I sat through a partner event in Microsoft's Chicago offices yesterday, listening to two large customers of SharePoint and Yammer (Exelon and Aon) outline the factors for success of their deployments, and the lessons learned. It was a great event by Axceler partners Rightpoint (www.Rightpoint.com) and was hosted by one of the most recognized community leaders in the social and SharePoint combined space, Jeff Willinger (@jwillie), with a roadmap discussion by Microsoft business productivity specialist, Jason Bullock. Overall, a well-organized and compelling story on what it takes to move a company's processes and culture toward a more social model.
But there was an ingredient missing from the presentations (Jeff will be emailing me on this as soon as I post it, I just know it)around how social needs stronger measurement. For social (which equals Yammer in the Microsoft domain) to become effective, it must also become measurable, repeatable, and optimized. In the never-ending search for improving customer adoption and engagement -- which social promises, and I do believe can deliver -- the difficulty for most (if not all) organizations is demonstrating business value amidst all of the marketing and promises of the OEMs and vendors. Simply put, there must be some kind of connection to business process, a direct correlation between collaboration and both qualitative and quantitative data.
Far too many social tools out in the echo chamber tout an impressive resume of features, but cannot seem to demonstrate their ability to drive business action. Defining the return on investment of social is a hot topic. Microsoft worked with author and social collaboration influencer Mark Fidelman (@markfidelman) to create a great whitepaper on the topic which does a great job at defining the qualitative benefits (which I highly recommend that you read here), but lacks guidance on the quantitative benefits. And that lack of guidance was clear in some of the questions being asked at the Rightpoint event this week, where people are looking for practical guidance on building key performance indicators (KPIs) around their social activities, helping them to demonstrate to their management, and their employees, that social will deliver on its promises.
Social has the ability to pull together ideas, discussions, and activities from across internal groups -- which would otherwise sit in data silos, such as email, or even restricted SharePoint groups or sites. The entire culture of the Yammer team is to unlock data silos by including everyone in the dialog, allowing people to join a discussion and share expertise that may or may not be part of their current job descriptions. This kind of unstructured collaboration allows teams to create, and maintain, a threaded conversation synchronously (in real-time) or asynchronously (which is great for working with teams in different time zones or who travel extensively) so that everyone has a chance to participate. I'm seeing inside Axceler conversations that had otherwise ended months prior suddenly re-emerge as someone searches for a topic, finds the threaded discussion, and adds a spark to start it again, leveraging what was old for something new. I love that.
But are we supposed to simply accept this anecdotal evidence for improved collaboration, and go with our gut feel that its good for business, or is enterprise social something that can be measured? The two most common KPIs discussed in this context are Adoption and Engagement, but most approach even these concepts simplistically. Tracking the number of unique visitors only tells you so much. What did they actually do while on the site? Engagement is more than just time spent within the social environment. How many times did they comment, share content, upload content, Like something, rate it or otherwise engagement in social activity? Even if you have robust measurements in place to capture these movements, how well are you able to track this activity over time (to watch trending) -- or correlate this data to changes you've made to the platform, new features you've added, or other steps to encourage stronger collaboration? Very few organizations have even begun to look at social collaboration at this depth, but that is where the industry must go to show the business benefits of social.
Of course, Axceler is working hard to bridge this gap through the release of our ViewPoint Enterprise product. As a leader in collaboration governance, administration and migration, we have been working hard to extend our expertise in the SharePoint and Lotus Notes platforms to the rapidly expanding enterprise social collaboration space. If you would like to know more about the ViewPoint product, you can try it for free at www.Axceler.io. No download required, as it is a pure SaaS offering that is hosted in Windows Azure. Just sign in, connect it to your corporate Yammer account, and start experiencing the future of social governance.
I believe the next step in social productivity should closely match the way we work today -- and its business benefits should be measurable. Social in the enterprise should be more than real-time connectivity, more than an unattached conversation. Social should enable tighter communication across the team, it should have context, and it should be able to demonstrate business value.
