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What is Microsoft’s Search Strategy? Are they as confused as I am?

Microsoft’s search strategy is somewhat unclear, at least to me. Office Graph uses artificial intelligence and borrows from the FAST search technology. This is the basis for the Clutter feature in Outlook that lets users remove low priority emails. It is also the basis for Delve, which is a business social tool. From within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Bing is used to provide a tool called Insights with a ‘Tell Me’ search feature from within the basic Microsoft applications. Many organizations would find this confusing, and one wonders if improvements and management of the results would require additional support personnel to address each search option. I would have to believe organizations would prefer not to put together pieces of the search puzzle. Adding on-premises to the mix, becomes more complicated.

These factors can present challenges to Microsoft, although organizations want accurate and relevant search, they don’t want to spend money or time on it, would like a plug and play environment, and take the burden off the end user to find what they are seeking. Unfortunately, Office Graph, even though combined with FAST needs to learn the interests of each individual, which will delay the effectiveness of search across the organization, and ultimately Office 365 adoption. The primary stumbling block is going to be the issue of end user tagging, as Office Graph uses the metadata added automatically or by the individual. Delve is going to be very confused considering how poorly users tag content.

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Big Brother really is watching you! Office 365 Delve

Under the name ‘Organizational Analytics’ the new version of Delve, available later this year, will include a dashboard view which will track your own work performance and compare it to the company average. Although Microsoft sees this as a valuable tool, one would question if it is an effective management tool or will upset the proverbial end user apple cart. This actually bothers me a bit. I realize that there are those who are diligent workers and then there are the slackers. Now we will all be tracked on exactly what we are doing, ‘oh-oh you went to too many meetings, you’re answering too many emails, the whole department is performing better than you’, I think you get the picture.

Another new feature, termed a productivity tool, Delve has also added a new profile page for users to specify their contact information, whom you report to, who reports to you, and, a personal blog page that enables the user to embed videos, documents and images. It also includes a Praise page where the user can list personal accolades, customer sales, contracts, whatever they wish to share with colleagues. Hmm, what will the Organizational Analytics think of my time spent building my blog of ‘atta boys’.

The above ‘tools’ go hand-in-hand with Microsoft’s new infographic, which I thought was just very tasteless. If you haven’t seen it yet, ‘This terrifying Microsoft ad suggests you’re not working hard enough in the bathroom‘ infographic, which has gone viral. I thought it was a huge marketing mistake, but am rethinking the assumption that it really wasn’t a mistake at all. What do you think?

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To Delve or not to Delve? The jury’s still out.

Delve is a dashboard like interface using machine learning and artificial intelligence (using Office Graph) to display the most relevant information of interest to you, based on your work, and of those in your network. Delve indexes and analyzes emails, meetings, contacts, social networks, etc., and presents this information as cards. Rather than having to search for something, Delve tries to automatically and intuitively put it in front of you. Some may not like the overly intrusive approach of being presented with data, but others will see it as a huge time saver. It is important to note that Delve integrates with Exchange, and OneDrive for Business from the individual personal blog page within Delve, and Yammer, with more content sources planned. Integration with iOS and Android was recently announced.

According to Mark Hachman, Senior Editor of PC World in an article “A revamped Microsoft Delve looks like a corporate mashup of Facebook and LinkedIn, he wrote, “it’s looking more like a corporate-sponsored mashup of Facebook and LinkedIn—with likely the same self-editing effect that friending your parents on Facebook would inspire.” He continued, “also note that Delve is only as good as the people who use it. Case in point: IDG uses Office 365, but an early attempt to nurture conversations on Yammer failed miserably. Each group and even publication had already settled on their own collaboration solution. One of two things needs to happen for Delve’s profile pages to become a hit: Either HR must be able to auto-populate them with your information, or the corporate culture must encourage its use. Otherwise, your Delve profile could be a wasteland.”

As stated above, for Delve to be readily and willingly adopted, its success is solely based on participation by organizational users. This is not just a Microsoft challenge. This is a business challenge as social applications typically fail because of lack of end user acceptance, even when sponsored by management. It will be up to the individual organization to decide if Delve is a help or a hindrance. Microsoft has a huge challenge ahead, as Delve currently works with some Microsoft products, but the optimal solution is to provide integration with a vast number of third party Microsoft applications and non-Microsoft applications, which is still years away.

 

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eMail or Yammer? The battle of the Titans. Who’s going to win?

