Larry Cannell

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Larry Cannell
Research Director
6 years at Gartner
29 years IT industry

Larry Cannell is a Research Director in the Gartner for Technical Professionals Collaboration and Content Strategies service. Mr. Cannell covers enterprise collaboration and social software, search, content management, and open-source collaboration and content solutions. Read Full Bio

Salesforce, Box and Yammer walk into a Gartner conference…See what happens next

by Larry Cannell  |  September 18, 2014  |  Comments Off

Steve Gillmor, Chris Yeh and Adam Pisoni joined me for a lively discussion about mobile-first, interoperability, freemium, the future of the market and the unpredictability of cloud services at this year’s Catalyst Conference.

Catalyst 2014: Social Software Smackdown

A recording of this session is now available FREE at Gartner Events on Demand (with registration or login with a Gartner ID).

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The Video of our “Social Software Smackdown: Yammer Versus Box Versus Salesforce” is Now Available Online

by Larry Cannell  |  August 15, 2014  |  Comments Off

This week at our Catalyst Conference in San Diego, I hosted our first ever “Social Software Smackdown,” a panel discussion among Chris Yeh (Box), Steve Gillmor ( and Adam Pisoni (Yammer).

I am happy to report that the video of this session is now available from Gartner Events on Demand (note: free with registration or login with a Gartner ID).

Below are my notes from this fantastic session. A request to those who comment here: please watch the video before commenting. My notes are definitely not complete.

Issue #1: The future of the social software market

  • The move to the cloud is a bump in the road compared to what is ahead.
  • We are at the early stages of this market with tremendous upside for enterprises and workers.
  • User expectations are pushing us to add features faster and to adapt.
  • Social software needs to be integrated into how we work.
  • The acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft reflects this needed change of focus (to take social software from being a destination unto itself, to becoming integrated with the rest of IT).

Issue #2: Predictability versus moving at “cloud speed”

  • It is difficult to NOT get dragged into a slower “waterfall-like” development model when selling to the enterprise.
  • There is a natural tension between what is moving fast and what should be rolled out slowly.
  • For Box, end-user features are iterated quickly and administrative (or security-related) features are iterated slowly.
  • Browser compatibility is a good illustration. Many companies in the room were still running IE8.
  • There seems to be a real difference with how the vendors approach deprecating features and the need to support older features. Yammer has a “hit list” (and expect this to accelerate in the future).

Issue #3: Interoperability

  • I asked panelists the question Eric DeFerm posted in a comment to a Gartner blog post. Eric is concerned about integration or interoperability between products (Eric’s full question is here). I loved Eric’s suggestion of having a protocol that is the equivalent of SMTP. Perhaps the Simple Collaboration Transport Protocol.
  • Many of the integrations we have today between products are surface-level.
  • SMTP has been tremendously successful and has been around 40 years.
  • However, it also means we cannot change email.
  • Chatter and Yammer (and other ESN products) exist because we could change them.
  • If we were done with enterprise social software, then interoperability would be easy.
  • Even companies in this space are struggling to deal with the multitude of tools they use internally (good example shared by Box).
  • If you have two social software products succeeding, then maybe that is OK for now. Adoption is the most difficult part.

Issue #4: The “freemium” model and the impact it has on their relationship with enterprise IT organizations

  • Freemium forces enterprise vendors to provide software that people love to use.
  • However, for Box, the value of freemium seems to be waning and the sales cycle is starting to look more like those seen by traditional enterprise IT vendors.
  • Yammer was wrong about freemium in one aspect. Viral adoption is not enough. The needed cultural changes require executive support.

Issue #5: Is mobile-first a competitive advantage?

  • (A shout-out to Naomi Moneypenny for tweeting this suggestion)
  • I pointed out to the panel that all of their products were launched before Apple’s App Store. Therefore, perhaps they all now qualify as legacy products. In response, Steve Gillmor said (following my logic) that I would also view cloud as legacy.
  • Is mobile-first just another way of saying that small companies can move faster than large companies?
  • New use cases are emerging, including workers who previously did not have any connectivity to enterprise IT.
  • Having robust APIs enables partners to build out these new use cases and react quicker.


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What should I ask Microsoft, Box and

by Larry Cannell  |  August 4, 2014  |  4 Comments

Next week I am moderating a panel discussion entitled “Social Software Smackdown” at the Gartner Catalyst Conference in San Diego. On the panel, we have:

The theme of the panel is the new enterprise collaboration and social software market, which has been completely transformed by consumerization, mobility and cloud computing.