As organizations attempt to understand the usage patterns of end users within their enterprise social collaboration platforms, one important data point to pay attention to is the value that social influence plays in driving adoption and engagement. In the SharePoint space, we sometimes refer to these influencers as "Power Users" not just because of their heightened permission levels or more in-depth knowledge and activity on the platform, but because these are the people who help support your platform at the grass roots-level. Influencers explain features to other users, they help trouble shoot problems, they are much more meticulous in helping to define and document new feature requests, and they are instrumental in helping the masses understand the priorities of platform development and expansion. In short, you want to know who your influencers are, as they are key to your social enterprise collaboration success.
In our first official Axceler Tweet Jam on June 11th, we will be tackling the theme of "Tracking and Measuring Enterprise Social Influence" from 8-9am PT / 11am-12pm ET. What is a tweet jam, you ask? A panel of subject matter experts (SMEs) participate in a 1-hour Twitter dialog during which they discuss a series of questions, with all comments tweeted out using the hash tag #CollabTalk so that anyone can easily follow along, and even participate in the conversation. The dialog can move fairly quickly, but no worries: we will capture all of the comments and make them available to you later.
During this event, we'll ask our panelists the following questions:
- What is “social influence”?
- Are you tracking and measuring social influence in your enterprise today? If so, how?
- In what ways are your influencers helping your organization, or affecting your product and market strategies?
- Do you know who is influencing your influencers?
- How can you better support or expand your influencers?
- How are you leveraging best practices used by your influencers?
Joining our panel for this inaugural tweet jam are a variety of experts on enterprise social networking and collaboration:
We will be adding a few more names to the panel in the next week, but if you would like to participate, you can join us at http://twubs.com/CollabTalk or simply by following the hash tag #CollabTalk on Twitter between 8am and 9am Pacific time / 11am and 12pm Eastern time on June 11th. If you would like to add your own comments, just include the hash tag in your tweets.
- Mark Fidelman (@markfidelman), Forbes columnist, author, and ceo of Evolve! Inc.
- Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella), social media scientist at HubSpot
- Donna Shaw (@donnasueshaw), principal product manager at Axceler, formerly part of the SharePoint social experiences product management team at Microsoft
- Joel Oleson (@joeloleson), global traveler, managing director at Salient6, and the world's 1st SharePoint admin
- Noah Sparks (@noahsparks), product manager of collaboration at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- Barry Jinks (@barryjinks), ceo of Colligo
- Jeff Willinger (@jwillie), director of social computing at Rightpoint
- Jeff Shuey (@jshuey), director of alliances at WinShuttle, SMC Seattle board member, esq.
- Dan O'Leary (@danieloleary), solution architect at Box
- Chris Riley (@hoardinginfo), vp of marketing at Pingar
- Christian Buckley (@buckleyplanet), SharePoint mvp and director of product evangelism at Axceler
- Mark Miller (@EUSP), founder of EndUserSharePoint.com, co-founder of NothingButSharePoint.com
- Aaron Dun (@ajdun), vp of marketing and strategy at Percussion Software
- Symon Garfield (@symon_garfield), Sharepoint mvp, head of business consulting for UK consultancy Foundation LP, and doctoral candidate
- Emilie Doolittle (@emijoa), product marketing at Tibbr
- Naomi Moneypenny (@nmoneypenny), cto of ManyWorlds
- Eric Riz (@rizinsights), evp at Concatenate, Inc.
- Evy Wilkins (@mainwilk), vp of marketing at Traackr
Many companies, whether considering further investment in their SharePoint 2010 deployments or planning upgrades to SharePoint 2013 or Office 365, are reviewing their social media strategies. Regardless of version used, SharePoint users are anxious to figure out how Yammer will fit into their organization, how to best take advantage of the natively supported social media features, or how extend all of it with the help of the Microsoft partner ecosystem. But many CIOs are concerned with the impacts these tools will have on security, support and maintenance costs, and end user productivity. These are all valid concerns, but making the connection between social tools and personal productivity might help sell them on the idea.
