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Rich Wood

Rich Wood has been planning, designing and building enterprise solutions for intranets, extranets, and public internet sites since 1997. Rich is the Director of Perficient's Web and Social Collaboration Practice (Microsoft), with a focus on the SharePoint and Sitecore platforms. He is a keen advocate for and frequent speaker/writer on information architecture, social business, user experience and web content management. Married and a father of four, Rich enjoys spending time with his wife and family. He is a native of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a graduate of Marquette University.

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Enterprise Social and its Three Most Dangerous Myths

Enterprise social.  It’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread (The Beatles, frozen custard and computer-generated animation all make stronger cases for that title) but lately it seems like it’s close.  That said, for all of its growing popularity, our experience tells us that a good deal of what people believe about social networks– and how to get users engaged on them– is flat-out wrong.

sliced_breadAfter a summer so busy that I missed my July deadline, this morning I published a new article on CMSWire addressing three of enterprise social’s most dangerous myths head-on.  Check it out and learn why…

  • A single network might not be your best bet for adoption…
  • #ESN rollouts aren’t like any other new application, and…
  • Some users will simply never adopt them, no matter what you do.

Interested in continuing the conversation?  I’ll be unofficially representing Perficient (which cannot be held responsible for any comparisons I make between Yammer and Game of Thrones) in CMSWire’s upcoming TweetJam (yes, that’s a thing) on this month’s editorial focus “What does working like a network look like in practice?” The Tweet Jam will take place on Wednesday, August 20 at 1pm ET/ 10am PT.  You can find me on Twitter at @richOthewood; follow @CMSWire for TweetJam details and the #official #hashtag to follow.

Roundup: Enterprise Social ROI, External Governance in Yammer

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at the office.  Besides hopping from LA to NYC to Chicago to work with various and sundry eye-catching clients, we’ve been turning out essays on a couple of hot topics:

  • Roundup: Enterprise Social ROI, External Governance in YammerROI (Return On Investment) as provided by Enterprise Social Networks
  • Governance in Yammer, specifically External Networks

In the first instance, we’ve got an article up over at CMSWire discussing the futility of using ROI as a case for investing in enterprise social.  The wiser course by far is to leverage one of the freemium networks available (and of course, I’m personally partial to Yammer– the best one out there) and let it build value within your organization first.  That basically makes the case for you.

The second piece covers Yammer directly, and specifically goes into the design of Usage Policies for Yammer’s External Networks.  These are a great tool for communicating and collaborating with clients, vendors and partners– so long as you design a binding Usage Policy with several key guidelines in mind.  In our post on ViewDo Labs’ enterprise social blog, we tell you what those guidelines are.

Curious?  I hope so!  Check out the latest and let us know what you think.

The Cloud Don’t Care About Your Grammar Police, Y’all

I’ve been seeing a lot of hubbub lately around the proper phrasing for applications an organization hosts itself– in other words, anything that isn’t in the cloud.  People are cringing when the phrase “on-premise” is used in lieu of the grammatically correct “on-premises”.  I’ve seen self-appointed grammar police weigh in from any number of directions– blogs, Yammer conversations, even an audience member shout-out during my presentation at SharePoint Conference 2014 earlier this spring.  And you know what?  None of it matters.

The Cloud Don't Care About Your Grammar Police Y'allLet me repeat: None of it matters.  The Cloud doesn’t care.

The bottom line is, people are having this conversation as an offshoot of something far more important– we are in the midst of an historic shift in application architecture.  The movement toward the Cloud is well-documented and I needn’t elaborate further on it, other than to say that it’s not “on its way” anymore– it is finally here, and here in a big way.

People can debate the use of “on-premise” versus “on-premises” all they like (or even the presence of that little hyphen in the middle) but the only reason they’re discussing it is this one: The market for it is shrinking.  The Cloud is increasingly becoming a part of how we do business in IT.  Eventually, it’ll pass a tipping point where we stop thinking of it as something separate and simply accept it as status quo.  Curiously, linguistics gives us a very close parallel to illustrate the point.

