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Posts Tagged ‘#Newsgator’

NewsGator: Thought Leadership in Enterprise Social

One thing I don’t want getting lost in the hubbub of how Microsoft’s platform is going social is the powerful social applications– and as importantly, the thought leadership– coming out of Denver, Colorado based NewsGator.

While their Social Sites product may no longer be the default weapon of choice for Microsoft field reps trying to combat the dark tides of Jive and Chatter, I’d argue that NewsGator is actually more relevant in this brave new Yammer world Microsoft is forging.  While Microsoft orients Yammer to think about the platform, NewsGator is free to innovate and improve on what they’ve always done best: social business for its own sake.

As a pure play social vendor but dedicated to the Microsoft platform, NewsGator is even more important now than it was a year ago.  The Microsoft platform is the dominant platform for enterprise productivity, and NewsGator is committed to it– unlike the above referenced Jive and Chatter– but unlike Microsoft itself, NewsGator isn’t concerned with protecting Office’s market share.  They just want to help businesses get more value with social tools, plain and simple.

They’re still doing it– and will be doing it well going forward too– as both Forrester’s Rob Koplowitz and I separately noted in our joint webinar earlier this spring.  More evidence is available in a blog post recently published by NewsGator CEO Daniel Kraft, highlighting the ways enterprise social was in use at last week’s SHARE Conference.

Making money, sure.  Drinking beer?  Interesting.  Saving children?

Whoa, seriously?  You can do that with enterprise social tools?

Check it out and see for yourself.

A Real-World Story: SharePoint Social in Healthcare

I’ll be speaking at SHARE Conference in Atlanta this week and I have to say, I’m pretty fired up for it.  SHARE bills itself as “the conference for business users” and lo and behold, they’re not kidding– there’s no tech track.  It’s a national conference that is sponsored by Microsoft and boasts real involvement from the SharePoint product team and some community heavy-hitters, so the content should be extremely useful.

My own session will be co-presented with Andy Farella from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  Andy and I will be guiding our audience through a real-world social business deployment– the whys, hows, and wherefores of doing SharePoint social inside a major healthcare institution like America’s oldest and most admired Children’s Hospital.  We’ll present based on the project Perficient did with CHOP last year, as well as discuss how that success has been a launching pad for further community development.  We’ll talk about the NewsGator platform we used, and why it was still the right choice for this scenario even after the Yammer acquisition.

I like to talk about our experience with enterprise social here at Perficient, but I usually prefer to do it here in the blog or with customers one-on-one.  I’m one of those people who’d rather walk the walk than talk the talk.  The national conference circuit is new to me as a speaker, and while I don’t see myself getting sucked too far into it as a way of life, I’m definitely psyched to give it a go this week.  There will be great people to meet and connections to make, stories to share and ideas to exchange.  I hope we’ll see some of you there!

NewsGator announces Perficient as 2012 Partner of the Year

NewsGator has officially announced the great news – Perficient received their Partner of the Year Award for the second year in row! The award was given at the 2013 NewsGator Collective, where a record number of NewsGator customers and partners converged for a three day gathering with interactive workshops, networking events, success stories, and thought leadership sessions around social business value and understanding.

From the NewsGator press release:

On the partner side, for the second year in a row, Perficient was named NewsGator Partner of the Year for work that has consistently earned rave customer reviews.

“Social collaboration has become a very powerful channel for enterprises needing to drive community engagement, customer and employee retention, and innovation,” said Rich Wood, director, National SharePoint Practice at Perficient. “We’re honored to receive NewsGator’s Partner of the Year award for the second year in a row. This recognition exemplifies the commitment NewsGator and Perficient share in helping our customers modernize their social platforms, creating a dynamic environment that drives richer dialogue and effective collaboration.”

To read more about what this means to Perficient – to learn what the honor really boils down to – check out Rich Wood’s recent blog post on the award.

If you are attending the upcoming SHARE Conference in Atlanta (April 10-12), be sure to check out the case study presentation, How The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is Adopting SharePoint for Collaboration and Social Networking, with Rich Wood and Andy Farella from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

During the presentation, the speakers will give details on how CHOP uses their SharePoint platform as a communication and social networking channel to better engage their employees, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and provide a better user experience for their intranet communities. Along with SharePoint, CHOP also uses NewsGator social sites. You can view the SHARE Conference agenda here.

If you are unable to attend SHARE, Andy and Rich will give the presentation again on April 24th as a webinar. You can sign up here.

