What Microsoft doesn’t tell you about cloud collaboration

July 18, 2017

Before committing to buying a product, many potential customers try out a demo to gauge its quality and suitability. Whether it’s for project management, cloud collaboration or business intelligence, online capabilities have made software demos even more common. First experiences of a new application or indeed a whole new platform come from this initial demonstration. But I’m always left thinking: how true-to-life are the product experiences in these demos?


Contoso’s rose-tinted glasses

Consider the way in which Microsoft presents Contoso—their fictitious company that demonstrate Microsoft cloud collaboration technologies like Office 365, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. It makes sense to use in public-facing presentations, avoiding any potential legal issues and giving more weight to presentations. Saying “Ellen Adams just posted in Yammer” rather than “hypothetical employee number one just sent an email” makes it easier to visualise and understand what’s happening. With that being said, I can’t help but feel a kind of façade being put up in these demonstrations—pioneering users posting short notes about Contoso’s business activities with cute and pithy statements, where in the same breath processes are completed, friendships strengthened and everyone has a grand old time.

But the reality, of course, isn’t that simple. Cloud collaboration can still be an ad hoc and haphazard series of documents and processes. The following is my own, more realistic interpretation of the Contoso team taking on cloud collaboration:

“Could anyone tell me which of the following presentations on the Example Team site is the latest version?

“I didn’t realise that the presentation had been updated again since we gave it last week. I get more update notifications than I know what to do with.”

“I don’t know if it’s even been changed. All I know is that there are multiple versions on the site. One’s labelled ‘Pres_Final’, one’s ‘Pres.V2’, and there are a couple other presentations which have been edited by people I didn’t even know were part of the team”

“You must not have gotten the email”

“What email?”

“The one I didn’t get either”

“Forget the email. I just didn’t know the presentation had been updated”

“Here’s the version I last worked on. I’ll email it to you now and label it ‘Final_V3”


Traditionalism in collaboration

cloud collaboration

While Contoso employees are more than eager to jump on every new feature Microsoft introduces, the same can’t be said for your average user. And when it comes to new users—those not yet familiar with cloud collaboration or the nuances tools like SharePoint Online have compared to their on-premises counterparts—the above transcript may be more likely.

Take cloud collaboration inside a SharePoint team site, for example. For a new user, updating a document might entail emailing the latest version around to members for them to download on their own desktops. From there, users would have to either overwrite the old copy or create a new one labelled ‘version 2’ or something to that effect. This is before the new user realises documents can be edited and updated from within the pool of documents a team is working on.

We must not forget that there are now even more methods of cloud collaboration, from Team Sites to Microsoft Teams and the new communications sites. With more cloud collaboration avenues than ever, users that continue to email updated docs to each other are going to sap more and more productivity from their colleagues—it’s not just the sender that is wasting their time, but every recipient who has to download the new file, view and edit it, etc.

And just like that, another version of the original document enters the fray. The above remains the sad reality for too many organisations. But the reality doesn’t have to be so bleak.


Cloud collaboration for the realist

The reality is that by failing to make use of an interface that can identify ‘who did what’, you’ll create exactly the same muddle you used to have using email to send around and collaborate on documents. The only difference is that now the muddle is in the cloud.

That’s not to say Microsoft haven’t tried to fix the problem. When you update a file in OneDrive for Business, Office 365 can tell the team it’s been updated. But receiving a notification of a file update won’t solve the issue. Especially if you’re in a company of hundreds or thousands when those updates are going to be coming through every couple of minutes. Eventually, those updates are going to get ignored.

Easier365 was developed to resolve that. You can simply ask the tool if there has been any movement on a ‘folder of interest’. So rather than a myriad of emails, you get a simple display of what the activity has been on the project you’re concerned with. You can group the notifications by folder, project or team to find what you need without being overwhelmed with document updates. Collaborating on the cloud files you care about, rather than every document in the organisation? That’s true-to-life cloud collaboration.

For more information and a 30-day free trial of Easier365, contact Digilink today.


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