In a recent survey conducted by Avanade, over 1,000 business and IT leaders and 4,000 end users were asked about the impacts of social technologies on enterprise collaboration. While there was strong usage of enterprise social networking among respondents (77 percent and 68 percent, respectively), the Avanade survey results and analysis present a polarized view on the value that social technologies bring to the table. While SharePoint is not known historically for the strength of its social tools, this story is changing rapidly due to advances in the SP2013 platform, the acquisition of Yammer in 2012, and Microsoft's move to a more agile development model where new features will be released in a rapid cadence, moving the Microsoft release cycle from multiple years to months, or even weeks.
But then again, it can be argued that the most popular consumer-based social tools have very limited business utility. According to the survey, the most popular social networking platforms in the enterprise are Facebook and Twitter. But "most used" does not necessarily equal "best fit."
Don't confuse the business value of these consumer-based social tools with similar capability inside SharePoint, as the same capability applied in a business setting – and as part of your SharePoint strategy – can provide tremendous value.
Enterprises need new ways to:
- generate and take action on innovative ideas;
- connect those ideas across the organization and beyond geographical divides;
- deliver some form of semantic search capability that can understand what the users are looking for, and then to promulgate ideas and artifacts based on context; and to
- collaborate in more powerful and meaningful ways across the enterprise.
At their core, all enterprise collaboration systems, web content management systems, and social networks serve the same fundamental purpose : the sharing of information between teams, and of providing new ways for them to connect. In the evolution of the enterprise application, social computing is quickly becoming the de facto method for search.
I would venture that most administrators do not fully understand the underlying metadata, taxonomy, and data governance issues within SharePoint that are associated with social computing solutions. Managing social computing in SharePoint follows the same rules and best practices of the rest of the platform, requiring governance around permissions, usage and activity, storage, and ongoing auditing. But the most difficult part of building any social computing strategy is translating end user requirements into achievable and measurable actions that help you meet your business objectives.
End users want the technology to fit the way they work (which is why so many gravitate toward the latest consumer-driven social tools), instead of requiring them to work a different way to fit the technology (what many enterprise applications usually require). The trick is to deliver what they want in a way that makes sense to the business, and can be tracked and measured by your key performance indicators. Oh yeah…. and within budget. Many companies are finding that SharePoint 2013 out-of-the-box can provide many of the features their end users are looking for. For those who require custom features for their social computing strategies, remember that SharePoint is a highly flexible and customizable platform, with a healthy ecosystem of partners and solution providers that can provide deep vertical expertise to meet those specific needs.
The key to tying social computing to productivity is to first understand the business gap that they fill, and then to help your end users understand the context (specific use cases, business processes) in which to use them. Provide guidance, best practices, and working examples on how to align these tools with their roles and responsibilities. Develop your plan, train your team, and begin leveraging the many capabilities of SharePoint to meet your future social computing and collaboration needs.
I just returned from three days in NYC at the Enterprise Search Summit (#ESSNY) learning more about SharePoint 2013 search capabilities and other leading solutions, and spent a great deal of time listening to other participants share their stories about what is working with search, and what is not working within their organizations. Several Fortune 100 companies were represented here this week, and their experiences were all too similar: people are generally not happy with search results within their enterprise collaboration platforms, and organizations need to think more about the "findability" aspect of their collaboration platforms. Daniel Tunkelang (@dtunkelang), head of query understanding at LinkedIn, discussed the frustration of end users in his keynote presentation entitled "Enterprise Search: How do We Get There from Here?" and is definitely worth a read as you start to outline your own path forward.
What is Searchability versus Findability? Is it just semantics at play, or is there really a difference between building out a solution focused on finding the right content rather than just searching for content? There was much discussion on this exact point at ESSNY. Is it wordplay? Somewhat, but there is real meaning behind it -- and it is something all organizations serious about improving the search experience for their customers and employees should consider. Most organizations approach the problem by gathering all content into one location and slapping a search tool on top, assuming that this will provide a stellar search experience -- or at least solve the problem quickly so that they can move on to other issues. Unfortunately, this is rarely the right approach.
