The news are here.
This is only one of the thousands of articles about this deal. I would like to share some first-hour thoughts by the perspective of the Enterprise Social Networks software market.
Four years ago, Microsoft have placed a bet, acquiring Yammer, one of the leading products in the ESN market. The strategy appeared clear:
- focus on cloud,
- building a “social layer” on top of the Office 365 offering,
- playing a role in this emerging market segment.
Today, this move appears only as a partial success.
So, why Linkedin? When acquisitions like this happens, I prefer to look at the small technical innovations rather than at the Corporate-level marketing announcements.
I am expecting some of the following (in the short/medium term):
- Yammer/Office 365 users will be able to get/find contact data from Linkedin.
- Office 365 documents will take their place as featured contents on Linkedin (superseding or side-by-side with Pulse posts and SlideShare presentations).
- Content from Linkedin groups will be available as search results in the Yammer platform.
- Some sort of internal/external (with respect to the Company border) integration of messaging.
- Video chat, or video posting of presentations on Linkedin, sourced maybe from Lync.
Will this be a success? Surely this kind of integration may boost the adoption of Office 365 and cloud document services (more than Yammer), just like the (virtually) free diffusione of Word/Excel at the early times of Windows was a great move to beat the competition in the office automation software market.
There is also a tremendous potential from the possible integration of Outlook/Yammer/Linkedin as a unified business communication platform. But this require a complete redesign of the product strategy.
On the negative side there is the current level of “pollution” in Linkedin, emerging as aggressive and “massive” marketing campaigns, some not-so-professional usage patterns (dating), a decrease in the quality of posts (too much marketing, too much trivial quotes), and – most of all – a decrease in the volume/quality of recruiting, one of the main assets of Linkedin.
The traditional landscape for Office Automation application has changed significantly.
The disruptive new entry was Google. During time, the Mountain View Company has built its online offering over four main pillars:
- Drive, this is both a generic cloud storage, but at the same time offers a suite of Office applications (Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Drawing);
- Gmail, just for mail processing;
- Hangouts for text, audio, video, chatting;
- G+, adding a Social platform to the suite.
Microsoft, durign the last years, but mainly during the last months, have followed, with an offering that is similar, by some points of view, but different in non trivial details.
- Outllok.com offers the mail functionality, integrated with text chat (the old Messenger);
- One Drive offers the cloud storage functionality, integrated with Office apps, with a subset of the traditional PC based Office suite.
- Yammer: is the Social component, but in an “Enterprise” flavour. Yammer is the result of an acquisition, and is still under “integration” with the other products.
- Share Point, in the cloud version, is a derivation of the mature on premise product, with a simpler deployment curve. This product offers an unique, structured, platform for file archiving, that doesn’t compete with Drive, or other similar products, like Dropbox or Box, but rather with platforms like Alfresco.
- Lync, for internet based video/audio communicaton.
- One Note, is a mature note taking product, that wasn’t able to gain user traction, leaving space for other competitors like Evernote.
Now, the two competitors are pushing their marketing efforts toward the rich Business market, and this is the big shift
that I have introduced at the beginning, and that each CIO should consider carefully.
Significantly, both platforms don’t put a big emphasis on the “mail” component, and both struggle to obtain a good acceptance for their Social apps.
The two things are linked, in my opinion: why any Social app require so a big effort, in a business environment, to conquer the user attention and involvement?
The answer, I believe, rests in the lack of integration with the mail component. The great part of our daily interaction, at work, comes from mail messages. Managing messages, organizing them, forwarding and processing them, absrorbs the biggest part of the time that we commit to interaction. This is why few minutes are left for engagement in other collaborative platforms, and we are, somehow, scared of being further involved in other things.
The solution would be quite simple: integrate mail in the “stream” of posts that populate our social dashboard. This could work well if we are able to organize mail, posts, documents around the big “themes” that we deal with, projects, prospects, processes.
This require two things:
- An intelligent classification system that is able to spot the right hashtag that is to be applied to each message/post;
- An intelligent search mechanism, capable of finding related posts/messages/documents, beside the “natural” linking mechanism provided by hashtags.
Another point: the majority of the cloud apps users consider them only as a practical online replacement for the traditional PC versions, enjoying the availability on fixed and mobile platforms. The real time collaboration features are often overlooked. But the ability to work, in real time, by multiple users, on the same spreadsheet or document, while chatting, introduced a new paradigm for collaborative work, that has still a long way to go.