Socializing All of the Goodness in SharePoint Online

Microsoft recently completed its acquisition of Yammer to bolster its enterprise social networking capabilities. While it’s too early to share details about the impact on your business productivity in the workplace, I am very excited about its potential! In the meantime, there are a lot of social features Office 365 customers can take advantage of with SharePoint Online.

Do you want to maximize teamwork and talent while having a protected dialog when information is sensitive to your business? Great! You’re in the right place to learn how the community capabilities of Office 365 go beyond what Google delivers.

With SharePoint Online, you can share information and exchange ideas with colleagues. What’s more, you can collect information when you need it without interrupting others or waiting for them to respond in email. You can also tap into your organization’s talent, contribute to wikis and blogs, and subscribe to information, discussions and documents. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the fact that no one in your organization has to search out these capabilities.  Unlike Google users, who need a consumer product such as Google+,  which is not supported within the Google Apps Service Level Agreement, for key social networking tools,  Microsoft includes and supports each SharePoint capability I am describing here, through Office 365.

Sharing Ideas and Expertise
Like a coffeehouse culture, SharePoint brings communities of employees together around common ideas and interests. For example, SharePoint Online My Sites lets you create your own personal site to share information and professional expertise. You can use “my profile” to create your professional biography that includes projects you have worked on, interests, education, and skills. The “colleagues” feature of My Sites suggests co-workers you might want to connect with. This provides a way to collaborate with colleagues that you may not otherwise realize have similar interests and activities.

SharePoint Online makes it easy to find specific talent within your organization. The SharePoint “organizational browser” and “people search” features help you locate peers, find managers and the people who report to them, and view each person’s profile information.

Using the “organizational browser,” employees can see an organizational chart with each user profile. They can also search for people based on attributes stored in their My Sites profile. In the screenshot above, for example, Erika identifies her expertise at improving organizational processes, a skill others in her company may want to tap into.  SharePoint and the suite of Office 365 tools also display presence information, so you can see if specific people are available. From a SharePoint site, for example, you can easily start an IM conversation just by accessing a user’s name.

Keeping Information Protected
For those wanting to gather in-depth information or have information sent to them in a streamlined way, SharePoint offers the ability to schedule RSS feeds for specific topics or content. In addition, employees can craft or contribute to wikis and blogs.

No matter how they use SharePoint Online, users don’t need to worry about sharing sensitive information like they do with Google+. SharePoint gives IT administrators the security tools they need to protect company information including permissions and Information Rights Management.

Google+ a Minus for Businesses
By contrast, Google punts social networking capabilities to Google+, which wasn’t built for business users. For one thing, Google fails to provide a service level agreement for Google+, which defines the level of service enterprises can count on.  Google+ also lacks the administrative features that give IT managers control over sensitive information.  Google+ provides nothing like the Microsoft Exchange global address list or the SharePoint organizational browser. And if that’s not enough, Google+ is still a beta experience.

Google has built Google+ as a central hub that encourages traffic to the company’s ad-funded technologies like search, Android, Picasa and YouTube. It requires Google+ users to sign and comply with its consumer terms of service. If an organization wants to administer Google+ within a business, Google provides no option to disable its games. It provides only “yes” and “no” access privileges with no other administrative controls and no privacy settings.

There are no centrally built and deployed sharing circles, and Google+ delivers no warnings when a user shares information externally. Instead, the company has designed a service built for consumer scenarios like watching videos on YouTube, playing games online with friends, and sharing thoughts and links with circles of friends.

That might be sufficient if you’re a consumer. But it certainly doesn’t meet the needs of today’s enterprises. If your business wants to improve collaboration and maximize your talent, SharePoint Online and Office 365 are where it’s at socially.