Tag Archive for Yammer

SharePoint 2012 Conference: Let us not be distracted from Business Value

Last week we attended the SharePoint 2012 conference.  There was much new to see: SharePoint 2013, Office 365, Yammer, cloudy stuff, a bunch of new ISV tools, and hybrid and client-side development.  All of this is cool, maybe fun, and, as a technologist dripping in SharePointism, I find it great.  However, when you get to talking to customers, you get brought back to reality.  In fact, in many of my conversations, there appeared to be a backlash.  This was summed up best by a senior IT manager relating what he told his Microsoft rep “We are not a social enterprise; we are a business.”  Or, another person said, “Really, in the new world an Announcement list is an application; give me a break.”  What you are seeing, hearing, and feeling is the reflection of the two views of SharePoint: one is SharePoint as an application for collaboration, the other looks at SharePoint as an Application Plaform.

It is time for my “Emperor’s New Clothes” article…

Microsoft would love everyone to adopt Office 365/Yammer and subscribe and pay monthly for everything Microsoft.  They would love code developers to build lots of little apps to be more Apple-esque.  It feels both hot and cool, and it means a new, recurring revenue stream for Microsoft along with a defense against pirating.

However, for most enterprises it is just a distraction.  Those that are deeply committed to SharePoint, are committed because they see it as an application platform and they have invested to leverage it as such.  They see SP as an environment that they can leverage to build out their business applications that are inter-connected.  One that supports incremental improvements as they learn how to get their people to work better together.  One that they can control – which today and in the future means On Premise or a Private Cloud.  They want reduced complexity.  They want business groups to leverage it to be more productive with real business applications.  They want to use it to consolidate applications (Saas, Point solutions, other platforms) and thus save money, reduce complexity and risk, establish standards and best practices, and, create operational leverage.

Still, probably 50% of the SharePoint customer base is only at the base level of the SharePoint value continuum. They see SharePoint as a collaborative application – team sites, portals, Intranets, and, documents. This segment is at the greatest risk of defecting to Zimbra (email) and Alfresco and Jive and DropBox. Oddly, what Microsoft is doing is introducing a discontinuous innovation that will force this segment to choose.  There are lots of choices when you are at that level with SharePoint.  It is a commoditized part of the market.

Over the last 10 years CorasWorks has evolved from a focus on the base level (SP for collaboration) to leveraging SP as an application platform.  We are committed to the enterprise customer and most of our customers are firmly in the On Premise/Private Cloud camp.  We of course are driving the business value hard for our customers.  For instance, during the SharePoint conference, over at the CorasWorks booth we were showing a broad range of hard-hitting business solutions.  We had at our fingertips demos of about 30 Work Management solutions and 20 custom solutions that we have build for specific Industries and Business Functions.  All of these run on our one CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform and all are done with no coding so our customers can do powerful things without managing rogue code.  Thus, our conversations were focused on the busines challenges and solutions.

Let the Bifurcation Occur

There has always been a split between the camps of SharePoint as a collaborative app and SharePoint as an application platform.  I think that SharePoint as an app platform on premise is a winner and the momentum is growing as it gets more standardized vs. relying on custom development.  I believe that because of the SP2013 offerings, the bifurcation is just clearer, and that, you will see a clarification of strategy within the enterprise.  Most committed enterprises will deepen their commitment to SharePoint for its use as an application platform – it is clearly the best choice for this path at this time.  My bet is that over the next few years the average enterprise will simply become capable of becoming their own Enterprise Shared Application Services (ESAS) provider, in their own Private Cloud.  The enterprise will drive its own path because the technology curve has enabled it to do so and the business value far outweighs any incremental costs.

In fact, I believe that we are only at the beginning of a new curve of value, when enterprises start to figure out how to truly get their people to work better together.  If you spend your time talking to business managers like I do, you realize that they just don’t have practical applications at their fingertips to get the work done. There is alot more to do…

So for those that are committed to SharePoint as an application platform, just don’t be distracted by these new offerings and keep on adding business applications on premise and adding value to your organization.  By doing this, you continue to accelerate your business value today and you will be building a foundation for great innovation of your enterprise in the future.

Microsoft’s Acquisition of Yammer Tips the Workplace Into a New Era of User-Centric Productivity

Four hours ago the Wall Street Journal reported that Yammer agreed to sell itself to Microsoft for $1.2B.  It is a big deal (dollars) and it is a big deal (shift in technology and impact on the SharePoint community and all business information workers).  In this article I’ll give you my take on: a) why it is good business for Microsoft to do it,  b) why I believe it signals a significant change in the future of applications, the workplace, and end-user productivity, and, c) how we and other ISV’s will adapt and where it will take us.

First off, Yammer is a social networking company – many call it Facebook for the enterprise.  At the core of it is the Activity Stream.  People post updates, people follow people, and it all flows into their Activity Stream.  The stream becomes a single place to go for the user to see their social/collaborative activity.  Ostensibly, it is to be used for business purposes, yet, in reality it is at this time really a communications tool vs. a work tool.

