Tag Archives: WorkForce

Kronos introduces its latest time clock, Kronos InTouch DX

Workforce management and HR software vendor Kronos this week introduced Kronos InTouch DX, a time clock offering features including individualized welcome screens, multilanguage support, biometric authentication and integration with Workforce Dimensions.

The new time clock is aimed at providing ease of use and more personalization for employees.

“By adding consumer-grade personalization with enterprise-level intelligence, Kronos InTouch DX surfaces the most important updates first, like whether a time-off request has been approved or a missed punch needs to be resolved,” said Bill Bartow, vice president and global product management at Kronos.

InTouch DX works with Workforce Dimensions, Kronos’ workforce management suite, so when a manager updates the schedule, employees can see those updates instantly on the Kronos InTouch DX and when employees request time off through the Kronos InTouch DX, managers are notified in Workforce Dimensions, according to the company.

Workforce Dimensions is mobile-native and accessible on smartphones and tablets.

Other features of InTouch DX include:

  • Smart Landing: Provides a personal welcome screen alerting users to unread messages, time-off approvals or requests, shifts swap and schedule updates.
  • Individual Mode: Provides one-click access to a user’s most frequent self-service tasks such as viewing their schedule, checking their accruals bank or transferring job codes.
  • My Time: Combines an individual’s timecard and weekly schedule, providing an overall view so that employees can compare their punches to scheduled hours to avoid errors.
  • Multilanguage support: Available for Dutch, English, French (both Canadian and French), German, Japanese, Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Danish, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Polish and Portuguese.
  • Optional biometric authentication: Available as an option for an extra layer of security or in place of a PIN number or a badge. The InTouch DX supports major employee ID Badge formats, as well as PIN/employee ID numbers.
  • Date and time display: Features an always-on date and time display on screen.
  • Capacitive touchscreen: Utilizes capacitive technology used in consumer electronic devices to provide precision and reliability.

“Time clocks are being jolted in the front of workers’ visibility with new platform capabilities that surpass the traditional time clock hidden somewhere in a corner. Biometrics, especially facial recognition, are key to accelerate and validate time punches,” said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

When it comes to purchasing a product like this, Mueller said organizations should look into a software platform. “[Enterprises] need to get their information and processes on it, it needs to be resilient, sturdy, work without power, work without connectivity and gracefully reconnect when possible,” he said.

Other vendors in the human capital management space include Workday, Paycor and WorkForce Software. Workday platform’s time-tracking and attendance feature works on mobile devices and provide real-time analytics to aid managers’ decisions. Paycor’s Time and Attendance tool offers a mobile punching feature that can verify punch locations and enable administrators to set location maps to ensure employees punch in or near the correct work locations. WorkForce’s Time and Attendance tool automates pay rules for hourly, salaried or contingent workforce.

Go to Original Article

Gen Z in the workforce both want and fear AI and automation

For Gen Z in the workforce, AI and automation are useful and time-saving tools, but also possible threats to job security.

Typically characterized as the demographic born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, Generation Z  is the first generation to truly grow up exclusively with modern technologies such as smart phones, social media and digital assistants.

Many Gen Z-ers first experienced Apple’s Siri, released in 2011, and then Amazon’s Alexa, introduced in 2014 alongside Amazon Echo, at a young age.

The demographic as a whole tends to have a strong understanding of the usefulness of AI and automation, said Terry Simpson, technical evangelist at Nintex, a process management and automation vendor

Gen Z in the workforce

Most Gen Z employees have confidence in AI and automation, Nintex found in a September 2019 report about a survey of 500 current and 500 future Gen Z employees. Some 88% of the survey takers said AI and automation can make their jobs easier.

This generation understands AI technology, Simpson said, and its members want more of it in the workplace.

“For most organizations, almost 68 percent of processes are not automated,” Simpson said. Automation typically replaces menial, repetitive tasks, so lack of automation leaves those tasks to be handled by employees.

Gen Z, Gen Z in the workforce, AI and automation
Gen Z wants more automation in the workplace, even as they fear it could affect job security.

For Gen Z in the workforce, a lack of automation can be frustrating, Simpson said, especially when Gen Z-ers are so used to the ease of digital assistants and automated programs in their personal lives. Businesses generally haven’t caught up to the AI products Gen Z-ers are using at home, he said.

