straphanger reading a paper
PHOTO: Darren Chan

The last Slack Frontiers conference before its long awaited IPO was always going to be an important one. While San Francisco-based Slack has been the darling of the collaboration space for quite a while, to convince more enterprises to sign up — and keep future investors happy — it has had to keep a constant drip of new releases and upgrades going for the last year. Enterprises and workers were expecting a bunch of new announcements over the two-day conference, which closed yesterday. They weren’t disappointed.

In a post about the releases, the first day of the conference was dominated by a number of announcements. They include a solution to overflowing inboxes, for finding and ways of managing all the apps that are now associated with Slack. There are four that stand out, notably:

  • Shared Channels beta - Shared Channels is expanding to Enterprise Grid customers starting this summer, which means you will be able to collaborate with customers, vendors, agencies and any other external partners who help move your business ahead — all within your own Slack workspaces.
  • Workflow Builder - Streamlines manual processes for you, your team and your entire organization.
  • Email + Calendars + Slack - Say you’ve invited new hires to your Slack workspace, but they haven’t joined yet — once the functionality is launched they’ll receive Slack messages and mentions in their email.
  • Expanded search - A new update to search in Slack turns it into universal navigation hub, making it easier for users to see unread channels and direct messages, and look up channels, documents and people.

There’s a lot of collaboration goodness there, but for our money the big one is connecting email with the social network. The Microsoft Outlook and Gmail add-ins allow you to forward important emails (along with attachments) directly into Slack, where your team can coordinate and discuss how to respond.

And there’s more. Slack has also built a bridge between email and Slack so you can maintain consistent communication with everyone at your organization. It works like this: let’s say you’ve just invited a new hire to Slack, but she hasn’t had a chance to join yet. When the user is mentioned by username in channels or sent a direct message, Slack will route those messages into their email inbox so she doesn’t miss out on important information while getting set up. If the invited member decides to join Slack, they will have the full history of the direct messages and channel mentions that were sent to email.

This has already started rolling out and it will be available to all over the next few months. In the future, the ability for people to reply right from their email inbox, with their response posting back to Slack. Stay tuned on that front. Watch for more updates before the IPO.

Microsoft Unrolls G Suite Migration Tools

Microsoft has also been busy. At the end of last year, the Redmond, Wash.-based giant announced that it was working on a way to make it easier to migrate from G Suite to Office 365. It said at the time that the tools would be available in the middle of 2019. Over the past week, the tools have started rolling out and full availability will be a reality in the coming weeks.

At the end of 2018, Microsoft officials said they were working on a Google G Suite to Office 365 "migration experience" that would be ready by Q2 2019. As of this week, those tools started rolling out, with full availability promised over "the coming weeks."

According to the roadmap, for now, the new G Suite migration experience will allow users to directly migrate email, calendar and contacts from Google G Suite to Office 365! The solution ensures data is directly migrated to Office 365, with no resting points along the way. We're also adding support for migrating mailbox in batches.

Google already has an Exchange migration tool. And while there already is a way for admins to migrate IMAP mailboxes from G Suite using migration endpoints, this option doesn't migrate contacts or calendar items in an automated way.

It is clear that there isn’t going to be a massive surge in demand for migration from G Suite to Office 365 at least initially, but it will be a bonus for those organizations that are using the two systems and that store data in both.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has announced that its delivering its Files Restore feature for SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams to Office 365 tenancies as early as this month.

The Files Restore feature is currently arriving for some Office 365 subscribers that have elected to receive "targeted" product updates. It'll get delivered to all Office 365 tenancies by the end of next month, Microsoft promised. IT can use Files Restore to bring a SharePoint document library back to a past state within a 30-day time span.

The SharePoint document library is a common element of other Office 365 applications, and so the Files Restore feature also protects shared files in Teams, Outlook groups and Yammer groups connected to Office 365 groups.

Salesforce Improves Sales Productivity

Salesforce has also been busy with productivity this week. It’s not just general productivity, though, it’s specifically productivity for sales reps, which it is hoping to improve with the addition of artificial intelligence. The objective, Salesforce explained in a blog post, is to do this by providing sales people with better access to information, and improve their ability to collaborate.

Take, for example, Inbox Now with Einstein Insights. Salesforce Inbox Now provides an intelligent mobile experience that surfaces insights and actions that help field sales reps plan, manage, and optimize every moment of their busy workdays. Einstein Campaign Insights uncovers similarities among prospects who engage with a particular campaign.  There is also a new Social Intelligence Module that power an AI-driven social media feed focused on business related topics.

One of the more interesting upgrades is the release of Quip for Sales. Quip, you may recall, is a cloud-based word processing app that was co-founded by Bret Taylor, formerly CTO of Facebook, in 2016. Quip, when it first launched as a mobile-only native app (but later developed a desktop and web version and came as a timely disruptor to Microsoft Word.

The addition of AI will give sales reps documents and spreadsheets now live right within records, enabling teams to easily find what they need and ensure they’re working from the most up-to-date version. Any team working on the account can now easily pull up relevant files like account plans, executive briefings and quarterly business reviews within their workflow, without needing to open a new window or search for files.

With these new productivity features, Salesforce is managing the flow of information so that what is needed is surfaced where it is needed, all within Sales Cloud.

It's important to note, as Angela Ashenden wrote in CMSWire recently that while Quip is being embedded in the Salesforce applications, this isn't a separate application from the standalone Quip service. It’s a purely a deeper integration that takes advantage of Quip features natively within Salesforce. This means that Quip for Salesforce users can still collaborate on documents with people who don't use Salesforce, provided the latter use the standalone application.

Hyland Releases Accounts Payable-ERP Connector

Elsewhere, Cleveland, Ohio-based Hyland has enhanced its accounts payable (AP) automation solutions with a new AP connector framework for direct integration between the OnBaseplatform the main enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial management platforms on the market at the moment.

The AP connector framework offers built-in two-way data validation and exchange with ERPs to minimize exceptions and errors.

Users can also access documents including invoices, check images, vendor contracts and remittances directly from the corresponding records in their financial management applications.

Key capabilities of Hyland's AP automation solutions include intelligent capture from Brainware by Hyland, pre-configured synchronization of ERP master data, user-friendly invoice workflow and exception processing tailored to their specific ERP, and standardized reports and performance dashboards

Moveworks Uses AI To Resolve IT Issues

Finally, this week, Mountain View Calif.-based, Moveworks has release a new artificial intelligence (AI) solution to autonomously resolve employee IT issues in the enterprise.

Moveworks combines Natural Language Understanding (NLU), advanced conversational-AI, and process automation to identify the optimal solution and fully resolve IT issues, instantly and autonomously.

With it, companies can completely eliminate the need for IT staff to work on tasks such as provisioning applications, resetting passwords, unlocking accounts, managing email lists, and answering questions so they can focus on high-value activities.

Built by machine learning experts from Google and Facebook, Moveworks estimates that up to 75 percent of enterprise IT support issues can be understood and resolved using AI. The company is on its way to hitting that number, with many customers already seeing 25 percent to 35 percent of their daily IT tickets resolved autonomously by Moveworks.