Microsoft’s Social Roadmap: The Upshot for On-Premise SharePoint

Microsoft’s direction for enterprise social is a little more clear this morning.  And I’ll be honest, the roadmap for organizations willing to move this workload to the cloud—in whole or in part—is pretty exciting.  Questions still remain around just how well this approach covers on-premise deployments, however, and I’d like to spend a little time looking at both the announcement and the possible answers from that specific angle.

The announcements

For on-premise customers, there are a couple key items in Mr. Spataro’s post that we should focus on:

url1.      A Yammer app will be made available in the SharePoint store for use in on-premise SharePoint 2013 deployments.  “The Yammer app in the SharePoint Store will be a valuable addition, allowing customers to create connections between Yammer groups and on-premises SharePoint sites,” according to the SharePoint blog.

Quick Analysis: This is a great add if you’re doing your social in the cloud with Yammer, or plan to do so.  It will be interesting to see how many organizations turn this on in lieu of the native SP 2013 news feed.

2.      “The SSO, updated UX, seamless navigation, and Office Web App integration will all deepen the connections between your Yammer network and your on-premises SharePoint deployment.” 

Quick Analysis: In other words, this reads like if you’re doing Yammer in the cloud, it will eventually assume the look of Office 365 and certainly enable document collaboration in the same manner it does for SharePoint Online customers.  I’m curious to see just how easy/difficult it will be to integrate SSO across Yammer and on-premise applications.

3.      Microsoft recommends the SharePoint newsfeed if you can’t do Yammer.

Quick Analysis: This is acceptable for organizations just getting started on social, or not committed to social collaboration as a way to connect, capture and share knowledge, and communicate more effectively.  The SharePoint newsfeed and core SharePoint 2013 product aren’t best-in-class social, though, and never will be.  For those organizations, we still see a partner product like NewsGator Social Sites as the best option for a truly robust social environment.

Tying it all together

We know where Microsoft is going—a unified productivity platform that uses a social newsfeed as its launching point and social integration as the glue that ties people and data together.  There’s a much clearer path to this vision in the cloud, and let’s be honest, nobody else is offering that kind of vision, clarity, or robust product functionality.  Not Google, not IBM, not Oracle.

The only question hanging out there is how organizations who are committed to keeping their IT on-premises can realize this vision.  In my mind, that’s still entirely possible and quite achievable, but may require more integration (for things like SSO), third-party products (like NewsGator) and Office Store apps where necessary to get there.

For more on this topic, check out my previous post where we discuss the roadmap itself and why the cloud is so vital to the strategy, or sign up for my webinar next week with Forrester’s Rob Koplowitz.

NewsGator’s Partner of the Year… Again! (And why it matters!)

This just in– Perficient was named NewsGator’s Partner of the Year for 2012.  If that sounds familiar, I suppose it should, because we actually won the same award in its inaugural year of 2011!

Beyond that, this honor for our team is more than just an award, it’s a statement… for a number of reasons.

It makes a very clear case that Perficient understands social business.

We’ve been doing social at Perficient for several years, and it shows; this stuff isn’t new to us.  From our extensive work with NewsGator on SharePoint 2010 and now SharePoint 2013 strategies, implementations and adoption work to external-facing work with Telligent, we have built up a great deal of experience and tribal knowledge around how to envision, plan, build, communicate and support social business platforms.  It hasn’t slipped my attention that every SharePoint partner and his uncle are now claiming to understand social, but the fact of the matter is, most of them haven’t been doing it.  And this award makes it clear that none of them have been doing it quite like we have.

It demonstrates that social technology adoption really does require three-way teamwork.

Those three ways include a vendor like NewsGator that eats, sleeps and breathes its product, a partner with the technical skill and consulting acumen to help clients plan for and get value from deployment, and a client that’s committed to identifying strong initial use cases and flexibly responding to the new and emerging use cases that inevitably arise from engaged users.  I’ll be speaking more about how this can work at SHARE Conference in Atlanta alongside one of those committed clients.  NewsGator recognizing us for this award– again– is as much about our clients as it is about our team.

It shows we have a fantastic team that does great work, nationwide.

We’ve partnered with NewsGator in scenarios that span geography and industries.  North, South, East and West.  Healthcare, finance, manufacturing, even construction.  Even as Microsoft gets more social with Yammer– and even while we embrace that wholeheartedly– we recognize that these things are not mutually exclusive, and that the NewsGator value proposition is a meaningful one to a great many customers.  (Did you know that NewsGator’s Social Sites 3.5 can integrate Yammer activity?  You can have your cake it and eat it too, you know.)