Microsoft is committed to Yammer and its success. It will be available in SharePoint 2016 On-line. To push organizations towards Yammer Microsoft has almost silently removed a number of features available in the current version of SharePoint Online. Notes and Tags features have been deprecated sometime during September, but will remain available for one year. The ‘Tasks’ feature has been removed from the current version of SharePoint Online. In the future, the Synch to Outlook feature is also subject to removal. Microsoft has stated that although the applications will be available in SharePoint 2016 Online, not all of them will be. Currently they have not stated what is and what is not to be included. It is predicted that SharePoint Online’s Newsfeed solution is only temporary and will be deprecated to further push organizations to adopt Yammer.

According to Rob Helm, Managing Vice President of Directions on Microsoft , “Microsoft has typically pointed to Yammer, a cloud-based collaboration service, as a replacement to many features currently available in SharePoint Online, although there is no premises-based Yammer version. Helm expressed surprise at how slowly Yammer is getting integrated into Microsoft products.”

Since Yammer is a solely cloud based solution, although it will be included in SharePoint 2016 Online, it is questionable if all organizations using the online version of SharePoint will want to move all their social communications to the cloud.

According to David Roe, in his article on CMS Wire, “The Problem with Yammer? People don’t use it. ” “There is still no evidence to suggest that Yammer is being used widely across the enterprise. In fact in July of this year (2014), David Lavenda of Harmon.ie told us that in his experience Yammer is still not being used by workers that have access to it.”

In fairness to Microsoft, the problem lies not with the product itself but with the way people work. Email is still the collaboration tool of choice by most enterprise workers and despite overflowing inboxes and the rise of social networks, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

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Delving into the Details – Benefit or Distraction?

Microsoft has been escalating their focus on Delve, and everywhere you look, if you are into Microsoft, Delve is the next best thing since sliced bread. For those living in a bubble, Delve is a productivity tool to help people work in new and more connected ways. Delve surfaces relevant content and insights tailored to each person. Microsoft has been internally pushing development teams to provide more connectivity options for Delve which currently supports Office Online, OneDrive for Business, Yammer, Office 365 Video Portal, eMail, and social feeds from within Office 365.

One of the problems Microsoft is facing, despite their touting of the rapid growth of Office 365, the real growth can be attributed to Exchange, not Office 365. For it to become the cloud solution of choice, Microsoft must shift the focus as a giant email server to fulfill their vision of Office 365 becoming the standard to encompass and become the center of the enterprise IT infrastructure. Hence, products like Delve.

Personally, the way I work, I would find Delve a distraction not a productivity tool. Apparently so do many SharePoint/Office 365 enterprises. In our annual 2015 SharePoint and Office 365 Metadata survey, currently unpublished, the overwhelming majority of respondents indicated that they would not be using Delve, either now or in the future, in fact, almost half indicated no interest at all.

That figure may very well change in the future. Right now, despite the best efforts of Microsoft, it is still somewhat of a half-baked product. As Steve Jobs said, ‘You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around’. Would you use Delve? Would you find it a productivity enhancement, or are you old school like me and would find it a distraction?

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Microsoft on a buying spree – LiveLoop added to the Microsoft cast of players

Microsoft recently acquired LiveLoop. Live Loop is a Microsoft PowerPoint plug-in that brings truly real time cloud-based collaboration to PowerPoint’s 750 million users, enabling teams to collaborate effectively without leaving the familiar Microsoft Office ecosystem. “Instead of emailing dozens of versions of a presentation back and forth, with filenames like Marketing_v133_Final_v2_ReallyFinal, LiveLoop’s users work on a single version of their presentation, seeing each other’s changes as they type.”  It is anticipated that LiveLoop has bigger fish to fry and will eventually work with documents of all types, not just PowerPoint.

I am a heavy duty PowerPoint user. From my work perspective, I really don’t want others watching me in real-time create PowerPoint slides, nor do I want to watch them creating slides for the same presentation. I think I would find it rather unsettling. Like, “oh no, where did they get that? I already did that slide later in the deck,” and you can imagine if you are like me what would be racing through your head.

I suppose for this to work effectively, you would have to perform pre-planning to ensure all participants are focused on their part of the presentation. I wonder too, how much of the message gets blurred or lost with participants expressing their own point of view. Writing will always be subjective.

