What Are These Social Features?

By Matthew Sarrel  |  Posted 2010-11-09 Print this article Print


What Are These Social Features?

To succeed, your employees need to be able to leverage and build on the talents and knowledge of their co-workers. Web 2.0 technologies have given employees access and input to more information, content and expertise than ever before. In spite of tremendous gains in productivity, organizations are challenged to manage information and content overload while maintaining accuracy and relevance to help ensure that employees are connecting with the right content and expertise when they need it. Organizing and leveraging both explicit and tacit knowledge within your organization is an excellent goal for your social collaboration initiative.

Traditional collaboration tools that are document-centric are no longer sufficient to drive innovation and productivity. The ability to leverage voice, video, presence information and instant messaging is a proven enhancement to employee collaboration. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2014 social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communication by as many as 20 percent of business users. If you're not on the social collaboration bandwagon, you will be left behind.

A key component of social software is the personal profile. User profiles contain detailed information about individuals and serve as a place to organize and display documents and other collateral that a user has contributed to the collaboration effort. Profiles enable workers to build their personal brands, share content and experiences, and, perhaps more importantly, find expertise and offer their own expertise to the rest of the business. For this reason, it's important to be able to search profiles by content tags. For example, if I'm about to start a project on social collaboration, I can search for "social" and "collaboration" and quickly contact everyone in my organization with the applicable skills to establish a cross-functional team.

Self-service and user-contributed content are key components of social collaboration software. IT doesn't have to get involved when I create a group, community or project site and invite my newly uncovered experts to join me. This community provides the dispersed team with a virtual space to privately share content, engage in discussion, and manage the project and deliverables. Using widgets, I can design a project dashboard where team members can track their own content, the content of others and project status. Including an RSS feed of related news or maybe the client's blog puts even more information at my team's fingertips. Sharing bookmarks to relevant external sites helps organize the team's research.

Other powerful tools include activity streams, status messages, microblogs and presence indicators. Theses provide quick and easy ways for employees to know what everyone is working on. These are much less formal (and therefore more timely) than a full status report. For example, I might set my status to "watching eWEEK Webinar on collaboration tools," and a co-worker could see that and make an impromptu decision to join me.

In some ways, a community profile serves the same purpose for groups of people that a user profile serves for individuals. Now everyone in the organization can search for and tap into the team's expertise and share their content and experiences. Because content is so much easier to find, employees can spend much less time reinventing material that already exists in other departments. Blogs and wikis are a great way to build this knowledge repository. Social tags can be added to any piece of content to describe the content. Tags can be searched using keywords, and tag clouds show the amount of activity within each tag.

And the best part is that when we're all done, the site still stands as a permanent record of the project. The content and expertise can be found and used by other teams (if we want it to be) that can also contribute to it. Role-based security policy management allows for proper governance and compliance with industry and government requirements.

Matthew Sarrel Matthew D. Sarrel, CISSP, is a network security,product development, and technical marketingconsultant based in New York City. He is also a gamereviewer and technical writer. To read his opinions on games please browse http://games.mattsarrel.com and for more general information on Matt, please see http://www.mattsarrel.com.

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