraded; software had been moved to the cloud or new modules had been implemented; and architectures had changed. Effectively their BSM mapping was often a pointless task – sometimes only delivering value in the slow to change systems – back-end applications and infrastructure that delivers limited value and has a defined retirement date.

The Growth of Digital Business Strategies

Our technology systems are becoming more important than ever as digital business strategies are realised and digital interactions with customers, employees, and partners significantly increase. Many businesses expect their digital investments to remain strong well into 2022 (Figure 1). More than ever, we need to understand the link between our tech systems and the business and customer services they support.

Use of Digital Technologies 2021 and Beyond

I recently had the opportunity to attend a briefing by ServiceNow regarding their new “AI-Powered Service Operations” that highlighted their service-aware CMDB – adding machine learning to their service mapping capabilities. The upgraded offering has the ability to map entire environments in hours or minutes – not months or weeks. And as a machine learning capability, it is only likely to get smarter – to learn from their customers’ use of the service and begin to recognise what applications, systems, and infrastructure are likely to be supporting each business service.

This heralds a new era in service management – one where the actual business and customer impact of outages is known immediately; where the decision to delay an upgrade or fix to a known problem can be made with a full understanding of the impacts. At one of my previous employers, email went down for about a week. It was finally attributed to an upgrade to network equipment that sat between the email system and the corporate network and the internet. The tech teams were scratching their heads for days as there was no documented link between this piece of hardware and the email system. The impact of the outage was certainly felt by the business – but had it happened at the end of the financial year, it could have impacted perhaps 10-20% of the business bookings as many deals came in at that time.

Being able to understand the link between infrastructure, cloud services, applications, databases, middleware and business processes and services is of huge value to every business – particularly as the percentage of business through digital channels and touchpoints continues to accelerate.

More Insights to tech Buyer Guidance

 

 

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Woolworths Announces Future of Work Fund

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

2020 was a strange year for retail. Businesses witnessed significant disruption to supply chains, significant swings in demand for products (toilet paper, puzzles, bikes etc!) and then sometimes incredible growth – as disposable income increased as many consumers are no longer taking expensive holidays. Overall, it was a mixed year, with many retailers closing down and others reporting record sales. The grocery sector boomed – with many restaurants and fast-food providers closed, sometimes the supermarkets were some of the few remaining open retailers.

For many retailers, technology has become a key enabler to their transformation, survival and success (Figure 1).

Technology Focus 2021 - Retail Industry

Woolworths, Australia’s largest retailer, operates across the grocery, department store, drinks, and hospitality sectors. They hold a significant market share in most markets that they operate in. The company had a strong 2019/20 (financial year runs from July 2019 to June 2020) with sales up 8% – and in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year, sales were up nearly 11%. But the company is not resting on its laurels – one of its 6 key priorities is to “Accelerate Digital, eCom and convenience for our increasingly connected customers”. This requires more than just a deep technology investment, but a new culture, new skills, and new ways of working.

Woolworths’ Employee Focus

Woolworths has committed to invest AUD 50 million in upskilling and reskilling their employees in areas such as digital, data analytics, machine learning and robotics over the next three years. The move comes as a response to the way the Retail industry has been disrupted and the need to futureproof to stay relevant and successful. The training will be provided through online platforms and through collaborations with key learning institutions.

The supermarket giant is one of Australia’s largest private employers with more than 200,000 employees. Under Woolworths’ ‘Future of Work Fund’ their staff will be trained across supply chain, store operations, and support functions to enhance delivery and decision-making processes. The retailer will also create an online learning platform that will be accessible by Woolworths employees as well as by other retail and service companies to support the ecosystem.  Woolworths has plans to upskill their staff in customer service abilities, leadership skills and agile ways of working.

Woolworths’ upskilling program will also support employees who were impacted by Woolworths planned closures of Minchinbury, Yennora, and Mulgrave distribution centres due in 2025.

Woolworths’ Tech Focus

Woolworths has been ramping up their technology investments and having tech-savvy employees will be key to their future success. In October 2020, Woolworths deployed micro automation technology to revamp their eCommerce facility in Melbourne to speed up the fulfilment of online grocery orders, and front and back-end operations. Woolworths also partnered with Dell Technologies in November 2020 to bring together their private and public cloud onto a single platform to improve mission-critical processes, applications and support inventory management operations across its retail stores.

