Enterprise 2.0 means different things to different people, and Microsoft has had to play catch up to the smaller and often more nimble vendors that play in the social software space. Nevertheless, MOSS2007 was probably the first foray into 'social' computing for many an enterprise, providing blog and wiki functionality, and RSS feeds. So how does SharePoint 2010 stack up?

For our quick and dirty evaluation of SharePoint 2010 from an Enterprise 2.0 perspective, where better to start than the ‘father’ of the term, Prof. Andrew McAfee, and his SLATES model.

The SLATES model was first put forward by the Professor in his MIT Sloan Management Review article: “Enterprise 2.0: The dawn of emergent collaboration” back in 2006. The model has been extended by others, but for our purposes it remains a simple elegance for attempting to evaluate SharePoint 2010.

So what does SLATES stand for ?

  • Search --- because for information to be useful, you must be able to find it!
  • Links – for forming deep interlinking connections between items of enterprise content
  • Authorship -- easy access to content creation tools with good usability
  • Tags -- organization of content from all perspectives, including the end user
  • Extensions -- mining user activities for useful patterns
  • Signals -- efficient consumption by ‘push’ notification of changes and alerts

As you probably know and understand, SharePoint 2010 is a large platform with a very broad range of capabilities, which are split into six key areas, and are displayed in the Microsoft graphic below:

SP2010.jpg
The six business category areas of SharePoint 2010

So before we can evaluate the whole platform that is SharePoint 2010, let’s briefly describe each of these six capability areas:

  • Sites -- The web publishing functionality enhanced for improved personalized experiences across intranet, extranet and internet sites.
  • Communities -- The collaborative element of SharePoint, think ‘team sites’ in the MOSS 2007 vernacular, plus new features, many of which encompass elements of the SLATES model.
  • Content -- The home of the enhanced Content Management features, including Records Management and some limited Digital Asset Management (audio, video and graphics files).
  • Search -- One element of increased findability via SharePoint is the improvements to search. People search facilities have seen some considerable enhancements in SP2010.
  • Insights -- Collaborative Business Intelligence including features such as Excel Services, Performance Point Services and Business Connectivity Services.
  • Composites -- SharePoint's features for building ‘composite applications’ (aka “mashups”) this includes Visio Services, Access Services and SharePoint Designer.

To set the scene, Search is major area of functionality within SharePoint and it’s an element of SLATES, so the fact that search is well integrated into the other capability areas of SP2010 is pretty much a given for E2.0. Also the Composites area is really all about mashups and making external content available via a SharePoint ‘portal’ where that is portal with a “small p” (i.e. the presentation layer of enterprise architecture).

That said, for both Composites and Insights capability areas, the integration of some features is not total, so for example you can’t do ‘ranking’ on a graph of BI data, but many of the elements such as notifications and alerts, RSS feeds etc are available.

However, to make the evaluation fit into this article, we will concentrate on the overlapping capability areas of Sites, Communities and Content, so let’s examine each of the SLATES model’s elements for these capabilities:

Search

As noted above search is a well integrated part of the overall SharePoint platform and its resulting user experience. However the fact that a search engine is built in, is not the whole story. Simply placing documents in a SharePoint document library, with a minimal amount of metadata -- in the form of SharePoint columns -- will improve the findability of those documents, compared to dropping them into a file share.

The use of new SharePoint 2010 features such as the Managed Metadata Service and the metadata based navigation web parts will improve this further (more on this under the Tags heading).

See the CMSWire articles on Metadata and Taxonomy Management , How SP2010’s Metadata Services increase usability and Using Social features for personal classification & improved findability. So in my opinion SP2010 scores quite well in this respect, lets say 8 out of 10.

Links

As a product with a web based interface, SP2010 does of course provide the ability to link to content at all levels. Links to document libraries, content items, lists, list items, etc are all available for developing context by linking related content items together.

A definite improvement in SP2010 is the new Unique Identifier feature, because this provides each content item not only with its unique ID, but also with a ‘permalink’ -- a distinct URI, which will not change even if the content item is moved, for example, to a different library.

This is a big deal for ‘deep linking’, so again, in my opinion SP2010 scores reasonably well on this front too, so for arguments sake we’ll give it 7 out of 10.

Authorship

Does SharePoint 2010 provide easy access to content creation tools? Absolutely it does, on many levels. On the simplest level the whole interface has been revamped to improve the user experience, including the introduction of a ‘ribbon’ type interface to provide a standard interface paradigm with Office.

The content editor web part has also been improved, and of course there is the integration between SharePoint and the Office tools themselves. Generally from the Community perspective, most users of a ‘workspace’ type site have content creation permissions.

From the Sites perspective simple workflows and the ability to transform Word documents into web content are also elements of providing an environment that does not confuse, perplex or “put off” end users. However I am not sure this element scores quite as well as the proceeding ones, so 6 out of 10.

SP2010_Authorship.jpg

Tags

SharePoint 2010 as noted above, has much improved metadata functionality over its predecessor versions. This includes user tagging for a ‘folksonomy’ approach to building out classification metadata, and metadata based navigation web parts that can be added to the interface.

Users can add also suggest terms to be added to a controlled vocabulary (i.e. the Managed Metadata Service). However not only can you add your own tags to content, but you can add a “I like it” tag which will show up in your activity feed and users can ‘subscribe’ to tags and receive update notifications (this overlaps with the Signals element of SLATES too).

Tag clouds can now be added to the user interface too. Overall things have improved a lot over MOSS2007, so lets’ say 7 out of 10.

Sp2010_Tags.jpg

Extensions

In the SLATES content, Extensions is not about coding add-on’s to the platform, but is more about the Amazon recommendations style :”if you liked that document, then you will like this one”, mining activity data to show trends or relationships.

SP2010 adds the ability for users to rate content items -- by giving them between 1 to 5 stars -- and this rating is taken into account by the search engines relevance ranking algorithms. SP2010 My Sites functionality also provides Facebook style ‘activity streams’ -- which could also be mined and analyzed. Again this is a big improvement over MOSS2007, so 6 out of 10.

SP2010_Extensions.jpg
Rating of content by users in SharePoint 2010

Signals

Finally signals, the ability to push information to make the user's consumption of it easier and more efficient. MOSS2007 was an excellent RSS provider, but stumbled in that it often could not consume its own feeds and display them in a portal site unless certain configuration options were enabled in Active Directory (the Kerberos issue).

I have been unable to find out if this has been solved in SP2010 -- so if you know, please tell us via the comments box !. However SP2010 adds SMS to the existing email alerts and notification as well as the ability to take an RSS feed from every type of list and library, and search results sets. At least 8 out of 10 for this capability.

SP2010_Signals.jpg
Sending an alert to a mobile device via SMS messaging

Final Thoughts

In my completely un-scientific and very quick evaluation, SP2010 gets an average score of 7 out of 10, which I will classify as a “pretty good” E2.0 platform. Before anyone flames me, SP2010 may well be behind best of breed products in any particular area or capability, but platform software is only one element of the Enterprise 2.0 story.

What do you expect E2.0 tools to enhance in your organization? Do you have a strategy to achieve these goals? Do you think your current organizational culture will allow you achieve them ? I will leave you with a link to a recent article: “What Enterprise 2.0 Practitioners should know about KM deployments”.