I recently read an article by Toby Ward posted October 18th, entitled Despite SharePoint’s Success, The Social Intranet is Still Rare. He talks of the massive adoption of SharePoint. He does a good job of describing how Intranets are evolving and the use of social media tools to create a Social Intranet. Then, he provides data showing that users of Intranets with social media tools actually are showing low levels of satisfaction. He also says that enterprise Social Intranets are rare, particularly on SharePoint. Bottom line is that I agree with what he writes. In this article, I’ll give you my take on why this is and talk about the other half of the story which is about where else people are going with SharePoint 2010, and, how fast.
SharePoint 2010 was launched in the spring of 2010. Basically, the features that got in were those that were in the market circa 2008. Things like blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, I Like It tags. So, when you implement SharePoint 2010 out of the box, this is what you get – various social media features that can be used in a Social Intranet.
Recognize there are two perspectives of what SharePoint is (even within Microsoft). About 70% of customers think that SharePoint is “an application”. From this perspective, a Social Intranet is probably the high end of the stack of where they plan to go on 2010. The other half (less than half) see it as a platform. They view SharePoint as an enterprise, distributed work environment. It is a canvas to use to meet their organizational goals. For these folks, they may not even go to the Social Intranet, because it isn’t relevant to their objectives – they just leap frog over it.
What you end up with is a bit of a desert in the middle in the range of the Social Intranet at this point in the life cycle. It is too high for most right now. It is too low and irrelevant for the others.
Now, companies like CorasWorks cater to the platform half. We enable these organizations to go to the next level. In our case, in the context of social collaboration, it is deploying Social Business Applications on top of this platform that deliver a new layer of value and leverage an entirely new set of technologies. This next generation of applications are designed to tap into all those zillion users, engage them, and most importantly, channel their collaborative potential into activities that drive business value.
Below we show two comparative lists of items. The ones on the left are the capabilities that the super majority (largely IT-focused) people talk about in the context of a Social Intranet. The ones on the right are the Social Business Applications that the other half (largely business group driven) talk about putting in place to leverage this collaborative work environment to achieve a business result.
When we talk to customers, we are talking about the apps on the right. The conversations are just different. They focus on specific scenarios and how you get there leveraging what we offer along with everything else the customer may have.
It is true that our solutions provide a whole new set of technologies that leverage that collaborative potential and put it to purposeful use -things like Business Activity Streams (that actually filter out social and email noise), Stage-Gate processes, Task Automation, Collaborative Management Reviews, Portfolio management, custom forms, supporting activities etc. But, they are the means to the end, not the end in and of itself.
An interesting change up is that the majority of our customers for these new solutions purchase our products and services BEFORE they deploy SharePoint 2010 in production. This is really new for the SharePoint 2010 cycle (it didn’t happen in SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007). We believe that these customers absolutely get the new breakout potential for SharePoint 2010 and are immediately moving to leverage it to drive business value. In today’s world, it is a luxury to invest the time and effort on something like SharePoint 2010 for a nominal benefit. These organizations are simply looking for leverage to drive significant tangible business value.
Those that breakout
I go back to my original question, “Why would you want just a Social Intranet?”. My guess is primarily because that is what you perceive the high-end of the use case of SharePoint to be within a given view of the cost, time and risk. You are not alone. In fact, as stated above, right now you are in the majority. However, I have a feeling that at this point this position is a risk. These new technologies and the applications they spawn for purposeful collaboration are powerful. Plus, we’ve gotten a lot better at reducing the time, risk and cost to get there. SharePoint 2010 is one of the great platforms to make this happen. Those organizations that figure it out are simply going to outperform those that do not.