Collaboration. In SharePoint circles this is known as the un-word. The ultimate platitude. The one word that promises the world and delivers none of it. Today I want to not only challenge that platitude but paint a picture of a future which is not so far away. A future which is today.
For years now I’ve been designing intranets for businesses small and large. Although most of you can easily guess what tools I tend to use, the tool itself has never been the most important aspect of my intranet journeys. But rather the ultimate question raised in every project over and over again: Why?
Why do you want this, Why do you need that? Why are you doing things a certain way? Why do you think that is more important than the other? Why, Why, Why. Often this line of questioning causes frustration and bewilderment at first, as it seems glaringly obvious to the participants. But once you have drilled down a perceived need four or five times you often hit rock bottom. That’s when I’m having most fun. Because then we start digging ourselves out of the hole we created and find the gold nuggets along the way. The real reasons why an organisation needs to improve. The real functionality required to create progress, streamline processes, save time, increase profits, increase competitive advantage, etc.
One of the most common perceived needs I have encountered in organisations (ab)uses this infamous platitude: increase collaboration. But after a few iterations of my ‘Why’ game, it easily breaks down to more tangible needs. Such as:
- reduce the amount of email clutter by sending around less instances of a document
- speed up the creation of tenders by allowing users to work simultaneously on a document
- spend less time searching for client-related documentation
- increase customer relationship management by having all information on a client in one place, easily accessible, easily tracked and updated, easily shared.
- increase sales though having case studies readily available in one place
- decrease ‘time on call’ of the help desk when dealing with customer support calls
Now we have broken down our need for increased collaboration into more tangible goals, goals which can be measured and implemented. Now we can start building an intranet which will not only make people’s lives easier but more importantly provide tangible benefits to the organisation.
So what does the future of collaboration look like? The easiest way to make that prediction is to look at the way we do things outside of work. Any organisation that thinks life outside of work does not shape behavioural patterns of its employees needs to think again. I’ve seen organisations taking the Kim Jong-Un approach to life outside of work. Blocking Facebook, blocking Twitter, blocking Blogger.com. Blocking pretty much any social interaction tool on the internet. The result? People find other ways of satisfying their need for social interaction. To appropriate a favourite quote of mine: “Facebook is the opiate of the masses”. It has become the new world religion. Why? Because it allows social collaboration. People getting together in the digital world to share photos/slides/news. Acquaintances alerting each other of important events. Bands releasing the latest sought after gossip to their fans. People don’t have little black books for phone numbers any more. They were replaced with built in address books on phones. Those were replaced with address books in your favourite email application. Those are now being replaced with your Facebook/Twitter/Yammer friend feed. Instead of doing a spring clean at home people spring clean their Facebook friend list!
All of this leads to one inevitable future for intranets. Social is here to stay, and social collaboration is the future we are heading to. That’s why I love SharePoint!
SharePoint 2013 addresses this need for social collaboration in a very direct manner:
- News feeds strewn around the intranet keeps people talking and up to date on what’s happening in their organisation. They can subscribe to tags, topics, follow people and even follow documents. Gone are the days of alerts cluttering your vision.
- Community sites reward employees for sharing their knowledge. Gamification is the key driver here making it fun and rewarding to become active in your corporate community.
- My Sites have been reduced to focus on the core elements of collaboration:
- SkyDrive Pro now lets you easily store and share documents in SharePoint, similar to your Windows Live SkyDrive
- My Tasks allows you to keep track of all tasks in all kinds of systems, effectively becoming your global to do list for the day/week/month.
- My Newsfeed allows you to keep track of all things important on one page, it’s the Facebook wall for organisations.
- Company Name extraction virtually automates the way employees search for client related information.
- Massive improvements in search relevancy and relevancy customisations allow employees to find the right information faster.
- Search previews speed up the retrieval even more.
- Improved co-authoring in office web apps allows people to co-author tenders and proposals from any device in any place, may it be from the iPad In the airport, the Galaxy Note on the bus, the Windows Surface during the break at the conference, or god forbid even a laptop at work or home.
These are just some of the great new features SharePoint 2013 has on offer to solve all those business needs which all lead up to increased collaboration within an organisation. So the next time you sit in a board room trying to come up with a way to increase collaboration, think of the real business drivers behind that holy grail and pick the SharePoint 2013 feature that will solve the problem or service the need.
Want to learn more about eh future of intranets and collaboration? Alex Dean is speaking at our upcoming seminar, The Future of Intranets.
You can read more about Professional Advantage and SharePoint here.