Future of Work

For many years, Ecosystm has been advising our clients to invest more in the skills of the business. Every business will be using more cloud next year than they are this year; they will suffer more cybersecurity incidents; they will use more AI and machine learning; they will automate more processes than are automated today. More of their customer engagements will be digital, and more insight will be required to drive better outcomes for customers and employees. This all needs new skills – or more people trained on skills that some in the business already understand. But too many businesses don’t train in advance – instead waiting for the need and paying external consultants or expensive new hires for their skills. Empowered businesses – ones that are creating a future-ready, agile business – invest in their people, work environment, business processes and technology to create an environment where innovation, transformation and business change are accepted and encouraged (Figure 2).

Future of Work

Empowered businesses can adapt to new challenges, new market conditions and respond to new competitive threats. By taking these steps to upskill and empower their employees, Woolworths is building towards empowering their own business for long term success.


 Transform and be better prepared for future disruption, and the ever-changing competitive environment and customer, employee or partner demands in 2021. Download Ecosystm Predicts: The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
1
Can Samsung DeX Empower your Employees

4.7/5 (6)

4.7/5 (6)

Over the past 3-4 weeks I have spent some time using Samsung DeX (shortened from “Desktop eXperience”) as my primary desktop environment. DeX has been around for a number of years, and I have dabbled with it from time-to-time – but I have never really taken it seriously. My (incorrect!) opinion was that a mobile chipset isn’t powerful enough for a PC-like experience. But for most of the last year, I have been using a Samsung Galaxy Book S laptop as my primary computing device – and this Windows 10 laptop runs an ARM processor which is the very same processor that powers many Samsung and other Android phones. Microsoft also has an ARM-based PC that I have used successfully (the Surface Pro X) which prompted me to rethink the opportunities for DeX. A number of clients also asked for my thoughts on DeX so I figured it is time to take it seriously as a potential end-user computing environment.

This Ecosystm Insight is a summary of the client report and is the first of a few Insights into DeX. In future, I plan to trial the dual-monitor ability for DeX (developed by VoIP – an Australian ICT consultancy). These Ecosystm Insights won’t cover how to use Samsung DeX. If you are looking for this information, Gizmodo has published a good piece here.

The Trial

In trialling Samsung DeX I attempted to cover all usage scenarios, including:

  • Native DeX with the phone connected to a DeX station and both wired and wireless keyboard/mouse, using both wi-fi and 4G (I live literally 50 metres outside of 5G coverage!)
  • DeX through Windows 10 using both wi-fi and 4G and a wired mouse and keyboard
  • Native DeX connected to a monitor using the Microsoft wireless display adapter (again using both wi-fi and 4G)

In the native DeX environment I worked in the traditional Microsoft productivity apps, collaboration apps (such as Teams, Zoom, Webex, Google Meet), Google productivity apps, web applications (sales, CRM & ERP), file sharing applications (OneDrive, Google Drive), imaging applications (photos, video, image sharing), social applications (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc) and other native Android apps – some of which were optimised for DeX, and some of which were not. I tried to imitate the information worker’s experience; and that of a site or specialist user. I used it as a primary computing environment for most of my work for 3-4 weeks. I didn’t just consume content, but also created content – I needed to be able to sign and attach Adobe documents, create new reports, conduct deep data analysis in Excel and create figures and move them between Excel, Word and PowerPoint. I created and shared leads in CRM systems, did company accounting in a financial application and even had some time to try out some gaming applications.

I have also trialled a Citrix and Amazon virtual desktop in all environments – running productivity applications, finance applications, graphics intensive applications and web apps.

Findings

My broad finding is that DeX is not a desktop replacement for power users – but there are plenty of roles within your business who would find that DeX is a capable environment that will allow them to get their job done.

I was planning to discuss the positive features of DeX, but the reality is that it is simpler to understand its limitations. And, most limitations are related to the Android applications or network lag introduced in virtual desktop environments using 4G.

