Verizon’s long-term strategy is to make mobile 5G a Wi-Fi killer. While analysts don’t see that happening this decade, it is technically possible for the next-generation wireless technology to drive Wi-Fi into obsolescence.
Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, recently entered the ongoing 5G vs. Wi-Fi tech debate when he predicted the latter’s demise. Dunne said his company’s upcoming 5G service would eventually make high-speed internet connectivity ubiquitous for its customers.
“In the world of 5G millimeter wave deployment, we don’t see the need for Wi-Fi in the future,” Dunne told attendees at a Citigroup global technology conference in Las Vegas.
Today, the millimeter wave (MM wave) spectrum used to transmit 5G signals is often blocked by physical objects like buildings and trees, making service unreliable. Verizon believes its engineers can circumvent those limitations within 5 to 7 years, bringing 5G wireless broadband to its 150 million customers.
Most analysts agree that Wi-Fi will remain the preferred technology for indoor wireless networking through the current decade. Beyond that, it’s technically possible for 5G services to start eroding Wi-Fi’s market dominance, particularly as the number of 5G mobile and IoT devices rises over the next several years.
“If the CEO of a major cellular carrier says something, I will take that seriously,” said Craig Mathias, principal analyst at Farpoint Group. “He could be dead wrong over the long run, but, technically, it could work.”
As an alternative to Wi-Fi, Verizon could offer small mobile base stations, such as specially designed picocells and femtocells, to carry 5G signals from the office and home to the carrier’s small cell base stations placed on buildings, lampposts or poles. The small cells would send traffic to the carriers’ core network.
Early uses for 5G
Initially, 5G could become a better option for specific uses. Examples include sports stadiums that have an atypically high number of mobile devices accessing the internet at the same time. That type of situation requires a massive expenditure in Wi-Fi gear and software that could prove more expensive than 5G technology, said Brandon Butler, an analyst at IDC.
Another better-than-Wi-Fi use for 5G would be in a manufacturing facility. Those locations often have machinery that needs an ultra-low latency connection in an area where a radio signal is up against considerable interference, Butler said.
Nevertheless, Butler stops short of predicting a 5G-only world, advising enterprises to plan for a hybrid world instead. They should look to Wi-Fi and 5G as the best indoor and outdoor technology, respectively.
“The real takeaway point here is that enterprises should plan for a hybrid world into the future,” Butler said.
Ultimately, how far 5G goes in replacing Wi-Fi will depend on whether the expense of switching is justified by reducing overall costs and receiving unique services. To displace Wi-Fi, 5G will have to do much more than match its speed.
“It’ll come down to cost and economics, and the cost and economics do not work when the performance is similar,” said Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at IDC.
Today, Wi-Fi provides a relatively easy upgrade path. That’s because, collectively, businesses have already spent billions of dollars over the years on Wi-Fi access points, routers, security and management tools. They have also hired the IT staff to operate the system.
Verizon 5G Home
While stressing the importance of mobile 5G vs. Wi-Fi, Dunne lowered expectations for the fixed wireless 5G service for the home that the carrier launched in 2018. Verizon expected it’s 5G Home service to eventually compete with the TV and internet services provided by cable companies.
Today, 5G Home, which is available in parts of five metropolitan markets, has taken a backseat to Verizon’s mobile 5G buildout. “It’s very much a mobility strategy with a secondary product of home,” Dunne said.
Ghai of IDC was not surprised that Verizon would lower expectations for 5G Home. Delivering the service nationwide would have required spending vast amounts of money to blanket neighborhoods with small cells.
Verizon likely didn’t see enough interest for 5G Home among consumers to justify the cost, Ghai said. “It probably hasn’t lived up to the promise.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce customers see the value in the Trailhead learning platform and its new mobile app.
Trailhead Go for iOS is one of two new mobile apps that Salesforce announced here at Dreamforce 2019. Trailhead Go is a mobile extension of Trailhead, Salesforce’s free customer success learning platform enabling Salesforce users and nonusers to follow different paths to learn Salesforce skills. It now also offers Amazon Partner Connect to learn how to build Amazon Alexa skills and AWS. By the end of the year, Trailhead plans to roll out live and on-demand training videos.
