SPSTC: Jay Leask & David Berry on ‘Stepping into Social Computing with SharePoint’

On Saturday afternoon at SPSTC, Booz Allen Hamilton associates Jay Leask and David Berry presented their session on Stepping into Social Computing with SharePoint.  Discussing Enterprise 2.0, Jay said that, in essence, it represents "the next iteration of email."   Setting aside the presumption that everyone attending SPSTC had already made the decision to adopt SharePoint  or had the decision made for them  Jay said that "technology can't be the first thing you think of" when assessing enterprise social.  Jay recommended looking to your existing business processes, and the people who will be doing the actual work, then proceeding from there with your investigation into which technology would offer the best fit for your organization.

It was said that enterprise social use cases fall under five categories: people (find people/expertise, market yourself); community (connect, learn about interests, share and find info); work (learn about past projects, manage and collaborate); teams (mentoring and teaching, team-building, team policies and procedures); and corporate (disseminate info, firm policies and procedures, locations, resource templates).  With the understanding that the SharePoint decision had already been made by attendees of SPSTC, David listed as being among SharePoint's strengths: app experience, document processing, LOB integration, human workflow, reporting and analysis, and Web sites.

Moving on to demos (all handled by David), Jay made a point of saying that "this [demo] is truly out-of-the-box" on SharePoint 2010.  David then said that "SharePoint is a platform [and] it will get you 80% there in most cases," which is the very reason it offers more overall business value than does a "point" solution.  Using an example of a beer brewer's community, David demonstrated a 2010 team site, a My Site profile, and a marketing site, showing the social usefulness of the Note Board, embedded video (uploaded to Media Library and displayed using the Silverlight Web Part), Tags (to find communities of interest), the Tag Cloud Web Part, a shared events Calendar, and Shared Documents.

David then discussed and demonstrated people search / expertise-finding, and its power in SharePoint, explaining that the feature is tied to SharePoint user profiles in My Sites.  David showed that the information, in most cases, is populated and maintained by the users themselves, such as Ask Me About (to showcase interests / specialties), and Recent Activities, which was positioned as being the SharePoint equivalent of the Facebook "wall."  Jay said of the Activity stream that "The ability to bring employees together to talk [via the 'wall'] is the number one use case for social in your enterprise."  Jay then explained that while "SharePoint's profile can integrate with Active Directory," users "have to be encouraged to update [profile] information" and keep it current.

In a marketing site, David demonstrated ratings, "from one through five [which] can be turned on per library" for social feedback on documents, and that comments on individual documents within a column in a document library can easily be accomplished "in two minutes" by linking the library to a Discussion List, and then connected using the Web Parts Connections capability.  David explained that this can be done in both SharePoint 2007 and 2010, and that it's "something your business users can do … an example of how you can empower the end user."

Beyond SharePoint, for social success in the enterprise, Jay said that "First, you need to define success," and that "your success criteria cannot be vague … they must be quantifiable."  Next, "look at your best practices."  David then added that "the two key ways users find information are [to] browse and search," so take that into account (via your UI, metadata, etc.), and then educate your users with an education/help area.  Jay then emphasized this last point, saying that "training and education are hugely important to long-term success."   It was also advised that "you need a communications plan" around SharePoint regarding upcoming releases, new features, development efforts, etc.  Finally, David that "This stuff can really grow out of control, so you have to find a balance in your governance," taking care to not be so restrictive that users can't find and do what they need.

Read our complete coverage of SharePoint Saturday: The Conference:

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