In a press release this morning, Metalogix announced that it has acquired Axceler, including products, employees, assets and brands from the company's very successful and profitable SharePoint business, positioning Metalogix as the fastest growing SharePoint-focused Independent Software Vendor (ISV) in the world. The entire press release is available here, and an FAQ can be found here.
As the evangelist for Axceler, I am proud of the innovation and community impact we've made to date -- and am excited about the opportunity in front of us. While Metalogix and Axceler have competed in some product areas, it has always been a friendly competition -- with a history of working together to serve our shared customers with the best SharePoint solutions on the market. Steven Murphy, CEO of Metalogix, identifies within this morning's press release, "The addition of the leading SharePoint Governance and Administration management product to Metalogix offering extends our range, reach and leadership in the strategic SharePoint governance market segment. This investment is another milestone in our strategy to provide customers the best-of-breed content infrastructure software to deploy, operate and protect their Microsoft SharePoint platform, on-premise or in the cloud.”
At the core of Axceler's sales and marketing messaging has always been the "best-of-breed" approach, partnering with other category-leading ISVs to provide our customers with the tools needed to manage, extend, and support SharePoint. But as my former CEO at Axceler, Mike Alden, states, "SharePoint administrators are increasingly seeking single-source technology providers who can provide exceptional technology and offer comprehensive, global 24x7 support. The integration of Axceler’s SharePoint business with Metalogix is a natural evolution of the market and will drive significant value for those managing contemporary SharePoint environments.”
With this acquisition, Metalogix becomes the premier solution provider for SharePoint administrators and stakeholders, offering the most comprehensive set of SharePoint solutions on the market:
- Content Matrix 6 is the latest version of the most-widely used migration platform on the market, and was recently recognized as KMWorld's 2013 Trend Setting Product of the Year.
- StoragePoint is the award-winning leader in BLOB storage, helping customers reduce the size of their content databases and better control 'site sprawl.'
- Replicator is another recipient of KMWorld's Trendsetting Products (2012) and continues to be the leader in its category for managing content across disparate systems.
- ControlPoint for SharePoint Administration has been the industry-leading governance and administration tool since 2008, winning every major SharePoint award and currently managing over 14 million SharePoint users.
In addition, Metalogix offers powerful solutions for archiving, backup and restore, file share and email migration, and content and metadata management. With over 13,000 customers, in 86 countries on 7 continents, Metalogix is -- by far -- the fastest growing SharePoint-focused ISV in the world, and I am excited to be part of this next chapter.
To learn more about Metalogix products, please visit: www.metalogix.com/powerfulcombination
As more and more organizations begin to realize the business benefits of collaboration, the need for accurate measurements and analytics increases: How are people collaborating? Was my social collaboration deployment successful? Is it driving more business, better customer service, improved team communication, or any other business value metrics? The latest Forrester survey results indicate that enterprises are investing more now than ever in business intelligence (BI) platforms -- but are these initiatives successful in helping improve collaboration overall?
Different people consume data in different ways -- some prefer spreadsheets, pivot charts, and tried-and-true database management techniques to capture, massage, and analyze complex data. For organizations who rely heavily on structured collaboration platforms like SharePoint, or even unstructured collaboration tools like Yammer or Tibbr, it is becoming increasingly important for power users, administrators, and leadership teams alike to be able to capture, track, and represent what is happening within their collaboration platforms. Data visualizations are increasingly the "norm" in how we share complex data, whether through dynamic Excel graphics or detailed infographics. The goal is to make this data more user-friendly and consumable for stakeholders, and show where collaboration is successfully driving the business forward.
In our third official tweetjam, we gathered a panel of experts to answer a series of questions using Twitter as a platform, with many additional people joining into the conversation as it flowed online. If you've never participated in a tweet jam, they usually run about an hour during which our panel and the community use a common hash tag (#CollabTalk) to discuss our defined questions. During this event, we received just over 500 tweets from 12 official panel members, and another dozen or more unofficial panelists and active observers within the community. The graphic shows the reach, exposure (tweet impressions) and activity of this event:
You can find the complete Twitter stream history on www.twubs.com/CollabTalk, but the following is a summary of some of the more engaging responses (measured by re-tweets and feedback from participants), and hopefully gives you some perspective on each question to take back and apply to your own social collaboration initiatives (and feel free to re-tweet them!):
Question 1: How much does business intelligence play into your day-to-day collaboration activities?
- @Mysharepoint It makes it much easier to get a quick overview of most relevant facts and data #CollabTalk
- @Tvbokkem hardly any role. Seen very few customers that raise useful info with BI. #CollabTalk
- @Diverdown1964 speaking for the market, I think not near enough. Most don't understand what is possible, or think it is too difficult. #CollabTalk
- @WonderLaura BI doesn't play a role in my daily activities, but I can definitely think of ways that my day could be more efficient w/ it. #CollabTalk
- @Bradgcoza We provide BI dashboards to many clients and its business critical these days, where as before it was nice swishy GUI #CollabTalk
- @Diverdown1964 not near enough. Most don't understand what is possible, or think it is too difficult. #CollabTalk
- @StephenTech911 If you asked this question of "non-BI" people they might not even know they are looking at it. #CollabTalk
- @Mysharepoint I see value, but the customers systems are not ready to provide good info. General BI problem. #CollabTalk
- @Rizinsights Much of the #BI we're collecting, observing, reporting on is critical business info, so we collaborate a LOT with it #CollabTalk
Question 2: How important are dashboards, pivot charts, and other data visualizations to your organization today?
