A Perspective on SharePoint, Yammer, and Microsoft

Christian Buckley

Christian is a 7-time Office Servers and Services MVP, internationally-recognized technology evangelist and collaboration expert, and the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • Rodrigo Pinto, SharePoint MVP

    As usual, great article, Buckley!
    Microsoft is really underestimated the demand for on prem, some of my clients\partners are already complaining about it.
    Although i use Yammer also frequently, is a love\hate relationship regarding SharePoint integration .
    I had that feeling before: Tahoe.

  • Outstanding…

  • Thank you very much sharing your thoughts.
    The problem with yammer and the communication of “being social use yammer” as I feel it at the moment is that it’s the same as a “swallow doesn’t make a summer” a timeline doesn’t make your business more social.
    I think that SharePoint veterans (8 years on SharePoint) like I’am are trying hard to create a good environment on SharePoint where people can interact with each other, and give the user where they can find useful information in a semi- or structured way. With Yammer and I’m also on SPYam it’s sometimes really hard to follow threads, find information that are relevant for me and sort out the good from the bad. It’s also time consuming. I think from a perspective of user experience a lot of things needs to be done to make SharePoint Newsfeed or Yammer attractive to not so social media afine people in a company.
    Today it feels like using twitter without using tweet deck or other tools that helps you get a better overview of relevant information.

  • I do appreciate much of what you said above. And I appreciate you offering some real criticism on big promises failing to deliver value. I think the real take-away from your post needs to be highlighted:
    “your decisions to move (to the cloud) should be based on business value, not pressure from any technology vendor.”
    The problem I’ve seen over the years with SharePoint in particular is that it’s a do-it-yourself approach to everything with a “big promise” that all too often fails to deliver real value. The reality is that in so many organizations SharePoint has failed to become the hub – THE central place where work actually gets done – both inside and outside the firewall. It is a failed vision for so many orgs which I was wrote the article I did. Yes, we all know that SharePoint is not dead and neither is the need for physically hosting certain information on-premise. But why would you continue to invest in something that hasn’t delivered the value promised?
    I’m also not sure I agree that “cloud technologies are incremental to technology we’ve been working on for the past decade or more.” Perhaps incremental describes the Microsoft cloud … which seems to suggest taking same dusty on-premise software and simply hosting it somewhere else. That won’t exactly translate into business value. The reality is that the rest of the cloud offers some game changing innovations that really change how work gets done across any device, any ecosystem, anywhere… delivering on their promises with real measurable business value.
    If I’m CIO/CTO today, I’d really question if putting too many technology eggs in a single Microsoft basket (cloud or on-prem) makes sense as a go-forward strategy and will deliver anything different from business as usual. Consumer trends are real just as real as the high expectations of user experience and demand for real measurable business value.

  • I think the key statement here is that if Microsoft doesn’t move quickly enough, they’ll lose future customers… and yet if they move too quickly, they’ll lose existing customers. Thankfully, their language seems to be softening around hybrid, and leaders are talking more openly about real customer scenarios. What I tell people is that Microsoft responds to customers — if enough people speak up, they do respond. I think that this issue reflects just that.

  • Enough about me. What did you think of the article? 😉

  • Stefan, you’ve made my primary point: you first need to understand what your customers, your end users, you community needs, and THEN go out and find the right technology to meet those needs. Your requirements may preclude you from using a cloud-based platform (for now, at least). But you’re also specifically talking about unstructured collaboration (Yammer) versus structured (SharePoint). There are valid use cases for each, but people need to understand that they are very different tools.
    My philosophy is to always look at technology as tools in my tool belt: use the right tool for the right job. Yammer is a great screwdriver, but it makes a lousy hammer.

  • Rich, we can argue about whether SharePoint provides value — i think it can provide tremendous value whether or not it reaches that nirvana state of your primary hub. Along the way, many teams and individuals will unlock productivity whether or not you reach your ultimate vision for the platform.
    But I’d love to hear more from you on the cloud technologies you think are brand new, rather than incremental. I was working on SaaS offerings in the late 90’s, and helped build a cloud-based collaboration platform with some social capabilities that we launched in 2001. None of that was built on Microsoft technology. So while i recognize that there have been major advances in what is possible, I would argue that what has unlocked the cloud more than the platforms or software have been dramatic cost reductions in storage and hardware and the increased speed and available of broadband internet. Let me know where I am off.

  • Simon

    Great post Christian. You have managed to capture and articulate many of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head.
    I have no doubt that if done properly the Yammer acquisition will have significant impacts on a lot of Microsoft’s business software solutions.
    On one hand I find it very frustration to have the confusing messages that MS has put out in recent times regarding SharePoint and its direction. On the other I find it exciting that this big, “traditional” software company appears to be managing to turn itself around and head in new/different directions to its traditional market.
    Your points on the KPI driven “strategy” is spot on. As we know everything is driven by the scorecard and this often leads to messaging and behaviours that are not necessarily in the best interests of customers, partners, or even MS itself. Not sure if they will ever change that but it will make for interesting “viewing”.

  • Thanks for the feedback, Simon. Microsoft does not have the best track record in acquisitions, nor of moving quickly and effectively into new markets. They have more of the freight train approach: slow to start, but once up to full speed, get out of the way. Of course, the freight train doesn’t turn on a dime, either…
    As for Microsoft messaging, their marketing is designed to maximize their direct sales ability and, to some degree, their partner sales, but this season of messaging has been, in my opinion, a bit of a mess for all of the reasons I outline above. My assessment is that Microsoft would be best served by a parallel marketing campaign — separate marketing activities for the cloud from existing constituencies. Encourage, enable, make recommendations, but cool the strong arm tactics. Companies will matriculate on their own over time.

