User Centric Focus Empowers Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

Service Pack 1 of SharePoint 2010 was recently released.  The “mainstream” of SharePoint users are now on their way to migrating to SP2010.  Where are the new quick wins and big wins for organizations on their new platform?  We believe that social collaboration on SP2010 offers great potential.  Can collaboration really be enhanced in a significant way?  The answer is yes.

With Cim v2.1, we have added a new solution, Cim Collaboration, for social business collaboration on SharePoint 2010, that enhances SharePoint to provide organizations a much more powerful way to drive business value.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the core elements of the solution.  As you’ll see, the key “big change” is a shift to a user centric focus that is the new driver for effective social business collaboration.

Let’s start by taking a look at the typical collaborative experience of SharePoint 2010.  Most organizations are following the same approach they did before – team sites and department sites as part of their Intranet.  How do we collaborate?  We navigate to a site, assuming we have access.  We find data typed content in lists and libraries with little relationship.  We review, edit, or add new items.  In effect, we have collaboration by proximity.  It works, but, couldn’t we do a whole lot better…

With Cim v2.1, we’ve add our new Cim Collaboration solution.  It brings together three core elements that work to provide an easier, more robust, and more effective collaborative experience on SharePoint 2010.  I’ll go over the 3 elements and describe the mechanics of how it delivers the result.


Collaborative “Communities” with Purpose

At the core of Cim is the “community”.  It is a new kind of site designed for a better social collaboration experience.  We use communities for many purposes from department collaboration, to idea communities, challenges, professional communities, and collaborative business processes.

-  At a very simple level, you could spin up a community for Marketing Collateral.  Marketing would be the primary contributor.  They would post new collateral.  Sales and others would “watch” the community.  They would rate, comment, and offer up their take on better collateral or needs for new collateral.

- A little more advanced community would be a community for departmental collaboration.  Here members of the department collaborate with each other.  It would segment types of topics, use managed tagging, and perhaps allow for peer reviews.

- Going further, you may have communities that specifically drive processes like Change Request Management.  People contribute and collaborate, and then, change requests are put through a structured, yet collaborative, process to review, approve, and implement them.

A “community” has a purpose, context and engages people to work better together to advance that purpose. However, it is not necessarily “Yet Another Place To Go” (YAPTG).  With Cim, a community owner can spin up a community quickly which is then available broadly.  They don’t necessarily have a separate “destination” site for which they have to worry about branding, other features, etc., or, that users have to navigate to in order to engage.  For instance, a departmental portal may actually expose many different communities from across a SharePoint environment.  Or, an Innovation Portal may have many idea communities and challenges.  The community is the context for collaboration.


Cim Community – Fit to Purpose

Now, this doesn’t mean that Cim communities are therefore simple.  In fact, with Cim each community can be easily and extensively customized to fit its purpose.

The Marketing Collateral community mentioned above may have a simple contribute form and a couple collaborative features.  Whereas a process community like Change Request above may have a contribute form with special fields, grouping and managed tags, custom listings and filtering, peer reviews, private management reviews with scoring, and, structured downstream review, approval, and reporting processes.  Below is a screenshot of an item from the Change Request community.

Collaborative Activities

Cim provides the community owner with the options to control the experience and the purpose.  This differs from other social business offerings that see social collaboration as a relatively flat, pure conversation approach.  We see the need to have communities that are different, and, more robust as necessary to meet their purpose.  When fit to purpose, communities are much more effective at channeling collaborative activity towards the business purpose.

With that said, the trick is that while the Cim communities may be distinctly different, the user experience is simple, convenient, and consistent across communities.  We do this by shifting to a user centric focus for collaboration.


User Centric Focus of Collaboration

Okay, so with Cim, we can have many communities of different types.  The big change in Cim v2.1 comes with a shift to a user centric focus for collaboration.  This is done by providing users with a separate user interface that they control to enable them to collaborate across communities and across the entire SharePoint environment.  This UI is the Cim Activity Stream.

The Activity Stream is a feature that can be snapped into any site in SharePoint.  It is where people go to collaborate – all of the relevant activity comes to them.  They can see new communities that have been launched (Community Listings).  As they contribute or collaborate this activity shows up in their My Activity.  They can watch a community or individual contributions (Watchlist).  Any activity by others on items they’ve watched or contributed will appear in their My Stream.  Below is a screenshot of an Activity Stream UI snapped into a department portal showing the core features.

Activity Stream

The relevant community collaborative activity (contributions, rating, comments, uploads, peer reviews) flows to them.  In addition, the downstream process activity for process-centric communities also appears in their activity stream.  This can include activities such as Management Reviews and Votes, Stage changes, Decisions, Task assignments, completion of documents, etc.

From the My Activity Stream UI the user can see what is happening, click to contribute, click to collaborate on an item or within a community – all without going anywhere.  In addition, they can see the user profiles of their collaborators and click into their My Sites and engage directly with that individual and with their social network.  Thus, from their Activity Stream they can now collaborate within any communities across the entire SharePoint environment and directly with other users.

With the Cim Activity Stream, we’ve made collaboration user centric vs. content and location centric as most of us experience in native SharePoint.  This is a big shift.  They have a single place to go and control over their collaboration experience.  The visibility is greater, the work is easier, the activity is relevant, there is less navigation, and less email and UI distraction.  It is fast, easy, relevant and convenient.

Summing Up Cim Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

The user centric Activity Stream is the big change.  But, it is this change combined with the ability to support many types of communities for different purposes that can be fit to purpose that gives our approach the breadth and depth to make significant impact.

Most of us invested in SharePoint originally to share information and have a better collaborative experience.  We’ve made progress.  Now, with Cim v2.1, you can leverage your investment in SharePoint 2010 and unleash the potential of social business collaboration to drive your business forward.


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