July 1, 2021
Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Thursday: GitHub thinks developers should let AI code from time to time, private equity companies love enterprise software in 2021, and IBM's email servers appear to have started the holiday weekend a little early.
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Pretty much the entire arc of modern tech history — both good and bad — can be viewed as a never-ending quest to automate the tasks that software developers are tired of doing.
That's the spirit behind Microsoft-owned GitHub's new Copilot service, announced this week as part of a private beta for developers using Microsoft's open-source Visual Studio Code developer environment. GitHub described Copilot as "your AI pair programmer," a reference to the common practice of developers working in tandem. (This excellent New Yorker piece on Google's Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat is a great intro to the concept.)
Copilot is based on technology developed by OpenAI and is trained on "billions of lines" of publicly available code. Given a few cues from a developer, it can generate code that can potentially be used in their application. The idea is to help experienced developers save time finding boilerplate code for simple tasks, and to help inexperienced developers learn new programming languages and development concepts.
But Copilot also raises lots of questions about software copyright, licensing and the efficacy of training an AI model on code sets that are unquestionably buggy.
And its success or failure is hard to predict right now. With the possible exception of 5G, it's hard to find a technology in recent years that has been hyped as much as artificial intelligence. The autonomous cars we were promised by 2021 are clearly not here, companies are struggling to figure out how to implement AI in their tech strategies and AI-powered facial recognition technologies are getting a lot of pushback as regular people start to understand their capabilities.
Done correctly, Copilot could be a breakthrough low-code tool, an area that has seen an incredible amount of interest over the past few years. GitHub did not provide a timeline for the release of a commercial version, but if Microsoft can find a way to generate revenue from GitHub, its low-code Power Platform and Visual Studio Code after spending billions piecing together the puzzle, it's going to happen.
— Tom Krazit
Trello Enterprise is where large teams complete their best work: secure, easy to manage at scale, with powerful integrations and automations at your fingertips. Learn how Trello has sustained hybrid work over the past decade with tips and best practices from its founding leadership team.
PE M&A: So far throughout 2021, private equity companies have already invested more money in enterprise SaaS companies than during all of 2020, according to a new report from Protocol's Joe Williams. And in a bit of a departure from their cost-cutting tactics of the past, private-equity investors are making these deals with revenue growth in mind.
Work better, you: The post-pandemic period might generate some of the most fascinating shifts in workplace trends since everyone started working on mobile devices a decade ago. That's just one reason why we just launched our newest section, Protocol | Workplace, and as part of that launch Protocol's David Pierce sat down with Salesforce's Patrick Stokes to talk about the changing nature of workplace tools, both in and out of the office.
What was your first tech job?
Sr. Manager of Yahoo for Good. One of my first projects was to integrate "How to Help" links into Yahoo News articles on disasters so people could donate or volunteer. I was so amazed that something I did touched millions of people within the first few months of working there. It was my first experience using technology to scale impact, and I got the bug.
If Protocol gave you $1 billion to start a new enterprise tech company from scratch today, what would you do?
Launch a company that provides access to financial capital to women entrepreneurs in developing countries by using the data in their mobile transactions to create nontraditional credit scores. I want more women to be financially empowered, which then lifts up entire communities.
What's your favorite pastime that doesn't involve a screen?
Backpacking in the wilderness. I have taken my 7-year-old daughter since she was 4, and will take my son now that he's 3. No distractions, sweat, dirt and wind in the trees.
How can enterprise tech improve its current status around diversity, equity and inclusion?
We need to move past the idea that representation metrics are the end-all be-all for diversity, equity and inclusion. The more powerful indicators look at the full experience of employees — hiring, retention, career progression, pay equity. And beyond the company's walls, we also need to play a role in ending systemic racism in society; for instance, supporting voting rights, so our legislation truly represents the full diversity of views.
What will be the greatest challenge for enterprise tech over the coming decade?
Applying enterprise technology across the public and private sector to solve some of the biggest social and environmental challenges facing the world right now. One area we've seen progress here is with tech companies partnering with non-governmental organizations and governments to get the world vaccinated. Initiatives like COVAX, the largest global initiative working to vaccinate lower income countries against COVID-19, are a great example of organizations coming together to increase equitable distribution of the vaccine.
Company culture has changed overnight. With a mass shift to home offices, many businesses are asking: What does our future look like when people can work from anywhere? In this first-ever roundtable with Trello's leadership team, learn how Trello has scaled a successful hybrid work model over the past decade.
Thanks for reading — Protocol is taking the day off on Monday, but Protocol | Enterprise will return next Thursday!