Obviously, I’m really impressed by all of my colleagues and clients whose hard work made it possible for us to win this award again, and grateful to our friends at NewsGator for considering us once more.  Thanks to everyone involved– and here’s to another great year of helping businesses go social.

An open letter to the NewsGator Collective: Wish I was there!

Dear NewsGator Collective,

You and I had a great time together last year, and I really enjoyed the chance to learn so much about social business.  We’re sending a team to you again this week; they’ll spend some time in Denver, Colorado to get all hyped up about social business. Sadly, I have conflicts and can’t attend, but I’m quite excited for the opportunity this presents to our folks.

I know some people would ask me what the Collective is.  Avoiding any 90s-vintage Star Trek jokes, I’d tell them that Collective is NewsGator’s annual conference where they pull together customers, partners, and subject matter experts from the social computing world to talk about all things social business.

It’s a chance to learn a lot– not just about social tools, but about the strategies and use cases behind them, their continued evolution, and most importantly, the people so involved with them.

In my mind, NewsGator is uniquely positioned to provide this service.  They’re a software company whose entire business– not just the product, but the business itself– is grounded in social technology.  They’ve been doing this since the days when “social tools” meant RSS readers and corporate blogging platforms, and they have customers who’ve been with them since those days.

The net result of that is simple.  NewsGator the company has a great deal of tribal wisdom around this and they make sure your speakers, events, and networking opportunities are worth the while of every attendee.  Like I said, I really wish that I was there with you, because I know from experience that I’d get a lot out of it.  That said, we’ve got some great people in attendance and I know they’ll find you highly educational.

Good luck, Collective!  Have a great week!  Hope I can see you again next year!


Rich Wood

Socialize Everything NewsGator Hack

Do you have something going on in SharePoint that you want to tie into NewsGator activity feed? In some cases an event receiver is what you want. See my blog on custom NG activities if you want to use an event receiver. But there are cases where SharePoint shamelessly writes things to its databases and doesn’t let you plug in with an event receiver. For example, the note board control uses JS to post to the SP database. To make such an event social (appear in the NG activity stream), you can do this JS hack: capture each add, edit, and delete event, and update the NG news stream accordingly.

The sample code below works with the out-of the-box note board web part. It does 3 things:

  1. For the add command, it simply captures the user input and posts to the NG community on the current site.
  2. For the edit event, it captures what the comment was before the user edited it, the same comment after, and replaces the comment. Downside is that if someone commented on the original comment, you’re out of luck; it’s deleted. This isn’t the perfect solution; you can add to it as needed.
  3. For he delete event, it captures the comment before it’s deleted form SharePoint and deletes it from the news stream.

NOTE: I hash-tagged the comment text when posting it to the activity feed. That happened to be appropriate for my use case, but also made it easier to extract the comment text for edit and delete commands.

I used Fiddler to tune the queries; if you need to customize my solution, I highly recommend testing your API calls in fiddler first.

NewsGator Activity Feed Dissected

Don’t worry, no blood was spilled and no activity feed was harmed in the making of this blog post.

The diagrams below apply to NewsGator activity feeds from Versions 2.6 and 3.1. The classes labeled in orange were added in v3.1. The Share box was re-done in 3.1, so the 1st one is v2.6 and the 2nd one is v3.1 (hence the orange title).  I didn’t document every single div and span, just the major ones that you need to create your own NG style. Enjoy! (and feel free to let me know if i got something wrong or if you found something important that I missed)

Activity Feed Top Panel


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Tales of a SharePoint 2013 Upgrade: Information Architecture Remapping

Recently I led a team from Perficient to upgrade our existing SharePoint 2010 intranet (The Hub) to SharePoint 2013.  That process involved months of planning culminating in a solid week of fretting as the migration took place over several days.  Since everyone on the team is involved with client work, we couldn’t in good conscience make our clients take a back seat while we worked on internal systems.  This meant lots of nights and weekend work and I want to thank my entire team for their help.

This will be the first in a multi-part series describing how Perficient migrated from a relatively small SharePoint 2010 intranet (~20GB) to a flourishing SharePoint 2013 intranet (~300GB) over the course of a few months.  Let me briefly describe the 2010 Hub so you get a feel with where we started.

