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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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Precision versus Recall – What is old becomes new again

During my research I often find some little snippets of information that make me stop and think about how ideas, theories, processes are repeated, imagining a highway being built that stretches endlessly in the horizon and we return to the starting point. It seems to be happening more often lately.

Even with technology we are still seeing history being repeated. Enterprise search has been around for about 67 years as described by J.E. Holmstrom in 1948. Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence has been around for 61 years, and is now becoming the newest buzzword and must have technology. Precision and Recall, was introduced in 1955 when a gentleman named Allen Kent joined Case Western Reserve University. That same year, Kent and his colleagues published a paper in American Documentation describing the precision and recall measures as well as detailing a proposed “framework” for evaluating an Information Retrieval system which included statistical sampling methods for determining the number of relevant documents not retrieved.

Over three generations have passed, and what is ‘old’ is now ‘new’. Precision and Recall is now back in the news, at least in the legal industry. What brought this to mind is an article I read in Legaltech News, written by Zach Warren, it’s actually a good read regardless of industry as in almost all points he hits the nail on the head.

Years ago, the accuracy of search was measured by precision versus recall, in fact, we have several clients who use our tools to tweak and manage precision versus recall. Why? One is considered one of the top three global analyst firms, and they need precision and recall on their external client web site – poor search results equal lost revenue. The other client has 170K global users and needs accurate search results. The image from Wikipedia illustrates Precision and Recall in an easy-to-understand graphic.

These days, despite some of our clients, I don’t think it is used much. I also agree with the writer, that most tools don’t let you easily manipulate precision versus recall. It seems to be a forgotten metric in search efficiency. Luckily, our tools are easy-to-use and although precision and recall is a tough nut to crack it’s not like it used to be. Nice to see it back around again, at least in the legal industry.

 

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Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks

Microsoft recently made senior executive changes, which I can’t comment on. According to the press release: “In an email to employees Wednesday (June 17th), Microsoft Corp. announced changes to its Senior Leadership Team to drive engineering alignment against the company’s core ambitions: reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing.

“We are aligning our engineering efforts and capabilities to deliver on our strategy and, in particular, our three core ambitions,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “This change will enable us to deliver better products and services that our customers love at a more rapid pace.”

That’s all well and good, and I will assume the changes were needed. Here’s where I have somewhat of a problem with Microsoft. I don’t understand their marketing message, except that every product is ‘better than sliced bread’. For example, Yammer is a micro-blogging tool, a couple of weeks ago, they decided it is now a ‘team collaboration tool’. Ok. Office Graph is promised to be their leading edge search product. Machine learning and artificial intelligence, around for the past 60 years hasn’t had much success so why is it better? Will I be able to find what I am looking for? They keep pushing Delve and right now, it’s reach is too small to be a true productivity tool (not to mention some of the negatives), so why the push? Delve, right now is not a compelling reason for anyone to move to Office 365.

In the SPTechReport newsletter dated June 24th (free registration required), Dave Rubinstein wrote a polite, but to the point article and I quote, “Chris Johnson, a group product manager on the Office 365 team at Microsoft, told attendees at today’s SPTechCon Developer Days keynote that the company expected users to adopt the new technology simply because Microsoft said it’s the shiny new thing. Microsoft hadn’t done a good job of explaining why people should adopt the new technology.

When Microsoft bought Yammer, everything people understood and used for SharePoint social went away in like a minute,” he said. “Everything became about Yammer, simply because Microsoft bought it.” There was no messaging from Microsoft as to why Yammer would be a better social alternative.

The same could be said about Office 365 itself. Microsoft released it, and “encouraged” (to put it gently) users to move off the SharePoint servers they loved, used and understood simply because Microsoft said the cloud was the future.”

Perhaps the change in executive staff will help. I wish Microsoft would take a step back and look at the big picture of Office 365. Perhaps ask customers what they would like to see in the cloud? Novel idea. Decide if it delivers business value? Piling up products through acquisition or development and throwing them against the wall to see what sticks is not a viable marketing strategy. Maybe I am old school, but where are the business returns?

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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 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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