According to Forrester Research, social computing is one of the primary reasons why SharePoint 2010 adoption has surpassed all goals and predictions, with over 80% adoption in the enterprise (and making solid inroads into the SMB space), much higher than previous versions of SharePoint at this stage of the lifecycle. However, expectations for social tools have also expanded since SP2010's general availability in the spring of 2010.

Social Unearths Content

Why is social so important to the enterprise? As another layer to the search experience, social tools provide context and relevance to content, extending the life and usefulness of content otherwise hidden in lists and libraries. Social tools help surface buried content and have become central to how information workers collaborate and classify their content.

As with most areas of technology, the social computing needs and sophistication of the information worker is, once again, ahead of the curve of what is available within most enterprise applications (at least the out-of-the-box versions of these applications). SharePoint, while offering broad capabilities, also falls short of many end-user expectations around social. However, Microsoft is able to leverage a broad and deep partner ecosystem that continually identifies platform gaps and provides solutions to extend what SharePoint can do natively. Within the social space, a number of these partners have stepped up to the challenge of providing missing social computing capability. Some of these leaders include:

  • NewsGator -- Microsoft darling and best-known SharePoint social solution provider, NewsGator extends the My Site experience as well as offers up a much richer, robust group collaboration experience, providing powerful templates and close integration with SharePoint.
  • Yammer -- While not a fan favorite in Redmond because its solution resides outside of (and potentially pulls people away from) the SharePoint stack, Yammer provides a cloud-based activity stream and team collaboration solution.
  • Attini -- One of many small startups providing rich social solutions and templates for SharePoint, the Perth, Australia-based company provides sleek user experiences for on-premises environments (not yet in the cloud) and is built entirely on the SharePoint platform.
  • Neudesic -- Neudesic's Pulse is new, and offers a strong alternative to NewsGator and Yammer, providing many of the same features, but with mobility, extranet (partner portal) and task integration features not offered by the more familiar competitors.
  • SnapWorkSocial -- This new startup was also built entirely for the SharePoint platform (Microsoft loves that), and has solutions for on-premises, cloud and Office 365 environments. Their solution seeks to drive productivity through social, providing activity streams and a unique task feature to help teams collaborate.

SharePoint's Social Future

The future of social in SharePoint (which we should hear more about in spring 2012) will see features that are not so much a loose collection of tools you'd find in popular consumer-based solutions, but will likely offer tighter integration of focused, productivity-enhancing solutions. What this means is deeper integrations with My Sites and Team Sites, providing visibility of complex social activities across sites and site collections through automated workflow and business process management features, advanced tagging and search capability, and metrics that can help organizations measure the effectiveness of their social activities.

Social computing is becoming increasingly important to the enterprise. Accordingly, Microsoft is investing in a social future for SharePoint. It will be interesting to see what the company has in store as information starts to escape the Redmond, Washington campus in early 2012.

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