Salesforce provides customer success tools to users before they even become customers. For most businesses, this model is flipped, providing these tools to users after they sign contracts, said Gerry Murray, a research director at IDC.
“It’s not only about how the product works, it’s about teaching the line- of-business people to elevate their skills or further their careers in and out of their companies,” Murray said. “Trailhead Go makes it all that more convenient.”
Making education accessible
A skills gap costs companies $1.3 trillion each year, said Sarah Franklin, general manager of Trailhead, in a keynote. While many workers think they can fill that gap with education, it has become more and more inaccessible. Over the last 20 years, student tuition has increased by 200%, and student debt has increased by 163%.
Anyone who has access to the Trailhead Go app can learn, said Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research.
“You don’t have to go to school; you don’t need a computer; you just need a phone,” he said.
Customers see benefits
Supermums, based in London, equips moms with Salesforce skills through a combination of training, mentoring, work experience and job search support to get them into the Salesforce ecosystem. Trainees go through a customized six-month program where they earn 50 to 100 Trailhead badges. Trainees can benefit from the Trailhead app because they’ll be able to learn on the go, making it easier to fit into their schedules, said Heather Black, a certified Salesforce administrator and CEO of Supermums.
“[Trailhead Go] will help me complete more trails and fit it into my life while I’m busy supporting a team and juggling kids,” she said. “Trailhead Go makes this accessible to more people.”
Trailhead has also branched out beyond technical skills and into functional skills, Black said.
“It helps you develop as a person, as well as help you be successful in a Salesforce career,” she said.
Trailhead is great for helping learn the basics when people are entering the CRM world, said Sayantani Mitra, a data scientist at Goby Inc., a company that specializes in accounts payable automation.
“Read them, learn them, ask the community, ask people questions, do them multiple times,” Mitra said.
SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce debuted new iOS apps today, including a long-overdue Salesforce mobile app makeover and the first mobile Trailhead learning app, Trailhead Go. Salesforce also updated its iOS mobile SDK for third-party app developers to take advantage of Swift, an Apple coding language.
The Apple focus continues from Dreamforce 2018. Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to join Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on stage for a fireside chat Tuesday at Dreamforce. The fresh iOS apps push is Salesforce’s response to more and more customers doing work on iPhones and iPads, said Constellation Research analyst Nicole France. Making better iOS apps is no longer a nice-to-have, but a got-to-have.
Previously, the Salesforce Mobile app could be described essentially as a click-intensive, sometimes slower desktop version of Salesforce shoehorned into a phone-app interface, analysts and users said. The new version will offer iOS-specific features and changes to the user interface.
Front-line salespeople can add more CRM data
Salesforce’s new focus is on making its interface friendlier to the front-line salespeople who use it all day, France said. Previous versions looked more manager-centric, with more focus on dashboarding sales-team data at a glance.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research
She added that, like many SaaS vendors currently re-evaluating the look and feel of their platforms, Salesforce’s new interface philosophy shows that it had focused too much on making the app attractive to buyers, not users. Reducing clicks for front-line salespeople will make them more inclined to enter the data that their managers need into the app.
“It’s what we’ve all come to expect in our lives as consumers, and frankly if Salesforce Mobile isn’t as easy and simple to use as other iPhone apps, people are disinclined to use it effectively — or at all,” France said. “Even in a business context.”
Trailhead Go embraces a new generation
Making the first Salesforce Trailhead mobile app, Trailhead Go, usable on phones and tablets can only enhance its function as a recruiting tool for Salesforce admins and developers, France said. While Generation Xers and older Salesforce users might not see the value of consuming sometimes-technical Salesforce learning content ported to phone and tablet interfaces, younger audiences will.
The free Trailhead app works well to develop needed experts for Salesforce customers like Workfront, a SaaS project management and employee collaboration platform. Heidi Melin, chief marketing officer at Workfront, said she sees the mobile version as a way to keep that pipeline of new experts flowing.
