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Making sense of Microsoft's messy collaboration strategy

Matt Kapko | Dec. 15, 2016
Microsoft's Office 365 suite recently expanded with more apps for enterprise collaboration, but will the-more-the-merrier approach prevail, or is consolidation inevitable?

"Teams should just adopt the solutions to their problems that they are naturally oriented toward, and enterprise IT should have the capability to keep those systems secure," says Aaron Levie, CEO of cloud storage company, Box, a longtime Microsoft adversary and more recent partner. "That's the future of work," he says. "Your work style is going to align with your technology, and there's going to be a little bit more maybe fragmentation than any CIO would perfectly like, but what you're going to get is a lot more innovation from what your employees can now go do and go accomplish." 

These different takes on enterprise collaboration are some of the most exciting developments in today's IT landscape, according to Levie. "You have real-time collaboration, which even in and of itself has multiple forms in products like Slack or Skype," he says. "You have more social networking based collaboration, like Yammer or Facebook Workplace. You have asynchronous collaboration, like email or how you share content and that's Outlook and SharePoint or Box. These different approaches solve different problems depending on the circumstance of the project and the team and the organization." 

However, making all of those parts fit together to create a seamless architecture for end users, could prove to be a significant challenge, according to Levie.

No one-size-fits-all approach to collaboration

Many of Microsoft's Office 365 customers embrace the notion that no single app is meant to fit every collaborative work task, according to Goode. Other customers take a more prescriptive approach and provide direct guidance to employees on how to use Yammer or Teams for specific tasks, he says. "The adoption pattern that we see really does vary, but often we do see customers start out with the workloads like they've used on premise and then start to use some of the other cloud-based workloads as they get more comfortable with that," Goode says. 

Along with the growing number of apps in Microsoft's Office 365 suite, usage rates across many of the core services are also on the rise, according to Goode. "Yammer is growing as fast as it ever has. We're bringing on new customers on a very regular basis with regular adoption and usage across the Fortune 500," he says. "Teams momentum has also been excellent so far."

Levie at Box says people use Microsoft's collaboration apps to reflect different patterns of work that show up in different contexts. "I think these paradigms fit and support different use cases, and while to some extent that means that we're going to see an increase in tools in our daily work lives, I think it's not that different than what we see in our personal lives," Levie says.


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