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Should you care about the MS enterprise social strategy?

One expert takes a look at Microsoft's efforts to create tools and apps that help organizations work more like a network.

Microsoft has announced several exciting new additions to Office 365 over the past months, including Office Graph, Office Delve and, most recently, Groups for Office 365, a collaboration feature that lets you create ad hoc groups for communicating and sharing data. Each of these features is part of Microsoft's larger effort to focus on developing tools and applications that help you work like a network.

These products are an important part of Microsoft's strategy to develop Office 365, but many customers wonder how it will affect their organizations. Is enterprise social right for your enterprise? Or is it just another fad?

First, we need to clear up some terminology. Social enterprise is about bringing the benefits of social media to the workplace. We have seen how social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have changed the way people interact with each other. It has made us more connected with a wider range of people, which has enabled us to share more things with more people faster than ever.

But while social media has become a large part of our personal lives, it has not had quite the same impact on the way we work. It's often easier to see pictures of what your old high school buddies had for breakfast this morning than it is to access information from coworkers in another department. Social enterprise describes the set of tools and approaches for fixing the problem and closing the social gap between our personal lives and work lives.

"Work like a network," as Jared Spataro, GM of enterprise social at Microsoft, said, is a phrase Microsoft uses to describe the goal of its social enterprise strategy and efforts. This kind of network is focused on people rather than computers. You probably have a network of people you work with, whether it's the people you chat with at the water cooler or industry contacts at other companies. Working like a network means using tools to facilitate these interactions with the people you work with. Microsoft is adapting Office 365 to help users collaborate and communicate with others in the work network easier and faster.

Is embracing the social enterprise strategy worth your time, effort and money? It depends.

Working like a network means using tools to facilitate these interactions with the people you work with.

It's worthwhile to look to social media in our personal lives as an instructive example. It's clear to anyone who has been watching that social media and networks have made us more connected to our friends, family, and even strangers than we have ever been before. Facebook and Twitter, which were once considered to be the province of socially obsessed teenagers and college students, are now among the most important tools for companies trying to communicate with their customers.

Many organizations that have learned to use existing social tools effectively see their advantages, especially in marketing. It's a safe bet that enterprise social will be a similarly important tool to every department of organizations of all sizes.

About the author
J. Peter Bruzzese is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP, as a five-time awardee with previous technical expertise in Exchange, a Triple-MCSE, an MCT and an MCITP: Enterprise Messaging. He is the co-founder of an end-user training solution called ClipTraining.com and is a strategic technical consultant for Mimecast. He is an internationally published author with more than a dozen titles to his name. He is a technical speaker for a number of conferences, including Techmentor, IT/Dev Connections and Microsoft TechEd. He writes for online and in-print tech and has written InfoWorld's Enterprise Windows column for more than five years. More recently, he focused his attention on new users in the Exchange/Office 365 community and wrote a short book titled Conversational Exchange (in 10 days!) to help them learn Exchange's conceptual side. In his spare time -- well, let's face it, folks, with all that, JPB has no spare time.

This was last published in January 2015

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What do you think of organizations using an enterprise social strategy?
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I think it's really hard to get an enterprise social strategy right, and have it increase productivity rather than just create something new for employees to learn and integrate into their processes. But when it does work, the benefits are huge, so I understand why companies keep trying. 
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Coming from my own experience and working for a company that makes corporate social tools, the biggest trick is to integrate the tools into the roles and goals of the organization and what they actually do. If the tools are outside of the scope of people's engagement or jobs, and if it's an extra effort to use them, they most likely won't. By integrating the business processes into the tools themselves, or making the expectation that those tools are how the work is going to be done, then you will get buy in (even more if the tools is fun to use, intuitive and performant :) ).
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MS stands for multiple sclerosis. Please remember that. Microsoft is spelled out. Thanks.
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