The English language evolves based on usage. It’s a living thing. That’s why terms like “ain’t” and “y’all” can now be found in even the most distinguished dictionaries and why, with continued (mis)use, “on-premise” will go from being colloquially accepted to formally official.   Much like the Cloud will go from where it is today– a more and more common means of hosting applications and data– to the ubiquitous status quo.  Stand down, then, all y’all grammar police.  You may as well try and stop the flow of time.

Yammer External Networks – Your Extranet Made Social

After meeting them at SharePoint Conference 2014, I recently accepted an invitation from ViewDo Labs to publish the occasional musing on their enterprise social blog. ViewDo is a company formed by the former Axceler braintrust to focus on enterprise social analytics, and they have a great and growing product already out there for Yammer.

This is a something I jumped at, because it’s a community blog featuring some of the people I personally read regularly; being included in their number is an honor.

My first post for them came out yesterday, and is focused on a familiar topic: Yammer External Networks. This introductory post makes the same case I’m making in a webinar this afternoon– that Yammer External networks (I’m torn on whether or not to call them “YEN”) elevate the formerly staid concept of the Extranet into a social, more truly collaborative space. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Microsoft’s Roadmap for Social: Detailed Analysis from SPC14

“Work like a network.”  Spend just a few minutes at SharePoint Conference 2014 and you’re bound to hear or see this phrase sooner than later. It’s here in the keynote and it’s here in the signage.  It’s here on the lips of the Yammer and Social product marketing people I had the good fortune to spend some time with early Monday afternoon, and it was here loud and clear in the jam-packed session on Microsoft’s Roadmap for Enterprise Social later that same day.  It’s central to the short-term improvements that answer questions about Yammer and SharePoint, and even more central to new investments that Microsoft calls Inline Social, Groups and Office Graph—already the darling of Day One.

Microsoft’s Roadmap for Social: Detailed Analysis from SPC14What does it mean?  It means leveraging the power of enterprise social tools to actually behave in connected ways, and get value out of it.  The presenters, Christophe Fiessinger and Juliet Wei, made it very clear that while Microsoft still believes the best pure social experience is Yammer in the browser—they called it the “hero” version of social—that the future of work is social, and the future of social is in its ability to socially connect people within and around the documents, data and applications they care about.  Much of the message here was focused on enterprise tools better reflecting what is available to people in the consumer market—a message stressed here in this space just last month.

This was the core message of the Roadmap presented on Monday at SPC2014. While it’s an ambitious one, it must be said that Microsoft’s track record of hitting their enterprise social goals since the Yammer acquisition nearly two years ago has been a very solid one.  Though many questions have been asked, when they’ve said they will deliver something by a certain date, they’ve done it—and now they’re starting to answer those questions.

Some of those answers were addressed on Monday, along with three core innovation tracks that go beyond the SharePoint-heavy tone of those early concerns.  Those three tracks— “Inline Social”, “Groups”, and “Office Graph”—position Microsoft’s approach to Enterprise Social as something that includes SharePoint but extends well beyond it.

To analyze the Roadmap, then, let’s take a look at the short term items, the implications for the present—the questions people have been asking almost since the Yammer acquisition—and then take a look toward the far more interesting items promised, and in many cases demoed, for the near future.  That’s where the tools really begin to make “working like a network” look like an achievable dream.

What’s Coming Just Around the Corner…

One might as well call the short-term Roadmap items the SharePoint roadmap items.  It’s been a common fallacy for people in the SharePoint world (and beyond) to look at Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer as a simple one-for-one swap with the old SharePoint social features, but they’ve been clear for over a year now that this sort of view is limited and more than slightly reductionist. (more…)

SharePoint Conference 2014 – Rocket Fuel for a SharePoint Career!

