SPC11: ‘Avanade: Unleashing Competitive Advantage through the use of Social Media and Collective Organizational Intelligence’ in SharePoint

This morning at the SPC, Thomas Krofta of Microsoft partner Avanade presented a session on what can be done within your company to take advantage of the social offerings in SharePoint.  Noting global trends in collaboration (as a service, social media, changes in the need for user experience, more multimedia content being shared, etc.), and  changes in workforce demographic (millenials entering and expecting/wanting to use social tools in the workplace), Thomas wondered aloud what does this mean for knowledge management in companies?

Taking as an example a global banking firm client of Avanade's, the question was posed via a survey, "What do 100,000 employees want from social in their workplace?"   Key goals that surfaced as a result of the survey included: share people's expertise, facilitate bottom-up idea generation, create social communities on specific topics to allow cross-collaboration, and evaluate business model opportunities by leveraging social channels.

Thomas explained that the social computing model blends idea generation, profile sharing, workspaces, and community, noting that all models are strictly connected and all can overlap.  The basic idea of social computing in the enterprise is that the "user is in the middle, and content is all around."  Asking how can you benefit from these models, Thomas said that "Social computing is a key facilitator for collaboration, knowledge management, and learning." 

Addressing the topic of how do organizations apply social, Thomas said that organizationally, leaders need to be identified, and they need to get teams involved.  Culturally, concerns over loss of control, and impact to the business need to be reconciled.  Regarding adoption, it's recommended that you encourage breaking from existing conventions, and define policies.  Finally, from an infrastructure ("The least part") perspective, interconnecting all employees is the goal.

Since employee commitment and adoption is critical, where to start?  Thomas suggested that you first identify a social computing model and design an "identikit" for the new environment, defining a roadmap for social computing.  Next, launch a pilot (recommendation is to do so within one strategic business unit), and "Think about how too iterate."  Finally, roll out to the entire company.

Moving on to his demos, Thomas began in his branded SharePoint 2010 My Site.  Moving on to Colleagues, he showed a feature that included a link next to his colleagues' profiles to "Send a thank you" (a la the internal Microsoft feature that I saw demonstrated yesterday), where the thank you is then surfaced in an Activity Feed.  Thomas then demonstrated adding a post (including a hashtag, as on Twitter) to the Activity Stream, then showed several branded SharePoint community sites developed by Avanade for clients, and including such features as microblogs (branded as such), and direct email integration with communities.

Returning to his banking company example, Thomas shared some results of their rollout.  At almost 50% participation in just eight months, "a great success on engagement" was to be celebrated.  User feedback such as "I've been waiting for something like this to allow me to contribute" was encouraging.  Lessons learned included: a strong commitment from the business is critical, keep it simple, plan gradual enhancements, and social computing can't be a standalone solution, and must be integrated with customer's work environment in order to be successful. 

Thomas stressed that you remember that taking peoples' needs into account with user experience is only half the story, and the other half is governance, in order to manage, monitor, and animate the community.  Finally, Thomas urged that you try to measure what you're doing with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, because you need to be able to prove to the business that what you're doing is successful.

Thomas wrapped up the session by sharing three key elements for the successful implementation of social computing:  "Focus on change management, think about your rollout approach, and get the measurement visualized to your management team."   Thomas went on to say, "In three words, pilot, measure, and market" is what makes social computing rollouts successful.  As a final thought, Thomas suggested that, at this point, "social computing in the Enterprise is the new normal."


Read our complete coverage of Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2011.

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