CollaborationConferencesEric RizGovernanceOffice 365SharePointSpeaking

Convergence and Collaboration

On Monday, I sat back and watched the keynote at Microsoft’s Convergence 15 conference. Convergence is Microsoft’s only conference dedicated to business, showing off not just technology, but the latest and greatest products within the Microsoft world.

Following CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote in which he discussed Microsoft being “the most complete cloud,” Julia White, Microsoft’s general manager of Office Division Product Management, took the stage to demo some of the company’s new products and features. Her demo took us through a use case of a fictitious client meeting with Trek bicycles.

As Julia pointed and clicked through a number of devices all tuned to highlight her storyline, I wondered what the true applicability would be for today’s organization. Notice, I don’t say “effectiveness” here, as I truly believe that the functionality will make even the most efficient organizations run more smoothly. Rather, I’m trying to ascertain the ideal client (meaning Microsoft client) scenario where this functionality will be rapidly adopted, which leads me to question what the future of collaboration will really be like.

This type of comparison has been in the headlines recently, as 2015 is the “futuristic” year made famous in the 1989 movie “Back to the Future II.” In the movie, Marty McFly travels 30 years into the future to October 2015, where the audience is treated to many technological predictions. Today, we know many of these to be reality; such as the ability to watch multiple channels at one time, video conferencing, video game systems operated without hands, cameras seemingly everywhere, and personal targeted advertising. In my humble opinion, these were incredible predictions as many of the above points have been seamlessly integrated into our daily lives.

Though I’m not going to make any predictions about what we will have in 30 years, my focus here is on the true applicability for businesses. Julia showed a scenario where, as she was preparing for a sales meeting, she was able to connect to Microsoft Dynamics to review the client notes, click on each participant to view their history and profiles, hold the meeting, update client feedback, and even discuss next steps and scheduling with Cortana, all of which are both effective and impressive. She then went on to hold a meeting through Skype for Business via live video with her fictitious team, sharing a whiteboard experience and making easily consumed notes.

Overall, the demo was a perfect example of how a company could exist in a cloud-first, mobile-first world. From a realistic business perspective, I put myself in Julia’s shoes and tried to overlay the experience into our organization here at Empty Cubicle, or onto one of our clients. This is where the difficulty came in and had me questioning overall effectiveness, governance, adoption and training concerns. I liken this to seeing a vehicle prototype at a car show, or a schematic of a new building or stadium to be developed; everything is beautiful and picturesque, but in reality it will take years to be built and likely not exactly as it appears on paper.

I consider this to be the point where SharePoint and data structure enter the discussion. Anyone who has worked with SharePoint knows that its deployment is dependent on the data entered into the system. Without the proper data, metadata and taxonomy, SharePoint’s true capabilities are significantly diminished. To this point, there is an obvious dependency on the data in this futuristic world, as it must be accurate and stored in a unified and accessible location.

This is an issue for many organizations who fail to keep records on their prospects, companies and customers. Many companies today deploy online CRM systems such as Dynamics or to maintain their data, though the primary fault is that only active sales prospects are maintained, while dormant prospects or existing clients aren’t updated with the same vigor.

To that end, another dependency exists on the creation and customization of the processes themselves. From every perspective, device, data point, task and result, we all know that there is a significant effort involved in the creation of the process. Each of these points must originate with meetings, requirements, budgetary considerations, approvals and sign-offs before any code can be written, or customization can be completed.

As far as usage is concerned, I hope that we see a future where Julia’s demo is the reality and the norm in corporations around the world. While I look forward to this day, I sadly believe that future is far from mainstream reality. My hope is that as Microsoft continues to develop these resources, so too do the companies that will use them.


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