They might all be called ‘social networks’, but Facebook is very different from Twitter, which is very different from Instagram, which is very different from Foursquare.
It’s quite likely that we’ll see a rise of niche-specific solutions, because a social intranet for realtors, who don’t spend much time in the office, must be very different from social intranet for software developers. The logic of business simply dictates it. – Dmitry Valyanov (Venture Beat)
Is there a need for a wide variety of enterprise social tools? This is what Valyanov, CEO of a cloud-based social intranet provider, asserts in his guest post on Venture Beat. Adding social (collaboration & cooperation) capabilities to existing productivity tools is a better approach than using a dedicated social platform, Valyanov suggests. If so, then Microsoft’s strategy with Office365, focused on tools first and collaboration second, may be on the right track.
As Aaron Golberg notes, enterprise collaboration platforms can have a tendency to use a lot of IT resources, if not handled appropriately. But even Microsoft is offering a separate collaboration platform, Yammer, in support of Office365. With both sides covered, and a joint sales force, Microsoft may be able to get some solid market data on what enterprise customers really want and buy.
As Microsoft moves its services to the cloud and starts combining SharePoint, Yammer and Office 365, we still don’t really know what this all will look like by the end of 2013. It makes sense all three will be combined in some way, but how much choice customers will be offered is a big unknown. In the cloud, it should be easier for customers to pick and choose which features they want and when, but that’s not always possible from an integration standpoint. - CMS Wire
Microsoft is also using these tools internally, as described by a senior IT staff member.
“Employees that need to collaborate now have two options: a SharePoint Online site (which already number 18,000 and growing) or a Yammer group. Teams that rely primarily on document management features favor SharePoint sites, and those teams that are more focused on the conversations lean toward Yammer groups. Increasingly, we are providing options of embedding Yammer feeds into SharePoint sites for people that want a mixture of the two.” - ZDNet
Sharepoint supports people who are collaborating, focused on specific objectives, and sharing the same documents. As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, Yammer has the capability to not just support collaboration, but also workplace cooperation (freely sharing without any quid pro quo). Platforms like Yammer enable serendipitous connections by making work more transparent. But is a separate collaboration platform necessary, or just an added extra? It will be interesting to see if the triad of Yammer + Sharepoint + Office will dominate in large organizations, over more pure-play enterprise social platforms.
For enterprise decision-makers and budget-holders, it is still best to really understand workplace collaboration requirements before buying new tools and infrastructure. In addition, they should take a serious look at how better cooperation can improve innovation and the sharing of implicit knowledge across the enterprise, and outside it. Tools are only part of the solution. However, being able to look at all tools in a systemic manner should help make better decisions.
This post was sponsored by Microsoft Office 365 – I retained editorial control and take full responsibility for what is posted. Contract writing is one of the ways I make my living.