I’ve been going to SharePoint Conference since the 2009 iteration,  but I’ve never been so excited for an SPC as I am for this year’s version!  SPC 2014 has a lot to recommend it for anyone– from roadmap news on Yammer and Social, to a renewed content focus for on-premise and hybrid architectures, to the new venue provided by The Venetian (so alas, cooking with coconut oil will never again remind me of SharePoint)– but for me personally, I already know this is going to be a crazy week.

SharePoint Conference 2014 - Rocket Fuel for a SharePoint CareerWhat I’ve always loved about SPC is the way it brings everyone in the SharePoint world together, and the sheer possibilities of knowledge, learning and connecting that come from that!  It seems that every SPC has either brought about, or confirmed, another major step in my career.  I think it can do the same for anyone else in attendance, and I encourage other attendees to think the same way.  SharePoint Conference is a lot like rocket fuel for a SharePoint career.

Seriously–for proof, let me quickly tell you my own SPC story!

It’s hard to believe that only five years ago, I was attending my first SharePoint Conference as one of two representatives sent by a small, regional Microsoft partner.  It was SPC that opened my eyes to a wider world, and helped me realize that the horizons available in this business were far grander than I could imagine while working for a tiny, Wisconsin-based systems integrator.  It was SPC that started me down the road to working for Microsoft itself.  Then, three years ago, I was in Anaheim for SPC11 as a SharePoint SSP with Microsoft’s EPG team, but realizing I was still a consultant at heart.

That particular conference solidified my hunch that I should return to consulting, this time with the Pointbridge gang– a sharp, talented group of architects, many of whom remain together as just one core constituency of our Perficient team.  And last time around, at SPC12, I was able to make the sort of deep dive into a specific content track– in my case, Yammer and Social– that anyone can use as a launching pad for their own path into a more fulfilling role.

This year… who knows?  2014 feels a bit like a culmination of sorts– which means it’s the starting point for another five years of awesomeness.  For the first time, I’m crashing the MVP party as an invited speaker (come check out my session on Yammer External Networks!)!  I can’t find adequate words to say just how humbling and exciting that is.  Of course, we have a Perficient booth to man with some amazingly talented colleagues, and if I’m not there you will find me working in the Microsoft Pavilion as an invited SME for Social and an “Expert” (I’m flabbergasted by the characterization) at the Ask the Experts session on Wednesday night.

All of that when just five years ago, I was Joe Architect from Wisconsin walking the halls of the Mandalay Bay and wondering how I could become one of the people presenting those sessions.  Well, SPC has a way of fulfilling those sort of wishes if you use it to make them happen, and of course, if you understand hard work.

Come on down and meet us at the Perficient booth, and I can tell you about it.  I might even be able to find you a place in our team– Microsoft’s 2013 United States Partner of the Year!

Will the real SharePoint Influencers please stand up?

Last week, an initial field of one-hundred was published by Scratch Media for Harmon.ie’s “Top 25 SharePoint Influencers”.  Since my team and I are regularly asked to consult with some of the world’s most successful organizations on the what, why and how of their SharePoint use, I thought it might be fun to share my own personal list of SharePoint Influencers and compare the two.

audienceWho influences me?  Who does my team read in our spare time?  What kind of publications impact the advice we give our clients?

I guess it all depends on how you define “influence”.  It doesn’t take a data scientist to realize that the Scratch Media definition looks to be heavily dependent on social media statistics (specifically Twitter).  But to me, someone with meaningful “influence” in SharePoint is someone whose opinions—through some assortment of published content, speaking engagements, organizational ties and/or product development—can (and occasionally do) serve as an impetus for the evolution of the product and how it is perceived.

These are the people I look to when I’m figuring out where SharePoint might (or should) go next.  These are people who know more than I do on various topics, and are always worth listening to—people who create and publish actual, meaningful content that can influence how you, I, and anyone else can think about and position SharePoint.

