[As is the case with our 8 things series, the opinions expressed in the 5 myths guest columns are those of the guest contributor and not necessarily mine or AIIM's. This guest post is by Rich Blank from Newsgator. As usual, contra perspectives welcome.]
When SharePoint 2010 arrived in the marketplace, the platform included new social capabilities to improve productivity and collaboration. However, as the consumer social web exploded, it became clear that the 2010 platform only provided the basic building blocks of social computing. As many organizations are now making social collaboration a priority, it’s important to dispel myths and provide a reality-based understanding of SharePoint 2010 as a social computing platform.
Myth #1: SharePoint 2010 enables you to build communities.
Reality: Community was a new concept in the 2010 pie chart (a.k.a. the SharePoint wheel). Whether or not you believe that SharePoint 2010 enables the formation and cultivation of communities all depends on your definition of the word. SharePoint does allow for user-generated content in the form of blogs or wikis along with social feedback like tags, notes, and ratings. Users can add (i.e., follow) colleagues, update their status, and write on each other’s personal note board. However, community is much more than adding followers and publishing to a team site, blog, or wiki. While you might think you already have community sites on SharePoint, it’s more likely they are team sites open to a larger audience. Community focuses on knowledge and people. Community is more about the ability to engage in conversations, surface relationships, and subscribe to activities that take place within an individual network or shared space. Community aggregates events, showcases expertise, recognizes people for their efforts and engagement, includes rich digital media and the convenience of accessibility from any device.
Myth #2: People Search allows you to find experts.
Reality: The means for finding experts in SharePoint 2010 is to search user profiles. As the name implies, People Search in SharePoint simply enables search across a broad scope of profile attributes just like an organization directory. These attributes come from Active Directory, an HR system, or are self-described by the user. The reality is that unless an organization currently has accurate ways to identify experts (e.g., from an outside application) or users accurately tag themselves in their profiles (and maintain those attributes regularly), it’s unlikely you will be able to discover who the true experts are across your organization. Experts need to be easily identified, recognized, and filtered within a social space. They need to be surfaced based on topics they are associated with and the social activity that happens around those topics. Expertise is an important part of an organization’s social journey especially as the scale of people and information being shared exponentially increases over time and distance.
Myth #3: SharePoint as a social platform is expensive and complex to deploy.
Reality: Competitive niche social application vendors like to claim that SharePoint is expensive and complex to deploy. “Expensive” and “complex” are relative terms and it’s not clear how or what was included in the calculations and claims made by these other vendors. Total cost of ownership includes governance, resources, support, maintenance, solution development, hardware, software, licenses, third-parties, etc. If you already have SharePoint, how does adding another repository of information to integrate, secure, and ensure compliance make your life less complex and more economical? How does yet another object and development model help lower the cost of solution development? The reality is that a technical deployment for SharePoint 2010 can have an expanded scope including intranet, extranet, internet, ECM, team sites, my sites, migration, and social collaboration. Anytime you hear that social on SharePoint is expensive and complex, you should ask “compared to what”? Are you comparing apples to apples? More importantly, you need to understand the broad capabilities that SharePoint enables beyond just “social”. Finally, you need to recognize the incredible overall value of the investment in SharePoint as a platform that address multiple business needs.
Myth #4: Social is a stand-alone project and technology solution.
Reality: If you have invested in SharePoint already and want enhanced social capabilities, it’s natural to look at niche vendors who market themselves as new and different and provide consumer-like social features in a stand-alone application. However, despite SharePoint’s social shortcomings, the building blocks are there and will only get better over time. Do you really want to have another repository to secure and govern? Duplicate user profiles? Duplicate hardware? Disparate UIs? How ready is your organization for “social” change? Simply throwing more technology into the mix is not the answer. The most cost-effective decision today for enabling social in the enterprise is a solution that adds enhanced social capabilities and a robust set of social services and intelligence inside the SharePoint platform itself. Fortunately, there are third-party vendors who allow you to take that economical approach.
Myth #5: Technology will make you social.
Reality: The reality here is that creating a social enterprise requires more than SharePoint or any technology by itself. Before you buy into a social vendor’s marketing pitch welcoming you to the social enterprise or promoting some new way to run your business, you need to determine what your objectives are. You need executive and organizational commitment and sponsorship. And you need to realize that the key to enabling a social enterprise is to focus on change management, total cost of ownership, and employee engagement. It’s imperative to focus on the cultural impacts of social technology as the software is simply an enabler, a tool, a set of capabilities. And that’s exactly what SharePoint provides – a platform with a broad set of capabilities and a vast partner ecosystem that builds solutions. Social cannot be thought of as a stand-alone technology as it needs to be part of your core infrastructure and corporate DNA.
About the Author: Rich Blank is a Solutions Engineer with NewsGator Technologies and focuses on evangelizing social and collaboration software, assisting clients with IT strategy, solutions architecture, project & change management, governance and optimization of applications like Microsoft SharePoint. Connect with Rich on LinkedIn at www.richblank.com, on Twitter @pmpinsights, and on his blog at www.pmpinsights.com.
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