By Jeremy Thake, Chief Architect, AvePoint
Organizations everywhere are deploying enterprise collaboration platforms like Microsoft SharePoint in the hopes of enabling employees to more easily work together to achieve common business goals. No doubt, SharePoint can help its users improve productivity through its capabilities for sharing and working on documents, and that’s why organizations, especially those on a global scale, are anxious to deploy it.
But SharePoint also has immense value for organizations and their employees on the social side, particularly through integration with Yammer, which we’ll talk about in a future article, and SharePoint Communities. SharePoint Communities are built-in virtual areas where an organization’s employees can share and discuss ideas around a specific topic.
Successful SharePoint Communities are vital to an organization’s collaboration success because it brings the conversation out of the shadows and into the public eye. If a conversation is happening in email, only certain people are able to respond. If the same conversation happens in a SharePoint Community, it takes the onus off of the employees to know who to ask the question of, and gives the ability for other people to step up and answer.
This also improves discoverability, because instead of having conversations stuffed into inboxes, they are readily available inside discussion threads within the communities for people to reference at any point in the future.
So how do you encourage your employees to not only start up a SharePoint Community, but also become an active participant? Here are four tips for creating successful SharePoint Communities that will truly lead to increased collaboration:
Follow the Leader. What’s that old lecture your mom would give you about following something someone else does? “If Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” Organizations need to find champions (Johnny) for their SharePoint communities, and they want their other employees to follow the champions and take that leap.
Your champions will be moderators for the community and you should give them some goals or some sort of incentive as part of their job role to express how important it is for them to do this.
Then your champions need to try and understand who would be interested in each community, and reach out to them and encourage them to take discussions from email and put them online. Once the champions get started, everyone else will follow.
Rank and File. Employees will be active within the communities in different ways. Some will ask the questions, while others answer them, and the frequency in which they post will vary. Due to this, organizations must identify how they will do reputational badging.
Reputational badging identifies each contributor for a variety of different things, including number of questions answered, frequency of replies, or being the top contributor for a specific topic.
Organizations can use a system to identify top contributors using colors, military ranks, or badges, and then look at the data each month and give out rewards, using gamification to push adoption.
Shout it Out. Like any other new initiative you try and push at your organization, you’ve got to make some noise for your communities and make your employees aware that these communities exist.
When you’re involved in email discussions, stop the reply from happening in email and move it into a new community discussion, and then ask to continue this in the community.
This will drive people into the community and fosters a broader discussion because others can get involved.
Tag It. With everyone able to start communities, it can become an overwhelming task to try and monitor all of them for relevant topics you would like to take part in. Encouraging the use of hashtags in the communities can help alleviate this issue, because when you post to the community discussion, the hashtags appear.
If anyone is following the particular hashtag, they’ll be notified in their own newsfeed. This broadens the reaches to people who are trying to follow things in their own interest areas.
Jeremy Thake joined AvePoint in 2011 as Enterprise Architect, and was later named Chief Architect in June of 2012. He was named a Microsoft SharePoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in 2009, and continues to work directly with enterprise customers and AvePoint’s research and development team to develop solutions that will set the standard for the next generation of collaboration platforms, including Microsoft SharePoint 2013.