Monthly Archives: March 2018

Red Hat looks beyond Linux

Posted by on 31 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

The Red Hat Linux distribution is turning 25 years old this week. What started as one of the earliest Linux distributions is now the most successful open-source company, and its success was a catalyst for others to follow its model. Today’s open-source world is very different from those heady days in the mid-1990s when Linux looked to be challenging Microsoft’s dominance on the desktop, but Red Hat is still going strong.

To put all of this into perspective, I sat down with the company’s current CEO (and former Delta Air Lines COO) Jim Whitehurst to talk about the past, present and future of the company, and open-source software in general. Whitehurst took the Red Hat CEO position 10 years ago, so while he wasn’t there in the earliest days, he definitely witnessed the evolution of open source in the enterprise, which is now more widespread than every.

“Ten years ago, open source at the time was really focused on offering viable alternatives to traditional software,” he told me. “We were selling layers of technology to replace existing technology. […] At the time, it was open source showing that we can build open-source tech at lower cost. The value proposition was that it was cheaper.”

At the time, he argues, the market was about replacing Windows with Linux or IBM’s WebSphere with JBoss. And that defined Red Hat’s role in the ecosystem, too, which was less about technological information than about packaging. “For Red Hat, we started off taking these open-source projects and making them usable for traditional enterprises,” said Whitehurst.

Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat president and CEO (photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

About five or six ago, something changed, though. Large corporations, including Google and Facebook, started open sourcing their own projects because they didn’t look at some of the infrastructure technologies they opened up as competitive advantages. Instead, having them out in the open allowed them to profit from the ecosystems that formed around that. “The biggest part is it’s not just Google and Facebook finding religion,” said Whitehurst. “The social tech around open source made it easy to make projects happen. Companies got credit for that.”

He also noted that developers now look at their open-source contributions as part of their resumé. With an increasingly mobile workforce that regularly moves between jobs, companies that want to compete for talent are almost forced to open source at least some of the technologies that don’t give them a competitive advantage.

As the open-source ecosystem evolved, so did Red Hat. As enterprises started to understand the value of open source (and stopped being afraid of it), Red Hat shifted from simply talking to potential customers about savings to how open source can help them drive innovation. “We’ve gone from being commeditizers to being innovators. The tech we are driving is now driving net new innovation,” explained Whitehurst. “We are now not going in to talk about saving money but to help drive innovation inside a company.”

Over the last few years, that included making acquisitions to help drive this innovation. In 2015, Red Hat bought IT automation service Ansible, for example, and last month, the company closed its acquisition of CoreOS, one of the larger independent players in the Kubernetes container ecosystem — all while staying true to its open-source root.

There is only so much innovation you can do around a Linux distribution, though, and as a public company, Red Hat also had to look beyond that core business and build on it to better serve its customers. In part, that’s what drove the company to launch services like OpenShift, for example, a container platform that sits on top of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and — not unlike the original Linux distribution — integrates technologies like Docker and Kubernetes and makes them more easily usable inside an enterprise.

The reason for that? “I believe that containers will be the primary way that applications will be built, deployed and managed,” he told me, and argued that his company, especially after the CoreOS acquisition, is now a leader in both containers and Kubernetes. “When you think about the importance of containers to the future of IT, it’s a clear value for us and for our customers.”

The other major open-source project Red Hat is betting on is OpenStack . That may come as a bit of a surprise, given that popular opinion in the last year or so has shifted against the massive project that wants to give enterprises an open source on-premise alternative to AWS and other cloud providers. “There was a sense among big enterprise tech companies that OpenStack was going to be their savior from Amazon,” Whitehurst said. “But even OpenStack, flawlessly executed, put you where Amazon was five years ago. If you’re Cisco or HP or any of those big OEMs, you’ll say that OpenStack was a disappointment. But from our view as a software company, we are seeing good traction.”

Because OpenStack is especially popular among telcos, Whitehurst believes it will play a major role in the shift to 5G. “When we are talking to telcos, […] we are very confident that OpenStack will be the platform for 5G rollouts.”

