A great number of organizations are in the midst of their migration to SharePoint 2010. This migration carries with it a new set of expectations for the platform. So, what are the key areas for new value? A common one cited is potential network effect of social collaboration with your internal workforce. In this article, I will drill down into Cim v2.0 Communities and how they enable a new level of organizational effectiveness and directly drive tangible business value through social collaboration.
So, what is it that customers want from social collaboration that enhances the value derived from their SharePoint 2010 workplaces? Here is my list of common wants:
- a richer set of interactive collaborative features
- greater visibility across the workplace and less navigation
- easier and more convenient to use
- reusability across varying scenarios
- drives improved efficiency AND effectiveness of purposeful activities
- results in tangible improvements in business value
Within Cim, social collaboration is driven through our Communities. Cim includes a Community module, one of nine in the product. This module is at the heart of the overall social collaboration experience. As you will see below, Cim Communities are not necessarily destination sites (although they can be and they may be part of one) as we have historically considered a community to be. Rather, Cim Communities become core features of your SharePoint environment providing a robust Community experience and driving social collaboration. This distinction makes Cim Communities able to be much more targeted at specific purposes that drive tangible activity and business results.
There are three core aspects of Cim Communities that work together to produce the above result – they are:
- Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set
- Usage Flexibility
- Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes
Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set
Because we designed our communities as drivers for business processes, they come with a very rich feature set. I’ll list the top ones in three sections below.
First, the general features of Cim v2.0 Communities are (NOTE: for more technical people):
- Each is technically a native SharePoint site – thus, data, functionality, security and administration are in native SharePoint
- The user experience is delivered via a distributable Snaplet that can be snapped onto any web part page across your SharePoint environment. The Snaplet is self-contained – one very robust web part. The result is that you don’t have to navigate to the community to participate.
- It is a multi-content experience (technically a mash-up) – it is not data typed into separate web parts like those within a team site – the experience and content revolves around each item within a given community
- Customizable contributor web 2.0-style forms, with custom fields that can be set for public or private
- Each Community can be “fit to purpose” with the features and metadata for the purpose, including styling using our CSS-framework
- Communities support configurable Groups to slice the contributions and Managed Tags to further slice contributions – used by users for access and back-end processes
- Users can subscribe to the entire Community, a Group, a Managed Tag, an Author, or individual articles – they will then receive a feed of the relevant activity
- Users can perform searches within one community or across a portfolio of communities distributed across an environment
Now, to some specific collaborative features. Below we show a detail view of a posting to one of our communities whose purpose is to gather Product Ideas that are then put through a downstream stage gate process for approval.
Here are some of the key features of this display:
- Custom Fields – you can expose custom fields used for management and downstream processes. Above we expose Status, Group, and Pulse.
- Feedback – users can comment and do star rating (1-5) which translates to Star Power calculation used in supporting Top 10 Listings and Reports
- Documents – the author and community users can upload documents and add notes
- Peer Reviews – each community can have a peer review form tailored to its purpose. The form is customizable. You can have choice fields that are used in weighted scoring, and also, absolute fields for numeric and dates (for surveys), or text fields.
- Pulse Auto-Promotion – the administrator can set Pulse categories (such as Bubbling above, Hot, Cold, etc.) and thresholds based upon activity and data to auto-magically promote items to a different Pulse. It can also trigger notifications and review gate changes.
- Managed Tags – each contribution can be tagged by the author using Managed Tags set by the administrator – these make it easy for users to access related items and subscribe to feeds
- Social tagging – each contribution can be tagged into SharePoint 2010 My Sites which then add it to the social network
Additional back-end/downstream features:
- You can create customized emails triggered by activity
- You can trigger notifications based upon changes (like Pulse changes) or time
- You can enable Content Approval to require approval before publishing or to be used in a one to many scenario such as when you use a Community to submit personal requests
- It supports a complete private collaborative display for downstream managers to comment, do separate Management Reviews (with different forms from Peer Reviews), and vote on items in a private environment
- It supports a downstream stage gate process with extensive configurable activities to drive Community contributions into and through a process
The above feature set along with other modules of Cim v2.0 drive some typical and some unique usage scenarios. Let’s start with the typical. You can create Communities of Purpose. Most other vendors target their communities for a scenario where you are deploying a site (like a team site) or a portal with features including a core community-like experience. In our case, you’d create a portal with a Community at the core surrounded by other Cim features and SharePoint features. These communities tend to be standing and somewhat passive sites.
