How to Get the Most Value
from Social Computing for
Business with Microsoft
Author: Alina Fu
Published: June 2008
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Table of Contents
Executive Summary ..................................................................................................................... 4
Who Should Read this Paper? ................................................................................................. 5
Social Computing Overview ......................................................................................................... 5
Why Enterprises Adopt Social Computing ................................................................................... 6
Value of Social Computing to Enterprises ................................................................................ 6
Benefits of Social Computing to IT ....................................................................................... 7
Usage Scenarios of Enterprise 2.0 Technologies .................................................................... 7
Personal Sites ....................................................................................................................... 8
People Profiles ...................................................................................................................... 8
People Search ...................................................................................................................... 9
Discussion Forums ............................................................................................................... 9
Wikis ..................................................................................................................................... 9
Blogs ................................................................................................................................... 10
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) ....................................................................................... 10
Real-Time Communication (Instant Messaging) ................................................................ 10
Mashup Solutions ............................................................................................................... 11
Podcasting .......................................................................................................................... 11
How Social Computing with SharePoint Solves Business Problems ........................................ 11
Windows SharePoint Server 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as Social
Computing Platforms .............................................................................................................. 12
Real World Applications of Social Computing .................................................................... 13
Miami-Dade County School District ................................................................................ 13
Accenture ........................................................................................................................ 14
My Sites .............................................................................................................................. 15
People Profiles .................................................................................................................... 18
Team Sites .......................................................................................................................... 21
People and Expertise Search ............................................................................................. 21
Social Networking Web Parts ............................................................................................. 23
Discussion Forums ............................................................................................................. 23
Wikis ................................................................................................................................... 25
Blogs ................................................................................................................................... 26
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) ....................................................................................... 27
Tight Integration with Real-Time Presence Communication .............................................. 28
Mashup Solutions ............................................................................................................... 28
Podcasting .......................................................................................................................... 30
Microsoft’s Main Differentiators .............................................................................................. 31
Integrated Social Computing Tools on a Single Platform ................................................... 32
Consistent User Experience in a Rich Development Environment .................................... 32
Faster Time to Market at a Lower Cost with Security and Governance Control ................ 33
IT Benefits .............................................................................................................................. 34
Stable Base Platforms ........................................................................................................ 34
Ease of Management .......................................................................................................... 34
Scalability ............................................................................................................................ 35
Multiple Portal Options ........................................................................................................ 35
Ease of Customization ........................................................................................................ 35
Conclusion ................................................................................................................................. 36
Social computing is a term with many meanings. We refer to social computing as the
natural evolution of collaboration, a shift of focus from content to a focus on people. The
power of social computing lies with the users and the communities. Organizations obtain
business value from the experiences and ideas produced through the use of these
collaboration technologies that are modeled after natural social behavior. The common
term for such technologies is Web 2.0. For Web 2.0 technologies that apply to the
enterprise setting, the derived connotation is Enterprise Web 2.0, or, for short, Enterprise
2.0. These technologies help facilitate social interaction and enable valuable information
to be gathered, analyzed, and shared broadly. More specifically, these technologies
provide users with the ability to:
Establish a richer identity that extends beyond their HR information.
Create content and collaborate seamlessly with colleagues both inside and
outside the immediate organization.
Find subject matter experts and form social networks with colleagues.
Develop, amend, and publish static and dynamic content easily.
Search for resources based on social distance or relevance.
Social computing has proved immensely successful over the last few years for
consumers on the Internet. Sites such as Facebook have taken the development of peer
groups beyond demographic and geographical boundaries, and community solutions
such as Wikipedia have created a collaborative encyclopedia which is often referenced
as a major resource for information.
The adoption of social computing by the business world has been slower, often because
of concerns over security and privacy. However, social computing has certainly gained
traction and adoption among enterprises over the last year.
In order for social computing to be successful in the business context, the technologies
must align well to a user's normal working patterns. For instance, similar to the way
people network at a social event, where we move from one conversation to another or
introduce new friends into a social group, these technologies help us keep abreast of
what our colleagues are doing and facilitate introductions, but on the Web.
For a number of organizations, Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies, the
collective name for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint
Services 3.0, address their security and management concerns. With these applications,
Microsoft has integrated social computing technologies within an enterprise ready
platform. SharePoint Products and Technologies are built on well established server
technologies, including Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server. In addition to this,
SharePoint Products and Technologies leverage the capabilities of the world's most
popular productivity suite, Microsoft Office.
This paper provides examples of the how enterprises are using social computing to
address business problems. Customers referenced include Accenture and Miami-Dade
County Public Schools. While very different in organizational structure and goals, both of
these customers implemented Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint
Services 3.0 to harness the community development and information sharing possibilities
of social computing.
Who Should Read this Paper?
This paper provides information on the technologies that enable social computing for
business and uses customer examples to reference how these capabilities are applied
using SharePoint Products and Technologies. This information is relevant to business
and technical decision makers who are considering or planning to implement social
computing products in their organization. The paper will answer questions about the
business value of social computing, the benefits of the SharePoint Products and
Technologies platforms, why customers are deploying social computing, and how they
are using it to address their business problems.
Social Computing Overview
Why should you care about social computing? Growing numbers of business users are
already enjoying the benefits of social computing on the Internet: sharing information,
keeping up with acquaintances, and expanding their social networks. This evolution of
data-centric to user-centric computing is based on the advent of Enterprise 2.0
Social computing uses technology modeled on social behavior and conventions. In the
Internet space this is typified by sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Wikipedia. These
sites use Web 2.0 technologies, including people profiles, wikis, blogs, XML feeds such
as Really Simple Syndication (RSS), Internet messaging (IM), social bookmarking,
discussion forums, mashups, and podcasting. The uptake of these community solutions
started with consumers on the Internet who were interested in joining social groups or
communities to create an online persona, exchange information, and to meet new
people. Many of the popular social computing environments on the Internet enable users
to develop personal sites, provide information, interact on the Web, and work
collaboratively. Examples of these four broad definitions include:
Provision of personal sites—Facebook and MySpace provide social interaction
sites, where users can develop groups of friends or common interest
communities, while there are professionally focused social networking sites, such
as LinkedIn. The key point is users decide on what information to provide and
whom they want to share the content with. They also decide on how they want
the layout of their personal sites.
Information provision—There are many ways to disseminate information.
Podcasting is a form of social media to share audio or video content. Sites like
YouTube enable subscribers to upload their favorite video files or homemade
clips for other Internet users to view, rate, and comment upon. Blogs also provide
thought leaders with a new communication channel to broadcast information that
is available to a broad range of users.
Real-time communication—There are a number of Instant Messaging (IM)
providers, such as MSN Live Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger, that enable
users to establish a network of friends or associates with whom they can
communicate in real-time, using text, video, and audio transmission technologies.
Central to this is the ability to see which of their friends or colleagues are online
at any given time and to communicate with multiple people simultaneously.
Collaborative working—On the Internet, users can come together across
geographic boundaries and collaborate on a single source of content. Wikipedia
has become one of the most popular encyclopedic resources in a remarkably
short time. Wiki technology enables registered users to participate in the dynamic
information capture. It uses an author and approval process, by which
moderators ensure content accuracy and relevance. The information on
Wikipedia is available to all Internet users to read and the content is contributed
by the community.
For technology-savvy people, social computing has become the preeminent means of
socializing and communication. Many users of Facebook and MySpace check their
profiles daily for messages and to peruse other members’ profiles in the community. Two
key reasons for the success of such solutions are their simple user interfaces and the
users’ enthusiasm to share personal information and meet other members. These groups
are based on shared interests or common goals and span geographic and demographic
Enjoying the community aspect of social computing, employees are bringing these
technologies into the workplace. However, they are using the consumer version of social
computing which may not have the security standards or business relevance that are
appropriate for work. While organizations have initially frowned upon the use of Web 2.0
technologies in the workplace, regarding them as distractions from work, many have now
realized how these technologies, when modified to be applicable for enterprises, can
provide visible business benefits. Organizations are deploying social computing within
their firewalls in the form of intranets and extranets to enhance business communication
and collaboration. Other organizations are using social computing in their Internet portals
for their business. Enterprise social computing environments provide the benefits of
collaboration and team building, while maintaining organizational security and data
privacy. Successful results from organizations that deployed social computing
environments show how these technology implementations thrive in the business.
Why Enterprises Adopt Social Computing
Even before the term ―social computing‖ was coined, managers recognized and
experienced firsthand an aspect of social computing in the workplace, such as the water
cooler. The water cooler is often depicted as an informal gathering place in a company; a
place to meet and converse with colleagues casually. However it has several significant
It is geographically and temporally static.
If valuable information is exchanged, there is no method of capturing it.
Little is known about the source of information, so the information may be
unqualified for distribution.