Yet, even as Gen Z-ers have faith that AI and automation will help them in the workplace, they fear it, too.

Job fears

According to the Nintex report, 57% of those surveyed expressed concern that AI and automation could affect their job security.

“A lot of times you may be a Gen Z employee that automation could replace what you’re doing as a job function, and that becomes a risk,” Simpson said.

Everybody says I don’t want to lose my job to a robot, and then Outlook tells you to go to a meeting and you go.
Anthony ScriffignanoChief data scientist, Dun & Bradstreet

Still, he added, automation can help an organization as a whole, and can ease the employees’ workloads.

“Everybody says I don’t want to lose my job to a robot, and then Outlook tells you to go to a meeting and you go,” said Anthony Scriffignano, chief data scientist at Dun & Bradstreet.

Jobs that can be easily automated may eventually be given to an automated system, but AI will also create jobs, Scriffignano said.

As a young generation, Gen Z-ers may have less to fear than other generations, however.

Younger generations are coachable and more open to change than the older generations, Scriffignano said. They will be able to adapt better to new technologies, while also helping their employers adapt, too.

“Gen Z have time in their career to reinvent themselves and refocus” their skills and career goals to better adapt for AI and automation, Scriffignano said.

Go to Original Article

Trump HR plan may politicize federal workforce

The federal government’s HR operation may be one of the world’s largest, with responsibility for a federal workforce of 2.1 million. The Office of Personnel Management gives federal agencies policy expertise and HR technology advice. It is now embroiled in a debate about its future.

President Trump’s administration wants to merge OPM with the General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA manages federal real estate, but is also a center for technology expertise and creates vehicles for agencies to acquire technology and hire private sector professional services, including HR.

By merging OPM with GSA, the Trump administration said it will combine expertise, save about $23 million annually in administrative efficiencies and accelerate the modernizing of HR tech. But the proposal is generating a pushback from critics, who caution the move could fracture policy development and politicize employment decisions.

Splitting policy development between a handful of people in OMB and a group at GSA may make policies more likely to be driven by political concerns.
Jeffrey NealFormer chief human capital officer, Department of Homeland Security

The merger calls for giving federal workforce policy control to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The White House argued this change will help establish an enterprise-wide HR strategy for the federal government. The concern is this change will open the federal hiring to patronage where jobs could be awarded as election spoils.

“Splitting policy development between a handful of people in OMB and a group at GSA may make policies more likely to be driven by political concerns,” said Jeffrey Neal, former chief human capital officer for the Department of Homeland Security. He is a senior vice president at consulting and technology services provider ICF International Inc., in Fairfax, Va.

Moreover, Neal believes the plan could impede HR operations. “The merger would not give departments and agencies any authorities they do not already have and might impede the ability of the government to develop policies that could make the government more competitive in the labor market,” he said.

Federal workforce needs predictive analytics

Linda Springer, a former director of OPM, told lawmakers at a recent hearing about the proposal. She said OPM does need to improve some of its capabilities, such as “predictive analytics to anticipate the personnel management demands of the future and move to a proactive, rather than a reactive, posture.”

But Springer warned against the White House plan. It risks “tearing apart” an independent agency and putting it at risk of bad political practices, she said. 

“Is it reasonable for a White House office to issue policy guidance and review requests to appoint political appointees to competitive positions?” Springer said to lawmakers. “The proposal places federal personnel policy setting right back in a place where the spoils and patronage system had taken hold.”

House Democrats oppose the merger and recently voted to block the formation of OPM-GSA. A merger prohibition was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, a budget bill. The Senate has not acted on it.

OPM offers federal agencies acquisition assistance, which includes HR-related contract services. GSA awards contract vehicles for many of these services, “so an OPM-GSA merger would have little impact” on the contractors, said Ray Bjorklund, president of BirchGrove Consulting LLC, a federal contracting advisory firm.

OPM “must demonstrate certain aspects of its value to customer agencies,” Bjorklund said, otherwise agencies can do their own contracting. “I don’t think there will be much disruption in how the agencies contract for HR services,” he said, should the merger take place.

The “core value” of OPM is its policy expertise, and if the merger isn’t planned well, “some of the expertise now concentrated in OPM will get diluted,” Bjorklund said.

