(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)
Microsoft’s @mentions will make it easier to work together; annoying voice activated assistants get reined in; and other technologies from the past month that you may have missed, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.
1. Microsoft makes collaborative worksheets easier to use
Microsoft has received numerous complaints for how difficult it is to create a collaborative worksheet; consequently they have added this new feature “@mentions” to make spreadsheets easier to use. This feature allows users to tag their co-workers so they can edit, view or clarify a specific section. These tags can both be inside and outside the network. These mentions can also be added to the Microsoft workbook. This feature will be expected to come out to users in October 2022, while only desktop Excel users will be able to have the feature for now (Source: Tech Radar).
Why this is important for your firm and clients: A much-needed feature. Let’s see how everyone likes it in October.
2. Teams voice and video calls can be transferred to customized business apps
Microsoft Teams has created a new feature in which calls and video can be customized and transferred into priority business apps. This has allowed businesses to reduce the need for employees and employers to go back and forth between Microsoft and other work-related applications by enabling Teams video and audio conferencing in their own business apps. Microsoft hopes that this will increase productivity and promote clarity in communication between colleagues. (Source: ZDNet)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: This is one of those little tweaks that can provide a lot of productivity. Theoretically — and with some developer assistance — you can embed Teams into your accounting, CRM, HR or other applications so you’re not switching back and forth. I recommend asking a Microsoft developer to spend a few hours setting this up with one of your business apps to see what impact it has. I bet it has a lot of impact.
3. ‘Hey, Google’ will be turned off during meetings
Google has launched this new feature where the command “Hey, Google” will not activate during and 10 minutes before a meeting. The hope is that this command will not disrupt any important calls during a meeting. This feature only applies to Google Meet Hardware and is designed for online video conferencing. (Source: ARS Technica).
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Another tweak that may reduce some headaches. Now when will Amazon figure out a way not to launch Alexa when someone in the room says a word similar?
4. Lenovo announces a new version of Evolve Small
Last summer computer maker Lenovo created a program called Evolve Small to help small businesses in North America through financial aid, business mentorship, technical assistance, and community support. Last month the company announced an expansion of the program to focus more on minority and women-owned businesses. (Source: Business Wire).
Why this is important for your firm and clients: According to the company and as part of the initiative, Lenovo, in partnership with Microsoft and AMD, “will continue to fund grants, technology upgrades, and mentorship opportunities to small businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada. Select small businesses will have the opportunity to partner with a high-profile celebrity. They can leverage custom marketing materials and mentorship from the celebrity partner and Lenovo Evolve Small Ambassadors. These small businesses will receive the technological support needed to implement systems and processes that allow them to elevate their day-to-day business operations.”
5. A new standalone Windows version of WhatsApp
Windows users of WhatsApp can now enjoy the application without using their phone or even having their phone available. The company has released a new app that’s available on the Windows store. (Source: The Verge).
Why this is important for your firm and clients: This is a big one for me because my company has a fair amount of clients and others in our community that use WhatsApp (I also have relatives overseas where WhatsApp is extremely popular). Up until now all conversations went through my phone. But using the application right from my laptop will surely save time, and position me to better integrate these conversations with my CRM. Downloading now … !
6 Meta introduces AI and automation tools to help advertisers
Advantage+, Meta’s most advanced AI and automation for advertisers, is a feature that used to be exclusive to high-end campaigns but now can help advertisers further by getting more from their ad spend even for just one ad. (Source: Search Engine Journal)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: According toMeta, small businesses can use this feature to create their own ads right on Facebook. This can also create shopping ads for online and in-person retail. The feature creates a more targeted ad for the consumers that would be more likely to buy from that company. “With Meta Advantage+ shopping campaigns, we are able to grow our business by automating our targeting and campaign creative with less manual setup, which freed up time to focus on other areas of our business,” one Meta company says. “After initially testing Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns earlier this year we’ve allocated more of our budget to these ads as we’ve seen continued performance and lower [cost].”
7. Amazon to make Alexa make it easier for users
Many changes are coming for Alexa by Amazon, and the biggest one is how Alexa mitigates individual routines. Amazon will also make these new features easier to use by having Alexa’s voice activation use a virtual command that helps with urgent needs. This new Alexa is still in the development process. (Source: The Verge)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Keep an eye on Alexa for Business too. Amazon is quietly building tools based on Alexa’s technology so that workers can get things done by voice commands. Sending an invoice to a customer. Generating a report for a manager. Initiating a returns claim. Onboarding a new employee. There are endless ways voice technology can increase productivity in an office … and it’s all coming.
8. Cyber hackers are using ‘Deepfakes’’ to attack organizations
Deepfakes are AI-generated images to portray fake people or to cosplay as real people. The cyberattackers have been using this technology to get through safeguards in order to collect information from major companies. The rise of these specific attacks have been caused by the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine. The hackers use this type of cyber attack to collect ransom in exchange for getting the victim’s personal information back. (Source: Silicon Republic)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Deepfake technology is becoming more common — as predicted — and it will be important for business owners and their employees to become even more cognizant of scams being built on this new type of technology. It’s not just video, it’s also voice — as one bank manager found out after losing $35 million. Get training.
9. Japanese supermarkets will use robot arms to restock shelves
300 Familymart locations across cities in Japan will be equipped with AI powered robot arms to restock shelves. This is to help relieve store workers while helping to combat the labor shortage in Japan. According to Telexistence — a Japanese tech company — each robot unit can replace one to three hours of human work per day. Familymart will pay the tech company a monthly fee to use the robots. U.S. tech giants like Microsoft and Nvidia have been in talks with Telexistence — on the future for AI-powered bots. (Source: Seattle Times)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: With fewer workers coming to work, companies around the globe are compensating with investments in technology to permanently replace them. It’s a great opportunity for the robotics industry and an excellent way for businesses to control their overhead while still delivering their products and services. As for the workers?
10. Google’s update to replace third-party cookies delayed
Google had previously stated that they would get rid of this system of digital advertising by 2022; however, the date has been pushed back. Google has decided to hold back on this plan because they need to reevaluate their new privacy testing before getting rid of the existing system. Digital advertising has already taken a major hit from Apple and Facebook’s new privacy features which hiked the prices on digital advertisements. Google feels extremely confident that their alternatives will quench privacy concerns from many users. (Source: CNBC)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: By now we all know what cookies are — those little applets that get downloaded to our devices in order to track our moves online. Google and other big online advertisers relied on cookies to target people. But, bowing to privacy concerns, the company decided to end its support of cookies in lieu of “alternatives” which we’re waiting to hear more about. If you advertise online, as I do, this will have a major impact on how you’re spending your money and your lead generation strategies. We got a stay of execution for a bit, but the inevitable downfall of cookies is coming.