Recently I was delighted to discover a new feature had been rolled out to our Yammer network, the start of the Office Web Apps (now Office Online) integration. I’ve been mentioning this new feature in my presentations since I first saw it previewed last year. One of the most naomi_social_gluecommon questions I get when I present about enterprise social and the future of collaboration/productivity is always about the integration roadmap between Yammer and SharePoint. Maybe it’s because I present to a lot of SharePoint audiences, but people often seem to forget that SharePoint is part of Office, and Office is all about productivity. While there is not a lot of detail out there on the roadmap though, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more at SharePoint Conference in Vegas next month, I like to tell people that integration with Office and Yammer is just as important.

Why so? Think about your normal work process and how you create deliverables and collaborate with your peers. You have meetings, you set objectives, create project plans, work on spreadsheets, presentations and notes, individually and together as a team. Iterate on all of it and a tangle of email holds all the threads together until you next meet and make decisions that kick off another loop. Sound familiar? But in the name of collaboration, we do a very strange thing. We keep the work products—like presentations and spreadsheets—in a system for sharing into which we invest a lot of resources. But we keep all the conversation, all the rich contextual meta-data if you will—like why did you decide to use 12% ROCE in the business case, not 15%?—in a personal silo that we call email.  This silo is never accessible by our colleagues who are not on the team or any of the people in our organizations who could possibly benefit from the information but will likely never know about it.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if in the same applications where you create the deliverables, you could also keep all conversation that went with it? Instead of encapsulating key information in a separate system, you could store the thinking that went along with the version history of the work product? This is exactly why the Office Web Apps integration with Yammer gets me so excited!

The new integration is being rolled out in phases, so what you see today on your network is just the beginning. It’s also possible your network hasn’t received the upgrade yet, so if you don’t see it yet, don’t worry, it’s coming. When you upload documents (items that were in your Yammer networks before the rollout started are not affected by the change) you’ll see that when you click Preview and then Edit File on the document, you’ll be popped into relevant Office Web App. With Excel files, I’ve noticed the Preview stage is skipped, and you go straight into the spreadsheet. Well, that’s great, you say, now I can edit documents.  Why is it different? It’s that pane on the right-hand side that makes all difference. All the conversation that you would usually put in email is right there, not hard to find, buried under a zillion other threads – it’s all right there, with the document that you are working on. And you can use it like a live chat or like an email thread, and everyone who has access to the document can see it.naomi_web_apps_integration

What’s coming next?

In a previous blog, I wrote that Groups and Notes are my two favorite features in Yammer. Notes allows you to write auto-saving wiki-type pages with basic formatting that other people can edit, and then can be “Marked as Official” (in Yammer Enterprise) to lock down the changes, if you so want. But Notes is a game-changer. You can have up to 12 people simultaneously co-author a Note. You can write and edit together in real time. Or at any time that you like. Really cool. And soon, that incredible facility will be in Office Web Apps in Yammer. So you’ll be able to co-author—seeing where your colleagues are in the document and what they are typing, in real time. In Word, PowerPoint and Excel, while keeping all the conversation that provides the most valuable context around the work product. Together. It’s like having the blueprints to go with a device, instead of having to disassemble and reassemble it (usually with bits left out). So after your project is finished, and someone else comes along to see what was done six months ago in a similar vein, they can see the deliverables but they can also gain understanding from your team’s thought process, assumptions and considerations that went into creation of the work.

Which then begs the question, why do I need Team Sites if groups and search works well enough to surface the documents and conversations from previous projects? Sites are often just another silo that we create because of artificial divides in managing different kinds of content separated from their context.

I’m not a fan of the term “Enterprise Social,” I wish it was “Collective Acuity” or something that sounded inherently valuable for a company from the standpoint of managing knowledge as an asset. Because that’s where the new sources of value for business come from. It comes from learning faster than your competition, from responding better to customer and industry changes, not from reinventing the wheel because you can’t understand how others made wheels in different circumstances or having silos of one or a few.

Details on Office Web Apps in Yammer Integration:

  • You’ll need Yammer Enterprise to view and edit documents. Basic (free) networks will just be able to view.
  • PowerPoint will support up to 5 people co-authoring simultaneously, Word and Excel up to 99 people. (Wow!).
  • You can see when other people have edited the document, and if there are conflicts. You can save different versions, look through different versions, but not revert back to old versions.
  • You can see and edit these supported file types are .docx, .pptx, .xlsx  and the other file extensions that were created around that time (.docm .dotx .dotm .odt .xlsb .xlsm .ods .ppsx .odp).
  • Older versions of Office 2003-2007 can either just be previewed or only downloadable.
  • You can still download your documents and work on them on your local computer as usual.