Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.
Enterprise social with SharePoint has been a constant struggle over the past 5+ years. There were social features added in SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 and technically “My Sites” was the answer for social for SharePoint with little to no adoption.
There were many third party attempts to bridge that gap – like Social Sites from Newsgator (now Sitrion). These attempts were typically described as “lipstick on a pig”. I think that is a bit harsh, but bottom line was that third party social solutions were not compelling enough to be widely adopted. As a result of not having a truly viable third party social add-on for SharePoint, many companies started evaluating integrations with purpose-built social platforms like Jive and Chatter. This again was not the silver bullet. These integrations did add strong social capabilities, but they created complications with the overlap of capabilities between the two platforms which caused confusion of “what goes where” across the two platforms. We know these challenges intimately; we built the first generation commercial integration with Confluence, Jive and Chatter with the promise of making SharePoint social.
We know SharePoint Social
If there is an area of expertise that ThreeWill has the most qualifications, it is in social software integration with SharePoint. We have the built first connectors for 3 significant social platforms and have deep knowledge and assets to integrate SharePoint with Confluence, Jive and Chatter.
Now with the acquisition of Yammer, is the problem solved? I would say not yet. The integration story of Yammer + SharePoint is still a work in progress and has left enterprise customers confused and between a rock and a hard place. Enterprises with SharePoint now do not know if they should use the social features in SharePoint or wait for better integration between Yammer and SharePoint (this integration is quite lightweight at the moment). We are very excited to see what will be shared at the SharePoint Conference in March. We believe that Microsoft should have a clearer picture by then.
So why all the fuss about Social + SharePoint? I believe it is all about awareness, engagement and adoption. I once heard from a very wise person (who will remain anonymous for the purpose of this post) that “Content is not king, awareness is!” I thought this was a great insight. You can have all the content in the world, but if there are no eyeballs on this content, it will have very little value to the organization.
Why have My Sites not been SharePoint’s answer to Social?
What has proven successful in social platforms is the activity stream and how that activity stream can be adjusted to dial in the visibility to the right activity. That is, in a timely manner showing you activity that matters most to you in the role you play and the people you interact with in your job.
My Sites have been an attempt at this, but never made it to the landing/home page for the organization. My Sites are usually just another site and typically just a site the IT folks would use along with a few power users. My Sites were rarely rolled out to the entire organization successfully. Even if it was rolled out, I have never seen it rolled out as the landing page in SharePoint. For the landing page, organizations would typically deploy more of a site map that would have announcements and links controlled by a very few set of administrators or site owners. There was not much you could do as a user to get the attention of others on the landing page of the site.
With social and activity streams, the user with knowledge, insights and ideas can now get the attention from others and have a better chance at making an impact on the organization. My Sites have not delivered an effective activity stream. Even if you would visit your My Site, you rarely would get social interactions and awareness of new things that might interest you or be of value to you.
The biggest shortcomings of My Sites is that they were not “front and center” and did not naturally produce a healthy activity stream that made you aware of the content that mattered most to you.
Social platforms have been the latest answer to driving awareness to content. Social attracts people into a place that can be the “digital” water cooler where organization’s can share the ideas that are locked up in document repositories. Content grows in value as you increase the number of people looking at and contributing to the content. Social features like comments, ratings, likes, shares, etc are the mechanisms that amplify the signal of awareness and drive better adoption of the systems that contain your enterprise content.
So what is the key to Social + SharePoint? We think it is making sure the integrations of social systems are seamless and simple as possible. The more complex the integration is for administration and end users, the higher probability of low adoption or no adoption. Also, the user should not have to be trained on how to use the social integration features, it should be natural. It should use the user interface design patterns that are getting adoption in other systems.
Social with Gamification
While we are on the topic of social, gamification is becoming an exciting aspect of how to keep a company focused around goals and desired behaviors when interacting in enterprise systems. ThreeWill is excited about how gamification can be layered into SharePoint solutions. It is a great way to create formal narratives around the behaviors you want to encourage and reward in your organization. The approach of gamification has been around for a while and used in the consumer space for years with loyalty programs like frequent flyer miles. But in the past three to five years, you are seeing this applied more to the enterprise in systems like SharePoint.
To learn more about gamification at work, see What is Gamification? | TechnologyAdvice.com
Are you wanting to make SharePoint more social? We would love to hear from you. We are interested to see what others think on this topic. Do you think Yammer will be the silver bullet for making SharePoint social? Do you think social is key to SharePoint adoption?