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Collaboration versus Social – It’s time to redefine the terms

A new report, ‘Microsoft Collaboration Usage‘, written by harmon.ie suggests the most common activity among business people using Microsoft collaboration tools is document sharing, and much of that activity occurs early in the week, on Monday and Tuesday. If you ask the typical end user they will define collaboration as email.

So, that’s what collaboration is all about? Something is wrong here. Not that I am against document sharing or easy access, it’s just in my mind I don’t associate that with collaboration. The definition of collaboration by Merriam Webster is: “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something”. File sharing and document access doesn’t seem to jive with the definition. The report, by harmon.ie is a very interesting paper and, although it focuses on Microsoft, it could apply to any enterprise cloud platform. I would assume the end statistics would be quite similar.

According to the report, the most popular activity conducted by users on mobile devices using harmon.ie was online and offline document access, both  81%, but I would have expected that percentage to be high. On the other hand, “business users opened documents 68 times more often than they participated in Yammer discussions. Just three percent of users conducted document searches, and less than two percent participated in Yammer discussions, viewed activity streams, or looked up a colleague’s SharePoint profile, according to harmon.ie.”

I think it’s time to redefine the term collaboration. Collaboration is much more than accessing documents. Social, on the other hand, the Yammer’s of the world, is focused on communication. If we really delineate the terms, social is pretty much of a bust, according to this report and the term collaboration, in reality, doesn’t even exist. I say call it what it is. Document access both online and offline. It is not collaboration as I see it.

Do you see it differently?

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Collaboration and Business Social – right now, pretty much of a failure. Why?

A couple of years ago, CIO’s were adamant that they did not want collaboration tools. Understandably, collaboration tools do open security issues, loss of control, costs, and management. But the tide has changed. Now, (I say because of constant vendor hype), CIO’s are willing and even anxious to jump on the collaboration and social bandwagon.

One moment please. It seems that end user adoption is a problem now – a real problem. It happens in many ways, no one adopts it because it just doesn’t fit into their day-to-day business activities, in some cases you have rapid adoption until end users realize that the tool really isn’t providing any value and usage drops off, leaving a ghost town, and sometimes management actually changes the processes so the tools is no longer doing what it is meant to do. You also have to deal with corporate culture, complexity of the tool, standardization, work-arounds, and on-going engagement.

What is collaboration supposed to do? Most CIO’s think of collaboration and social as something they must have, the “everyone’s doing it syndrome”, but don’t think of the why. It’s much easier to select a records management application than a collaboration tool. Let’s get back to the basics. Collaboration is supposed to make end users job easier, increase productivity, share corporate knowledge, eliminate emails, unnecessary meetings, and other time-consuming activities. Quite a laundry list. According to Joel Confino, CEO and Founder of the enterprise Q&A platform Haydle, “There’s a lot of failures in enterprise collaboration, loosely termed, because people don’t really know what they’re aiming for so obviously they don’t hit it.”

CIO’s need to step back and treat collaboration as a business application, with objectives, expected outcomes, and ROI. They also need to engage the end users, after all they are the ones who are going to be using it. A long term strategy also needs to be in place. Are they going to buy collaboration tools piecemeal and hope they all work together along with the integration headaches? Are they going to go with vendors such as Google or Microsoft and add functionality as needed, even if it doesn’t quite fit the objectives? Do they want an on-premise tool, or use the cloud? There’s a lot of decisions to be made.

Any thoughts on collaboration or social tools that were implemented at your organization and if they failed or succeeded and why?

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Choosing a Social Tool? Did you think of millennials versus baby boomers?

I was reading an article, “Why CIO’s can’t sell enterprise collaboration tools”, and one of the reasons given included the difference between how millennials versus baby boomers does come into play. To be quite honest, the thought never entered my mind. But, it is rather intriguing.

This may seem a minor point, but social and collaboration tool adoption is pretty dismal. And as the baby boomers age (unfortunately), sooner or later the millennials will be the majority and running the organization. According to the article, “Millennials are more comfortable with video, short messaging and have embraced newer collaboration tools like Slack and HipChat while older execs are still trying to master WebEx and GoToMeeting, and unfortunately there’s no common ground.” Rather brought a smile to my face, as the statement hit the mark.

I am a huge proponent of end user participation in the purchase of any type of collaboration or social tool. Since the primary problem with these tools is end user adoption – then ask the business professionals and end users to participate in the decision. How many times somewhere in your career, did you think of management as clueless as to what really happens in the trenches? Most likely, the baby boomers are the execs and the worker bees are the millennials. Acknowledge the differences and try to find common ground. It might make all the difference in success or failure.

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Facebook at Work – Joining the old boys club?

