enterpriseprotocol | enterpriseauthorTom KrazitNoneAre you keeping up with the latest cloud developments? Get Tom Krazit and Joe Williams' newsletter every Monday and Thursday.d3d5b92349
×

Get access to Protocol

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Analysis

Are businesses really ready to go remote? We're about to find out.

Old-school businesses are about to get a crash course in remote work.

Empty desks in an office

Several huge companies have asked employees to forgo most business travel and work from home thanks to panic over the coronavirus outbreak.

Photo: Getty Images

Enterprise software companies have earned billions of dollars in revenue by promising to help their customers create the digital workplace of the future. We're about to find out if the business world is ready for that future.

Thanks to panic over the coronavirus outbreak, dozens of major conferences have been canceled in recent weeks, and several huge companies — Amazon, Microsoft and Chevron — have asked employees to forgo most business travel and work from home. That means lots of people accustomed to doing business face to face — whether through sales calls or managing their employees — will have to depend entirely on digital collaboration tools such as video conferencing and messaging apps.

Get what matters in tech, in your inbox every morning. Sign up for Source Code.

This is as much a cultural shift as a technological one. Digital collaboration tools have been around for decades, but most large and medium-size companies still have headquarters and satellite offices, where you can still walk down the hall to ask a colleague a question when you really need to know something. Even with all the right tools, companies will need to adopt new attitudes and working strategies to go fully remote.

Companies that have been using Slack, Zoom or even older tools like Office 365 and G Suite as part of their daily work will now have to rely entirely on those tools in a quarantined world, which makes the next several weeks one of the largest enterprise-software focus groups ever assembled. This is likely to go smoother inside tech companies compared to the rest of the business world, which will be discovering the benefits and limitations of remote workplace collaboration tools in a big way.

For insights on how to go remote, companies and managers might look to the experience of Automattic, developer of the Wordpress blogging software. Last year Steph Yiu, head of support for Wordpress VIP, gave a presentation on how the company manages a remote workplace of more than 1,000 employees spread around the world.

Automattic uses an internally developed communications tool called P2 ( available here) to connect employees, who also use other tools like Google Docs and Slack, according to Yiu's presentation. But the company's culture revolves around the mantra "P2 or it didn't happen," enforcing that tool as a single source of truth across the entire company for business that matters.

Companies that haven't grown around a remote-work philosophy like Automattic might find such a transition to digital-only difficult. For most office workers, communication takes place across many different channels, including tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, email for minor matters and phone calls or in-person meetings when serious business needs to be addressed.

As an example, Amazon's famous "two-pizza" team-building strategy obviously wasn't designed with remote work in mind; it was built around the value that in-person collaboration delivers for most people. Obviously, those ideas can be adapted for the remote workplace, but workflows and business processes designed around human interaction could push existing digital collaboration tools — often used unevenly across departments inside major companies — to new limits.

Likewise, as the country braces for the economic impact of a prolonged coronavirus outbreak, businesses will also need to adopt tools that help them reach their customers.

As the maxim goes, "the future is already here: it's just not evenly distributed." There are dozens of customer support tools available on the market, and revenue from Zoom's video-conferencing software surged 78% last year as more and more people use it for introductory pitches or meetings.

But across a huge swath of the economy, in-person sales calls are expected as details get ironed out and multiyear commitments are discussed. Video conferencing technology has come a very long way over the last several years — though it's still a horrible pain sometimes — but anyone who has used even the best video conferencing software knows that it just isn't the same as meeting with people in real life.

In a memo yesterday, Sequoia Capital advised its portfolio companies to start thinking about this disruption now and to assess their sales pipelines accordingly. "While travel companies are directly impacted, all companies that depend on in-person meetings to conduct sales, business development, or partnership discussions are being affected," the firm wrote in a message to its founders that it posted on Medium on Thursday.

Related:


As another maxim goes, "never let a crisis go to waste." A prolonged period of remote work will expose the gaps in current workplace collaboration tools, and even once the crisis passes, companies might start to think more creatively about incorporating remote work into their business strategies.

Lots of tech companies have already been thinking about becoming friendlier to remote work as the price of living and doing business in the Bay Area and other urban business centers skyrocketed over the last decade. This creates an enormous opportunity for fresh thinking in workplace collaboration tool design, and puts pressure on the existing powers in this space to adapt to unforeseen needs.

It's fair to say we are in uncharted waters right now, as the scope of the virus outbreak within the U.S. might not be known for weeks. The good news for businesses affected by these worrying developments is that they've never had better options for running a business over the internet.

The bad news is, now they have to figure out how to actually use those tools.

Protocol | Fintech

Jack Dorsey is so money: What Tidal and banking do for Square

Teaming up with Jay-Z's music streaming service may seem like a move done for flash, but it's ultimately all about the money (and Cash).

Jay-Z performs at the Tidal-X concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2017.

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

It was a big week for Jack Dorsey, who started by turning heads in Wall Street, and then went Hollywood with an unexpected music-streaming deal.

Dorsey's payments company, Square, announced Monday that it now has an actual bank, Square Financial Services, which just got a charter approved. On Thursday, Dorsey announced Square was taking a majority stake in Tidal, the music-streaming service backed by Jay-Z, for $297 million.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Sponsored Content

The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

Keep Reading Show less
Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.
Protocol | Enterprise

Tony Bates hears the call at Genesys

Running a contact center company isn't as sexy as his previous gigs. But this company could be the best chance for him to make a lasting mark.

Tony Bates arrived at Genesys as CEO after hopscotching through various parts of the tech industry.

Photo: Genesys

Be careful what you wish for. For Tony Bates, that's been running a big tech company.

He rose to Cisco's top ranks but didn't get the No. 1 job. His big CEO break was at Skype when it was poised to go public — but months into that gig, Bates' venture backers sold it to Microsoft instead. After a stint at Microsoft, where some eyed Bates for the CEO job that went to Satya Nadella, he took over GoPro. There, he got cut in a round of layoffs as the camera company struggled. He joined Social Capital, which helped fund Slack and Box, for a gig that lasted a year before tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya blew up the venture capital firm he started.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Power

Google wants to help you get a life

Digital car windows, curved AR glasses, automatic presentations and other patents from Big Tech.

A new patent from Google offers a few suggestions.

Image: USPTO

Another week has come to pass, meaning it's time again for Big Tech patents! You've hopefully been busy reading all the new Manual Series stories that have come out this week and are now looking forward to hearing what comes after what comes next. Google wants to get rid of your double-chin selfie videos and find things for you as you sit bored at home; Apple wants to bring translucent displays to car windows; and Microsoft is exploring how much you can stress out a virtual assistant.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Latest Stories