Microsoft is heavily promoting the idea of working like a network — connecting to people across geography and time to collaborate. This comes as no surprise given the heavy investment in technology Microsoft has made in products that connect people together in social networks. Social networking features are especially prominent in the Office 365 suite.
Alas, it is not the case. To work like a network means more than knowing who people are or what they are doing. It means being able to leverage relationships to get work done and build relationships through shared work. Unfortunately, the applications that knowledge workers most use to work — Office applications — have too much overlap and not enough integration to make this a reality.
The result is that end users will pick whichever they think works best for them. This works against creating network effects since it effectively Balkanizes sharing and communication. If Joe wants to share with Jill, Joe needs to know how Jill typically shares. Should Joe use his favorite method or Jill’s? By not sharing in the same way, interactions are awkward for both of them. Having so much overlap — especially in sharing and communication — creates network silos around the primary way end-users share and communicate: Yammer, SharePoint, Outlook and Lync.
Solid integration would help but, once again, that’s not enough. Microsoft will never enable customers to actually work like a network until they rationalize the Office 365 suite. Rationalization doesn’t mean creating one mega application. Individual applications that encompass a set of sharing methodologies is a better solution because it allows organizations to decide what tools will help them share and communication. There only needs to be one activity feed, one IM feature, one set of tasks and one file sharing mechanism shared by all Office 365 applications.