Joel Oleson’s ‘Social Intranets: Transforming Traditional Portals’ at STP Buenos Aires

With his stated mission of addressing "how we can make SharePoint more social" in his STP Buenos Aires session, Joel Oleson leveraged his extensive knowledge of both SharePoint and consumer social networking products. As well, Joel brought to the table his recent experience as Solutions Manager at the LDS Church, where he's been transforming the corporate SharePoint 2010 intranet since his arrival in April of last year.

Joel Oleson presenting at STP Buenos AiresJoel asked "Who owns the Intranet?" in a recent poll on his blog, and an overwhelming majority responded that everyone / every department owns it, as opposed, say, IT or HR. Joel explained that SharePoint social has changed because the consumer world has changed with the rising popularity of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Via consumer social networks, we all know where, how, and with whom to to share content, but Joel asked the audience, "Where and how do you share a really good article in the enterprise, and who do you share it with?" Recognizing that "the consumer world has the edge now," Joel said that it affects our expectations at work as a result, and that the enterprise now needs a virtual "water cooler" to match those expectations.

Joel explained that, traditionally, a portal is a very structured, top-down corporate intranet space with links, news, and policies. "A portal is not engaging, it's not a community," he said, whereas collaboration / team sites are very agile, and about sharing and "getting the job done." Social networks, in turn, are about "quickness, community, communication, ideas, thoughts," but the downsides to a social network as an effective portal include that they tend to be extremely unstructured, and that anyone can change anything.

Joel suggested that if you "take ideas of a portal, social network, and a team site [and combine the best features of each] … now we're talking revolutionary." It's in the bringing of these worlds closer together that we can begin to provide authoritative engagement in a social intranet environment.

Recognizing that corporate culture is leery of social networks, Joel, speaking from personal experience, said that an effective message to the business is that "It'll still be a portal, but we want it to be more engaging."

As a newly hired Solutions Manager at the Church, Joel looked at the existing SharePoint 2010 LDS portal, and compared the content to the most searched-on topics by the staff. Elevating the content that the staff was searching on most frequently (i.e., "popular searches") was step one in making the portal more social. Additional tools that would help make a portal more social include: representing people on the portal (as authors, and including location-based relevancy); adding a tag cloud to easily filter content; featuring most commented articles and trending topics; and surfacing articles based on individual users' interests.

Joel then showed a slide of the current LDS portal, which he described as being a work-in-progress. Already much more social, the current portal offers many of the aforementioned engaging experiences, including surfacing information that's relevant to individual users / departments based on their geographical location. Joel stated that "Notifications [including new colleagues, new articles, etc.] are a social experience that we need to bring into the intranet," and said that it's learning from the consumer experiences and adapting those experiences for the enterprise is what it's all about.

Joel then shared a brief demo of his dynamically populated IT Services product catalog, highlighting: the information surfaced based on most requested and highest rated; the jQuery accordion-style menu, the user-first emphasis on UI / ease of use and self-service. Offering "a more engaging, cohesive experience," Joel thinks of the site as being a welcoming "front door" to IT Services.

Prior to a brief Q&A, Joel wrapped up his session by providing a glimpse of a next-gen Team site for the LDS portal, featuring a richer search experience which will allow users to "really drill in on people for the full profile experience." Additional coming-soon features include Outlook integration, personalization options such as the ability to change subscriptions, microblogging support, and more.

Needless to say, the response from LDS staff to their more engaging, social portal experience has been overwhelmingly positive.

View Joel's slide deck on Slideshare.

Sharing the Point South America is made possible through the generous support of Fpweb.net and AvePoint.

Read John Anderson's complete coverage of the Sharing the Point South America events:

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