Traditionally, the information swapped at the water cooler has been lost or only partially
remembered. With the Enterprise 2.0 technologies, such as discussion forums, blogs, or
wikis, the information can be captured and archived. Even more impromptu
conversations can be saved, perhaps with an Internet Message (IM) saved to a
document or on a blog. The information has a verifiable source and can quickly be
corroborated by discussion with other online associates, preferably subject experts. Also,
with virtual social networking, users can create affinity groups with others across a
company, or even with partners and customers outside the firewall. Social computing via
software tools is a phenomenon, but the way social computing works is intuitive, so the
inclination for users to embrace it is natural.
Value of Social Computing to Enterprises
There are several ways in which social computing can offer business benefits. For
example, the technologies enable users to collaborate on projects or business
opportunities irrespective of physical or time separation. According to a survey by US
CIO Confidence Poll Online Survey conducted December 2006, the top three reasons
why enterprises embrace social computing are to:
Improve the efficiency and productivity of the business.
Encourage creativity and set the organization apart as an innovator.
Address a gap with the capture and management of knowledge.
These responses are common among 106 CIOs at firms using at least one of six Web
IDC estimates that information workers spend 9% of their day searching for information
(IDC: The Hidden Costs of Information Work, March 2005). Much of this research time is
affected by the lack of sources that capture the proper data. Improved information and
knowledge management systems helps to save time and minimize redundant inquiries.
It is sometimes difficult to establish an exact ROI number for social computing, because it
is difficult to put a price on collaborating effectively, finding the right people easily and
quickly, and pushing relevant information to the appropriate audience. Different
organizations may place different values on the same functionality. The most important
value of social computing are the benefits the users receive from contributing, reading,
and having access to information and resources made available from Enterprise 2.0
Benefits of Social Computing to IT
The benefits of social computing for IT departments should not be regarded as separate
from any business benefits—IT is as much part of the business as any other department.
The key IT benefit of introducing social computing to the end users is that IT can provide
the right tools for end users to solve business problems. Having these technologies
available in the enterprise can differentiate IT as an innovative and resourceful
department, with insight on what is needed to help the end users be more productive. IT
is more than just a cost center; IT departments want to bring the right technologies to
improve business processes.
The IT department is able to directly benefit from the use of Enterprise 2.0 technologies
as well. For instance, IT can leverage wiki technology to create a FAQ for call centers. IT
customer service representatives are able to quickly locate responses to commonly
asked enquiries as well as refine the standard responses on the FAQ wiki when
necessary. IT leaders may also use RSS feeds to push information out and enable
audience targeting to distribute different announcements that are relevant to respective
product support groups.
Of course, IT is also concerned with supporting the infrastructure, so it is important that
the social computing solutions will integrate smoothly into the current business
environment. IT departments recognize that vendor solutions that offer governance and
control are ―enterprise ready‖. Thus, they will be more likely to implement and deploy
such environments more quickly and seamlessly.
Usage Scenarios of Enterprise 2.0 Technologies
The usage scenarios most applicable for social computing vary between enterprises.
Perhaps the appropriate scenarios are most easily understood by identifying the
opportunities for collaboration in your organization. Social computing can be used for
almost every task in the workplace. It is at the discretion of the organization to leverage
which technologies will provide them with the most business value.
Common business problems our customers want to address with social computing
include the ability to:
Drive collaboration and social interaction across geographic and organizational
Transfer tacit knowledge into information and knowledge management solutions
Enhance discoverability of resources through new ways of communication
Capture the ―wisdom of the masses‖ by gathering social feedback
Establish a sense of belonging and connection to the company
However, since enterprises vary in function and objectives, it is useful to categorize the
core uses for the main Enterprise 2.0 technologies used to drive social computing.
Personal sites are Web pages where users can publish their own information. This is
possible for many sites, but in a personal site, the user has complete control over what
the site content. A personal site can be thought of as the next-generation personal file
share. It can serve as a document sharing space, idea exchange forum, or simply an
extension of their people profile. The personal site is a container for profiles as well as
other information. A personal site is owned by the individual user. The users can control
who has access to their information and what content feeds show up on their private
view. This allows the site content to stay relevant and personalized to the specific user’s
interests and information. .
People profiles enable users to publish personal information about themselves and their
work within the company firewall or on a public facing site, dependent on the security
With traditional profiles, the majority of the content in the profiles are populated by the
individuals. The users are able to decide what type of information about themselves they
want to share with their community. Users are able to specify their own interests, skills, or
responsibilities and add personal touches such as a list of hobbies to blend professional
and personal details as desired. Not only do the profiles provide a rich source of
information, but the data on the profiles can be leveraged in other pages outside of the
personal site. For example, content on the people profiles can show up on a search result
to help users search for appropriate contacts or subject matter experts based on the
properties presented. Team leads can also run searches to find users based on
keywords from their profiles to develop special interest groups or communities.
In today’s profile trends, such as on the Facebook profiles, content may not always have
to be manually added by the user. Activity trackers make users’ profile changes more
discoverable via a news feed tool or other individuals may tag the user without the user’s
initial consent. This shows the progression of the profiles towards a more community
centric model and less pressure for users to update their status regularly.
It is necessary to underline the importance of personal sites and people profiles. Without
the information that these contain, much of the interaction that is the cornerstone of social
computing cannot occur. If no one lists their skills and expertise, how can one leverage
people search to locate subject matter experts? Personal sites and people profiles can
also serve as a pivot point for other users to discover related blogs and wikis,
technologies that enable individuals to publish their thoughts or capture dynamic
Introducing people who share common interests is one of the key usages of people
search. Consumer community sites such as Facebook leverage this with their search
facility. For businesses, directory services, such as Microsoft Active Directory, provide
basic information, such as name, title, and office location, but the ability to make a search
for detailed subject matter expertise is beyond the scope of the data available. For
instance, you may be looking for a sales account executive with expertise in a given
product. It is unlikely that a single product will appear in their job title so you have to start
looking for broader categories, probably sending speculative e-mails to try to find the right
person. Often this is done through an existing social network—"I know Barbara in sales
and she may know someone who…"—and a series of similar e-mails may unearth the
Finding the right people to connect with during a specific search will become more
difficult as an organization expands. To illustrate, users interested in forming virtual
teams representing five departments with the company on a project need to find
representatives with the appropriate skills to create the team. By leveraging the people
search capability, the team leader will be able to make a more informed decision and
connect with the people who share common interests or knowledge necessary to ensure
the project’s success.
The effectiveness and power of people search should encourage people to actively
update their profile information to improve the accuracy of the search results. For more
sophisticated solutions, the search facility can search for common points between users
and the profiles they visit to highlight points of introduction. The ability of a search engine
to maintain and index pertinent information helps end users find and connect with the
right people more quickly and more successfully.
Discussion forums provide an area where people can post ideas and opinions on a range
of different topics. In the consumer space, discussion forums are places for users to
discuss issues, offer product recommendations, or ask questions that the community can
help with. In recent years, the forums have evolved to include more topics for
collaborative review or debate for pretty much any subject.
In the enterprise space, companies have leveraged discussion forums to enable staff,
partners, and customers to hold an online dialogue on business issues. The forums may
be informal or formal, moderated or real-time, depending on the goals of the forum
provider. They are a great resource for users to check if their questions have been asked
and answered already, and they can serve as a sounding board for an idea feedback.
Discussion forums may be thought of as a group chat environment where the content in
each thread remains static, but the discussion is dynamically changing.
Wikis provide a collaborative environment where any number of users can add to a body
of knowledge to create content. Furthermore, most wikis store dynamic content, which
means that it is common for contributors to refine the information over time or add new
sections without changing the existing format structure. Wikis enable mass collaborative
authoring and knowledge capture. To illustrate, in an organization with a changing
workforce, employees can document best practices on wikis to ease the transition and
training for new hire staff, and then modify content over time as the process gets refined.
While this may seem similar to a shared folder document, a wiki can help eliminate the
confusion that comes from multiple copies uploaded by different contributors or
uncertainty about which is the latest version. Furthermore, because the content of a wiki
can be structured as a series of concept-specific web pages, rather than as a large
monolithic document it is more straightforward to use hyperlinks between topics to build
an interconnected web of knowledge. Wikis can be searched and traversed in a more
targeted fashion than is possible with documents. With advanced solutions, you can
tailor wiki permissions as appropriate to control who can edit and who can view only.
This option is useful in specific instances, such as the wiki for the Mergers & Acquisitions
team or the wiki the Legal department uses to collaborate on confidential cases.
Ultimately, wikis streamline content creation in one collaborative workspace, making
knowledge capture and management simpler and more efficient.
Blogs enable individual users or groups to create content that is available for others to
comment upon or add to, but not amend. These have been compared to persistent
conversations, where a user can see what was originally written and then review
subsequent review comments. Blog authors, also known as bloggers, can post a new
entry or modify their previous entry, but a majority of blogs contain static content. Popular
uses of blogs include sharing personal or work related content through the expression of
opinions, ideas, or factual information. Bloggers can tailor their tone between informal or
formal depending on the type of content in the entries.
