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SharePoint social success starts with a collaborative culture

For SharePoint social features and other social collaboration tools to pay off, organizations need to build a culture in which sharing is rewarded.

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Social collaboration tools may open doors for enterprise communication internally and externally, but tacking them on to an organization that doesn't have a collaborative culture is like putting the cart before the horse -- there might be a whole lot of pushing involved and not a whole lot of progress.

Robert BogueRobert Bogue

Instead, SharePoint expert Robert Bogue suggests encouraging a collaborative culture and developing ways to measure the value of collaboration efforts -- and then implementing social collaboration technology to help the business reach its goals more efficiently.

SearchContentManagement sat down to discuss social collaboration with Bogue, 11-time SharePoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP), owner of the consulting firm Thor Projects LLC and author of The SharePoint Shepherd's Guide for End Users. His session at SPTechCon 2014 "Sharing for the Social Skeptic" will focus on using social technologies to deliver real business value.

Bogue emphasized that social collaboration tools don't deliver much value unless companies already have an entrenched desire to use them. Yes, SharePoint 2013 offers more robust social collaboration possibilities like microblogging -- but the features are worthwhile only if employees want to use them.

There's all this hype surrounding social's capabilities and then there's the issue of making enterprise social tools work in a practical way. What's your advice for taking a practical approach to social that can break through skepticism?

A lot of what people see as resistance to using SharePoint, or using social, isn't resistance at all. There is a barrier that the IT person can't see.

Robert Bogue,
owner, Thor Projects LLC

Robert Bogue: What happens is IT hears Microsoft say, if you just implement Yammer, then everything will be great. It's the silver bullet you've been waiting on -- just implement it -- and the problem is that people have causal relationships reversed. And so they believe that it is causal that Yammer makes you more collaborative. The actual causal relationship, I believe, is the reverse: Organizations that are collaborative by nature adopt Yammer.

So what happens is, the CEO comes down and says, "Implement Yammer: that will solve my collaboration problem," and then IT people do it -- and nothing happens.

The metrics in the organization are fundamentally set up to discourage collaboration. [In a competitive ranking model], you and your peers compete to see who's better. That model necessarily discourages you from sharing with your peers. They're your competitors, not your collaborators.

So my top advice to anyone who's saying "I want to implement social" is, "Don't implement social -- make sure that you're doing whatever the business needs done." My second piece of advice is, "Don't worry about social. Get your organizational metrics defined correctly."

Rather than pushing social, which I don't believe in doing, organizations should pull social through [from users]. In an organization that inherently is designed to be collaborative, implementing social is easy.

When it comes to metrics, what is the best way to measure the success of social collaboration?

Bogue: For me, the way that you determine if you're delivering business value is you look at a metric that is important to the business and see if it's changed.

Let's say we have a sales department and we're going to implement social so [it] can get better at responding to proposals. So [a request for proposal (RFP)] comes out, it takes me a couple days to respond to that. If you turn in an RFP at least a day ahead of time that probably means you got all the information you thought you needed to be successful at winning it. Whereas if you turned it in at the last moment, it may mean you don't have everything. So, the number of proposals we turn in one day early may be our metric.

If I walk into the CFO's office and say, "I want more money for social, we've got a thousand people in the company and I had a thousand people log in yesterday," he'll say, "So what? How are you impacting my bottom line?" If I tell him that we saw that the number of proposals that we responded to one day ahead of time was 50% [up from] 10%. And we know from our other data, of the ones that we turn in at least a day ahead of time, we win half the time, and if we turn them in on the last day, we only win 10% of the time -- then I did some real math for him. If it even remotely follows the pattern, then we should get "X" number of dollars of additional sales. So that's the way I try to do my metrics -- because if I'm not doing them that specifically, then who knows whether I'll get funded next year.

Other than quantifying the business value of social, could you talk about challenges that companies might encounter when it comes to improving social collaboration?

Bogue: I think it was [renowned management consultant Peter] Drucker who said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." It's great to have a social strategy, but if your people are not given goals and incentives to be collaborative, you've got effectively no chance of being successful -- the odds are stacked against you.

For more on using SharePoint social features

SharePoint 2013 improves social media integration

A guide to SharePoint 2013's social and mobile capabilities

SharePoint and Yammer for enterprise social

So the barriers that IT folks really struggle with are, "We've implemented a SharePoint social strategy, but nobody wants to participate because our culture is a culture of hoarding versus a culture of sharing." Like with anything else, if you've got a barrier, you've got to break it up. You're not going to change the people themselves, so you've got to change the environment people are in to get different behavior. And in order to change the environment, I'm going to change the way people are [receiving their goals].

I'm going to bias goals away from individual performance and toward team performance. I'm going to say a third is what you did personally, a third is what your team did and a third of it is what the company did overall.

So end users are obviously a large part of the equation. How can IT meet business needs by empowering users to be more effective with social collaboration tools like SharePoint?

Bogue: I believe in service management. You map offerings to demands. Demands come from the business, IT develops the solution. I don't believe in "social strategies." I believe in collaboration strategies; I believe in efficiency strategies; I believe in productivity strategies -- social is a technique that helps achieve those. People get the means and the ends confused. Social is not an end. It's only a means [to an end].

A lot of what people see as resistance to using SharePoint, or using social, isn't resistance at all. There is a barrier that the IT person can't see. When you look at the execution of technology, I think we do way too much training, way too much push and not nearly enough pull. Not nearly enough productivity aids and help-on-demand and those sorts of things.

Adults need to learn at the moment they can use the information. They don't learn just for the heck of it.

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