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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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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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