Matthew Finnegan

About the Author Matthew Finnegan


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’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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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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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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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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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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