Microsoft Gives a Boost to Social

By Irwin Lazar
On Nov 07, 2013
Thursday, November 7, 2013

Microsoft announced several updates to Office 365 this week, including the ability to share storage and Skype minutes with other users, and support for Google Apps-like real-time document collaboration to allow multiple people to edit a document together on-line.  While co-editing tools are great for collaborative work, and have the potential to replace or augment web conferencing for group document collaboration, the real interesting move, IMHO, was the announcement that Microsoft is now including Yammer Enterprise as part of the basic Office 365 enterprise license and is allowing customers to extend access to their Yammer-based social environments to partners, customers and suppliers.  Microsoft's move should spur more Office 365 customers to try Yammer for both internal, and external collaboration.

We've tracked the adoption of enterprise social software for the last few years in our annual Enterprise Technology Benchmark.  Our latest report echoes what we've seen over the last few years: An ever increasing adoption of social software, but more so at the line-of-business level than as an enterprise-wide collaboration initiative.  This leads to disjointed deployments in which individuals collaborate within islands of social, often in the context of other applications or roles (e.g. using Salesforce Chatter to collaborate socially around sales and customer service activities with other members of the sales team), meaning that the enterprise as a whole can't converge around communities of interest or easily share discussions outside of business units.   While 40% of companies are using social software, few have an enterprise-wide social group with budget and responsibility for driving adoption and measuring results.  Only 33% have an enterprise-wide platform, and in most cases, that's simply the social features like blogs, wikis, and workgroup pages in SharePoint, not the richer set of tools offered by not only Yammer, but competitors like IBM, Jive NewsGator, and Tibber.  Those who have deployed enterprise-wide platforms report very low success, again likely because they are using platform with limited social features, or because they haven't yet built out a strategy to encourage use, define business cases where social can add value, or equipped employees with the kinds of features they are using to seeing in public social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  Still, in our consulting engagements we recommend that our clients include social in their overall collaboration strategy, and plan for a future where social collaboration capabilities are increasingly built into a variety of applications.

We'll again look at social adoption in our upcoming 2014-15 benchmark.  Stay tuned....