  • The Microsoft productivity applications in Android are all scaled back versions of the desktop applications. They do not contain many of the features and functions that the desktop versions have. For example, when I needed to format headings in a report, the fast format options (e.g. to make text a “heading 2”) don’t exist in the Android version of Microsoft Word. Power users will find these applications don’t deliver all of the functions they need to get their job done.
  • Those who need broader functionality beyond the Android applications will benefit from a virtual desktop environment. Both Citrix Workspace and Amazon Workspaces delivered a very usable Windows 10 experience (although I found the base configuration to be a little slow). For existing users of virtual desktops, it is a no-brainer to roll them out to mobile devices if required. But would you add a virtual desktop environment to your existing desktop fleet just to enable DeX? I can’t answer that – as it is another environment to manage and support for your end-user computing and IT support teams. But again, for power users, this is not an ideal environment. It does EVERYTHING you want it to do – but it might not do it fast enough to satisfy all users.
  • It’s not a mobile environment. This isn’t something you use on your phone (although I believe you can use it on some Samsung tablets). You need a monitor, keyboard, and ideally a separate mouse for DeX to work. It doesn’t replace a laptop for a mobile worker.
  • DeX does not natively support dual screens or monitors. I found that I would switch back to my PC when I needed the productivity of two screens, as I personally find application switching on a single screen to be a productivity killer. BUT – this is changing – VoIP has developed a capability to run DeX across dual monitors (I will be testing this shortly and will post the results).
  • When using DeX natively and not using a virtual desktop, the screen sharing features of collaboration apps don’t work in the way you expect. The screen that is shared is NOT the DeX desktop screen but the horizontal mobile phone screen. This is a significant issue if you want to share a Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file or another “full desktop screen” application. DeX users can view other people’s shared screens, but not share the screen effectively themselves.
  • DeX introduces a new environment for your helpdesk to support. DeX isn’t Windows, it isn’t cloud, and it isn’t exactly native Android. Your tech support team will need to be trained on DeX and be required to learn a new user environment. It introduces an additional OS into the mix. That means at least some service desk technicians will need to be trained on the environment. As it is still running in Android, it doesn’t particularly require specific QA or testing for your business mobile applications. But to take full advantage of the larger screen real estate that DeX facilitates, you may need to make some changes to how applications perform in DeX.

Despite these challenges, DeX is a very capable environment. Running a virtual desktop was a breeze and performed far better than I would have imagined. I was worried about lag and had introduced many opportunities for it to run slowly – a wireless mouse and keyboard, wireless display adapter, running over wi-fi, and 4G using a virtual desktop in the cloud – and the lag was barely noticeable. I was impressed with this and understand how DeX could even be used to support legacy applications and environments too.

The convenience of having your phone at your fingertips – being able to respond to text messages on the large screen, taking calls using the same Bluetooth headphones that you use to watch video content on the larger screen, not to mention the security of taking your “PC” with you in your pocket when you head out to lunch or home for the day – adds to the value of DeX. The concept of a “PC in your pocket” has been around for a while – however most Samsung mobile users don’t realise that they have one there already!

Target Roles

Who are the business roles or personas who could benefit from it? The simple answer is that anyone who uses a desktop part-time would benefit from DeX. Many businesses have shared PCs for multiple users or dedicated PCs for users who don’t use a PC full-time. These might be site managers in constriction, store managers in retail, nurses, security staff, librarians, government or council workers. The significant factors that define potential DeX users are:

  • They spend a fair amount of time away from a PC
  • They still need a PC for reporting, document sharing, content creation etc
  • They return to a fixed site regularly (like a store, office, site office etc)

Again, it is worth noting that DeX doesn’t replace a laptop or tablet. It is not for mobile computing – it replicates fixed computing environments in a more mobile and potentially cost-effective form factor. Remember that the employees need a screen, mouse, and keyboard (you can use the phone as a mouse, but it is not ideal). They also need the charging cable to connect to the computer. If they are making regular video calls then I suggest a phone holder that allows the charging cable to stay connected and the phone to be angled so as others can see their face (wireless chargers tend to sit too far back).

And while DeX is a secure solution, and can benefit from Samsung’s Knox security platform and capabilities, pairing DeX with a secure branch of one style solution – such as that offered by Asavie, now a part of Akamai – has the ability to add end-to-end security and secure application/data access that your employees desire and your business needs.

The opportunities for DeX outweigh the challenges. I am certain that most businesses have potential DeX users – employees who reluctantly carry around a laptop, or who have to come back to a location for their computing. They might be employees who use their phones for image capture and spend much of their time transferring photos to a PC to store them into a corporate system (such as an OH&S team member, or a repair and maintenance provider for a company). It could be a brand salesperson who spends time in various retailers or on the road but still need computing for product training, entering sales figures, and other administrative tasks.

