Oct
21
2020
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Wrike launches new AI tools to keep your projects on track

Project management service Wrike today announced at its user conference a major update to its platform that includes a lot of new AI smarts for keeping individual projects on track and on time, as well as new solutions for marketers and project management offices in large corporations. In addition, the company also launched a new budgeting feature and tweaks to the overall user experience.

The highlight of the launch, though, is, without doubt, the launch of the new AI and machine learning capabilities in Wrike . With more than 20,000 customers and over 2 million users on the platform, Wrike has collected a trove of data about projects that it can use to power these machine learning models.

Image Credits: Wrike

The way Wrike is now using AI falls into three categories: project risk prediction, task prioritization and tools for speeding up the overall project management workflow.

Figuring out the status of a project and knowing where delays could impact the overall project is often half the job. Wrike can now predict potential delays and alert project and team leaders when it sees events that signal potential issues. To do this, it uses basic information like start and end dates, but more importantly, it looks at the prior outcomes of similar projects to assess risks. Those predictions can then be fed into Wrike’s automation engine to trigger actions that could mitigate the risk to the project.

Task prioritization does what you would expect and helps you figure out what you should focus on right now to help a project move forward. No surprises there.

What is maybe more surprising is that the team is also launching voice commands (through Siri on iOS) and Gmail-like smart replies (in English for iOS and Android). Those aren’t exactly core features of a project management tool, but as the company notes, these features help remove the overall friction and reduce latencies. Another new feature that falls into this category is support for optical character recognition to allow you to scan printed and handwritten notes from your phones and attach them to tasks (iOS only).

“With more employees working from home, work and personal life are becoming intertwined,” the company argues. “As workers use AI in their personal lives, team managers and everyday users expect the smarts they’re accustomed to in consumer devices and apps to help them manage their work as well. Wrike Work Intelligence is the most comprehensive machine learning foundation that taps into tens of millions of work-related user engagements to power cross-functional collaboration to help organizations achieve operational efficiency, create new opportunities and accelerate digital transformation. Teams can focus on the work that matters most, predict and minimize delays, and cut communication latencies.”

Image Credits: Wrike

The other major new feature — at least if you’re in digital marketing — is Wrike’s new ability to pull in data about your campaigns from about 50 advertising, marketing automation and social media tools, which is then displayed inside the Wrike experience. In a fast-moving field, having all that data at your fingertips and right inside the tool where you think about how to manage these projects seems like a smart idea.

Image Credits: Wrike

Somewhat related, Wrike’s new budgeting feature also now makes it easier for teams to keep their projects within budget, using a new built-in rate card to manage project pricing and update their financials.

“We use Wrike for an extensive project management and performance metrics system,” said Shannon Buerk, the CEO of engage2learn, which tested this new budgeting tool. “We have tried other PM systems and have found Wrike to be the best of all worlds: easy to use for everyone and savvy enough to provide valuable reporting to inform our work. Converting all inefficiencies into productive time that moves your mission forward is one of the keys to a culture of engagement and ownership within an organization, even remotely. Wrike has helped us get there.”

Dec
17
2019
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Odoo grabs $90M to sell more SMEs on its business app suite

Belgium-based all-in-one business software maker Odoo, which offers an open source version as well as subscription-based enterprise software and SaaS, has taken in $90 million led by a new investor: Global growth equity investor Summit Partners.

The funds have been raised via a secondary share sale. Odoo’s executive management team and existing investor SRIW and its affiliate Noshaq also participated in the share sale by buying stock — with VC firms Sofinnova and XAnge selling part of their shares to Summit Partners and others.

Odoo is largely profitable and grows at 60% per year with an 83% gross margin product; so, we don’t need to raise money,” a spokeswoman told us. “Our bottleneck is not the cash but the recruitment of new developers, and the development of the partner network.

“What’s unusual in the deal is that existing managers, instead of cashing out, purchased part of the shares using a loan with banks.”

