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PHOTO: Matt Popovich

It has been on the cards for the last few months, but next week, it will finally happen. Facebook is closing its Workplace From Facebook Essential edition. The Essential edition is the freemium version. In a message that was sent out to users over the past week Facebook informed users that:

“We are contacting you and other system administrators in your workplace to inform you that Workplace Essential is going away on February 10, 2021. To continue using Workplace, your organization needs to upgrade to our paid plan, Workplace Advanced, by this date.”

However, all is not lost. The message adds that if you want to upgrade to the paid version, or are undecided and might consider the paid version, Facebook is offering a free 180-day trial of Workplace Advanced to get you started. The paid version offers additional functionality like Insights, single sign-on (SSO) and live chat support.

Workplace’s Advanced tier costs $4 per user each month, while the Enterprise tier is $8 per user per month.

When the decision to close Essential was announced last December, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook indicated that the decision was being driven by the huge growth in traffic experience by all enterprise collaboration communications tools since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, according to Facebook, Workplace went from three million paid users in October 2019 to five million in May, with new features like video chat rooms, groups, and connection with Portal home devices providing beneficial options for collaboration when managing remote teams.

Moving to another platform will clearly be difficult as the migration of any data from one platform to another is riddled with pitfalls. However, Facebook also said at the time of the original announcement that it would help companies using the free version to move off the platform if they did not want the paid version.

So, what happens if you have not decided what to do? The statement continues “On February 10, 2021, you’ll lose access to your Workplace, which will be subsequently deleted as per the Workplace Terms."

It is not clear how users are going to react, but for small companies that are using the free version moving to the paid version will be expensive especially at a time when many businesses are struggling. But if Workplace wants to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Google and Zoom it will have to really add something special and for something special companies are going to have to pay.

Microsoft’s Digital Transformation Investment Pays Off

If anyone had any doubts about the value of digital transformation for vendors, or the business interest in digital workplace applications, a quick look at the recent figures released by Microsoft will demonstrate exactly what it is worth.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company reported a total revenue of $43.1 billion, a 17% increase year-over-year. Take a deeper look and the figures show:

  • 13% revenue growth in productivity and business processes
  • 23% revenue growth in its Intelligent Cloud
  • 14% growth in its Personal Computing segment

More to the point, its Office Commercial products and cloud services revenue increased 11% driven by Office 365 Commercial revenue growth of 21% which includes the Microsoft 365 product.

Obviously, remote working and the pandemic has added a lot to play here but what has happened is much bigger than just the recent rise of remote working. It is about digital transformation. While much of the discussion about this has focused largely on implementing transformation strategies, for Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, the business world has gone beyond that. In a statement about the figures, he explained:

“What we have witnessed over the past year is the dawn of a second wave of digital transformation sweeping every company and every industry,” he said. “Building their own digital capability is the new currency driving every organization’s resilience and growth.

The result is accelerated demand for Microsoft’s different offerings which drove commercial cloud revenue to $16.7 billion, up 34% year over year. Cloud is also set to become Microsoft’s biggest business especially now that it is largely supporting its remote working customers.

Cited on CNBC, Piper Sandler a Wall St. analyst at Brent Bracelin predicted that Azure cloud for hosting web sites and applications will replace the Office productivity software as the company’s largest source of revenue at some point in 2022. He also estimates that Azure is already significantly larger than the Windows franchise, which dates to 1985.

Microsoft is clearly not the only company that has surfed the remote working wave over the past year, but it was probably the best prepared give that its focus since it first launched Office 365 in 2011 was offering productivity tools through the cloud to workers.  It extended that over the years to dover just about every area of the workplace putting it a position where it could offer everything remote workers needed, even if the video conferencing tools were not as far-reaching as others. Any issues with that have also been resolved through the development of Teams over the past year. The result is the figures we are starting to see now.

Otter Makes Google Meet Better for Business

Elsewhere, Los Altos, Calif., based Otter has just made Google Meet a lot more interesting for businesses with the launch of Live Notes and Video Captions for Google Meet.

Google Meet is a video-communication service developed by Google. It is one of two apps that constitute the replacement for Google Hangouts, the other being Google Chat.

According to Google, Meet has 100 million daily Google Meet meeting participants, all of whom will be able to use Otter to turn business conversations into highly accurate interactive, collaborative transcripts in real time.

Through a quick and easy installation of a Chrome extension, all customers will be able to use this new integration to open a secure, live, interactive transcript directly from a Google Meet call, as well as use live captions.

Google Meet users can now improve business communication that were previously only integrated only with Zoom video conferencing.

However, now with an integrated Otter Live Notes experience within Google Meet users can create documents that be searched and analysed afterwards for new insights while live video captioning cuts down on miscommunication, especially for non-native English speakers. The result is a collaborative and inclusive remote workplace, specifically for those who have accessibility requirements.

Post-meeting, Otter web platform, and app, offers collaborative features, all of which enhance business communication. Users can highlight, share, add images, search by keyword, and review a transcript, after a recorded Google Meet call.

Otter says the extension works with all its plans, meaning even free users will be able to take advantage of the tool.

While it is not clear what Otter will do with this in the future, its integration with Zoom may show what is on the way. In that case, it encouraged people from the free version to a paid version so it is likely do the same with the new Google Meet. The paid plans offer a lot more with features like importing audio and video for transcription and export features like Dropbox sync and search.

It is a small addition but a useful one and that is also likely to make Meet a lot more attractive than it is already.

Ennenca Improves Knowledge Graph

Germany-based eccenca has been busy too and launched version 20.12 of its knowledge graph software eccenca Corporate Memory. The latest release aims to make its semantic data management technologies enterprise-ready and usable for business users.

Knowledge Graph technology are technologies that enable organizations to connect different types of data in meaningful ways and support richer data services than most knowledge management systems.

According to Gartner, knowledge graph technology is increasingly powering artificial intelligence applications. But even though the technology is the foundation for a data-centric IT and data architecture that facilitates the potentials of digital transformation and automation, it has long been considered to academic for business use.

Eccenca has changed this with its releases in 2020. By focusing on user experience and performance Eccenca Corporate Memory provides a wide array of access and integration points, a ready-to-use query catalogue, tools for data automation as well as the means for a detailed and transparent data governance.

In past releases eccenca had already introduced several enterprise-ready functionalities including interactive graph visualization, automation tools for data migration as well as data normalization, eccenca corporate memory 20.12 adds simplified data building processes, easy-to-use reporting, business-user friendly data exploration and workflow automation.

M-Files Raises $80m

Finally, this week, Austin-based M-Files has announced that it has received a strategic investment of $80 million in a funding round led by Bregal Milestone, a European growth capital firm.

M-Files provides an intelligent, repository neutral platform that uses metadata and artificial intelligence (AI) to break down information silos and unify systems, data and content across an organization.

M-Files says it will use the money to expand M-Files’ market penetration, especially in North America, as well as product development.