Blogs can also expand on previous exchanges made on communications such as
telephone calls or instant messages. This enables both parties to broadcast their
thoughts to a wider audience. Many companies who deploy the blog technology widely
throughout their organization find contributors and viewers use blogs as a communication
tool for broadcasting information, sharing ideas, and reporting to interested communities.
At a more strategic level, an executive blog offers a unique opportunity for executives to
communicate their thought leadership within an organization and to invite feedback from
Really Simple Syndication (RSS)
RSS makes it possible for users to specify content or topics that are of interest to them
through subscribing to the RSS feed. As changes or additions to information sources are
posted, the RSS feed is updated to notify the subscriber. This is an integral part of social
computing, because, just as it happens in a social network, people pass on news rather
than requiring interested individuals to ask for updates repeatedly. RSS feeds can be
regarded as a company newsfeed that can be pre-programmed to be delivered to target
audiences. Enterprises that use RSS generally have announcements they want to share
from top down to the rest of the company, or different branches or departments have
news they want to share internally that is relevant only to their function. More effective
than sending email to a wide range of people under multiple aliases, RSS subscriptions
allow end users to access the feeds when it is convenient.
Real-Time Communication (Instant Messaging)
Not all conversations need a telephone call or an e-mail to send the same message
efficiently. The use of IM enables users to see who is online and available and then start
a relatively unobtrusive conversation. A ringing phone is difficult to ignore and can
becoming distracting, but it is easy to leave an IM open until it is convenient to respond.
Saved IM messages also provide an accurately detailed account of the conversation.
Rather than having to take notes or call back for clarification of a point, the message itself
becomes a record. Another benefit of IM is its ability to transfer files between
participants, which combines the immediacy of a verbal conversation with the flexibility of
an e-mail in a single environment.
A mashup is an application created by combining multiple sources of data and
visualizations. In the context of an enterprise, a mashup is an application that results
when a business user combines multiple sources of enterprise and public data with some
visualization and interaction capabilities. Usually, mashed data is layered on top of some
graphical view to provide context, for example, using a map.
Mashups are an important tool because business users face many situations where the
tools they are provided at work fall short in solving specific business problems. These adhoc business problems require ad-hoc applications or solutions, many of which cannot be
addressed by IT organizations due to a lack of resources and personnel. Enterprise
mashups serve to empower these business users to solve some business problems
quickly and on their own.
In addition, mashups complement existing data integration solutions by also providing
access to data not commonly associated with data integration or business intelligence,
such as data accessible via RSS, Representational state transfer (REST), or web
services, which can be combined with internal, enterprise business intelligence.
Finally, mashups provide visualization and interaction capabilities that are superior to
standard reporting in tabular or graphical format. Mashups help business users combine
the deeper insights they have obtained with interesting visualizations to provide context
to that information. Enterprise mashups enable business users to render internal
business intelligence on externally available visualizations such as maps from Microsoft
Live Search Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth. By combining internal and external sources
of information, a business user is able to obtain even deeper insights.
Audio or video podcasting has always been popular among consumers and is now
making its way into the enterprise. The IDC acknowledges ―the ways in which social
networking has embraced the use of video and also how video sites have taken on more
social networking capabilities.‖ (IDC's Breakfast Briefing at CES 2008, January 7, 2008)
The attractiveness of user generated content and the style of its presentation create an
additional layer of curiosity among the community. Podcasting can offer content in a more
engaging manner and enables users to provide feedback, make recommendations, and
rate the content. These capabilities help form instant communities based on the topics of
the podcasts and encourage social networking among its members.
Early adopters of podcasting in the enterprises include education institutions and various
departments across vertical industries. Professors in major universities create podcasts
of their lectures for students to download and review outside the classroom, helping
students capture better notes and review the content. Vertical industries use podcasts as
another channel for distributing training content. Some have found this to be an effective
tool especially for sales training because the sales representatives spend most of their
time traveling and need a mobile version of a blog or wiki to learn about new products or
sales strategies. With podcasts, employees are able to better visualize through audio or
video what lessons are being taught and make them more successful.
How Social Computing with SharePoint Solves
Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 provide the
essential technologies in an enterprise environment. These Enterprise2.0 tools can be
used individually or together to leverage the usage benefits from social computing.
We have explained how and why enterprises are embracing social computing. Now we
will delve into the specific Enterprise 2.0 technologies on the Office SharePoint Server
2007 platform that enterprises use to satisfy their business needs.
An issue that is critical and needs to be addressed before any technology deployment is
identifying what are the business problems. In the case of social computing, decision
makers need to ask themselves questions to understand the importance of social
computing for their organization such as:
What business benefits will our users accrue from social computing?
Can social computing provide solutions to meet our employees’ requirements?
Do we see a need for increased collaboration between users?
Do we want to provide an integrated social computing platform for users?
Do we currently, or will we in the future, need to adopt social computing features
to address the changing workforce?
Will social computing help our business grow and innovate faster and better?
What will be the impact for our existing desktop, server, and security
What is the management overhead of supporting social computing?
The answers to these may be unique to organizations, and there may be some additional
research necessary to determine how your staff will react to Enterprise 2.0 technologies.
If your conclusion is that social computing will have value and positive impact on your
business model, then SharePoint Products and Technologies offer a compelling solution.
Let’s look at the key Enterprise 2.0 technologies for social computing that are offered
within Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.
Windows SharePoint Server 3.0 and Microsoft Office
SharePoint Server 2007 as Social Computing Platforms
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 offer a
number of social computing technologies, as shown in this table.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS)
Tight Integration with Real-Time
Web Part Framework
People and Expertise Search
Social Networking Web Parts for My
These are the core tools available for social computing environments. After sharing some
real world applications, these are discussed in greater detail.
Real World Applications of Social Computing
Accenture and Miami-Dade County Public Schools are pioneering the use of social
computing within their organizations. Their experiences appear in this paper, but here is
some background on their deployments.
Miami-Dade County School District
Miami-Dade County School District is the 4 largest public school district in the United
States. Their students in the classrooms were already experienced with social
networking; many had MySpace and Facebook accounts so implementing social
computing was a natural fit for them. They would serve as the early adopters of the
technologies and provide incentives for the teachers to use them as well.
Because the schools are responsible for their students, Miami-Dade School District
wanted to implement a secure social networking space that was hosted inside their
firewall and which implemented vital capabilities such as permission controls and content
management. The schools created social networks for students to befriend other
students within their district. If students wanted to invite someone from outside their
district to view their profile, approval was required. This policy helped ensure the safety
and privacy of the students.
The implementation was followed by a 3 month trial of a lightweight version of the full
Office SharePoint Server 2007 portal, branded as PortalLite. This trial proved popular
with the users—especially with the pupils who used social computing tools outside of
school—and was considered robust from a support and management perspective for the
district’s IT department.
Miami-Dade School District deployed their full social computing infrastructure in August
2007. They built their environment on Office SharePoint Server 2007 to deliver a secure
and controlled social computing environment to their staff, pupils, and even parents
spanning over 375 schools and nearly 400 administrative offices. The goals of their
A single sign-on for services.
Improved collaborative working across administrative and teaching
Reduced dependency on e-mail, Fax, and postal services.
A more dynamic and creative learning and working experience for users.
The choice to implement Office SharePoint Server 2007 was made based on business
requirements and in-house experience. The IT department recognized that Office
SharePoint Server 2007 could deliver:
Security—Miami-Dade School District identified that Office SharePoint Server
2007 would enable them to deliver social computing quickly and, most
importantly for an organization dealing with young people, securely because it
integrated with their Microsoft Active Directory infrastructure.
Scalability—The student and staff population would require up to 500,000
personal profiles, using the My Sites. Office SharePoint Server 2007 can support
up to one million sites on their centralized infrastructure.
Dollar value—Office SharePoint Server 2007 offered excellent value per personal
site deployment compared to other solutions they evaluated.
Speed of implementation—The infrastructure deployment took less than three
months and the full solution deployment was completed in six months. In addition
to this, after the initial pilot, the switch over from PortalLite to the full portal was a
seamless experience for the end users.
Ease of management—The use of Office SharePoint Server 2007 built on the
existing in-house experience of Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Microsoft Windows
Server 2003 and Active Directory. After the deployment 3 to 4 people can
manage the entire environment.
The social computing environment includes personal sites, discussion forums, and blogs.
With 360,000 My Sites for students and over 50,000 My Sites for employees deployed,
the uptake of the social computing environment has been even better than they had
hoped. There was no mandatory rule for the staff to fill out their profiles, but at least 50%
of the employees have set up their profiles. For the staff, the Employee portal now holds
many of the standard HR facilities, such as sickness forms and leave entitlement
information that were previously unavailable online.
