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    Entries in microsoft (3)

    Thursday
    Jun162016

    The obligatory Microsoft - LinkedIn take

    If you regularly write or otherwise opine about technology, HR, HR tech, recruiting, or pretty much anything to do with enterprise technology, then Al Gore and the rest of the creators of the internet have decreed that you must have some kind of a take, any kind at all really, about this week's big news of Microsoft announcing its plans to acquire LinkedIn for $26B large.

    So while EVERYONE else has probably weighed in on this a couple of days ago and the immediate window for 'newsy' analysis is past, I am going to direct my take in a slightly different direction.

    Aside - before getting to my point I just have to laugh (once again), at all the experts and analysts and pundits who within hours of this announcement somehow were able to crank out 1,000 words explaining to the rest of us what this news really meant. No one, I mean NO ONE, was thinking about Microsoft making this move before it was announced, then to suddenly act as if you have it all worked out within an hour is laughable. And also a little insulting. And like this take, everyone will forget what you wrote after the fact. Tell us it's going to happen BEFORE it happens sometime and you will impress us. All of us can wax profound after the fact. Ok, rant over.

    There was one slide in the official Microsoft public presentation and announcement on Monday that really caught my attention and that of all of this, might be the most interesting aspect of this deal in the coming years. Here's the slide from MSFT, then some free-range, organic, farm-raised comments from me.

    Since the quality of the image isn't all that great, I want to repeat the key part of the text on the left side of the slide - "There is no one source of truth for an individual (that's me and you by the way), profile... In the future, a professionals profile will be unified..."

    Those are the lines that I noticed the most in the entire announcement, and here's why I think they are interesting and potentially troubling for MSFT, for your organization, and for all of us as professionals.

    Why? Three reasons...

    1. While just about all of us have come to a reluctant realization that we probably should and do have a reasonably complete professional profile and history on LinkedIn, that realization comes from years of consideration about LinkedIn, and what LinkedIn was doing with our data. We may not love the fact that LinkedIn became a $26B company largely on the value of our profile information we supplied (for free), but we came to decide the personal value to us was at least worth the tradeoff that has now made lots of LinkedIn investors rich.

    But will we be ok making those same kinds of tradeoffs knowing 'our' data and profiles are now owned by Microsoft? Will the 400M or so users be readily willing to give Microsoft the same kind of pass that we gave LinkedIn, given the perceived value to us? I am not so sure. Or at least I am not that sure it's a given that people already on LinkedIn won't be too bothered by this. And I know it is not a given that people who ar not yet on LinkedIn won't be given at least some pause turning over their profiles and history to an even more gigantic company in Microsoft.

    2. From an organizational standpoint, just how excited are you as an HR or business leader with Microsoft's plan to make its (LinkedIn/Office/Skype/Whatever else they have) data become the "unified" professional profile for your employees? Aren't you at least a little bit concerned by having more and more of your employee's data about what they are working on and who they are collaborating with becoming at least potentially part of some LinkedIn-based unified and possibly public profile? Are you sure that this won't be even more of a competitive issue for you and your organization? There are still companies and leaders that would prefer their employees not be on LinkedIn at all - so they are not as likely to be recruited away by a competitor. 

    3. Finally, from a personal angle how much do most professionals want their current organization to be even more aware of what an employee is doing on LinkedIn? Would you somehow get 'red flagged' as a flight risk if Microsoft's big data engine spots and alerts your organization's management that you recently looked at an external job posting or have just connected with two or three third-party recruiters? I know some of what all of us do on LinkedIn is potentially visible to our current management and company, but an even more embedded and universal profile (LinkedIn based), that in theory becomes the de facto internal corporate identity as well just exposes more and more of your LinkedIn actions to your employer, whether or not you want that exposure or not.

    Ok, that's it for me, let me know what you think - am I wrong to not be leading the cheers for this acquisition?

    Monday
    Mar302015

    UPDATE: The Microsoft Band and the Future of Wearables at Work

    Do you wear a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or a Jawbone? Or maybe you are planning to jump on the Apple Watch fanboy train in a few weeks and take advantage of that device's ability to track your activity. Lot's of folks are keeping closer track of their workouts and activity today.

    A few months back Microsoft launched its first entry into the wearables market with the Microsoft Band, a wearable tracker that possesses a variety of sensors including a microphone, a GPS location sensor, motion sensors, an optical sensor that measures heart rate, a sensor that tracks skin conductance, which can reveal levels of stress, and even a UV sensor to calculate sun exposure, delivered in a black bracelet with a rectangular touch screen.

    At that time, your humble blogger, (me), shared some thoughts about why this particular wearable smart device could be the one that has the greatest potential for near-term impact and relevance to work, workplaces, and employees. Namely, because Microsoft has such a choke hold on most organization's email, calendaring, and document management that it would be both natural and powerful for a Microsoft wearable to be integrated with these existing and traditional workplace tools.

    You can read my entire take here, but at the risk of getting too meta and quoting myself, below is the gist of my argument back in October 2014:

    I can think of a couple of really compelling use cases for this kind of integration right off the top. 

    One - how work itself effects employee health. Does someone's heart start racing in every staff meeting? Do they begin to get twitchy when called upon to present to a group? Does a certain interaction with a colleague result in three nights of poor sleep? And then what can organizations then do to better understand and potentially align individuals with projects and team members that can aid their ability to perform, while not making them crazy? How do schedules, (and in particular over scheduling), impact employee health and activity? Do we need to be more mindful of how overworked and over scheduled many of our people are?