With OpenShift and OpenStack, Red Hat believes that it has covered both the future of application development and the infrastructure on which those applications will run. Looking a bit further ahead, though, Whitehurst also noted that the company is starting to look at how it can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make its own products smarter and more secure, but also at how it can use its technologies to enable edge computing. “Now that large enterprises are also contributing to open source, we have a virtually unlimited amount of material to bring our knowledge to,” he said.

 

Posted Under: Tech News
As marketing data proliferates, consumers should have more control

Posted by on 30 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

At the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas this week, privacy was on many people’s minds. It was no wonder with social media data abuse dominating the headlines, GDPR just around the corner, and Adobe announcing the concept of a centralized customer experience record.

With so many high profile breaches in recent years, putting your customer data in a central record-keeping system would seem to be a dangerous proposition, yet Adobe sees so many positives for marketers, it likely sees this as a worthy trade-off.

Which is not to say that the company doesn’t see the risks. Executives speaking at the conference continually insisted that privacy is always part of the conversation at Adobe as they build tools — and they have built in security and privacy safeguards into the customer experience record.

Offering better experiences

The point of the exercise isn’t simply to collect data for data’s sake, it’s to offer consumers a more customized and streamlined experience. How does that work? There was a demo in the keynote illustrating a woman’s experience with a hotel brand.

Brad Rencher, EVP and GM at Adobe Experience Cloud explains Adobe’s Cloud offerings. Photo: Jeff Bottari/Invision for Adobe/AP Images

The mythical woman started a reservation for a trip to New York City, got distracted in the middle and was later “reminded” to return to it via Facebook ad. She completed the reservation and was later issued a digital key to key to her room, allowing to bypass the front desk check-in. Further, there was a personal greeting on the television in her room with a custom message and suggestions for entertainment based on her known preferences.

As one journalist pointed out in the press event, this level of detail from the hotel is not something that would thrill him (beyond the electronic check-in). Yet there doesn’t seem to be a way to opt out of that data (unless you live in the EU and are subject to GDPR rules).

Consumers may want more control

As it turns out, that reporter wasn’t alone. According to a survey conducted last year by The Economist Intelligence Unit in conjunction with ForgeRock, an identity management company, consumers are not just willing sheep that tech companies may think we are.

The survey was conducted last October with 1,629 consumers participating from eight countries including Australia, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US. It’s worth noting that survey questions were asked in the context of Internet of Things data, but it seems that the results could be more broadly applied to any types of data collection activities by brands.

There are a couple of interesting data points that perhaps brands should heed as they collect customer data in the fashion outlined by Adobe. In particular as it relates to what Adobe and other marketing software companies are trying to do to build a central customer profile, when asked to rate the statement, “I am uncomfortable with companies building a “profile” of me to predict my consumer behaviour,” 39 percent strongly agreed with that statement. Another 35 percent somewhat agreed. That would suggest that consumers aren’t necessarily thrilled with this idea.

When presented with the statement, Providing my personal information may have more drawbacks than benefits, 32 percent strongly agreed and 41 percent somewhat agreed.

That would suggest that it is on the brand to make it clearer to consumers that they are collecting that data to provide a better overall experience, because it appears that consumers who answered this survey are not necessarily making that connection.

Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that at a press conference after the Day One keynote announcing the unified customer experience record, many questions from analysts and journalists focused on notions of privacy. If Adobe is helping companies gather and organize customer data, what role do they have in how their customers’ use that data, what role does the brand have and how much control should consumers have over their own data?

These are questions we seem to be answering on the fly. The technology is here now or very soon will be, and wherever the data comes from, whether the web, mobile devices or the Internet of Things, we need to get a grip on the privacy implications — and we need to do it quickly. If consumers want more control as this survey suggests, maybe it’s time for companies to give it to them.

Posted Under: Tech News
Azure’s availability zones are now generally available

Posted by on 30 March, 2018

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No matter what cloud you build on, if you want to build something that’s highly available, you’re always going to opt to put your applications and data in at least two physically separated regions. Otherwise, if a region goes down, your app goes down, too. All of the big clouds also offer a concept called ‘availability zones’ in their regions to offer developers the option to host their applications in two separate data centers in the same zone for a bit of extra resilience. All big clouds, that is, except for Azure, which is only launching its availability zones feature into general availability today after first announcing a beta last September.

