Enterprise hits and misses – Microsoft 365 raises a work surveillance debate, and no one can accuse Salesforce of Slacking off

Enterprise hits and misses – Microsoft 365 raises a work surveillance debate, and no one can accuse Salesforce of Slacking off
Jon Reed
Sun, 11/29/2020 – 21:52

This week – Microsoft 365 provokes a work surveillance debate when new functionality details hit social media. Rumors have Salesforce taking a hard look at Slack – but why? Retailers hit the holiday home stretch, and I’m not the only who blows a gasket in the whiffs section.


Lead story – Microsoft 365 raises the stakes of the workforce surveillance debate

MyPOV: I’ve been railing about the fork-in-the-remote-work-road for a while. On the one side, we can change work to outcome-based metrics. On the other, we can turn remote tools into workforce surveillance, driven by dehumanizing, volume metrics.

Up until this week, most of the workplace surveillance companies receiving their well-earned social media disdain are what you might call startups nobody asked for fringe players. Not anymore. Now, Microsoft 365 has entered the mix.

Phil takes up the issue in We benchmark, you score productivity, they surveil – the good, bad and ugly of teamwork analytics. He writes:

A new feature in Microsoft 365 that quietly went live earlier this month has aroused a storm of indignation this week. Productivity Score is a set of analytics dashboards and reports in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center that shows aggregate metrics on how teams are using the various components of Microsoft’s productivity and teamwork suite.

No big deal, or…

Trouble is, managers can also dig down into the behavior of individual employees, for example to check up on whether they’re sharing cloud files instead of emailing attachments, or how much time they’re spending in Teams instead of their Outlook inbox.

The verdict is not simple to reach. As Phil points out:

Collecting and analyzing teamwork data can be a good thing. What’s important is to collect and manage that data in a way that respects the participants’ rights to privacy and self-actualization.

Phil goes on to cite the example of Asana, which has specifically designed its measurement tools to focus on task completion, not productivity-volume metrics. Sounds right – but I’d be willing to bet an overzealous employer could appropriate Asana’s tools for work surveillance also. Same with Microsoft – though I’d bet that’s not Microsoft’s intent. And that’s where I come down. Demonizing productivity vendors is entertaining, but not helpful. We vendor-by-vendor analysis and accountability:

  • How well are your productivity tools designed? What user activities do they measure, and why? And:
  • Are you educating companies on how to use your tools for the collective uplift of the workforce, not for punitive surveillance?

As for the companies bragging about how their tools monitor time-on-video-calls, and other invasive tactics, let’s see if we can vote them out of business, shall we? One thing I won’t waver on, and I’ve told vendors as much: it’s not enough to provide supposedly neutral tools, cash the checks, and cite your spectacular user adoption. Your obligation extends to customer education – and your own “ethical productivity” stance.

Diginomica picks – my top stories on diginomica this week

Retail omni gut-check with Stuart – three pieces to give you a retail status as the holiday shopping season hits high gear:

Other standouts:

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here’s my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

A few more vendor picks, without the quotage:

Jon’s grab bag – Mark filed a nifty tech-for-good use case from a philanthropic firm supporting vaccine research, and more (Wellcome has a new trust in technology). Meanwhile, Chris utters the dreaded “B” word, with an eye towards data privacy implications (Data Protection – adequacy and the Brexit dimension). Den wraps up our diginomica week by putting my video show with Brian in the oven for a nice roasty (A Thanksgiving gift – Jon and Brian chewing the ERP fat).

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

Overworked businessman


Shall we start with some silly stuff? Three-way-race for headline of the week:

(I’m not linking to these last two as the web sites don’t seem like the most reputable – go figure!) On a more serious note of whiffery:

As of now, I don’t see an explanation from TechCrunch on why they pulled a potentially explosive story, one that doesn’t pass the smell test either… Look, the chaotic leadership transition in the U.S. is clearly confusing for any companies with perceived ties to China, however strong (see: extended TikTok fiasco). Still, TechCrunch has accomplished a rare media feat: made the act of publishing/pulling a story temporarily more interesting than the story itself…

It’s about time someone called out these types:

If I read one more thing about “mindfulness” I’m going to lose mine… I think Josh Greenbaum feels the same, don’t you?

Finally, I’m about set to blow a gasket with the fresh wave of “my 2021 crystal ball” burnt offerings guru credential rattling:

And yes, Brian Sommer and I are plotting our cathartic revenge, via our annual un-predictions. Yep, they are in the oven… See you next time.

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses – in a good or bad way – let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. ‘myPOV’ is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

Image credit – Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Loser and Winner © ispstock – all from Fotolia.com.

Disclosure – Oracle, Workday, Infor, ASUG, Acumatica, Workfront and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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