  • Best article of the year so far Christian, very well put Sir.
    I believe the major issue still remains, business strategy is being defined/led far too much by new technology invention/passion/hysteria when indeed new technology invention needs to be applied to fix the outstanding business issues of the day, which are pretty much the same ones that have been there for decades.
    Love the ageism point – I remember when the young simply had spots and played loud music 🙂

  • Currently, there are two significant technology developments that Microsoft is facing – cloud computing* & enterprise social networks*. These are reflected in its SharePoint & Yammer/O365 offerings. Both brings in hyper-competition and a very significant change in strategy that has left its employees, customers and even channel partners guessing how it will all fare out. Very simply, it’ll take time – both CC* and ESN* are in the threshold of S-Curves ‘discontinuity’. It is not merely moving from one technology to another but the entire ecology that has to go with it – i.e., infrastructure, business processes, applications, training and even the mindset of customers and MVPs. To extend your ‘ship’ analogy – a giant aircraft-carrier (or a Carnival cruise ship) does not turn on a dime in the high-seas, it takes a long arcing path to change its direction.
    Brace yourself if’ll be a bumpy but exciting ride.

  • With a minimum of 3 revolutions all colliding at the same time, SharePoint is positioned as the big gorilla. They can’t do enough on these revolutions of mobile, social and cloud. The rumors and scary propositions definitely freak people out.
    Totally agree with much of what you’ve said in this post Christian. Well said. I think we need even more guidance across these very critical areas of SharePoint.
    You speak of two competing directions of cloud verses on prem. I’m ready for Microsoft to speak more clearly about these two different products. Too many customers are only hearing cloud, cloud, cloud.

  • Of course, this is an age-old problem: thinking new technology like a magic wand will immediately solve all ills. At the root of almost every technology issue is a lack of understanding of the business problem to be solved. A rash generalization, for sure, but sadly more true than not.

  • I like the freight train analogy for Microsoft: they may take a while to get moving, but once in motion – watch out. There’s no stopping them. Of course….a freight train can’t turn on a dime, either.

  • And I don’t blame them for pushing so hard on cloud, as that IS the future of software. But at the same time I agree with Gartner’s assessment that as much as 1/3 of SharePoint customers will NEVER move to the cloud based on security (real or perceived), compliance, and data sovereignty issues. Oh, and performance — which is something people neglect to talk about, instead showing only demos in ideal situations. But that’s a discussion for another day.
    While I believe Microsoft needs to modify its marketing to that of a dual market — on prem and online side by side, you just have to understand their need to re-direct their customers and provide some level of thought-leadership. Unfortunately, too many MS folks carry the cloud banner without the slightest inkling that they understand customer needs and issues. There are not enough voices of reason right now, and that has to change.

  • that’s why I like to fly.

  • Great post, great point about Yammer being no where near ready (in SharePoint) to be marketed as it is being. As you say it breaks too much SP2013 stuff.

  • My complaint is that they’ve confused the market over when to use on prem social features versus Yammer’s cloud solution. Pushing Yammer heavily while being weak on messaging around whether or not on prem social features will remain or be deprecated has caused people to pause. I think it’s hurt the overall SharePoint story. A dual story would have been better — and then strengthened once Yammer provides some level of integration. Microsoft just spiked the ball on the 1st yard line, in my estimation.

  • Rich

    Never said SharePoint doesn’t have any value. Yes, there are some core ECM use cases SharePoint solves with the help of 3rd party tools or developers. It has its use cases but falls short on value when it comes to collaboration. I’ve been in this collaboration space for 15 years. When SharePoint came along (right around 2007 when it got “good enough), organizations bought into a vision that has missed the mark as we’ve now seen years later.
    Mobile has unlocked the cloud. That’s where sharepoint and microsoft stack in general is way behind.

  • I guess that depends on how you define ‘collaboration.’ There are vast numbers of customers who might disagree with you, myself included. Collaboration for one team might mean document sharing. SP does that. Another might classify collaboration as the ability to use wikis, create automated workflow, maintain threaded discussions. SP does all 3 of those, too. Where SP2010 fell flat with some social capabilities, partners stepped in (NewsGator, Neudesic, Attini, others) and filled the gap, and now SP2013 has some fairly compelling social features. So we’ll have to agree to disagree there unless you can be more specific.
    Whether or not SharePoint has “missed the mark” of customer expectations is also a foggy idea, since its massive growth — if you’re just looking at the numbers — would indicate that your perspective may not be supported by vast numbers of companies….but I think there can be some healthy dialog here. Standing up servers and having all status lights green does not equal a successful SP deployment. But let’s not confuse failure of the technology when most deployment failures should rest fully on the shoulders of the people who failed to properly plan and then govern their platforms. And that’s a common story across enterprise apps, not just SP.
    Your third point on mobile, I can’t say I disagree with you. Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do.

  • Nice write-up! Agree on so many points. I definitely think Microsoft wanted to make a splash and now Yammer is in full marketing mode.
    We can all agree that OOB SharePoint discussions are limited and while MS made progress with profiles, newsfeed, mobility, and social aspects, they were still behind the bigger players in the social/mobility space.
    I do think that most large enterprises will stick to on-prem. The cloud will gain popularity with small business and that’s still a big market to capture.
    The funny part about the yammer hype is that most of the functionality can be implemented by building on top of the OOB SharePoint discussion lists. I’ve implemented it for many clients so that they have structured, governed discussions. I have a write-up on sharepointbloggers regarding all of the noise created from unstructured activity in the workplace.
    Again, great write-up Christian!