Ahead of today’s launch, Julia White, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Azure, told me that the company’s design philosophy behind its data center network was always about servicing commercial customers with the widest possible range of regions to allow them to be close to their customers and to comply with local data sovereignty and privacy laws. That’s one of the reasons why Azure today offers more regions than any of its competitors, with 38 generally available regions and 12 announced ones.

“Microsoft started its infrastructure approach focused on enterprise organizations and built lots of regions because of that,” White said. “We didn’t pick this regional approach because it’s easy or because it’s simple, but because we believe this is what our customers really want.”

Every availability zone has its own network connection and power backup, so if one zone in a region goes down, the others should remain unaffected. A regional disaster could shut down all of the zones in a single region, though, so most business will surely want to keep their data in at least one additional region.

Posted Under: Tech News
Asana introduces Timeline, lays groundwork for AI-based monitoring as the “team brain” for productivity

Posted by on 30 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

When workflow management platform Asana announced a $75 million round of funding in January led by former Vice President Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management, the startup didn’t give much of an indication of what it planned to do with the money, or what it was that won over investors to a new $900 million valuation (a figure we’ve now confirmed with the company).

Now, Asana is taking off the wraps on the next phase of its strategy. This week, the company announced a new feature it’s calling Timeline — composite, visual, and interactive maps of the various projects assigned to different people within a team, giving the group a wider view of all the work that needs to be completed, and how the projects fit together, mapped out in a timeline format.

Timeline is a new premium product: Asana’s 35,000 paying users will be able to access it for no extra charge. Those who are among Asana’s millions of free users will have to upgrade to the premium tier to access it.

The Timeline that Asana is making is intended to be used in scenarios like product launches, marketing campaigns and event planning, and it’s not a matter of a new piece of software where you have to duplicate work, but each project automatically becomes a new segment on a team’s Timeline. Viewing projects through the Timeline allows users to identify if different segments are overlapping and adjust them accordingly.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Timeline, however, is that it’s the first instalment of a bigger strategy that Asana plans to tackle over the next year to supercharge and evolve its service, making it the go-to platform for helping keep you focused on work, when you’re at work.

While Asana started out as a place where people go to manage the progress of projects, its ambition going forward is to become a platform that, with a machine-learning engine at the back end, will aim to manage a team’s and a company’s wider productivity and workload, regardless of whether they are actively in the Asana app or not.

“The long term vision is to marry computer intelligence with human intelligence to run entire companies,” Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein said in an interview. “This is the vision that got investors excited.”

The bigger product — the name has not been revealed — will include a number of different features. Some that Rosenstein has let me see in preview include the ability for people to have conversations about specific projects — think messaging channels but less dynamic and more contained. And it seems that Asana also has designs to move into the area of employee monitoring: it has also been working on a widget of sorts that installs on your computer and watches you work, with the aim of making you more efficient.

“Asana becomes a team brain to keep everyone focused,” said Rosenstein.

Given that Asana’s two co-founders, Dustin Moskovitz and Rosenstein, previously had close ties to Facebook — Moskovitz as a co-founder and Rosenstein as its early engineering lead — you might wonder if Timeline and the rest of its new company productivity engine might be bringing more social elements to the table (or desk, as the case may be).

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Rosenstein may have to his credit the creation of the “like” button and other iconic parts of the world’s biggest social network, but he has in more recent times become a very outspoken critic of the distracting effects of services like Facebook’s. It’s part of a bigger trend hitting Silicon Valley, where a number of leading players have, in a wave of mea culpa, turned against some of the bigger innovations particularly in social media.

Some have even clubbed together to form a new organization called the Center for Humane Technology, whose motto is “Reversing the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests.” Rosenstein is an advisor, although when I tried to raise the issue of the backlash that has hit Facebook on multiple fronts, he responded pretty flatly, “It’s not something I want to talk about right now.” (That’s what keeping focussed is all about, I guess.)