“They’re training a future generation how to leverage Salesforce,” Melin said. “That’s how you know when an application platform has scale, when you start to see the need for [the Salesforce] skill set in the marketplace. That’s huge.”
Melin said she is also looking forward to seeing more Salesforce mobile app integrations with partners like Totango, which retrieves CRM data for a particular Workfront customer and summarizes it in Slack. Melin uses those tools to get a quick snapshot of an account’s health and renewal date, and to do it without logging into Salesforce’s desktop or mobile apps, she said.
Also announced with the made-over Salesforce Mobile and new Trailhead Go are updates to the iOS mobile app-development SDK introduced earlier this year. Optimized for Swift, an Apple coding language growing in popularity with iOS app builders, the SDK will help developers create apps that better take advantage of iOS features and its interface.
Adobe Sign updates this week brought new features supporting mobile devices and new integrations with Microsoft cloud products including SharePoint, Dynamics, PowerApps and Flow, Teams and Azure.
According to Mike Prizament, senior product marketing manager at Adobe, the company emphasized improving user experience on mobile because nearly half of its users start the signing process on their phones. “If 50% of people check their email, and then they try to start signing a document on their phone, we want it to be as easy as possible,” he said.
The Adobe Sign updates include the following:
Improved mobile signing experience: Adobe Sign enables users to zoom in on areas they need to sign and provides mobile-friendly navigation buttons that guide the signer through required fields. The company said these functionalities are available on mobile web and don’t require users to download an app.
New home screen interface: The Adobe Sign home screen has a new design intended to make the main e-signature tools more visible and accessible. The tools let users send out a document for signatures, track document status and manage the signing process. Users can send documents from the Adobe Sign home screen for people to sign instead of emailing the document or sending paper copies, according to the company.
New manage page: The new page lets managers responsible for sending documents for signatures track or modify the process. The user can check to whom the documents were sent, determine whether a recipient opened the document yet, change or cancel recipients and archive the documents.
Adobe Sign allows two different levels of account sharing on the manage page: view only and full access. The view-only sharing mode allows the main manager to share the account to team members so they are given access to only view the status of the task. The full-access sharing mode gives complete control to team members to take over the manager’s account in case the person is taking a vacation or leaving the company, according to Adobe.
Users can swap back and forth between accounts in a drop-down menu on the manage page.
Integrations with Microsoft cloud productivity products
Adobe Sign has updated integrations with the following Microsoft products:
Microsoft SharePoint: Users can create and embed digital forms that can be filled, signed and reused. The update is intended to help customers collect information from a large number of people inside and outside the company. Data from the forms is automatically saved and mapped back to a SharePoint list.
Microsoft Dynamics 365: E-signatures works with Dynamics 365 Sales in more languages, including German, French and Japanese.
Microsoft PowerApps and Power Automate in the Government Community Cloud: Users can add signing workflows when a new document is uploaded in SharePoint, then route final documents and create an audit trail to OneDrive/SharePoint.
Microsoft Teams: Team members can send documents for signatures and manage, track and get notifications for the status of important documents. The Adobe Sign integration in Teams is certified as part of the Microsoft 365 Certification program, ensuring that enterprise data privacy and security are protected from third-party developed applications in Microsoft 365.
Microsoft Azure: Adobe Sign is now available in Microsoft Azure in Europe and stores all data, content and information within the EU.
Microsoft Azure Active Directory: Microsoft Azure Active Directory enterprise customers can use single sign-on to send Adobe Sign to their employees via the Adobe admin console within 30 minutes.
“Signature is a key component to identity, and identity is a key component to trusted commerce. Adobe has a huge potential to leverage over 1 billion PDF users in the future of legal signing authority,” said R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research.
He said the latest integrations with Microsoft products will enable tools such as Dynamics 365 Sales, Microsoft SharePoint, Teams and other apps to take advantage of signature from Adobe.
