Enterprise

Microsoft Viva Sales edges onto Salesforce’s turf by connecting CRM data

With the launch of its new Viva Sales product, Microsoft is hoping salespeople will spend more time in Teams than Salesforce’s Sales Cloud, and that the real value in the CRM market will come from connecting data across its customer tools.

An image of Viva Sales

Viva Sales connects customer data across communications and CRM systems centered around Teams and Office.

Image: Screenshot of Viva Sales

Microsoft is ready to talk about its new Viva Sales product, which connects customer data across communications and CRM systems centered around its Teams and Office products.

Microsoft isn’t the first to try this idea: Salesforce acquired Slack in part to beef up its communications tools for salespeople. But Microsoft isn’t looking to compete more directly with Salesforce; rather, the company said it is trying to fill the gaps left behind by traditional CRM systems.

“We definitely think people benefit from a CRM system,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, in an interview with Protocol prior to the announcement. “The difficulty is, a lot of what's happening between a customer and a salesperson is actually never recorded in the CRM system, because it's just too tedious,” he said.

With Viva Sales, teams can automatically sync data between communications applications like Teams and Outlook, and their CRM system, whether that’s Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 or Salesforce’s Sales Cloud. It's arguably a similar play to the Sales Cloud and Slack integration, where Slack conversations can be added to the CRM, and account information can be plugged into Slack.

From Microsoft’s point of view, however, the advantage of Viva Sales is that it’s already integrated with Microsoft Teams and Outlook. Much of the reason why companies like Salesforce buy companies like Slack is to achieve the same level of integration, but it can be harder when trying to blend two different code bases.

Viva Sales builds on Viva, an “employee experience platform" Microsoft launched last year as a new take on the old idea of an employee intranet. In launching Viva Sales, Microsoft may not be trying to replace Salesforce, but it's definitely trying to get salespeople to spend more time inside Microsoft’s applications and less time inside Sales Cloud.

The launch of Viva Sales isn’t just about sales, however. Microsoft also has a broader vision to provide a layer of intelligence across its entire Office 365 suite. The strategy, demonstrated in part via Microsoft Graph, is the cloud giant’s strategy for moving beyond the underlying enterprise resource planning tool toward the type of workflow play heralded by ServiceNow.

This approach represents a strategic shift for Microsoft, Spataro said. In the past, the company’s go-to-market strategy was to tell customers to pick between Microsoft Teams and Zoom or Dynamics 365 and Salesforce. Now it’s changing its tune: Pick any product, and Microsoft will provide the intelligence on top.

“The most significant thing about this announcement is we are saying … choose whatever you want to choose — what we actually think will be most valuable over time will be the layer of intelligence that binds it all together,” said Spataro.

Spataro likened the enterprise software industry to a city: built from the ground up. If Azure, AWS and GCP are its foundations, then SaaS applications and workflow are its roads and buildings.

“People will keep putting money into sewers and roads and stuff like that,” he said, “but a lot more money goes into the hardware put on top.”

Entertainment

Niantic’s future hinges on mapping the metaverse

The maker of Pokémon Go is hoping the metaverse will deliver its next big break.

Niantic's new standalone messaging and social app, Campfire, is a way to get players organizing and meeting up in the real world. It launches today for select Pokémon Go players.

Image: Niantic

Pokémon Go sent Niantic to the moon. But now the San Francisco-based augmented reality developer has returned to earth, and it’s been trying to chart its way back to the stars ever since. The company yesterday announced layoffs of about 8% of its workforce (about 85 to 90 people) and canceled four projects, Bloomberg reported, signaling another disappointment for the studio that still generates about $1 billion in revenue per year from Pokémon Go.

Finding its next big hit has been Niantic’s priority for years, and the company has been coming up short. For much of the past year or so, Niantic has turned its attention to the metaverse, with hopes that its location-based mobile games, AR tech and company philosophy around fostering physical connection and outdoor exploration can help it build what it now calls the “real world metaverse.”

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Nick Statt

Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

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Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Climate

Supreme Court takes a sledgehammer to greenhouse gas regulations

The court ruled 6-3 that the EPA cannot use the Clean Air Act to regulate power plant greenhouse gas emissions. That leaves a patchwork of policies from states, utilities and, increasingly, tech companies to pick up the slack.

The Supreme Court struck a major blow to the federal government's ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Striking down the right to abortion may be the Supreme Court's highest-profile decision this term. But on Thursday, the court handed down an equally massive verdict on the federal government's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of West Virginia v. EPA, the court decided that the agency has no ability to regulate greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act. Weakening the federal government's powers leaves a patchwork of states, utilities and, increasingly, tech companies to pick up the slack in reducing carbon pollution.

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Brian Kahn

Brian ( @blkahn) is Protocol's climate editor. Previously, he was the managing editor and founding senior writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate site, where he covered everything from the weather to Big Oil's influence on politics. He also reported for Climate Central and the Wall Street Journal. In the even more distant past, he led sleigh rides to visit a herd of 7,000 elk and boat tours on the deepest lake in the U.S.

Fintech

Can crypto regulate itself? The Lummis-Gillibrand bill hopes so.

Creating the equivalent of the stock markets’ FINRA for crypto is the ideal, but experts doubt that it will be easy.

The idea of creating a government-sanctioned private regulatory association has been drawing more attention in the debate over how to rein in a fast-growing industry whose technological quirks have baffled policymakers.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Regulating crypto is complicated. That’s why Sens. Cynthia Lummis and Kirsten Gillibrand want to explore the creation of a private sector group to help federal regulators do their job.

The bipartisan bill introduced by Lummis and Gillibrand would require the CFTC and the SEC to work with the crypto industry to look into setting up a self-regulatory organization to “facilitate innovative, efficient and orderly markets for digital assets.”

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and 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 Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Alperovitch: Cybersecurity defenders can’t be on high alert every day

With the continued threat of Russian cyber escalation, cybersecurity and geopolitics expert Dmitri Alperovitch says it’s not ideal for the U.S. to oscillate between moments of high alert and lesser states of cyber readiness.

Dmitri Alperovitch (the co-founder and former CTO of CrowdStrike) speaks at RSA Conference 2022.

Photo: RSA Conference

When it comes to cybersecurity vigilance, Dmitri Alperovitch wants to see more focus on resiliency of IT systems — and less on doing "surges" around particular dates or events.

For instance, whatever Russia is doing at the moment.

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Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

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