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We have looked in some detail over the past few months at Slack, Slack’s upcoming IPO and Slack’s efforts to improve the platform and raise the stakes in the collaboration space. But Slack is not the only one that has been working to improve its offering. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has been working on its collaboration tool Teams as well and has just celebrated the second anniversary of its release with a bunch of new upgrades.

The new features were described by Lori Wright, Microsoft 365 general manager, in a blog post and in an Enterprise Connect event keynote talk.  Leaving aside the fact that company now claims to have more than 500,000 organizations using Teams, including 91 of the Fortune 100 companies, it has unveiled eight new additions that are either already being rolled out at the moment or will be rolled-out over the coming months.

Among those features is customizable backgrounds, which will enable teams to join a video call and add whatever the Team wants to the background. There are many different reasons why you might want to do that, but at a time when digital privacy is at a premium, this is a major plus.

There will also be content cameras and intelligent capture in Microsoft Teams Rooms. This will provide support for an additional camera for capturing new content like information on analogy whiteboards. The new Microsoft Whiteboard in Teams will also provide teams with an infinite digital canvas for meeting participants to work together, while secure private channels allow you to customize which members of the team can see conversations and files associated with a channel.

If this is starting to sound a lot like the current edition of Slack, there is more. The new Live Events has also just been made generally available. Live events in Microsoft 365 enables anyone to create live and on-demand events that deliver communications to employees, customers, and partners. Live events use video and interactive discussions across Teams, Stream, or Yammer enabling up to 10,000 attendees participate in real-time from anywhere, across their devices.

There is a lot here and a lot that should make the folks at Slack uneasy. However, while the 500,000 organizations that are using it represents an impressive number of customers, many of them will have come to the table through their Office 365 subscription and those subscriptions don’t come cheap.

For many, this will remain that overriding difference between Slack and Microsoft ‘s collaboration offerings, or Google’s collaboration offerings for that matter. As long as Slack can continue to offer the robust functionality it does free — or the super collaboration tier for $12.50 per active user per month — then its place in the market seems assured.

Gartner Predicts AI Will Disrupt Project Management

If many of Teams’ improvements are built on artificial intelligence (AI) it’s not the only area of the digital workplace that will be impacted by AI. Project management is a case in point. According to research from Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, by 2030, 80 percent of the work of today’s project management (PM) discipline will be eliminated as artificial intelligence (AI) takes on traditional PM functions such as data collection, tracking and reporting.

Providers in today’s program and portfolio management (PPM) software market are behind in enabling a fully digital program management office (PMO), but Gartner predicts AI-enabled PPM will begin to surface in the market sometime this year

According to the research (Subscription Required), AI is going to revolutionize how program and portfolio management (PPM) leaders use technology to support their business goals. PPM software is software that helps manage a collection of projects or programs and other work that are grouped together to facilitate effective management of that work to meet strategic business objectives.

The first appearance of this will see the implementation of incremental improvements in user experience and later will help them to become better planners and managers. In fact, by 2023, technology providers focused on AI, virtual reality (VR)and digital platforms will disrupt the PPM market and cause a clear response by traditional providers.

The development of PPM will be the focus of an upcoming Gartner conferences in Washington, D.C and London. More on this is available in the recent Gartner report How AI Will Reinvent Program and Portfolio Management

Google Rolls-Out Gmail Confidential Mode

From Mountain View, Calif.-based Google this week, there is more evidence of current concerns about privacy with the announcement that Gmail’s confidential mode — the privacy-preserving email feature Google launched last April — is now available in beta for G Suite customers.

Gmail confidential mode lets users restrict recipients' access to sensitive email content. This feature is available to G Suite domains through the beta.

The new functionality will enable Vault, which is part of G Suite, hold, retain, search, and export all confidential mode messages sent by users in your organization. Messages are always available to Vault, even when the sender sets an expiration date or revokes recipients' access to confidential messages.

Google Vault lets users retain, hold, search, and export data to support organization's archiving and eDiscovery needs. Vault supports email messages, Google Groups. files in Google Drive and Team Drives.

Meanwhile, Google has also just announced that access to Inbox by Gmail app will be shut-down in two weeks. It will shut down on April 2 and users will be sent link pushing them to the main Gmail app.

IT Feels Vulnerable To Insider Threats

Elsewhere, New York City-based BetterCloud, which develops a SaaS Operations Management platform, has just released its first insider threats report. The research shows that 91 percent of IT and security professionals surveyed feel vulnerable to insider threats. It also revealed that 75 percent believe the biggest risks lie in cloud applications like popular file storage and email solutions such as Google Drive, Gmail, Dropbox and more.

For the report, BetterCloud surveyed nearly 500 IT and network security professionals from enterprise organizations globally. The company also looked at its own proprietary product data to shed light on where IT and security professionals are most vulnerable. Among the other key findings are:

  • 62 percent of respondents believe the biggest security threat comes from the well-meaning but negligent end user.
  • 46 percent of IT leaders (heads of IT and above) believe that the rise of SaaS applications makes them the most vulnerable.
  • 40 percent of respondents believe they are most vulnerable to exposure of confidential business information (financial information, customer lists).
  • Only 26 percent of C-level executives say they’ve invested enough to mitigate the risk of insider threats, versus 44 percent of IT managers. 

The rise of SaaS in the digital workplace has made companies more vulnerable than ever to insider threats, the report concludes. The major reason for this is that SaaS has given users all the control over data within the application and, as a result, IT and security teams have lost control. If you want to download the report, we can download it here.

Atlassian Buys AgileCraft

Finally, this week, Atlassian has announced that it is to buy Georgetown, Texas-based AgileCraft. AgileCraft is a start-up that sells software to manage business projects.

The acquisition is part of Atlassian’s expansion from selling software development tools to more general workplace software.

AgileCraft helps organizations to scale agile by unifying and synchronizing the work happening across programs and portfolios for a clear executive-level view.

Atlassian will continue to operate AgileCraft, which had raised about $10.1 million before the acquisition as a standalone service.