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The roadmap for the social enterprise: deeper connections, connected experiences

At the root of social technologies lies a drive for two things: open conversations and personal connections. And while social platforms have been ubiquitous in our personal lives for some time now, the penny is fast dropping within the enterprise. Business is social, and organisations need to embrace these “connected experiences” – connections between people, and connections between various technologies – in order to get the most from their people and to gain competitive advantage in an ever-changing world.

With this realisation, the rapid rise in social networks has seen millions of people around the world embrace new forms of keeping in touch and up to date. The metrics supporting this are both impressive and remarkable: In the late nineteenth century, radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users. In the early twenty-first century, Facebook hit 100 million users in less than nine months and now has more than one billion people using its service. As has happened many times in the past, if people are becoming used to using these services for their personal use, it’s natural to consider using similar services in the enterprise.

In mid-2012, around the same time as Microsoft SharePoint 2013 was released to market, Microsoft stole a march in the social space with its acquisition of best-of-breed enterprise social networking tool, Yammer. This acquisition, coupled with the social-related capabilities of SharePoint 2013, place Microsoft as a leader in this rapidly-evolving category.


Social growth is off the charts, and it’s changing the way we work.

Gartner predicts that 40% of the world’s large enterprises will have an enterprise social network by 2015, with 85% of Fortune 500 companies already using Yammer. It’s still early days though – Microsoft tells us that of the world’s 600 million information workers, only a few million are using social networking technologies at work. But Microsoft plans to change all that.

In a world where we’re increasingly busy and increasingly mobile, the value of Yammer, and how it helps employees get more done by making organisations more open and connected, is seen in recent metrics released by the company.


Trends impacting the way we work:

Trends impacting the way we work

Soucre: Microsoft - The social and collaborative organisation


Best-in-class enterprise social networking


According to Yammer’s 2013 Business Value Survey, not only do more than two-thirds of employees believe that Yammer simplifies the process of communicating with colleagues in different locations or departments, but a similar number believe the solution improves communication across locations as well.

Importantly, in a world where staff engagement is becoming increasingly difficult, 80 per cent of respondents believed they were more informed about what was happening in their organisation – something organisations of all types have traditionally struggled with. With 76 per cent of employees believing they have more visibility into what’s happening elsewhere in their organisation one can see how overall staff satisfaction could be improved as a result.


When two paradigms combine: people-centric meets document-centric

For many, Microsoft’s move to acquire Yammer was confusing. SharePoint 2013 already embraces social – so why bring Yammer into the picture as well?

The “why Yammer” question is one that Jared Spataro, senior director of Microsoft’s Office Division, relishes. Spataro asserts: “Yammer not only gives us a best-in-class social networking service, it brings an incredibly talented team with a shared vision of the future, a proven track record of rapid innovation in the cloud, and a commitment to building connected experiences that end users love. It doesn't get any better than that. Yes, the two products both have newsfeeds, but that doesn't bother us very much. We see the people-centric paradigm of Yammer and the more document-centric model of SharePoint as incredibly complementary - and a powerful combination.

“We want to go from a world where a couple million people use social to a world where hundreds of millions of people rely on it every day to get things done.”


Microsoft’s roadmap – social everywhere

The future in a nutshell? Microsoft wants to make Yammer the social layer across all its products. At this year’s Convergence conference, Microsoft gave its enterprise social roadmap update, touching on the three phases of Yammer integration: basic integration, deeper connections, and connected experiences. The integration of Yammer and Dynamics CRM was demoed at the event, although this is only one part of the picture.

Integration with Microsoft’s ERP products is also planned, and moving into 2014, Office 365 will be updated with new social enhancements roughly every 90 days, starting at first by deepening the connections between Yammer and Office 365 services and over time expanding these enhancements to combine social, collaboration, email, instant messaging, voice, video and line of business applications in innovative new ways.

And, over the next few years, social capabilities will be incorporated across most of Microsoft’s enterprise applications, facilitating internal and external communications across employees, partners and vendors.


It’s all about the people

Business is all about people, and solutions such as Yammer and SharePoint help to improve communication and collaboration – between people and between organisations.

For those organisations who have invested in SharePoint, there are opportunities to use Yammer to add an integrated social “layer” that ties the two applications together; and for those (admittedly fewer) organisations who have invested in Yammer, SharePoint can provide a collaboration foundation that can complement Yammer’s social networking capabilities.

Individually, each solution is compelling in its own right, but when used together a step-change in employee productivity can be realised.

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