These are people who think, and that’s why I read/listen to them.  These, in my mind, are my favorite thought leaders in the SharePoint world.  I divide them up into four categories:

  • Behind the Curtain (Microsoft)
  • The Extended Family (ISV Partners and Other Smart People)
  • The Fourth Estate (Analysts)
  • The Godfather

We all benefit from these people and their engagement in public discourse.  Some of them make the Scratch Media / Harmon.ie list.  Others do not.  Again, this is a purely subjective list, but it’s not a media stunt, and you won’t get a prize at our Perficient booth during SharePoint Conference for mentioning it.  You might get a name or three worth following or listening to, though—and if that proves helpful to anyone reading, I’ve done my job for the day.

Behind the Curtain (Microsoft)

Sure, this one is kind of self-explanatory, but while every SharePoint product manager and development lead at Microsoft is definitely worth hearing out, there are certain names that should catch your attention every time.  When an announcement comes from Jeff Teper or Jared Spataro, of course, it’s an announcement you should listen to.  If Bill Baer is giving a demo or writing a blog entry, it’s probably a technology with a ton of upside and something to embrace.  Christophe Fiessinger deftly rides herd over the SharePoint/Yammer workstream and where Social is going, while I learned more about SharePoint in a day with Richard Riley and his old team back in 2010 than I have in the four years since.  There are others, to be sure, but if I had to pick five Softies I’m always listening to, it’d be these five.

The Extended Family (ISV Partners and Other Smart People)

One of the benefits of being a leading partner is sitting on the Partner Advisory Board and getting to know people like Jeremy Thake, who not only represents AvePoint and all of the outstanding extensions they make to the SharePoint platform, but clearly thinks a lot about where SharePoint should go next.  Similarly, Christian Buckley at Metalogix (formerly Axceler) always provides sound insight over at CMSWire.com but doesn’t limit his writing or his thinking to products.  Chris Johnson at Provoke Solutions is a former SharePoint PM at Microsoft who might speak quietly but is worth bending an ear to listen to.  What separates these three from the usual suspects, for me, is that they clearly take a strategic view of where this platform can go and how it might get there.

The Fourth Estate (Analysts)

I really don’t understand how anyone can compose a list of “SharePoint Influencers” and leave out the guy who leads most of Forrester Research’s SharePoint publication.  I’d be willing to wager that more CIO’s and senior directors read the reports produced by Rob Koplowitz and his team than read 95% of the Twitter feeds that Scratch Media apparently weighs so heavily.   There is an army of good folks at Gartner as well—I think very highly of Larry Cannell’s work on SharePoint and Yammer.

The Godfather

No list of SharePoint influencers is complete without Joel Oleson.  Mr. Oleson may have left Microsoft years ago but he stays relevant by updating core concepts of his work for the modern era.  The simplicity of his updated governance pyramid model, for instance, presents a straightforward, easily digestible take on how to apply governance to a far-more-social SharePoint world than the one that existed back in the days of MOSS 2007.  It’s a brilliantly easy way to talk about governance with stakeholders, and I’m in his debt for its publication and sharing.

There you go—I’ve named eleven people whose thinking and publishing on and about SharePoint directly influences my own, and that of thousands of others.

Who are yours?

The Art of Delegation: The new Office 365 Partner Admin Center

So you say you’re moving to Office 365 / SharePoint Online with the help of a leading technology partner, and you’d like that partner to help you manage the platform going forward? Look no further, says Microsoft– the Office 365 Partner Admin Center is here!

According to the official Office 365 Technology Blog:The Art of Delegation: The New Office 365 Partner Admin Center

The new Office 365 Partner admin center provides Partners new and enhanced tools to manage their Office 365 customers.  The new Office 365 Partner admin center is rolling out to partners worldwide over the next few weeks.

Previously, with Partner tools in the Office 365 admin center, [partners] could perform delegated administration tasks on behalf of customers and create trial invitations.

With the Partner Admin Center, now partners can take on the kinds of tasks– with ease– that you have always wanted us to, and often asked us to, including the ability to find, select, and perform administrative tasks on your behalf, as well as creating, editing, and viewing service requests for you.