Facebook at Work, is joining the enterprise market. Will it succeed in becoming an enterprise tool, when its entire life has been focused on consumer social marketing? Although the product was released in January of 2015, it certainly isn’t making a splash in the news. In fact, it is almost impossible to find any mention of it at all. Finally, after wasting quite a bit of time, it seems it is still in its infancy and the company doesn’t want to share any information about it at all. So there we go.

The grapevine has it that news feeds, groups, likes, comments, and messages are all part of Facebook, except all the information is related to the organization. Business people follow each other and their newsfeeds are based on interactions with each other.

Security
Security will most likely be the major concern. Josh Lindenmuth, CIO of payroll and HR software company Payce, says Facebook at Work is interesting but it doesn’t currently meet his company’s needs. “Facebook makes it too easy to share information,” Lindenmuth says. “The reason it works for social applications is the same reason why many CIOs will be reluctant to use it.”

IT Resistance
Facebook will come up against heavy resistance around security, data sovereignty, control and trust, according to Stuart Barr, CTO of the software firm HighQ. “Consumer features don’t translate directly to the enterprise, and using social tools inside businesses is very different,” Barr wrote in response to CIO.com’s questions. “They require governance, configurability, careful adoption strategies and deep integration with legacy systems of record.” Facebook also has an advantage over competitors because it could gain a foothold in enterprise through slow adoption; other business collaboration platforms are typically all-or-nothing endeavors.

What’s the business model?
It seems, as of now, Facebook hasn’t figured that out yet. Rumor has it they are thinking about advertising, just what I want at work, is advertisements. Hopefully that will get a thumbs down. They also face a great deal of competition with services such as Yammer, Slack, LinkedIn, and Quip. And then there is still an aura of untrustworthiness associated with Facebook.

For Facebook the enterprise represents a huge opportunity. But, is the enterprise ready to embrace Facebook?

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Poor Yammer, Lost and Now Found – We Think

Yammer was acquired by Microsoft back in 2012, for the mere paltry sum of $1.2 billion dollars. The reason given was to compete with SalesForce.com, Oracle, and IBM. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet. Big hoopla followed the announcement and everyone was on the Yammer bandwagon. Then silence. Somehow Yammer was being overshadowed by other Office 365 products. Where did it go and why? It appears it’s back again, but with not as much hoopla now. Many classify Yammer as a micro-blogging tool, Microsoft decided (June 2015) to call it a ‘team collaboration tool’. I’m not sure I know the difference. Subtle I guess. Clear as mud.

The issues with Yammer, and Delve for that matter, is that user acceptance is a problem, despite management support. That applies to all social business applications, not just Microsoft. According to usage, Yammer uptake is fast and then dwindles because users can’t seem to absorb it into their daily routine. Organizations such as ours, use it as the corporate post-a-note and post everything on Yammer – as a result, I don’t use it as 99% of the information is irrelevant. For a social business application to be a success, there has to be some value to the end user that makes their job easier, faster, more productive. Or, they just won’t use it. There are some highly sophisticated and robust social business applications available that do just that. Although, in Microsoft’s defense they recently did add a few features to Yammer, and I may add, business features.

In an excellent review of business social applications, in which Yammer is included, Real Story Group found, “Yammer tends to focus on microblogging for its own sake, rather than more advanced applications; thus it does not solve SharePoint’s application problems. Functional thinness and siloed streams means that many customers have seen a drop off in adoption after making the initial connection. Yammer usage can explode (at least initially) within an organization. However, be prepared for Yammer usage to become a kind of siloed stream within your broader digital workplace. Yammer is good for what it does, but after initial connections are made, sometimes usage drops off as employees struggle to place the service within the regular workflow of their daily work.”

The Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software Evaluation Report

Real Story Group

The problem described above, despite the industry problem of user acceptance, is the business benefits are not clearly articulated. For Yammer, it didn’t turn out to be as ‘intuitive’ as Microsoft first claimed. I remember months ago, Microsoft actually ran a contest that Yammer end users (a primarily Microsoft Yammer group) had to use the product correctly and they could win a prize. Not surprisingly I got quite a chuckle about that one. If a highly technical audience couldn’t figure out how to use it, who to use it to, and when to respond to whom, how are the rest of us?

I guess we’ll just wait and see what Yammer is to become next month. Unless it gets lost again.

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Is Microsoft Complicating Matters with SharePoint On-line?

We just wrapped up our annual Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 Survey, and one of my thoughts was to question if Microsoft has complicated their positioning with SharePoint 2016 On-line. They are by far the leader in cloud collaboration tools and would have to make a huge blunder to erase their market share. They have sent several jumbled marketing messages including SharePoint going away (since retracted) which didn’t sit well with their very loyal SharePoint on-premises customers. Obviously continuing down that road could potentially be a disaster, hence some backtracking and voila, SharePoint 2016.