Go to Original Article

Ytica acquisition adds analytics to Twilio Flex cloud contact center

Twilio has acquired the startup Ytica and plans to embed its workforce optimization and analytics software into Twilio Flex, a cloud contact center platform set to launch later this year. Twilio will also sell Ytica’s products to competing contact center software vendors.

Twilio declined to disclose how much it paid for Ytica, but said the deal wouldn’t significantly affect its earnings in 2018. Twilio plans to open its 17th branch office in Prague, where Ytica is based.  

The acquisition comes as AI analytics has emerged as a differentiator in the expanding cloud contact center market and as Twilio — a leading provider of cloud-based communications tools for developers — prepares for the general release of its first prebuilt contact center platform, Twilio Flex.

Founded in 2017, Ytica sells a range of real-time analytics, reporting and performance management tools that contact center vendors can add to their platforms. In addition to Twilio, Ytica has partnerships with Talkdesk and Amazon Connect that are expected to continue.

Twilio is targeting Twilio Flex at large enterprises looking for the flexibility to customize their cloud contact centers. The platform launched in beta in March and is expected to be commercially released later this year.

The vendor’s communications platform as a service already supports hundreds of thousands of contact center agents globally. Twilio Flex places those same developer tools into the shell of a contact center dashboard preconfigured to support voice, text, video and social media channels.

The native integration of Ytica’s software should boost Twilio Flex’s appeal as businesses look for ways to save money and increase sales by automating the monitoring and management of contact center agents. 

Ytica’s portfolio includes speech analytics, call recording search, and real-time monitoring of calls and agent desktops. Businesses could use the technology to identify customer trends and to give feedback to agents.

Contact center vendors tout analytics in cloud

The marketing departments of leading contact center vendors have placed AI at the center of sales pitches this year, even though analysts say much of the technology is still in the early stages of usefulness.

This summer, Google unveiled an AI platform for building virtual agents and automating contact center analytics. Twilio was one of nearly a dozen vendors to partner with Google at launch, along with Cisco, Genesys, Mitel, Five9, RingCentral, Vonage, Appian and Upwire.

Within the past few months Avaya and Nice inContact have also updated their workforce optimization suites for contact centers with features including speech analytics and real-time trend reporting.

Enterprise technology buyers say analytics will be the most important technology for transforming customer experiences in the coming years, according to a recent survey of 700 IT and business leaders by Nemertes Research Group Inc., based in Mokena, Ill.

For Sale – Printer (Multifunction) – Epson WF-2630WF – Open to Offers

EPSON WorkForce WF-2630WF – Wifi Multifunction Printer. SEALED. UNOPENED. FAX. SCAN. PRINT. COPY.

EPSON PRODUCT WEBSITE = https://www.epson.co.uk/products/printers/inkjet-printers/microbusiness/workforce-wf-2630wf

OPEN TO OFFERS (Edit: Initial price as req by mods = £45 but oto – 27.06.18).










Won in competition – but already have a printer from work. Tried it out for parents – but there was courier damage so Epson sent out a fresh repalcement printer. I have not broken the seal. No cartridges inside. Printer only – but it is an official:



Home office users should look no further than this compact 4-in-1 for an affordable way to experience the benefits of inkjets for bigger businesses. The WF-2630WF has Wi-Fi connectivity with automatic set-up1 and Wi-Fi Direct® for wireless printing without a network.

A 30-page automatic document feeder for multi-page 1200dpi scanning, copying and faxing offers the ultimate in convenience. Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct ensure flexible connectivity.

Low running costs
The WF-2630WF uses Epson’s 16 series inks, which are available in a choice of standard or XL cartridges sizes to suit your specific printing needs. XL inks can help you to reduce your printing costs by up to 25%

The use of individual ink cartridges means only the colour used will need to be replaced, further reducing costs.

Mobile printing
Epson Connect compatibility offers useful features like scan-to-cloud, email print and the Epson iPrint app3. The WF-2630WF is also compatible with Apple AirPrint4 and Google Cloud print, letting you print seamlessly from smartphones and tablets.

Easy to use
Automatic Wi-Fi set-up1 helps make connection a breeze, while a 5.6cm back-lit mono LCD screen makes navigation quick and simple.