Wang said Adobe ultimately competes with DocuSign, a cloud service providing e-signature technology.
Adobe sees a big potential still ahead for the market of e-signatures, citing IDC research sponsored by Adobe that found 80% of enterprise document processes still rely on paper. “There’s still a huge opportunity there, and this is a big area that Adobe Sign looks to solve together with Adobe Document Cloud,” Prizament said.
Microsoft’s connected car platform delivers a mobile datacenter to your driveway
The connected car revolution isn’t coming — it’s here. Going to a meeting, and have a conference call on the way? Your ride’s digital assistant will help you plan a route blessedly free of tunnels and drops in connectivity that could interfere. And while you drive, the car will help you stay in your lane.
Leading this effort on the engineering front at Microsoft is Tara Prakriya, General Manager for Azure IoT Mobility and Connected Vehicles. This team of dozens is working with the two largest industry players, Volkswagen Group and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, to create cars featuring unprecedented levels of interactivity.
“What our connected vehicle platform gives our clients is truly a digital chassis to achieve scale and efficiency in developing and delivering value to their customers,” Prakriya said. “Our customers are navigating a digital transformation of the industry and this digital chassis helps them absorb and fully take advantage of the new opportunities available in the market in a global way, including China.”
“What our customers look for in the partnership from Microsoft is not just a technology vendor, but a strategic partnership to help the full digital transformation, cultural transformation and market transformation that need to work in lock step. It’s a tall order, which is why we work with our customers to figure out what this is going to look like.”
Our connected vehicle platform gives our clients a digital chassis to achieve scale and efficiency in developing and delivering value to their customers.
“Pretty much everybody that’s on the team is really excited about this space,” said Larry Sullivan, co-head of the team with Prakriya and a veteran Microsoft engineer. “I think Tara brings a lot of that energy and the team gives that energy back as well. We’re not a huge team, but we’re really motivated, and we’re really fired up about helping our customers do business in a really positive way.”
Microsoft’s automotive initiatives engage such corporate partners as TomTom, Cubic Telecom, Moovit, DSA and Faurecia. They also leverage Microsoft’s work on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the company’s Azure cloud computing service. Prakriya believes it’s helpful to think of IoT as the information of things.
“The digital feedback loop is the term that we use at Microsoft,” Prakriya said. “IoT in many ways represents the digital feedback loop of physical things, physical spaces, physical environment and what products actually do in the marketplace. There are lots of decisions that our business customers need to make that IoT information can make a significant contribution to.
“And, once those decisions are made, there is new information, and that needs to be communicated as a feedback loop back to those physical environments, physical products, physical consumers and physical employees. The opportunity in connected vehicles, and mobility as a whole, is to be on the edge of getting the data so that we can do amazing things and then deliver it back to the edge again. What then connects the stationary things, like smart buildings, with smart transportation and mobility is Azure Maps.”
A car, Prakriya said, has plenty in common with other consumer electronics products: “You want experiences to become easy. You want the cars and the system to anticipate what your needs are. There is a lot of ease of use and delight that can be had for the consumers — both the drivers and the passengers. The cool challenge with delivering a connected vehicle platform is simplifying the complexities of what is really a mobile datacenter on wheels so that these experiences are easier to create, deploy and refine. Having a single connected vehicle and maps platform that underpins consumer experiences in the vehicle and on their phones, providing driving assistance and mobility as a service, goes a long way towards this goal.”
Microsoft’s work in the automotive space is about helping each customer create a differentiated set of integrated services while taking advantage of a consistent, robust, flexible, global and secure digital chassis for scale. “They have different brand promises to their consumers,” Prakriya said, “and so as a result, the features that they are really thinking about and the digital value that they are trying to deliver to their customers are different. We are taking care of the boring stuff so that they can really think about what their brand promise is and deliver it.”
She points out that automakers are making these promises and creating these systems in the face of not one, not two, but four simultaneous upheavals in the industry. The first is basic digital connectivity, followed closely by the use of artificial intelligence — for example, in fighting driver distraction, among other applications. Then there are shared-vehicle services, and the gradual electrification of cars and trucks as manufacturers move away from fossil fuels, which will have impacts across the supply chain and all through the vehicle life cycle.