Asana, essentially, is taking the belief that social can become counterproductive when you have to get something done, and applying it to the enterprise environment.

This is an interesting twist, given that one of the bigger themes in enterprise IT over the last several years has been how to turn business apps and software more “social” — tapping into some of the mechanics and popularity of social networking to encourage employees to collaborate and communicate more with each other even when (as is often the case) they are not in the same physical space.

But social working might not be for everyone, all the time. Slack, the wildly popular workplace chat platform that interconnects users with each other and just about every enterprise and business app, is notable for producing “a gazillion notifications”, in Rosenstein’s words, leading to distraction from actually getting things done. “I’m not saying services like Slack can’t be useful,” he explained. (Slack is also an integration partner of Asana’s.) “But companies are realising that, to collaborate effectively, they need more than communication. They need content and work management. I think that Slack has a lot of useful purposes but I don’t know if all of it is good all the time.”

The “team brain” role that Asana envisions may be all about boosting productivity by learning about you and reducing distraction — you will get alerts, but you (and presumably the brain) prioritise which ones you get, if any at all — but interestingly it has kept another feature characteristic of a lot of social networking services: amassing data about your activities and using that to optimise engagement. As Rosenstein described it, Asana will soon be able to track what you are working on, and how you work on it, to figure out your working patterns.

The idea is that, by using machine learning algorithms, you can learn what a person does quickly, and what might take longer, to help plan that person’s tasks better, and ultimately make that person more productive. Eventually, the system will be able to suggest to you what you should be working on and when.

All of that might sound like music to managers’ ears, but for some, employee monitoring programs sound a little alarming for how closely they monitor your every move. Given the recent wave of attention that social media services have had for all the data they collect, it will be interesting to see how enterprise services like this get adopted and viewed. It’s also not at all clear how these sorts of programs will sit in respect of new directives like GDPR in Europe, which put into place a new set of rules for how any provider of an internet service needs to inform users of how their data is used, and any data collecting needs to have a clear business purpose.

Still, with clearly a different aim in mind — helping you work better — the end could justify the means for some, not just for bosses, but for people who might feel overwhelmed with what is on their work plate every day. “When you come in in the morning, you might have a list [many things] to do today,” Rosenstein said. “We take over your desktop to show the one thing you need to do.”

Posted Under: Tech News
IoT devices could be next customer data frontier

Posted by on 30 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

At the Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas, the company introduced what could be the ultimate customer experience construct, a customer experience system of record that pulls in information, not just from Adobe tools, but wherever it lives. In many ways it marked a new period in the notion of customer experience management, putting it front and center of the marketing strategy.

Adobe was not alone, of course. Salesforce, with its three-headed monster, the sales, marketing and service clouds, was also thinking of a similar idea. In fact, they spent $6.5 billion dollars last week to buy MuleSoft to act as a data integration layer to access  customer information from across the enterprise software stack, whether on prem, in the cloud, or inside or outside of Salesforce. And they announced the Salesforce Integration Cloud this week to make use of their newest company.

As data collection takes center stage, we actually could be on the edge of yet another data revolution, one that could be more profound than even the web and mobile were before it. That is…the Internet of Things.

Here comes IoT

There are three main pieces to that IoT revolution at the moment from a consumer perspective. First of all, there is the smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. These provide a way for humans to interact verbally with machines, a notion that is only now possible through the marriage of all this data, sheer (and cheap) compute power and the AI algorithms that fuel all of it.

Next, we have the idea of a connected car, one separate from the self-driving car. Much like the smart speaker, humans can interact with the car, to find directions and recommendations and that leaves a data trail in its wake. Finally we, have sensors like iBeacons sitting in stores, providing retailers with a world of information about a customer’s journey through the store — what they like or don’t like, what they pick up, what they try on and so forth.

There are very likely a host of other categories too, and all of this information is data that needs to be processed and understood just like any other signals coming from customers, but it also has unique characteristics around the volume and velocity of this data — it is truly big data with all of the issues inherent in processing that amount of data.

