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In his inaugural interview as Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella posed a question crucial to the future of the company: “How do we take the intellectual capital of 130,000 people and innovate where none of the category definitions of the past will matter?” Satya is right that employee ideas are one core pillar of innovation, but to truly succeed innovation requires an additional pillar; Microsoft must also leverage the intellectual capital of the millions of users who have formed digital communities. These communities, and the influencers within them, provide product support and insight, innovative ideas for future products, a feedback loop for Microsoft and much more.

With the Top 25 SharePoint Influencers community vote closed and our final analysis of the influencers underway, we sat down with Dana Gardner, our partner for the Top 25 initiative, to discuss his thoughts on the importance and potential of communities.

Read on for Dana’s insight, and be sure to stay tuned for the unveiling of this year’s Top 25 SharePoint Influencers at SPC14!

 

Why does the Microsoft SharePoint community matter more than ever today?

Over the past couple years, Microsoft has been in a state of flux as the company has pushed Office 365 while still supporting its enormous premise-based SharePoint community. As the enterprise landscape continues to evolve in today’s cloud, mobile and social world, Microsoft must leverage the voice of the community around products, services, and company direction to chart their next moves.

Microsoft’s SharePoint community has a chance to shape the company’s future, and the first step in bringing the community into the decision-making spotlight is identifying and acknowledging those influencers who drive discussions and opinions.

How do influencers help the Microsoft community?

Because of the nature of the web, community influencers are now a global phenomenon changing how learning takes place for users and companies. Even across industries and companies that compete, a focus on “how to get the most out of a tool” and “how to collaborate for better results” are new forces happening at the new scale that we’re seeing. It’s been quite a powerful shift, where the community learns from each other as much as from the company providing solutions.

Influencers act as catalysts in global communities for discussion and innovation, which then gets filtered back to the company. This symbiotic relationship creates an interesting engine of capabilities for both the company and community members.

Why does identifying influencers help Microsoft?

Understanding and leveraging influencer lists is particularly important because those influencers allow Microsoft to gain insight into ideas and products beyond the typical one-way street – they bring the company’s thinking outside of an echo chamber. Community influencers represent a tremendous amount of diversity, including end-users of technology, channel partners, executives, academics, media and analysts. With this diversity, Microsoft has a great way of advancing how innovation and productivity occur using newer social mechanisms and instant digital communication + amplification.

How does identifying influencers help the community?

On the surface, creating influencer lists creates an opportunity for those who follow SharePoint to make sure no one they might be interested in slips their radar. On a deeper level, identifying influencers solidifies the connection between the people on influencer lists and their collective voices, ultimately creating a powerful synergy that powers innovation and productivity. This synergy is only possible when influencers from different niche SharePoint communities are aware of the greater SharePoint world.

In short, identifying influencers allows for inclusiveness and recognition, while also allowing others in the community to make sure they’re catching the best SharePoint discussions and insight.

How do you see Microsoft evolving in the coming year?

We’re seeing a change in leadership at MSFT that’s likely to increase their emphasis on cloud strategies and services. Over the next two to three years there’s going to be quite a bit of change from Microsoft as the company moves towards the cloud services, away from on-premise platforms and software.

This change is being spurred by the fact that Microsoft has to compete with companies giving solutions away for free. The new value they must deliver is in management, governance and security. Microsoft needs to shift to cloud and hybrid cloud models.  Their big challenge will be succeeding in the cloud without sacrificing the management, governance and security their customers need. Microsoft needs to find balance and move their model further from download fees and more towards service/subscription models.

The bottom line with the disruptive social/mobile dynamic is that we now live in a buyer’s market, and users are in a great position to exercise choice. Through choice and community action, users can affect and influence how the vendors produce new services, and Microsoft needs to pay attention to the voice of their community.

In the end, the best services with the best management, security and pricing combination will win. This is a time where change is ripe, and Microsoft is in a position to leverage their community and employee stakeholders in a way that benefits end-users, and ultimately the company itself.

Do you agree with Dana’s thoughts above? Feel free to share your own insights in the comments below or on Twitter at @teamharmonie.

Catch the unveiling of this year’s Top 25 SharePoint Influencers at SPC14 on March 5th: harmon.ie booth #2024 at 4:30pm!

By Scratch Marketing + Media.

Leora Borgenicht
Marketing Programs Manager