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Social collaboration software through the lens of a SharePoint lover

Yammer and SharePoint: A match made in heaven or cloud-crossed lovers? Plus, tips on how to succeed with social collaboration in this week's Data Mill.

Jeremy Thake called Microsoft's 2012 acquisition of Yammer "a bold move" during his keynote address at the recent SharePoint TechCon in Boston. But he also admitted he hasn't been in a hurry to embrace the software just yet. You see, Thake is a SharePoint guy. In fact, as the co-founder of the Nothing But SharePoint blog and chief architect for AvePoint, a software vendor that provides products and services to support the social collaboration software, he might very well be the SharePoint guy.

All of that aside, Thake is not alone in his reluctance to also become a Yammer guy. With SharePoint's strong document-sharing capabilities and Yammer's zippy user interface, the pair should complement each other nicely. But a year after the acquisition, the two products continue to offer similar features that don't really talk to each other. This has created "tension" for Microsoft customers, he said.

Some of those hurdles will soon be erased as Microsoft gets ready to roll out new updates before the year is out. But it won't get rid of all of the hurdles. According to Forrester Research's new report Is Yammer + SharePoint Right For You?, only those who can "move critical workloads, at least in part, to the cloud" will be able to reap the full rewards of a tight Yammer-SharePoint integration. Yammer is already in the cloud, and an on-premises version isn't in the cards, according to Forrester.

"For those organizations that cannot put a workload in the cloud for security, privacy or compliance reasons, this solution will not be an option," the report states.

Social collaboration software success

Thake's SharePoint bias aside, much of his talk focused on how to successfully build a social enterprise. Here are eight tips for your reading pleasure:

1. Break bad habits. Social collaboration is about connecting people together, but it can also help companies break out of habits that are less efficient. Email distribution lists, for example, do not document history the way social collaboration software can, a boon for new employees learning the ropes. "The reality is social collaboration is just knowledge management," Thake said.

2. It's not an age thing -- exactly. Don't get stuck thinking social media is for the younger generation; instead, it's "a working age" thing, Thake said. According to data he presented, 70% of users are between the ages of 25 and 54. Recent data from the Pew Research Center, an American research and advocacy organization, backs those numbers up: 78% of 30- to 49-year-olds use social media; that number dips to 60% for 50- to 64-year-olds.

3. Avoid the friend-tweet comparison. When winding up the pitch for social collaboration software, don't describe it in terms of Facebook or Twitter. Instead, focus on what to get out of it from an organizational level.

4. Get ready for the email battle. The Internet isn't always on, but email is always accessible. "It collects onto your phone, you can reply on your phone offline, and as soon as it finds Internet, it sends those messages off," Thake said. "The big problem with social right now is that can't happen. You have to be online." Thake calls this one of the major pushbacks he's seeing from external customers and internal employees.

5. Prepare to push back against the pushback. If someone sends Thake an email with an attachment or a question about SharePoint, he sends them an image of a cute, fuzzy kitten -- with a gun under its chin. Below the image, it reads: "You sent me an attachment so another kitten has been sacrificed. Put it in SharePoint!!!" It's jarring, unexpected and, yes, a bit twisted, but those are the same qualities that make it easy to remember. He admits this might not be the best tactic for some organizations, but the message is clear: Find a way to retool employee thinking. (Without killing any real kittens, of course.)

6. Find those cheerleaders. Getting employees to embrace the technology that supports the social enterprise can take an in-person touch. Thake does this when he can, but AvePoint is a global company, and he can't possibly be everywhere. "You need to have champions in every single office" who can carry out the mission in your absence, he said.

7. Publish a code of ethics. It's inevitable that someone will post inappropriate information to the platform. Have a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy or something else that can address unwanted and even bad behavior before it happens.

8. Treat social collaboration as a project. Social collaboration software is not a one-time-and-be-done implementation. "It can't just be install a platform and run away," he said. Think strategically, plan on what you want to do first, measure your success, learn the tools and train your users.

This is The Data Mill, a weekly column devoted to all things data. Heard something newsy (or gossipy)? Email me or find me on Twitter at @TT_Nicole.

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