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Microsoft’s new business apps make customer management easier

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Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. Photo courtesy Le Web (cc-by)
Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. Photo courtesy Le Web (cc-by)
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Microsoft has announced three new apps to help small businesses find and engage with customers.

The products are part of its Office 365 cloud subscription service. The apps let users advertise online, manage email campaigns and send invoices.

Microsoft Listings, Microsoft Connections and Microsoft Invoicing were unveiled during the company’s Inspire partner. They followed the introduction of Microsoft 365, a new all-in-one subscription service that bundles Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365 into a single monthly fee.

While Microsoft 365 primarily targets larger companies, Listings, Connections and Invoicing are apps better suited to smaller firms. They’re part of Office 365 Business Premium and you don’t need the new Microsoft 365 to access them. Microsoft said the services are meant to help you “win customers and manage your business.”

Listings

Listings helps you publish your business information to multiple sources online. You can simultaneously update your details on Facebook, Google, Bing and Yelp, saving you the time of individually altering each outlet.

Using the single Listings dashboard, you can monitor website pageviews, ratings and reviews across all the supported services. If you need to make a change, updating your information on the dashboard will push the modification out to all your linked accounts. Listings is meant to let you promote your brand to prospective customers without having to leave Microsoft’s platform.

Connections

If Listings is about gaining customers, Connections is built to help you retain them. It integrates a fully-featured email marketing tool into Office 365. Microsoft provides a set of templates you can use to craft email newsletters and promotional campaigns. Connections comes with tools to let subscribers remove themselves from a list. It also offers detailed built-in analytics capabilities.

Invoicing

Invoicing simplifies the generation of invoices for your company. It can automatically create you an invoice based on one of several included templates. You can view all your invoices from the Office 365 dashboard, letting you check up on clients who have outstanding bills.

The app integrates with PayPal so customers can send you money using their card without you having to do any work yourself. You can also link Invoicing to QuickBooks if you need to transfer invoicing details to an accountant.

Office 365 Business Center

The three new apps are a clear attempt by Microsoft to reinforce the value of Office 365 to small and medium-sized businesses. They address some of the most common issues emerging businesses face on a regular basis, offering solutions to pain points at every step of the customer procurement process.

The apps are also a strong move against established independent providers. Connections aims to eliminate the role of dedicated email campaign apps while Invoicing seeks to win over customers of Freshbooks.

Like the rest of Office 365, all the apps sell each other. You can access the entire platform with one subscription, making it more likely you’ll cancel plans with other providers. Microsoft is adding yet more value to Office 365, making it more likely businesses will sign up and become trapped in its ecosystem.

Listings, Connections and Invoicing are rolling out now in preview form to Office 365 Business Premium Subscribers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. They’ll launch widely later this year. Microsoft is also debuting a new Office 365 Business Center, a centralized dashboard that surfaces the new apps and existing business tools.

James Walker
Author: James Walker

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Accenture Cloud First launches with $3B investment

New business unit is designed to help clients rapidly become ‘cloud-first.’

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Accenture will be able to help clients more rapidly move toward being ‘cloud-first’ — thanks to a $3 billion investment.

While not a cloud technology company, Accenture is known as a leading partner of most major cloud providers around the world. This investment will form Accenture Cloud First, described in the company’s press release as:

“a new multi-service group of 70,000 cloud professionals that brings together the full power and breadth of Accenture’s industry and technology capabilities, ecosystem partnerships, and deep commitment to learning and upskilling clients’ employees and to responsible business, with the singular focus of enabling organizations to move to the cloud with greater speed and achieve greater value for all their stakeholders at this critical time.”

Cloud First will be led by Karthik Narain, a tech industry veteran who most recently headed up Accenture Technology in North America. 

(Paul Daugh is Group Chief Executive – Technology & CTO at Accenture)

Cloud computing has seen a massive increase in demand — especially with the surge in remote working and need to cut costs, both as a result of COVID-19. Numbers from Gartner show that the worldwide public cloud services market is forecast to grow by 6.3% in 2020. The total in dollars? $257.9 billion, up from $242.7 billion in 2019.

As Accenture CEO Julie Sweet is quoted in Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter, “today we are 20% in the cloud. We are moving to 80%…instead of happening in a decade, it is going to happen in five years.” 

“This is the Henry Ford moment of the digital era,” she added.

In Accenture’s press release, Sweet emphasized how the pandemic has brought to light the importance of accelerating digital transformation across all organizations and industries.

