SharePoint 2013 for intranets and the digital workplace

The new SharePoint logo!
Last week I was lucky enough to secure a place on a webinar hosted by Step Two Designs and Dynamic Owl Consulting. The webinar was called "SharePoint 2013 for intranets and the digital workplace", so you wont be surprised to learn it looked in detail at some of the new functionality within SharePoint 2013 and the potential impact on intranets and the digital workplace.

This was a free webinar so the slides and the video recording from the webinar are available for anybody who missed it or would like to catchup with what was discussed. For anyone who doesn't want to do that I've summarised the main discussion points below.

SharePoint Content authoring

This has always been difficult in the various different version of SharePoint, especially if you're just a casual user who wants to quickly edit some content or create some new content. Fortunately in SharePoint 2013, content authoring has become somewhat easier. Especially with the introduction of multiple browser support and a number of usability enhancements including support for digital assests (images, files and videos)

Copying from word, which is something most intranet editors will want to do, has also become a lot easier. In previous versions of SharePoint when you copied content it would often display with crazy HTML and styling. This should no longer happen, which is great for content editors and anyone thinking about going near a SharePoint page.

Microsoft have also improved how images are handled in SharePoint 2013 with SharePoint creating multiple renditions of the same image. This is great because content editors will now be able to pre-define image sizes, say for staff photos and re-use the across SharePoint.

Another area Microsoft has improved is video support. Now content can be embedded from external sources like Youtube and will play across multiple devices. SharePoint 2013 also incorporates a HTML 5 Player and will automatically capture thumbnails of videos. The new embedding functionality is a great way to make use of external content and should certainly make a difference for many content authors.

Mobile capabilities

The next area discussed was the mobile capabilities of SharePoint 2013. According to the presenters SharePoint 2010 wasn't very mobile friendly. The good news is the SharePoint 2013 has a host of new features which should make it look better on mobile devices. These include multiple views for different content, device channels, push notifications and a better custom API. These improvements mean that a SharePoint intranet should now look good in a mobile environment.

Perhaps more significantly SharePoint 2013 has been optimised for web browsers so it will appear in full screen for tablets. There are also SharePoint 2013 applications for iOS and Windows phone but sadly not yet for Androids (this seems a bit odd given the number of Android phones in use). According to the presenters the SharePoint apps provide a very good social experience and could be used to encourage social adoption. However developing these apps for your environment is something that requires development experience.

The social experience

This is an area that I'm sure a lot of people will be interested in. In terms of a social experience SharePoint 2010 promised much but ultimately left people disappointed with their social experience. It looks like SharePoint 2013 will offer much more in terms of a social experience with practically everything being new. According to the presenters the social experience is not integral to SharePoint, although the Yammer acquisitions does raise some questions about the future.

A significant development has been with the newsfeed, which is now available to all users. The newsfeed now utilizes tags, mentions, replies and embedding of content to provide a much more engaging experience. Microsoft have also improved the following functionality so that individuals that are following you appear in your newsfeed. You can also choose to follow documents and see when they've been updated.

Microsoft have also improved the tasks and site listing functionality. So tasks now be synchronised across multiple lists and there is a new timeline feature to organise tasks. It's also easier to manage tasks centrally. Users can now view a list of sites that they following centrally and administrators can promote these sites to encourage adoption.

However whilst both the presenters felt there were significant improvements in SharePoint 2013, some social requirements (dependant on your organisations) will require 3rd party tools. The presenters also said that the Yammer integration is currently unclear, but will no doubt have an impact on the social experience within SharePoint 2013.

Enterprise search

The next area the presenters looked at was Enterprise search. This has seen the biggest improvements apart from social, with the most significant change being that FAST search no longer exists. Not only have Microsoft improved the interface, within previews for all content now available, they've also significantly improved the analytics. In particular clicks and suggestions are now tracked and recommendations and user behaviours are now captured.

However Enterprise search within SharePoint 2013, still requires significant setup and many of the skills required to administer enterprise search with SharePoint 2013 don't exist within the corporate environment. The presenters also reaffirmed a point I always make which is that if your content is poor search isn't going to make it any better. "You put rubbish in, you'll get rubbish out"

Finally the presenters looked at the differences between SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. With the suggestion that if you're considering a move from 2007 to 2010 you should reconsider and think about going from 2007 to 2013 as this is now a pretty stable environment.

Overall this was a really interesting webinar, which is well worth watching if you have a spare hour.

Reasons to use LinkedIn

A very short post here on some tips and tricks I picked up from listening to a webinar on Monday about LinkedIn. Sadly the webinar wasn't great and didn't really tell me much I didn't know but there were a few useful tips.

First off if you haven't yet joined LinkedIn then you might want to consider the following reasons why you might want to:

  1. LinkedIn is great if you want to raise your profile. Even if you hate using technology it's important that you have an internet
    presence and LinkedIn is just like having your own personal website. 
  2. You can use LinkedIn to help other connections with their business challenges
  3. You can use LinkedIn to meet key people and decision makers
  4. You can let other connections know what you're doing, otherwise you'll remain a secret to them
  5. LinkedIn is a great place to start maintain and re-establish relationships

The presenter then provided us with some tips when using LinkedIn, most of these weren't new. But one thing I did learn was that you can add tags to your connections via the Connections menu. Whilst it might seem a bit laborious to create and add tags for each of your connections adding tags means you can then send a select group of connections an inmail, rather then send an inmail to all your connections.