I do see the advantage of eliminating multiple versions being emailed when one item has been changed. I also see the advantage for very large presentations to break it into sections, enabling all participants to work on their own section at the same time. I am very curious to see how well this will be accepted and used. I can see benefits, but to me let me keep doing it the way I have always done.

From a Microsoft game plan – according to the author Virginia Bakaitis, it’s likely that LiveLoop’s PowerPoint solution will be integrated into the Office 365 family much the same way Accompli was. As a result there will be no need to reach for non-Microsoft tools. Interesting scenario. Something for everyone – and it’s all Microsoft. Guess that’s a different article.

So what do you think?

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Well, there you have it – IDC’s 10 predictions for emerging technologies in 2015

Now, who didn’t know it would be cloud centered? In the article, IDC’s 10 predictions for emerging technologies in 2015, authored by Frank Gens, he refers to the ‘third platform’. Sounds rather ominous. But it isn’t. The third platform, was defined by IDC in 2007, and according to IDC is in a key phase of development. Historically, as outlined in the article there have been three waves of computing. First, the mainframes and terminals, secondly, PC’s, networking, relational databases, and client services apps.

Now it gets interesting. The third platform is our current state, built around cloud computing, social applications, big data, and mobile computing. IDC has predicted that the third platform will continue to evolve and grow for the next twenty years. This will be attributed to a community of developers and a wave of core technologies (e.g. Innovation Accelerators). These accelerators include:

  • The Internet of Things
  • Cognitive systems
  • Pervasive robotics
  • 3-D printing of all kinds
  • Natural interfaces
  • Optimized security technologies and solutions

Now to the list. Not as exciting as the accelerators:

  • Information and Communications Technology Spending
  • Wireless Data
  • Mobile Development
  • Cloud Services
  • Data and Analytics
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Data Centers
  • Industry Disruption
  • IoT security

I guess we will just have to wait to see if all these predictions come true. What do you think of the ‘third platform’? Does anything on the list surprise you? I personally think the Innovation Accelerators sound pretty amazing.

(If you have a few minutes and use SharePoint or Office 365, could you kindly take our metadata survey? You could win a free conference pass to Microsoft Ignite. We would greatly appreciate it)

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I’m on Facebook and Twitter 10 hours per day – My opinion? My lips are sealed.

I recently wrote a blog regarding the use of social tools and the challenges of adoption versus training. A tantalizing social study I recently ran across was conducted the Pew Research Center in conjunction with Rutgers University in New Jersey. According to this study, people who use Facebook and Twitter are less likely than others to share their opinions on hot button issues, even when they are offline. Researchers say they have detected a spiral of silence phenomenon. Unless people know their audience agrees, they are likely to shy away from discussing anything controversial.

“People do not tend to be using social media for this type of important political discussion. And if anything, it may actually be removing conversation from the public sphere, said Keith Hampton a communication professor at Rutgers University who helped conduct the study.

Of the 1,801 adults surveyed 86% say they would be willing to discuss their views about government surveillance if it came up at various in-person scenarios, such as at a public meeting at work or at a restaurant with friends, but just 42% of Facebook and Twitter users said they would be willing to post online about it.

What’s more, the typical Facebook user – someone who logs onto the site a few times a day, was actually half as likely to discuss the Snowden case at a public meeting as a non-Facebook user. Someone who goes on Twitter a few times per day was one quarter as likely to share opinions in the workplace as compared with those who never use Twitter.

To me, it rings the same sort of bells as business social. If users won’t voice their opinion in a personal social setting, it makes sense they would be even less likely to voice it in an on-line business setting.

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Hammer the Yammer

A week or so ago, I received an email from a Microsoft Yammer group that I belong to. The gist of the email offered prizes to individuals who used Yammer correctly. Basic usability, in other words, just don’t post to all, etc. I am curious to see what the result were and if the message sunk in. This was also a technical group, so one would have assumed that they could readily understand the nuances of the software to use it correctly. Obviously not.

Enterprise social is slowly gaining momentum, or at least is getting a push forward in many organizations. A productivity benefit, for sure, but hard to quantify. Microsoft has invested quite a bit of money, resources, and time after the acquisition of the software. Even so, since it is essentially being given away, it is still struggling in acceptance and adoption. Part of the problem, not just with Yammer, but many enterprise social tools, is workers just don’t want to use them. They prefer email, and their tidy applications all neatly accessible in a familiar way.

We have two sides of the coin here. The question then, is the acceptance of Yammer due to culture problem, or due to a lack of training and understanding of the benefits the software provides? Your call.

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