“COVID-19 has created a new inflection point that requires every company to dramatically accelerate the move to the cloud as a foundation for digital transformation,” she says, “to build the resilience, new experiences and products, trust, speed, and structural cost reduction that the ongoing health, economic and societal crisis demands — and that a better future for all requires.”

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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BC First Nation becomes first to use digital twin for land management and stewardship

LlamaZOO’s TimberOps software will support Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation.

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In signing an agreement with Spatial Business Intelligence provider LlamaZOO, Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation is the first-ever First Nation to use digital twin technology. The First Nation will implement the software to improve management and stewardship of their over 350,000 hectares of unceded territory near the western coast of Vancouver Island.

According to a press release, leveraging LlamaZOO’s TimberOps software will help the First Nation to “facilitate meaningful reconciliation through shared decision-making, as well as provide greater certainty for responsible development proposals of the land with industry (forestry and mining), and government.”

“This technology will assist our people in showing the world what is within our Traditional Territory,” elaborated Chief Maquinna of Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation in LlamaZOO’s release. “It will provide prospective business partners and forestry companies with a real-time view of the results of logging, mining and other resource extraction. TimberOps is going to play a critical role in how we manage our lands and resources.”

The technology will “help the nation identify ‘absolute no-go zones’ where industrial activity is not welcome,” Dorothy Hunt, lands manager for the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation, told the Globe & Mail. Examples include archeological sites, recorded Culturally Modified Trees, and places to gather food/seafood — all recorded in the First Nation’s traditional land use assessment that was integrated into the software. 

Ultimately, both Hunt and LlamaZOO chief executive Charles Lavigne agree that TimberOps has the potential for application across First Nations and communities. 

3D topography 

As Lavigne explained to the Globe & Mail, “with this digital twin, you can effectively fly down to the ground floor and see the individual trees and fly up into the sky and see the rivers and the roads and the communities.”

Within the 3D digital twin, there are currently 76,000 timber cut blocks and nearly 87 million trees. Additional data such as fish stocks and water flow could also be added in the future. As it stands, according to the press release, this digital twin has “the most data layers ever seen in a digital twin at LlamaZOO and over 100 years of historical BC logging data.”

(Featured image by David Stanley via WikiCommons)

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Indigenous-led digital transformation in the face of a pandemic

Projects in Saskatchewan and Ontario are ensuring online learning access and the continuation of Indigenous tourism during COVID-19.

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A pair of Indigenous-led projects in Saskatchewan and Ontario are ensuring online learning access and the continuation of Indigenous tourism during COVID-19. 

Getting online

A self-contained signal relay network is helping all students from the Peepeekisis Cree Nation get online and back to school.

As reported in the Regina Leader-Post, Peepeekisis Cree Nation operations director Ernest Standingready — along with Pesakastew School principal David Still and education director Joy Sapp — saw this solution as a way to manage COVID-related physical distancing requirements.

“This technology allows us to broadcast that beam a few kilometres away and pick it up with another node and then repeat it and keep amplifying the signal down the road,” Standingready told the Leader-Post.

Mage Networks, based in Calgary, supplied the nodes which have been placed throughout the 38-square-kilometre reserve. Standingready, Still, and Sapp maintain control of the network, with only registered devices allowed and restrictions placed on website access.

Only 30% of the school’s registered families had internet access, explained Still, with 70% using cell data. The school gave each registered child a computer. In consideration of siblings, specific learning times are booked for each grade.

“It makes it that much more difficult when we’re on a First Nation that doesn’t have the basic infrastructure for the Internet, or even reliable, fast internet,” said Standingready. “A lot of houses are a few kilometres away (from each other); they’re not even tied into public infrastructure … Trying to find a way to get a signal out there was the biggest hurdle, but we were on that early.”

Boosting Indigenous tourism

According to Indigenous Tourism Ontario CEO Kevin Eshkawkogan, before COVID-19 there was “an increasing global demand” for Indigenous tourism.

Now, as reported by CBC Sudbury, the organization is working with Indigenous businesses to create virtual reality tours to help manage the pandemic-related decline in business.

In one example, Eshkawkogan explains that a company like Northern Ontario’s Mukwa Adventures — which provides guided ATV tours — could benefit from VR technology.

“He’s only got so many ATVs that he can take people out on the land and teach them different things,” he said, “but if you imagine … how much more accessible his business if he could do a virtual tour.”

Ultimately, it comes down to Indigenous-led solutions.

“We just want to help tell the Indigenous story on Indigenous terms while helping business operators who are Indigenous grow their business.”

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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