  • 4-in-1: Scan, copy, print and fax
  • Wi-Fi & Wi-Fi Direct: Print wirelessly wherever you are
  • Save money with individual inks: Only replace the colour used
  • Easy to use: 30-page automatic document feeder
  • Clear navigation: 5.6cm back-lit mono LCD screen


More info, specification, photos and video on the Epson website.


Price and currency: £45
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: BT or CASH
Location: West London – Isleworth/Twickenham
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

Avaya adds real-time speech analytics to contact centers

Avaya has updated its workforce optimization software for contact centers, adding real-time speech analytics and automated quality management tools. The vendor also released new data privacy features to help businesses comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The workforce optimization upgrades are Avaya’s latest initiative to bring AI and automation to the contact center. In April, the vendor announced a partnership with the startup Afiniti for intelligent call routing.

All major contact center vendors have begun investing in workforce optimization, either through native software development or partnerships with other vendors, said Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

The upgrades Avaya highlighted this week should help contact center customers increase sales and boost customer satisfaction, but they are not revolutionary, Gareiss said. Instead, businesses can already get the same tools from legacy vendors such as Cisco and Genesys, as well as cloud startups such as Five9.

“Without these announcements, Avaya would fall behind,” Gareiss said. “And given it’s the platform for so many huge contact centers around the world, it’s crucial for Avaya to continue to improve agent evaluation through speech analytics, as well as formal customer feedback and ratings.”

Some startups in the contact center market have placed workforce optimization at the core of their offerings. The cloud vendor Sharpen Technologies Inc., for example, uses a customizable algorithm to rate agents and uses an AI platform to monitor and flag trends within the contact center.

“Workforce optimization has become a huge area of focus for customer engagement,” Gareiss said. “It’s really all about making the contact center agents more productive and efficient to provide continuously improving customer experience.”

Avaya tries to keep pace with competitors

Avaya’s real-time speech analytics software will help businesses monitor conversations between agents and customers. The system can provide helpful contextual information to agents during the call, or suggest next steps based on the customer’s tone or word choice.

The tool can also alert managers to conversations that require immediate intervention, such as if an agent fails to get the proper consents or provide the necessary compliance disclosures, at the outset of a discussion with a customer.

Avaya highlighted real-time speech analytics as one tool for monitoring GDPR compliance within a contact center. The vendor also added a feature that will let businesses securely delete recordings in response to “right to be forgotten” requests.

Meanwhile, a new quality management system can automatically evaluate agents after every customer interaction, freeing managers of a time-consuming task.

Businesses must purchase a separate license to use Avaya’s workforce optimization tools, which are sold individually and as a suite. Avaya’s contact center customers can install the software in their data centers or subscribe to it as a hosted cloud service.

Intelligent Retail

At NRF Microsoft will showcase connected solutions for customer engagement, workforce empowerment, operational insights, and business transformation that combine the excitement of the latest innovations around Artificial Intelligence, Mixed Reality, Internet of Things & Blockchain technologies with the trust of the industry’s most reliable and secure platform. Together with our customers and partners, Microsoft is building the future of intelligent retail.

From digital experiences that make shopping fun and rewarding, to the productivity and collaboration solutions that allow retail employees to provide outstanding customer service, to the intelligent systems that provide deep insights and empower advanced decision making and personalization. Microsoft is transforming the future of retail by empowering people throughout the shopping experience. 

Questions? Contact us here.

Booth Tours:

Thank you for your interest in a booth tour with Microsoft at NRF 2018 in New York, New York.

Join us on a Booth Tour. Explore our latest and greatest industry solutions and hear firsthand stories of innovation from your industry peers as to how they are transforming their business. Booth Tours are 45 minutes in length, and are first-come, first-served – complete the request form below to secure your spot.

Booth Tours

Request 1:1 Briefing:

Do you have a specific business challenge or topic you’d like to discuss with a Microsoft executive? Then let’s meet one on one. We’ll take the time to understand your business and demonstrate the significant ways Microsoft can help you realize your potential.

Please click on the link below and complete the information as thoroughly as possible so we may assign an appropriate Microsoft representative to meet with you.