As for promoting collaboration between students and teachers, in the Student portal,
students are able to view their schedule and grades, access electronic textbooks, and
store documents. Most importantly, students and staff have a collaboration site to deliver
homework and supporting resources. For example, if a student has left a book at school,
they can get the assignment from the portal and use the electronic textbook to complete
the homework. There are also blogs and discussion forums available for students and
teachers to communicate about projects outside of the classroom.
In addition to benefits for the teachers and the students, the parents can be kept updated
on their child’s progress, curriculum, and lessons. The Parent portal has increased the
amount of communication between parents and faculty, allowing parents to contact the
teachers and access their child’s information outside of the school hours at their
The wealth of information has allowed the staff, pupils, and parents to use the resources
24 hours a day, making communication more flexible for everyone. Besides these three
portals, Miami-Dade County School District also created the Community portal on the
Internet. This was to help the external community members receive and share
information. Currently, businesses are offering student internships on the Community
portal for the students to apply to. Using the workflow capability, the businesses are able
to follow up with the students who have applied to the job postings and meet the eligibility
requirements. The technologies in all of these portals were adopted without formal
training, because the user environment was designed after collaboration with staff and
pupils, who identified what they wanted and how it should look.
As a knowledge-capital intensive organization, Accenture readily recognized the potential
of social computing and were early to adopt Office SharePoint Server 2007 as their
delivery vehicle. The overall goal was to enable Accenture employees to leverage the
knowledge, experience, and skills of others working in the company, in the most effective
and efficient manner, by using technologies that would naturally encourage collaboration.
Central to this was the ability to identify expert resources, so that a customer would not
just benefit from working with a single technology expert but from capitalizing on the
expertise of 175,000 Accenture employees. Their social networking solution was
personalized to the company, branded as Accenture People.
To achieve this, Accenture focused on the use of personal profiles and blogs. These
enabled users to not only publish business information and their real world experience,
but also to use the Office SharePoint Server 2007 People Search capability to discover
one another across a global enterprise. This feature can search personal profiles and
deliver skills matches based on social distance—how close you are to an expert via
mutual colleagues—and relevance. In one reported example, a search for a subject
matter expert using the traditional speculative e-mail broadcast took two days to return an
effective answer. The same query using People Search delivered the same expert in 15
minutes, and without broadcasting unnecessary e-mails across the company.
In addition to the improved expertise location, personal profiles provide increased
employee information, as individual users share their new project experience and skills.
Because the profiles and blogs are created and updated by fellow Accenture employees,
the significance of their content is more relevant for the audience than a random external
blog or social network.
Unlike Miami-Dade, Accenture adopted a soft launch for their roll-out, experiencing viral
growth versus a big bang rollout. This approach allowed the tool to develop virally, with
no enforced usage. Additional factors contributing to its success include a memo sent to
all employees from the COO about the importance and the support of social computing at
the executive level of management, introduction to the profiles during new hire
orientations, and a launch video that was published on the intranet home page coinciding
with the deployment. Within Accenture, social computing benefits quickly reached a
critical mass where users regard Accenture People, the company’s My Sites profiles and
blogs as an intrinsic part of their working environment.
The design and deployment of Accenture People took six months, with the company
making use of its in-house development expertise to customize the available components
to more exactly fit their requirements, and developing unique solutions that fulfill their
specific business needs.
As described earlier, personal sites allow users to shape their virtual identity. With Office
SharePoint Server 2007, personal sites are branded as My Sites.
A My Site is composed of two views, each with its own template:
Public view— This view is visible to any authenticated and authorized user within
the network. There is a default layout template that comes with this view. It
consists of a people profile component and can store shared documents, links,
membership list, and blog entries. People profiles are explained in more detail in
the next section.
Private view— This personal view can serve as a space to store personal
documents or receive subscription feeds to personalized content. It can also help
manage social networks and improve collaboration with colleagues. The private
view is accessibly only to the individual to whom it refers to.
The Office SharePoint Server 2007 My Site
―We are building a sense of
provides each user with a personal space where
community across Accenture that
they can save and share personal information
creates a common corporate
and documents, as well as a public profile page
culture across environments and
to create their identity and share documents with
generations. The result is people
other users. My Sites have been around since
feel a sense of belonging via the
SharePoint Portal Server 2003, but has been
social computing tools. We believe
gaining traction since the surge of interest in
Accenture People is a fundamental
social networking. In Office SharePoint Server
component of this.‖
2007, there are enhanced social networking
Christopher T. Miller
features that can be added to My Site profiles or
Senior Director, Product
other Office SharePoint Server 2007 sites. My
Sites goes far beyond providing a simple Web
site for sharing HTML pages or centrally held documents. My Sites can contain Web
parts, RSS feeds to internal or external content, personal blogs that are publicly available
within the network, page links to wikis, a list of all document libraries and associated
tasks assigned to the individual, and much more. The mixture of these components
enhances information discovery for visitors to the profile page and facilitates social
interaction from the sharing of common interests or feedback on the content for the
profiled user. For instance, the easy access and visibility of blog entries on the My Site
profile encourages profile viewers to write comments or suggestions related to the
posting. This type of feedback channel invites a broader audience to share their opinions
and allows the author to receive perspectives outside of their social network. Another
example is that visitors to someone else’s My Site public profile may discover distribution
lists or sites that they were unaware of but relevant to their role. By discovering this
information on a public profile, the visitors gain an additional resource that may increase
My Sites is without question one of the core features of social computing with Office
SharePoint Server 2007. It is very effective for building teams and helping employees feel
the sense of community within their organization.
Accenture People is built upon the Office SharePoint Server 2007 My Sites capability.
Each employee was provided with a My Site profile, which included both the public and
private views, and a personal blog. The profiles, which made up the social networking
solution, were rolled out to help increase the connection between employees. This was
especially beneficial for employees working across geographies. As an innovative
company, Accenture adopted social computing because it realized the benefits far
outweigh the perceived risks. As the company attracts top talent, many of whom are early
in their career, Accenture wanted to establish a sense of belonging and connection for
the new hires. Also, the company recognized the inherent uptake and productivity
improvements social computing offered from this ―new way of work‖.
In the private view, users are able to customize their My Site by adding web parts that
would be useful to them. Popular Web Parts include the RSS Viewer, Colleague Tracker,
SharePoint Sites, Recent Blog Posts, and Outlook Web Access Web Parts for My
Calendar and My Inbox. Users can treat the private view as a ―launch pad‖ to start their
work day - by keeping up with current events and industry news, viewing their colleagues’
changes in responsibilities and projects, responding to feedback left on their blog postsall within a single view. Since the Web Parts are self-selected by the user, the information
is as relevant and useful as the user has set it to include.
Miami-Dade deployed My Site profiles to create social networks for staff and students.
Figure 1 is an example of a student’s private My Site that shows the child’s shared
photos. On the left navigation, the student is able to access and update and use profile,
document, discussion, and other content.
Figure 1. Miami-Dade Student My Site Private View
Because organizations have unique business models, there is room for modifying the
templates. Office SharePoint Server 2007 platform offers this flexibility with customization
options. This is useful for My Sites, where end users may want a personalized look but
do not have the technical expertise to create their own layout template. In this case, the
IT administrator can set a standard master page template for all the profiles. Office
SharePoint Server 2007 provides users with the tools to tailor their My Sites and provides
many options of Web Parts out of the box. In addition, their IT departments can also
create Web Parts and allow users to add these to their profiles. Users can also determine
how much profile information they want to share and with who they want to share it with.
In addition to the use cases from Accenture and Miami-Dade, a user’s My Site offers a
rich environment for sharing ideas, uploading documents and understanding each other’s
interests and skills. By maintaining the information on the profiles and keeping them up to
date, the My Site profiles are a valuable resource for a number of scenarios, including:
Team meeting preparation—Provides personal information for other team
members, such as memberships, affiliations.
Community building—Provides information for establishing communities of
practice or common interest groups.
Project team development—Provides information for expert identification via
People and Expertise Search.
Problem resolution—Identification of subject matter experts and use of expert
blogs and publications.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 recognizes that end users will want to use My Sites for
different scenarios and has provided free templates in the form of Application Templates
and Role-Based My Sites. More information about the 40 application templates and 7
role-based My Sites can be found on the Office Online official website,
My Sites are available by default, and can be configured by the site administrator
through a simple option selection in the administration menus. Once enabled, the
creation of a My Site only requires the user to click the My Site link, which appears on the
top right corner of the screen. Even users who do not normally have site creation
permissions can create their own My Site. Within the profile space, a user can create
subsites and add pages and documents as they would for any other Office SharePoint
Server 2007 site.
People profiles are built on the base template offered with Office SharePoint Server
2007, as shown in figure 2. This information can be filled in manually by the user or it can
be populated from databases, such as Active Directory, an LDAP server, or other
business systems that can export profile information via the Business Data Catalog.