Starting Point

The Hub was created by the former PointBridge team in May of 2012 for our annual sales conference to provide a social and collaboration space to replace the legacy systems that PointBridge had.  It included NewsGator for Social Sites and a tile-based customizable homepage dubbed the Information Workspace.  We also customized the master page to provide a more "modern" look and feel.  These customizations were used in around 20 NewsGator communities covering topics like Mobile, Office 365, and Sales Enablement.

The upgrade was focused on several things: remapping the information architecture that had grown organically resulting in poor maintainability (even the experts can rethink things), removing the NewsGator components and other customizations to focus on out-of-the-box functionality initially, and rebuilding the Information Workspace as an App for SharePoint. A point I want to make clear: we removed NewsGator to understand the out-of-the-box social capabilities that SharePoint 2013 provides in comparison to NewsGator. This first post is about the Information Architecture remapping that we did.

Information Architecture Remapping

Perficient’s SharePoint intranet is focused on topical communities, business units, and internal team collaboration (mostly sales and pre-sales). This resulted in a single "communities" site collection at a managed path, a business units site collection at a managed path, and a "communities" sub-site off the root. The downside of using a single site collection for broad areas and subsites for the categories are primarily permissions management and database segmentation. Moving to a situation where you have numerous site collections and a managed path for broad categories solves these issues, but the movement presents challenges as well.

Permissions Management

In SharePoint, permissions can be applied at the web application, site collection, site, list, folder, and item levels. So when you access anything in SharePoint, the security is validated at all of these levels if there is custom security applied. Clearly, the more levels you have, the slower this operation becomes. So we wanted to avoid having unnecessary levels. In addition, as you add disinherited permissions levels, you get more and more permissions groups, which only serves to exacerbate the problem. Perficient’s new environment replaces the site collections with managed paths allowing us to take advantage of the next item: database segmentation.

Database Segmentation

At the content database level, site collections cannot cross database boundaries, nor can anything within them. So having a bunch of site collections allows us to take advantage of multiple content databases and keep per-database size to a minimum. This is good for multiple reasons:

  • Smaller databases means less to restore in the event of an individual failure
  • The ability to span multiple drives on your SQL server and therefore multiple LUNs in the SAN
  • Backups can be more easily spread across multiple sources

We envisioned the usage of the Hub taking off as we gained momentum and excited people with the new SharePoint 2013 capabilities. This made is very likely that we would have a lot of content which would lend towards very large databases in the old model.

Promoting Sites to Site Collections

However, promoting a site to a site collection is not as easy as moving a site collection from one URL to another. The promotion process involves exporting a site and importing back as the root site in a site collection. This was further complicated by the use of the NewsGator communities site template, which would not exist in the new environment. Also, by moving subsites to root sites in a site collection, you run the risk of security snafus.

To resolve these issues, we leveraged a temporary SharePoint 2013 farm to export the sites from one web application into root sites on another web application. In the case of NewsGator communities, we exported each list individually and rebuilt the sites as SharePoint 2013 communities bringing the security with each list. Once the sites were imported into the new web application, we converted the security from what it was in the initial site to a site collection model with viewers, editors, moderators, and owners.

After security was complete, we could detach the content database from the temporary farm and attach it to the production farm and be ready to go.

SharePoint 2013: Social Analytics Part 2 — What it Means to You

(This post is Part 2 in a two-part series.  For Part 1, click here.)

In our previous episode, we quickly reviewed the concept of data analytics as applied to social computing software—how it enables both admins and the software companies themselves to prescriptively target feature configurations or updates to user demographics that will benefit from them.

And that’s great, but being that this is a Microsoft technology blog, today we ask what’s really on your minds: What does that mean for SharePoint?

Well, for starters, in the 2013 version of SharePoint, the Office 365 / SharePoint Online is finally achieving the feature parity—certainly from a social computing perspective, but in other arenas as well—that Microsoft has been gunning for since the days of BPOS.  I’ve tested the new version of SharePoint Online myself and it really does deliver on that promise.

Out of the box, then, SharePoint Online 2013 is a cloud-based social platform all by itself.  That’s pretty nifty news.  But what about Microsoft’s plans for Yammer?  What about 2011 Partner of the Year, Newsgator?

Already Yammering Away

As it happens, Yammer—the newest addition to the Office family— has already been engaged in developing new releases based on audience analytics for quite some time.  I’ve been told that this was actually a big part of why they had such appeal to Redmond in the first place.

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