On the second day of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2014, the track dedicated to enterprise social technology kicked off with a keynote by Jared Spataro, the General Manager of Microsoft Office. While the room capacity was close to 1,000 attendees, Spataro's presentation was designed to give the audience a much more intimate feeling. The goal was to take the audience on a journey through Microsoft's past to the company's new vision for enterprise social technology and to show partners the impact Microsoft's new strategy will have on partner opportunities and product development.
The overarching thoughts behind the vision of Microsoft’s social tools and features revolve around the idea that there is power within social networks, and Microsoft aims to enable customers to work with their networks.
Spataro noted that stepping back from our work experiences and looking at our personal lives is a good way to see the impact of networks. We constantly mingle with others through technology and in other various, non-technical ways. The world is a collection of networks woven together, according to Spataro.
Many companies today work in a hierarchical fashion, meaning that content is generated up and out. Microsoft’s vision for social tools is that such companies will begin to see social features as a new way to work and not just limit their understanding to social feeds or likes. Spataro voiced the hope that organizations would embrace Microsoft's vision and new ideas of working together differently.
The strategy for achieving success for this vision will consist of building upon the existing foundation of the Microsoft Office Suite and server solutions. Spataro shared that key learnings from Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer have caused the company to develop a new strategy that focuses on bringing social networks together.
This strategy consists of three pillars: treating people as a first-class object, allowing the quick and easy formation of groups, and allowing users to self-organize networks based on the work they are doing. The idea of treating people like a first-class object is a concept that is seen most clearly in the Office Graph, which collects data about users and their activities in an effort to present them with the information that matters to them. The goal is to connect existing applications and services through the integration of these concepts. Spataro stressed that for the longest time our most powerful apps were treated as orphans working completely disconnected from each other. Microsoft's strategy for the future is to pull them together into a single network that is driven by the users and the things that they do the most.
Being that this conference is for partners, Spataro then spent some time explaining the opportunity that Microsoft feels is available for partners. He stressed that the majority of social efforts are implemented through organizations and not through technology. The greatest opportunity for partners is to help their customers identify ways that they can work differently using enterprise social tools. The conversation with customers should start first with how they work together and shouldn’t really be focused at all on the tools., Spataro emphasized. Once the conversation has moved forward, partners can then use Microsoft's Office 365 solutions to help their customers work together differently.
The final piece to the keynote was a discussion on all of the products that are currently available and that will be coming soon to support working like a network. These products include Yammer, Yammer Conversations in Office 365, Office 365 and Delve (coming this fall). While products play a part in the experience, Spataro pointed out that the idea of enterprise social is bringing the social experience to the user where they are, allowing them to simply focus on getting things done and not having to worry about a large connected set of tools to navigate. Microsoft has been several big steps forward in this area with the release of Yammer Conversations earlier this year and will be making additional movement this fall with the release of Delve powered by the Office Graph.
The future for Enterprise Social is going to have an impact greater than we have seen in the past, as tools will be implemented that allow for users to work seamlessly on content, regardless on the application they are working within. The concepts of people working in groups on data is going to drive how new tools and features are implemented. Organizations will begin to work differently as the most relevant and meaningful information is pushed directly to them, based on their profiles and their actions. People will begin to naturally engage together in ways that help them work efficiently to get things done.