Figure 2. My Profile Edit Details Screen
Accenture has added property fields to the Details portion of the standard public My Site
template for its employees to include additional data that is useful and relevant for their
practice, as you can see in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Accenture People Public Profile
In the public view of the My Site page, there are default personal information elements
about the user, such as job title, department, and office location. Internally, Microsoft
uses My Sites with these fields populated by Active Directory. The other fields shown
from Figure 2 are optional and up to the discretion of the user to include as much
information as they want. The profiles are more professionally targeted with fields such
as skills, current projects, and past projects, but there are also social elements such as
the fields for hobbies and birthday. The profiles are a way for users to extend their
identity and connect with other users because this information can be reused elsewhere.
In addition, organizations can modify and add custom properties to tailor the profiles to be
more specific and pertinent to their industry. Furthermore, users can set different levels of
permission settings separately for the property fields to provide enhanced security and
privacy on the information they share. Users who maintain their profiles help improve the
success of the people search results. As part of Office SharePoint Server, the profile
details from the My Sites are most commonly leveraged in the search results for the
People and Expertise Search functionality, which will be described later.
While Team Sites are not commonly included in broad discussion on social computing,
they are pertinent when reviewing the social computing tools available in Windows
SharePoint Services 3.0 and Office SharePoint Server 2007. The Team Site template
enables a project manager, or any other authorized user, to provide a site for teams to
create, organize, and share information quickly and easily. It includes a document library
and Web Parts that render lists such as announcements, calendar, member contacts,
and quick links. It can, of course, be extended to provide additional facilities, such as
team wikis, picture libraries, or even surveys.
Project or team sites are a central resource for the staff. While My Sites focus on
individuals to help them become more productive and publish the content they have
created; team sites are spaces which encourage group collaboration and communication.
The team can access information on individual or multiple sites, and project managers or
site owners can manage permission access to sensitive project or team information. This
means that with the security options in Office SharePoint Server 2007, information to
which a user does not have access does not appear in the search results, so the user is
not aware of its existence.
People and Expertise Search
It is important to be able to find the right people in your organization. Often this can mean
exploring job titles or departments, where
success is a function of good guesswork,
―Accenture is a knowledge capitalrather than structured searching. Office
intensive organization with
SharePoint Server 2007 uses the public user
employees dispersed across the
profile information gathered from the My
globe. The concept of social
Sites Profile page to conduct people
networking is very powerful, and
searches. With the People Search feature,
enables us to tap into the
users are able to locate subject matter
knowledge of all our employees
experts for the searched term. Results are
such that our clients ―hire one and
get 175,000.‖ These technologies
returned with the searched keyword given in
enable us to tag and identify
context of the profile and are by default,
experts in ways that were
sorted by social distance. This means that
the results at the top of the list have a closer
Christopher T. Miller, Accenture
degree of separation in the social network to
the user who is making the query. The
results can also be sorted by relevance as in any standard search tool. To further help
users narrow their search results, the search functionality enables people to be filtered by
categories such as job title or department. Customers are able to customize this to add
filters that are pertinent to their search needs.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 indexes the content of user profiles, enabling users to
search public profile information, such as skills, responsibilities or memberships.
Figure 4 shows the results page that Accenture People users receive when they use their
People Search. The information returned to the search is based on the data provided on
the users’ My Sites. Employees are able to use the People Search functionality to help
staff consultants for projects, allow employees to ask others for help on similar projects or
experience with the customer’s industry, and locate subject matter experts within the
organization. Accenture has found in some cases the level of details on the My Site
profiles has increased as use of search has grown, because users can see the benefits
offered by this capability.
Figure 4. Accenture People Search Result Page
People and expertise search are a major driving force for improving knowledge
management for many enterprises. One immediate benefit is that users can approach a
subject matter expert via a social connection or based on implicit recommendations,
rather than through an arbitrary request for help. While this may seem like a subtle
difference, some people prefer to receive help from someone they have some degree of
connection to more than they do from a complete stranger because there may be some
inherent amount of trust in the individual to provide accurate information. Also, some
people tend to respond sooner to inquiries from acquaintances than a request from
someone with whom they have no connection. This is a reflection of natural social
behavior, which serves as the basis for social computing technology models.
Social Networking Web Parts
Office SharePoint Server 2007 has new collaborative Web Parts out-of-the-box for the
My Sites that have emphasis on the social networking functionality. These new Web
Parts include the following:
Colleagues Web Part—This Web Part displays a compiled list of Colleagues
that can be categorized. There are five ways that a user can get new colleagues:
The user adds them manually.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 finds implicit colleagues from Active
Directory. This would include a user’s manager, peers, and direct reports
listed in the database.
Colleagues may be imported from Instant Messenger. The list comes
from user’s contacts and will suggest internal contacts.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 can mine Office Outlook to identify new
colleagues. There is an algorithm that looks at the user’s Sent items box
to suggest colleagues.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 can also suggest colleagues based on
common group memberships, such as e-mail distribution lists and Office
SharePoint Server 2007 sites.
Colleague Tracker Web Part—This shows colleagues and their recent changes
to their My Site’s profile details, anniversaries, blogs, documents, memberships,
and out of office status messages.
In Common With Web Part—This displays colleagues or memberships you
have in common with the profiled user’s My Site. For example, memberships in
common with will show e-mail distribution lists or Office SharePoint Server 2007
sites you share between you and the user’s My Site you are browsing.
People Search Web Part—This enables you to search for a person based on
the keyword. People will show up as results rather than content.
People Search Core Results Web Part— The search mines My Site profiles
and returns a list of people sorted by social distance by default. For each person,
the searched keyword is displayed to show the context of where it was found, as
well as a couple of key profile attributes. In addition, the user can switch to the
standard results view by relevance. The site administrator can define required
profile attributes, to maintain consistency across an organization.
Organization Hierarchy Web Part—This shows manager, peers (others who
report to the same manager) and direct reports.
The conception of an idea often starts from a discussion, but what tool can be used to
capture this ongoing dialogue? Discussion forums can be enabled to recreate the
experience of a dialogue that is archived and can be viewed in a threaded format. This
enables an easier documentation process as well, if needed. A discussion forum also
enables users to post questions or request information from any other networked user,
thus broadening the audience base to receive assistance from. Office SharePoint Server
2007 provides a discussion list where users can create new discussion topics and
respond to existing ones in a threaded format. This demonstrates how social computing
enables users from across an organization to work together on a problem, consuming
and sharing ideas at their convenience. The structure of the threads can be followed
naturally, as if reading the transcript from a conversation. Discussion forums can be set
up as part of a central business forum, or users can create their own forums within their
My Site as well.
Accenture has established discussion forums to collect end-user feedback for several
internal applications. The application development teams monitor the discussion to
understand what improvements and enhancements they would like to see. This public
platform helps users know that they aren’t the only one having trouble and provides a
strong tool for sponsors and development on which to focus their priorities.
Miami-Dade set up discussion forums for students and teachers to collaborate and
communicate over projects and questions. Students can access the pages for each
class, which are Office SharePoint Server 2007 sites. In each class page, there are
discussion forums for each class subject. Students can post questions outside of
classroom hours and teachers can monitor the students' progress. The questions and
answers are captured so other students with similar issues can refer to the response at a
later time. This enables cleaner project and class organization for students and the
teachers alike, allowing students to post questions and receive help as they work on
assignments and the teachers to better manage and track their class’ progress.
Discussion forums are also available to Miami-Dade employees as shown in Figure 5, so
that co-workers can track and maintain an ongoing online discussion on important topics.
Figure 5. Miami-Dade discussion forum
Wikis are a popular tool for most enterprises, especially for mass collaborative authoring
and documenting knowledge. Well suited to modern working environments where
enterprise users may work in virtual teams with limited face-to-face interaction, wikis in
Office SharePoint Server 2007 allow multiple users to access the content simultaneously.
Depending on the workflow defined, if one is defined at all, the edits to a wiki are
reflected to all participants—contributors and readers. The types of applications that lend
themselves to wikis are usually based on the creation of a coordinated solution to a
complex question, where various team members need to provide input. Until the arrival of
the wiki concept, document review usually came via a protracted e-mail thread, with an
attached document for review and amendments. However, the amendment process
consisted of sending around the versions to everyone involved in the process, then
resending after each person made his or her edits. By the time the document is published
for final consumption by the target audience, the authors and reviewers have reviewed
multiple versions of the document, some with minimal changes between each version.
This is inevitably a slow process in which the final version may not be completely
accurate, because information may be lost, confusion may arise over changes that were
not tracked, or a contributor may be left off a copy list. This may mean even more time is
required to resolve the issues.
