Touching Office 365 with the Surface Hub

Using touch with Office 365 is nothing new – we could do that on our Surface (and other touchscreen) devices for quite some time.

But nothing compares to doing that on a life-size screen like on the Surface Hub. Yesterday I wrote about my first experiences with the Surface Hub now that it had been installed in our office, so it was time to start coming up with practical applications in the Office 365 world.

Microsoft has been working hard over the years to make the entire Office suite touch-enabled to suit all form factors of devices, and all modalities of working. While I’ve enjoyed this on a Surface Pro 1 through to my current Pro 3, as well as Windows 10 Mobile, Android tablet and iPad – I wanted to see what this would be like on the Surface Hub.

The below Sway presentation shows our experiment – starting from a 1:1 session to a group call, and going through a number of different applications.

We chose to focus on the applications that were most visually appealing:

  • Delve & Delve Analytics
  • SharePoint
  • Sway
  • Planner
  • Power BI (not shown)

Is Yammer an extinction-level event?

Much like the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs millions of years ago, Cloud is doing the same to IT pros the world over – either putting them out of a job, or changing their job around them.

Recently I have been embroiled in some bickering brought about by Microsoft MVPs who have been told to move their conversations to Yammer instead of via traditional Exchange-based distribution lists. (When I say embroiled – I was more of an instigator and antagonist.)

I extol the virtues of Yammer to customers, partners and anyone who will listen. Why? Not because I love it, or because I think it is the answer to everything – but because it changes the way we work and collaborate, and I think for the better.

A number of IT professionals (even MVPs) have been quite resistant to Yammer, seeing it is another means of communication when they already have (several) other working forms. They also see it as something else they need to learn, or too noisy, and call out elements where they perceive it to be inferior. Some of the commentary I have heard from those people is that they will absolutely refuse to use Yammer.

Thinking about it in hindsight – such vehement opposition to Microsoft products is not new. It was recently seen when Microsoft killed off the Small Business Server product line, when BPOS (and later Office 365) was introduced, when the Start menu was taken away in Windows 8, the Office Ribbon was introduced, and many others. These people were feeling challenged, their comfort zone (and profession) was changing, and they were being forced to adopt something they didn’t particularly agree with (or know how to use).

Most recently (literally the day before this blog post, which got me so riled up) the Microsoft team that drives the engagement with Office 365 (and related) MVPs decided to kill off our two distribution lists as we were already using Yammer. Most of the Office 365 MVPs had already voted in favour of this. A number of other MVPs (even some with the Office 365 team) objected with a variety of reasons. My beef with this was that some of the MVPs said they would refuse to use Yammer instead of the distribution list. Seriously? You do realise the train is leaving the station? Yelling at the driver won’t make any difference.

The problem with objecting to Yammer, calling it an inferior platform, and anything else – is that unless you have actually adopted and mastered it your opinion isn’t worth the bytes it consumes. It is not fair or balanced. It’s like saying Office 365 is better than Google Apps. Why? Because the marketing material says so. See if you can define “better” from every person’s perspective and see how you go.

Cutting through the crap – will people every switch from Lync, SharePoint or Exchange to Yammer because it replicates some of their functionality? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Will people choose to initiate conversations, share information, and communicate in Yammer instead of the other 3 products? Absolutely! And that is why Microsoft is integrating them with Yammer.

Just because Yammer has messaging functionality does not mean it threatens Exchange or will ever replace it. It simply means that *some* messaging will take place on Yammer instead of via email. Can Yammer do exactly what an Exchange distribution list can do? To be realistic – yes, the functionality is not that complex (send mail to email address, distribute to members of list, repeat). Is Yammer perfect for every person – no, nothing is.

And that’s the point. Yammer (like many solutions) is most things to most people. It is not everything to everyone. And therefore it won’t do everything the way every single person wants it to. Does that mean we should stay where we are and not move forward? No. Let’s lift our knuckles off the ground, stand up a bit straighter, and walk forward.

Yammer is not an asteroid, it is not the ice age, it is not the wheel, and it is not fire. It is more like the invention of sliced bread. It’s still bread – we just consume it differently.


NOTE: This blog post has been revised since it was originally written as several people commented out that some of my called out a certain group and ultimately had originated in a private forum (distribution list actually). Taking this into consideration I have revised those relevant sections as the resistance to change is in fact broader that that specific group.