1. Demand for employee surveillance software soars
p17gvqk18l1hhv1njt1o7323j196k7.jpg
A recent study has revealed that employers are becoming more and more interested in software that helps track employees and their productivity when working from home. Since April, employers have greatly increased their internet searches for queries such as “how to monitor employees working from home” and “work from home monitoring tools” have increased by 87 percent as compared to before the pandemic hit. According to the study, the unease employers feel with the lack of control and unfamiliarity with having employees work remotely is the main reason behind the spike in searches. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I don’t like it and I don’t recommend it. If you’re making the right hires, you should be confident that your employees can do their jobs and complete their tasks in a professional and independent manner without you surveilling them. You’ve got better things to do with your time then babysit your work from employees. What is this, pre-school?
2. This free tool tests your remote security
With more and more companies having employees work from home due to COVID-19, cybersecurity has become an even bigger issue than before. Thanks to the National Cyber Security Centre, individuals working from home can now have access to a free set of tools to help test how secure their systems are from attacks. The new toolkit is aimed at assisting small and midsized businesses to prepare for potential cyberattacks through allowing employees to role play real hacking scenarios and providing approaches for how to effectively handle them. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: If you’re not up for hiring an IT firm to help with security, the least you can do is have your remote employees download and run this free tool to check for any vulnerabilities. More work may be needed after that, but at least you’ll have the facts.
3. Microsoft introduces a real-time customer feedback tool
Microsoft offices
Microsoft announced that they are rolling out Dynamics 365 Customer Voice, which is a real-time feedback feature geared toward customers. The addition is due to the fact that — since more companies are moving online due to COVID-19 — a need to gather immediate customer feedback has grown. The Customer Voice tool is able to be customized in order to provide a tailored experience for each and individual business utilizing it. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Looks like a great and easy way to implement a customized survey tool for the large number of companies that use Microsoft Dynamics. (My company is a Microsoft partner and implements some of these solutions.)
4. Gmail for G Suite has integrated with Chat, Meet, Rooms and more
google-office.jpg
Google has launched a significant update to G Suite allowing more productivity tools to integrate with Meet, Rooms, Chat, and Gmail in both the web and mobile platforms. Additional features such as Sheets, Slides, Docs, and Calendar will also be included in the update. Part of the update will include the ability to simultaneously work in Calendar, having the video chat function open, while also collaborating and working in a document. (Source: Google)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The main purpose is to allow the tools to effectively integrate while allowing users to create a more efficient and seamless workflow. Per Google’s blog, “Flexibility isn’t the only thing that workers want. Remote working has significantly increased the demands we’re getting from many directions — in both our professional and our personal lives. People tell us they feel overloaded with too much information and too many tasks across too many different tools. Instead of learning another tool, we need the tools we already use to be even more helpful, and work together, in an integrated, intuitive way.”
5. This is the cheapest 4K laptop right now
The cheapest 4K laptop on the market right now comes from a company you might not be familiar with: Chuwi. The AeroBook Plus by Chuwi can be purchased for less than $600. The device’s dual-core processor was rolled out in 2015 and the device runs off of 8GB RAM, contains Bluetooth 5.0, and has a battery that can last up to eight hours. Currently the AeroBook Plus is able to be shipped all over the world. (Source: Tech Radar)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Chuwi has been selling technologies for more than 15 years on many online platforms, including Amazon. But the company’s finances and operations are a little murky. Does that matter if you’re getting a good price? I think it does. Laptops and devices need support and — for security purposes — should be bought from known brands if you want to minimize any potential headaches in the future. I would avoid these bargain price options and stick with names you know because hey, when something sounds too good to be true.
