With New Study And Marketing Campaign, Microsoft Puts Renewed Emphasis On Its Social Tools For The Enterprise

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Microsoft’s SharePoint always featured a core set of social tools, but with the acquisition of Yammer, as well as the ongoing integration of Lync and Skype, the folks over in Redmond are clearly ready to push social as the next major cornerstone of their enterprise offerings. Today, Microsoft is launching a new campaign to help companies understand how social can help them become more productive. In connection to this, the company also commissioned a new study that tried to quantify the state of social in the enterprise.

This study was obviously commissioned by Microsoft, so as our own Anthony Ha rightly noted yesterday, it’s probably no surprise that the result shows that “Microsoft is totally in the right business.” Still, the survey, which was conducted by Ipsos, examined the responses from almost 10,000 knowledge workers in 32 countries, and its results seem pretty straightforward, even if we assume that there is a bit of bias here.

Half of the employees questioned here, for example, said that social tools at work help them to increase their productivity, but there is still a considerable reluctance to adopt these tools in many companies. As Yammer’s director of enterprise strategy Brian Murray told me last week, most of this reluctance stems from IT departments that are worried about productivity loss and aren’t used to implementing technology that isn’t fully under their control.

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Thanks to freemium products, free trials and software that runs in the cloud, however, employees are trying new tools in small groups before the IT department even knows about them. Employees, Murray noted, have high expectations of their social tools at work. They expect the same kind of user interfaces they’ve become accustomed to from their consumer products, and they expect them to be available at their desk and on the go.

Given Microsoft’s investments in this area, it’s no surprise the company believes enterprise social will be a major driver of productivity growth for many companies. “Just as email accelerated the pace of business in the ’90s, enterprise social will be the driver of greater agility and transformation in the 21st century workplace,” said Kurt DelBene, the president of Microsoft’s Office Division in a prepared statement today. “As we look ahead at how collaboration and communications continue to evolve, we believe the tools people use today — email, instant messaging, voice, videoconferencing, social — will come together and be deeply integrated into apps in ways that will speed collaboration and truly transform the way people work.”

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Murray also told me he believes that some of the value of these tools is pretty obvious. Employees, for example, tend to be far more engaged with their work when a company starts using social tools. A 2011 Gallup poll noted that a whopping 71 percent of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, so even a small change here could lead to large productivity gains. Social tools like Yammer, Murray also noted, make it easier to tap into a company’s experts and the expertise that’s available in a large company but often remains untapped.

To emphasize this message, Microsoft is also launching The Worldwide Water Cooler, a “hub for people everywhere to discuss workplace collaboration and social tools via Twitter.”

If you’re interested in the rest of the report and a full set of results from all 30 countries, you can download it here (PDF).

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