The means it needs to be ingested, digested and incorporated into that central customer record-keeping system to drive the content and experiences you need to create to keep your customers happy — or so the marketing software companies tell us, at least. (We also need to consider the privacy implications of such a record, but that is the subject for another article.)

Building a better relationship

Regardless of the vendor, all of this is about understanding the customer better to provide a central data gathering system with the hope of giving people exactly what they want. We are no longer a generic mass of consumers. We are instead individuals with different needs, desires and requirements, and the best way to please us they say, is to understand us so well, that the brand can deliver the perfect experience at exactly the right moment.

Photo: Ron Miller

That involves listening to the digital signals we give off without even thinking about it. We carry mobile, connected computers in our pockets and they send out a variety of information about our whereabouts and what we are doing. Social media acts as a broadcast system that brands can tap into to better understand us (or so the story goes).

Part of what Adobe, Salesforce and others can deliver is a way to gather that information, pull it together into his uber record keeping system and apply a level of machine and learning and intelligence to help further the brand’s ultimate goals of serving a customer of one and delivering an efficient (and perhaps even pleasurable) experience.

Getting on board

At an Adobe Summit session this week on IoT (which I moderated), the audience was polled a couple of times. In one show of hands, they were asked how many owned a smart speaker and about three quarters indicated they owned at least one, but when asked how many were developing applications for these same devices only a handful of hands went up. This was in a room full of marketers, mind you.

Photo: Ron Miller

That suggests that there is a disconnect between usage and tools to take advantage of them. The same could be said for the other IoT data sources, the car and sensor tech, or any other connected consumer device. Just as we created a set of tools to capture and understand the data coming from mobile apps and the web, we need to create the same thing for all of these IoT sources.

That means coming up with creative ways to take advantage of another interaction (and data collection) point. This is an entirely new frontier with all of the opportunity involved in that, and that suggests startups and established companies alike need to be thinking about solutions to help companies do just that.

Posted Under: Tech News
Hewlett Packard Enterprise to move HQ to San Jose

Posted by on 28 March, 2018

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise is moving north from Palo Alto to San Jose. The company will relocate 1,000 employees to a 220,000-square-foot space in late 2018. HPE was spun-off from Hewlett-Packard in 2015 and is focused on servers and storage.

This news comes months after HPE announced a different plan in which the company was moving to Santa Clara, where Aruba Networks, a company it previously acquired, is headquartered.

HPE is going to occupy six floors in San Jose’s America Center, which is located near a forthcoming Berryessa BART station.

This move is the latest win for San Jose. Google recently announced it would move in the coming years. According to a report in The Mercury News, the city of San Jose did not offer HPE any financial incentives.

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft can ban you for using offensive language

Posted by on 28 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

A report by CSOOnline presented the possibility that Microsoft would be able to ban “offensive language” from Skype, Xbox, and, inexplicably, Office. The post, which cites Microsoft’s new terms of use, said that the company would not allow users to “publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity)” and that you could lose your Xbox Live Membership if you curse out a kid Overwatch.

“We are committed to providing our customers with safe and secure experiences while using our services. The recent changes to the Microsoft Service Agreement’s Code of Conduct provide transparency on how we respond to customer reports of inappropriate public content,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. The company notes that “Microsoft Agents” do not watch Skype calls and that they can only respond to complaints with clear evidence of abuse. The changes, which go into effect May 1, allows Microsoft to ban you from it services if you’re found passing “inappropriate content” or using “offensive language.”

These new rules give Microsoft more power over abusive users and it seems like Microsoft is cracking down on bad behavior on its platforms. This is good news for victims of abuse in private communications channels on Microsoft products and may give trolls pause before they yell something about your mother on Xbox. We can only dare to dream.

Posted Under: Tech News
GoDaddy to move most of its infrastructure to AWS, not including domain management for its 75M domains

Posted by on 28 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

It really is Go Time for GoDaddy . Amazon’s cloud services provider AWS and GoDaddy, the domain registration and management giant, may have competed in the past when it comes to working with small businesses to provide them with web services, but today the two took a step closer together. AWS said that GoDaddy is now migrating “the majority” of its infrastructure to AWS in a multi-year deal that will also see AWS becoming a partner in selling on some products of GoDaddy’s — namely Manaon ged WordPress and GoCentral for managing domains and building and running websites.