- @Tvbokkem popular, but implementation is very fragmented. #CollabTalk
- @Mysharepoint Lot's of data analysis is done within Excel #CollabTalk
- @WonderLaura "Dashboards" are the buzzword. People usually want them and then don't know what exactly they want displayed #CollabTalk
- @sharepointlhorn Critical. We measure ourselves daily/weekly. Teams can't know that they are winning if they can't see the score. #Collabtalk
- @corywilliams59 Dashboards seem to be requested by Project Teams all the time, that is certainly a big winner #CollabTalk
- @Rizinsights Can't stress their importance enough. We're dead without the information #CollabTalk
- @AlistairPugin Its Pivotal. Our biggest challenge is pulling data from closed systems. #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny Visuals are very important to how we understand data, Drucker said that which does not get measured doesn't get managed #collabtalk
- @buckleyplanet in the mid-90's, my task was building "decision support systems" for my company. We seem to have moved away from this goal #CollabTalk
- @StephenTech911 Bad dashboards are as bad as bad PowerPoints #CollabTalk
- @AlistairPugin You cannot manage what you cannot measure. Most projects never measure the opportunity cost upfront #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny Like to think of dashboards as management operating system for a company, the key metrics need to be there & understood #collabtalk
- @Diverdown1964 neat tools are nothing until you decide how you will use it first #CollabTalk
- @johnpuopolo for an excellent discussion on this topic, see 'The Lean Startup' #CollabTalk
Question 3: Has the amount or type of data that your company captures changed or increased in recent years?
- @Bradgcoza I think if the amount of data has not increased something is wrong #CollabTalk
- @Tvbokkem increased tremendously, but still can't answer that one question some individual asks. #CollabTalk
- @corywilliams59 Yes its increased but there seems to be a lack in understanding how to analyze it appropriately #CollabTalk
- @Bradgcoza The type of data is usually the same, but there are trends into related data which is starting to make things interesting #CollabTalk
- @HoardingInfo is it a matter of more data or measuring more things? The data was always their even if you did not collect it #CollabTalk
- @Mysharepoint but often we have lot's of data but no clue what information to get back from them - asking the right questions ... #CollabTalk
- @Joelle_Shmoelle The amount of data might actually be less but all of the places you go to find data in an org has definitely increased. #CollabTalk
- @Tvbokkem The problem with collecting data is, that you still do not know what questions will be asked in the future. #CollabTalk
- @buckleyplanet Big Data does NOT equal BI #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny We've added more analytics to same data. We filter data more, e.g. more stages in sales pipeline to drive meaningful visuals #collabtalk
- @Rizinsights Remember folks, it's how you use the information, not how you collect it. #CollabTalk
Question 4: What three trends are impacting your data usage?
- @Rizinsights Demand, expectations, collaboration, #CollabTalk
- @Bradgcoza Adoption Collaboration and Requirements #CollabTalk
- @buckleyplanet 1) the increase in data through social, 2) heightened concerns over data integrity, 3) economic uncertainty #CollabTalk
- @HoardingInfo need for more actionable data, reducing time to analyze, and consistency across sources #CollabTalk
- @Joelle_Shmoelle Mobile, Mobile, and Mobile Dashboards! Seriously though more and more users demand information at their fingertips #CollabTalk
- @sharepointlhorn Better data quality (MDM), Visualization usability, comparative analytics available using Big Data sources #Collabtalk
- @nmoneypenny Trend 1: Data quality, how to clean data automatically without throwing good data out from bad model #collabtalk
- @nmoneypenny Trend 2: New sources of data coming online, sensors creating too much data to process fast enough and store #collabtalk
- @nmoneypenny Trend 3: For our machine learning apps, predictive analytics can help spot where you need more data/better data to augment #collabtalk
Question 5: How important, if at all, is the artistic aspect of data visualization to successful collaboration?
- @Rizinsights Artistic must be synonymous with consumption; make it easy to interpret and understand, or its useless #CollabTalk
- @HoardingInfo wow, first thought that was a strange question, but there is no doubt that aesthetics are important to adoption #CollabTalk
- @Joelle_Shmoelle Well, do you want C-level buy in? After the data integrity & usage is tested the design should be the next big focus. #CollabTalk
- @sharepointlhorn Users\data consumers want pretty charts. More than that, they want easy to use powerful tools that are pretty #Collabtalk
- @Bradgcoza oh and if it doesn't work on an ipad you might as well not do it #swishybi #CollabTalk
- @buckleyplanet think of how data is now reported and shared in magazines, online. everything is an infographic #CollabTalk
- @Diverdown1964 Visualization is key, but when it's about the artistry, the message can get lost. Form must follow function #CollabTalk
- @StephenTech911 The good and bad of BI, it is easy to have pretty but bad info, but ugly is never good. #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny Art implies something more meaningful than sum of its parts. Aesthetics help with comprehension, but too many data detracts #collabtalk
- @Diverdown1964 Daily it's, boring old bar charts, etc. Very easy to spot trends, or deviations with a known commodity #CollabTalk
- @AlistairPugin Operational data is what is business critical, a view on what the organization is doing right there, right now #CollabTalk
- @Bradgcoza I prefer to look at data in pictures be that as a KPI or Graph or Infographic but it needs to make sense quickly #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny For successful collaboration, shared vision & understanding is critical, so being on same page/same visual critical #collabtalk
- @Mysharepoint the main question/guideline should be does the user gets the message or the info needed #CollabTalk
Question 6: What is the role of business intelligence in your company's overall collaboration strategy?
- @buckleyplanet I find most companies separate BI from collaboration. Quantitative vs Qualitative activities. No touchy #CollabTalk
- @sharepointlhorn daily? are we trending up or down. a simple line or bar chart is all most people need. Fast, clean, easy. #CollabTalk
- @Mysharepoint slowly growing but more and more important - #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny BI provides a way to identify problems, create understanding and the opportunity for collaborative problem solving. #collabtalk
- @TavisLovell To disseminate information so that the right conversations can be had/sparked. #collabtalk
- @AlistairPugin BI is definitely in a different space, in its own box, tucked away behind all the geeks and accountants #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny An issue though is the data have/have nots, you see what you have permission for, so only part of elephant can hamper insight #collabtalk
- @Tvbokkem Everywhere consistent terminology and data makes collaboration a pleasure. #CollabTalk
- @sharepointlhorn That said, BI is a critical success factor. It allows us to know what we are doing well & where corrective action is required #Collabtalk
Question 7: Is there a connection between data visualization and end user engagement?
