What is tyGraph? A Chat With the Co-Founder

Post Date: 10/07/2022
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tyGraph recently got acquired by AvePoint, so I decided to learn more about what makes the company tick and why their products pair with Microsoft 365 so well.

In this week’s episode of #O365 Hours, I sat down with Data Platform and Microsoft 365 Apps & Services MVP John White and Microsoft 365 Apps and Services MVP Norm Young to discuss the backstory of tyGraph, what the acquisition of tyGraph means for the future, and why the company’s services are so beneficial. Watch our discussion below or read the full transcript at your convenience!

Guests: John White (Co-founder and CTO at tyGraph) and Norm Young (Director of Collaborative Analytics at tyGraph)

Topics Covered:

  • Let’s start with the basics for those unfamiliar with tyGraph. What is tyGraph, and what you can give us a quick history of the company?
  • Why did AvePoint acquire tyGraph, and how does tyGraph fits into AvePoint’s customer story?
  • How does tyGraph fit into Microsoft’s Viva plans and story?
  • How do tyGraph tools fit into a company’s overall digital transformation plans?

What is tyGraph, and what you can give us a quick history of the company? 

John White: Well, in a nutshell, tyGraph is offers reporting and analytics for Microsoft 365. We started out with the product in 2014 as basically offering the same services but for Yammer only. At the time there was a big demand for collaborative analytics around conversations that were happening in Yammer, and let’s just say the box products didn’t quite fit the bill. So we wound up building this in conjunction with Microsoft. It took off in the marketplace and then over the years we’ve expanded out to taking on SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and even Intranet around SharePoint pages as well. So it’s grown into this set of tools that can give you really good visibility into how your organization is collaborating.

Norm Young: John, why don’t you tell them how the name tyGraph came to be?

JW: <Laugh> It’s a secret. No, actually…it’s always been my belief that you shouldn’t use a product name within your company name. And there was a push to have this product we were working on called The Yama Graph be at the forefront. So for the company, we ended up picking “tyGraph,” with the “ty” standing for “The” and “Yama.” That’s something not too many people know.

Christian Buckley: Wow, I didn’t know that and I’ve known you guys for years.

NY: Yeah, it’s true. Though tyGraph has come a long way from its beginnings focusing on Yammer, Yammer continues on, and we find that a lot of organizations who have a large investment in Yammer community management still find use in the product to better understand the tone in a community, what the best threads are, and if the executive messaging is landing.

Now, however, we’ve got products for a variety of different apps. tyGraph has become more than just an analytics tool; it’s becoming a platform for gaining insights into understanding if an investment in a platform is paying off. The out-of-the-box stuff has its place, but it’s always useful to have context with your data and insights that you can take action on. So that’s what we’re aiming to provide with tyGraph.

Why did AvePoint acquire tyGraph, and how does tyGraph fit into the AvePoint customer story?

JW: We actually identified AvePoint as a potential partner years ago. AvePoint has a very strong presence in the governance space, and we’re in the Microsoft 365 arena. While they have some really, really good governance and monitoring tools, we have some very solid reporting and analytics tools. So together, we can really give you a 360-degree view of your organization’s collaboration. In a way, we’re cornering the market on organizational data around collaboration. It’s a very good strategic and tactical fit.

NY: Our product had so much promise that we were probably going to get bought up eventually, but I didn’t necessarily think it’d be by AvePoint. I’ve been connected with AvePoint for a number of years through their Community Champions program and it never occurred to me that this might happen. It was actually one of our mutual customers who presented the idea, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if when I’m in my AvePoint governance product, I could get the context to tell me if people are using this site, how they’re using this site, and who’s using it? That way I could see the trends to really inform my governance decision-making process.” It was at that point that the fit made perfect sense. I think we have a really bright future together.

CB: Yeah. I won’t get into the roadmap or anything, but there’re a lot of great things that we can do for our shared customers. It’s a great chance to co-market these capabilities.

How does tyGraph fit into Microsoft’s Viva plans and story?

NY: People are always talking about Viva like it’s a tool or a platform or an approach. And truthfully, it’s all of those things. Something that all of the current Viva offerings have in common—whether it’s Connections, Insights, Goals, and so on—is that they’re trying to create holistic interconnections between the employees and their organizations.

A lot of it is born out of the pandemic of the past few years, with employees feeling disconnected from the organization, from their peers, and from their work. These solutions are handy for users to start establishing boundaries and start understanding how to work collaboratively without sacrificing personal time.

However, while collaboration might happen in a meeting or via email, collaboration across Microsoft 365 is a different story. tyGraph aims to complement the Viva story by filling in the remaining gaps that exist around organizational data. For instance, knowing if a certain part of the world is feeling engaged with your content, or if Microsoft Teams adoption at an organization simply consists of a chat and a meeting without leveraging the other parts of the platform. There are a lot of different pieces of context you have to be aware of: geography, culture, time zones, how different departments vary, and so on.

JW: As an organization, you want to see when things change, and that’s the sort of thing you have to see over time. It can’t be fully encompassed by a snapshot, but instead by observing how things changed over the past year or over the past couple of years when you can start to see patterns. That change isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it might alert you to certain other factors affecting the organization. That’s what we aim to provide by complementing Microsoft Viva.

CB: Right. People who manage via spreadsheets and stats often make the mistake of making a judgment based on a snapshot in time versus how the data has changed over time. That’s so much of what Viva is about: informing managers of what’s happening with their employees.

How do tyGraph tools fit into a company’s overall digital transformation plans?

JW: I think one of Ed’s favorite things to show within our product is our digital transformation score. We love helping people target their digital transformation around what they want to have adopted and what benefits they want to aim for. We can also help identify the champions in your organization that will do that for you within subgroups like departments who can explain how the addition of certain technologies will benefit them and the organization as a whole.

NY: Yeah. And of course, there’s not a one size fits all solution. Sometimes something looks highly adopted on the surface because a bunch of users used it once, but no one’s come back to it. Confirming the stickiness of an adoption campaign can be difficult, especially with how averse to change users often are.

CB: And there are different adoption levels for different business units within a single organization. There’s a reason why, if you look at the collaboration patterns between the marketing organization and your field engineers and your development organization, they’re going to gravitate towards different technologies and subcultures within your organization. So you can’t just have one way of looking at adoption for each of those workloads across those different teams; you need to be aware of those differences.

NY: That’s right. That’s why tyGraph is so useful; it provides the necessary, granular context so you can make informed decisions when talking about adoption in organizations.

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An Office Apps & Services MVP and Microsoft Regional Director, Christian Buckley is an internationally recognized author and speaker and runs the community-focused CollabTalk blog, podcast, and tweetjam series.

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