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Enterprise Social Platforms That Live Outside of SharePoint

Is your organization committed to leveraging SharePoint as its enterprise collaboration and portal platform? Are you are also evaluating enterprise social platforms? If your answer is “yes” to both of those questions, there are a few things that you and your stakeholders should strongly consider as you have internal conversations about leveraging enterprise social platforms that live outside of SharePoint:

  1. In order to build, and keep, momentum for your SharePoint implementation, identify a core team that becomes (or continues to be) the greatest of SharePoint evangelists. Most importantly, do not take on this task alone; pull in key people to assist you. An effective group of people talking up the platform will help you with your cause of improving collaboration and transparency in the organization—this entails championing SharePoint as THE collaboration platform and THE social business platform for your enterprise. Consider that giving the slightest of credence to enterprise social tools that live outside of SharePoint (Socialtext, Jive, etc.) diverts attention from the initiative that you have substantially invested in—a centralized collaboration platform. Getting sidetracked with yet another application in your intranet/extranet ecosystem takes the focus from the one platform you want to see succeed the most.
  2. Many customers that I talk to wish that they would have leveraged SharePoint or SharePoint with NewsGator as opposed to a hybrid model where SharePoint serves as one platform and Jive/Socialtext/etc. serve as the social platform. Here are a few of the reasons why:
    1. With multiple platforms, it is extremely difficult to get traction on either when both are present in the organization. Customers that first released an enterprise social platform found it especially painful to get traction with a subsequent SharePoint implementation.
    2. Internal groups of users, support staff, and even executives become attached to either the enterprise social platform or to SharePoint, creating a divisive ecosystem within your organization.
    3. As a result of a. and b. above, it becomes really difficult to distinguish which of these two environments should be the home for enterprise activity and content. This is very counterproductive to the idea that you want to establish a centralized hub for collaboration and communication. We have seen where the support teams for each platform literally fight with each other over where content should be stored and/or presented.
    4. Natively, SharePoint has some enterprise social capabilities; SharePoint with NewsGator (which lives within, not on top of SharePoint) has very advanced enterprise social capabilities. These capabilities negate most needs for an alternative (and competing) platform that focuses solely on enterprise social. SharePoint can be your enterprise social platform.
  3. I have asked customers why Socialtext? Why Jive? Typically it is because they thought the two were easy to ramp up with; or SAAS was appealing for all the reasons SAAS is appealing; or because they are niche applications that focus on one particular thing. There are some compelling reasons why they chose these platforms. However, what these customers ended up regretting (having not considered this prior to going live with the tools) is that they added yet another tool, yet another profile (i.e. another identity for each employee), yet another content repository, and yet another set of security permissions to the organization. In the end, IT or some other business unit is taking on a whole other set of management responsibilities related to all of these “additional” things that otherwise could have been encapsulated by the SharePoint platform implementation.

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Jason Barrett

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