Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The 600 pound social media gorilla has entered the room

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Social media giant, Facebook, has just announced it’s new business social media platform called Workplace which you read about here:

introducing Workplace by Facebook

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a big thing and many are asking what impact this might have on Microsoft Yammer? Before I share my thoughts on that specific topic let make some other general observations first.

The reason this is a big deal is the fact that Facebook is major part of a massive amount of people’s personal day. Previous, Facebook had been aimed at the individual user but that has now changed. Sure, many people used Facebook for business but mostly they were using it to promote their business rather that using it as part of their business. Workplace changes this focus dramatically.

With Workplace, Facebook is providing businesses a dedicated tool for them to use to communicate socially inside their business. Yes, there are already other platforms that do this but Facebook’s huge consumer reach provides an unprecedented level of familiarity and penetration. This means adoption for Workplace will pretty much be a no-brainer for businesses that adopt it.

I reckon the biggest threat Workplace poses is for existing one off messaging platforms like Slack and Hipchat. Facebook may not be the best in town but it is by far the biggest and is positioned very nicely to squash these smaller players.

So where does that leave a product like Microsoft Yammer? There is no doubt that it will put pressure on Yammer but only if you see Yammer as a stand alone platform. Yammer is fast becoming simply another component of Office 365. Business collaboration is more than just messaging or sharing links and photos. It is about documents, calendars, lists, tasks, emails and more. This is where you need to look at Yammer as only part of the solution Office 365 provides for collaboration.

Microsoft Yammer inside Office 365 not only has greater collaboration features but also greater governance, reporting and security. This is something many businesses really want. So again, you need to look at Workplace vs Yammer in the wider context of Workplace vs Office 365. At that point you see how much more Office 365 offers any business.

The great thing is that Workplace is going to place even more legitimacy on social being acceptable within a business. It is going to be readily adopted by millennials who have grown up with Facebook and are now the dominant component of the workforce. It is going to mean decreasing dependence on email as a business communications medium as well as make more information public rather than siloed.

The flow on effect will in fact benefit Yammer and the overall Office 365 product I believe. Why? Because, even though Workplace may be great and many business may adopt it, it is still really only a single product designed for a single task. Whereas Office 365, that already includes a social network, provides a single identity and shared information access across a range of services. Integration is a key factor going forward with technology for businesses today. No matter how good a single product is, unless it integrates easily, then it’s value starts to fall away quickly.

Also if Workplace did “everything” then why did Facebook adopt Office 365 inside it’s own business?

Why Facebook is betting on Office 365 and the Microsoft Cloud

Workplace doesn’t do everything, that’s why.

Yes, Workplace provides a solution but it isn’t as broad or as deeply integrated as Office 365 is today and moving into the future. I can see some businesses choosing to use Yammer with Office 365 for superior integrated collaboration just as much as I can see others using Workplace and Office 365 together. I’d also be betting on close integration between the two products to provide superior access for those users when compared to others using stand alone third party services like Slack.

So I think announcement Workplace is sounding the changing of the guard in business. That is, away from email and towards social. I think it is going to have a major impact on the market and will disrupt many, especially existing smaller, single product providers. Workplace will certainly provide a challenge to Yammer, however when you consider the ongoing integration of Yammer deeper into the Office 365 suite, I actually believe it will potentially increase demand for a fully integrated product like Office 365.

We’ll see what the future brings but if nothing else, it once again means to me the game is shifting and those who don’t also shift as well are destined to lose