Catalyst is my favorite conference of the year. It gets the best and brightest IT professionals together in one location for one intense and eventful week. The resulting conversations are fantastic. Catalyst is the signature event for Gartner for Technical Professionals.

However, I need your help.  If you had the opportunity to ask Microsoft, Box or any question, what would you ask? The questions must be related to their enterprise social software products and relevant to the IT professional.

Feel free to post your suggestions in a comment below, mention @lcannell in a tweet or email your suggestions to

Thank you for your help and I hope to see you in San Diego next week!


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Microsoft is Selling Office Productivity in the Cloud, Are You Buying?

by Larry Cannell  |  June 25, 2014  |  Comments Off

Two years ago, when Microsoft launched their beta-preview of Office 2013, Microsoft told us they had developed this wave of Office products “cloud-first.” This meant that Microsoft first developed Office 365 and then refactored their code as installable software for use on a company’s servers running in their own datacenter. Three years earlier, Office 2010 was said to be developed with a “software-first” approach (developed for use on-premises and then scaled to the cloud).

Today, whether Microsoft develops Office as cloud- or software-first no longer matters, at all. Microsoft has made it clear that the future of Office is in the cloud. As evidence of this, all of Microsoft’s significant Office innovations of late have been on Office 365. Few of these will likely be ported for on-premises use.

The nature of Office 365 itself has also changed in a subtle but significant way. Once considered convenient enterprise bundles of SharePoint, Exchange and Lync Online features, Microsoft now markets the Enterprise, Government and Education Office 365 plans (aka E1/3/4, G1/3/4 and A2/3/4) as unique products of their own (which, btw, hardly mention Exchange, SharePoint or Lync in their user interface). Even Microsoft’s retail packaging and promotions of Office are driving people to use cloud subscriptions and storage.

This is one of the topics we will be discussing in our “Maximizing Employee Productivity in a Mobile- and Cloud-Driven World” track at this year’s Catalyst Conference.

What: 2014 Gartner Catalyst Conference

Where: San Diego, CA

When: August 11 – 14, 2014

Key Question: What are the implications and challenges of Microsoft Office transitioning to the cloud?

The Catalyst sessions scheduled to answer this question include:

  • E8. Does Office 365 Meet Production-Grade Enterprise Requirements?
  • E10. Should You Leverage Exchange, Lync, or Both in the Cloud?
  • E15. Office 365 Versus Mobile Productivity: Gaps, Issues and Workarounds
  • C14. How to Plan and Implement a Hybrid Exchange Solution
  • E7. Which is better for our organization: Google Apps or Office 365?

Other questions we will be addressing in this track include:

  • What is the role of intranets and workplace technologies in a world where everyone thinks they are an IT professional?
  • What opportunities are enabled by (and what issues are created from) using mobile collaboration?
  • How does consumerization impact intranet and workplace technologies?
  • How is content management changing?

In addition, we have some incredible case studies from companies who have already been working through these challenges.

I hope to see you there!

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With Intranet and Workplace Products Going Cloud and Mobile, It’s a Consumerization Fait Accompli

by Larry Cannell  |  May 20, 2014  |  1 Comment

We’ve come full circle. Or rather, is IT simply surrounded and has no choice?

Although workplace technologies and intranets have been available for years (with numerous success stories), they have not been the runaway hits that we hoped for. For example, how many of us like our company intranet, are happy with the amount of email we get or enjoy all of the meetings we must attend? These are problems that workplace technologies and intranets were supposed to address by now.

On the other hand, perhaps without notice, our smartphones have become indispensable. They help us coordinate activities with family, keep up with news, catch up with friends on Facebook or follow the latest tweets dropped by Ashton. In contrast, too many of us consider our enterprise intranet and workplace technologies necessary evils. This needs to change.

Our challenge? The goals of workplace technologies are far different from their consumer counterparts, even though it seems they should be similar. One obvious difference is predictability, which is sometimes confused with scalability. “Move fast and break things” (an approach that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg once embraced) isn’t going to fly in the board room or in a network operations center (NOC).

Nevertheless, large IT vendors have embraced consumerization by providing their products via cloud services and supporting their use on mobile devices. For example, about a year ago Adobe discontinued development of the popular software product Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) and now sells a cloud-only subscription offering, called Creative Cloud.  More recently, Microsoft is making a similar transition to the cloud with Office.

However, as experienced IT managers will tell you, these types of changes never succeed without a hitch (or two or…well, many hitches) along the way. Yet, the market forces encouraging Microsoft (and other vendors) to provide a cloud-based and mobile-enabled solution are too compelling to ignore. The problem is that vendor hitches quickly become IT nightmares.

