Microsoft tries to stem its self-made collaboration-tool confusion

Microsoft is using this week's Ignite conference to try to help clarify its collaboration-tool strategy. Here's how SharePoint, Teams and Yammer figure in the mix.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Choice is good. But too much choice, especially when it comes to collaboration tools, has been a problem for Microsoft.

This isn't news to customers, partners or Microsoft execs themselves. But at the company's Ignite IT Pro conference in Orlando this week, Microsoft execs took a step to try to clarify the company's strategy and messaging in this area.

Microsoft Office 365 Marketing chief Ron Markezich kicked off the conference this week with a slide entitled "Microsoft 365 Teamwork: Where to Start a Conversation." That slide attempts to do what Microsoft initially attempted with a 60-plus-page whitepaper: Clarify which collaboration tools customers should use when.

The slide, which features SharePoint -- and its files, sites and content storage at the center -- is broken down into the "inner loop" of people with whom one collaborates on core projects and the "outer loop," or those with whom one connects openly across an organization. Teams is Microsoft's preferred/suggested tool for inner loop interactions, while Yammer is its solution for outer loop ones.

Outlook email remains an ubiquitous tool for targeted communications in this scenario. And Office 365 Groups acts as Microsoft's cross-application group membership platform.

Earlier this week at Ignite, Microsoft officially announced its plans to phase out gradually Skype for Business in favor of Microsoft Teams, its Slack competitor. That makes for one less collaboration tools in the Microsoft mix.

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft officials talked up the company's plans for making SharePoint and OneDrive more robust collaboration and communication platforms during various Ignite sessions. They also shared some new SharePoint stats. In May 2017, 250,000 organizations were using SharePoint, and as of September, that number is now 300,000, according to Microsoft. Of those totals, 50 percent were using SharePoint Online in the cloud back in May. Now 65 percent are doing so, company officials said.

They noted that the coming OneDrive Files on Demand (aka its Placeholders replacement which will be part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update) will include rich thumbnails and previews for a variety of file types. In fact, Microsoft is going to support 275 new file formats for everything from Visio and .zipfiles, to 3D and medical imaging ones, as part of Files on Demand.

Microsoft is adding the ability to share content and files externally without requiring users to have Office 365 accounts. Instead, the company will use email verification to set up a communication channel.

In addition, Microsoft is adding more than 100 new cloud and on-premises connectors and Web parts as part of its ongoing SharePoint updates, as well as a new SharePoint Hub sites to make intra-site navigation and connection easier. Teams integration is coming to SharePoint, as well, as is a new SharePoint Administration Center UX.

Microsoft officials shared more about what's next for Yammer during sessions at the show, as well, including availability of a new native Web part for Yammer.

Editorial standards