SharePoint Conference Summarized in Three Words: Yammer, Upgrade, Store
By Jim Lundy
Microsoft held its annual SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas on October 13-18, 2012 and it was memorable in a number of ways, not the least of which was the intensity of the participants. We will be discussing SharePoint 2013 in more detail in separate posts and First Cuts, this Blog is about what we saw and observed at the Conference. Our Summary in three words is Yammer, Upgrade and the SharePoint Store.
First on attendance, numbers mentioned were 10,000 and this does not appear to be an exaggeration. The Crowds were large, often bursting at the seams in the Hallways of the Mandalay Bay Conference Center. We suspect that the Event is close to being too large for that location, partially due to how the crowd had difficulty in getting to session rooms.
We saw and talked to many Microsoft Partners at the event. Many of them commented on how busy their booth was and how interested the attendees were in their solutions. We didn't go to all the after parties, but we did go to Axceler's and that was where we had some of the best conversations with attendees.
Yammer and SharePoint was the Talk of the Town
From the very minute the keynote started, it was clear the Microsoft was going all in with Yammer. Jared Spataro kicked things off, and he wasted little time before diving into Microsoft's embrace of its Yammer acquisition. Corporate VP Jeff Teper did most of the live demos of SharePoint, but there was some fun too: a humorous video featured Jeff Teper, and Yammer Founders David Sacks (now a Microsoft Corporate VP) and Adam Pisoni (now General Manager of the Yammer Division at Microsoft).
The big news was the Yammer appears to be the lead choice for an Enterprise Social Network from Microsoft. On top of that, Microsoft is embracing Yammer in ways we have rarely seen with acquisitions. Proof of this was the organizational alignment - Yammer is now a Division of Microsoft. This is a big shift for Microsoft and if you ask why, just look back a few years to the Groove acquisition. Of course former Cisco Executive Tony Bates is now running the Skype Division, which includes Lync (formerly part of the Office Division).
The other news was having customers talk about Yammer and SharePoint. As we mentioned in a previous post, Nationwide Insurance was the premier reference customer and they talked about Yammer deployment and how it works with SharePoint, their ECM application. The two things we learned later that week were:
1) Nationwide actually replaced a different Social Networking application with Yammer
2) Nationwide admitted that while they consolidated several ECM applications to SharePoint, they still had other ECM repositories for regulated content. Note most Insurance comapanies have multiple ECM repositories.
Microsoft - Driving down ESN Pricing
The stunned reaction of the audience when it was announced that Yammer Enterprise Pricing falls from $15.00/user/month to 3.00 per user per month was probably one of initial disbelief. The reaction later in the week was pretty clear from attendees: we are adding Yammer. Clearly, other Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) providers are being put on notice regarding pricing.
Enterprises do need to understand the price they already pay for Microsoft Client Access Licenses (CALs). That is often the bigger discussion when it comes to overall spending for Workplace tools. One of the items that was not discussed at the event was newly announced Microsoft CAL Price increases that hit December 1st. More on that later.
Upgrade Interest was High
Upgrading SharePoint was by far the most discussed topic at the event. The main tent SharePoint upgrade keynote was heavily attended and I'll note that Microsoft has come a long way on upgrades. It is a more mature approach to upgrading, but after ten years of shipping SharePoint, it should be.
There were some moans and groans in the audience during the Q&A part of the session, when some particular upgrades for partner solutions appeared to need more work. There is planning required, just as there is with any application, but Microsoft was on their game and gave a compelling set of presentations.
The result of all that work was that attendees were talking about upgrading and doing it sooner than we've heard with other previous releases of SharePoint.
The biggest story that we saw coming out of the #SPC12 event was the announcement of the SharePoint Store. The prospect of being able to access and buy apps for SharePoint via a Store was like a dream come true for many IT Professionals at the event. On the same note, most of the partners at the event were very happy about this new way to distribute their applications.
SharePoint Winners and the Losers at #SPC12
Clearly the big winner are all of the SharePoint users. SharePoint 2013 is more usable and it is a much cleaner interface. IT Pros will like the SharePoint Store approach to managing and distributing apps. The commitment from Microsoft to have Cloud Releases every sixty days is a big deal and represents a new way forward for the Microsoft Office division.
The other big winner was Yammer. Of course Yammer is now part of Microsoft, but in many ways, Yammer is helping to lead the charge into Business apps in the Cloud. Yammer, more than almost any other vendor has demonstrated a way to do rapid software development in a quality manner. It is also the simplicity of Yammer that is resonating with users. The new Yammer pricing from Microsoft makes the prospect of turning on Yammer almost a no brainer.
One of the losers at SPC12 was Newsgator, the Microsoft SharePoint Partner of the year in 2011. For years, Newsgator was the plug-in of choice for enterprises that wanted industrial grade Social Networking on top of SharePoint. The talk by customers and partners later in the week was what will become of Newsgator. Of course, we have seen this movie before. Nine years ago, when SharePoint 2003 didn't offer Records Management capabilities, Meridio was the partner of choice recommended by Microsoft. Meridio thought they would be bought by Microsoft, but that day never came. Instead Meridio ended up being bought by Autonomy, which is now owned by Hewlett Packard.
All in all the SharePoint Conference was one of the best events we attended this fall. SharePoint 2013 has been under construction for quite a while and it looks like all of that hard work will pay off.