With SharePoint Products and Technologies, a wiki can be made available to all users on
a site, but different individuals may have different levels of access to the content, such as
read only versus edit and approval permission. SharePoint Products and Technologies
provide wikis in a secure and manageable environment. Key management usage and
Site Templates—SharePoint Products and Technologies provides a wizard
driven template for wiki creation. This eases the work of both site administrators
and users. Wiki pages can be part of My Sites or any Office SharePoint Server
Authoring workflow—the authoring and approval workflow in SharePoint
Products and Technologies enables a subscriber to check out a page or
document from the server, make amendments, and then submit the content for
approval. This means that incorrect or inappropriate information cannot be
placed online without the approval of an editorial authority. While more informal
wiki sites may not require such policing, it is a useful option for business or
corporate sites that want to exert this level of publishing control.
Version management—A user can make changes to a Web page but the system
maintains a version history. For every entry, users can see when and who made
the changes. Also, a changed document can be reverted to an earlier version.
WYSIWYG editor—All editable pages in SharePoint Products and Technologies
can be amended using a Web browser based editor, rather than requiring the
use of an HTML editing application. The editor provides standard document
editing tools, such as bold and italic, font management, and cut and paste. In
addition to this the new user also has dialog boxes to help with options such as
inserting links or graphics. For more experienced users, there is an HTML source
All wikis provide read access by default out of the box for all authenticated users. Users
who created the wiki, of course, have full access control. Figures 6 and 7 show the extent
of control users have to configure settings and modify permission levels. Users can even
fine tune action limitations to members who have access to the wiki. This feature of
enhanced security and control options on content is another additional benefit from using
the Office SharePoint Server 2007 social computing functionality.
Figure 6. Wiki Edit Permissions Page
Figure 7. Wiki Customization Page
While the SharePoint Products and Technologies wikis provide collaborative capabilities
for a single document instance, blogs provide a fast and simple means of sharing
thoughts and opinions in the form of personal publishing for static content. Blogs can
consist of separate documents or pages in the form of comments. This means that each
user's comment is distinct but clearly related to a common topic. Blogs also offer groups
or individuals the ability to keep journals. The term blog is based on the original idea of a
Web log. Blogs, which began as Internet diaries, have now become one of the most
active forms of communication on the Web. At Microsoft, several executives and product
teams publish their ideas, thoughts and announcements through blogs. Organizations
may also create product blogs as a means of creating and informing the community, such
as the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog. The community members may provide expert
information via guest blog entries that may be used as resource material by others
tracking related interests.
Every My Site profile comes with a personal blog for the user. By default, the Office
SharePoint Server 2007 blog entries can be categorized as work related, personal, or
other. In the case of ―other‖, blog authors can specify a category for the post. This helps
separate the entries into more specific topics, producing more targeted search results
and improved audience targeting. Accenture employees create their own blogs about
news on their role or projects or latest work travels. Figure 8 shows a great example of an
Figure 8. Accenture Blog
SharePoint Products and Technologies blogs share the rich editing and security features
of wikis. As highlighted in the above image, another option for authoring blog posts is to
use a blog posting program such as Office Word 2007. The integration of Office Word
2007 as the blog posting editor allows authors to leverage the features from the ribbon
and graphics, such as SmartArt, creating a rich blog entry. Users may also use tools
outside of those provided by Office SharePoint Server 2007, such as Windows Live
Writer, to insert images, videos, maps, tags, formatted text, and other formatting. With
Windows Live Writer, you can also work offline on your blog entry and set it to autopublish when you come back online to your Office SharePoint Server 2007 blog. For
more information about Windows Live Writer, please check: http://writer.live.com
Creating an Office SharePoint Server 2007 wiki or blog is fairly simple. There is a site
template available for a wiki or a blog when the user creates a new Office SharePoint
Server 2007 site. These technologies are also available in the current version of
Windows SharePoint Server 3.0.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS)
Another important element of collaborative communication is to keep interested users
informed of changes or amendments to documents or pages. The RSS Viewer Web Part
enables users to consume published RSS feeds, such as news wires or internal URL
feeds to a coworker’s blog or wiki page.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 also provides the Content Query Web Part, which can
publish RSS feeds to other users. This facility integrates the use of social computing
forums, such as wikis and blogs, into the user's normal working practices, by using a
push mechanism for information updates, rather than by necessitating the user to
regularly check for changes.
Tight Integration with Real-Time Presence Communication
There is presence awareness integrated and enabled throughout Office SharePoint
Server 2007 with Office Communications Server. This enables users to see who is online
by showing a presence status indicator next to user names on any Office SharePoint
Server 2007 site. If the individual is online, a user can click the presence status indicator
to send an instant message. The presence status indicator is integrated with Active
Directory, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft MSN Messenger to provide
information. The presence status indicator also provides several options and details, such
as sending an email, scheduling a meeting, or information about the offline user’s office
location. If the end users are voice enabled, they are able to make and receive calls via
the Office Communicator client or start a video conference with only a couple of clicks.
Customers acknowledge the valuable benefits from the tight integration Office SharePoint
Server 2007 has with Office Communications Server 2007. For instance, when
employees browse the My Site profiles for a people and expertise search, find the person
they want to connect with, the presence status indicator allows them to decide quickly
whether to call, email, or instant message the subject matter expert.
Mashups represent an extension of Microsoft’s original vision of productivity and
empowerment for business users that Microsoft Office and Office SharePoint Server
2007 have delivered to enterprises of all industries and sizes. For example, an Excel user
can connect a spreadsheet to multiple data sources. The user is then able to publish that
spreadsheet to an Office SharePoint Server 2007 server for others to see and to
collaborate on. Moreover, this spreadsheet can directly feed a list of Key Performance
Indicators on an Office SharePoint Server 2007 dashboard that can be personalized for
the visitors of the site. In addition, users are able to create a page with this spreadsheet,
KPIs, and other Web Parts such as blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds for a more complete
The Web Parts Framework forms the basis of SharePoint portals. Web Parts are the
basic unit of functionality and user interface, and are mini-Web applications that can be
configured by end users. SharePoint Products and Technologies ship with several Web
Parts out of the box and provide a framework on which custom Web Parts can be
developed. Business users can easily create dashboards and pages directly using the
browser or using SharePoint Designer.
For more information, please refer to http://www.microsoft.com/mashups
Mashups bring a number of challenges to the Chief Information Officer. From security to
management, we believe that these challenges need to be addressed proactively in order
to fully deliver the value of mashups to end users and to ensure that enterprise data and
assets are protected and governed. Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides the security
and authorization mechanisms to address these challenges.
In addition to these communications benefits, social computing also recognizes that there
are disparate sources of information available for the end user to conduct their work. End
user mashup tools, such as Microsoft Popfly, enable users to readily create mashups
using multiple data sources.
An example of how Popfly can be used to create enterprise mashups is as follows. Popfly
can use customer addresses held in an Office SharePoint Server 2007 list with an RSS
feed, and project them on to a Web-based map source, as shown in Figures 9, 10, 11,
and 12. The figures depict the following steps:
Office SharePoint Server 2007 RSS Source List—a list of addresses on Office
SharePoint Server 2007 is published as an RSS feed.
Source List Integration with GeoNames and Virtual Earth—in the Popfly mashup
creator the RSS feed is linked to GeoNames and Virtual Earth.
RSS Source Output on Virtual Earth—the address information available from
Office SharePoint Server 2007 is resolved through GeoNames to create a pushpin icon at the correct location on the Virtual Earth map.
Output Integration in Office SharePoint Server 2007 Page—the mashup output
can be embedded into an Office SharePoint Server 2007 site page by using the
Content Editor Web part.
Figure 9. Office SharePoint Server 2007 RSS Source List
Figure 10. Source List Integration with GeoNames and Virtual Earth
Figure 11. RSS Source Output on Virtual Earth
Figure 12. Output Integration in Office SharePoint Server 2007 Page
For more information on how this mashup was created, please visit:
Internally at Microsoft, there is a podcasting solution that is analogous to YouTube for the
enterprise. Academy Mobile is an internal Microsoft solution for social networking and
podcasting built on the Office SharePoint Server 2007 platform. Users can discover audio
and video podcasts relevant to their work. In addition, they can post audio or video
podcasts to the site, or use Microsoft’s studio to produce them professionally.
Figure 13. Podcasting Kit for SharePoint
Visitors to Academy Mobile can engage in a social community that includes commenting,
rating, and sharing the best podcasts with the community. The platform is an extranet
that can be accessed easily, without accessing the VPN, and lets users download
content from anywhere and view it on your PC or mobile device (pocket PC, Smartphone,
or Zune). Now on Codeplex, there’s the Podcasting Kit for SharePoint (PKS) that is a
publicly available version of the Academy Mobile solution. The PKS (Figure 13) is
currently available for free download. Please visit www.codeplex.com/PKS for additional
Microsoft’s Main Differentiators
In addition to the benefits offered by the SharePoint Products and Technologies features
for social computing described, there are a range of technical management and
development benefits for IT departments. Many of these benefits are based on the ease
of implementation of Office SharePoint Products and Technologies and its administration,
it’s flexible development options, the best-of-breed Enterprise 2.0 technology partners
and 3 party vendors who offer social computing templates and add-ins, and, of course,
the integration with a range of other Microsoft products and platforms. This paper only
focuses on the social computing elements of these benefits, since there are a range of
additional advantages that reach beyond this area.