- @AlistairPugin Its mandatory, people will not engage effectively without proper visualization #CollabTalk
- @TavisLovell I think there absolutely is, a picture can be worth 1000 rows of data :P #CollabTalk
- @buckleyplanet so much of the topic of "gamification" is really about surfacing data to incentivize end users #CollabTalk
- @HoardingInfo it has to be built bottom up this way, but yes. Will use example of Sane box that compared my email to the average user #CollabTalk
- @StephenTech911 I think there definitely is, a good visualization can capture attention quickly but encourage exploration. #CollabTalk
- @Joelle_Shmoelle Especially for the engagement of managers, department heads etc., the two are almost synonymous. #CollabTalk
- @Mysharepoint definitely - a good visual of data will engage the users #CollabTalk
- @WonderLaura Oooh that's a deep one. I think yes. Seeing the data help to know how to work more efficiently day to day. #CollabTalk
- @Tvbokkem Retrieving response is all about increasing the speed of info-processing. If you can sledge that barrier you win. #CollabTalk
- @Diverdown1964 If you can give users the answers they need in a timely fashion, they'll engage in a big hurry. #CollabTalk
- @StephenTech911 Engagement has to encourage exploration. The picture can rarely tell the whole story #CollabTalk
- @nmoneypenny Infographics sic show us that primary engagement on soc networks is stimulated by photos. #Gamification trend of BI metrics #collabtalk
- @nmoneypenny What are we trying to get end users engaged about? eg Sales BI, look for underserved segments, recent growth, visuals key! #collabtalk
I'd like to once again thank everyone who participated in this event, and hopefully all involved were able to get some benefit from the discussion. We've created an easy-to-follow CollabTalk list on Twitter that includes all of those who have participated in one of our tweetjam panels. We're already planning our next tweetjam, so be sure to follow @Axceler on Twitter or subscribe to our blog to stay connected.
In my final presentation at last week's SPTechCon conference in Boston on the topic of social collaboration governance, I walked attendees through an overview of key SharePoint governance concepts, and then began to discuss the complexities involved with managing the social interactions within, and between, SharePoint and Yammer. For those organizations still in the dark about how to approach the social collaboration question, the fact that neither platform provides, out-of-the-box, the sort of governance and administration capabilities that most CIOs want and need for compliance to corporate governance standards is a cause for concern.
While the mantra of social software companies is for "open collaboration" with as few regulations or controls as possible, companies with strong regulatory, compliance, or discovery requirements have been slow to broadly adopt these new capabilities -- even though they may hold the answer to many known end user adoption or engagement issues. Until the SharePoint and Yammer teams can answer these customer needs for strong and actionable analytics, combined with key management capabilities, social will continue to be a "nice to have" feature set for many CIOs. In short, their companies need to have some degree of visibility and control over their social collaboration platforms, allowing them to roll out social enterprise-wide.
Social collaboration drives end user engagement, pure and simple. In her article for WebsiteMagazine entitled The Automation of Social, Pam Kostka, CMO of VirtuOz, discusses the accelerating need of businesses to leverage social interactions as a way to improve customer interactions. End users are increasingly using consumer-based social networking platforms to communicate with, and share experiences about, the companies they do business with. This is both exciting and scary -- especially if you don’t have the tools in place to monitor and respond to these end user interactions. For example, there are tools which allow you to monitor any mentions of your company brand across the public Twitter and Facebook airwaves, allowing you to quickly respond -- and even automate some of your responses.
However, within the enterprise, its not enough to simply see what people are discussing or how they are collaborating. What is needed is the ability to guide and direct end users toward secure and compliant activities -- without interrupting or discouraging their collaboration.
Ms. Kostka makes three salient points in her article:
- Consumers are increasingly using social tools.
- Companies are ill-prepared.
- The number of companies providing automation tools is growing rapidly.
This last point, in my mind, is the most important indicator that the market is pushing for solutions beyond what the social collaboration vendors are providing out-of-the-box. While Ms. Kostka's focus is almost entirely on the companies that provide tools for content optimization and monitoring -- companies like SocialFlow, CrowdBooster, Prosodic, and Adobe Social, along with heavyweights in the web content management space like HubSpot (publishing, SEO optimization) and Webtrends (analytics) -- her focus is almost entirely on the surface activities within social, rather than the deeper collaboration relationships and influence that drives the success of platforms such as Yammer. It's one thing to track the consumer social platforms for product or brand mentions, but another thing to build a comprehensive set of tools that allow you to monitor and automate responses, measure adoption and engagement, track influence and message amplification, and then create and manage governance strategies based on all of the data you've captured.
Automating is not just about passive listening, but in taking the data and doing something with it.
The same can be said for what is needed within SharePoint and Yammer social collaboration activities. We need more than an "internal search engine optimization" tool for social collaboration. We need a platform that allows an organization to monitor the level of engagement of its users and encourage appropriate behavior and actions, and then to restrict inappropriate behavior and actions. How this is defined will vary broadly between companies -- but companies require the ability to establish and enforce their own governance policies. And few companies have the experience to successfully deliver such a platform.