The 2005-founded company — which used to go by the name of OpenERP before transitioning to its current open core model in 2015 — last took in a $10M Series B back in 2014, per Crunchbase.

Odoo offers some 30 applications via its Enterprise platform — including ERP, accounting, stock, manufacturing, CRM, project management, marketing, human resources, website, eCommerce and point-of-sale apps — while a community of ~20,000 active members has contributed 16,000+ apps to the open source version of its software, addressing a broader swathe of business needs.

It focuses on the SME business apps segment, competing with the likes of Oracle, SAP and Zoho, to name a few. Odoo says it has in excess of 4.5 million users worldwide at this point, and touts revenue growth “consistently above 50% over the last ten years”.

Summit Partners told us funds from the secondary sale will be used to accelerate product development — and for continued global expansion.

“In our experience, traditional ERP is expensive and frequently fails to adapt to the unique needs of dynamic businesses. With its flexible suite of applications and a relentless focus on product, we believe Odoo is ideally positioned to capture this large and compelling market opportunity,” said Antony Clavel, a Summit Partners principal who has joined the Odoo board, in a supporting statement.

Odoo’s spokeswoman added that part of the expansion plan includes opening an office in Mexico in January, and another in Antwerpen, Belgium, in Q3.

This report was updated with additional comment

Jul
02
2019
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Software development analytics platform Sourced launches an enterprise edition

Sourced, or source{d}, as the company styles its name, provides developers and IT departments with deeper analytics into their software development life cycle. It analyzes codebases, offers data about which APIs are being used and provides general information about developer productivity and other metrics. Today, Sourced is officially launching its Enterprise Edition, which gives IT departments and executives a number of advanced tools for managing their software portfolios and the processes they use to create them.

“Sourced enables large engineering organizations to better monitor, measure and manage their IT initiatives by providing a platform that empowers IT leaders with actionable data,” said the company’s CEO Eiso Kant. “The release of Sourced Enterprise is a major milestone towards proper engineering observability of the entire software development life cycle in enterprises.”

Engineering Effectiveness Efficiency

Because it’s one of the hallmarks of every good enterprise tools, it’s no surprise that Sourced Enterprise also offers features like role-based access control and other security features, as well as dedicated support and SLAs. IT departments also can run the service on-premise, or use it as a SaaS product.

The company also tells me that the enterprise version can handle larger codebases so that even complex queries over a large data set only takes a few seconds (or minutes if it’s a really large codebase). To create these complex queries, the enterprise edition includes a number of add-ons to allow users to create these advanced queries. “These are available upon request and tailored to help enterprises overcome specific challenges that often rely on machine learning capabilities, such as identity matching or code duplication analysis,” the company says.

Cloud Migration

The service integrates with most commonly used project management and business intelligence tools, but it also ships with Apache Superset, an open-source business intelligence application that offers built-in data visualization capabilities.

These visualization capabilities are also now part of the Sourced Community Edition, which is now available in private beta.

“Sourced Enterprise gave us valuable insights into the Cloud Foundry codebase evolution, development patterns, trends and dependencies, all presented in easy-to-digest dashboards,” said Chip Childers, the CTO of the open-source Cloud Foundry Foundation, which tested the Enterprise Edition ahead of its launch. “If you really want to understand what’s going on in your codebase and engineering department, Sourced is the way to go.”

To date, the company has raised $10 million from First VC, Heartcore Capital, Xavier Niel and others.

Talent Assessment Managment

Jul
01
2019
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Tara.ai, which uses machine learning to spec out and manage engineering projects, nabs $10M

Artificial intelligence has become an increasingly important component of how a lot of technology works; now it’s also being applied to how technologists themselves work. Today, one of the startups building such a tool has raised some capital, Tara.ai, a platform that uses machine learning to help an organization get engineering projects done — from identifying and predicting the work that will need to be tackled, to sourcing talent to execute that, and then monitoring the project of that project — has raised a Series A of $10 million to continue building out its platform.