There are multiple problems with search. It's what my good friend and consultant Paul Culmsee (@PaulCulmsee) calls a "wicked problem" in which there may be many paths forward, but the longer you delay taking action, the more complex and ugly the problem becomes. Rarely does ignoring a problem help solve that problem -- and search problems are quickly compounded by fast-growing content databases and an ever-expanding corporate focus on collaboration. The volume of content in your organization is likely not decreasing, but rapidly growing. Building a search entry point into that content is a company imperative.
On the first day of the conference, I participated in two excellent workshops that provided a solid groundwork from which companies can begin to develop their search strategy. The first workshop run by Martin White (@intranetfocus) and focused on understanding corporate and end user goals and the return on investment (ROI) for search. We broke up into groups at different points in the session to share real-world examples of where our organizations are struggling, the problem of ownership (is it IT or the business who owns search?), and the core issues behind end user satisfaction. In the second workshop, Jeff Fried (@jefffried), CTO of SharePoint search vendor BA Insight and previously a member of the FAST Search team that was acquired by Microsoft, delved into specific strategies that can be employed to optimize the search experience, from result sources and query rules, to search navigation tactics and guidance on how search results are displayed.
Throughout the week, the topic of Searchability versus Findability sprang up again and again. As one speaker described it "If your child is lost, do you want to search for your child, or find your child?" Obviously, the goal of building out your search capability is not about simply having search, but in helping people find the data they need quickly and in a format they can use. The key to developing a strategy focused on Findability is understanding the end user search experience end-to-end:
- How do people search?
- What is the expected result?
- Was the search successful?
- How do you capture feedback?
- What do you expect end users to do to add to the process to help improve future searches? (metadata)
- How much should you automate?
One of the most popular articles on the Axceler blog has been 5 Tips for Turning a SharePoint 2010 Search Center into a Find Center because it outlines some common sense strategies for focusing your strategy on the end user experience. Most of this still applies to building out search in SharePoint 2013, with the addition of key integrations from the FAST Search platform, which now comes out-of-the-box. As you think about your own SharePoint deployment, and talk to your end users about their search expectations, familiarize yourself with the new search features in SharePoint 2013 on TechNet, as well as specific guidance on planning for your search implementation.
The number one complaint about knowledge management platforms from end users is that people are unable to find their content. The most successful SharePoint deployments are the ones where the time was taken to understand end user expectations, and build to meet those expectations. Post-deployment, even your ongoing governance activities should be centered around end user feedback and priorities, because at the end of the day -- if people can't find their content, they'll go elsewhere. Search is a key ingredient to driving value out of your SharePoint deployment.
Some of the more anticipated features in SharePoint 2013 (at least to me), were the upgraded mobile capabilities. In the ever-changing technology world, mobile and BYOD (Bring your Own Device) have become increasingly important for organizations to remain productive. Worldwide, the majority of users who are accessing the internet are doing so via mobile, which means that SharePoint’s mobile story becomes essential to the continued growth of the platform. SharePoint has had mobile support in the past, but until 2013 it was somewhat limited for the plethora of devices out there.
One of the biggest changes in mobile for SharePoint 2013 was the browsing experience. While older versions of SharePoint had a mobile view, 2013 offers a more user-friendly experience with the new contemporary view.
This newer, sleeker contemporary view is available for smartphone browsers and will support Mobile IE 9.0 or higher for Windows Phone 7.5, Safari version 4.0 or higher for iPhoneOS 5.0, and Android browsers for Android 4.0 or higher. The biggest difference with the contemporary view is that it renders in HTML5, as opposed to HTML for the older mobile view.
Another area of improvement is the introduction of device channels. Supported for 2013 publishing sites, device channels allow you to create a publishing site one time and then mapping it to different master pages, layouts, style sheets, etc. for different groups of devices. What this does is it allows you to create a custom SharePoint experience for each of the devices your IT department supports, giving your team flexibility – and your end users the tools they are most comfortable using. Prior mobile views were a bit more clunky, and didn’t offer the flexibility to map to different devices. With all sorts of different devices, phones, and tablets within in an organization, providing consistent views and capability across these devices when using mobile views is just another way to increase efficiency and productivity of your end users.