If your business already offers Samsung devices to your employees, switching on DeX is a no-brainer. Start with a trial in a limited employee pool to determine the specific challenges and opportunities within your business. If you are already using virtual desktops, then this is the easiest way to start – roll out the app to your Samsung mobile devices and you have a ready-made portable computer in your employees’ pockets.

2
Salesforce Backs BetterUp

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

BetterUp, a mobile-based professional learning and wellness platform that connects employees with career experts recently raised USD 125 million Series D funding backed by Salesforce Ventures, in partnership with ICONIQ Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Threshold Ventures, and Sapphire Ventures among others, bringing the company’s valuation to USD 1.73 billion. Previously in 2012, the company had raised USD 43 million in venture capital funding with an additional Series B funding of USD 30 million in March 2018. The BetterUp platform combines behavioural science, AI, and human interaction to enhance employees’ personal and professional well-being. Recently, the company also revealed two new products – Identify AI, to help organisations determine the right people to invest in and the appropriate coaching needed through the use of AI; and Coaching Cloud for customised training for frontline, professional, and executive employees.

This announcement comes on the back of several wins for BetterUp. To boost employee performance and organisational growth NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) partnered with BetterUp to support new ways of coaching and preparing a workforce for change. The world’s largest brewer, AB InBev has partnered with BetterUp to strengthen diversity and inclusion through BetterUp’s coaching platform.

The Need to Improve Employee Experience

The pandemic changed the working arrangement of millions of employees and industries across the globe who are now working remotely or in a hybrid environment.

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Audrey William says, “Driving better employee experience (EX) should take centre stage this year with enterprises putting employees at the centre of all initiatives. We will see EX platforms get integrated further and deeper into workplace collaboration and HR applications. In the last 12 months, we have seen apps monitoring wellness and sleep, training and coaching, meditation, employee motivation, and so on sit within larger collaboration platforms such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco and others.”

While the primary focus has been on optimising the work environment, it is time for organisations to start focusing on employee well-being. Ecosystm research shows that organisations implemented several measures to empower a remote workforce last year when the pandemic hit. But there was not enough focus on employee well-being (Figure 1).

Organisational measures to enable remote working

William says, “A hybrid work environment may have negative impact on your employees. You may face issues such as longer working hours, employee burnout, lesser social engagements and connection, loneliness – and mental and emotional issues and depression”.

“Organisations that place an emphasis on the employees will see their revenues grow and also see less attrition. The more you invest in your people, the more you will get back in return. It is as simple as that! You can see that now in some organisations where employees are being given more flexibility, employers are not dictating how they should work, diversity and inclusion efforts have become mainstream, and efforts are being made to make employees feel like they belong.”

William adds, “However, Ecosystm research finds that organisations have gone back to putting customers and business growth first – losing focus on their employees. Only 27% of organisations globally say that they have improving employee experience as a key business priority in 2021. It is time for this culture and mindset to change. And solutions such as BetterUp can make a difference.”


Transform and be better prepared for future disruption, and the ever-changing competitive environment and customer, employee or partner demands in 2021. Download Ecosystm Predicts: The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
1
Google Workspace Evolves to Empower Hybrid Working

5/5 (4)

5/5 (4)

The ways we connect, create, collaborate in our workplaces has seen major shifts in the last year. And the tech industry has continually supported that shift as they create new capabilities and upgrade existing ones. Technology providers will continue to revamp their product offerings to support the increase in adoption of the hybrid work model work – a fusion of remote and in-office. In the Top 5 Future of Work Trends for 2021, Ecosystm had predicted, “Every major digital workspace provider (such as Microsoft, Google, Zoom, Cisco, AWS and so on) will broaden their digital workplace capabilities and integrate them more effectively, making them easier to procure and use. Instead of a “tool-centric” approach to getting work done (chat vs video vs document sharing vs online meetings vs whiteboards and so on), it will become a platform play.”  

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Ravi Bhogaraju says, “It is becoming clear that companies and individuals are grappling with three issues – the changing size and composition of the workforce; the productivity of those who are driving the businesses; and attracting, reskilling and engaging the broader workforce.” These are the challenges that tech providers will have to help organisations with.  

Google Upgrades its Collaboration Platform

The Google Workspace was launched in October last year, and last week saw the tech giant announce a series of upgrades and innovations to better support the flexibility needs of frontline and remote workers.