1:1 Briefing

Startup Showcase:

The extremely popular Microsoft NRF Startup Showcase is back for 2018! This exclusive, invitation-only event will host more than a dozen disruptors in retail technology. Please contact your account executive directly to RSVP. Each company will showcase select solutions that help retailers and brands to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Major global retailers have credited the 2017 event with inspiring fresh, strategic conversations around reimagining retail. These engagements will be hosted at the Microsoft 5th Avenue Flagship Store and has a capacity of 40 guests per event. Please note: unless previously arranged, we are unable to offer private showcase events for individual customer accounts.

Sunday, January 14 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
Monday, January 15 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
Tuesday, January 16 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
Wednesday, January 17 | 4:00PM-6:00PM

Please contact your account executive directly to RSVP.

Get a FREE pass:

Are you a retailer? Retailers are eligible for FREE passes to the event. Register for your pass here by entering your company name, email address and the Microsoft Customer referral code below.

Code: 831

Having trouble registering? Your company might not have a membership with NRF. Non-members are still eligible for a pass, but will need to contact [email protected] for assistance.

Kronos Workforce Dimensions stirs HR tech world

The Kronos Workforce Dimensions mobile-first SaaS system represents a major course shift for the long-dominant, but sometimes stodgy, workforce management and time and attendance software vendor.

The company, based in Lowell, Mass., unveiled the new AI-based suite of social media UI-style workforce management (WFM) apps at its KronosWorks user conference in Las Vegas.

Kronos sunk about $150 million and three years of R&D into building Kronos Workforce Dimensions, and it hopes to smoothly migrate many of its existing on-premises software and hosted cloud customers to the subscription-based service housed in the Google public cloud, executives told SearchHRSoftware.

Kronos tries to evolve

If that strategy succeeds, the $1.2 billion firm, which has historically been wedded to older-generation software, could, indeed, transform itself into a more agile, cloud-first vendor in a next-generation HR tech world.

Bill Bartow, Kronos vice president of product managementBill Bartow

Two leading older-generation, large HR tech vendors, Oracle and SAP, are attempting similar, though perhaps less dramatic, transitions with their human capital management (HCM) offerings, while smaller Kronos competitors, such as Ceridian and Ultimate Software, already are cloud-only.

“We see a lot of potential opportunities to change the direction of and disrupt markets,” said Bill Bartow, vice president of global product management at Kronos. “We want to challenge ourselves … Put ourselves out of business.”

Bartow was not speaking literally, but rather reflecting a strategic outlook articulated by Kronos CEO Aron Ain when Kronos formed an off-site working group of about 20 people in August 2014 to conceptualize an entirely new product — what became Kronos Workforce Dimensions.

Soon, that team swelled to several hundred dedicated to the project.

Building new WFM software

An analyst who previewed the system, Mark Smith, CEO of Ventana Research in Bend, Ore., said the Kronos Workforce Dimensions product is a significant departure for Kronos, and one that looks poised to meet the company’s goal of reinventing itself and pushing the WFM market toward thorough digitization.

“For a company to move toward the next evolution, they had to basically take their existing product and say, ‘We’ve taken this as far as it’s going to go, and we’ll still maintain it, but we’re going to need a new digital platform for the broader needs of the workforce,'” Smith said. “This is a smart move. There are not many companies that can put people, resources and time to build something that’s new and takes you to the next level.”

Inspired by Workday

For his part, Bartow cited the cloud-only HR tech paradigm pioneered, in particular, by Workday — one of Kronos’ big HCM vendor partners for Workforce Dimensions — as one inspiration.

“Our vision became to transform the workforce management market,” Bartow said.

The other HCM partners, so far, are Oracle and SAP SuccessFactors. Notably absent from this list are Ceridian, which Kronos views as a direct competitor in the WFM space, and Ultimate.

Analysts noted that both Ceridian and Ultimate, though offering robust WFM technology, mainly go after midsize customers, while Kronos’ target market for Workforce Dimensions is large enterprises.

In an interview, Bartow and Jim Kizielewicz, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Kronos, emphasized the artificial intelligence and deep learning technology they said underlies Kronos Workforce Dimensions.

