Despite laying the groundwork for social computing in SharePoint
2010, Microsoft has pretty much left social to such third-party
vendors as NewsGator and harmon.ie and others to figure out how to
make SharePoint more friendly to end users in this
Facebook-influenced world. But a recent flurry of interviews by
Jared Spataro, Microsoft's Senior Director, SharePoint Product
Management, touching on SharePoint and social computing, leaves
industry watchers trying to connect the dots.
At the least, the picture emerging is one of Microsoft
"realizing" that it's time to get into social computing. Whether
this realization will be accompanied by Microsoft following its
historical pattern of acquiring a company or two with the skills
and technology it needs remains to be seen. Perhaps it's enough
today to say that in the area of social computing and SharePoint,
Microsoft has awakened and is poised to flex its muscles.
So what has "awakened" Microsoft? You can't ignore the Forester
figure Spataro quoted when I spoke with him, that by 2016, social
computing will be a 6.4 billion dollar market. Of course Microsoft
would want a piece of the action.
But then there's the Gartner prediction, that during calendar
year 2012, 70 percent of IT-led social initiatives will fail to
meet their intended objectives. Spataro also mentioned that.
Perhaps a 70-percent failure rate has its own up-side to a
technology company looking to enter such a market--that is, you
can't do much more harm than is already being done. Maybe.
In a survey Microsoft recently conducted, of 200 respondents in
organizations with 1,000 or more employees, it found that around 48
percent of respondents said that they were still in a very early
pilot phase or limited-user phase with their social initiatives.
Only 30 percent had deployed social software really broadly across
the organization, Spataro said, "So it was pretty clear to us that
there was this opportunity now to start to really engage with
Explaining Microsoft's vision, he added, "By implementing social
initiatives correctly, we hope that employees and partners and
customers can all start to connect with the people and information
they need to get specific tasks done. And we use this idea of
social tools that help you actually complete tasks. That's kind of
a differentiator for us."
His use of the word "correctly" implies, I think, that Microsoft
believes it has waited around long enough to know what social
computing technologies work and what fail. And Spataro did speak
about the evolution of technology in an industry and how it seems
to reach a level of where certain choices made seem to become the
defacto "correct" ones after a while.
"You see in these new areas, and social has been one, where
there have been some standalone smaller companies who have gone out
and over the last couple of years focused on an area and really
developed some innovation. When you start to get what I would call
dominant design in the trends, you kind of know what it's going to
look like. That makes it easy for [us] to say 'hey, now's the right
time, in the evolution of the industry, for us to go ahead and
bring some of those capabilities right into the platform, into the
product itself.' Some of these services out there, they have found
that dominant design when it comes to activity feeds, and likes,
and what people expect." Spataro singled out NewsGator as an
Yet in spite of the innovation in social computing, Spataro
reported that respondents to the survey named more "traditional"
forms of social computing when Microsoft asked them what top three
elements they most wanted in social networks: IM, email, and video
conferencing, in that order. The ability to follow people,
documents, or sites, while desirable, came in fourth.
What this means, Spataro said, is that people want a connected
experience. "The idea of a connected experience to us is that most
people don't want yet another Inbox in a social feed when you
implement a social solution. But they like what social can deliver
to them and want to see that connected to all the other ways they
can communicate--again, email or video conferencing or even instant
Another realization for Microsoft, Spataro said, "is that as we
go further down the list of what people are looking for from
social, they do cite activity streams, the ability to like content
or people, and things like micro-blogging. In addition to the
real-time and asynchronous communications that people already have,
they like this idea that there's something new that's coming out of
social." That something new, he said, is what Microsoft labels
"It's this idea that I happen to be in San Francisco today, and
that when I post that through a very simple activity post, people
... whom I normally wouldn't tell that information to, can start to
connect some dots, and say 'hey, I have a customer in San Francisco
or I have some work that's happening there too and maybe you could
get involved.' It's that serendipity that creates real business
value because people can get more accomplished."
So we have these wonderful notions of connected experience and
serendipity. Does the greater attention paid to social and
SharePoint speak to the maturity of SharePoint now as a Microsoft
product or does it speak more to the growing intersection of
consumer and business demands?
"I think it speaks to both," Spataro said. "SharePoint has had
this tremendous run, really, based on this business plan of six
servers in one. That's what the first 10 years of SharePoint were
all about. The next 10 years of SharePoint, when we look at that
aspect of the business plan, we say 'wow, we've got these
tremendous assets now, how can we make sure that we polish, that we
smooth the edges, that we make sure that there aren't seams between
the various components? How can we make sure that we're really
focused on what people are trying to do and that from beginning to
end we're making it easy for them to get those things done?' I
think that's really a harbinger of things to come from
And now, because this is Microsoft after all, comes another
aspect of the social computing vision: the need for a connected
platform. The connected platform, of course, already exists, and
does so, in part, to help Microsoft address such things as
integration and security. Which were the top concerns respondents
had with social computing, as noted in Microsoft's survey, Spataro
· Security--88 percent of business decision makers and 91
percent of IT decision makers cited this as their top concern
· Integration--66 percent of decision makers cited concerns with
how social plugged in with existing systems
· Compliance--53 percent of decision makers said compliance was
a big concern with social computing
"And so this idea that security, integration, and compliance
were important really point to the concept of a platform that
allows you not only to offer an experience but then to make sure
that experience is what you need it to be. This plays pretty
naturally with the way we have positioned things like SharePoint,"
One platform to rule them all. Or, even better, a connected
platform that's managed by Microsoft, in the cloud? Old news, that.
Or is it.
article was orginally posted on SharePoint
Stay tuned for more SharePoint content by joining our community or
by following us on twitter or