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To jumpstart 2015, we enlisted Christian Buckley, Microsoft MVP, Managing Director, Americas at GTconsult and 2014 Top 25 SharePoint Influencer, to share his insights in the SharePoint influencer series. In this post, we discuss the three critical factors for successful enterprise social networks; Yammer’s role in the SharePoint and Office 365 ecosystems; and the importance of focusing on business goals rather than technology for better collaboration. Read on to learn more!

Q: What does a successful enterprise social network require?

Christian: While there are certainly nuances when comparing organizational cultures, in my experience there are really three factors that must be present for social in the enterprise to succeed: executive support, meaningful purpose, and one or more strong advocates within the organization.

Executive support is critical because it shows that the company (or team, business unit, division, etc) is serious about having a social strategy. If the executive team is not on board, the program will fade, because it will never be taken seriously. Purpose is not about platitudes of “being more social” or “collaborating more.” It’s about alignment of social capabilities to specific workloads or initiatives, in a measured and meaningful way. You need to have real goals and intent, measurements to know what is working, and checkpoints to take a look at those measurements and make adjustments as needed. Finally, you need strong advocates within the organization to keep everyone moving forward. Call them evangelists or social cheerleaders, but these are the people that continually educate, encourage, and motivate people to participate in the dialog. They are essential.

Q: How do companies evaluate Yammer vs. native SharePoint social capabilities? Do you see companies moving to the cloud to get access to Yammer?

Christian: I haven’t seen as much of the native SharePoint social vs. Yammer argument. The companies who want to implement social technology tend to be more cloud-centered. Having said that, the one trend I have seen is that customers who are using SharePoint on-premise and want social capabilities have been discouraged by the overwhelming cloud story that Microsoft pushes, and rather than deploy a robust on-premise solution, they’ve put all social on the back burner. For those companies who are on-premise but are aggressively pursuing a social strategy, more often than not they are turning to the partner community for solutions.

Q: Do you see companies willing to adopt a hybrid strategy regarding on-premise SharePoint and cloud tools like Yammer, OneDrive, etc.?

Christian: Yes. The majority of enterprise organizations embarking on a cloud strategy are moving toward a hybrid model because of the complexity of their existing environments. OneDrive for Business is turning out to be an important strategy for companies struggling to make the leap to the cloud in one step – but honestly, I don’t see many that consider their Yammer exploits as being hybrid. There are many on-premise organizations who have embraced Yammer, but very few that I am aware of who have then taken the leap and created an integrated (hybrid) solution, replacing the native social capabilities with Yammer. It is just not a clean solution, and what I see is that they either make the decision to at least begin the move to the cloud, they hold off on any social strategy until long-term plans can be put in place, or they go with partner solutions, such as Beezy, Sitrion, or similar tools for on-premise environments.

Q: How can companies better manage the disparate Microsoft services for collaboration – such as Office 365, SharePoint, Yammer, OneDrive for Business, Lync, Office Online, OWA, and email?

Christian: It depends on how you define “better manage.” While Microsoft’s overall collaboration story has become a bit confusing for some customers with all of the individual brands and so many overlapping capabilities, my guidance is for customers to not think about the technology, and to focus on what they are trying to achieve for their business. When focusing on the business, it becomes easier to see how Microsoft and the partner ecosystem have solutions to solve most of the business’ key workloads.

Q: What is your vision of the future of enterprise productivity over the next few years with cloud, mobile and social trends gaining traction?

Christian: I believe that the social graph (and for Microsoft, the Office Graph) is one of the most important technology advances in the past decade – and will heavily influence cloud, mobile, and social trends. I believe the common denominator to these three platforms is personalization, made possible largely through the Office Graph and machine learning, serving up the right content, in context, based on what you’re working on, searching for, who you’re talking with, the meeting you have scheduled tomorrow, or the workflow task that was just assigned to you. Having that degree of contextual, intelligent automation will be THE factor driving productivity and innovation across the cloud, mobile and social platforms.

Q: How will enterprise collaboration transform in the coming years?

Christian: Similar to my answer above, I believe that the social graph (and Office Graph) within the enterprise will outpace what is possible in the consumer world because of its access to content and activities securely held within the enterprise. The enterprise will have access to public content and social activities, but not vice versa, enabling enterprise platforms to do so much more than a consumer platform alone – and to know much more about who we are, and what we need to accomplish.  

Christian Buckley
Top 25 SharePoint Influencer