Office Web Apps are also an increasingly critical component within Microsoft’s collaboration stack. As I discussed in a previous post regarding SharePoint and Yammer, Office Web Apps will enable folks to edit files directly from their Yammer activity stream. With the new stand-alone Office Web Apps Server, mobile views for applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint will be much improved. Let’s say you’re on the road and need to check an RFP for a potential client. Office Web Apps will allow you to seamlessly view that content on your phone with a much friendlier user experience.
There are also improvements around the ability to configure push notifications to mobile devices, geolocation fields and the ability to view certain types of business intelligence content. As the business world continues to progress towards a more mobile workforce, these are all great steps in the right direction, and I look forward to see what’s in store for the future of SharePoint and mobile.
There's an interesting shift happening within the enterprise collaboration space -- which may not be viewed as a positive change by everyone -- but is definitely causing many organizations to become more introspective about their social collaboration strategies. The consumerization of IT and Bring-Your-Own-Device trends are having a dramatic impact on how businesses view their collaboration tools, systems, and vendors, with many organizations abandoning the idea of a single vendor providing for all of their needs. Instead, there is renewed interest in buying best-of-breed solutions, with the assumption that, to some degree, these platforms and tools will work together when needed.
We've all heard the statement "it just works" when applied to a favorite consumer device or application, like a mobile phone or favorite website. Want a perfect example? The FitBit family of products perfectly meshes a consumer device (a health monitor) to a powerful and easy-to-use dashboard via your wi-fi connection. You simply create a profile, link that profile to your device, and it just works. This is the kind innovation and seamless experience that users expect from all of their technology.
I've long been a fan of the science behind social informatics -- it's a blend of technology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and in some cases business, with the goal of understanding how technology is driving human behavior, and how those changes to human behavior, in turn, affect changes to technology. It's a cycle that defends and propels ideas such as Moore's law, which observes that the capacity of transistors doubles every two years. It's a concept that I've often applied to the SharePoint space when talking about end user requirements, and how end users may accept the out-of-the-box, plain vanilla SharePoint experience upon initial exposure to the platform, but as they begin to understand how SharePoint works and what more they can do with it, their requirements become more and more complex, which then requires more time and cost to expand the platform. Studies in social informatics have shown again and again that productivity generates productivity, and innovation drives even more innovation. Think about how many thousands of inventions have come out of the US Space Shuttle program that never would have come about had we not set such lofty goals.
I was reading an article in the March edition of Harvard Business Review about Why It Pays to Be a Category Creator with much fascination. I've been using this phrase of "category creation" to describe the work Axceler has been doing in the area of social collaboration governance. With the pre-release of our ViewPoint Enterprise product, we now offer the only tool in the Microsoft partner ecosystem that gives an organization visibility and control over their enterprise social collaboration platforms, beginning with support for Yammer. More than just another product release -- parallel to our existing offerings -- ViewPoint as a category creator will help us to deliver exponentially better benefits to the rapidly expanding and changing social collaboration landscape.
Think about how rapidly your own collaboration requirements are changing -- and much of that change being driven by your end users. The way we build and support communities, both internal and external, is evolving, and so the measurements and key performance indicators we use to track and quantify the business benefits of these platforms must also evolve. End users want the ability to use whatever tool or platform best meets their requirements and cultural nuances -- and most of those tools and platforms must coexist with, plug into, integrate with your SharePoint platform. That's the future we see here at Axceler, and we're excited to be the first to market with our category-creating social collaboration governance tools.
If you've not yet had a chance to take a look at ViewPoint, you can find more information at https://Axceler.io. The signup process is quick and easy, and you can quickly start tracking adoption and engagement metrics for your organization's Yammer network.
The short answer is, not a lot.
