Riding the Microsoft behemoth
The rise and rise of Microsoft’s Office 365 – with its irresistible appeal to CIOs everywhere as an ultra-trustworthy one-stop shop – is having a strange, distorting effect on the world of enterprise social. It’s certainly helping spread the message that every business can and should use collaborative and social tools.
But from a social perspective, Office 365 is a hugely confusing offering, with a multiplicity of tools that apparently all offer potential for collaboration. And this makes it hard for any individual business to know what are just the right ones for social purposes. Before Office 365, you just had on-premise SharePoint, and the messaging around that – with its myriad features and complicated set-up and management – was confusing enough about how to plan your social enterprise. (Also, its on-premise limitations meant that your options for mobile collaboration were severely limited.) Today, as well as your SharePoint team-sites and news-feeds, you have to consider whether and how to use the collaboration groups and other collaborative features – like Skype for Business – within Office 365 itself.
Then there’s Yammer. Everyone knows it, some love it, others loathe it; but Microsoft appear to have stopped developing it or trying to fix the many issues around integrating it in the rest of the O365 suite. They have even dismissed an entire team that was devoted to help customers make business sense of it. So Yammer’s left hanging in limbo, a legacy tool that’s only half-fit for purpose. Yet it’s bundled in with the rest of the Office 365 package and now it’s thrown in for free like a plastic toy on a magazine. As a result it’s skewing the market and making it hard to argue for investment in other, more specialised enterprise social platforms.
And this leads to a crucial question for communicators and others who are seeking to introduce social habits into the business. Who makes the decisions about what tools to invest in? The Microsoft behemoth means that the professional communicators – the ones who are charged with making the investment work – have increasingly less say in whether they have the right tools for the job. They’re handed the Office 365 mishmash by IT team, and told to get on with it. They are faced with the $64,000 question – how to configure the beast into something usable, flexible and able to grow organically as the social habit spreads across the business. And this monster distracts them from the equally important – and equally challenging – matters of selling in the concept of social to senior and middle managers, and teaching them how to get the most out of the new methods of working. Learning to find your way through this maze is the one of the biggest issues for communicators in 2016.