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Overview of SharePoint 2013's Social Computing Capabilities

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Social collaboration in the workplace has been embraced by some organizations and really shunned by others due to possible legal and compliance concerns. Both types of organizations, those who embrace it and those who feel the ROI does not outweigh the risk, have valid points and underlying driving reasons for their overall stance on this subject. SharePoint expert Errin O’Connor tries to shed light on the capabilities of SharePoint 2013’s Social capabilities and discuss the ways your organization may be able to embrace these to provide real value to your organization.
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Social computing, or what I like to refer to as professional networking to assist in sometimes overcoming some internal political hurdles, is one of the most powerful and sometimes underused features of SharePoint. Those who have worked with SharePoint 2010 or 2007 in the past will be familiar on some level with SharePoint My Sites capabilities, depending on whether the organization opted to implement them. In SharePoint 2013, however, the professional networking capabilities of SharePoint include not only radically improved My Site features but also a new Community Site template, which adds a new layer to this social computing powerhouse platform.

A Community Site is a new SharePoint 2013 site template that provides a forum type of experience within the SharePoint platform. This of course will add to your governance planning, but the way it has been architected into the SharePoint 2013 fabric, it adds a great deal of value and cements SharePoint 2013 as the social computing tool for enterprise organizations.

If your organization has worked with knowledge management (KM) initiatives in the past, it is helpful to think in terms of these communities to help categorize and spawn discussions among different groups or team members across the organization. This feature does not replace My Sites at all but rather is an added layer to help promote open communication and collaborative exchange by enabling users to share things like best practices and lessons learned, as well as to share and promote their personal expertise.

I have had the opportunity to work with organizations in the past on their KM initiatives in SharePoint. I wish this feature had been included in past releases of SharePoint, but it’s here now and KM directors should take notice.

The Community Portal, which is a collection of the individual Community Sites on differing and specific topics, provides discussion lists and web parts directed specifically at the knowledge management and “community” experience.

SharePoint 2013’s Community Reference in Terms of Social Computing

It can become a bit confusing when referring to the “community” features of SharePoint 2013 because the term itself is also used to refer to other common SharePoint elements. It’s important to keep the specific use of the term in context. The SharePoint Community Sites are for the enhancement of social collaboration and knowledge management within the organization.

You may also hear users or stakeholders refer to “communities” in terms of the IT community or SharePoint’s “Power User” community which are, in fact, communities but more granularly they are just specific user groups or sets of individuals. I think this is important so that you are able to set the tone with the SharePoint stakeholders and user base when describing the different SharePoint terms so that there is no confusion or overlap of terms.

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