The three key differentiators are:
Integrated social computing tools on a single platform.
Consistent user experience in a rich development environment.
Faster time to market at a lower cost with security and governance control.
Integrated Social Computing Tools on a Single Platform
One of the most important strengths of Office SharePoint Server 2007 is that it provides
customers with a single social computing platform. The platform is designed to integrate
with other information sources, such as directories, Microsoft Active Directory or any
LDAP V3 directory, and line of business applications, such as CRM or ERP systems. You
can access the latter through the Business Data Catalog (BDC), which uses Web
services or standard database interfaces. Centralization of business information access
and provision of a single, easily customizable user interface are essential for efficient
social computing. This integration by design and default means that you can capitalize on
the business benefits offered by social computing and have them tightly coupled with
your business data and business applications.
“SharePoint’s social networking capabilities allow us to be able to drive down our
infrastructure and operations costs. We can do this because we have a centralized and
consistent platform. For example multiple applications link to Accenture’s People
Christopher T. Miller, Accenture
Office SharePoint Server 2007 recognizes that customers interested in social computing
find value in having more than one tool. By offering extensible people profiles, social
networking, blogs, wikis, content RSS feeds and e-mail alerts, static tags, discussion
forums, and many more, customers are able to use pick and choose what technologies
would best serve their different needs. With a platform that combines all these core social
computing tools in an integrated solution offering, customers won’t have to deal with the
added complexity and additional costs of trying to combine disparate solutions together
with each other and with their current collaboration infrastructure. Furthermore, the
transition between each of these technologies within an integrated solution provides a
more seamless experience for the user. This helps greatly with minimizing user
frustration and confusion.
Moreover, with an integrated platform, Office SharePoint Server 2007 delivers more than
social computing on its platform. The power of the platform enables customers to
leverage the capabilities from Unified Communications, Business Intelligence, Enterprise
Content Management, Enterprise Search, Portals, and Collaboration workloads using the
tools. In addition, SharePoint Products and Technologies are closely integrated with
Microsoft Office 2007. Within the Office suite, end users can embed Outlook plug-ins into
their Office SharePoint Server 2007 site, access and edit documents hosted on Office
SharePoint Server 2007 Sites (which includes My Site profiles), and use the Office Word
2007 client to create blog entries. The growth of social computing within any enterprise
organization does rely on tools users are familiar with to gain traction.
Consistent User Experience in a Rich Development Environment
Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides a consistent user experience across the
Enterprise 2.0 technologies when compared to integrating heterogeneous applications.
This encourages users to explore the range of features within SharePoint Products and
Technologies with the consistent navigation and look and feel. This helps to speed up the
creation and adoption of business applications. Office SharePoint Server 2007 also
integrates with common desktop applications, which means that the tools provide a more
seamless user experience while transitioning between technologies and thus, are easier
to use. For technology savvy users who are perhaps already using Facebook and
LinkedIn, it is easier to embrace similar types of consumer Web 2.0 technology made
available in the workplace. For those who are less experienced with social computing, it
is important that enterprises integrate the new tools with existing applications to maintain
a consistent user experience that will encourage adoption. This will help minimize training
time and costs as social computing becomes an extension to current collaboration
A rich development environment is available for solution extensibility. The development
and customization options range from changing aspects of the out-of-the-box
configuration to new development of features via in-house development, third party ISVs,
or using the .Net development tools. In addition, there is a careful selection of ISV
partners who are well recognized in the Enterprise 2.0 space. These partner solutions are
integrated with Office SharePoint Server 2007 and offer extensions for their specialization
areas. This flexibility – customizations, extensions, partner add-ons makes Office
SharePoint Server 2007 a platform with multiple options to satisfy the varying customer
needs. Furthermore, partners choose to develop on top of a rich application development
environment to provide customers with the most cost-effective social computing solution.
Faster Time to Market at a Lower Cost with Security and Governance
Customers who choose SharePoint Products and Technologies for their social computing
solution have witnessed firsthand the short time it took to set up the desired infrastructure
and deploy social computing. Furthermore, Microsoft was ranked the highest for ability to
execute compared to the other vendors, according to Gartner’s 2007 Team Collaboration
and Social Software Magic Quadrant.
SharePoint Products and Technologies have developed from earlier enterprise-ready
collaboration and content management business applications from Microsoft. This means
that Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Office SharePoint Server 2007 are designed
to adhere to IT governance requirements, as well as offering enhanced business
productivity. For many organizations, a common obstacle for obtaining approval for social
computing to be used is the fear of users misusing the tools in a way that will put the
company in legal risk. To combat this perceived risk, the proponents of social computing
argue that there is nothing preventing users from committing the same error today in a
mass email or verbally in a public area. Moreover, social computing tools keep a
complete record of which individuals contributed what and when, thus making it easier to
control and resolve the issue. These hypothetical situations could happen today, but
more often than not, they don’t because the users realize that their name and their
reputation are attached to their content. Thus, organizations acknowledge that the value
and business benefits of social computing outweigh the perceived risks.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides the ability to implement security and
management across your content. While this control may not always be necessary, it is
reassuring to know that it is available when you need it. Office SharePoint Server 2007 is
built to provide enterprise-ready management options for governance, such as records
and digital management leveraged from the Enterprise Content Management workload.
The powerful tools, such as permissions and access control, extend to Office SharePoint
Server 2007 social computing capabilities, which provide a solid business platform for
organizations that wish to implement social computing solutions.
As mentioned earlier, all of the social computing tools are integrated with the rest of
Office SharePoint Server 2007, thus delivering business productivity beyond social
computing. This is a significant benefit as it can help lower the maintenance,
management, and integration costs for deploying a social computing environment that
works well with collaboration and other workloads’ solutions that exist currently.
While business benefits drive application
development and user requirements, it is
essential that your social computing solutions
work for your IT department for a successful
deployment. SharePoint Products and
Technologies have a proven track record in
stability, ease of management, scalability,
multiple portal options, and ease of
customization. This means that the social
computing environments can be deployed
quickly, with minimal downtime, and IT will feel
comfortable about the governance and
security options available. In addition,
organizations with particular business
problems can make customizations or use
extended solutions to fulfill their needs.
―SharePoint has come of age and
enables us to get a good return on
our investment. It integrates with a
number of other collaboration and
Microsoft technologies we are
deploying, in particular, the unified
―From an operational perspective
there are advantages: We can
invest in a single set of skills and
capabilities, have highly skilled and
deep expertise in a single platform
that drives economies of scale and
Christopher T. Miller, Accenture
Stable Base Platforms
SharePoint Products and Technologies are built on well-establish Microsoft platforms,
such as Windows Server and SQL Server. Office SharePoint Server 2007 is designed to
take advantage of the scalability of these server environments, which means that it can
extend to support an enterprise scale numbers of users and millions of documents or
pages. SharePoint Products and Technologies integrate seamlessly with both Windows
Server and SQL Server to provide cohesive administration and security.
In Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, users are
authenticated by Internet Information Services. You can use a variety of authentication
methods to suit your requirements and your existing infrastructure. There are three base
authentication methods that you can use, either singly or together: Windows integrated
authentication, ASP.NET forms, and Web Single Sign-On. You can also choose to permit
anonymous access alongside any authentication method. You can grant a limited
permission set, typically read-only, to anonymous users. This is particularly useful for
Ease of Management
You can administer Office SharePoint Server 2007 from the Central Administration Web
page. This provides access to a rich management and configuration environment, which
provides operations, application and Shared Service Provider access. From these pages
you can enable and configure deployment and management functions for My Sites, user
profiles, and RSS feeds. Central Administration manages solution properties at a farm
level. You can also use individual site collection and site management pages to provide
more granular usage profiles.
The day-to-day management of functions such as backup and restore are provided within
the core Office SharePoint Server 2007 product, which provides a configurable recycle
option to save you time recovering documents deleted by mistake. The small refinements
can provide major administrative benefits, minimizing support costs and maximizing user
“With our in house knowledge of Microsoft technologies, Active Directory, SQL,
SharePoint Services, .Net the additional development cost was almost zero for the
Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Scalability is a key feature of Office SharePoint Server 2007, as it is easy to deploy and
extend across multiple server systems to enhance performance and capacity. You can
separate services such as search and indexing, as well as implementing Microsoft SQL
Server 2005 in clustered or mirrored configurations.
These were important capabilities for Miami Dade. They know that they can extend up to
1,000,000 users, so they are confident that this will provide a platform for the future. It is
also essential that they have a secure environment.
