I have always been a big fan of social networks. Staying in touch with my business contacts in LinkedIn and my close friends and family in Facebook has become a regular part of my life. Until I joined Habanero I had not been part of a social network with my colleagues.
My first experience with Habanero's employee portal was primarily with the newsfeed where we post news, events, and knowledge, upload photos and give kudos to each other for things well done and successes for everyone to see.
Then I learned about communities. Habanero's communities can be related to a technical area such as 'mobile', a functional group within the company such as 'user experience' or any other type of internal group such as the Giving Committee or the Green Team.
I recently attended the Microsoft SharePoint conference in Las Vegas where SharePoint 2013 was unveiled. After attending the session on communities I was more excited than ever about SharePoint's new capabilities. The session was called "Building Vibrant Communities in SharePoint 2013".
After attending this session I now wonder why every company doesn't embrace communities as one piece of the social puzzle in SharePoint 2013. Some of the companies we have spoken to are concerned about introducing social into their organization. They are afraid of what people will post or that people will lose focus on their work if they are distracted by social networks at work. Here are some of the new features that I believe will change some minds:
A community in SharePoint 2013 has an assigned moderator. This is the individual who will be ultimately responsible for monitoring, facilitating, and managing the community. A moderator can ensure the quality of the community is maintained and also that posts get replies and questions get answered. Another important role of the moderator is to ensure the content stays fresh and relevant to the community members. If a member finds a comment inappropriate they can privately report the offensive content and the moderator can review and remove it if desired.
Ratings and Badges
Moderators can decide if they wish to allow ratings on a community. If enabled, community members can use stars or likes to give feedback on a post. Moderators can also assign badges to community members to indicate whether someone is considered an expert in the topic. This allows community members to quickly determine if they have received information that will be most useful.
Communities are nicely integrated with other Microsoft technologies. The search feature will include a scan of the community sites to see if relevant content can be returned. The Lync people card is also fully integrated. A member's current status can be seen to determine if they are online and available to be contacted via either a Lync chat or call. The feed within a community can be linked to Outlook email if an individual wishes to receive notifications this way. Finally, hashtags in posts will allow you to find common posts based on hashtag indicators.
I could go on, but you really need to see it to get a full appreciation for how great the new communities features are. In time organizations will realize that introducing a social network for employees will make people feel more connected to their colleagues and engagement levels will most likely improve.
Let us know if you would like to see communities in SharePoint 2013 and some of the other great new features! We would be happy to give you a tour.