The other tip I thought was useful was the advanced search in Linkedin. I didn't even know this existed until it was pointed out to us. This is actually an advanced people search but it good in that it provides a few more option in relation to how you can find individuals.

That was pretty much it, like I said it wasn't a great webinar but there were a couple of interesting tips.

Going social - word of mouse

No mice were harmed in the writing of this blog post

Earlier this week I listened to a recording of a very good webinar from the team at Interact Intranet and specifically Nigel Williams and Sara Burgess.I haven't linked to the webinar here because I don't believe it's publicly available unless you registered to attend the webinar.

The title of the webinar "Going social - word of mouse" is as you will no doubt have noticed a play on the phrase "word of mouth" and a reference to a soon to be published book by Marc Ostrofsky called "Word of mouse" Word of mouse looks at how we're all immersed in technology but are "sleepwalking" through it's impact. So for an intranet manager this might be that they have a fantastic tool at their disposal but they need to find ways to make their users aware of it's existence and how valuable it is rather then just let them sleepwalk their way through their use of it! This is especially true with social intranets, which aim to engage people more and encourage users to add content and collaborate with other users. So what are some of the things intranet managers can do to encourage these behaviours?

So the first thing Nigel and Sara reminded us was that going social isn't just about deploying a technology and expecting individuals to use it.  If you're planning on going social then you need to think carefully about individuals behaviour and what it is they might want to get out of a social intranet. So it might be that you're trying to:

  • Connect people with content
  • Connect people who have created content with similar content
  • Connect people based on similar needs

Unfortunately a lot of intranets don't fulfill their potential to connect people with content. So the question is how can intranet managers encourage users to visit the intranet and improve their intranet experience. There followed 10 useful tips from Nigel and Sara for intranet managers and intranet editors.

  1. Only upload a document if you really have to. Intranet managers need to encourage their editors to create flat HTML pages that mean their users stay in the intranet rather then open Word, PDF or Excel documents.
  2. It's also important to remind intranet editors that their content should be constantly evolving. It's great that individuals are prepared to publish content to the intranet. But it needs to evolve as do the conversations about it.
  3. People buy from people. Show faces and include a photo of authors on a page.
  4. Intranet page titles should where possible be short and sweet. This is important as you don't want to tell users the whole story in the title. You also don't want to be amibguous, between 2 and 9 words is ideal.
  5. Page summaries should never repeat the title. These should add more detail and tell people what the document is about.
  6. A key point is that plain text is not engaging. Instead use videos and pictures to make the intranet page more engaging and interesting.
  7. Avoid using jargon. This is very important as jargon will kill your intranet. If you have to include jargon then do so in a glossary or abbreviation list.
  8. Making your content searchable is very important. In practice this means making your metadata great. So keywords and a the summary should always be indexed by your search engine.
  9. Knowing what technology your audience is using is an important factor. As difference tecnologies will potentially take lonnger to download pages and content. It's also important to consider remote workers and those individuals who might not have access to a PC.

This is useful advice and there are of course inherent dangers in not making your content and useful and as easy to read and understand as possible. The biggest danger being that users don't use your intranet or don't value what is in it. The old saying goes that if you put rubbish in (the rubbish being intranet pages)

Having great content within a great tool will help get your business talking, which can only be a good thing.  Overall this was a really interesting webinar, if you get the chance to attend a Interact Intranet webinar or event then based on this webinar it will be very worthwhile.
[Photo credit - Cat & Mouse from Flickr]

The know-way

If you haven't seen it already the Lawyer has published a lengthy article on how Law Firms are providing Knowledge Management to internal and external clients. Someone pointed the article out to me via Facebook and I felt compelled to write a blog post, highlighting the article and commenting on some of the points made in it.

The first thing to say about the article, is that it's a panel discussion looking at how law firm Knowledge Management functions are developing in respect of making the most of knowledge held by lawyers and clients. The panel included Janis Law from Clarke Willmott, Jessica Magnusson from Osborne Clarke and Lorna Ferguson from Bird & Bird.

The next is that the article only actually includes four questions, which are:

  1. Is your knowledge management function supported by senior partners and management?
  2. How can law firms leverage clients know how to improve their KM?
  3. What developments have you made to your KM function in the last year?
  4. How can you capture the knowledge held in lawyers heads?

So what conclusions can we draw from the panels' answers. Well it looks like KM has never been more important in law firms, with all panelists agreeing that support by senior partners and management was stronger then ever. That's not to say the panelists wouldn't like more support, but what was available was appropriate. It was good to see that one of the firms had recognised the importance of collaborative technologies and how they can help achieve superior client service.

The next question around leveraging client knowledge garnered some interesting responses. Notably around giving clients advice on how to manage KM systems and the best ways to deliver knowledge to them. The next question was really a look into the future and what plans the KM team had in terms of improving their services. PSL's are mentioned more then once in this section, with one firm using Consultant PSL's rather then PSL's who are directly employed by the firm. These consultants PSL's work on projects and according to the article "deliver consistently what they have been asked to" whilst "providing flexibility"

The last question is the one that I'm sure everyone is hoping for a detailed answer to. Unfortunately capturing knowledge that is in someones head is probably the most difficult task in the world. The panelists do offer some suggestions though, which include the following:

  • Knowledge sharing through training sessions
  • Using expertise databases to identify who has the appropriate knowledge
  • Recording fee-earners and publishing these videos to the intranet
  • Using social media and online collaborative tools

There are some good suggestions here, but I think this question will continue to trouble Knowledge Managers and law firms for a very long time! Overall a really interesting article, with some perspectives from Knowledge Managers working in three very different law firms.