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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?

For example, Instagram is great for sharing photos and videos, Twitter is great for getting rapid access to information, and Facebook is a great place to connect with friends and family in asynchronous ways, according to Levie. "Each platform represents a slightly different take on what at the maybe highest level is the same problem, but in practice these things are broken down into much more discreet problems and I think we're going to see the same thing in the workplace," Levie says.

Some differences exist in the ways companies use Yammer, Skype for Business or Teams, but they're mostly dependent on customer strategies and employee preferences, according to Goode. "Some overlap in any toolset is inevitable," he says. "I think that flexibility benefits us and benefits our customers, but we do start to see people gravitate toward those different use cases for each of those individual tools."

Teams and Yammer have the most in common because they both serve as persistent and threaded chat tools, according to Forrester's Keitt. "Microsoft will argue that there's a distinction between enterprise-wide messaging, which Yammer is suited for, and smaller team messaging, which Teams is suited for, but I'm not sure the market will make those hard distinctions," he says. 

Microsoft also hasn't done enough to explain why Yammer and Teams exist side-by-side on the same platform, Keitt says. "They'll need to invest a considerable amount of time educating clients on how this expanding Office 365 portfolio is coming together."

Collaboration consolidation in the cards for Microsoft?

Microsoft could minimize confusion by blending or consolidating all or some of its apps for enterprise collaboration. However, Goode says the company currently has no plans to consolidate Skype for Business, Teams or Yammer. "There's no universal tool, but there is a universal toolkit called Office 365," he says. "I do think that the tools that customers will need will continue to vary and will continue to grow but, because they're all part of Office 365 built on that common framework, I think we have a pretty compelling solution."

Forrester's Keitt doesn't necessarily agree, at least not in the long term. "I think they eventually will [consolidate] based on market uptake," he says. "In a SaaS world, there's no upside in continuing to support unused features. Microsoft will learn which of these things the market wants and they'll tweak their strategy accordingly."


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