The funding for the company cofounded by Iba Masood (she is the CEO) and Syed Ahmed comes from an interesting group of investors that point to Tara’s origins, as well as how it sees its product developing over time.

The round was led by Aspect Ventures (the female-led firm that puts a notable but not exclusive emphasis on female-founded startups) with participation also from Slack, by way of its Slack Fund. Previous investors Y Combinator and Moment Ventures also participated in the round. (Y Combinator provides an avenue to companies from its cohorts to help them source their Series A rounds, and Tara.ai went through this process.)

Tara.ai was originally founded as Gradberry out of Y Combinator, with its initial focus on using an AI platform for organizations to evaluate and help source engineering talent: Tara.ai was originally that name of its AI engine.

(The origin of how Masood and Ahmed identified this problem was through their own direct experience: both were grads (she in finance, he in engineering) from the American University of Sharjah in the U.A.E. that had problems getting hired because no one had ever heard of their university. Even so, they had won an MIT-affiliated startup competition in Morocco and relocated to Boston. The idea with Gradberry was to cut through the big names and focus just on what people could do.)

Masood and Syed (who eventually got married) eventually realised that using that engine to evaluate the wider challenges of executing engineering projects came as a natural progression once the team started digging into the challenges and identifying what actually needed to be solved.

A study that McKinsey (where Masood once worked) conducted across some 5,000 projects found that $66 billion dollars were identified as “lost” due to projects running past the expected completion time, lack of adequate talent and just overall poor planning.

“We realised that recruiting was actually the final decision you make, not the first, and we wanted to be involved earlier in the decision-making process,” Masood said in an interview. “We saw a much bigger opportunity looking not at the people, but the whole project.”

In action, that means that Tara.ai is used not just to scope out the nature of the problem that needed to be solved, or the goal that an organization wanted to achieve; it is also used to suggest which frameworks will need to be used to execute on that goal, and then suggest a timeline to follow.

Then, it starts to evaluate a company’s own staff expertise, along with that from other recruiting platforms, to figure out which people to source from within the company. Eventually, that will also be complemented with sourcing information from outside the organization — either contractors or new hires.

Masood noted that a large proportion of users in the tech world today use Jira and platforms like it to manage projects. While there are some tools in Jira to help plan out projects better, Tara is proposing its platform as a kind of virtual project manager, or an assistant to an existing project manager, to conceive of the whole project, not just help with the admin of getting it done.

Notably, right now she says that some 75% of Tara.ai’s users — customers include Cisco, Orange Silicon Valley and Mower Digital — are “not technical,” meaning they themselves do not ship or use code. “This helps them understand what could be considered and the dependencies that can be expected out of a project,” she notes.

Lauren Kolodny, the partner at Aspect who led the investment, said that one of the things that stood out for her, in fact, with Tara.ai, was precisely how it could be applied exactly in those kinds of scenarios.

Today, tech is such a fundamental part of how a lot of businesses operate, but that doesn’t mean that every business is natively a technology one (think here of food and beverage companies as an example, or government agencies). In those cases, these companies would have traditionally had to turn to outside consultants to identify opportunities, and then build and potentially long-term operate whatever the solutions become. Now there is an opportunity to rethink how technology is used in these kinds of organizations.

“Projects have been hacked together from multiple systems, not really built in combination,” Kolodny said of how much development happens at these traditional businesses. “We are really excited about the machine learning scoping and mapping of internal and external talent, which is looking to be particularly important as traditional enterprises are required to get level with newer businesses, and the amount of talent they need to execute on these projects becomes challenging.”

Tara.ai’s next steps will involve essentially taking the building blocks of what you can think of as a very powerful talent and engineering project search engine, and making it more powerful. That will include integrating databases of external consultants and figuring out how best to have these in tandem with internal teams while keeping them working well together. And soon to come also will be bug prediction: how to identify these before they arise in a project. The company is releasing an updated AI engine to coincide with the funding.