Despite the often negative opinion expressed in independent SharePoint surveys, SharePoint organizations, for better or worse, are wed to SharePoint and reluctant to change. The inclusion of SharePoint Online, in many ways, muddies the waters as organizations must now evaluate their long terms plans for SharePoint and Office 365, as opposed to making a cloud based application decision that will address the organizations specific need, such as collaboration, document management, or enterprise social applications. In many cases, these organizations don’t need, or want, the full functionality of Office 365.

Microsoft has made the decision to develop Office 365 as the most comprehensive solution for the cloud, in other words, be all things to all people. Based on our survey responses, savvy organizations are, and apparently will, continue to evaluate non-Microsoft cloud solutions to meet very specific needs, as opposed to buying into the all-inclusive approach Microsoft has now undertaken. Organizations may just remove SharePoint 2016 On-line from the decision making process to achieve an ‘apple to apple’ comparison of competitive cloud products. This is evident in the growing number of responses we received in our survey from organizations who are seeking alternative enterprise search options outside of SharePoint, an approach that has definitely changed from last year.

It will be interesting to watch how, or if, the landscape will change.

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What does your Chief Legal Officer think of social and collaboration tools?

Because of all the recent hype provided by Microsoft on Office 365, I happened to be doing some research on competitive products and ran across a legal article that posed some questions for me. Simply because of our products I do have some interest in eDiscovery and have known that what is acceptable evidence is changing as fast as technology.

For example, if I am an employee and I post something on my personal Facebook account, if I am at work, the company I work for is legally liable for what I post. What I recently learned was the same applies to text messages and phone messages, although some courts cut the company slack as deleting messages from a cell phone stating, “there has been no showing that the innocent clean-up of personal electronic devices to allow them to function was unusual, unreasonable or improper under the circumstances.” Some courts rule the opposite way. BYOD is an issue in many organizations and not solely from an IT perspective. For example, if employees use their personal devices for work, then the company does have a duty to preserve the data and from a reverse point of view, does the company have the right to retrieve data from an employee’s personal device without their consent.

Getting back to the point, and not quickly I may add, with the so called rise in business social tools and applications, the organization can be at increased risk. Since most data breaches are caused internally, the participation in business social processes that encourage employee participation, collaboration, and communication can at least raise an eyebrow of concern. This is not meant to be a slamming of social, I just started to wonder when opening the floodgates of communication, how does an off-chance remark get tagged for potential litigation? Like any other business application it needs to be managed, administered, and in the case of these tools, monitored.

The above excerpts were taken from an article by Electronic Discovery and Information Law Practice Group, and can be reached at (212) 351-4057 or (949) 451-4330

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45 years and still going strong! Email isn’t going anywhere soon.

I get too many emails. I bet I don’t hear anyone who disagrees with me. Most are irrelevant. All in all, very time-consuming. One of the many benefits promoted by the business social revolution is the ability to cut down, dare we say do away with, email. Interesting theory. Unlikely reality. Enterprise social networks (ESN) reach is limited, it can be non-productive, and not necessarily relevant on an individual basis. Imagine no email. I’m not sure I could function.

Seems I am right. email is far more popular than social media and texting. Why? It’s easy to use and has far more features than enterprise social networks (ESN), such as color coding, flagging, prioritizing, folders, and automatic rules. The reason I am not sold on ESN is that it typically contains too much information, and too much irrelevant information. We use Yammer and to be quite honest, I rarely look at it. It is a time hoard.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, ‘Technology’s Impact On Workers’, 94% of office workers use the Internet as a principle work tool. In regards to email, most office workers find working, collaborating and communicating by email is easier than other technologies and a core part of their work life. According to the study, “Of those surveyed, 61 percent rated email as very important to their job while 44 percent said the same of the Internet. In comparison, only 4 percent rated social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn as “very important” to their work.” Most did not see email as non-productive. 46% felt it made them more productive, with a mere 7% stating that email and cell phones made them less productive.

It seems that most of the participants weren’t that crazy about cell phones either. “Despite the rise of mobile and smartphones, most workers are lukewarm about the impact. One in three workers (35 percent) say landline phones are “very important” to their work, compared with 24 percent who say the same about mobile phones. Asked about the impact email and cell phone has on their work practices:

  • 51 percent said they have expanded the number of people they communicate with outside of the enterprise using email
  • 39 percent say their working hours and practices are more flexible with email
  • 35 percent says that email and cell phones also increases the number of hours they work”

What are your feelings about email? Could you give it up?

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