Employees love their smartphones and expect a consumer-like experience at work. With workplace technology vendors now actively moving their products to the cloud, IT consumerization is a force that we can no longer ignore.

We’re surrounded. Employees to the left of us, vendors to the right, here we are IT. So, let’s get to work and figure this out.

This is one of the topics we will be discussing in our “Maximizing Employee Productivity in a Mobile- and Cloud-Driven World” track at this year’s Catalyst Conference.

What: 2014 Gartner Catalyst Conference

Where: San Diego, CA

When: August 11 – 14, 2014

Key Question: How does consumerization impact intranet and workplace technologies?

The Catalyst sessions scheduled to answer this question include:

  • E7. Which is better for our organization: Google Apps or Office 365?
  • E13. Social Software Smackdown: Yammer versus Box versus Salesforce
  • E11. How Hangouts and Skype Influence Enterprise Conferencing Strategies
  • E12. How WhatsApp and Facebook Influence Enterprise Messaging Strategies
  • E17. Which Enterprise File Sync Service Is Right for You?
  • A18/E18. Mobile Search: Getting what you need, when you need it, wherever you are

Other questions we will be addressing in this track include:

  • What are the implications and challenges of Microsoft Office transitioning to the cloud?
  • What is the role of intranets and workplace technologies in a world where everyone thinks they are an IT professional?
  • What opportunities are enabled by (and what issues are created from) using mobile collaboration?
  • How is content management changing?

In addition, we have some incredible case studies from companies that have already been working through these challenges.

I hope to see you there!

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My Top Three Social Software Sessions from SharePoint Conference 2014

by Larry Cannell  |  March 18, 2014  |  1 Comment

Although I did not attend this year’s SharePoint Conference, I spent (far too much) time over the weekend going through many of the slides and videos from the conference, which are now available on Channel9.

Here are my top three social software sessions from the conference. I like these sessions because they either provide great advice around the tactics that were used to deploy social software or do a particularly good job describing the opportunities:

  1. Real-World Challenges and Value in Introducing Enterprise Social  (Melanie Hohertz, Cargill) – I especially liked the tactics shared (starting at slide 16)
  2. Driving Enterprise Social From the Bottom Up  (Virpi Oinonen, – Clear explanations and effective tactics wrapped in engaging drawings (Dilbert 2.0?)
  3. Microsoft: Our Enterprise Social Journey  (Chris Slemp  and Ethan Gur-esh, Microsoft) – Check out the section: “Tales of an early adopter team” (starts at slide 18)

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Five Things We’ve Learned About Office and SharePoint Since Microsoft Acquired Yammer

by Larry Cannell  |  January 28, 2014  |  Comments Off

It’s been 18 months since Microsoft completed its acquisition of Yammer and a little over a year (about 14 months) since the company shared details of their plans at the 2012 SharePoint Conference. Nevertheless, based on the conversations I have with Gartner clients, many people are just now starting to realize how big of a change this acquisition represents. The focus and pace of Microsoft’s efforts to integrate Yammer with Office hint at the extent of changes yet to come.

Here is a list of five things we now know about Yammer, Office and SharePoint based on what we’ve learned over the past year:

  1. Yammer will remain cloud-only: Yes, Microsoft initially stated quite clearly that Yammer would remain cloud-only. However, many people seemingly overlooked this statement (or, maybe, they just didn’t believe it). Nevertheless, this is proving to be the case and, quite frankly, this is a significant departure for Microsoft and the Office product line. That is, to provide an entire cloud-only enterprise solution that has no on-premises equivalent.
  2. Yammer will remain a distinct product: Yes, Microsoft initially stated this as well after the acquisition. However, at the time many people expected Microsoft to scale back Yammer’s capabilities to better fit in and not overlap with other parts of Office. This certainly happened when plans to integrate OneDrum document collaboration technology (acquired by Yammer pre-acquisition) were dropped. Instead, plans were changed to integrate Yammer with documents stored in SharePoint (aka SkyDrive Pro, now OneDrive for Business). However, other overlapping capabilities remain. For example, Yammer’s Online Now (a feature developed shortly before the acquisition) clearly overlaps with Lync’s instant messaging and presence. However, rather than eliminating Online Now, Microsoft recently released a mobile client app (called Yammer Now) dedicated to the feature. Although Microsoft is busy integrating Yammer into Office (particularly Office 365), Yammer will retain its own identity for some time.
  3. The pace of change around Office 365 is markedly different from the 2010 Office wave: At one time, Office 365 was simply considered to be a Microsoft-hosted version of the on-premises Office server software suite. Major changes to Office 365 were tied to the release of on-premises software. Today, unique features are starting to show up in Office 365. The recently added “Post” capability that integrates Yammer with Office 365 is a good example.
  4. A major on-premises Office server software release is coming in the next 2-3 years: In the opening keynote at the 2012 SharePoint Conference Microsoft said they were doing away with their three-year release cycle. However, it appears to be back. In the announcement for Office 2013 Service Pack 1, Microsoft said that changes for on-premises Office server software will continue at the “traditional release cadence of 2-3 years.”
  5. Office 365 and on-premises Office server software are already forking into separate products: A clear gap is starting to form between the two. Over time, features in Office 365 may end up in on-premises Office server software. I expect many people who run Exchange or SharePoint servers are hoping this will be the case. However, it’s hard to see this gap ever completely closing, particularly if the Office 365 team is adopting Yammer’s cloud development approaches. Developing cloud products is vastly different from developing software products intended to be installed on an enterprise’s own servers, meaning it could take significant effort to keep the two products aligned. One has to wonder if feature alignment is even worth the effort. At this time, for example, it’s not clear when or if SharePoint 2013’s follow capability will change to support the use of Yammer (although not identical in function, this would be similar to the Yammer “Post” integration recently added to Office 365) or if Microsoft plans to replicate a Yammer-like experience on SharePoint.

