Smarter ideas worth writing about.

The Social Intranet


Typical Collaboration Platform

Recently, I was in a familiar discussion with an organization that was struggling with adoption of their collaboration platform - SharePoint. They implemented project/team sites and built a central intranet with good published content. Shortly after roll-out, user adoption was low.

So they redesigned with a very appealing user experience to make SharePoint look a little “less SharePoint”. Adoption stayed low…

So they invested in a deep end-user training program. If users better understood the rich feature set provided by SharePoint, adoption would increase. Adoption stayed low…  

So they implemented executive blogs and increased the frequency of corporate announcements. Give users a reason to navigate to the portal every day and usage would increase. Adoption stayed low…

Despite the deep feature set and product capabilities, SharePoint simply was not the central place people “did work”. In reality, their portal simply became the place where information went to die. The portal was content-focused, feature-focused, and process-focused. The portal lacked the most important focus – people!


The Social Enterprise

We are all familiar with social computing in the consumer world. If you take Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – you use at least one of them, your kids use them, even your parents may use them.

What about the value of “social” to a corporate enterprise? Is this another way for employees to blow off time sharing pictures of Lolcats, a necessary evil required by the Millennials, or just another communication vehicle that IT has to manage, control, and govern? Hopefully not.

Over the last year or so, we have seen numerous organizations using social to improve internal collaboration and solve the adoption problem. These organizations have ranged from large, global, Fortune 10 companies to smaller organizations with hundreds of organizations; from professional services to financial services to health care.

So what is driving this?

Ironically, the push has nothing to do with Generation Y. Rather, organizations are adopting social to improve knowledge sharing (frequently across geographies), increase productivity through better access to experts (Q&A), and of course drive adoption to their existing intranet. Social is the key ingredient to enable a people-focused intranet!


The Social Intranet… Enter NewsGator

Here is picture of our own intranet, which utilizes NewsGator combined with SharePoint. NewsGator is not the only social solution in the marketplace, but it is the only social solution that deploys on top of SharePoint. This is huge. Nearly all of our customers have adopted SharePoint as their enterprise collaboration platform and/or intranet, and NewsGator Social Sites simply bolts on.  All the IT effort in establishing user profiles, security, governance, and policies for your SharePoint environment is re-used by NewsGator. The solution actually does not exist outside of SharePoint.



NewsGator provides the social system of engagement which is combined with the SharePoint system of record (content). The means every piece of work (content) is aggregated in a way that a social conversation could be triggered amongst followers. As a result, tacit information is shared more easily and communication occurs outside of natural, organizational hierarchies. Further, as adoption increases, the level of the conversations and productivity become more valuable, encouraging even more adoption.

Think about it. Over the course of the day, we all do work - create documents, attend meetings, complete tasks, answer questions, submit ideas, approve a workflow item. etc. All of these activities inherently lead to a variety of work products. When a work product is completed – for example, edits are completed to a project’s requirements document – that content is typically uploaded to the collaboration platform (SharePoint). SharePoint, however, is not really a system of engagement. Therefore, to make colleagues aware of a content change, people resort to emailing all team members or automating the emails through alerts. Collaboration and tacit knowledge is shared through email, if at all. 

With a social solution, all work activities are aggregated into an activity steam. This is the beauty of a social enabled collaboration platform. It is not merely about short microblogs. Rather, it is about sharing of information and increasing communication in all directions – top-down, bottom-up, and across-geography. When I complete edits to our project’s requirements document, that activity is aggregated into the stream of all colleagues who choose to follow me (they also choose the type of activity to follow). These activities generate awareness, trigger conversation, and encourage more adoption.  Some organizations are concerned that social becomes a time waster. In our observations, we have seen productivity and employee engagement outweigh any concerns which are easily self-governed by the social community itself.

If you are interested in seeing a demo, send me an email.


About The Author

In his role as CTO, Brandon focuses on strategic delivery efforts and new technology initiatives for Cardinal.