    Two - Insights into who in the organization inspires, challenges, and lifts people up, and who serves as essentially the corporate buzzkill? Imaging a meeting with 10 people inside, all wearing the MS Band. One person dominates the meeting, maybe it is the boss, and immediately after the other 9 people begin to show signals of nervousness, irritability, or even lethargy. Maybe email and collaboration patterns in the team begin to show signs of changing as well. Perhaps some members of the team skip their normal workouts for a day or two in the aftermath. Maybe some folks don't even turn up the next day. 

    Clever stuff, right? Why bring that back up again today? Well, check the comments from a recent piece from a few days ago that was posted on the MIT Technology Review site - Microsoft's Wristband Would Like To BE Your Life Coach:

    During a recent interview at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters, Matt Barlow, general manager of marketing for new devices, said the company is investigating the kinds of insights it can share with users by matching up biometric data with other sources of information like their calendar or contacts to show things like which events or people may stress them out.

    In the coming months, the Microsoft Health app is poised to gain the ability to compare calendar or contact information with your physical state as measured by the band—your heart rate or skin conductance level, for instance—so the app could nudge you with detailed observations about how those things might relate. For instance, the app might send you an alert like, “I noticed you have a meeting with Susan tomorrow, and last time you met with her your heart rate went up 20 beats per minute and stayed elevated for an hour. How about trying this deep-breathing exercise that you can use with the Band?”

    Initially, these kinds of scenarios are expected to become possible through an integration with Microsoft Office services, though over time it may branch out to include other services as well.

    Hey - the Microsoft dude is essentially touting the same kinds of capability and interesting workplace data integrations that little old me talked about in October. But not to say I told you so...

    But the real point of resurfacing the old post and topic was just to remind you that even though wearables and fitness trackers have been around for a while now, we really are just still in the first inning of a long game. Trackers and biological/physiological sensors won't really start impacting the way work gets done until they actually are integrated with the tools of work - email, calendars, meetings, etc.

    Stay tuned...

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    Jul252014

    REPRISE: PowerPoint for the iPad? Well that's no fun.

    Note: Caught a really interesting article this week on the Unofficial Apple Weblog, titled Microsoft still doesn't get why the iPhone succeeded, which breaks down Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's recent manifesto memo to MSFT employees regarding the tech giant's strategy and direction. Essentially, the author contends that Nadella's focus and emphasis on the device (smartphone, tablet, whatever is coming next, etc.), as a 'work' or productivity device misses the entire reason why people originally flocked to the iPhone and iPad in the first place. Here is a snippet from the piece:

    Consumers primarily buy mobile devices that make their lives easier and more fun, work be damned. Microsoft Office wasn't available on the iPhone until June of 2013. An iPad version wasn't released until four months ago! And guess what, hundreds of millions of consumers bought iPhones and iPads anyhow.

    The longer Microsoft continues to focus on the alleged allure of productivity software, the more it runs the risk of falling into the same trap as RIM, which remained so beholden to the notion of physical keyboards that it completely ignored the mass market to placate its beloved enterprise users. Just as RIM mistakenly believed that physical keyboards could fend off the growing popularity of the iPhone, Microsoft seems to believe that the abstract notion of "productivity" will help them garner more marketshare.

    The underlying problem with this train of thought is that it ignores the fact that the iPhone helped usher in the consumerization of IT, the dynamic where individuals themselves are able to influence the type of mobile devices supported in their work environment.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    Steve here- The entire piece kind of read and felt familiar to me, and a quick look back at the archives here revealed I had kind of written a similar piece back in February of 2012, when early rumors of MS PowerPoint being ported out to the iPad first started making the rounds.  So since it is sometimes fun to look back, and because I think the gist of the argument I made in 2012 still applies today, here is that piece from 2012 in all it's majesty:

     

    PowerPoint for the iPad? Well that's no fun.

    Lots of chatter in the tech news and blogosphere this week about the possible launch of an iPad version of Microsoft Office.  First the news of the Office for iPad was broken by The Daily, denied, (kind of), by Microsoft, examined in more detail by ZDNet, then reconfirmed on Twitter by a staff member at The Daily. And I am sure there were lots of other takes on the potential release of Office for the iPad, most of which making it seem like it is not a question of if Microsoft will release the iPad version of Office, but rather when the apps will be released.Source - The Daily

    So based on the evidence, and the sort of non-denial denial from Microsoft, let's assume that indeed in the 'coming weeks' there will be a release of MS Office for the iPad. Most of the accounts about this possible new Office version herald this development as a positive one, both for Microsoft, essentially absent to this point in the rapid rise of the tablet ecosystem, and also for the millions of iPad users that now can become 'more productive' now that the ubiquitous Office suite will have a native iPad version.

    But for me, I have to admit I don't feel all that excited about having Excel, Word, or PowerPoint on the iPad. Even assuming that the iPad versions of these workplace stalwarts manage to leverage the best capabilities and usability features that the iPad offers, you are still crunching spreadsheets, writing (boring) documents, and futzing around with another PowerPoint. You know, working. And work, sadly, is often not much fun. And perhaps through no fault of their own, Excel and PowerPoint take a lot of reflected shrapnel for that if you get my meaning.

    People love their iPads because they are fun, (assuming you can mentally set aside how they are actually manufactured, but that is another story), they provide an amazing user experience, and mostly what you do with them either isn't work, or doesn't feel like work. It just seems cool, hip, easy. Not words we often associate with work. Especially when work takes the form of spreadsheets and slide decks.

    So when MS Office for the iPad comes out will I rush to load it up? Probably not. But I imagine I will eventually succumb, as the allure and utility of being able to tweak that presentation file on the iPad when sitting in the airport will prove too tempting and seem too necessary. It's work right? Need to get 'er done whenever and wherever.

    I just hope I won't have to drop Angry Birds to make room for Excel. Because that would really stink. 

    Have a great weekend!