Simple Answers to Complex Questions – Real Social with SharePoint 2013

Frequent Updates – More Insight in our Friend’s thinking

It is great to see Microsoft deliver on their promise of frequent roadmap updates. As a long term partner, we enjoy a close relationship, and it is great to see Jared give public guidance on the future of the Microsoft activity stream story. For sure, there is a lot of confusion about what is really going to happen at what times.

A Simple Answer

As an executive, I understand the need for a high-level statement. As a CTO, I know the reality is more complex. The simple advice “go with Yammer” makes absolute sense to gain mind share, but does it really serve enterprise needs? Jeremy Thake does a nice job talking about what the likely integration actually means in terms of features and user experience in his blog post. It was fun reading this because these are all the things that we had to work through to build our Enterprise Ready Social Platform that works great with SharePoint 2013. He provides an extensive list of all the wonderful integration points that made Social based on SharePoint so powerful - like following sites, documents and people, hashtags, communities, etc. In this respect, “go with Yammer” faces the same issues as “go with Jive” or “go with Chatter”, as you need to replace dozens of integration points to prevent additional silos with parallel profiles, fragmented social data storage, and parallel authentication. The truth is that Microsoft spent three years investing in making social a pervasive part of SharePoint 2013. So if you pick a separate platform, you have all these features that don’t work or work inconsistently.

For a Complex Problem

All of those features were put in SharePoint 2013 for a reason – because they add value. So the problem is not “how do I turn off all this functionality”. The real opportunity is “how do I use all this functionality in a consistent and reliable way”. In order to get their job done, people want to follow documents and sites and see if they change. People want to see if someone has answered their question or added to a discussion thread. So let’s say someone says “just use Yammer for those things”. Well, here’s where you get to the real crux of it – those things are hard to do. It’s a pretty interesting problem to try to figure out every place where those capabilities exist in SharePoint and replace them (not turn them off) with features from a different platform (and have hooks into the data that’s needed from SharePoint).

If you can’t ensure seamless authentication of user from anywhere in SharePoint to Yammer and from Yammer into SharePoint, those features aren’t going to work. And, in every case where the service needs to get some information that’s not provided by a user (let’s say Yammer wanted to go pull some analytics data from SharePoint or synchronize an update in the activity stream into a SharePoint content store for example), you have all the issues of network security to let authenticated calls happen against SharePoint from outside your firewall. And there aren’t API’s available for all those calls for code that’s not running on SharePoint. It’s a hard problem. We spent a long time building our Enterprise Social Platform to really leverage those great SharePoint 2013 capabilities.

Life is Great, but not Easy - The Bigger Picture

I realize this is all down “in the weeds” a bit and might sound critical. But the point is that the problem is complex, and we shouldn’t expect quick and simple solutions from Microsoft. We love that they’re focused on enabling social and collaboration across lots of systems. This is giving us more infrastructure to build real social use cases and solutions. Making social Real for our enterprise customers goes well beyond just delivering an activity stream. We’ve built our company on doing the tricky infrastructure and complex integration that makes these stories possible. We’ve spent years learning what makes companies more successful along the path to social adoption. We’re all early in this journey towards real Social, but it’s been a blast and I look forward to work with our friends at Microsoft to help customers to Make Social Real. The bottom line for us at NewsGator is that we’re not going to give you simplistic advice to gain mind share. We’re going to help you get real value from social in your business.

A classmate of mine from MIT used to attach this quote from H. L. Mencken to every one of his emails. “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” I know it is a bit unfair to our friends at Microsoft, but to some extent this quote explains the “go with Yammer” advice. Knowing the power of a fully integrated social platform, you can see that a simple answer is not always the best answer. It’s like life: complex, fun, a great adventure - but never easy.

Need more details? Ping me and we’ll talk.

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