Making people more central to the way things get done in an organization. That’s one of the cornerstones of Microsoft’s vision for a social enterprise, according to Jared Spataro, the company’s director of SharePoint. A connected experience, along with a connected platform, are how Microsoft believes social is done correctly in the enterprise.

Spataro would not specifically discuss features for social interaction in the next version of SharePoint beyond saying that Microsoft is making a major investment in that functionality. He did allow that there is a “center of gravity around the idea of a personal profile and your ability then to project who you are and what you do out into an organization. That to us seems pretty straightforward.” While noting that MySites was introduced with SharePoint 2003, and improved in both subsequent major releases (and by third parties beyond that), he would not discuss whether the experience in the next version of SharePoint would resemble MySites the way users know it now.

“We don’t comment on specific features before we’re ready to actually do the disclosure…but we certainly can say from a conceptual perspective the experience really has an important component that’s anchored in people representing themselves in a social network,” Spataro said. “And then from there we think there are lots of opportunities for people to be more central to the way things get done across all those assets, where it’s Lync or SharePoint or any of them.”

That’s as far as he would go. He kept returning to the company’s strategy for a social enterprise.

“Our vision of social isn’t social for social’s sake, it’s not recreating Facebook for the enterprise, but instead it’s focused on task completion,” Spataro told SPTechReport in an interview last week. “We think that social is an incredible set of innovations, that it’s not at all a fad, but that in order to get value, businesses are going to need to focus it on business outcomes, getting things done, instead of just kind of importing Facebook and Facebook-like features into their businesses.”

Researchers agree that tools that provide social experiences within the enterprise are going to see tremendous growth. Forrester Research predicted that enterprise social will be a US$6.4 billion market by 2016. But at the same time, Gartner projected that in 2012, some 20% of IT-led social initiatives will fail. Social, Spataro said, “is something that takes some doing, and that it’s not necessarily if you just make the investment it’s going to work out.”

Microsoft is releasing results of a survey it commissioned Harris Interactive to complete, in which respondents were asked about their views on social solutions for the enterprise, and what they wanted to see from them. The first data point of note is that 61% of enterprises either already have or are in the process of implementing social solutions.
Spataro broke the data down further. “One of the questions we asked folks was, ‘When you think of your social solution, what are the most important components?’ Of course, we expected to hear people recount some of the features they see in Facebook, things likes follows and…likes and micro-blogging. Those we expected to see. But we were really pleased to also see that even above those social-oriented features, some of the things that people wanted in their social-networking solutions went beyond kind of the typical [social features].

“Sixty-seven percent of people said they expected instant messaging to be a part of their social solution, 64 % said they expected e-mail to be a part of their solution, and 62% said video conferencing. Those were the first three elements cited by people, because again, while they certainly recognize the value of the other social features, they also were pointing to, with this data, the fact that in order to be useful, social needs to not be another standalone thing but instead something that’s very connected to where and how people get their work done today. This is really in line with the way we think about social and the way we think about this idea of a connected experience.”

As for the connected platform, Spataro said, “There’s been a lot of noise around social for the last couple of years. And people have asked, ‘How do you guys think about this, where are you in this discussion?’

“My point of view is, we have this really unique opportunity to take a step back, to not be caught up in the fad but instead try to sift through what’s real and what tends to be more kind of hype. And, as we think about our investments here, we certainly are committed, we don’t think it’s a fad, but we think, going back to the vision, that you don’t want to do social for social’s sake, then you want to be really focused on business outcomes.

“As you look at SharePoint—and even more broadly as you look at Office—we feel like we’ve got a great set of assets across Lync, Outlook, Exchange, the Office clients and SharePoint, to really make social a part of the way people are getting network done… Even when you think about your work within Word or Excel, there are certainly ways to make that work more people-oriented.”

As he did in his keynote in Boston, Spataro spoke about the serendipitous way people can reach each other through social networks. “We believe [social] is bringing something net-new into the way people communicate, and I like to call this serendipity,” he said. “There is this idea that there’s a point-to-point way of communicating with instant messaging or with our Lync product as an example; that e-mail certainly has its use, its place, its role in a communication system, but social is particularly good at serendipity.

“The example that I experienced first-hand this week was when I traveled to Boston, and because I had broadcast the fact that I was going to Boston, people were able to connect the dots and set up a meeting for me and our development team there, and we were able to have a really high-value meeting about some of the things we were working on. That meeting wouldn’t have happened without someone knowing that I was being there, and I wouldn’t have thought to notify all of the different people who ended up finding out through the broadcast that I did. So it’s a great example of someone else being able to connect the dots for business value; it helped me complete specific task items that I’d been working on, but it came about not because I was sending e-mails or instant messages, but because we able to leverage the value of the network.”