For those unfamiliar with Axceler's long history in the collaboration space, the company has been delivering industry-leading governance and administration solutions since 1994, beginning with the Lotus Notes platform. Axceler was one of the most successful ISVs in the Lotus Notes community for many years, with numerous award-winning solutions. As the market for Lotus Notes decreased and SharePoint began to win market share, Axceler was able to leverage more than a decade of experience to create what quickly became the leading governance and administration tool for the SharePoint platform: ControlPoint, which a year later went on win Best Product at TechEd, followed by every other major SharePoint award. For many within the SharePoint partner community, Axceler's success seemed meteoric, but for the team it was just a matter of taking our years of governance and administration experience and applying that knowledge and expertise to another platform.
And now, with the rise of social collaboration within the enterprise, Axceler has once again leveraged our rich history and expertise to release the first-to-market analytics and governance solution for SharePoint and Yammer -- ViewPoint Enterprise. While some of the features, and certainly the platforms (Yammer) are new, Axceler is once again leveraging almost two decades of governance and administration experience to bring to market a powerful and dynamic analytics and governance platform, providing a federated view of social activities across both SharePoint and Yammer.
If I can address Ms. Kostka's three points: Companies are increasingly using social tools, because social collaboration is an effective method for getting teams to talk, to share, and innovate. Companies are ill-prepared for this shift, because the leading platforms are focused on delivering features to encourage collaboration -- and are not focusing on governance and management issues they view as restricting that collaboration. The number of companies providing automation tools may be growing rapidly, but only one company has the decades of experience with a central focus on SharePoint and Yammer: that company is Axceler.
We have a global team that would love to tell you more about what we're doing. If you've not yet seen ViewPoint Enterprise, there is a free version available online at www.Axceler.io. There is no download -- it’s a pure cloud platform that connects right to your corporate Yammer environment. Try it today, and start building your governance strategy for the social collaboration revolution!
It’s hard to believe SPTechConBoston 2013 is right around the corner. Two and a half years ago, SPTechCon was my first opportunity to observe how our team interacted with our clients after joining Axceler. Something that really stood out to me that night was how deeply invested everyone from Axceler was in our customer relationships - from Sales to Product Management, Marketing to our Executive team.
Back Bay Social Club SPTechCon Boston 2011 (Click here to register for this year: conta.cc/1cgBnoO)
It’s interesting to reflect on the past couple of years and think about how we’ve evolved as an organization, particularly our products and customer offerings. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Erin Glenn, the SharePoint Team Lead at Goodwill Industries and one of our very first clients.
Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia is part of a network of 165 community-based, autonomous member organizations in the United States and Canada. Goodwill’s work and mission are focused on long-term employment solutions for persons with disabilities and individuals with social and economic disadvantages. To fund its mission, Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia collects donated clothing, household items, computers, and automobiles to sell in its 20 retail stores, two outlets, and at weekly auctions. In 2012, Goodwill served over 16,000 individuals throughout Central Virginia and Hampton Roads through career development, training, and support services.
Erin has been part of the Axceler customer community since 2008, therefore could speak to what has changed over the years - and what hasn’t.
Erin shared her initial thoughts on Axceler:
“Even though Axceler was new, the attentiveness that Sales and Product Management gave me to understand what I was looking for was huge.”
As well as her opinion on Axceler five years later:
“I’ve been a customer for a long time and that hasn’t changed. As a tool, ControlPoint speaks for itself but it’s the Axceler people that make it a winner in my eyes…
…It’s never just a Sales call, it’s a Solutions call.”
Through all the accomplishments and benchmarks we’ve achieved over the years, it’s nice to know that the core of what made us a success initially still remains the same.
Read Erin’s full story http://info.axceler.com/Portals/61447/docs/goodwill_case_study.pdf
Existing Axceler customers can view our full Case Study library along with detailed product guides, common ControlPoint use cases and complimentary Axceler Academy training videos all from within our Customer Portal. https://support.axceler.com/home
For details on Axceler’s full suite of ControlPoint Products please visit: http://www.axceler.com/products/index
I was one week into my new position and this conference was my first opportunity to introduce the Customer Success team our customers and the company – while just starting to forge my own relationships with both.
This year we’re holding our evening event at The Back Bay Social Club (conta.cc/1cgBnoO ), the same location where I originally observed how our team interacted with our clients.
I'm sitting in the press box at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (www.DigitalWPC.com) taking place all week in Houston, Texas (you can't miss it if you try to get into downtown, with police closing off most side streets to help conference-goers get to the event). Corporate VP Jon Roskill, who owns the Microsoft Partner Network, just concluded, and CEO Steve Ballmer just took the stage to talk about the successes of the past year, and to talk about the company's goals for the year ahead (Microsoft's fiscal 2014), highlighting what is happening with Windows 8 and the soon-to-be-released 8.1, and talking about the 4 main pillars of Microsoft's business focus: Cloud, Big Data, Social, and Mobility.
The Axceler team is once again attending, and with a strategy for expanding our already healthy partner network across every territory which we serve. WPC is a networking event on steroids -- we have access to more than 15,000 attendees, plus key Microsoft product team members and leadership. Once again we're here to build and grow our partner channel within targeted regions, helping our channel strategy match the continued growth of our direct sales efforts. If you've never attended a WPC event and are looking for a way to build out your product or service business within the Microsoft space, then this is the event you need to attend.
In my global travels, I meet with many small to medium-sized service companies, as well as with some of the largest consulting organizations in the world, and share the Axceler story and why they should partner with us. One of the benefits of delivering one of the best-known brands in the SharePoint marketplace -- ControlPoint -- is that it makes the introductory conversation fairly easy. People understand the benefits of using the #1 tool for SharePoint governance and administration, but figuring out how to include a product within established service models may be less clear.
If you are a service-based company looking to enhance your services, here's how you can partner with Axceler:
ControlPoint for SharePoint Administration
Our flagship platform, this is software that helps administrators manage permissions, copy sites, analyze activity, setup reporting and dashboards, and manage all other day-to-day administrative needs of a single farm or a collection of farms. Whether you refer the product to a customer, install and run the product on behalf of a customer, or use the product to manage SharePoint on behalf of your customers, ControlPoint for SharePoint Administration will improve your ability to serve your customers.
