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Thoughts on the Future of Collaboration From Yammer Co-founder Adam Pisoni

I interviewed Yammer co-founder Adam Pisoni about a month after Yammer's acquisition by Microsoft, and he had a few things to say about collaborative tool winners and losers, and why he thinks 70 percent of IT collaboration projects fail.

David: So we have an old saying that says "he who has the most connections wins."

Adam: I think that's true. Connections aren't  just about people anymore. The people are the most important part, but you are also connecting to systems.

David: Yeah. I mean a tool that adds more features is less useful than a tool that allows you to connect to more different data types.

Adam: You're speaking my language.

David: So with 2000+ collaboration tools, why do you think most of them fail?

Adam: I think the question is, why is social is successful in some companies and not others. Furthermore, why are so many social tools unsuccessful?

David: Well let's say collaborative tools …


Adam: Yes. And I have a strong opinion on that also. The new breed of collaboration tools are fundamentally different from the kinds of tools we've been building for the enterprise for the past couple decades. Traditionally tools for the enterprise were built for the IT buyer and adoption was mandated. Think of your CRM or if it's your expense system … you always have to use it if you want to get paid. Because of that, there was no real motivation on the part of vendors to innovate around the user experience.

David: They haven't had to.

Adam: Exactly. Meanwhile, on the consumer side, we've seen a lot of innovation.

David: Because there's more pressure?

Adam: There's definitely more pressure. In the consumer world, no one is forcing you to use a given application. If it’s not good, people will try another. The switching cost is low. So they've had to figure out "how do we build things that people want to use?"

David: Let's use Facebook for example; they are now just over a Billion people.

Adam: It’s really crazy. You could argue that social networking technologies in the consumer space have been the most successful software ever written. And yet, they have been almost the least successful in the enterprise. 70 percent of IT-dominated social initiatives will fail this year, according to Gartner.

David: And why did they say 70 percent will fail?

Adam: You know what the reasons are? I think I know why. It’s because they don’t think of them like Facebook thinks of social. Facebook thinks of social like people have to want to use it. They think of them in terms of how we used to think about software features and functions.

David: Yeah

Adam: I think that the majority of collaboration tools have failed because they were built for the buyer to be mandated and not built to be used.

David: And the other thing is that IT often does what is easiest for them to do, rather than what's best for the organization. And that's why a lot of people are on the merry-go-round?

Adam: Well their priorities are different, and their priorities aren’t wrong, for example security is all that matters. But IT's priorities are different than the business user who just wants stuff to work the way they need it to work.

David: So are on-premise systems more secure than cloud-based systems?

Adam: Certainly there's this illusion now that on-premise systems are more secure than Cloud systems, which is not true. The most insecure systems — are people. 

So then, I think that most collaboration systems fail because they weren’t built to be chosen and I think that the reason that we’ve been successful where others have failed is because we….

David: You're saying that most collaboration system are more of the old-style collaboration systems?


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