Microsoft has made some big investments in Social for SharePoint 2013 and has essentially re-built this capability from the ground up. SharePoint 2010 provided My Sites, some basic following options, personal content and micro-blogging but these capabilities were not typically adopted as an integral part of the day-to-day lives of users. With the high adoption of sites such as Yammer, Linked-In, Facebook and Twitter, users and organisations expect to do a lot more with social networking in the workplace and we strongly believe Microsoft has really delivered in the Social space with SharePoint 2013.
Out of the many goals for SharePoint 2013 that we’ve come across, there are two key ones which stand out for Social:
1. Making it easy for users to stay connected to the people and content they care about
SharePoint will always contain lots of sites, content and people but users need to easily identify and stay connected to the people and information they care about most.
2. Making it easy for users to discover unexpected people and content to gain knowledge
Knowledge is power, and organisations contain a wealth of information that many users aren’t aware of. Making it easy for users to find different content and people through everyday activities can greatly increase knowledge sharing and productivity.
The social capabilities in SharePoint 2013 support these two goals extremely well. Staying connected to information and people in SharePoint is as easy as ‘one click’ and staying in the loop can be achieved from a central Newsfeed location, requiring no effort by the user. Discovering new content and people also comes naturally, as the social connections users make yield updates on new trends and activities which were difficult to find in previous versions of SharePoint.
Let’s start our social tour with the SharePoint 2013 Newsfeed. What will probably be the most popular and productive feature in SharePoint 2013, the Newsfeed will be very familiar to anyone who has used a social networking site before. Accessed from any area in SharePoint 2013 via the new global navigation at the top of the page, it provides a series of status updates on activities from across SharePoint that are relevant to the current user:
SharePoint 2013: Newsfeed
The Newsfeed in SharePoint 2013 displays micro-blogs (content specifically posted by a user) as well as updates that are inferred based on what people are doing or what’s happening to documents. The behaviour is quite similar to what you’d expect on a social networking site: users are able to reply and like posts, place in-line SharePoint or YouTube videos and also link to documents – which show up as previews. Users can also choose to “Follow Up” a post, which adds a task to their Tasks area. The new Tasks area aggregates all tasks a user is assigned to from SharePoint, Exchange and Project Server, and will be covered in more detail in our upcoming Productivity blog post.
A number of site templates in SharePoint 2013 also include a Newsfeed which provides micro-blogging for an individual site. In many cases this will replace the need for a team discussion forum. If a user is following a site, they will see that site’s micro-blogs in their central Newsfeed. When they post in their Newsfeed, they can choose to post to Everyone or back to the specific site they have access to. This powerful capability allows users to interact with discussions occurring on multiple teamsites all from one location – their central Newsfeed.
SharePoint 2013: Micro-blogging
Micro-blogging also supports the @ and # tag. When entering a tag, SharePoint helpfully provides some recommendations for the user to select from. If a user is identified using the @ tag, they will receive a Mention in their Newsfeed, as well as an email.
SharePoint 2013: Micro-blogging with Tags
To help the Newsfeed display relevant updates to the user, it leverages a new concept in SharePoint 2013 called Following. A user can follow People, Documents, Sites and Tags. When you follow something, you get relevant updates in your Newsfeed about that item, as well as having a central “favourites” location for quick access. Out of the box, SharePoint 2013 automatically sets your manager, peers and direct reports as people you follow in order to kick-start the social network.
Following is one of the key features in SharePoint 2013 which supports the goal of allowing users to stay connected to the people and content they care about. It also supports the goal of users discovering unexpected people and content. As users connect to other users, they get exposed to more and more content and people as different activities are presented on their Newsfeed.
Clicking Sites on the global navigation displays the list of sites you are following. Whenever you are on a site, there is a small Follow link at the top right of the page. Clicking this adds the site to your Followed Sites list. To un-follow, you just click on the star next to the site name. By default, any site you create will be in your Followed Sites list. The Sites list provides one-click access to a user’s favourite locations across SharePoint.
SharePoint 2013: Sites you're following
Following documents is a similar process to following sites. Simply find a document anywhere in SharePoint and select the Follow option from the Ribbon. A link to the document will then appear in the Followed Documents area and any updates to the document will appear in the Newsfeed. SharePoint will also recommend documents (and sites) to the user for following.
SharePoint 2013: Documents I'm following
SharePoint 2010 provided the ability for users to keep their own files in their My Site and then sync these down to their desktop using the SharePoint Workspace client. While this worked to a certain degree, we found that it wasn’t highly adopted in organisations as staff struggled to deal with different security settings, sharing content with peers, and working with documents offline and the overall complexity of ‘getting the thing up and running’.
Over the past few years we (and I’m sure many IT departments) have been seeing a whole load of user-driven self-service adoption of Dropbox. Dropbox is a great tool and really shows how to achieve the offline sync story in a seamless and easy to use way. But, Dropbox doesn’t deliver the levels of control needed by most mature businesses.
SharePoint 2013 provides a greatly improved document management capability for users called SkyDrive. This provides the sort of end-user-friendly sync capability found in Dropbox, but without sacrificing the enterprise management and security features that are a hallmark of SharePoint. Managing security and sharing of documents is done simply by clicking the icon in the Sharing column and inviting particular users or granting access to Everyone. In the example below, the Presentation document is shared but the other documents are not:
SharePoint 2013: SkyDrive Pro
Taking documents offline previously required SharePoint Workspace to be installed or the use of Outlook. A new SYNC icon at the top right of the Documents page connects the user’s documents to the local computer. These documents can now be taken offline and edited or documents added directly from the PC into the user’s document library. Users working offline are simply dealing with files in a Windows Explorer folder. Because it’s extremely easy to use, this capability will greatly increase staff adoption in moving away from network drives for document storage. As part of this SharePoint 2013 blog series, we’ll cover the Sync capability in more detail and show why it’s a far better alternative to Dropbox for organisations.
SharePoint 2013: SYNC
Similar to SharePoint 2010, all users have a profile with a picture and information about themselves, including interests and skills. Profile information can be sourced from Active Directory and further enhanced by the user. Profiles also contain a number of privacy settings for the Newsfeed which control the activities shared with other users.
Profiles also act as the basis for People Search, which will be covered in more detail in this blog series.
SharePoint 2013: Profiles
The last Social area we’ll cover in this post is around a new capability in SharePoint 2013 called Community Sites.
Community Sites in SharePoint 2013 greatly improve the Discussion feature of SharePoint 2010 by providing an entire site focused around organising conversations and encouraging users to participate. Discussion topics (or threads) are assigned to a category which can have a description and an image. The category view is a nice way to see the different areas of discussion on the community site:
SharePoint 2013: Community Sites
Users can join or leave a community as they wish. A reputation system has been included and points are gained for activities like posting topics, replying and liking. Reputation points are displayed as a small bar graph next to member names or as text. Badges such as “Expert” and “Professional” can be defined for a community and gifted to members by the moderator. Reputation points and Badges are designed to increase participation but also give confidence on the accuracy of replies.
When a post is made it can also be marked as a Question. The person who created the question can mark a reply as the “Best Reply”. This places the reply at the top of the page for all users to see – a great capability for commonly accessed knowledge bases.
SharePoint 2013: New Starters
Community sites are an excellent addition to the Social capabilities of SharePoint, providing open areas for staff to ask questions and gain knowledge outside of traditional tools such as Email.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our tour of Social features in SharePoint 2013 and agree that the investments Microsoft has made are extremely valuable. Stay tuned for our next post, which covers Document and Records Management and Productivity.