“It is an enormous amount of change that we know our customers are thinking about constantly,” Prakriya said, “so this is a lot of the reason why we created the set of platforms for IoT Mobility. We are very engaged with our customers because it’s so exciting to watch them navigate this. And if we can play any part in that navigation, it’s pretty wonderful.”
To further complicate matters, all of the team’s major customers are also working on driverless vehicles. “Azure’s storage and compute teams, along with the AI teams, and the devops teams, together have an excellent story for building your own autonomous driving models,” she said. “Azure has a pretty great end-to-end template and methodology that helps customers, from getting their big data onto Azure all the way through to working with ecosystem partners to be on Azure for things like simulation as well as collecting data from production vehicles to assist in validation.
“We work with a number of large customers on building their own autonomous driving models on Azure. Fully autonomous vehicles are, of course, more than just a technical problem. There are legal and regulatory considerations. In the meantime, assisted driving models are rapidly improving, and we are excited to work with our customers to deploy these models to vehicles using our connected vehicle platform and create a digital feedback loop.”
“Today, this data informs cutting-edge driver-assisted features like automatic braking, advanced cruise control and lane assist. Tomorrow, the information will be the backbone of autonomy. The leader in that space, bar none, is Microsoft,” wrote analyst Jon Markman in a recent Forbes article.
There is also an increasing focus on Azure Maps to keep up with the demands of multi-modal routing, HD Maps and fresh updates that connect ride share partners with map making partners. In addition, Azure Maps is an important pillar in geo-spatial analytics to help create new value for customers.
Prakriya “really understands the tech and the business and how those things come together,” co-head of the team, Sullivan said. “She is fantastic as a counterpart.”
Both Prakriya and Sullivan say they consider themselves “two in a box” as managers — even though he’s Texan and she’s not, he’s kind of a car guy and she drives a non-connected minivan that’s the same age as her 14-year-old son. They’re both fast talkers who laugh easily.
“We have a great time,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of fun. This is an exciting industry. It’s really going through a bunch of changes and we feel well positioned to help, but like anything, it’s got a degree of insanity, and we have a lot of fun with just, ‘All right, what’s the craziness of the day?'”
Yet Prakriya’s scientific approach — she holds nine patents — persists even after she leaves the office. It extends to life with her son and husband, who works in the Microsoft Business and Applications Group.
“I am a crock pot maven,” she said. “There is almost nothing I cannot cook in a crock pot. It is the only way our family survives. A lot of Indian cooking works really well in the crock pot, baking as well — it is amazingly easy to bake in a crock pot.
Microsoft’s work in the automotive space is about helping each corporate customer create a differentiated set of services.
Prakriya and Sullivan walk along a woodsy trail on Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus.
“I joke that my aim is to bend the space-time continuum of figuring out how we eat as a family, and with the slow cooker, we have the option of stretching out the interval between when I cook and when the meal needs to be ready. I also like the whole end-to-end supply chain of food. It’s also about optimizing the shopping list, strategic use of the freezer, and considering the whole process all the way down to the dishes. It’s kind of fun.”
Both at home and at work, she pursues a hobby: knitting. She’s a contributor to Knit-A-Square, a South African charity that collects knitted squares and assembles them into blankets for vulnerable and orphaned children, many of whom are affected by HIV/AIDS. She said that knitting is the perfect accompaniment to a conference call.
“We do a lot of them because our customers are in Europe,” she said, “and they are kind of all in different places, right? Knitting keeps me away from the keyboard because it’s easy to get distracted. It is a way to keep my fingers active so I can focus.”
And for Prakriya, Sullivan and the team, focus is key — because there’s always another question to answer from another angle.