ControlPoint for SharePoint Migration
Axceler is not new to the migration space. Through the acquisition of echoTechnology in 2010, we've been in the migration space since 2001, targeting the challenges involved in moving data and components from one SharePoint version to another. Beyond simple, point-and-click content migrations, we have always focused on the complex (i.e. "messy") SharePoint migrations, where a database attach and weekend move just won't cut it. Unique to our platform, and powerful for partners, is our ability to help you identify problems before you migrate, allowing partners to work with customers to break up their migrations into logical content sets, moving what they want, when they want it.
ControlPoint Change Manager
Change management is an ongoing set of administrative tasks, the heavy-lifting of an admin's world. With Change Manager, Axceler makes it easy to propagate changes across your SharePoint environment, such as moving a specialized workflow between your development environment where it was created, to your staging system, and when ready, over to your production system.
While a bit of a sleeper program, FileLoader continues to earn customer praise for its ability to streamline the process of uploading files from Microsoft Windows folders into SharePoint while giving administrators -- and end users -- the ability to manage their metadata.
In short, partnering with Axceler will help you to:
- Enhance your existing services by partnering with the best of breed in collaboration, administration and migration solutions
- Tap into Axceler's existing client base for new service revenue opportunities
- Leverage Axceler's active marketing engine for joint events, business development activities, and marketing programs
- Become an Axceler MVP and a thought leader in the SharePoint community
If someone from your team is attending WPC13 in Houston this week and would like to meet with the Axceler team, please reach out to our Director of Partners and Alliances, Gerald Rhee (Gerald.Rhee@Axceler.com) to schedule some time with the team on the ground.
We all inherently understand the value of person-to-person interactions. For some tasks, solitude has its benefits -- but more often than not, it is collaboration that unlocks road blocks in our minds, and blends solitary ideas into collective innovation. Looking back at the modern history of social collaboration -- beginning with early portal and knowledge management platforms, the addition of project or activity-based systems that attempted to track and then quantify innovation processes, and more recently with the separation of structured unstructured collaboration models -- executives teams always tried to understand, and put a number to, the benefits of these platforms.
It's understandable: collaboration platforms are expensive, they tend to require tremendous overhead, and they also require expertise to build, customize, and maintain them. Add to all this the fact that so many collaboration initiatives fail (Gartner), and its no wonder that executives are asking for empirical data as to the benefits that social collaboration will provide to the company's bottom line.
The problem is -- how do you measure the return on investment (ROI) of social?
In a CMSWire article published earlier today, I shared some feedback from panelists and partners from the E2 Conference in Boston, including portions of an interview with Axceler's own Donna Shaw, Principal Product Manager for ViewPoint Enterprise, which is our company's flagship product in the social visibility and analytics space (now available for free download). Donna has an extensive background in social collaboration, beginning with the Lotus Notes platform, and then working as a product manager for Ray Ozzie's next venture, Groove. With the acquisition of Groove by Microsoft, Donna helped create the Groove Workspace functionality within SharePoint, and later joined the 'social experiences' team to develop social features for the SharePoint platform, including SharePoint 2013. After helping with the 2013 product launch, she looked around for her next opportunity, and connected with Axceler and our vision for the social enterprise. This article shares her full response to the questions posed in the CMSWire article.
Many of my articles begin with one or two simple questions -- in this case it was one questions which, it seems, everyone wants to understand: What is the return on investment (ROI) of social? It's not a new question, but what I discovered as I looked for answers is that most data captured by our customers, or shared online through some of the leading vendors, relied almost entirely on anecdotal data and qualitative impressions, rather than hard numbers and quantitative data. To paraphrase my opening statement -- we all inherently understand the need for strong collaboration within the enterprise, but our leadership teams also need to be able to justify the expense of these solutions.
I positioned this problem to Donna, and in a brief interview asked her to explore the topic and share some of her experiences. Hopefully these insights will help as you construct your own measurements and value propositions for social within your organization.
Christian: How are organizations measuring the success (ROI) of social platforms and tools today?
Donna: From the customers I have talked to, they are struggling with this a bit. Meaning, without a way to monitor usage and activity, it’s tough to make the good ROI story. There are definitely products that provide some measurements and analysis, but not always as deep as what people would like, especially as it pertains to ROI. One customer specifically said to me that they’ve gone out and purchased licenses for Yammer and they really want validation that all of those licenses are being used.
Christian: But showing activated licenses, or even metrics like Page Views or Unique Visitors do not give you a real picture of what is happening, and whether that activity is driving business value. What is the gap?
Donna: My impression is the gap is in the lack of depth of what the out of the box tools offer. I think this gets to the heart of the issue, so let me elaborate here. It’s helpful to measure adoption. The idea that you can see the number of users who have joined the network and the number of groups that have been created is just a piece of that. The additional value is seeing the growth trends over a period of time. One customer pointed this out to me after he started using ViewPoint Enterprise. He saw a spike in growth for both users and groups within his company and was able to point that growth to an internal marketing campaign the company had run to get more users up on Yammer.
But the adoption numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. Sure, it’s helpful to see that 50 users joined the network and 15 groups were created, but without seeing the activity and usage of those groups, you really can’t validate the ROI. Add to that measurements on user activity and you have a more complete picture.
There is one other aspect that a customer brought up to me around ROI and that is the idea of measuring what topics are trending and popular. She referenced the tag cloud as one concept. Her example was that in her company, the R&D team had requested Yammer for their group because they had a distributed team and needed a way to collaborate asynchronously since the team was spread across different locations. The team felt it was invaluable using Yammer as a way to share information, ask questions, review content, etc. She mentioned that seeing topics like “research”, “product”, and “development” as tending topics confirmed that the R&D group was indeed using their Yammer licenses, thus validating the ROI in purchasing those licenses.
