Microsoft has done a lot to enhance the enterprise social features in SharePoint 2013, and a lot of these features have been integrated within My Sites. Let’s consider the three most useful upgrades.
About Me contains the user profile information that we have seen in previous iterations of SharePoint. A lot of the typical fields can be found here, including Name, Email, Phone, Location, etc. Many of these fields can be synced from Active Directory using the User Profile Service. New SharePoint 2013 fields available out-of-the-box -- including Ask Me About, Past Projects and Skills – can also be created and synced from fields in Active Directory.
Users can complete these fields and instantly create an efficient subject matter expert search for their organization. Consider how useful it would be if you were assigned to a project and could just go to the search box, type in that project’s name and instantly have access to all of the people who had previously worked on that project. This is 100 percent possible when you combine these profiles fields and search in SharePoint 2013.
Task Aggregation is a My Sites feature that brings every task that has been assigned to you across all SharePoint web applications into one central location. You can get to this location by accessing your My Sites and choosing Tasks from the quick launch.
This task list comes with three different views: Important and Upcoming, Active and Completed. In each view you can see tasks grouped by the site or list they originated from. When you mark an item as Important it will be added to your Important and Upcoming view, and when an item is marked as Complete it will move to your Completed view and will update the task’s status in its existing list. You can use the ellipsis next to each task to edit it, and add or remove it from your timeline. There is also an option of creating personal tasks that can only be viewed by you.
As with other task lists in SharePoint this aggregated task list can also be synced to Outlook.
Following Documents, Sites, People
Finally there is the ability to follow documents, sites and people inside of SharePoint. To follow a site, simply access the site and then choose Follow in the upper right-hand corner. Following a site will allow users to see updates about the site in their Newsfeeds. To follow a document, simply click the ellipsis on any document and then choose Follow from its menu.
From the Newsfeed in your My Site you can see notifications that will tell you when a site or document you are following is updated. You can also see when it has been shared with a co-worker. Conversations that are happening on sites you are following will also appear. As you work on new documents or within new sites, SharePoint will make recommendations of items that are relevant to you and may be worth following.
Following items in this way is a great option for aggregating the information you care about into one central location. Something to note: You can also view and follow trending metadata tags.
The one item you may notice missing in the body of this article is the Newsfeed. The Newsfeed feature is SharePoint’s out-of-the-box social story rollup. Many organizations are exploring the use of Yammer to round out their enterprise social toolsets. Yammer has pretty seamless integration for those using Office 365, and there are some options for integrating it with an on-premises SharePoint 2013 environment.
There are many articles comparing Newsfeed and Yammer, so I would highly recommend doing some research before making a decision. Also keep in mind that SharePoint 2016 is rumored to include much better Yammer integration.
Any company investing in a SharePoint implementation should at least explore the social possibilities of the platform, but I understand that may not always be realistic. However, before anyone starts disabling My Sites, the three features I’ve outlined above can be valuable even for those companies that aren’t quite ready for the full social experience.