This week C5 Insight is attending Convergence – Microsoft’s conference dedicated to their business applications such as the Dynamics product line (CRM, AX, NAV, GP), Office365, Yammer, SharePoint and other applications.  Day 2 is about to start, so consider this to be the “Day 1 Report”.

The show started with the usual keynote speakers that generated a lot of excitement and buzz.  And there are, indeed, many exciting new announcements coming out of Microsoft.  I won’t try to cover everything here, but here are a few that are more relevant to the folks who typically follow our blogs:

  • Convergence: This used to be Microsoft’s show exclusively for the Dynamics product line.  This year Microsoft announced that this show will now be expanded to cover all of their business products and technologies (mentioned above).  This is good news because it gives business leaders one Microsoft event where they can focus on the business-side of Microsoft’s offerings.  Microsoft offers many other events, but many of them are more focused on the IT department.  This is also good news because, in my opinion, Microsoft has struggled to find a voice for speaking directly to business groups – their focus has been almost exclusively on IT.

  • Collaboration: There has been a clear focus on collaboration – working together better internally and externally – at this event.  And that has been a welcome addition.  Microsoft’s focus is mostly on the technologies that enable collaboration (Yammer, newly announced Skype for Business, Outlook, SharePoint, CRM, Surface Hub).  More on this topic below.

  • Customer Relationship Management: CRM continues to receive significant focus from Microsoft.  Although Microsoft also supports a number of ERP applications, the keynotes did not place as much emphasis on them (though there were many breakout sessions that did focus on them).  My interpretation of this is that Microsoft views ERP as an area that is not growing, whereas there is still tremendous room to compete for CRM and collaboration market share.  There have also been a lot of exciting announcements about what to expect in upcoming releases of CRM (more on that in another blog).

  • Marketing, Service, Internet of Things (IoT): Microsoft is also spending a lot of time talking about these three subjects.  They offer complementary products to CRM in the first two categories (Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, or MDM for Marketing; Parature for Service).  And they are working hard on delivering the cloud and development platform of choice for the Internet of Things.  This last category is more highly related to the first two that it may at first appear – applications on the IoT are ultimately developed to deliver services to customers and will often generate data about customers that can improve how a company serves them and markets to them.

  • Big Data, BI and Analytics: Microsoft is spending a lot of energy delivering new business intelligence (BI) tools that will help organizations to tackle the big data analysis challenges that are expanding exponentially with the Internet of Things (26 billion devices forecast to be on the IoT by 2019!).

You can live stream and watch recorded Convergence sessions here: http://www.microsoft.com/en/convergence/atlanta15/#fbid=hMEJQ_eOzZf 

The Collaboration Conundrum

It is exciting to see all of the attention that Microsoft is giving to customer and employee engagement.  What is frustrating is that no time has been spent talking about the problems organizations are still having with adopting these technologies.  Failure rates still range from 30% to 80% depending on who you ask and how you measure failure. 

Enter Charlene Li.  Author of The Engaged Leader, Charlene delivered the most impactful session that I sat in on during the first day: The Role of Leadership in Enterprise Social Collaboration.  Some of the points that she made:

  • Most of social leadership requires the same things that leadership has always required: vulnerability (not invincibility) from leaders, authenticity, engagement between leadership and others at all levels on the team.
  • Engagement always starts with listening.  Social platforms give leaders a new way to listen to employees and customers.  That includes listening faster (getting from the customer or the employee directly to the leader faster than ever before), listening more (giving the leader the ability to hear many more voices), and listening analytically (by having more input, they can make better decisions) – because the point of listening is to understand (not to just respond).
  • Leaders who are social take what they listen to and they connect with their team by asking questions, sharing stories, and commenting.
  • Social platforms are for running the business, making decisions, and taking action – not a “water cooler application.”  Ask yourself: have we made any decisions based on what we have learned through social platforms?  If not, you’re not doing it right.
  • Social tools are leadership tools – not just tools that 20 somethings can use.  If your leadership team is not actively using social to get business done and change the way that business gets done, then you’re missing the boat.
  • Most enterprise social projects have an immediate spike to adoption, then sink and never recover - because there is no long-term strategy, no roadmap, and no adoption by the leadership team. 

But I can’t do full service to what Charlene said.  Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of her book (only about $8.00 on Kindle, and a very quick read).  And give a copy to all of the leaders that you want to truly lead your organization to become better through social engagement.

Looking forward to a few more posts from here at Convergence!  If you’d like to keep up you can also follow either me (https://twitter.com/C5geoff) or C5 Insight (https://twitter.com/C5insight) on Twitter.