Christian: Showing trending topics and even activity leaderboards are useful metrics, but organizations most definitely have a difficult time in translating these data points into ROI. It's the problem of 'qualitative' versus 'quantitative.' Collaboration improves the quality of our communication, but it takes more effort to translate those things into trackable, measurable, quantifiable data. What visibility into social do you believe is missing from existing web analytics tools, or from SharePoint (and Yammer) analytics? And how important is it to measure 'influencers' within the enterprise?
Donna: I don’t think SharePoint provides much out of the box for this, though I should say I’m not familiar with everything offered in 2013. I do know what Yammer offers, as well as products like Chatter. Both provide some really good metrics, especially since they are included out of the box. There are also 3rd party companies like GoodData partnering with Kanjoya, who provide sentiment analysis. I haven’t heard much, but what little I have heard is that sentiment analysis is hard to get right and in some cases that level of analysis isn’t what users are looking for.
In my honest opinion, the concept of “Social Influencers” is one that can be tapped into further. Sure, seeing which users have the most followers is interesting, but doesn’t always speak to the true influencers. Likely, everyone will follow the CEO of their company, but that doesn’t mean that CEO is a key influencer. Aggregating other measurements like who makes the most posts or more importantly, whose posts get the most replies, stirring on further interaction? Whose content gets liked and shared the most? Who gets mentioned most often? When you see these measurements altogether, you can really get a picture about who are a company’s influencers. Why is this important? Customers I have spoken to have said these people are key to evangelizing the use of Social within their organization. One customer used the phrase “internal ambassadors of social”, which I thought was great. Another large tech company talked about regional champions of social. As a global organization, they need local champions within the regions to ensure the successful rollout and usage of Yammer. In fact, he mentioned that these champions have it in their commitments to ensure there is adoption and usage of Yammer in their respective regions.
Finally, in terms of gaps, I would have to say that since organizations often have multiple social and collaboration products being used across the company, the idea of seeing measurements for adoption, activity and influencers federated across multiple platforms is not something we’ve really seen yet, which is why ViewPoint is tapping into something pretty new, providing that greater level of visibility.
Christian: How do you explain to people the differences between adoption and engagement, and why is it important to measure both?
Donna: I believe I got to that above - - adoption tells you how many users joined the network and how many groups or sites were created and yes, over a period of time, but those numbers don’t tell you if the product is actually being used. Adoption coupled with engagement, which shows the level of activity within those groups and sites gives a more complete picture. This combination is what really validates the ROI.
Christian: I've often stated that one of the primary reasons CIOs restrict the use of social within the enterprise is a general lack of governance across these platforms. What does governance look like in social today, and what should it look like?
Donna: This is a tough one. IT and business leaders definitely want some sort of control, but not at the risk of stunting adoption and usage. Still the things I’ve heard have mostly been around protecting the company’s IP. Is someone talking about or sharing something either internally or externally that they shouldn’t be? How can those who need to be concerned about this protect the company? You can’t necessarily prevent this from happening, but you can be notified when it does happen and then take the appropriate action.
There is also other less risky, yet still important needs in terms of governance. Customers have talked about some of the challenges with the “sprawl” of sites (SharePoint) and groups (Yammer). Some groups just sit out there idle with no activity for months at a time. So, sometimes there is the need to just be able to “clean things up” and consolidate - - being able to remove multiple groups at once from the network.
Christian: I agree. What is needed is something similar to the governance tools available across more structured collaboration platforms, such as SharePoint. Obviously not to the same degree, but there is a need for managers to set basic policies, provide some degree of oversight. I think there is a partner opportunity here.
For those attending the E2 Conference in Boston this week, you can come listen to Donna Shaw (@donnasueshaw) today at 5:45pm in Suffolk as she demonstrates the latest features and future roadmap of the ViewPoint Enterprise platform. For more information on ViewPoint, you can read a product overview here, watch an entertaining video on practicing safe collaboration, or sign up for our free beta of ViewPoint and gain visibility into your collaboration environment today.
There's an interesting shift happening within the enterprise collaboration space -- which may not be viewed as a positive change by everyone -- but is definitely causing many organizations to become more introspective about their social collaboration strategies. The consumerization of IT and Bring-Your-Own-Device trends are having a dramatic impact on how businesses view their collaboration tools, systems, and vendors, with many organizations abandoning the idea of a single vendor providing for all of their needs. Instead, there is renewed interest in buying best-of-breed solutions, with the assumption that, to some degree, these platforms and tools will work together when needed.
We've all heard the statement "it just works" when applied to a favorite consumer device or application, like a mobile phone or favorite website. Want a perfect example? The FitBit family of products perfectly meshes a consumer device (a health monitor) to a powerful and easy-to-use dashboard via your wi-fi connection. You simply create a profile, link that profile to your device, and it just works. This is the kind innovation and seamless experience that users expect from all of their technology.
I've long been a fan of the science behind social informatics -- it's a blend of technology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and in some cases business, with the goal of understanding how technology is driving human behavior, and how those changes to human behavior, in turn, affect changes to technology. It's a cycle that defends and propels ideas such as Moore's law, which observes that the capacity of transistors doubles every two years. It's a concept that I've often applied to the SharePoint space when talking about end user requirements, and how end users may accept the out-of-the-box, plain vanilla SharePoint experience upon initial exposure to the platform, but as they begin to understand how SharePoint works and what more they can do with it, their requirements become more and more complex, which then requires more time and cost to expand the platform. Studies in social informatics have shown again and again that productivity generates productivity, and innovation drives even more innovation. Think about how many thousands of inventions have come out of the US Space Shuttle program that never would have come about had we not set such lofty goals.