In short, most of the assumptions enterprises have relied on since SharePoint 2007 no longer apply or only apply to part of the suite. Office now spans products delivered for use on-premises and from the cloud. Unfortunately, these distinctions are not widely understood and Microsoft often commingles cloud and software features when describing the suite’s capabilities and future plans.

Therefore, many questions remain. In particular, what do these changes mean for your enterprise’s use of SharePoint, Yammer or Office? How do Microsoft’s actions change the social software and collaboration market, indirectly impacting enterprises using competing products?

Two recently (and substantially) updated Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) reports offer details about these products and practical guidance for enterprises:

  1. Microsoft’s Changing Social Software Strategy: Yammer, SharePoint and the Role of Cloud Services Within Office
  2. What’s New in SharePoint 2013 and Yammer for Social Software, and Should You Move to It?

If your company is a Gartner customer, you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is, ask Gartner .


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Is Google Getting Serious About Enterprise Social Networks?

by Larry Cannell  |  August 21, 2013  |  1 Comment

Over the weekend Google announced that its Google+ Domains API was coming out of beta. The highlights of the changes brought about by this new API are detailed here. A new domain element has been added to messages posted on Google+. This element adds an access control layer that scopes the visibility of a post to within a domain, meaning the message is only available to people within an enterprise. In essence, these API changes enable Google’s social messaging infrastructure to provide the foundation for an enterprise social network (ESN). Practically speaking, however, it is still a stretch to call Google+ a private ESN (what most competitors provide). I would call Google+ a “public ESN.”

The fundamental disagreement I have with Google is their contention that users should be able to completely control the scope of their posted messages. In the Gartner report entitled “Google Apps in the Enterprise, a Status Check” Matt Cain wrote:

“Google acknowledges the need for enterprise controls, but it believes the decision to allow data outside the organization should reside with the user, rather than administrators.”

Although the new domain element makes restricting the scope easier for individuals to manage (before this, people would have to create their own circles or create a Google+ community to limit visibility), it will still be viewed by enterprises as too dangerous. They do not want to rely on training to keep people from inadvertently posting messages on public social networks.

To understand this point, let’s compare Google+ to Microsoft Yammer (a cloud-based, yet private ESN), as an example.

First, both Google+ and Yammer provide a single user profile that enables someone to login once and participate within multiple circles, groups or networks.The most notable difference between the two are how they approach public, inter-enterprise and private social network interactions:

  • The Google+ user starts by participating within the Google+ public social network. The scope of their interaction is narrowed by the visibility defined in their colleagues’ individual posts. This scope is specified by someone when creating a post and is defined in terms of domains and circles. This comes awfully close to being what most people consider an ESN. Thus, Google+ is a public ESN.
  • The Yammer user starts by participating within a private social network. They can interact with others outside of their enterprise within an external network (using their same login), if invited. External networks are inter-enterprise private social networks. However, Yammer has no public social network.

To be fair, the cultural norms around ESNs have not been fully established. Should ESNs be part of a public social network or should they be kept entirely private? Advocates for the public approach (i.e., Google) point to the ease in which people can exchange email today. However, this analogy falls short when you look beyond messaging and the resulting visibility of content. When I search my email messages the results do not show messages from other people’s mailboxes, even those within the same company. The open messaging paradigm presented in ESNs is a big enough cultural shift that fighting to keep networks within a public space is a losing battle (at least, for now).