6. Notarize and DocuSign due thanks to the pandemic
signature.jpg
Notarize and DocuSign both seem to be thriving in the era of COVID-19 and social distancing. Notarize — which is a tool that allows businesses and customers to digitally notarize and sign formal documents — recently raised $35 million and has seen a 400 percent increase in activity since the pandemic broke. Similarly, DocuSign, which has long been a leader in providing legitimate, digital signatures on official documents, is in the process of integrating online notary services as one of their main products through their purchase of Liveoak Technologies, which is a video conferencing platform that provides additional tools to help verify identity remotely. (Source: GeekWire)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This is a service that’s been needed for a while but has been slow in coming to market. But thanks to Covid-19 and working remotely, we’re finally getting more mainstream tools to get our documents notarized instead of standing in line at the auto tags place or persuading a notary friend with a bottle of wine to do it for us.
7. Slack is now letting you choose when you get notifications
Slack will now allow users to select when they receive notifications day by day, providing the option to limit or stop receiving pings on the weekends. Users will now be allowed to determine when they want to receive notifications as well as select an option to keep from getting pinged on certain days all together. When users decide to turn off their notifications, a “z” will appear next to their name in Slack, indicating that they are on DND (Do Not Disturb). People will still be able to send users messages and notifications while in those modes, they just will not be notified. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Over the years I’ve badgered business owners who turn off their devices on weekends or on vacation. And I still believe that. When you run a business, you need to be available 24/7. I know there’s life-balance needed, but this is what you signed up for. However, that doesn’t necessarily apply to your employees, particularly those working hard from home all the time. They need time off and should be allowed to take the “z” on a weekend.
8. Apple’s Silicon Macs promise screaming performance
Customers shops in an Apple Inc. store in Sydney, Australia.
Recently released data indicates that Apple’s new Apple Silicon Mac will greatly meet up to and surpass Windows machines and older models when it comes to efficiency and performance. Developers have started to test the speed of the new Macs and according to those tests, the machines are already running as quickly and efficiently as select Windows tools. The Silicon Macs, which are currently only in development, performed promisingly in field tests, showcasing a single-core score at approximately 811 points and 2871 multi-core points, surpassing Microsoft’s Surface Pro X scores of 726 and 2831. (Source: Computer World)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: As mentioned above, the devices are still in development. According to Jonny Evans of Computerworld, "Mass production is expected to begin in 2022-23. In other words, while Apple is widely expected to deliver vast performance and power efficiency gains in the next generation of processors in its iPhones this year, by the time 5G deployment really takes off (in two to three years) it will have access to an even more high-performance chip architecture." Given the potential productivity benefits, there may be reason to hold off on major Apple purchases until these devices make it to market.
9. NASA is funding small-business ideas
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA, USA - DECEMBER 2, 2019: NASA monitoring facility nearby Launch site LC-39B at Kennedy Space Center. The monitoring center is used by NASA for various projects launches
NASA announced that it will be funding over 400 concepts from small businesses with a focus on developing technology that will span from plumbing for the moon, all the way to artificially intelligent medical assistants that can help give a second set of eyes while crews are visiting Mars. Approximately $51 million in contracts will be given to 312 businesses throughout 44 states, as well as Washington D.C. A single contract will be in the amount of up to $125,000 and will last between six to 13 months. (Source: GeekWire)

Why this is important for your clients: It takes a while to get government certification, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, there are many opportunities for grants and contracts. NASA in particular has programs like this one specially aimed towards small businesses.
10. Microsoft adding a new learning app to Teams
Microsoft offices
Microsoft is in the process of developing a learning application that will be integrated into Microsoft Teams, bringing educational content from various sources into one single location. The app will work similarly to how a customer relationship management system works for a company to help keep track of customer engagement, but will provide and keep track of the learning systems being used. Microsoft is looking to utilize Teams as a platform to help provide integration among skills, work, and learning. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Another reason to step up your investment in Teams. Microsoft will continue to expand this platform over the coming years. But will it replace your CRM system? Here are my thoughts.

Note: Some of these stories have also appeared on Forbes.com.
MORE FROM ACCOUNTING TODAY