The deal — financial terms of which are not being disclosed — is wide-ranging, but it will not include taking on domain management for GoDaddy’s 75 million domains currently under management, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to me.

“GoDaddy is not migrating the domains it manages to AWS,” said Dan Race, GoDaddy’s VP of communications. “GoDaddy will continue to manage all customer domains. Domain management is obviously a core business for GoDaddy.”

The move underscores Amazon’s continuing expansion as a powerhouse in cloud hosting and related services, providing a one-stop shop for customers who come for one product and stay for everything else (not unlike its retail strategy in that regard). Also, it is a reminder of how the economies of scale in the cloud business make it financially challenging to compete if you are not already one of the big players, or lack deep pockets to sustain your business as you look to grow. GoDaddy has been a direct victim of those economics: just last summer, GoDaddy killed off Cloud Servers, its AWS-style business for building, testing and scaling cloud services on GoDaddy infrastructure.

The AWS deal also highlights how GoDaddy is trimming operational costs to improve its overall balance sheet under Scott Wagner, the COO who took over as CEO from Blake Irving at the beginning of this year. 

“As a technology provider with more than 17 million customers, it was very important for GoDaddy to select a cloud provider with deep experience in delivering a highly reliable global infrastructure, as well as an unmatched track record of technology innovation, to support our rapidly expanding business,” said Charles Beadnall, CTO at GoDaddy, in a statement.

AWS provides a superior global footprint and set of cloud capabilities which is why we selected them to meet our needs today and into the future. By operating on AWS, we’ll be able to innovate at the speed and scale we need to deliver powerful new tools that will help our customers run their own ventures and be successful online,” he continued.

AWS said that GoDaddy will be using AWS’s Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes and Elastic Compute Cloud P3 instances, as well as machine learning, analytics, and other database-related and container technology. Race told TechCrunch that the infrastructure components that the company is migrating to AWS currently run at GoDaddy but will be gradually moved away as part of its multi-year migration.

“As a large, high-growth business, GoDaddy will be able to leverage AWS to innovate for its customers around the world,” said Mike Clayville, VP, worldwide commercial sales at AWS, in a statement. “Our industry-leading services will enable GoDaddy to leverage emerging technologies like machine learning, quickly test ideas, and deliver new tools and solutions to their customers with greater frequency. We look forward to collaborating with GoDaddy as they build anew in the cloud and innovate new solutions to help people turn their ideas into reality online.”

 

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Spoke looks to create a simpler workplace requests management tool

Posted by on 28 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

When Jay Srinivasan’s last company got acquired by Google, he and his co-founders were ready to get going right away — but they couldn’t figure out how to get ramped up or where things were.

That’s sometimes a refrain you’ll hear from employees of companies that are acquired, or any employees really, who suddenly have to get used to a new system of doing things. It can go all the way down to just getting a new laptop with the right software on it. And it’s a pain point that convinced Srinivasan and his co-founders Pratyus Patnaik and David Kaneda to start Spoke, a new tool for trying to solve those workplace management and request tickets — and finally getting your laptop ready so you can get to work. Spoke is launching for general availability to day, and the company says it has raised $28 million to date from investors like Accel, Greylock, and Felicis Ventures.

“Some internal ticketing systems you can use are searchable — as you imagine it finds all the answers, the problem is when you have all that many people you get 10,000 results,” Srinivasan said. “There’s too much to look at. In a larger company, the breaking point tends to be that there are probably a bunch of relevant answers, but there’s no way to find the needle in the haystack. So I really wanted to figure stuff out from scratch.”

With many companies switching to internal collaboration tools like Slack, the theory is that these kinds of requests should be made wherever the employee is. So part of Spoke is an actual bot that exists in Slack, looking to surface the right answers right away from a database of employee knowledge that’s built up over time. But Spoke’s aim, like many workplace tools that look to be simple, is to hide a lot of complex processes behind that chat window in terms of creating request tickets and other employee queries so they can pop in and pop out quickly enough.