Tara AI launch

The Slack investment is also a notable nod to what direction Tara.ai will take. Masood said that Slack was one of three “big tech” companies interested in investing in this round, and she and Syed chose Slack because from what they could see of its existing and target customers, many were already using it and some have already started requesting closer collaboration so that events in one could come up as updates in the other.

“Our largest customers are heavy Slack users and they are already having conversations in Slack related to projects in Tara.ai,” she said. “We are tackling the scoping element and now seeing how to link up even command line interfaces between the two.”

She noted that this does not rule out closer integrations with communications and other platforms that people use on a daily basis to get their work done: the idea is to become a tool to work better overall.

Mar
19
2019
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Trello aims for the enterprise

Trello, Atlassian’s project management tool, is doubling down on its efforts to become a better service for managing projects at work. To do so, the team is launching thirteen new features in Trello Enterprise today, making this one of the company’s biggest feature releases since the launch of the enterprise version in 2015.

As the company also announced today, one million teams now actively use the service.

Most of these new features are for paying users, but even Trello’s free users are getting access to a few new goodies. In return, though, Trello is taking away the ability to create an unlimited number of boards for free Teams users (not regular users outside of a team). Going forward, they can only have 10 boards open in Trello at any given time. Teams without a subscription that already use more than 10 boards will continue to use them but will have to subscribe to a paid plan to add more. To help make all of this a bit easier, Trello will let existing free teams add up to 10 additional boards until May 1, 2019 — and they’ll be able to keep them going forward.

“We’re making this change to accelerate our ability to bring world-class business features to market, and Trello Business Class and Enterprise will get more useful and powerful to address our customers’ pain points in the workplace,” the company’s co-founder and today’s head of Trello Michael Pryor writes in today’s announcement — and to do bring those feature to market, it surely helps to convert a few more free users into paying ones.

One of the main new feature announcements here is that the Power-Up Butler is now available for free, for both paying and free users (though with some limitations if you aren’t on a subscription plan). Power-Up Butler is an automation extension for Trello that the company acquired in December. It makes it easier to automate workflows and other repetitive tasks in Trello — and that’s clearly something the service’s enterprise users were asking for.

With this update, Trello is also now getting a new board setting beyond ‘private,’ ‘team’ and ‘public.’ This new setting, ‘organization,’ allows you to share a board with the entire company, including those who are not on a particular team. Until now, that wasn’t really an option and creating a public board was obviously not an option for many companies.

Since IT admins love nothing more than access controls, the new version of Trello Enterprise also features a lot of new ways for them to create visibility controls, membership restrictions, board creation restrictions and more. Admins now also get tools to enforce the use of single sign-on solutions and new ways to manage public boards and users, as well as which power-up extensions employees can use.

The company also today announced that it has received SOX and SOC2 Type 1 compliance.

Nov
01
2018
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Asana launches $19.99 Business tier to help managers handle multiple projects

Asana, the platform where people can create and track the progress of work projects, made its name originally as a place where individuals and smaller teams can create and track the progress of a specific project. Now, as the startup courts bigger organizations among its 50,000 paying organizations and millions of (paying and free) users globally, it is adding another tier for enterprises that are using Asana for multiple projects: Asana Business, priced at $19.95 per user, per month.

Aimed primarily at teams that have managers or executives overseeing multiple projects simultaneously — sometimes in the thousands for a single organization — the idea is that Business will have extra features to help designated people handle and triage that workload more effectively.

Asana co-founder and CEO Dustin Moskovitz

“Our role is to help leaders understand where their attention can be most useful and what to be focused on,” Dustin Moskovitz, pictured, the co-founder and CEO of Asana, said to me in an interview recently.

That focus on executives and managers is one part of the company’s bigger vision of where it sees its own place in the range of productivity tools that a business might use, alongside other areas like efficient storage (à la Dropbox, Box or another cloud-based service) or communication (e.g. Slack, Workplace, Teams, etc.).

Asana is also not alone in its category; other alternatives include Airtable, Write, Trello and Basecamp, another reason the company is on the path to continue innovating and finding ways to make its service more sticky.

