Platforms and Productivity, Oh My!
In his vision keynote at the Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC14) in Washington DC last month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about a change of focus and messaging within the company, moving Microsoft from a “devices and services” company to a “platform and productivity” company. I was very happy with this shift, as it presents, in my view, a much better picture of how Microsoft solves both business and consumer problems – and doesn’t make it sound as if the company is in direct conflict with their own partner ecosystem. But that’s a slightly different discussion than the point I’d like to make here – that the concentration on end user productivity is a great thing.
In my recent CMSWire article ‘Focus on the last Mile of SharePoint Automation’ I tap into my telecom background to describe a large problem with most SharePoint deployments – the gap between solution development and end user enablement.
Within the telecommunications space, the “last mile" is a metaphorical phrase used to describe the final leg of the telecom network where the customer physically connects to the network. For example, you might have a fiber network that serves your area, and yet it still connects your home to that fiber network (from your home to the street) using copper wire, thus degrading your service due to the quality of that “last mile” of infrastructure.
Most problems with service that consumers experience tend to happen within that last mile. This usually is because the customer's layout, the quality of connection and the type of equipment being used can vary so widely. The telecom vendor might build the most advanced network possible, but that last mile can make or break the experience.
How much of your SharePoint environment has been designed for that last mile? In other words, how much has been designed for the end user experience rather than just to meet your functional requirements?
Rather than repeat all of the points made in that article, I’ll let you go read it. But I do want to point out that there are a number of great vendors out there that are building solutions to solve this “last mile” problem. My company has a number of consulting partners who specialize in design and user experience (UX) development, such as GTconsult in South Africa, and Brightstarr in the US and UK, and solution vendors who are reinventing the SharePoint UX, such as Beezy and Kan.bo.
At the European SharePoint Conference in Barcelona earlier this year, I found out more about a fantastic mobility solution for capture and indexing by GRADIENT, who went on to receive the award for Best Mobile Solution for their GScan Online product for SharePoint, which is a great example of solving the “last mile” problem, enhancing how users interface with the platform. In fact, their solution can help automate most of the examples I make in my CMSWire article, and is worth taking a look at.
I think we’ll see a much more pronounced focus around end user productivity from the Microsoft product teams moving forward, as they understand (through sometimes painful experience) that just because a customer has purchased software or an online service does not mean that they are using it, much less being productive on it. Adoption and engagement should be a concern for any product or service vendor, Microsoft included. And the key to moving a customer from casual user to advocate is to make sure they are being productive with your solution.