The other side for Spoke is for the managers, which then need to handle all of these requests. Spoke converts all those requests made through Slack (and, theoretically, other platforms) and streams them into a feed of tickets which they can then tackle one-on-one. Rather than a complex interface, Spoke aims to create a simple array of buckets that managers can pop in and pop out in order to plow through those requests as quickly as possible. As Spoke gets more and more data about how those requests are initiated — and solved — it can over time get smarter about optimizing that ticketing flow.

“If I’m the IT manager, I don’t want you to have to log into a ticketing system,” Srinivasan said. “We allow you to make a request through Slack. You’re in slack and talk to Spoke and say, hey, I need a new laptop. I want you to stay in slack or teams. And a lot of time is spent on a specialized tool like a ticketing tool — it’s the same thing as a salesperson spending time in a CRM. Slack is a good way to get an input to that tool, but I still need a specialized standalone tool.”

You could consider Spoke as one interpretation of a couple of approaches to make data about the workplace more accessible. While Spoke is going after the bot-ish, come-to-me results route, there are others looking to create more of a centralized Wiki that’s easy to find and search. At the end of the day, both of these are trying to compress the amount of time it takes for employees to find answers to the information that they need, in addition to making it less frustrating. For the latter, there are some startups like Slab that have also raised venture financing.

For Spoke, the more challenging parts may actually come from the platforms where it lives. Slack, for example, is working on tools to make information much more searchable and accessible. It’s investing in tools to, for example, help users find the right person to ask a question in order to get information as fast as possible. As Slack — and other platforms — get more and more data, they can tune those tools themselves and potentially create something in-house that could be more robust. Srinivasan said the goal is to target the whole process of the workplace request in addition to just the search problem that he hopes will make Spoke something more defensible.

“You’re not looking for knowledge, you’re looking for services,” he said. “Let’s say I need a new laptop — by all means you can search Slack to get the answer of who you need to contact. But you still need to follow up and essentially create a request with them. Slack sometimes could solve the information access to knowledge access problem, but even then it doesn’t solve the service issue. Ticketing and request management consists of requests and responses with accountability. You have to make sure nothing falls through the cracks”

Posted Under: Tech News
Silver Lake is buying a $500M stake in Credit Karma in a massive secondary round

Posted by on 28 March, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Credit Karma, which once started as a simple credit report system and is now looking to expand into a true financial assistant, announced today it is getting a massive $500 million secondary investment from Silver Lake.

As part of the investment, Credit Karma says it is getting a 23% bump in the valuation from its last secondary round, which was around $3.25 billion. That means the company is now going to be worth roughly $4 billion altogether, while founder and CEO Kenneth Lin will remain the company’s largest shareholder. That, in the end, is likely important for investors and early employees even as they look to get some liquidity as many look to these founders to ensure that they intend to see the company all the way to the end. Silver Lake’s Mike Bingle is joining the company’s board of directors as part of this deal.

As companies stay private longer, those early employees that spend years at a startup before it hits that huge exit may have to wait longer for some kind of payout for their work. Investors, too, face the same dilemma, especially as the early bets are often just taken on a founder and an idea. And compensation packages early on also typically include equity as a significant portion as companies try to use the financing they raise for growth or other purposes. That makes these kinds of secondary rounds important as it shortens the window for at least some liquidation, which could help employees and investors be a little more patient.

Silver Lake is buying common stock in the company, which is now more than a decade old. But it does mean, with some kind of liquidation for shareholders, that it can likely hold off on an IPO for a little longer. It’s still building out it’s cachet as a financial advisory tool, so it may be that they sought to stay private and not be beholden to the quarterly pressures of a public company while they continue to build out that suite of tools.

Credit Karma is increasingly trying to build a suite of tools that will help it expand just beyond a simple credit score notifier. Late last year, Credit Karma rolled out a tool to be the hub for handling everything related to your cars. All of this sums up to its goal to be a financial assistant, and not just a credit report.

Posted Under: Tech News
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