Pretty exciting stuff!

I mean, you know… from a managed service perspective, anyway!

Yammer = Extranet 2.0 : SharePoint Conference 2014 and CMSWire

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how a little-known feature of Yammer is poised to change the face of the Extranet workload as we know it.  The External Network isn’t new, and it’s not a separate product– it’s simply another way to use Yammer, but this time with people outside of your organization.

We traditionally think of Enterprise Social Networks (or #ESN) as internal-facing tools providing social business solutions for the enterprise, and rightly so.  External social is pretty well covered by the likes of Facebook, networkTwitter et al.  But what those consumer sites don’t give us is a secure, manageable, governable space in which to not only communicate with, but collaborate with, our customers.  Throw vendors and partners into the mix and suddenly you’re looking at a whole new development in the extranet space– Extranet 2.0.

This isn’t exactly rocket science if you know the tools well, but it came to me as a revelation of sorts when I was trying to work up a talk track for our “CIO-CMO Convergence” webinar with Rob Koplowitz over at Forrester.  Mr. Koplowitz is a great speaker and an industry expert, so even more than usual, as a speaker I always feel challenged to bring my ‘A Game’ when I am teamed up with him.  The problem for this one was that I somehow had to marry the concepts of #ESN and CIO-CMO Convergence… and that wasn’t easy.  After all, what do CMOs care about internal-facing social tools?  Aside from their own experience as users, they usually don’t.  They’re all about the customer, and rightly so.

Then it struck me: Yammer’s features can extend to vendors, partners and yes– customers.  In fact, Yammer and Microsoft both use them for this already, and I participate in several of those forums myself.  As I trained up on Yammer administration and did some digging into the governance tools available, the usefulness of these External Networks as an Extranet replacement became crystal clear.

It’s so obvious, in fact, that I’m now speaking on the topic at SharePoint Conference 2014 in March.  In that session, we’ll be learning not only how and why this is true, but also the ins and outs of how they work including live demos of setting up, configuring and governing External Networks.  We will also discuss adoption strategy and how to get the most out of the platform’s intrinsically intuitive user experience.

In the meantime, I’ve also published an overview of the concept and my (admittedly rather bullish) outlook on its potential over at CMSWire this month.  Check it out, and come out to see the session at SPC2014!  You’ll be glad you did.

Yammer: Go Ahead, Trust Users Over 30

There is a common perception that age is a defining factor in how enterprise users adjust to, and engage with, enterprise social networking tools.   The problem, so the folk wisdom goes, is that older users are slower to adopt newer, “cutting edge” software (translation: consumer-like UI and functionality) because they are averse to change (translation: stodgy) and comfortable with what they have (translation: complacent).

YammerPoppycock, says Yammer.  (Go on, admit it, wouldn’t it be great to hear David or Adam get up at the next SharePoint Conference or YamJam and and say “Poppycock!” to a critic?)

Their research has shown that the demographics of age are less of a factor in enterprise social adoption than people think.  If you doubt that statement, go check and see if your mother-in-law is on Facebook and get back to me.  Mine is.  In fact, she’s probably ‘liking’ a photo of my daughter right now.

Where there’s been resistance to enterprise social, it’s been more about a question of how people work, Yammer tells us.   Their research shows that older ‘information workers’ (i.e., people who are used to interacting with knowledge in a give-and-take fashion) tend to adopt social tools in much the same frequency as younger information workers.  It is those used to a process-based approach to work that often resist.

While older workers are far more likely to be comfortable with a process-based approach– because hey, that’s how they grew up in business– there are also younger users (translation: engineers, project managers, etc.) who fit that bill as well.  The key to helping anyone with a process focus to become a successful user of social tools is in giving them a single use case where the social tool makes life easier than whatever they’re using today.

People will nearly always adopt a new tool when it is easier to use than the old tool. That takes research, requirements analysis and planning– it’s not instantaneous but it’s worth the effort!