Nevertheless, Google+ Domains API should concern other enterprise social network vendors. Google now has the infrastructure to support private ESNs (or they are getting really close). Should Google decide to make it appear that their customers’ ESNs are truly private, this could send tremors through the ESN market. Ultimately, this move by Google begs the question: Are these changes to Google+ a deliberate step towards Google becoming more competitive in enterprise software or are they simply interesting additions to an API?

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One Microsoft Memo in a Word Cloud

by Larry Cannell  |  July 12, 2013  |  1 Comment

One Microsoft Memo in a Word Cloud

* Top 50 words mentioned, common English words removed

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Microsoft is Running Two Office Trains

by Larry Cannell  |  April 23, 2013  |  Comments Off

Microsoft is accelerating the development of Office (at least, the development of Office 365). That is the overall tone of a recent article by Mary Jo Foley ("How Microsoft is speeding up the Office trains") that quotes Jeff Teper, corporate Vice President, Office Servers and Services and Adam Pisoni, Co-Founder of Yammer and now a general manager of Engineering in Microsoft. If you’ve followed Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) coverage of SharePoint and Yammer, much of what is discussed in this article will not be a surprise. The most notable points are:

  • The difference between  Office-cloud and Office-software will soon be apparent*
  • How Microsoft views the relationship of SharePoint, Yammer, and Exchange

The Difference Between Office-cloud and Office-software Will Soon Be Apparent

Cloud services (marketed as Office 365) are clearly where Microsoft is focusing its Office server efforts. Foley quotes Teper as saying, "some features may be only available in the service" and "the idea is the cloud is where you get your best experience." Although, Teper’s language is guarded in terms of specific features and the timing for when customers may see them, Microsoft is clearly placing its bets with Office 365 through more frequent updates of the service and hinting that there may be significant features that will only be available there.

Microsoft once touted their Office server products as being developed software-first (create the software first and then use it as the basis of an online service run by Microsoft). Last year, Microsoft said their latest wave of Office servers was developed cloud-first. However, Yammer is ONLY available via the cloud (you cannot buy a software version). Could we see a day when Microsoft removes any doubt and markets these products (Office-cloud and Office-software) separately? That may be a stretch. Nevertheless, Office-cloud is where Microsoft sees the future of their communication and collaboration offerings.

The Relationship of SharePoint, Yammer, and Exchange

Although couched in terms of organizational alignment, Teper’s comments regarding the positioning of SharePoint, Yammer and Exchange should get the attention of many Microsoft customers: "We think of Exchange, SharePoint and Yammer now as one product." Until this time, Microsoft has been saying that SharePoint and Yammer are being developed as a single product. Teper suggested Microsoft was looking at future cross-server experiences during his keynote address at the SharePoint Conference last November. In addition, new features in SharePoint and Exchange 2013 (such as synchronizing tasks and site mailboxes) hint at the aspirations of Microsoft Office product planners to provide a more unified experience. Architecturally, there is still significant work necessary to bring these three products together. For example, the unification of tasks across Exchange and SharePoint 2013 is still done via synchronization rather than using a central location to store tasks.

Given the faster pace in which Office 365 is being developed, a blended experience may become the most notable difference with on-premises software versions of SharePoint and Exchange. We can see small signs of this happening today. Since there is no software version of Yammer, Microsoft can only offer on-premises social networking capabilities through SharePoint 2013. While similar, SharePoint’s and Yammer’s social networking experiences are quite different. In addition, although Microsoft sells cloud versions of Exchange and SharePoint (Exchange Online and SharePoint Online), the two brands are mostly hidden in their general Office 365 offerings (SharePoint and Exchange are still there, but are not visible to the end user).

Nevertheless, we recommend that enterprises continue to view SharePoint and Yammer as separate products that may become more integrated over time. Tighter integration with Exchange is a longer-term aspiration. It could take years for Microsoft to entirely merge the products (if it happens at all), particularly for Office-software.

* By the way (if you haven’t noticed by now) on this blog I refer to the version of Microsoft Office delivered via the cloud as "Office-cloud" and the version of Office provided by software installed on-premises as "Office-software." If I don’t, then I just confuse myself.

Where you can learn more

You can learn more about SharePoint 2013 and Yammer by watching a webinar I recently gave. A free recording of it is here (available until August 2013). There is no charge for the recording, but registration is required.

In addition, here is a list of research covering SharePoint and Office 2013 available to Gartner for Technical (GTP) subscribers:

If your company is a Gartner customer, you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is, ask Gartner

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