Exit Interview: Nitin Bhatia On Sharepoint, Yammer, Leaving Microsoft And Joining NextDocs

Nitin Bhatia is an ex-Microsoft executive who just announced he’ll be working at NextDocs, a Sharepoint-based compliance software company. Bhatia, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology at Delhi, spent 19 years at Microsoft, five of which were dedicated to managing Office 365, Microsoft’s online office suite.

We sat down with Nitin today to talk about his years at Microsoft, his thoughts on the Yammer acquisition, and his new position at NextDocs where he is the Vice President of Global Products.

Bhatia expects that Yammer will stand alone within Microsoft for a while before being rolled into Sharepoint, Microsoft’s enterprise collaboration product. He also believes that Microsoft will leverage its relationship with Facebook to integrate Yammer deeply and seamlessly into the Sharepoint product.

TC: Tell us about your new job.

Nitin: I’ll be taking over as Vice President of Global Products at NextDoc.

When I joined the online team at MSFT, Sharepoint was one of the services that Microsoft was using online too. I’m very familiar with Sharepoint and how Sharepoint can be leveraged as a platform for development. I wanted to make sure I leveraged my experience into the new job, and Sharepoint aligns well with the NextDocs business, as its products are based on Sharepoint.

TC: How long were you at Microsoft, and what did you do there?

Nitin: I joined in 1993, so it’s been 19 years. The first 14 years were in Services. I was one of the lead architects initially for the East region of MSFT services in the New York and New Jersey districts. Then, for the last five years, I was with Microsoft’s online team, the Office 365 business.

TC: You already know about the Microsoft/Yammer deal that’s reportedly underway, I’m sure. There’s been a lot of talk about Sharepoint, so far, and I know how familiar you are with the software. How do you expect Yammer to fit into the Microsoft portfolio?

Nitin: I’m very familiar with Yammer. Microsoft didn’t do a very good job of building enterprise social networking. Sharepoint has built-in capabilities no where near Facebook quality. Yammer was one of these types of business social companies that took the Microsoft platform and used it.

I used Yammer for a while to test it out and I thought it was fairly good but not quite where it needs to be.

Microsoft had their eye on Yammer for a while. My gut instinct is that Yammer will be left alone as a stand-alone product like Skype business. Then they will integrate Yammer with Sharepoint as part of the collaboration suite, and over time, it will become a big part of Sharepoint.

TC: It’s no secret that TechCrunch uses Yammer, a TC50 company, as our own business social network and that we’ve had some trouble with it. What do you think about the fact that Microsoft is buying somewhat shoddy software to fix one of their greatest weak spots in enterprise collaboration software?

Nitin: [Yammer] certainly does break periodically. We weren’t really aligned on Yammer when we were using it. There’s no doubt that scalability is still a concern.

I think what Microsoft is going to do is leverage its Facebook relationship to really develop and grow this product into a more scalable enterprise-ready software that they can build out. Microsoft will take the core of the product and start from there. They’ll have to make some sizable changes to it, but I think the Sharepoint engineering team can pull it off with the relationship Microsoft has with Facebook.

I think the best-run unit within Microsoft is the Office unit. These guys know how to install quality into any product. They’ll review it and get it to the point where it is suitable for large companies. Sharepoint is used in projects that have over 300,000 people. Scalability is a big thing for Microsoft and it clearly has to be reviewed as the product evolves.

TC: How do you see the Yammer team fitting in with Microsoft?

Nitin: Initially they’ll want to bring the engineering team on from Yammer and add them to the Microsoft team. I think it’s questionable how long key people like the founders and CTO-level people will stay.

A lot depends on how stock options are vested. It’s got to be a stock deal. Microsoft is exchanging MSFT stock with Yammer stock options. Where these options will vest will determine how long the team of engineers and founders stay on board.