On the surface, Microsoft bought Yammer for two good business reasons…

First, SharePoint was being disrupted at the low end of collaboration.  In 2003, SharePoint was the easy to understand, easy way to share content.  Over the releases it got a little better with collaboration.  But, since 2008, the outside vendors like Yammer started to disrupt SharePoint with an even easier way to share information.  Yammer, Jive, Box.net, Alfresco, etc. etc.  They started to eat market-share and mind-share at the base of SharePoint – those organizations that only use it for the low end work.  SharePoint/Office 2013 would have made the “social” feature set of SharePoint better, but, the independent social ISV’s were way ahead and unfettered by enterprise baggage.  Microsoft couldn’t afford to lag on this one.

Second, Yammer has a user based business model.  The SharePoint market is saturated.  Where will the next billion come from?  Office 365 is the big bet.  But, you need to own the disruptive engine to drive users to it.  Hence, Yammer.  $5/user/month – $60/year.  Just add this feature to the Office 365 package and you justify the price and get your next $1 or $2B in revenue.  And, since it is separate and hosted, you can get the $1-$2B without cannibalizing your on-premise enterprise business. (Note: You’ll see how this will work when I talk about what CorasWorks will do in this context.)

Okay, so what does this signal in terms of the future of technology and the user…

If you read the 100’s of articles to appear tomorrow you will read lots and lots about social this and social that.  As a technologist for enterprise business, this just isn’t that compelling.  Most social-social software is just about the conversation and following people and their conversations.  In its current incarnation, it doesn’t add much business value. Yet, it is super hot – you can sell a company with $30m in revenue for more than $1b.  But, it doesn’t really add much to the bottom line of enterprises, yet…

The significance is the impact on the business end-user experience over the next five years.  What you are witnessing is the tipping point to a new user-centric standard.  For 30 years, when we speak of a user interface we are talking about the interface to a single application – be it Word, Excel, Salesforce, Siebel, SAP, mainframe, any business app.  Now, take a visual look at Yammer.  What if that social activity stream was instead a business activity stream?  What if all of the work you do that you need to stay on top of flowed to you in one place and you could easily collaborate with others?  What if you could start to manage your work across applications from one place?  You, the user, would start to have control and life would be a lot easier than schlepping from app to app.  The user would have a new great experience.  Throw in real time communications technologies and you have the next generation user experience.

But, there is even more business value to be had.  I wrote about this user centric scenario in an article Engage the User with the Cim Activity Stream last year.  CorasWorks has an activity stream but it is a business activity stream vs. a social activity stream.  You follow work vs. following people. With ours all activity is around the work as part of our Work Management platform – programs, tasks, requests, knowledge content, policies, projects, opportunities, task orders, items in processes, etc.  So, we are a bit different.  The reason is that our core business is enabling organizations to build all of those business apps on SharePoint that add tangible business value without coding.  We simply saw the user experience of an activity stream, like the UI of Yammer, as a great way to bring all of those apps together and put work at the fingertips of the user.

So, the Microsoft purchase of Yammer signals a shift to user-centric activity stream experience today, which, over the next few years will extend to encompass more and more of users’ core business activity.  Thus, the real business user interface will move from many app UI’s to their activity stream.


Why only Microsoft should have moved on it?

Over the last year, a problem in this beautiful future started to occur – many ISV’s (independent software vendors) started adding activity streams.  If the purpose is a single user experience, then, how will it be good if every vendor had their own activity stream.  We had ours on SharePoint.  Newsgator has a social – social activity stream on SharePoint.  So, we federated ours into theirs. I wrote about the need to do this more than a year ago. We also began the process to federate into Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, Jive, Appian, and SharePoint in Office 2013, etc.  Believe me this is costly to support, but, a commitment to cross-federation was the only way to make it work for the users unless…

Viola, now Microsoft buys Yammer.  To us, this means that we can now federate to Microsoft Yammer and push business activity into that stream.  Will others ISV”s follow?  I believe so.  What you’ll start to see is the flow starting to go into this new UI.

Why Microsoft?  Because it is up to them to set the industry standard.  They are uniquely positioned to do so in mass as they have done many times before.  I think on this one, they can and will do it.  We the mass will accept them because there should only be one.  While we hate that it makes life easier in situations where you need a single standard.


Where CorasWorks stands in all this?

The base of SharePoint users is really just starting to move in mass up the stack from low end collaboration into work management apps – our sweet spot. We have always pushed the business value of an integrated workplace of inter-connected applications on SharePoint.  We’ve set the standard for configured apps vs. custom coded that accelerates the ability for customers to create the apps they need and drive tangible business value.  We’ve set the standard for cross app integration on SharePoint.    We added the business activity stream to drive that integration and end-user convenience further.

Over the last couple of years we worked to trumpet the move to this new user-centric approach to work.  We have a small trumpet compared to Microsoft.  I see Microsoft’s move accelerating the realization of organizations on how all of this comes together to serve the user which will drive more apps onto the platform to feed the experience.  We will do our part to federate and help drive the movement. My belief is that we are moving into a new era of a virtuous cycle that will simply make it easier and more productive for people to work better together.  It is a good day.


Stay tuned…