“Just connecting things does not solve the big challenges,” Prakriya said. “There is definitely a lot of work to do. We are trying to provide the platforms to make that work easier. We have great support from our management chain. We are aligned all the way up and down with our wickedly smart compatriots in business development — shout out to [Executive Vice President of Business Development] Peggy Johnson’s team — as well as marketing, teams in the field, as well as PR. And our close relationship with our partners and customers makes the work exciting and fun.
“What Larry and I and the extended IoT Mobility team are doing is a shining example of everything about the fantastic Microsoft culture at work. It’s about solving the right problems the right way, in an aligned manner, so that the best people who understand the problem from different dimensions can come together and achieve something really great, and help our customers achieve something that is frankly even greater.”
ServiceNow rolled out the latest version of its flagship Now Platform highlighted by a mobile application that allows remote users to access core capabilities of the enterprise workflow product.
The Now Platform New York release, which works with Apple and Android devices, was motivated by the company’s own users, who increasingly demand mobile-optimized tools to make a wide range of tasks easier for remote users, from ordering computers to approving purchase orders to making travel request.
While ServiceNow users wanted these remote capabilities, they didn’t want a slew of new applications to accomplish these tasks.
“We see enterprises bogged down by app overload meaning there are just too many applications each helping with separate workloads,” said CJ Desai, Service Now’s chief product officer. “We are trying to remove the friction associated with that as it relates to everyday work-related task.”
One analyst believes the timing of the New York Now Platform is fortuitous given the needs of not just the corporate world, but consumers’ growing need to use a number of mobile technologies.
“We are a mobile society in general, but with corporate customers’ increased focus on IT operations and LOBs, there are a lot of intersection points where it makes sense to drive more automated workloads from a mobile environment,” said Stephen Elliot, analyst at IDC.
Desai added that one of the goals of the new release is to create “consumer-like” mobile experiences for corporate users to make them more productive inside the office.
The New York release also includes a built-in onboarding application that works in concert with the mobile application, and that also taps into all the core capabilities of the Now Platform. The new offering combines all the necessary tasks that span multiple departments including IT, human resources, facilities, finance and legal as part of the process for bringing on new employees.
Stephen ElliotVice president of management software and DevOps, IDC
Elliot said the addition of mobile technology to the Now Platform is an essential step in the maturity of the offering for both users and ServiceNow as a company, especially as the company continues to expand into new areas such IT operations, finance and human resources — markets where you need a stronger mobile component.
“Different business processes like onboarding employees is a big hassle to almost every company out there,” Elliot said. “The easier you make it to implement processes like that increases the value of the platform.”
ServiceNow focusing on HR, finance workflows
Earlier this year ServiceNow redoubled its efforts around customer workflows focusing more on specific vertical markets as a way to expand the opportunities for its Now Platform.
“Most people know us for our IT workflows,” said Farrell Hough, senior vice president of customer workflow products at ServiceNow. “But we are segmenting that business out and leveraging the strengths we have in the human resources, financial and telco markets.”
ServiceNow has made improvements to the platform’s natural language understanding (NLU) by integrating it tightly with its Virtual Agent. Through NLU, workers can interact with the Virtual Agent by using simple terms to find the answers to problems themselves, rather than using the IT help desk.
Company officials said this capability works in tandem with ServiceNow’s existing Predictive Intelligence technology to improve the delivery of products and services to employees.
PayPal plans to use the new offering as a technology backbone to connect its engineers to all of its internal operations and create a centralized hub for resources including a number of self-service tools.
PayPal engineers use a number of applications to manage infrastructure, but the new version of Now Platform provides an opportunity to have just one platform that connects all of its digital workflows across all their systems of record and applications, according to a statement attributed to Dan Torunian, PayPal’s VP or employee technology.
The New York release is available now, with the ServiceNow Mobile and Onboarding applications also available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Customer retention platform CleverTap has collaborated with mobile consultancy Phiture to create a new acknowledgement, interest and conversion framework to better understand customer interactions.
