If a document falls in Sharepoint, and nobody hears it...does it make a sound?
That play on the old tree/forest cliche popped into my head this week while some Socialtext colleagues and I were meeting with senior IT staff of a Fortune 100 manufacturing customer of ours. They're a big Sharepoint shop, and mid-way through the meeting we had a revealing exchange:
IT Executive: We're a heavy Sharepoint shop
Us: Cool. How's adoption?
Executive: Frankly, it's pretty awful.
Executive: No one goes to Sharepoint on their own. If you email them a link to a document, they'll click on it, but they won't go in by themselves.
Us: Suppose someone adds a document to Sharepoint of potential interest to me. How would I know it was there?
Executive: Someone would have to email you the link.
I've had this conversation several times now, almost verbatim. People don't go into Sharepoint because they don't know what's in Sharepoint.
The problem here is lack of transparency. If you can't see what other people are doing, you can't very well collaborate with them. It's not enough to have access to valuable content; you have to know that the content is there.
Sharepoint makes me think of a cocktail party where you can see the names and faces of the other guests, but you can't hear what they're saying. That party would quickly face an attendance problem, just as Sharepoint has an adoption problem.
Social software adoption requires collaboration. Collaboration requires transparency. You can do all the change management and attend all the conference break-out sessions you want, but you won't get adoption until you deliver transparency.
The good news is that there's an answer to this problem: activity streams. Twitter and Facebook have proven that activity streams are the most effective tool we have for letting folks know who is doing what and where. And they're the only effective tool we have for making those events social, by enabling others to comment, like, tag, re-tweet, etc.
Of course Twitter and Facebook didn't have nearly the traction they do today when Sharepoint 2010 was being scoped and coded. So while there are glimmers of transparency and activity streams in Sharepoint 2010, they are incomplete features at the margins of the user experience.
The social software world evolves faster than Sharepoint does, which is why it's good to have smaller, nimbler players like my own Socialtext around. We're smaller, our development cycles are shorter, and we're more sensitive to firehose of learnings from the exploding world of social software.
Socialtext's Sharepoint integration pulls Sharepoint events into the Socialtext activities feed. And it "socializes" those events by enabling colleagues to comment, tag, link, etc. Further integrate these evens with feeds from other systems like a CRM or ERP system, and you've really got something transformational . And we can send the resulting integrated feed wherever it needs to go: Sharepoint, mobile, Adobe Air, iFrame, you name it.
That document falling in Sharepoint will finally make a sound.