Workspace is Google’s office productivity suite comprising video conferencing, cloud storage, collaboration tools, security and management controls built into a cohesive environment. The new features announced by Google Workspaces include Focus Time to avoid distractions by limiting notifications, recurring out-of-office and location indicators to make colleagues aware if the person is working from home or office, support for Google voice assistant in workplaces, second-screen experiences to support multiple devices, and features for frontline workers designed to help mobile employees collaborate and communicate better with the rest of the organisation. Google is also working on a trimmed down version of Google Workspace – Google Workspace Essentials – which will provide support for Chat, Jamboard, and Calendar. Workspace is estimated to have 2.6 billion monthly active users.

Bhogaraju says, “One of the issues that is fast emerging as significant is not just the employee experience or customer experience but the complexity of the digital workplace as platforms introduce newer and advanced features. In the end, there has to be simplicity, clarity, and a clear focus on the goals – not just an overload of features that makes life more complex for the employee. It would be critical to enable these features thoughtfully and reskill staff adequately so that the adoption and impact to business process is felt in their day-to-day activities.”

Workspace Transformation across Industries

With many of Google’s employees and developers working remotely, the company has first-hand experience of the challenges of remote working and is leveraging the experience. Google Workspace is also working on custom solutions for various industries. In Retail for example,  Woolworths, rolled out Google Workspace and Chrome for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate in real-time and adopt custom-made applications linked to global servers to allow managers to log and address tickets from the shop floor itself. Similarly in Aviation, All Nippon Airways uses Google Workspace to allow pilots, cabin attendants, HR and finance staff to communicate and collaborate in real-time across the globe, using Google Meet, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides from their PCs, smartphones or tablets. Google retains its focus on the Education industry – Google Workspace Education Fundamentals is free for all qualifying institutions. Solutions such as Google’s Classroom, Teach from Anywhere hub, roster sync, mobile grading and EdTech tools aim to enable better learning and teaching experience for students and educators.

Tech Companies Revamping their Collaboration Offerings

With more companies rethinking their work policies, leaders in the collaboration space are also stepping up their game to evolve their offerings for the hybrid norm. Microsoft’s Viva  unifies the experience across Teams and Microsoft 365 for employee communications, wellbeing, learning and knowledge discovery. Similarly, Zoom too has upgraded and integrated various utility, sharing, and management features to support a hybrid workforce. Tech companies are being forced to invest in creating next-generation tools to stay relevant, as Future of Work models continue to shift and evolve.  

As tech companies evolve their capabilities, Bhogaraju warns organisations on how they should leverage them. “While technology companies continue to deliver feature rich suites – in reality the uptake and embedding of these programs into the day-to-day business processes is still in its early stages. Business, HR and IT teams continue to struggle. They tend to operate within independent thought silos and there is limited consensus on which feature is really needed and how it can add to the productivity and efficiency. Without this crucial context and an effective change management program – they remain rich features and not impactful ones.”


The hybrid workplace model is gaining popularity in 2021. Check out Ecosytsm’s top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021. Signup for Free to download the report.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
2
Microsoft Launches Viva to Improve Remote Employee Experience

5/5 (4)

5/5 (4)

Much has been written (and discussed on webinars) about the demands of managing the work-from-anywhere experience. We were all thrown into this last year, and are still working our way through the challenges. For most employees it has been a positive experience – but there is still a lot more we can and should do to improve experiences for employees and their managers.

Workplace Analytics Gains Significance

At the start of 2020, my colleague Audrey William and I discussed the need for workplace analytics when predicting workplace trends for the year, but the pandemic delayed many of these investments. As working from home (or from anywhere) becomes a long-term trend, we are learning that managers need tools to better empower their employees to deliver what the business needs. There are many reports of employees working overtime; working longer days; not taking breaks; being in back-to-back meetings for days on end; skipping meals; and wearing themselves out.

There are many benefits of remote work – employees have the freedom to manage the day as they choose, they have no commute and (conceptually) more harmony between work and home duties. But there are also many processes that are harder. It is not as easy to find the right person to connect to or learn from, get the best information or answer to a question, and get coaching and new skills. Managers need to understand their employee work experience because they don’t sit with or supervise them all day. Self-service for employees used to mean walking around the office and having a conversation or meeting. Today, we need to make these outcomes easier for every worker regardless of location.

