Under CEO Satya Nadella's leadership, Microsoft continues to focus on the enterprise productivity market with its flagship service, Office 365. By emphasizing the need for a modern workforce to collaborate across geographies, departments, disciplines, and even organizations, Microsoft has given Office 365 users a plethora of tools and applications that enable cooperation and collaboration like never before.
But Microsoft is not done developing its collaboration tools just yet. In April 2017, the company announced it was acquiring Intentional Software for an undisclosed amount. Intentional Software is led by former Microsoft executive and Office product development guru Charles Simonyi, who once led the team that created Microsoft products like Word and Excel.
Intentional Software develops tools that simplify the programming and automation of tasks in a collaborative work environment. In other words, it works on tools that democratize productivity tool development and make it accessible to everyone from the mail clerk to the chief executive. From Microsoft's perspective, it would seem to be a perfect fit.
In the past, I have suggested that Microsoft Office 365's multitude of collaborative tools is quickly approaching unwieldy territory. For many users, there are too many ways to collaborate and too many tools to create content. I worry that so many choices will merely create user confusion and stifle creativity.
But Intentional Software's technological expertise and innovative thinking toward programming, collaboration, and automation may be the answer to the Office 365 feature creep problem. By simplifying programming to a point where everyone can use it to automate collaboration and communication, Intentional Software's approach could allow users to bypass the massive amount of potential choices in favor of a single platform that handles the heavy lifting in the background.
Imagine how much simpler work life would be if a user could tell a single app to communicate with everyone in a group and let the automated programming decide how best to do that—text, email, bot, message board, smoke signal. The system would know the right way to communicate and the user would not have to touch each individual system to make sure everyone "got the memo."
Of course, there are systems in place that do much of this now, but with Office 365's size and numerous individual applications, the more innovative, outside-the-box thinking that can be applied to the problem the better. This is where an experienced creative innovator like Charles Simonyi and his team at Intentional Software can lend a hand. At least, that seems to be Microsoft's plan for this acquisition.
Microsoft Office 365 offers dozens of ways to collaborate with colleagues in an enterprise environment—perhaps too many. Assuming the goal is to make your enterprise employees as productive as possible, you are going to have to simplify their choices without stifling their creativity. One way to do this is by automating some of the processes or at least enabling users to automate processes on their own.
With the acquisition of Intentional Software, Microsoft is searching for ways to bring this ability to program and automate collaborative communication to the user level without adding more complications. It is a delicate balancing act to be sure. But if Microsoft can achieve it, the company will ensure its continued domination of the enterprise productivity software market.
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What collaboration tools do you use most often in your enterprise? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.