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How to Make SharePoint More Social without Creating a New Silo

While SharePoint 2010 has introduced improved social features such as status updates, tagging, document ratings and document note boards, many IT organizations are looking for ways to expand social delivery beyond SharePoint’s out-the-box offer.

The most common strategies for doing so are to add community management and activity streams to SharePoint using customization services or third-party vendors such as NewsGator. Booz Allen’s Hello and Colliers International’s employee sites are great examples of how far you can take the SharePoint social experience. However, these approaches require careful planning, since customizing SharePoint has proven to be quite expensive. Microsoft itself has stated that for every licensing dollar spent on SharePoint, companies end-up paying another $6-9 dollars for customization and third-party tools.

As the social enterprise is gaining traction, we’re seeing an increasing number of enterprises evaluating an alternative, best-of-breed strategy: using a “true” social platform such as Jive, IBM Connections or Yammer for social computing and SharePoint for document collaboration and Intranet. The benefit of this approach is users continue to share and collaborate on documents using Office and SharePoint, as they are accustomed to, while the social platform delivers interactive micro-blogging, activity streams and communities.

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The Danger of the Enterprise 2.0 Adoption Gap

While this best-of-breed strategy makes perfect sense on paper, it may end-up falling into the Enterprise 2.0 adoption gap. Inevitably, you end up with yet another stand-alone social silo which is disconnected from SharePoint and Office, and therefore separate from mundane document workflows and existing enterprise processes.

This is a large part of the reason why Forrester Research has reported that a stunning 8% of licensed users are actually using their social platform. If the social platform is just one more collaboration tool running in yet another browser tab, requiring one more context switches and one more distraction to access and use, it will remain ignored by mainstream enterprise users, even if cherished by the tech-savvy elite.

5 Integration Points for Deeper Enterprise Adoption

Document collaboration is in fact just one aspect of social computing. The same way that you can’t envision your Facebook stream without pictures, an enterprise activity stream is incomplete without documents activities, and documents are integral to communities and profiles. In order to gain deeper enterprise adoption, a social platform needs to connect people with documents and documents with people. So, for a user-centric social initiative, consider these five integration points:

  1. Are document creation and updates part of your enterprise-activity stream?
  2. Can you access document activities from colleagues’ profiles?
  3. Can you access colleague profiles from the document’s last modifier field?
  4. Can you search across document libraries and activity streams?
  5. Can you do activities 1-4 from smartphones and tablets?

Final Thoughts

Today, you probably need a systems integrator who is knowledgeable with both your selected social platform and with SharePoint to deliver this fully integrated user experience. But as the social enterprise matures, vendors will offer easier ways to compose your social enterprise using building blocks from multiple vendors.

I sure hope it will be in our life time.

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About the Author

Yaacov Cohen is Co-Founder and CEO of harmon.ie. A collaboration visionary, Yaacov believes in keeping it human. Technology needs to enhance our human interactions not consume them. Yaacov and his team have eloquently combined human interaction and technology with harmon.ie social email, which is already used by more than 500,000 users.

 
 
 
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