The new Asana Business tier includes a couple of specific new tools that will differentiate it from Teams (Asana’s $9.99/user/month tier for groups of more than five) and Enterprise (the tier that you need to speak to an account manager to determine pricing). In all cases, the pricing is based on buying an annual subscription: prices are higher if you pay by the month.

The first, Portfolio, will give a manager a way of viewing what everyone in an organization is working on in Asana — a “mission control” that provides a single view of what is going on, which can be useful for figuring out more big-picture progress or to oversee a larger project that has multiple streams of work within it.

Alongside that, it’s also soon going to launch another feature in Business called Workloads, which will let managers then assign people to projects or redeploy them, based on what they are seeing progress through the Portfolios tool.

The two features, Asana hopes, will mean that organizations will not only get better insights into their current projects on the platform, but might be enticed to buy into using it for more of them. Alex Hood, the company’s head of product (who joined a year ago after many years at Intuit), noted that it’s something that companies had already been trying to address themselves to some degree. “We’ve seen customers hack solutions together,” he said. So, it seemed like time to make it into a more formal tool, Hood said.

The company’s move to add another tier to generate more revenue comes on the heels of Asana raising $75 million on a $900 million valuation earlier this year — money that Moskovitz told TechCrunch is still largely in the bank.

“We’re not yet profitable, but we’re rapidly approaching it,” he said, describing Asana to me as a “high-volume SaaS business, very efficient and very successful.” The company is not in sight of an IPO, he added, but it seems that it is just getting started on what more it might add to the platform to make it more sticky and useful to the average business user. 

Key on that roadmap, Hood said, is the use of more machine learning and other artificial intelligence tools in the creation of new features — something that the company first introduced through Timeline, introduced in March, which knits together different project threads to start creating a bigger overview of what is going on.

One new feature that Asana is working on is a way to highlight when projects might not be going to plan, or that there are areas that have yet to be addressed — and then suggest ways of helping to fix things through the redeployment of people.

Another area that Asana is exploring is how to use AI to match people better to projects. Hood said that it’s now working on a system that might be able to suggest where an employee or team member might get assigned — for example, using the profile of a person that invited you into a team as an indicator of where you might be working.

Dec
19
2016
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eSUB Construction Software raises $5 million to help subcontractors track jobs and get paid

eSub's construction project management app for subcontractors. A San Diego startup called eSUB Construction Software has raised $5 million in a Series A round led by Revolution Ventures according to President and CEO Wendy Rogers. The company’s cloud-based project management apps help subcontractors track and get compensated for all the work they do on construction jobs. Rogers said, “There’s a saying that subcontractors get paid for… Read More

Aug
18
2016
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Redbooth adds Apple TV app to bring project management to big screen

Tim Cook at Apple event standing in front of big sign: "The Future of TV is apps." Redbooth, makers of project management and collaboration software, announced a new Apple TV app today that brings their service directly to Apple TV. We mostly think of Apple TV as a consumer device, designed to give us access to entertainment and games or to project the contents of one of our Apple devices onto a bigger screen. That changed to some extent last year when Apple announced… Read More

Jul
29
2014
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Project Management Platform Wrike Challenges Asana With New Workflow Tools

wrike_extension When it comes to web-based project management tools, we are spoiled for options these days. Popular ones include Asana, which coincidentally released its new iOS app today, Podio and Atlassian’s collaboration services. One lesser-known competitor is Wrike, a project management and collaboration service that raised $10 million from Bain Capital last year. The company is launching a… Read More

Jul
03
2014
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Atlassian Expands Its Enterprise Offerings With JIRA And Confluence Data Center

FeatTour_NEW_Hero_614x378-jira-pt-hero Atlassian, the company behind developer collaboration tools like JIRA, Confluence and HipChat, has long had a strong presence in the enterprise, but the company today announced two new products specifically geared at this market. Next week, Atlassian will launch JIRA Data Center, the latest version of its JIRA project management software with high-level customer support offerings and… Read More

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