How Facebook Messages Will Influence SharePoint

By Rich Blank posted 11-17-2010 09:02


Earlier this week Facebook announced a new capability called Facebook Messages -- their new email/SMS/chat functionality that doesn't care what technology you use to reach your friends.  Mark Zuckerberg called it "next generation messaging" and described it as seamless, informal, immediate, personal, simple, minimal, and short.   In an interview with Joel Seligstein, the Engineering Manager in charge of Facebook’s new Messages product, he was quoted as saying:

“One main thing that we noticed was that lots of communication was happening both in Facebook and outside Facebook. I’d send emails to people all the time — that means I have to check my email address many times a day. I’d really rather have that personal, people-to-people communication along with my other Facebook messages. Same thing over SMS — as I moved to an iPhone, for example, I was kind of obsessed with how those messages came in through that channel. So really what we’re trying to do is figure how to bring all personal communication together.”

While Facebook focuses on our personal lives, the important take-away from their recent announcement is how Facebook is providing the capability for its 500 million global users to consolidate both synchronous and asynchronous communications into one unified platform and interface.   Similar to how communications are happening outside of Facebook, business conversations mostly occur OUTSIDE of SharePoint.   As knowledge workers, we continue to use email and mobile devices which has made it more and more challenging to track:

  1. what was said and who said what
  2. who is talking to who and who should be talking to who
  3. what decision was made and approvals
  4. what the resolution on a specific issue was
  5. status of projects, issues, ideas, etc…
  6. threaded discussions and responses
  7. what tasks are assigned and when they’re due

Of course it’s not just about digital communications in email.  There’s IMs, voicemails, web conferences, phone conferences, etc…   Enter Microsoft Lync 2010 just announced today which aims at enhancing that unified communication experience.   From what I’ve seen, Lync looks promising.   Perhaps Microsoft is working closely with their Facebook investment behind the scenes as the timing of Facebook’s and Microsoft's announcements seem coordinated.  However, I’m wondering exactly how Lync will actually provide an easier way to capture and manage all of the threads of synchronous messaging information into an organized “context”?   And more importantly what integration will Lync have directly into SharePoint?  

In an ideal world, SharePoint should provide similar capabilities as Facebook --- integrating synchronous messaging more seamlessly into the platform and providing a more organized “context” to manage this information.   For example, the business context might be a project team site -- a concept we all understand.   Ideally, all related project communications and activity streams might be captured inside a team site or perhaps in some organized fashion within my sites.   As a project manager or executive, I might want to view the status of all project issues in a SharePoint list and see the all the related synchronous messages associated with each issue.   Why can’t SharePoint capture or tag all related messaging threads related to a project?   Why is that I can’t see all the activity streams AND emails AND instant messages AND web/conference recordings related to a project all in one place?    Why is that compliance and e-Discovery aren’t easier by consolidating all communication streams within 1 organized business context?  

Just as Facebook has said their new messaging capability is not meant to replace email, I don’t see our corporate mailboxes disappearing anytime soon.  I'm hopeful that Exchange, Lync and SharePoint together will enable us to better manage both asynchronous and synchronous information together in a single unified interface just as Facebook is doing with the release of their next generation messaging.   The capabilities of Microsoft’s platforms all represent a promising eco-system for business communication, collaboration, and information management.  And I’m optimistic that Facebook will influence SharePoint for the better and allow for more effective business communication and collaboration “in context”.  


Interview with Joel Seligstein, the Engineering Manager in charge of Facebook’s new Messages product:

Facebook Messages Walkthrough Pics:

Facebook Messages on Youtube:

4 Reasons Why Microsoft Will Shift the Business Productivity Paradigm

Microsoft Lync Overview:

#lync #ucoms #facebook #SharePoint #ocs #sharepoint