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Understanding the Business Benefits of Social Collaboration

9/29/15 4:03 AM

One of the major benefits of participating in events around the world is that it provides an opportunity to sit and listen to Office 365 and SharePoint experts, with their different backgrounds and perspectives, sharing ideas and solutions for common collaboration problems.

One thing that is clear is that there are no unique problems -- organizations across the globe want to improve employee communication, enhance productivity, and ensure project or project success through collaboration.

When customers engage with Beezy, they often have specific features in mind. They are using SharePoint on-premises or have made the move to Office 365, however the out-of-the-box experience does not provide the features and user experiences that their organizations require, or that their end users demand. One of the ways that these companies are filling the productivity gaps and moving toward a true digital workplace is through social collaboration solutions. But what does that really mean? There seems to have been a recent rise in the number of vendors offering services and solutions around the concept of the "social intranet," but beyond a redesign of the UI around Microsoft's out-of-the-box capability, their value is unclear. And more broadly, what is the business value provided by social collaboration?

Successful collaboration requires more than just a pretty UI: it is a balance between technology, process alignment, and end user adoption -- with the end user component being the most important of the three.

With the end user in mind, and before you make the inevitable jump to technology (which is always last), try first to understand the primary business benefits to using social collaboration. As you map out your system and each of the business outcomes you hope to achieve, make sure you are able to quantify the value of your proposed solution.

In my experience, the business benefits of social can be distilled down to five points:

  • Data context and correlation -- As people interact with the content you upload, they relate your content with other relevant content, such as projects you might not be member of, studies that may correlate, or conversations on similar topics that you may not be aware of elsewhere in your organization. These conversations, tags, links, and sharing help to build context to your content that you alone might never be able to accomplish.
  • Questions and answers -- It never hurts to have multiple means through which users can find the answers they need to business questions. As social becomes more and more of a layer between enterprise applications, we will use these tools to find quick answers -- people are able to leverage their networks of experts much more quickly than, say, through a search page. Social provides a quick and easy way to share data and knowledge.
  • Identify expertise -- Upload dozens of documents on a single topic, and you will likely be recognized as an expert (at least by volume) on a topic. But social helps surface subject matter experts (SMEs) directly, or more importantly, indirectly through their activities. As people like, rate, follow, and share content with SharePoint, they begin surfacing in search results as an expert because of their social expertise -- expertise that you might not otherwise identify if not for the social tools used.
  • Extending search -- Social builds, extends, and improves search through the dynamic creation of end-user-generated keywords, or folksonomy. As users connect and discuss content, they apply tags or keywords that help them personally relate to that content, and track themes or data trends in SharePoint. Every like, every tag, every rating or share helps improve the overall search experience by adding to the folksonomy, which then -- through proactive governance -- can help improve your system taxonomy.
  • Team connection -- While the terms "social" and "collaboration" are often blurred, I like to separate their definitions by saying that social technology helps teams collaborate by building connections across traditional data silos. Social is the tool by which collaboration is achieved. Social helps teams connect and relate whether they are across the hall, across campus, or around the world -- thus improving collaboration.
    As you investigate various social collaboration options, you should always do so through the lens of the user experience, quantifying the business value through the productivity improvements provided to employees. As a leading provider of collaboration solutions for Office 365 and SharePoint, Beezy provides a number of tools that can have an immediate and measurable impact on end user productivity, from blogs and wikis to town halls and forums, and much, much more. Our solutions leverage the complete Microsoft productivity stack, but then go above and beyond by adding critical business capability that can help organizations to achieve the benefits outlined above.

Collaboration is more than putting a pretty UI across SharePoint -- it's about giving your employees the advanced capability they need to better connect, communicate, and get their work done.

If you have not yet seen Beezy, it's about time you took a closer look. Contact us today for a demo.

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