To enable app companies to understand the depth and intensity of user interactions, the framework categorizes levels of user activity into one of three tiers of engagement: acknowledgment, interest or conversion (AIC), with conversion holding the highest value. CleverTap intends the customer experience analytics framework to help marketers improve user retention strategies and move customers from the acknowledgement layer through to the conversion layer.
With the AIC framework, marketers can recognize which in-app activities contribute the most to revenue growth. Marketers can choose which customer activities trigger classification into which layer for their specific app.
For the acknowledgement layer, triggers might include launching the app, opening an app-generated email or interacting with push notifications. Interest triggers include activity with more intent, but not quite at conversion yet, like sharing in-app links, scrolling through a news feed or moving through different pages within the app.
The conversion layer triggers include activities that suggest users are committed to the app and have taken actions, such as making a purchase, booking a flight, posting a message to a news feed or completing a level in a game.
Gartner noted customer engagement center interaction analytics as a top priority in its 2019 Hype Cycle for Customer Service and Customer Engagement report. According to Gartner, visualizing the customer journey and predicting customer behavior are essential abilities of service leaders and agents to bolster customer experience and, ultimately, company growth.
CleverTap and Phiture’s framework competes with products such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Mixpanel and Smartlook that also offer tools and dashboards that break down customer interaction and provide insight for better marketing.
CleverTap claims that typical dashboard metrics such as daily active users and monthly active users are not enough to see a clear picture of engagement and don’t provide actionable insight. The AIC framework incorporates the relative value of actions to inform user engagement strategy, according to Phiture.
The AIC framework accounts for the fact that users may not stay within one level and may move from interest to acknowledgement, or vice versa, or may even exist within multiple layers; tracking this movement in addition to activity contributes to informing and improving campaign strategies, according to the vendors.
Bluescape has launched its newest mobile app to enable users to access their content on the go.
The app, available in the Apple App Store and Google Play store, connects to Bluescape workspaces from mobile devices, such as cellphones or tablets. According to the vendor, it enables users to give presentations without a laptop by launching a Bluescape session from the app onto larger touchscreens.
Users can also access their content and workspace anytime and from anywhere and search and view content. According to Bluescape, the app provides a visual collaboration workspace that integrates day-to-day applications, content and tools.
The Bluescape platform is cloud-based software, with applications designed for collaboration in the workplace. Available applications include mobile and personal workstations, huddle rooms, innovation centers, collaboration suites, conference rooms, training rooms, executive briefing centers, command centers and control centers. Search, messaging and file sharing are also built into the platform.
Bluescape lists professionals in jobs such as architecture, consulting, designing, filmmaking, marketing and product development as ideal users for its product, as these are often groups of people working collaboratively and visually.
Bluescape is among the vendors offering visual collaboration software, which works hand in hand with digital collaborative whiteboards. Vendor Mural provides separate workspaces for teams and enables scaling for companywide processes, with frameworks for Agile, Lean and Design Thinking methods. Custom frameworks are also available.
Competitor Miro touts its product development, user experience research and design, and Lean and Agile capabilities, as well as its enterprise-grade security. Available applications include Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Slack, OneDrive and Microsoft Teams.
An Office 365 migration can improve an end user’s experience by making it easier to work in a mobile environment while also keeping Office 365 features up to date. But if the migration is done without the end users in mind, it can lead to headaches for IT admins.
At a Virtual Technology User Group (VTUG) event in Westbrook, Maine, about 30 attendees piled into a Westbrook Middle School classroom to hear tips on how to transition to Office 365 smoothly.
Office 365 is Microsoft’s subscription-based line of Office applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and Excel. Rather than downloaded onto a PC, Office 365 apps are run in the cloud, enabling users to access their files wherever they are.
“As IT admins, we need to make the digital transformation technology seem easy,” said Jay Gilchrist, business development manager for Presidio Inc., a cloud, security and digital infrastructure vendor in New York and a managed service provider for Microsoft. Gilchrist and his Presidio colleague, enterprise software delivery architect Michael Cessna, led the session, outlining lessons they’ve learned from previous Office 365 migrations.
Importance of communication and training
Their first lessons included communicating with end users, keeping a tight migration schedule and the importance of training.