Kronos Workforce Dimensions app manager view
Kronos Workforce Dimensions tablet screenshot showing manager time-off approvals

Kronos puts AI in HR tech

This is a smart move. There are not many companies that can put people, resources and time to build something that’s new and takes you to the next level.
Mark SmithCEO, Ventana Research

A key theme of the new system — intended to be used primarily on smartphones and tablets, but which also runs on laptop and desktop computers — is automating many routine tasks corporate managers feel swamped by and give the executives more time for strategic work. Those tasks could be approving timecards, vacation requests or shift swaps.

The software’s machine-learning-based assistant, Workforce Advisor, delivers recommendations, which can become more automatic as the system learns about the manager’s intent regarding approvals and the manager starts to trust the advice.

WFM tech for managers and workers

Meanwhile, Kronos found in its product development research that many line employees are now influenced by gig economy culture and want more say over their own schedules, better balance between work and home life, and more feedback from managers.

Workforce Dimensions, which also has a module for salaried employees, enables hourly employees to find and choose their own shifts while informing managers in a “collaborative self-scheduling” mode, according to Kronos.

For HR tech and IT professionals, Kronos is providing the new Kronos D5 platform that supports all the functions in Workforce Dimensions. The platform as a service is built with what Kronos calls “foundational AI,” and it includes open APIs, a new domain model and unified information architecture.

The D5 platform also enables high-volume, real-time processing, embedded analytics and forecasting, and the predictive artificial intelligence of the system, including proactive compliance, Kronos said.

In its development of the Workforce Dimensions suite, Kronos also relied on feedback from 10 large employers it calls “early adopters,” which piloted the system and plan to stick with it when it goes live in the commercial release expected in March.

Early adopters

Those early users are BorgWarner, Brookstone, GATE Petroleum Co., Google, London Energy, Snyder’s-Lance, Things Remembered, Tru Blu Beverages and University of Colorado, Boulder.

Still, the Kronos executives said the company will still support its Kronos Central hosted cloud WFM system, and the new product will have “feature parity” with the older platform.

However, they said Kronos built transition tools into the new system to help streamline the process of migrating customers that want to move to the mobile-oriented SaaS software. Pricing is per employee, per month, depending on the module.

Migration a key challenge

As for that migration issue, Ron Hanscome, another analyst, said converting many of Kronos’ 7,200 Workforce Central customers to the cloud, just as Oracle and SAP are doing, will be a critical and likely challenging task for Kronos. Kronos has 13,200 customers using other products.

“This does present a target to start bringing in these customers to. How do you migrate your legacy base and keep them in the mainstream of your product support?” Hanscome said. “This introduction triggers 10 years of migration and transition of the customer base.”

Even so, Hanscome came away from his preview especially impressed with the new system’s AI and machine learning technology and broad WFM applications.

“Clearly, they’ve put a lot of thought into the new architecture. What they’ve done around user experience and how to help the employee, the manager and the IT function, they’ve addressed those issues,” he said.

Kronos’ new offices sport fun features

SearchHRSoftware interviewed the Kronos executives at the company’s newly renovated world headquarters in the former Wang Laboratories complex it moved into in the fall of 2017.

For Kronos, the ultra-modern offices — complete with remote employee temporary docking stations, “scrum-rooms” for impromptu brainstorming and employee lounges with expansive new picture windows and foosball tables — embody its attempt to remake the 40-year-old company.

Visual collaboration software needs seven pillars for success

The workplace has evolved to become more distributed. As a result, the virtual workforce is becoming dominant, as organizations look to capture and capitalize on the best talent unrestricted by geography. As teams have expanded geographically, real issues have emerged around maintaining team and project cohesion.

To bridge the physical gap, several tools are available, including video conferencing, conference calls and document sharing. The result, however, is piecemeal. Assorted tools cannot deliver a natural work environment where everyone can be an active participant.

This is where immersive visual collaboration software comes into play, bringing the advantages of in-person team collaboration and project development to the virtual work environment.

Organizations need seven key pillars to ensure successful implementation of visual collaboration technology. Each pillar is necessary for optimal collaboration. Without any one of them, the work will suffer.

It’s like teleporting into meetings

Visual collaboration software needs to be designed with the human factor in mind, making it an extension of how people work.

Access. Unfettered access to content and the ability to see every step of the project is key. When content lives in a room on dry-erase boards, for example, teams don’t have ubiquitous access. Consequently, employees need to refamiliarize themselves with the content and what happened the last time they met in the room.

