CollabTalk Episode 12: Top 10 2015 News and 2016 Predictions

CollabTalk Episode 12 - December 2015We wrapped up our twelfth episode of CollabTalk for ITUnity yesterday, which means we’ve been at it for a full year now. Boy, how time flies! When I say we, I of course mean my illustrious friends Christian Buckley (@buckleyplanet), Naomi Moneypenny (@nmoneypenny), and Benjamin Niaulin (@bniaulin). Oh, and me.

In this episode, we did something a little different than in the prior eleven. Since it’s the end of the year – the time when everyone takes the time to look back on a year (hopefully well-lived) and look forward to what might come – we went through what we considered the big Office 365 news from 2015 and then gave a few predictions for 2016.

I proved in this exercise at least one of the following things: I am bad at making lists, I’m not highly motivated to do things that are important, I’m way too busy, I can’t count, and/or I’m lazy. You decide. Whichever it is, I came nowhere close to 10 items per list.

Big News from 2015

I think Office Graph was a 2014 thing, but people are really starting to see how cool it is

Modern organization dynamicsLast year at this time, we knew what the Office Graph was, but most people weren’t convinced of its importance. Over the course of 2015, we saw tremendous advances with Delve and the available analytics on Office 365, all driven by Office Graph data. I’m convinced that the Office Graph is one of the most important tools in the Microsoft toolbox.

People seem to be seeing this promise more and more now. Part of this is that some of the sharpest tacks in the drawer, like Waldek Mastykarz (@waldekm) with posts like these and Mikael Svenson (@mikaelsvenson) with posts like these have made the concepts more accessible. We’re also seeing Microsoft building more capabilities on top of the Office Graph to show its importance. In a larger organization, those “edges” of connection that live outside the normal organizational hierarchy are the ones where Things Get Done.

News of the next gen Office 365 dashboard to make admin tasks simpler

office-365-admin-center-preview-tour-3To me, one of the weak points of SharePoint has always been the back end management tools. In the old days, then mindset was “It’s for IT Pros and they don’t care how it works.” Well, on Office 365, many admins are people inside small or medium sized businesses (SMB) who don’t want to have to work to understand the admin tools – they want them to work and be easy to use. The SMB market is a sweeter spot for Office 365 then the enterprise market to me. If Microsoft can make it work well for the “IT not-Pro” [I’ll keep my editorial comments about the “Pro” moniker for professions out of this post. Sort of.], then they will clobber that part of the market. That’s the very market that Google has been creeping on on them through with their far-better admin tools.

We’ve seen a preview of the new admin dashboard in First Release tenants. I’m looking forward to seeing it fleshed out to cover more and replace the gobbledy-gook that has been SharePoint administration in the past. We can only hope that those improved tools com back to on premises in SharePoint 2016 as well. As much as IT Pros like to say they’d rather us e a command line, it’s far cheaper and reliable to just give the damn simple tools.

Platform independent apps – we now can do Outlook, and all the other Office things on iOS and Android(?)

Microsoft Apps on iOSThis move has been brilliant. Microsoft has realized that they shouldn’t try to drag the people back to the desktop; they should take their productivity tools where the people are. And the people are on their mobile devices. Microsoft decided it doesn’t matter who made the device – they want to own the productivity software business regardless what the hardware is.

Now on iOS we have better tools from Microsoft than we do from Apple. Not only that, but they are all backed by the data store that is OneDrive – in this case, two of the three OneDrives. Say what you want about OneDrive sync – this content integration on mobile is killer . (And besides, the sync client on iOS seems to work flawlessly – it’s Microsoft’s home turf of the desktop where the problems seem to be the biggest.)

Purchases of Accompli, [that task thing]

Microsoft hasn’t been on an acquisition tear, but they have made some important purchases to get their foot in the door on the iOS platform. Accompli and Wunderlist (that’s the one I couldn’t remember!) are two examples of this. Sure, Microsoft could have just built their own versions of these two products, but instead, they bought a *very* loyal and hip user base. In the case of Accompli, it meant they could launch a new app – re-branded as Outlook – in a very short time. (I’m an iPhone guy, so I can’t speak to other phone OSes. YMMV.)

Microsoft won’t be able to buy its way into the hearts and minds of the average consumer, but by starting with these two apps and keeping them hip they made big strides forward in the app wars.

And finally…what Ben said

Ben had a really good list. Unfortunately, I saw it before I wrote mine. That’s a motivation killer – at least to me.

Predictions for 2016

Microsoft will be seen as cool again

Is Microsoft cool now?Most people know that Microsoft really lost its mojo in the decade or so that Steve Ballmer was in charge. The products were ho-hum, and the attitude was very much “You’ll buy what we tell you to buy.” It was a sales-driven organization and it showed.

In the last year (or a bit more), Microsoft has found better mojo than it has had for years. When has anyone thought of Microsoft as hip? I’ve been around for the entire lifespan of the company, and I can’t recall that time. With the things they are doing now on Office 365, in mobile, and in hardware, even some of the stalwart cynics are sitting up and taking a good, hard look. I’ve even heard a few Apple fanboys say they have considered jumping over to Microsoft – either again or for the first time. This is almost unheard of.

Office 365 will become a $7B businessOffice 365 Logo

I’m not a financial guy and you should never take my investment advice. That said, I see Office 365 growth rates heading north; the integral of that curve is going to grow. As I said above, to me the sweet spot of the market for Office 365 is the SMB market. With the improvements to user experience Microsoft is putting in place, more and more small business are going to trust them to take a lot of the headache of IT off their plate for them. Whatever the numbers turn out to be, revenue is going to climb significantly in 2016.

Microsoft will write off a significant part of its Yammer investment

Yammer LogoYammer is a dog. I’ve been saying it for a long while now. There are members of the CollabTalk panel who disagree with me vehemently, but I’m sticking to my guns. I know it doesn’t make me a popular guy with the political people in Redmond either, but many Redmond-ites have to feel this, too. Microsoft bought Yammer for some of the technology it had, IMO, and even that technology hasn’t proven to be all that stellar. Add to that a “we know better then you” attitude in Yammer organization, and it’s a dog that don’t hunt. Things that virtually every user struggles with and wants fixed (unread counts, anyone?) are still a problem. Yammer doesn’t fit into the portfolio as it is. Perhaps it has some value if it’s cut up for parts, but even that seems like a stretch to me. Again, I’m not a finance guy, but I see some sort of write off or write down or whatever on Yammer. At the very least, we should see it slink away and hide under the barn.

Conclusion

So there you have it. My big news for 2015 and predictions for 2016. You probably don’t agree with everything I have on these lists or what I’ve said. I welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments.

If you’d like to watch the entire CollabTalk episode, you can do so here. If you register, the good folks at IT Unity will let you know about upcoming episodes and maybe send you some other goodies via email as well.

Have a thought or opinion?