“You want to make it clear that you’re not just making a change for change’s sake,” Gilchrist said. “Communicate these changes as early as possible and identify users who may need a little more training.”
One practical tip he offered is to reserve the organization’s name in Office 365 early to ensure it’s available.
Jay GilchristBusiness development manager, Presidio
Conducting presentations, crafting targeted emails and working to keep the migration transparent can help IT admins keep end users up to date and enthused about the transition.
“End users are not information professionals,” Cessna said. “They don’t understand what we understand and these changes are a big deal to them.”
Cessna and Gilchrist said that if IT admins want end users to adopt apps in Office 365, they’ll need to provide the right level of training. IT admins can do that by providing internal training sessions, using external resources such as SharePoint Training Sites, as well as letting users work with the apps in a sandbox environment. Training will help end users get used to how the apps work and address questions end users may have in real time, thereby reducing helpdesk tickets once the Office 365 migration is completed.
Governance and deployment
Before an Office 365 migration, IT admins need to have a governance of applications and deployment plan in place.
“Governance built within Microsoft isn’t really there,” Cessna said. “You can have 2,000 users and still have 4,500 Team sessions and now you have to manage all that data. It’s good to take care of governance at the beginning.”
Deployment of Office 365 is another aspect that IT admins need to tackle at the start of an Office 365 migration. They need to determine what versions are compatible with the organization’s OS and how the organization will use the product.
“It’s important to assess the digital environment, the OSes, what versions of Office are out there and ensure the right number of licenses,” Cessna said.
Securing and backing up enterprise data
One existing concern for organizations migrating from on-premises to an Office 365 cloud environment is security.
Microsoft provides tools that can help detect threats and secure an organization’s data. Microsoft offers Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a cloud-based email filtering service that helps protect against malware, Windows Defender ATP, an enterprise-grade tool to detect and respond to security threats, and Azure ATP, which accesses the on-premises Active Directory to identify threats.
Microsoft has also added emerging security capabilities such as passwordless log in, single-sign-on and multi-factor authentication to ensure data or files don’t get compromised or stolen during an Office 365 migration.
Regulated organizations such as financial institutions that need to retain data for up to seven years will need to back up Office 365 data, as Microsoft provides limited data storage capabilities, according to Cessna.
Microsoft backs up data within Office 365 for up to two years in some cases, and only for one month in other cases, leaving the majority of data backup to IT.
“[Microsoft] doesn’t give a damn about your data,” he said. “Microsoft takes care of the service, but you own the data.”
Picking the right license
Once the organization is ready for the migration, it’s important to choose the right Office 365 license, according to Gilchrist.
There are several ways for an organization to license an Office 365 subscription. Gilchrist said choosing the right one depends on the size of the organization and the sophistication of the organization’s IT department.
Smaller businesses can choose an option of licenses for 300 or less users, as well as options for add-ons like a desktop version of Office and advanced security features. The cost for enterprise licenses differs depending on the scope of the licenses and number of licenses needed, and educational and non-profit discounts on licenses are offered as well.
Other licensing options include Microsoft 365 bundles, which combine Office 365 with a Windows 10 deployment, or organizations could use Microsoft as a Cloud Solution Provider and have the company handle the heavy lifting of the Office 365 migration.
“There are different ways to do it. You just have to be aware of the best way to license for your business,” Gilchrist said.
Measuring success and adoption
Once completed, IT still has one more objective, and that’s to prove the worth of an Office 365 migration.
“This is critical and these migrations aren’t cheap,” Cessna said. “You want to show back to the business the ROI and what this new world looks like.”
To do that, IT admins will have to circle back to their end users. They can use tools such as Microsoft’s Standard Office 365 Usage Reports, Power BI Adoption reports or other application measurement software to pin down end user adoption and usage rates. They can provide additional training, if necessary.
“Projects fail because the end users aren’t happy,” Cessna said. “We don’t take them into account enough. Our end users are our customers and we need to make sure they’re happy.”