This is the third article in the series “What is This SharePoint Thing All About Anyway?” and in this article we are going to be looking at the concept of SharePoint Communities and how you could use them to improve your current working environment.

Communities are a concept within SharePoint that provides a way for users to come together based on experience, needs and general working relationships. We will look at several key elements of communities in SharePoint before exploring how to utilize them to your best advantage in your work environment.

What is a Community?

Before we dive into the technical details, let’s take a look at the high level concepts of community. Even if you don’t recognize it, you are probably involved in a countless number of communities. They can be small groups or very large groups. As a member of the community you provide input. This can be small or large and can depend greatly on your level of expertise or interest.

Communities bring people together around common ideas and values. The community grows based on the involvement and commitment to the topic that brought them together.

If you take this idea and apply it to the work environment, we are naturally placed in communities. Some of these communities are very structured, such as departments or project teams, and some communities could be more ad hoc and based on particular interests.

Within my department we are all dedicated to providing services (structured) but there is a small subset of us that has a level of expertise using some specific tools (unstructured). As we are building different solutions as part of our service agreements, it is very common for the smaller unstructured community to work together to design and build the overall solution. We just naturally work together on various items because we have similar interest and skill sets.

This is just one example of communities working together. If you take a few minutes and think through your common daily activities, I imagine you will be able to identify several different communities within your organization.

Understanding the Tools

There are several primary tools that are available within SharePoint that bring communities together. As each of these tools is implemented and used as part of a larger solution, communities are enhanced.