Many people who I have spoken to seem to think the new version of SharePoint will bring a new age of security, a world where permission managements takes but a second and 2013 central admin is as different to 2010 as Windows Vista was to Windows 7.
Permission levels themselves are the same in 2013, there is only one notable difference; Override Check Out is now Override List Behaviours, otherwise it won’t take you long to familiarise yourself with the levels; which are identical.
One of the biggest changes to security in 2013 is the Authentication Model; claims are now the default for SharePoint 2013 web applications. Claims-Based authentication uses ‘tokens’ which identify the user and certain attributes like username, email etc.; these attributes are known as claims. The good thing about claims is that you are able to allow multiple authentication types on a single web application, and you don’t need to extend it (allowing different sets of users to see the same content by using an addition IIS web site to host it). For those of you wanting to use classic authentication I’m afraid that Claims is the default, you will need to use PowerShell if you want to use classic, but I wouldn’t recommend it (and neither would Microsoft)
End users will not see much difference from all of this, one thing new to the 2013 environment though is the use of OAuth. OAuth is used to authenticate and authorize apps and services, without the user having to provide credentials to the app (many social media sites use the same feature, so you have probably used this already yourselves without realising) it does this by establishing a trust between the app server and SharePoint so the app can access its request. So how does this all work then? A user signs in to SharePoint 2013 and is authenticated through Claims. They then use an Office Store or an app catalogue app; the app is granted permission by the user to access SharePoint resources on the user's behalf. When a user launches an app, SharePoint 2013 posts a context token to the app. The app then calls back to SharePoint 2013 to access the SharePoint resources on behalf of the user by using an access token.
If you look at pairing this with Active Directory Federation Services you can set up multiple applications and systems that trust the authentication cookies you enable, so the user just signs into ADFS and has access to all these systems without having to sign in again. This would be my recommendation. It will simplify the permission process and allow a uniform access for users, after all we want to increase adoption on our new SharePoint as much as possible, so let’s make it easy for them, even if it is not much easier than 2010 for you.
To continue our monthly series on major conversations, news and analysis that impacts the enterprise collaboration market, this month we’re addressing how enterprise collaboration impacts a business.
Most CIOs have a hard time measuring the business value of social collaboration tools because they don’t have control or insight into the platforms. This is a hot topic right now as companies are realizing that in order to make collaboration successful, they need a unified plan with visibility into how the tools work together and who is using them. The value of collaboration is seen when the tools employees use empower them to find information they wouldn’t have known existed.
Below are a few articles that highlight the latest conversations around how enterprise collaboration is leading successful business communications:
Report: 6 ways social media can drive business impact
In March, Brian Solis posted an article on VentureBeat around how the disconnect between social media strategies and business value is causing executives to rethink their approach. In his survey of close to 700 executives and social strategists, only 34 percent of businesses felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes and only half of all companies surveyed felt their top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their company’s social strategy.”
Axceler’s take: We couldn’t have said it better. In a recent blog post, our CEO, Mike Alden discusses our company survey data, which also demonstrated a disconnect between understanding the value of social collaboration and governance strategies within organizations. In order to increase employee productivity and gain valuable company insights, businesses need to ensure strong governance strategies are in place when implementing social collaboration tools.
Office 365 and Yammer integration: What's coming
Mary Jo Foley of CNET recently published an article that highlights Microsoft’s news around the Yammer integration roadmap. She also reports that starting in 2014; Microsoft will be updating Office 365 with "new social enhancements" every 90 days, which will include integration between social and collaboration/e-mail/IM/voice/video and line-of-business apps.
Axceler’s take: We applaud Microsoft for recognizing the value of integrated social collaboration and look forward to evolution of the company’s solutions. Regardless of how businesses prefer to communicate, governance is the key to successful company-wide collaboration. The benefit of Yammer integrated into SharePoint is the search experience, yet social is another layer of the search experience and it’s about adding context to content, making documents and information much more easily accessible and findable. Considering these additional layers of integrated tools, unified governance across platforms, even non-Microsoft applications, will be even more crucial as data will be shared in even more places.