I was reading an article in the March edition of Harvard Business Review about Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator with much fascination. I've been using this phrase of "category creation" to describe the work Axceler has been doing in the area of social collaboration governance. With the pre-release of our ViewPoint Enterprise product, we now offer the only tool in the Microsoft partner ecosystem that gives an organization visibility and control over their enterprise social collaboration platforms, beginning with support for Yammer. More than just another product release -- parallel to our existing offerings -- ViewPoint as a category creator will help us to deliver exponentially better benefits to the rapidly expanding and changing social collaboration landscape.
Think about how rapidly your own collaboration requirements are changing -- and much of that change being driven by your end users. The way we build and support communities, both internal and external, is evolving, and so the measurements and key performance indicators we use to track and quantify the business benefits of these platforms must also evolve. End users want the ability to use whatever tool or platform best meets their requirements and cultural nuances -- and most of those tools and platforms must coexist with, plug into, integrate with your SharePoint platform. That's the future we see here at Axceler, and we're excited to be the first to market with our category-creating social collaboration governance tools.
If you've not yet had a chance to take a look at ViewPoint, you can find more information at https://Axceler.io. The signup process is quick and easy, and you can quickly start tracking adoption and engagement metrics for your organization's Yammer network.
Knowledge Management (KM) platforms have existed for a couple decades, but these platforms tend to be inflexible, silo-based collections of corporate data that are often tied to specific business processes. Within the past decade, many different collaboration platforms have sought to unlock these data silos, resulting in a vast array of options for structured and unstructured collaboration: the structured collaboration tools providing tighter control over and management of a company's intellectual property, and unstructured tools providing more of the team-based communication and sharing features organizations need to get their work accomplished. At the forefront of this collaboration movement has been SharePoint, offering mostly structured collaboration, but also providing some unstructured and social capabilities as it has matured.
With the slow shift toward cloud-based platforms, we have seen the rise of the Enterprise Social Network (ESN), and with this rise, a push by many organizations toward the unstructured collaboration model as a way to improve the quantity and quality of employee collaboration. Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer last year for $1.2B was a testament to the rising influence of social within the enterprise, with more than 75% of businesses expected to adopt an ESN in 2013 (McKinsey). As a leader in unstructured collaboration, Yammer is helping Microsoft expand their leadership position within the social collaboration space not only through integrations with their SharePoint and Office365 platforms, but by helping Microsoft transition into a cloud-delivery model for many of the company's most well-known products. Microsoft is betting on a future where all of us will lease, rather than buy our software, ensuring that we always have the latest, greatest version of their leading business and productivity solutions. But don't think that it's just Microsoft's world-view at play -- every major software maker is moving toward this model. But they also envision a world where social acts as a layer across all of our core applications, allowing individuals and teams to easily communicate and correlate activities across these systems.
It is a fact that the more controls you place on a system, the less likely people are to use that system. Information workers want to move quickly, consume data or share an idea on the fly. Some experts and pundits claim that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is dead -- that this vision of structured collaboration has failed because of its inability to win over these information workers. Of course, as you investigate the successful implementations of SharePoint and other platforms, it becomes readily apparent that the drivers of success have more to do with up-front planning and proactive governance than whether or not technical needs are being met. If you design your platform to align with defined business goals, and ensure the voice of the customer (or the end user) is part of that design and build process, your chances of delivering a successful platform -- embraced by your users -- increases dramatically.
The need for structured collaboration is not dead -- far from it. Enterprises still need a way to safely manage their content and intellectual property, and SharePoint continues to have a strong future. But the reality is that ECM does not deliver the unstructured collaboration requirements of the end users. The release of SharePoint 2013 made huge strides to deliver an enterprise social experience, and the acquisition of Yammer has markedly accelerated delivery of that social collaboration vision.
However, the danger for the enterprise is complacency around metrics (visibility) and governance (control) -- the idea that a new tool or platform will automatically solve end user adoption and engagement issues, and, more importantly, result in both improved productivity and business value. Nothing is automatic. Unstructured collaboration, like structured collaboration, needs to be aligned with business goals to be effective. What is needed is a way to measure the effectiveness of your new social collaboration platform.
With this morning's announcement of the availability of a pre-release version of ViewPointEnterprise (press release), Axceler becomes the only Microsoft partner to show "a unified view of an entire organization’s collaboration platform adoption and engagement rates in one view, empowering them to quickly understand the condition of employee collaboration and make changes to increase ROI and minimize risk." ViewPoint provides an interactive dashboard (as shown here) that gives visibility into enterprise social networks, such as Yammer, SharePoint, Box, Jive, and Chatter. This initial release of ViewPoint focuses specifically on Yammer, helping organizations to identify employee adoption by tracking participation over time, and provides visibility into the most and least active groups, including volume of posts, how many files were shared, and number of likes and shares within a group to help measure employee engagement.
“Many businesses are still figuring out not only how to efficiently work on social collaboration platforms, but also the platforms that are helping the business achieve its goals,” said Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of Aragon Research. “As enterprises identify their collaboration platform mix, ViewPoint Enterprise simplifies how businesses track the success of each platform and identify what’s working or not working in order to understand the trends, users and topics that are driving valuable engagement and collaboration within and across the enterprise.”
End users are demanding enterprise social collaboration, but organizations need visibility into how these platforms are being used so that they can validate their effectiveness and determine a return on investment. As an expert in governance for collaboration in the social enterprise, Axceler is already known for our award-winning SharePoint governance platform, ControlPoint. Now with the availability of ViewPoint Enterprise, Axceler is bringing governance to the Yammer platform with other social collaboration platforms to follow.
You can try out the ViewPoint Enterprise tool -- and enjoy some videos from our new "Practice Safe Collaboration" campaign -- by going to www.practicesafecollaboration.com
Quietly present in the background of SharePoint is SQL Server. This just means that as data is entered into SharePoint, it is stored in a database. While the end user need not be concerned with SQL Server, they directly benefit from having a plentitude of data available at their fingertips.
