Social Networking with SharePoint – a Primer
With the Advent of the Web 2.0, the concept of Social Networking has experienced a great deal of visibility as a means to increase productivity, through shared knowledge amongst groups of people or communities. And with this concept really taking off on the Internet, there is acknowledgment, within organizations, of the fact that the community concept really is a means of developing, harnessing and maintaining long term organizational memory, and communities are in fact an effective way for organizations to capture unstructured data, and to share knowledge outside of the traditional structural boundaries.

It has been further observed that Social Networking within enterprises can also assist in the extinction of Information and capability silos by identifying subject matter experts and resources. The fact that now it could be possible to discover and identify people, teams and information related to their specific initiatives and efforts, through an understanding of the web model, has information workers wanting these social networking applications at their disposal more than ever. And even Organizations have started to realize the potential of these applications and as a mechanism to unlock and surface unstructured data and valuable information.

Having said that, it is absolutely essential for organizations to invest in, and choose the right kind of application to host these solutions. And we are going to discuss, in this article, about how SharePoint’s inherent Social Networking capabilities, along with its robust platform could just be the right application for you.

Some of the Social Networking Components of SharePoint

User Profile: This is the Profile information of a user, where users store their personal information.

My Sites: These are personalized Sites created for each user, allowing him to create blogs, wikis, store his personal documents, Share information with others, etc.

Organizational Hierarchy Web Part: This Web Part shows, where the user is situated, in terms of hierarchy, in the corporate pantheon.

Colleagues Web Part: This web Part allows the user to mention who colleagues are and define his relationship with them though the use of Meta data.

People Search: This feature allows users to be able to search for colleagues based on filter criteria.

Though SharePoint, does not have all the components to be called a complete Social Networking Solution, such as bookmarking, Tagging, the ability to publish this internal data on the Internet, and more extensive support for Forms based authentication, etc, but nevertheless, It is a great platform for building robust and flexible Enterprise 2.0 solutions that are extensible and secure, and leverage Web 2.0 in a holistic fashion to empower business users, and help organizations become more agile, efficient and productive, all in a seamless and secure fashion., but it is a great starting point, and given the fact that it is already being touted as a great publishing and Business platform, and with the progress being made in the social networking aspects, it is a good platform to bet on.

Building Powerful Intranets with SharePoint
Organizational intranets are evolving from being an employee collaboration and document sharing platform to be a more powerful platform that incorporates the best of breed features of new generation technologies and solutions. The concepts of Mash up applications with web 2.0 technologies are being brought into the intranets to provide a single source of truth to the entire organization in a self service manner, with users given the primary focus as the contributors to the content of the intranet through collaboration tools and business solutions.

For a continuously successful intranet implementation, a clear strategy and plan needs to be created with dedicated teams to manage the intranet environment. This will allow your organization to easily identify the corporate intranet needs and implement the same in a structured and phased manner, aid in marketing the intranet as a business tool to the users, and allow them to gracefully accept the intranet in an efficient way.

The success of an intranet is totally dependent on the users as well as the ease of management of the infrastructure. It is very critical that the every piece of information from within or outside the organization must reside on the intranet which can be easily accessed by users and centrally managed. SharePoint is a ideal platform with capabilities like integrated document management, content management, extensible search, self service approach based interface and capabilities to extend the platform with the use of development frameworks which can be utilized to configure the intranet as a single source of truth for all the user communities across the organization.

Implementing an intranet and configuring it to deliver information must be the beginning of a phased approach that will transform the intranet to be a business tool for the organization. Applications and utilities should be implemented that would promote individual level, team level, departmental level and organizational level process automation. Moreover, Extranets should work together with the Intranets to provide and extended Enterprise which reaches out to the customers, partners etc. SharePoint can be a single platform that can be extended to provide collaboration and business applications that can not only cater to the employee requirements, but also to the collaboration requirements of customers, partners etc. via an extranet.

To support the informational, collaboration and business requirements of users located in offices that are sprawled across the globe, the intranet must be capable of delivering content with multi-lingual support, and truly integrate the teams across the world to seamlessly work together. SharePoint with its multi lingual capabilities and site variations provides a centralized management console with regional and localization settings, which can be easily used to deliver information to the audiences across the globe.

We believe that Microsoft SharePoint provides such an infrastructure and collaboration capabilities with innate extension and integration features, and can be effectively used as a platform to bring together distributed teams by providing centralized collaboration and process management capabilities with contextual information delivery.

SharePoint: The New Face Of Your Enterprise Architecture
Business Users today have to operate on tens, if not hundreds of applications, as part of their daily routine to run through their quota of work, moving from one silo to another to another, and if that isn’t enough, the increased application access and password complexity, making it absolutely hard to maintain focus on their core jobs. Add to that, a lack of interoperability between these systems, and a lack of a truly integrated experience, and you’ve just defined virtual hell. Not to mention, the virtual nightmare that it is, for the IT departments, to manage and maintain these varied platforms and applications on a day to day basis.

In a world where the focus has moved from “ one solution for all “ to “doing one thing, and doing it right”, vendors are building software solutions that meet some specific need and Enterprises, in an attempt to stay current, and to give their employees the best-of-the-breed software end up bringing in a myriad of applications and platforms within their environments. The result: “Virtual Hell”.

Positioning of SharePoint as a Business Platform

SharePoint Features and Benefits

 Provides out of the box collaboration features like blogs, wikis, discussions, project management, document libraries, lists etc., that are easy to use and allow information workers to share and manage contents.
 Allows building applications that are supportable, extensible and easily maintainable by business users
 Workspace templates along with the collaboration tools can be used to manage specific information about projects, IT, HR etc.,
 Advanced Document management capabilities with support of content types allow information workers to easily create documents, fill information and share them securely.
 Can be a single platform for Intranet, Extranet and Internet with support for hosting to provide applications and software as service
 Supports collaboration both within the internal users, external users, and anonymous users of the Enterprise.
 Supports out of the box reporting dashboards, KPI web parts etc. that can be used to build mash ups and integration with backend systems
 Offers a component, the Business Data Catalog that allows for integration of LOB systems with SharePoint, and surfacing the data from within these disparate systems, right into SharePoint.

SharePoint is a great platform for building robust and flexible Enterprise 2.0 solutions that are extensible and secure, and leverage Web 2.0 in a holistic fashion to empower business users, and help organizations become more agile, efficient and productive, all in a seamless and secure fashion. Common areas where Enterprise 2.0 solutions prove particularly useful are IT helpdesk, Active Directory user provisioning and profile management, eProcurement and the like. Well designed Enterprise 2.0 solutions virtually become key strategic assets for any organization’s business performance.


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