The SharePoint Conference is kicking off today in Las Vegas, and TechCrunch has a nice article covering some of the innovations that Microsoft is announcing. As someone who builds on top of Microsoft’s platforms, I always love to see these announcements. Not only are the features cool by themselves, but they give us great capabilities that we can use to deliver even more value for our customers. We’ve always had a strategy of helping customers get more out of their Microsoft investments. So when Microsoft adds more functionality, we have more “building blocks”.
These particular announcements are especially interesting for us because they closely match our vision of making work better. The core of the announcement is Office Graph. Basically, this is an engine to take in lots of inputs from things like Lync, Exchange, SharePoint and Yammer and helps users discover things and keep track of what’s important. This completely matches our approach. For years, we’ve integrated Lync, Exchange, SharePoint, Dynamics, and Yammer to try to bring the right information to people. We’ve gone beyond that with integrations to SAP, Salesforce, Twitter, and more because we see that many companies and individuals have other streams of information that matter. We’ve looked at all these data sources to provide recommendations, prioritize messages, and calculate expertise. It’s a lot of work to do all this, so we’re excited by the potential of having API’s to go get this information and potentially an engine that we can feed information from sources outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.
The Groups that Microsoft announced are very similar to the Spheres that we’ve implemented. For a long time, it’s been really clear that enterprise workers need lightweight ways to come together. It’s also clear that users don’t always want to choose to discover and join all these structures. We’ve worked with SharePoint’s audiences for years to allow companies to automatically create groups of people based on things like their department or email distribution group. We’re excited by the possibility of getting more automation around bringing people together in easy ways to collaborate. And again, some of the data points that tell a system like this that a group should work together will come from places outside of the Microsoft ecosystem (e.g. an account team working on a deal in Salesforce).
Lastly, Microsoft is adding more inline social capabilities. This is another thing that we’ve heard from customers and built into our products. We released the ability to have conversations around documents (including an Office plugin that works in Office 2003 through 2010) last fall, and released the ability to add a stream anywhere with the release this past week. Because our software is typically running directly on SharePoint and inside a company, it’s often much easier to make sure the authentication and security stories are easy for end users and compliant with policies while still creating an extended social environment. Because we’ve had integrations with Yammer and O365 for a long time, I can envision a scenario where our software acts as a bridge to help securely and seamlessly connect across environments.
The bottom line here is that Microsoft has announced some really cool capabilities. We love the new doors this opens up, and I’m excited to dig in and start working with them. We deliver value to our customers by creating products that leverage the things that Microsoft has built and allow our customers to use them in ways that fit their business realities. As both Jared Spataro and Jeff Teper mentioned in their blog posts, the native social capabilities in the on-premise version of SharePoint are not being enhanced in the next release. Like Microsoft, we see lots of opportunities in bridging between premise-based systems and cool new cloud capabilities – we have always focused on fitting in with our customer’s existing investments. Most of our customers have quite complex business environments, but it’s awesome to see more building blocks for us to keep helping them make work better.