June 28th, 2012
One of the things I love about chess is that the variations of moves in a game are virtually endless. There are more possible moves in a chess game then there are atoms in the entire universe and more moves then there are seconds that have elapsed since the big bang. All of this, on a tiny 8×8 wooden board with little figurines. This means that no two chess games played are ever the same.
I use this analogy quite frequently in the world of collaboration because quite often I casually get asked for things such as which tools I recommend a company deploy or what will make a successful a deployment. It’s hard to answer this question because it’s like asking someone what the best move in chess is, to which the answer is always “it depends on the position.” Any good chess player spends time looking at what the position of the pieces is before they make their move. As in the collaboration world there is some pattern recognition or common things that can be applied but for the most part you are evaluating things after each move is played.
Typically in a game of chess as more moves are made the game becomes more complex. More pieces are scattered around the board and you need to constantly look out for traps while evaluating various positions and then making what you think is the best move. While it is important to think about what the first moves are when deploying collaboration tools and strategies it’s not possible to predict what the game is going to look like a few moves down the road. More moves means more complexity and so as we get more involved we have more to think about, things that we don’t always know we need to consider when first starting. In chess we have computers which can run through endless combinations and scenarios and then tell players what the best move is, this is course is not allowed during a real game. However, in the collaboration world we don’t have these computers, we have no predictions, and nothing to tell us if the move we made is the best one. It’s just us humans. This is part of what makes things challenging yet also fun and interesting. It’s also why it’s so important to remember that obstacles, or as some like to call them, failures, are going to be inevitable, it’s just the nature of the game. Sometimes you will make a move and then realize it’s the wrong one or that a better move was possible. It’s called learning. Unlike a chess game though, in collaboration you can usually take a move back or replay the position, sometimes you need to start a new game.
It’s important to remember these things when investing time, resources, and effort in collaboration because there is no one size fits all approach. There is no “best” tool or linear process that every company can take. As in chess you can learn the various moves that each piece can make but how you play the game is going to be entirely unique to your company. The world of emergent enterprise collaboration is still fairly new and in fact has really started gaining prominence in just the last few years. It’s a fun space to be in and I love it. Every client is a new position which needs to be looked at and evaluated to make the right move. There are so many variables that need to be taken into consideration.
The one main thing that chess and collaboration have in common is that at the end of the day we’re trying to capture the king, but how we do it is going to be different every time.
June 26th, 2012
If you haven’t heard the news yet, Microsoft has officially announced that they acquired Yammer for 1.2 billion dollars. I’ve had several discussions around this over the past week or so, ever since the rumors first started circulating. It’s an interesting move and I think it makes sense.
Yammer has just under a million paid users which represents around 20% of it’s total user base. Sharepoint on the other hand has around 40 million paid users. So if you’re Microsoft why would you spend 1.2 billion on Yammer? Out of all of the companies in the collaboration space I think it’s safe to say that Yammer is perhaps one of the most well known and dare I say “coolest”. Sharepoint on the other hand is well known yet has a bad reputation as being a non-usable and ineffective collaboration product yet it has an enormous paid user base. Companies like Yammer and Jive offer integration’s into Sharepoint but really they make up for a lot of the features and capabilities that Sharepoint lacks. Right now many Sharepoint customers are looking for ways to improve their collaboration capabilities by either migrating completely off of Sharepoint or by deploying something like Yammer which integrates with Sharepoint. Now that Microsoft has acquired Yammer that conversation for virtually all existing Microsoft customers dies. Microsoft customers now have no reason to look elsewhere once Yammer becomes fully integrated. Microsoft also stated that they are fans of the “viral” nature of Yammer’s business model which is not something that Microsoft really does (meaning offering a freemium product).
When you take a look at the Microsoft suite of products around collaboration and communication (under Office 365) the clear weakness is Sharepoint which is what they rectified. I think we will see Yammer integrated quite heavily into the suite of Microsoft products but it will probably take around year to make that happen. And when I say “heavily” I mean being able to access and see Yammer activity from within an Outlook sidebar kind of heavy. Microsoft’s office products are used by virtually every company and nobody is going to be able integrate that social and collaborative layer and add additional features and capabilities like they will now be able to. I think Yammer will be the social layer that connects all of their products. Microsoft has actually created a very powerful collaboration toolset which can completely dominate. Yammer has had trouble converting their free users into paid subscribers which is definitely an area that Microsoft is going to be improving as well.
I’m sure a few Yammer customers are probably freaking out because we still don’t know if Yammer will get killed off (unlikely), if it will be migrated and combined into Sharepoint (which I’m sure many customers are a bit scared of but is what I think is most likely), or if they will just leave Yammer alone and have it as another product (what they did with Skype but seems unlikely with Yammer). Tony Zingale, Jive’s CEO said that they have been getting some defecting customers from Yammer and don’t be surprised if Jive starts an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at this acquisition. Chances are though, that many if not most of Yammer’s enterprise customers are already using Sharepoint as well.
This also poses an interesting situation for vendors in the collaboration space who seem to have collectively been targeting Sharepoint, either to get people to move away from it or to heavily integrate into it. But now that Microsoft will have all the same capabilities as every other collaboration vendor out there it becomes a tough sell to go against them. However, this also points the spotlight on collaboration vendors in the space and really helps highlight the importance and value of what this means to the enterprise. I originally thought that Microsoft would acquire Newsgator which has built a whole business around making Sharepoint a more social and collaborative product but now that Microsoft is going to have these capabilities I’m thinking Newsgator is going to have to start thinking about what their future with Microsoft is going to look like.
So to sum up I think the acquisition makes sense for Microsoft because it:
- gives them a cool popular brand with a new set of features and capabilities that they don’t have
- allows them to further retain Sharepoint customers
- gives them a new business model
- kills some of their competition
- ads a social layer to connect many of their other office and collaboration products
- fits in line with their new “social mission”
- makes them a front runner in any collaboration discussion with prospects
- can leverage existing Microsoft products to now sell a new one, another revenue stream for them
What do you think of this acquisition, does it makes sense or do you think it’s a waste of time and money?