A new, more untypical approach with Cim Communities is to think of them as activity driving tools vs. passive sites. We have found communities to be extremely effective as tools for event-driven activities such as in our Idea and Innovation management scenarios. In this scenario, you would bring up a Community for a specific campaign, such as gathering product ideas for a business line. It would be “open” for say 30 days. Then, it is closed and the results are worked. This has shown to driven great participation.
A key part of Cim Communities is that they are not Site dependent. Thus, for instance, you can have many communities as part of a site. Imagine you are building out the Product Management portal. The users would work right in the portal with the full feature set of every community at their fingertips. Some communities could be:
- the general Product Management dept collaborative community
- a campaign for a new product line as above
- a standing community for Technical Challenges where needs are posted and resolved
- a community for Process Improvements with a back-end process to vett and approve them for implementation
- a customer stories community to capture stories from the field and expose them to collaborative feedback
- a Help desk, request community of the organization to capture requests (that is on every department portal) and managed by engineers using content approval
Following, this model you could use a Cim Community to augment an existing Extranet or Internet-facing site. An example would be a community to capture online customer stories to feed into a marketing process.
You can also access a Cim Community from anywhere within SharePoint. Because of the Snaplet architecture, the same community experience can be be snapped in the Product Management portal as above, and also, the Marketing department, and, the Enterprise portal. A team may want the convenience of having this Community in their team site, or, the VP, Products may want it in their My Site. This ability to distribute the “community experience” via a Snaplet enhances visibility, breadth of participation, and level of engagement. Below we show the Snaplet of the Product Ideas community in a My Site. it is showing the article listing page of the community. They can do all their work from within their My Site.
Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes
Within Cim, the Community is one of many modules. Its role is to be the front-end for social collaboration. It is common amongst social tools vendors to talk about how social capabilities and tools indirectly drive business value. A common refrain is that a Community of Purpose say for an Engineering team adds business value by allowing engineers to share information and develop and improve better processes and techniques. We definitely agree that this can add business value. However, typically this Community of Purpose is not directly tied into a flow of business activity or a process which means that it may not really add tangible business value.
With Cim Communities, we have designed them so that they can be tied directly into back-end business processes. Let’s take the above Community of Purpose for Engineering. Now, lets add a Cim Community to that site. Its purpose is to capture the ideas for Process Improvements (new, changes, kill, etc.). It is tied to a formal Process Improvement process. The engineers can share challenges and ideas and provide feedback and additional within the community. It is a feature of that site.
Behind the scenes (the Management side of a Community) is a structured stage gate process to review and decide on whether to implement a given idea. The Process Change Management team team has a private collaborative interface where they can comment, do formal reviews, and vote on each contribution. It also is a Snaplet and may be accessed from any site across SharePoint. Activity here updates activity in the Community in the site. Below we show a sample of this Management Activity display.
This back end process is supported by other Cim features to manage the stage gate process, the portfolio, activity management such as delegating tasks, the portfolio, reporting etc. Now, the Cim Community is directly tied into a business process that drives business value.
The result of this integration of a social community and a business process is that there is a more direct and tangible relationship to business value. This also tends to drive engagement and participation since people know that this Community drives a formal process (what we call a Social Business Process).
Now, not every community should be tied directly to processes. In a typical organization, perhaps 20-30%. However, you will find that many Communities of Purpose come up with items that could and probably should then flow into a downstream business activity. With Cim Communities, you can tap into these communities as a source to drive downstream processes.
Cim and Cim Communities provide the rich, social collaboration experience that you expect with social software. However, we have gone further to insure that you can take it the next step and very purposely leverage the powerful network effect of social collaboration to drive business value. The fact that you can use Cim Communities with existing sites where and when you need it makes it a great way to incrementally add value to your organization.