How Symphony 2.0 Approaches Automation, Workflows

eWEEK NEW-PRODUCT ANALYSIS: Team collaboration vendor Symphony, born in financial services, is now targeting general enterprises.


Earlier this month, team collaboration vendor Symphony held its user event, Innovate, in Manhattan. At the event, it unveiled Symphony 2.0, a major upgrade to its flagship product. Team collaboration is becoming a mainstream application, so many eWEEK readers may be scratching their heads thinking: “Who the heck is Symphony? And why haven’t I heard of them before?” Well, you’re not alone.

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While Symphony has a strong product that can use used by any industry, the company cut its teeth in the financial services sector, where security, governance and compliance are all critical. In fact, Symphony was created jointly by a number of financial firms, because the Slacks and Flowdocks of the world just could not meet the demands of a highly regulated vertical such as financial services.

Symphony isn’t just for financial services any more

Recently, Symphony has been targeting other verticals and has seen some success selling to organizations that think security first. Now that the company has the most secure product on the market, it has turned its attention to automation and workflows.

The user interface has been totally redesigned with ease of use and customization in mind, but it is still as secure and compliance friendly as ever. One of the unique attributes of Symphony is that it makes it easy to do B2B team collaboration. All of the other team collaboration tools are focused on internal collaboration and enable external parties through guest access. This works OK when one company wants to talk to many but does not facilitate many-to-many conversations very well.

Symphony acts like a hub that facilitates conversations between the different members. For example, if NoJitter, UC Strategies and Global Data connected into Symphony, any member could talk to any other, assuming the company permissions enabled it. Without it, each firm would have to procure its own access and set up individual guest access.

Built on secure collaboration foundation

The new user experience in Symphony 2.0 is built on the same secure collaboration foundation but brings these new capabilities:

  • Workspaces: A customizable UI where users can create a personalized view and layout of projects, messaging and other activities. This gets rid of the stuff that users do not want and enables them to see what they do.
  • Smart Notifications: A framework that enables users to set priorities on messages to differentiate between the noise and what’s a priority. I talk to users all the time that tell me they are overwhelmed by Team Collaboration messages; this should be able to filter out some messages.
  • Optimized user experience: Prior to version 2.0, customers I talked to told me the product was powerful but could be difficult to use. This release has a completely different look, so it’s dead simple to use and the back end has been souped up for better performance.

Symphony currently has a broad set of bots, apps and integrations that were built by partners and customers to automate workflows. Incident management, pricing discovery, knowledge management and customer onboarding are a few examples.

Symphony adds new Elements for application integration

Symphony is now introducing a set of UI extension capabilities and pre-built features called Elements for bots and application integration. Developers can use Elements to deploy standardized components to automate workflows quickly but consistently. Without Elements, all development would be custom and one off, limiting the scalability.

Symphony also introduced a Community Pod for financial services firms to bring their trading partners onto the platform. The Symphony Community Pod enables secure counterparty collaboration where banks can more easily onboard customers. While this is designed primarily for financial services firms, it could easily be extended to other verticals where secure on-boarding is required. Health care and retail are a couple of examples.

The above new tools should make it easier for Symphony to build custom capabilities and applications. This shifts the value of Symphony away from being a user productivity app but to more of an open platform that delivers collaboration capabilities to third-party software. This will also help Symphony evolve from being a niche application built for financial services to one that can used by almost any mainstream enterprises.

It’s a different way of thinking about team collaboration and, if executed correctly, Symphony should be able to give Slack, Cisco and Microsoft a good run for their money.

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.