This is important because this means there is usually much more information about the document, or task, or whatever item the end user is seeing on the screen. If we saw all the information stored in the database about every SharePoint item, we would be scrolling left to right forever! And this would be, needless to say, overwhelming and not very helpful.
SharePoint is so efficient for end users because it can show only pertinent data that users need to see. What a user sees when they look at a document library for example is usually the default view out of the box. Imagine how useful it would be to see information you need without needing to manipulate columns time and time again. This is accomplished through views.
For example, by default, the only way to see if and who may have an item checked out is to look for the green arrow symbol on the document type icon.
By hovering the cursor over the green arrow a pop up box will show you the information.
But this box will eventually disappear after 5 seconds. To view this information again, the user would have to move the cursor and hover it again over the green arrow.
Often end users would like to have this information more easily visible. This can be accomplished by creating a view to include this information. Another popular option is to modify an existing view. Perhaps you do not need a duplicated view, but just want to add a column to the default view. This is when Modify View would be prudent to use. These options are located in the ribbon (Library tab, Manage View group).
If creating a new view, SharePoint will give you options for the type of view to create (Calendar, Gantt, Standard, etc.) Usually Standard View is the most often used by the end user. Also, a check box is available should the user wish to make this new view the default view. This means that when any user navigates to that list or library, they will see this new view every time.
SharePoint include many out of the box preconfigured columns that can easily be added.
To add a column, simply mark the checkbox next to the desired column. The numbering system to the left of the form allows the user to configure what order they would like the column to appear in the view. In our example above, we can select the Checked Out To column and insert the column order we would prefer.
Note that by adding a number to the newly desired column, SharePoint will automatically insert the column into the desired position and renumber the remaining columns.
Now, once the view is saved, the Checked Out To column will appear, and it appears as the third column as stipulated in the screen shot above.
Forming views with pre-configured columns is an easy way to surface pertinent data so users can see it at a glance and not take time searching for the information they need. As we work with our items, all the data ever entered regarding that item is stored in the database. It was always there. We just configured SharePoint to surface only the desired data in the format we prefer.
For many users, the importance of a strong metadata and taxonomy strategy is unclear. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity is fairly widespread across most organizations using SharePoint. But it's not a problem just with SharePoint -- the same issues we experience within this community are often times common to every other knowledge management or collaboration platform. SharePoint stakeholders need to understand that metadata is foundational to everything else you want to accomplish on the platform.
Some metadata and taxonomy management can be streamlined and automated, but it will require a lot of up front work. There's no getting around it. It should be central to your SharePoint strategy, and a core aspect of your regular governance discussions. In my presentation The Connection Between Metadata, Social Tools, and Personal Productivity, I share a few "universal truths" that should be considered as you begin planning your metadata strategy:
- Metadata is fundamental to making social, knowledge management, and SharePoint work
- The business dynamics of how Information Workers capture, consume, and interact with data are changing
- Social tools are just another layer of the search experience
- Organizations don’t understand, much less track and measure, user productivity
Three of these four points are clearly visible within SharePoint's new social features, all of which center around keywords and metadata -- and can take advantage of your organization's taxonomy structure. Between development of SharePoint 2013 social features and the acquisition of Yammer, Microsoft has shown that they are serious about addressing the changing way in which we work, and improving the ability of our intranets, extranets, and external-facing websites to surface the right content, at the right time.
- Metadata drives search, content and task aggregation, and it enables most of the new features within SharePoint 2013. Think about the most common SharePoint scenario: adding a document to a document library. As you upload a file, you might have the ability to apply relevant keywords from a pre-defined term store. Your taxonomy adds structure to the content. In addition to the required taxonomy fields, you may also apply a few relevant keywords that are not part of the taxonomy, but which you know will provide richer context to the content. Folksonomy, in conjunction with a proactive governance model, refines your taxonomy so that common folksonomy terms eventually find their way into the managed taxonomy, so that others can use those terms more broadly. To make this model work requires some effort from your team -- a governance process to regularly review end user keywords, delete irrelevant terms, promote others, and overall optimize your platform for a healthy search experience.
- Social utilizes your metadata to enhance conversation, and make your dialog applicable to your work output. As shown in the following image, social interaction further enriches the context and visibility of your content. I my example above, the document owner applied both taxonomy and folksonomy. Social applies additional folksonomy -- by sharing the document with others, liking it, rating it, commenting on it.
We don't always know what content we're looking for. The limitation of the traditional search model is that we only find that content which fit into our specific search terms. If someone uploads content without applying taxonomy or folksonomy (which, let's admit it, is the case for the majority of our content) then you rely on your search crawler to search through titles and metadata descriptions. But through our social connections, we may locate new content based on personal and professional relationships, and through tags (an ever-growing folksonomy) applied by people you've never met and maybe never will…..because they were able to find that content through their social circles and apply some context of their own.
- Productivity improves when people can find their content, and (more importantly) when the processes you ask them to follow -- to ensure that metadata is assigned, and that your compliance/security guidelines are being met -- also fits into the way they need to work. That's really the key: design solutions that match the needs and working habits of your people, rather than force people to learn a new way to work. Social tools tend to be a more natural fit for the way that people connect and collaborate.
To be honest, the last universal truth is still a "work in progress." Measuring end user productivity is a difficult task to master -- and is a topic for a future post. My best advice is to monitor usage of your platform, and begin to understand the features and tools that people gravitate toward, and those they avoid. Overall, I cannot stress any more the importance of thoughtfully building out your metadata and a taxonomy strategy. The lack of a strategy can impact these common scenarios outlined above, and your ability to leverage the full functionality of SharePoint.