SharePoint 2010: What’s Hot and What’s Not – #3 Social Networking

Date:March 22nd, 2010 Author: Tags: ,
Category: General, SharePoint Ideas Comments:2 ;
This is the final part in our occasional series on what’s hot and what’s not for the end user in SP 2010.

A couple of weeks ago we focused on our favorite new feature for end users: FAST Search, which we think is going to make a huge impact on how people store and search for content in SharePoint 2010.  Last week we took at pop at Business Connectivity Services – which we feel could cause more problems than it solves.

Today we are throwing stones at SharePoint 2010 Social Networking – which gets our vote for joint top turkey in terms of new features that have been heavily hyped, but in our opinion are not likely to deliver much real value for the end user.

The thing with SharePoint 2010 Social Networking is that we just don’t understand why its there.  This is enterprise software – it’s not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to help you get the job done.  Have Microsoft added these features just because “social” is so darned sexy at the moment?

social turkey

Director of Collaborative Product Management Christian Finn presented at last year’s SharePoint conference and said that their goal for Social in SP 2010 was to have it be “as much about people and seem as much about people as it is about documents.”

There are three main areas to the social features in SharePoint 2010:

  • Social Networking
  • Social Content
  • Social Feedback

So, we have a whole range of social features: profile pages that look like Facebook, blogging, status updates – like twitter, central photo sharing – like flickr, tags, notes and votes – like Digg (OK, so we admit we quite like this, but that’s because it’s going to have huge benefits in content rating outside the social domain).

OK, so if you are using SharePoint to run some sort of a club or social group – great.  But for the corporates, we just don’t see it.

Microsoft claim that the social functionality within SP2010 will allow people within the organization to “connect, share ideas and find solutions”. Well if that was what people were going to use it for great.  But in reality we all know that what people are really going to do with it is spend hours, pimping their profile page, sharing photos of their last holiday and “tweeting” about how rough Sarah in accounts looks this morning.  As an “enterprise” why would you even switch it on?

Added to that, even if people were using it to “connect, share ideas and find solutions” in a business-related way, we need to remember that that kind of creative behavior falls way outside the job description for most workers.  Those of us who have the opportunity to express some creativity in our work need to remember that we are part of a tiny, privileged minority.  For the vast majority of workers in corporations around the world the brief for the working day is not “connect, share ideas and find solutions” its “keep your head down, get on with the job, and follow the set procedures.”

If you have a good boss you might get to go out for a drink after work to connect, share some ideas and maybe solve a few problems, but the world of free-flowing ideas and intercourse envisaged by Microsoft just does not exist within the workplace of most of their clients.

Our next problem is that Social Networking outside of the enterprise is cool, sexy and on-trend, it moves really fast.  By the time Microsoft actually roll out SP2010, the social networking platforms they have modeled its social features on could well be passé. Social Networking functionality in SharePoint 2010 is always likely to be behind the curve.  Because it’s enterprise software created by one of the biggest corporations in the world and it’s never going to be able to move at the speed of a disruptive start up that goes viral, like Facebook.

And let’s face it, unless you work for someone like Google or Apple your company social network is never likely to be really “cool”.

So those corporates who use SharePoint’s social networking functionality in an effort to channel the “unstoppable force” of social networking in a corporately acceptable direction are likely to be disappointed: employers won’t be using SP2010 social at work instead of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, they will be using it “as well as”.

There has been much talk of “controlling” the social buzz around your product or service by giving employees an internal social channel within which to express themselves.  My thought on this is just “Get Real!” Is the employee who has negative things to say about your product, service or personnel really likely to say them on internal “corporate twitter”?  What would be the point?  We should all know by now that you can’t “control” social.

So, we just don’t get the whole SharePoint 2010 social networking thing.  Don’t get us wrong, we love Microsoft really, we just think sometimes, like all of us, they go a bit off track – and the introduction of social networking features into SharePoint 2010 could be one of those times.

Do you agree, or do you think we are way off mark?

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2 Responses to “SharePoint 2010: What’s Hot and What’s Not – #3 Social Networking”

  1. Very helpful discussion. My first idea was: No one could be interested to have a “Facebook” within the company. It could take a lot of working-time and finaly money. But what about IT in general? It take a lot of time – even today… But it’s helpful anyway.

    So we have to take the best from it: Knowledge Management and Social Networking belongs together, because the knowledge is in the people’s heads. The result is “Collaborative Knowledge Management” in SharePoint. Strong rules, corporate taxonomies could possibly help. Here are some screens, how to benefit from the new features:

  2. Alex says:

    An interesting blog post, for many companies, certainly smaller enterprises I think you are right. Why bother going to all the effort when there are so many ‘better’ solutions such as Facebook anyway.

    I do think you miss the mark however in some resects, not all corporates allow Facebook. Financial Services as just one example tend to be cautious in this respect. The ability to communicate across the company, whether someone is promoting their charity event, or commenting on the canteen soup may be considered frivolous but it does build community and breaks down silos. Just the odd post such as ‘as hey does anyone know about x, y, or z?’ and having that heard by people you wouldn’t normally have access to (other departments, maybe people in another building) can be very powerful. Where privacy is a concern, and firms aren’t yet prepared to let users loose on Facebook during work hours, it does offer a compelling alternative.

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