SharePoint 2013 is due for release in Quarter 1 of 2013 and has been modified to meet new and growing business needs and expectations. One of the most significant of these is the new social networking aspect of the platform, which has been boosted and strengthened by Microsoft’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Yammer in June 2012.
It’s Yammer Time
Microsoft has now bundled Yammer into SharePoint, and this will make it easier for business users to embed social feeds and interactivity in SharePoint sites – whether internal or external. One example of where this has worked is Nationwide Insurance. Nationwide recognised the value of an internal social network back in 2008 when Yammer was first released.
Since then, the company has posted over 350,000 messages using the platform. Almost the entire staff of 30,000 signed-up voluntarily and there is a massive contribution rate of 50%. Anyone who has ever chaired a large-scale meeting will understand the importance of that statistic – a contribution of 10% is more likely on such a scale! This system allows everyone, from the CEO to the apprentice, to see at a glance how the company is doing, catch-up with new developments and comfortably have their say on processes and products.
How can Yammer help you?
Any company, large or small, can reap the same benefit from setting up and maintaining a business social network; and the benefits of doing so are immense. Networks make it easier for colleagues to share ideas, especially in a format where many people can express their ideas quickly and easily to appropriate colleagues. Online chat or video conferencing allows for ‘face-to-face’ communications where ideas can flow without being restricted by crackling telephone lines or slow and poor-quality fax reproductions, but even without these features SharePoint and Yammer allow for the fast exchange of ideas to take place.
With a free flow of information and ideas, productivity can be boosted. One person sitting alone at home or in an office can feel pressurised and isolated, leading to stifled creativity. A constant means of communication can alleviate these feelings and colleagues can bounce ideas back and forth, energising each other until they both feel positive and motivated to perform at the top of their ability.
Projects on SharePoint will never look the same again
This type of colleague support is not limited to individual projects and brainstorming sessions. Seeing the development of a project, commiserating with set-backs and celebrating successes can boost collective company morale. This helps the entire company or business to function as a single unit, particularly when objectives are clearly laid out for all to strive for. Social networking can also make it easier for managers and team leaders to pick up when an employee starts to fall behind or lose morale. Picking up on such problems early can help the employee to feel appreciated and understood, boosting his or her productivity and loyalty to the company, as well as preventing potentially worse issues with that worker in the future.
If workers are scattered in multiple locations, either different company offices or working from home, it can be difficult for remote colleagues to fully understand concepts, statistics and diagrams without being able to see them clearly. SharePoint allows documents to be shared easily, literally at the click of a mouse. Files or documents to be shared are simply stored in a file to which all the necessary parties have access, enabling all the team members to have full access to the entire project. This has an end result of producing a well-rounded project where all the individual employees have worked together as a team, rather than as solo workers producing single components and then hoping that they will fit together.
Internal-departmental communication is vastly improved using SharePoint 2013 and Yammer. Just as messaging friends on traditional social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be practically instant, so too can the business model. If all employees have a news-stream running in the corner of a screen, it is possible to collaborate with different departments while working, meaning that even the largest changes to a design, product or document can be implemented immediately, across the entire company.
How to get your staff interested in Yammer
Providing the framework for a business network is not sufficient to ensure that it will be seized upon by the entire staff. The fastest way to ensure that everyone joins the program is to make it a mandatory condition, all staff members must sign up. Some companies provide usernames and temporary passwords to employees so that all they have to do is log-in and are ready to go. However, this may not be the best way of encouraging employees to use the system, some people are resistant, on principle, to anything that they are forced into. To this end, it may be preferable to invite people to sign up voluntarily over a few weeks.
Directors and managers must lead the way, signing up first and using the system frequently to send messages, and welcoming and responding to feedback. Not many employees will risk being a guinea pig for a new system, but are more are likely to follow a team leader’s example.
Finally, and most importantly when setting up a brand new social network for a company, encourage interaction. Invite feedback from everyone who uses the system, and encourage staff to log in daily to check for updates. While the system is in its infancy consideration could be given to running a fun campaign, such as ‘joke of the day’, or ‘funniest pet photographs’; something light-hearted and entertaining that will encourage workers to log onto the system eagerly and promptly, until it is an ingrained habit.
Business social media is the next big thing, helping companies to connect with customers, staff members and to stay on top of industry developments. Microsoft’s blend of SharePoint 2013 with Yammer looks set to perfectly balance business needs.
About the author:
Marcus Austin works for Firebrand Training as a Technical Author. Marcus has over 25 years’ experience in the technology and business sector. His recent work includes constructing a mobile strategy for the Guardian Media Group, together with writing and editing for magazines and websites including TechRadar, Internet Retailing, IT Perspectives, and Santander Breakthrough.