Access to a collaborative workspace that’s available anytime, from any location and from any device is required. In addition, the ability to maintain access across time is critical. Distributed teams need access to content across time zones — from the moment an idea is generated through development and execution.

Content. Users need to be able to visualize their content in the form and format they are accustomed to using, with the ability to manipulate the elements as desired. Seeing content in a visual way helps users recall the discussions surrounding their work every time they look at the workspace. It also helps members who may join a project late to see the starting point and how the work evolved before they became involved.

Interaction. Once content is uploaded into the workspace, all participants need to be able to interact with it in an organic manner. This is what has been missing until now. Visual collaboration software can provide an engaging experience — it’s like you’ve been teleported into the meeting. Whether drawing in the workspace, viewing content or making annotations, all forms of interactivity must be possible to fuel brainstorming. It’s the lynchpin for successful remote participation.

Sharing. Customers’ expectations are evolving. They want to be part of the creative process, not simply waiting for the end result. Visual collaboration software needs to provide a rich tapestry and preserve the work process and the final product. Sharing how the work evolved into its final state is a great advantage. It offers valuable insights for future projects and builds a relationship between teams, management and other stakeholders.

Integration. Visual collaboration software cannot be an island; it needs to be extendable. A variety of predefined integrations and robust APIs must be compatible with web-based apps, native apps and other devices. Visual collaboration doesn’t change how people create content; it changes how they share and evolve content to obtain the best final product.

Visual collaboration can break down remote barriers and deliver on the long-awaited promise of the virtual workplace.

Enterprise-ready. The software needs to be secure, easy to adopt, perform with low latency and work quickly so information can be shared instantly. In addition, the software must scale to any number of collaborators and to the amount of content uploaded.

Ease of use. Visual collaboration software needs to have a highly intuitive interface that works the same way as other popular devices and software programs. It needs to be designed with the human factor in mind, making it an effortless extension of how people work. Even as the software continues to add more complex features, it must behave in a simple way, so the user organically becomes more sophisticated through use.

When these seven pillars are combined, visual collaboration can bridge the gap between traditional and virtual workforces, enabling teams to feel connected through every step of the process. Visual collaboration software can enhance meetings, presentations and products. Perhaps most importantly, it can also break down remote barriers and deliver on the long-awaited promise of the virtual workplace.

Nick Brown is vice president of product and marketing for Bluescape, a visual collaboration software provider.

A startup touts easy-to-use encryption as key to IT security

Can a startup out of Boston convince the workforce to use encryption to safeguard information? 

PreVeil, which as of early fall 2017 had approximately 1,000 users and upward of 40 companies trying out its beta version, believes it can — by recognizing a stubborn fact about workers: Most of us can’t be bothered about securing the reams of data we transmit digitally every day. 

As Randy Battat, PreVeil’s co-founder, president and CEO, pointed out, even in the face of massive data breaches, employees continue to flout basic security best practices, failing to safeguard passwords or change them frequently.

“One goal of PreVeil is to make encryption and data protection so easy that people use encryption for everyday things, as opposed to very specialized business applications,” Battat said.

Randy Battat, co-founder, president, CEO, PreVeilRandy Battat

It’s not only employee security practices that are not up to snuff. Software and hardware continue to have vulnerabilities that attackers continue to exploit, he added. And most IT organizations persist in deploying traditional defenses, such as firewalls and access controls, to combat the growing sophistication of bad actors. Even those companies using encryption usually aren’t going far enough, Battat argued, because they use encryption only part of the time; for example, they encrypt sensitive data in transit, but not at rest.

Battat said PreVeil began with the assumption that any and all servers can be hacked, and IT security software needs to be easy to use. The result, he touted, is a new application for end-to-end encrypted emails, file sharing and storage that can withstand the inevitable attack, yet be easy to apply universally to sensitive data, he said. (See sidebar, for features.)

Use of encryption creeps up

How effortless must easy be to break down what, thus far, has been a resistance by businesses to use encryption?