Enterprise apps get social
Bob Violino recently covered that while enterprise social software adoption is accelerating, executives are increasingly demanding the data to support why they should be using the software in the first place. Bob outlines the key reasons for using social and also defines where companies are facing collaboration challenges, such as making the decision of whether or not to use multiple social platforms with enterprise applications or to standardize on a single social platform.
Axceler’s take: The data collected in enterprise social tools can enhance business processes, make employees more productive and can also offer an analysis of the company’s efforts for executives. Business can learn a lot about their customers using social tools to communicate with a brand, as well as about their employees communicating internally. With insights into who is collaborating the most often and how, businesses can then make actionable decisions to empower their employees and improve the collaboration environment. With governance policies in place, businesses can also set permissions and have control over the collaboration platform to ensure data is secure and accessed by the appropriate user groups.
Is your business getting more comfortable with social collaboration tools? If not, what should be done differently?
Just like all global companies, Axceler uses many pieces of software to communicate and collaborate. SharePoint, SkyDrive, Twitter, Yammer, Jira, Zendesk, Chatter, etc. are used daily. With so many choices, it’s easy to decide on the wrong platform for a project. Last week, a client asked me how Axceler submits new feature ideas to the product team. The client is also a product company and wasn’t sure which platform would be best. Spoiler alert: we chose SharePoint because of the new community site template in 2013.
Our client wanted to encourage all departments to submit ideas to make their products better. But there was never any incentive to submit new feature ideas, nor was there an easy and clean way for the entire company to view and respond to them. Making the feature requests visible to the entire company was a key requirement. SharePoint’s discussion boards, blog, and wiki capability were just not able to centralize all of the conversations the way our client wanted, and did not support their recently articulated gamification strategies with which they hoped to improve employee engagement on their portal. There were no built in ways to track who submitted the most ideas, which ones were useful, and what were the most popular. They really wanted something similar to stackoverflow.com so that that the best comments would automatically move to the top. No platform they owned provided an easy way to build this type of forum -- until they looked at SharePoint 2013 community sites.
A community site is a new site template, which opens up some really cool new features. The business reason for choosing community sites was simply for its basic community forum format: the ability to categorize posts, organize all questions for more targeted viewing, and flag the best answers to push them straight to the top of all answers.
One of the reasons our client has grown so quickly is because all departments participate in decision making on their product. The community site encourages even more participation. Users can build up their reputation by creating and replying to posts, as well as their posts getting liked, being rated a 4 or 5, and being marked as the ‘Best Reply.’ As part of their gamification strategy, the company has begun creating badges to reward employees for different reasons, such as answering a tough question, answering the most questions, or having the highest rating for the month – all of which encourages people to participate even more. The client expects to actually give out real awards to users with the highest reputation, as well.
Their collaboration strategy is set up a top-level community portal so that users can search across communities easily. They want to expand the use of community sites to ask questions to other employees and drive further engagement between teams and across the company. Questions they ask might include: Who is a SQL master? Who has deployed an app in 2013? Has anyone tested any 3rd party governance products? The features of the template provide an easy way to increase the flow of communication across an organization and easily view the best answers to questions like these.
Beyond just internal use, community sites can be exposed to the outside world. The site can exists as private (invite only), closed (everyone has read rights but approved members can contribute), or open (can either be open to anyone or you can require an action to join).
It’s obvious that community sites are a great way to increase adoption. As more of our clients are migrating to SharePoint 2013, I will blog about their business cases and how new features have positively or negatively affected their projects.
Knowledge Management (KM) platforms have existed for a couple decades, but these platforms tend to be inflexible, silo-based collections of corporate data that are often tied to specific business processes. Within the past decade, many different collaboration platforms have sought to unlock these data silos, resulting in a vast array of options for structured and unstructured collaboration: the structured collaboration tools providing tighter control over and management of a company's intellectual property, and unstructured tools providing more of the team-based communication and sharing features organizations need to get their work accomplished. At the forefront of this collaboration movement has been SharePoint, offering mostly structured collaboration, but also providing some unstructured and social capabilities as it has matured.
