SharePoint and Social

The social features of SharePoint aren’t right for every company and every user, but when they are deployed and adopted well, they can be transformative for the organization. Social flattens a company, allowing for organic growth outside of the traditional hierarchy.

Small companies have natural connections between employees regardless of their departments or responsibility levels. In an organization of 10, everyone knows everyone else. Ideas are easily shared up and down the chain. There isn’t a strong need for a medium for passing along these messages.

Small organizations struggle to adopt SharePoint’s social tools because they typically don’t have the types of problems that social addresses. Participation in social may also be scaled down to match the smaller headcount, preventing critical mass from being achieved.

Social depends on a certain type of employee, or at least an employee willing to work in a certain way. Work is thankfully moving away from the factory like structures with tightly confined roles and little autonomy. Now, employees still have distinct responsibilities and roles, but their focus is wider. The chain of command is less relevant.

People who cling to the old structure will struggle to adopt social.

When Social works

In larger organizations or in organizations with remote or dispersed workforces, SharePoint’s social tools can facilitate connections by promoting personal interactions, helping users discover coworkers with relevant project experience, and supporting project collaboration.

Many decision makers are skeptical of the value of social, and think it might waste of time. They suspect employees will use it to talk football, instead of company business.

Personal conversations build relationships and team work. If building comradery were all that were achieved with social, it may be enough. Also consider, however, that when coworkers get lunch together, the conversation typically turns back to work. Some of the best ideas are generated during happy hour. Social media brings that productive, personal conversation back into the office.

Social doesn’t have a clear return on investment. It’s hard to say that revenues grew, costs shrank, or profits improved because a company adopted social. The value is most nebulous and intangible:

  • Improve employee engagement
  • Encourage comradery and team work
  • Leverage internal experience and expertise
  • Create a cohesive organization
  • Clarify corporate vision and culture.

Changes to social

The future of SharePoint’s social tools is unclear. With the upcoming release of SharePoint 2016, everyone is speculating.  To what extent will Yammer and Skype replace the inherent social tools in SharePoint? How will these systems integrate together, and what will the experience be like?

Social has had such a massive impact on our personal lives, that its future effect on our work lives seems obvious. We will see if it actually happens.

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