One goal of PreVeil is to make encryption and data protection so easy that people use encryption for everyday things, as opposed to very specialized business applications.
Randy Battatco-founder, president and CEO at PreVeil

Certainly, enterprise attention to cybersecurity and, consequently, the use of security tools is increasing. Technology research firm Gartner has predicted that worldwide spending on information security products and services will reach $86.4 billion in 2017, a 7% increase over 2016 spending, and will hit $93 billion in 2018.

And part of that upward trend is the use of encryption technology.

Open source community Mozilla earlier this year reported that the average volume of encrypted web traffic on its open source web browser Firefox moved over the 50% mark, surpassing the average unencrypted volume.

Meanwhile, the “2017 Global Encryption Trends Study” released in April found that 41% of the respondents said their company “has an encryption strategy that is applied consistently across the enterprise,” up from 37% two years ago. Only 14% of respondents said their organization does not have an encryption strategy. The study, sponsored by Thales e-Security and independently conducted by Ponemon Institute, polled 4,802 individuals spanning 11 countries.

So does the prevalence — if inconsistent application — of encryption strategies signal that widespread adoption of encryption technology is just around the bend?

Use of encryption, daunting for many

No analysts are covering PreVeil yet, so cybersecurity and encryption experts said they were unable to speak specifically about its technology, whether its functions represented improvements over existing encryption products and whether PreVeil could successfully compete in an already robust market.

Garrett Bekker, principal analyst on the information security team at 451 Research, said most encryption vendors promise to make encryption easy, and they generally do have features that offer improvements over earlier generations of this technology.

Garrett Bekker, principal analyst, 451 ResearchGarrett Bekker

“There are companies out there who have made claims that they’ve made it easier to use encryption, and they’re valid. But it can still be a pain in the neck to use,” he explained, saying that asking users to take even just one extra step can be too much. “It may seem trivial, but [many users see it as] inconvenient any time you have to ask someone to click on this or select this drop-down.”

Bekker said other barriers remain to more widespread adoption.

“Generally, there are some forms of costs to doing encryptions — either hard costs or soft costs, such as inconveniencing users, disrupting workflows or adding latency. And you can actually interfere with the functionality of applications,” he said. Encryption also can make searching stored data and archived data problematic.

“It’s not to say those are problems that can’t be solved, but it creates some challenges,” Bekker said.

Moreover, he said encryption vendors have yet to help organizations get over one of their most vexing challenges: how to begin.

“Companies might have petabytes of data and tons of databases. They have data they don’t even know about and unstructured data like Word files scattered all over the place. They don’t know where to start,” he said.

Some organizations start by running discovery scans to identify sensitive information that should be encrypted, Bekker explained, but even then most companies still view establishing an encryption program as a daunting task.

Ron Culler, CTO of Secure Designs Inc., a managed internet security solutions firm in Greensboro, N.C., said he sees many companies that are reluctant to broadly use encryption technologies despite the wide availability of technology available. They’ll use it for specific types of data or in certain areas of the business, but cost and complexity often keep companies from using it more extensively.

Culler said companies are also hesitant because it can be complicated to implement and cumbersome for the business to use. Many companies also don’t have the skills sets on staff to implement and manage it, even though today’s technology isn’t as resource-intensive as it once was.

He also noted that it’s possible for encryption to allow in malicious code, which won’t be detected until it’s unencrypted. “If you don’t have visibility into what’s being sent, when it executes, it’s possible you could execute something malicious,” he explained, saying it’s a scenario that can deter more widespread use of the technology.

Plus, encryption generally won’t stop rogue employees who deliberately leak data or careless employees who go around policies and thereby expose sensitive information, either, he said.

Considering all this, Culler said businesses are right to see encryption as “a solid piece of security policy,” but one that needs to be considered as part of an enterprise-wide program that addresses where it’s really needed based on cost, complexity and risk.

Battat acknowledged that PreVeil’s technology is not a panacea. It will not prevent someone from accessing information on a lost or stolen device that’s not protected by passwords, access controls and the like. And it doesn’t prevent users from forgoing the use of its encryption technology. Still, the PreVeil team is convinced there is huge upside in encryption technology that’s easy to use.

“Of all the things that go on in business, very, very little is encrypted, Battat said. “Encryption ought to work with the way you work today, and so maybe — if it was really easy — we could go instead to the vast majority of what happens in business being encrypted.” The company plans to release its commercial version during the fourth quarter.