With the slow shift toward cloud-based platforms, we have seen the rise of the Enterprise Social Network (ESN), and with this rise, a push by many organizations toward the unstructured collaboration model as a way to improve the quantity and quality of employee collaboration. Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer last year for $1.2B was a testament to the rising influence of social within the enterprise, with more than 75% of businesses expected to adopt an ESN in 2013 (McKinsey). As a leader in unstructured collaboration, Yammer is helping Microsoft expand their leadership position within the social collaboration space not only through integrations with their SharePoint and Office365 platforms, but by helping Microsoft transition into a cloud-delivery model for many of the company's most well-known products. Microsoft is betting on a future where all of us will lease, rather than buy our software, ensuring that we always have the latest, greatest version of their leading business and productivity solutions. But don't think that it's just Microsoft's world-view at play -- every major software maker is moving toward this model. But they also envision a world where social acts as a layer across all of our core applications, allowing individuals and teams to easily communicate and correlate activities across these systems.
It is a fact that the more controls you place on a system, the less likely people are to use that system. Information workers want to move quickly, consume data or share an idea on the fly. Some experts and pundits claim that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is dead -- that this vision of structured collaboration has failed because of its inability to win over these information workers. Of course, as you investigate the successful implementations of SharePoint and other platforms, it becomes readily apparent that the drivers of success have more to do with up-front planning and proactive governance than whether or not technical needs are being met. If you design your platform to align with defined business goals, and ensure the voice of the customer (or the end user) is part of that design and build process, your chances of delivering a successful platform -- embraced by your users -- increases dramatically.
The need for structured collaboration is not dead -- far from it. Enterprises still need a way to safely manage their content and intellectual property, and SharePoint continues to have a strong future. But the reality is that ECM does not deliver the unstructured collaboration requirements of the end users. The release of SharePoint 2013 made huge strides to deliver an enterprise social experience, and the acquisition of Yammer has markedly accelerated delivery of that social collaboration vision.
However, the danger for the enterprise is complacency around metrics (visibility) and governance (control) -- the idea that a new tool or platform will automatically solve end user adoption and engagement issues, and, more importantly, result in both improved productivity and business value. Nothing is automatic. Unstructured collaboration, like structured collaboration, needs to be aligned with business goals to be effective. What is needed is a way to measure the effectiveness of your new social collaboration platform.
With this morning's announcement of the availability of a pre-release version of ViewPointEnterprise (press release), Axceler becomes the only Microsoft partner to show "a unified view of an entire organization’s collaboration platform adoption and engagement rates in one view, empowering them to quickly understand the condition of employee collaboration and make changes to increase ROI and minimize risk." ViewPoint provides an interactive dashboard (as shown here) that gives visibility into enterprise social networks, such as Yammer, SharePoint, Box, Jive, and Chatter. This initial release of ViewPoint focuses specifically on Yammer, helping organizations to identify employee adoption by tracking participation over time, and provides visibility into the most and least active groups, including volume of posts, how many files were shared, and number of likes and shares within a group to help measure employee engagement.
“Many businesses are still figuring out not only how to efficiently work on social collaboration platforms, but also the platforms that are helping the business achieve its goals,” said Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of Aragon Research. “As enterprises identify their collaboration platform mix, ViewPoint Enterprise simplifies how businesses track the success of each platform and identify what’s working or not working in order to understand the trends, users and topics that are driving valuable engagement and collaboration within and across the enterprise.”
End users are demanding enterprise social collaboration, but organizations need visibility into how these platforms are being used so that they can validate their effectiveness and determine a return on investment. As an expert in governance for collaboration in the social enterprise, Axceler is already known for our award-winning SharePoint governance platform, ControlPoint. Now with the availability of ViewPoint Enterprise, Axceler is bringing governance to the Yammer platform with other social collaboration platforms to follow.
You can try out the ViewPoint Enterprise tool -- and enjoy some videos from our new "Practice Safe Collaboration" campaign -- by going to www.practicesafecollaboration.com