Microsoft Lauches Viva

Microsoft has announced the release of Viva – a new product suite to help businesses overcome these challenges. They have published a “Future of Employee Experience” video here as part of the launch – but don’t watch it – or if you do, be prepared to be disappointed when you see the actual products… The good news is that we have moved from oval-shaped phones in Future of Work videos in 2000 (because all web content is designed for round screens right?) to transparent phones in 2010 (who needs to be able to see what’s on the screen?) to virtual screens in Future of Work videos in 2021… Guess they’ll never become a reality either!

Based off the early reviews and commentary about Viva, I believe Microsoft is really onto a winner here:

  • Managers need better analytics about how their team spends their days and employees need insights as to how to increase their productivity or find a better balance in their life.
  • Employees need to find the people and information in their business to connect with and learn from – how often do employees reach out to others to ask for help or information when the answers they were looking for weren’t too far away. This information needs to be easier to find – even surfaced to employees before they go looking for it.  
  • Everyone in your business needs to keep learning within their flow of work – the formal training programs offered by most businesses today are useless if employees are too busy to take the course.
  • Business leaders need to drive cultural change more effectively or support their broader business initiatives by linking employees with the information and insights that can help reinforce or change organisational culture.

Viva should support these outcomes. Microsoft is partnering with many other businesses to make this work (systems integrators, training providers, workplace and HR platforms etc). If the products deliver as promised, they might provide the missing link that many businesses need today to keep their employees safe, productive, happy and connected.


Learn about the factors that have been accelerating the shift towards the new ways of working. The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021 are available for download from the Ecosystm platform. Signup for Free to download the report.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
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Why “Convenience” is a Security Feature

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Ecosystm recently partnered with Asavie to conduct a study on the opportunity and outlook for the “Branch of One“. The results of the study make us question whether organisations’ mobile security strategies are appropriate for the evolving business priorities, the ever-changing threat landscape, and a seamless employee experience.

To answer this question, organisations will need to examine their security frameworks.

COVID-19 has forced organisations to realise that cybersecurity is not only a business enabler – it is a business prerequisite. Our research shows that businesses world-wide no longer see the pandemic as something that we need to get through to get back to “business as usual”. Most acknowledge that remote working and access from anywhere will be the new normal for many employees and that means they need to revisit and reprioritise their spending and their focus.

In many cases, existing procedures and policies are not sufficient to cover this new working environment – and often the policies have not been clearly communicated to all employees. Moreover, many organisations still rely on legacy WAN technologies that make secure and flexible access difficult – something that my colleague, Tim Sheedy touched upon in his recent blog post.

The choice of WAN technology is an important part of any mobile security strategy, but so is the approach to securing endpoints on the WAN and – what is perhaps the weakest link – the behaviour of employees.

The Global CxO Study 2020: The Future of Secure Office Anywhere showed us that when it came to mobile security, organisations were mostly worried about phishing and malware – but 4 out of the top 5 mobile security concerns involved human error and failure to follow corporate IT security policies and guidelines (Figure 1).

There is a need to focus on mitigation strategies

Time to Evaluate New Mobile Security Features

This highlights the importance of a couple of “security features” that many IT organisations still tend to overlook – convenience and ease-of-use. When employees ignore IT policies, bypass security steps, use unsanctioned personal devices to process work data etc., they tend to do so for mainly one reason: because it is convenient for them. Employees just want to get the work done and following security protocols, making sure that devices have the right security software installed etc. is simply seen as too cumbersome or as slowing down the work process.

To counter this, ease-of-use and convenience need to an integral part of any security framework – especially when employees are no longer working in the office. IT managers tend to be a bit ego-centric when they think of these terms, i.e. for them ease-of-use relates to their experience in implementing and running the systems, but they really need to be extending the ease to their users – the employees – as well.

This is where Branch of One comes to the fore. It offers the convenience of employees not having to install or connect software or hardware on the mobile device and it allows administrators to easily scale and manage their mobile security framework. Security frameworks do not have to be in the way of getting the work done. Branch of One shows us that comprehensive mobile security can be nearly seamless.


Download the report based on ‘The Global CxO Study 2020: The Future of the Secure Office Anywhere’, conducted by Ecosystm on behalf of Asavie. The report presents the key findings of the study and analyses the market perceptions of Office Anywhere and the need for a ‘Branch of One’, which will be the foundation of enterprise mobile security in the future.

Download Report

 

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