Product Analysis: Overcoming SharePoint Mobile App Challenges with

Bonnie Surma December 5, 2013 3
Product Analysis: Overcoming SharePoint Mobile App Challenges with

I recently had the opportunity to catch up on the latest release of I think they really nailed it on this one. They have definitely brought together the mobile experience in a way that should really be useful for business folks trying to keep in touch with each other

There were two major updates in this latest release: First, a major update to support Yammer social streams and profiles; and second, support for favorites and offline documents.

Before we dig into the features, I think it’s important to understand why we care about mobile. A recent Citrix Mobility in Business Report released late October 2013 found 63% of large enterprises consider mobility the greatest factor in gaining a business advantage. As well 71% of businesses believe mobility is a top priority for their business. The research is there and mobility is key factor to increase the response and speed of business. It doesn’t take a lot of research to understand how important it is for the mobile workforce.

In addition, Microsoft has recognized the importance of social with a 1.2 billion USD investment in Yammer. Yammer is becoming more and more important to its enterprise collaboration strategy. As Jared Spataro suggested, it’s their big bet, and the emphasis is on helping customers build a responsive organization. As with any acquisition there is a lot of retooling and integration that happens.

In SharePoint natively there is some support for mobile—Office Mobile and SkyDrive Pro. Both of these apps require Office 365 to even install them. The SkyDrive Pro app only works with Office 365, which means that in order to take a file offline with Microsoft’s SkyDrive Pro app you are required to have Office 365.

Challenges with SharePoint Collaboration Mobile Experience

  1. Too many apps – Microsoft has built four apps for the SharePoint 2013 and Yammer collaboration experience. You use SharePoint app for the stream and documents you follow, Office Mobile to edit your documents, and SkyDrive Pro to share and take offline. Across these apps you have different UI and unintuitive experiences. The Yammer app has its own story, based on the acquisition. It requires its own login.
  2. Confusing Licensing – While the SharePoint app is free and install easily and works on both Office 365 and SharePoint 2013 on-premises, both the SkyDrive Pro and Office Mobile apps require an Office 365 subscription. The Office Mobile app can still be used to edit documents in on-prem deployments as well as Office 365, but the SkyDrive Pro app only supports Office 365.
  3. Inconsistent -– The story is different from device to device. Android doesn’t yet have SkyDrive Pro, and Office Mobile which can be compared to the Office Hub for Windows phone is a different experience. Taking documents offline from one device to another is very different and confusing. Microsoft has yet to provide solutions for Blackberry and likely won’t.
  4. Security – The Microsoft apps are still working to provide some kind of encryption story. Today you should be very cautious about telling users to use SkyDrive Pro on their devices due to lack of encryption or even a simple password request to get to documents stored.
  5. Social streams are separate – Since document updates, and other updates are posted to the SharePoint stream and not included in the Yammer stream, there’s confusion as to how to put together a unified stream that provides both what is coming from Yammer conversations and the automated updates from SharePoint activities. Today on a mobile device this requires opening two different apps with different user credentials

Here’s how is addressing these challenges in this latest release:

Too many Apps – Single app brings together the functions most requested by users. One of the biggest features of this release is the unified streams. Being able to see Yammer conversations and activities in the same consolidated view as the SharePoint activity streams takes the guess work out of how to build a single UI, and addresses much of the needed solutions around being able to see profiles for users in SharePoint and in Yammer. Keeping up to date with what’s going on and setting favorites and taking documents offline hasn’t ever been easier.

Confusing Licensing – Whether your environment is on-premise or in the cloud, you can support either or both with the single interface.

Inconsistent – The team has built a consistent experience between the mobile apps for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry 10 as well as with OWA and email. The app keeps the documents and people within reach.

Security – Partnering with the top MDM vendors. Security is top of mind. Supporting enterprise mobility deployment strategies, the app can be managed and secured depending on the requirements of the corporation. I’m sure would enjoy talking with you about your security needs.

Unified Social Streams –Get your Yammer and SharePoint newsfeeds in a single activity stream or filter by activity or source.


Unified Social Streams

Figure 1: Yammer updates

Above: Viewing Yammer right in the UI is as simple as clicking the Yammer all network stream. Yammer profiles and discussions – View real-time Yammer conversations in the ‘Updates’ view. You can also participate in a conversation by either replying to or “like” a post as well as access the Yammer profiles of users.

Figure 2: Favorite and Save Offline

Above: You can now save favorite documents on your device for viewing and reading when your device in offline documents.

Do You Need A Collaboration App?

The main reasons I suggest using third-party collaboration solutions is for security (including enterprise app and device management) and usability. Companies won’t allow solutions that are not secure and users simply won’t use a solution if it isn’t easy and intuitive to access people and documents. Finally, it’s about offline. Ultimately, people want to be able to have their most important documents with them.

Most of the mobile apps I’ve installed initially looked handy and then I ended up not using them. Usually it comes down to usabilitythe apps are either not easy enough to use or they don’t solve enough of the problem to be useful. Often, it’s both. Specifically, I found the Microsoft mobile apps to be good at specific functions, but the execution is a mess and the user experience is inconsistent between apps and between platforms. They are very piecemeal, and I have a hard time convincing any company to use them because they are not easily deployed or managed.

Reality Check has addressed important gaps in Microsoft’s mobility solution; specifically the usability gap – really brings the user experience together. offers a Lite version for those who want to evaluate the offering; the Enterprise version, which starts at $4/user/month for multiple mobile platforms offers synchronization between Email, plus a host of enterprise features. is rich. There are some real fans of this product who advocate its deployment across an enterprise. Those that want to get quick access to people and documents will likely be pleased. What it doesn’t provide is full sync of folders or libraries. This isn’t provided by SkyDrive Pro on mobile either. That feature may come with more headache than it’s worth anyway. Seeing Yammer and SharePoint newsfeeds in a single unified UI is pretty amazing.


The new collaboration features that tie together SharePoint documents with Yammer social will take far. Mobile access to people and documents in SharePoint is key, and is the one of the best ways to get business users to actually engage. Popular alternatives such shadow IT solutions from Dropbox to share files plague the enterprise and put it at great risk. The only way to shut down shadow IT is by offering secure alternatives that make use of the tools in which you have already invested….like SharePoint and Yammer. Besides, it’s time to put your social and mobile strategies together; when you do, is definitely worth checking out.

Here is a slick video that highlights the key capabilities of the new release:

Here are a couple of videos on the new features…

Offline documents:

More details on the latest updates for Android, iOS, and Blackberry 10 at

This product analysis is designed to be an unbiased review by Joel Oleson for vendors and the community. How did I do?



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