Interview: Daniel Kraft on NewsGator & The Future of Work Daniel Kraft's goal has always been to look at how people work and how to make them more productive and happy. It seemed appropriate for him to take the reigns at NewsGator and from our interview, it appears he has fit in perfectly.

A Little Background on Daniel Kraft

When Daniel worked (actually co-owned too) at iFridge and Company his focus was on innovation and helping turn innovation into money. NewsGator was one of his clients, he was an adviser to JB Holston. The work he was doing was a project assignment that simply got too big and it was a natural fit to take the reigns at NewsGator.

It's also interesting to point out that he was also the head of strategy of at OpenText, reporting to Tom Jenkins, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer (OpenText acquired Kraft's company RedDot Solutions), prior to starting iFridge.

The Future of Work

He believes that technical innovation leads people to working closer together, and getting things done much better. This, he said, started back in the industrial age and has continued to grow.

Today, as more and more people connect across the Internet, this is going even further and we are essentially becoming a network of minds. These social and networking capabilities have a productivity impact.

But you need more than the social capabilities to work together. You also need an intelligent layer to anticipate what makes more sense in a given context. That allows you to feel the pulse of the organization and see what mood they are in -- so you know when you need to focus to get things done or go wide and open the stream for broad innovation and/or discussion. This is what Kraft sees as the future of work.

How Do You Make People Use It?

Kraft says the simple answer is "you don't." You can't force people, you have to look at how they work today, they have to use the tools they like.

Which means NewsGator offers a number of approaches for people to work and collaborate together, whether it's the stream, email or some other way.

Another key is to embed social into the business context; make it part of the larger conversation. NewsGator embed social capabilities into applications such as SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, MS Dynamics. This opens collaboration to a broader group, yet ties it to a business process and keeps track over time of expertise when someone helps with a particular problem.

Kraft also spoke about the solutions that NewsGator is also developing that provide specific processes with built in social and collaborative features. The Internal Communications Solution is one of these, The Sales Enablement is another.

Not Everyone is on Board With Enterprise Social Yet

Kraft says if you look at companies overall, and you look at the size of social's impact, we are still in the early stages. But if organizations don't do it, they are going to fall behind. It gives a much more connected approach to business: "social has a fundamental impact."

Kraft went on tour, talking with forty companies and of the forty, only one dismissed social. These organizations know they need to do something but many don't know how, and the problem, Kraft says, is that they are looking at too big a picture. It's key to focus on the business use-cases, which is why NewsGator is working on specific solutions.

My Stream is The Best Stream

Kraft says there is a big "my stream is the best stream" happening out there right now. NewsGator looked at it and decided the world needs a hybrid of all those streams, so it is integrating them. It integrates with Yammer, SharePoint and even Salesforce Chatter.

Are Social Business Standards Important?

A lot of people are talking about social business standards, but what customers want and what vendors want are not really aligned. Every vendor is pushing their standard, and they are fighting for market share. 

But the reality is that organizations just want things to work, they don't care how. Which is why NewsGator is working at integrating with different platforms and ecosystems.

Kraft does hope that sometime in the future protocols and standards will be established, but they are still a few years out. It's an elite group discussing this topic and as of today, even basic process systems can't be integrated, like vacation requests.

The Microsoft/Yammer Effect

This Microsoft/Yammer relationship has had its impact on NewsGator, in two very specific ways:

  1. They are being asked "What's the incremental value?" And this, Kraft says, takes about 10 minutes to discuss before the client understands.
  2. Social became top of mind for almost everybody, and Microsoft has helped develop the market for them. NewsGator no longer needs to do that explaining about the importance of social, now it's a question of what or how, not if.

There's also a perception that NewsGator only works on SharePoint, but that's not completely true. NewsGator does enterprise social on multiple systems, including SAP and Oracle. Many of its capabilities aren't bolted to SharePoint any more -- like the Expert Finder which can be run in the cloud and doesn't require SharePoint (it can link to LinkedIn for example).

More and more of NewsGator's efforts lie in figuring out how to get social into SharePoint plus a process systems, making them work productively together. NewsGator's solutions are designed in a way to leverage SharePoint and it will always have that rock solid integration, but they are not completely tied to it and can easily use a different repository/process.

The NewsGator code base is the same in 2010 and 2013, and it works across the entire MS Stack -- Linc, Yammer, Dynamics, Office, Office 365, SP Online.

Kraft says that NewsGator will continue to work this way because that is where people work. It has been a tactical decision to have SharePoint as the default content store, and although it could be replaced with Oracle or SAP, or some other repository -- both for content and process, SharePoint will continue to remain that default, because that's where people are.

The key for NewsGator is that they are connecting people to the stuff they need to be productive.

Check out Daniel's TEDxTalk on the evolution of work:

Opening image courtesy of nopporn (Shutterstock)