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AvePoint’s @JThake on SharePoint and Yammer for Social Business

In honor of our upcoming SharePoint as a Social Social Business Platform webinar with Forrester’s Rob Koplowitz and our own Rich Wood, we’ll be hearing from some Social Business Thought Leaders from the SharePoint Community over the coming weeks.  First up is AvePoint’s Jeremy Thake. In addition to being a Microsoft MVP and AvePoint’s  Chief Architect, Jeremy was also names the #1 Top SharePoint Thought Leader in Social Business by Jeremy also co-founded with Mark Miller and they continue to encourage community authors to contribute End User, Developer and IT Pro content to their 140k unique user base. You can register for the webinar here.
Jeremy thakeWhat direction do you anticipate Microsoft will go with enterprise social?  Jeremy: Well, they’ve bought Yammer, so it’s going to be integral to their strategy for sure…it wasn’t the cheapest deal on the planet! It is obviously a little inconvenient that they already have a reasonable social platform in SharePoint 2013…although it’s taken 3 goes at it with 2007 and 2010 before it 😉
 Do you think Yammer will make up the core of Microsoft’s social strategy going forward? Jeremy : Absolutely, Microsoft announced during the SharePoint Conference 2012 keynote that it would be looking at deeper integration with all of Microsoft Products like Lync, Skype and Office. They announced on February 27th that Yammer would be the social platform for Dynamics CRM also. 
How do you think Yammer powers the next generation of Microsoft social experiences? Jeremy: Microsoft have already talked about a unified connected experience seamless across all products. I would love to be able to post a status on my Windows Phone mobile app and it be deeply integrated into any user that follows me to their Windows 8 notification system, Office, Lync, Skype…you name it. From there they can decide to continue the conversation in any of these platforms via Voice on Lync or Skype, Instant Messaging on Lync or Skype, replying to the newsfeed activity, starting a discussion in a Yammer Group. There are a lot of things Microsoft need to do to simplify this story and remove duplication and it’s not going to happen overnight…even with their new 6 month service updates and Microsoft Blue.

What’s the best way to foster employee engagement across networks? Jeremy: At AvePoint, we rolled out Yammer in June by essentially just switching it on. Then as the External Evangelist of AvePoint taking on the role internally as evangelist and Champion. It did well in particular parts of the company but seemed very connected to my physical connection to the teams. When we made the decision to move to SharePoint 2013 social on-premises for a more unified story a new tack was taken based on the lessons we learnt. We got major sponsorship from our executive by showing what had worked in an enterprise social setting and how it was improving communication across our globally disperse workforce. AvePoint was very lucky that our CEO and Co-CEO truly championed this and gave me and the rest of our Intranet Committee the support we needed to get all the executives in the company on board and encouraging the use of enterprise social as a method of collaboration.
The best thing we did was to really dumb down what the different means were…you have newsfeed status updates for notifying people of your activity or sharing hyperlinks to content, community discussion groups for asking questions, blogs for posting your opinions and announcements for organization/department wide news. We found by doing this we really did reduce the amount of email traffic within the organization and put information where it should be on SharePoint where it is archived and accessible to everyone rather than those who have archived the email history.
 What’s the importance of having a SharePoint mobility strategy as it relates to a social platform? Jeremy: Any company with a workforce that is on the road, such as AvePoint with our hundreds of Sales people…it was important that we could engage these people. The Intranet Committee kept having to fight off departments wanting to fall back to email because they were concerned that the social strategy wasn’t reaching everyone because they weren’t checking the homepage.
Email had this in the bag as all mobile devices support picking up this information, having it offline and allowing them to respond and then sync when re-connecting. SharePoint isn’t quite there yet with its offline story, but the mobile apps support both SharePoint Online and On-premises for both iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
 Is it imperative to have an IT execution plan for social business strategy? Jeremy: I think that the IT execution plan is a small part in the overall social business strategy. There is a lot more to plan around change management, training employees on how to get the most out of social collaboration and how to find your champions to make it happen and to be out there encouraging others. Mark Fidelman has a great book called “Socialized” where he talks about building a “Digital Village” for your internal social intiatives…it is well worth a read and he has great “playbooks” to help make it happen.
 In your opinion, what’s the value of social business as it pertains to SharePoint? Jeremy: Well, already at AvePoint we have seen immense value in taking discussions outside of email threads and into Community Discussion groups where they are a lot more visible across our organization. Already this has led to a much better knowledge sharing culture across roles that are similar in each region of the globe. We have encouraged all our internal departments to make announcements via SharePoint over email also so that people can easily discover this historically rather than relying on 5Tb PST files.
 Does an organization need to choose between Yammer and SharePoint? Jeremy: Great question, obviously, if you’ve read my blog post on this…which I’m hoping you all have 😉 We absolutely realized that we had to make a choice. This is mainly because there is too much overlap between Yammer and SharePoint…you can follow people in Yammer, you can follow people in SharePoint, I can upload documents in SharePoint, I can upload documents in Yammer, you can post question in Yammer Groups, you can post questions in SharePoint Communities, you can post a status on Yammer newsfeeds, you can post a status on SharePoint newsfeeds AND SharePoint Site newsfeeds. There is no way to see holistically all the people you follow and see their activity from both Yammer and SharePoint in one place and the same with questions and status updates. Only time will tell how Microsoft resolve this problem in the near future.
 How is the cloud impacting SharePoint 2013? Jeremy: With the announcement of Office 365 SharePoint Online 2013 roll outs starting on February 27th we are seeing a lot more demand, especially with Microsoft giving o365 customers a service update every 6 months…whereas on-premises customers still really don’t know the cadence of their updates. This is especially important for those focused on getting the updated story on Yammer + SharePoint for both all-on customers, hybrid and on-premise only customers.
AvePoint’s products have supported Office 365 for some time now and we are seeing a growing interest in both all-in and hybrid stories. We also have DocAve Online which is our Software as a Service offering targeted at all-in customers for Administration, Content Management, Granular Backup and Content Replication. The demand for that has suddenly kicked into gear since January with the news of the 2013 roll out being clearer and the campaign that has been going on around Enterprise Agreement customers being able to get an O365 tenancy significantly cheaper thought the Cloud Acceleration program that end at the end of March. It’s great that all existing SharePoint Online customers will be targeted to be updated by September of this year to 2013.
Personally, I think on-premises customers will always be around for at least this decade for various reasons…but I think most of these organizations will start to look at a hybrid strategy to slowly push up content that can go into the cloud and providing a seamless presentation layer where Users really don’t have to know whether it’s in the cloud or on-premises.
Huge thanks to Jeremy for providing such excellent and thoughtful insight.  You can register for the SharePoint as a Social Business Platform webinar here. Please share your feedback in the comments!

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Liza Sisler

I am passionate about connecting people and information and fascinated by the evolution of social business solutions and cloud adoption. I currently lead Perficient's Partner & Industry Marketing team and am fortunate to work with incredibly talented people sharing the stories, accomplishments and insights of the Perficient team.

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