Multiple Portal Options
SharePoint Products and Technologies are capable of deployment as intranet, extranet,
or Internet portal solutions. For extranet portals, this flexibility means that it is possible to
extend your social network to include people outside your immediate organization. This
may include premier customers you maintain a close working relationship with, or
partners and suppliers that need access to certain information that’s not publicly
available. In any of the portal options, the security features are maintained through the
different levels of permission settings, offered by Microsoft server platforms, such as
Windows Server 2003 or Internet Security and
―We feel that it gives us a lot of
Acceleration Server 2006 (ISA).
flexibility in the organization. We
Accenture created an intranet solution
are seeing a lot of opportunities to
because it suited their goals of internal
use SharePoint sites for some of
information and resource collaboration.
our outside initiatives. We may be
However, this may, in time, be extended in
using it for a program that involves
part or wholly with selected customers. The
teachers at Miami-Dade and
flexibility offered by Office SharePoint Server
teachers in Russia [dependent on
funding]; they are able to
2007 means that the initial deployment does
communicate via the portal and the
not have to be a final decision.
For Miami-Dade, they have enabled students
and parents to interact with the teachers
through extranet portals. In addition to this, local businesses can interact with the
community via an Internet portal. Meanwhile, they store their employee’s personal
information in an intranet portal. For each of the different scenarios, they have still
maintained the security that was essential to a successful deployment.
Ease of Customization
Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides a rich array of Web Parts that enable developers
and non-developers to personalize their pages with content they want to see and share.
For social computing environments, a popular personalization would be setting up the
private page of the My Site. Any end user can pick and choose from a comprehensive list
of Web Parts that are available out of the box. The information delivered via these Web
Parts is content that is personalized to the user. For example, the Colleague Tracker
Web Part would only deliver updates about the users’ Colleagues. Another example is
that the My Calendar Web Part would synchronize with the user’s Outlook and show only
that particular user’s meetings. These are done through the use of wizard driven menus.
If organizations wanted a uniform user interface, the IT staff can modify the page
template and deliver the master layout template for all users to use. The use of preconfigured site templates or page layouts is convenient for organizations. The 40
Application Templates and 7 Role-Based My Sites were popular downloads because they
offered a solid master template for common scenarios that IT could deploy. These
templates provide a starting point for custom development and can speed up the
deployment of Office SharePoint Server 2007-based applications and solutions.
A popular extension solution for social computing is the Community Kit for SharePoint 2.0
(CKS 2.0). This kit comprises of a set of best practices, templates, Web Parts, tools, and
source code that enables users to enhance the social computing features available from
the platform. For instance, organizations with MOSS can substitute the Enhance Blog
Edition template for richer blog functionality. The CKS 2.0 is licensed with the Microsoft
Public License (Ms-PL) which is an OSI approved Open Source License. As time
progresses, more and more social computing focused solutions will be added to the kit.
For more information on the Community Kit for SharePoint, please visit
The growth of SharePoint Products and Technologies deployments has also generated a
wealth of 3 party suppliers for support and development services. The Microsoft
SharePoint Solutions Directory lists over 300 partners and suppliers. This represents an
enormous set of resources for deployment, management, and development of
SharePoint Products and Technologies.
However, this does not mean that SharePoint Products and Technologies need external
development or management support for customization. There are a range of
development tools that are available directly to users, such as the Microsoft Office
SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 SDKs which are available
for download from Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). This site also provides a large
amount of programmatic information to support your in-house development efforts.
Social computing in the enterprise is becoming an increasingly hot topic of discussion.
Analysts encourage businesses to embrace social computing, and employees are
making grass-roots efforts to make these technologies available and authorized for usage
in the workplace. Despite the initial reaction of prohibition for using Enterprise 2.0
technologies, a growing number of organizations are recognizing the potential benefits of
this evolution of collaboration. The consumer use of personal profiles to discuss favorite
hobbies and movies has evolved to be a personal profile about job responsibilities and
projects. Business specific social computing applications provide valuable benefits, such
as the ability to locate experts, communicate and collaborate with colleagues across the
continent, and enhance productivity of virtual teams in ways that were previously
impossible. The questions about social computing have progressed from ―What is it and
why is it important?‖ to ―How do we use and govern it appropriately?‖ Thus, it is wise to
choose a solution that will help the business best harness and implement these
technologies and applications.
By convention, Enterprise 2.0 provides self-enablement for users. Because the power of
social computing lies with the users, this characteristic of the tools make sense.
Historically the IT pyramid has been a top down structure, with the IT department
providing tools, managing data, and developing solutions that enabled users in the
organization to work effectively. IT innovations have been user driven, but designed and
implemented by IT department specialists. Enterprise 2.0 provides structure and
platforms, but allows flexible usage by the user base. A social network is not like any
other application; users can drive the content and its use in whichever way seems most
appropriate to their requirements. This moves the user from directed to volunteered
participation; the quality of the content contributions may be improved because the
contributors are enthusiastic and invested in the topic.
Across a range of organizations, as demonstrated by Accenture and Miami-Dade,
industry leaders are enabling their users to create valuable business solutions based on
social computing on the Office SharePoint Server 2007 platform. Accenture’s social
network, Accenture People, enables their employees to find and connect with experts
within the Accenture community, thus providing better and more knowledgeable service
to their customers. For them, social computing offered the most effective and efficient
means of delivering the ideal of hiring one and getting 175,000 resources to their
For Miami-Dade, the use of social computing technologies provides an inclusive, exciting
environment for their pupils and increased collaborative environment among students,
parents, and the faculty. For the younger generations, adoption of social computing was
expected, because the students grew up accustomed to having these tools in their daily
lives. The students’ method of communicating online, using tools such as blogs,
discussion forums, and social networks, is the way they are accustomed to for
collaboration. By introducing the teachers to the way their students think about team
work, Miami-Dade addressed the students’ needs and promoted better relationships
between the students and the faculty.
Social computing can change the dynamics of employee interaction because they enable
enterprise staff to work in patterns that resemble natural social behaviors, and contribute
to the collective intelligence of the organization. Enterprise 2.0 technologies also
encourage users to develop communities of practice, based on common interests or
goals. Both of these use cases help organizations make resources more easily
discoverable and surface existing content, making information more transparent and
available to their employees. The people profiles help improve users’ understanding of
their colleagues’ role beyond their formal job title. The scenarios in which these and other
Enterprise 2.0 technologies can enhance business performance through social
computing are vast, but here are some popular usages. Social networks that can be
leveraged include project staffing or mentorship connections. Blogs entries can serve as
thought incubation channels for personal publishing. Wikis can be used as a project
management tool for collaborative authoring. Any and all of these tools can help influence
innovation and business growth, This requires a cultural change for Legal, HR, and IT
departments, who are used to adding extra layers of privacy and security around content
and providing solutions for specific business problems rather than offering toolkits and
allowing the users to select which problem they want to solve and with what tool.
However, for organizations to successfully embrace social computing, executives and
these departments have to accept the evolution of collaboration technology and realize to
achieve the performance goals for the business they will need to provide tools that
leverage the collective intelligence of their employees.
This does not mean that social computing solutions are easier to deploy and manage or
less powerful than traditional IT solutions. The platform for a social computing
implementation must be robust and flexible. With the different approaches of Enterprise
2.0 vendors available, organizations need to choose a solution that offers the social
computing environment they envision and one that will integrate with their existing
infrastructure. IT leaders must develop a thorough plan for what the social computing
infrastructure will include, and ensure that the usage policies are acceptable to users and
the business requirements.
Irrespective of how applications evolve in a social computing environment, the hardware
and application platforms that deliver Enterprise 2.0 services will need a strong business
case. Office SharePoint Server 2007 offers a valuable platform for social computing
because of three key differentiators:
Integrated social computing tools in one platform—In addition to the suite of
social computing tools, users can leverage the functionality of the other 5 main
Office SharePoint Server 2007 workloads, such as Enterprise Content
Management and Enterprise Search.
Consistent user experience in a rich development environment—As part of the
integration within the platform, there is a seamless user experience when
transitioning between the Enterprise 2.0 tools. In addition, Office SharePoint
Server 2007 is designed for ease of customization and extensibility, so
customers have various options to tailor their environments and select
applications that best suit their needs.
Faster time to market at a lower cost with security and governance control—This
is important when deciding on the implementation and deployment of the social
computing environment. Businesses need to still operate, so minimal downtime is
preferred. Also, the technology has to integrate with the backend infrastructure
while addressing the users’ need for privacy and security of their content.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 functionality integrates with core technologies for security
and data management, such as Active Directory and SQL Server. The development
changes on the My Sites features from SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to the new social
computing functionalities of the My Sites and other tools in Office SharePoint Server
2007 shows Microsoft’s commitment to innovate. Microsoft continues its investment in
Enterprise 2.0 applications. Overall, the increasing momentum of customer successes
and deployments and Microsoft’s broadening social computing ecosystem demonstrate
that social computing delivers valuable business benefits.
Similar to the transition of e-mail into a core business tool, social computing technologies
are on the path of becoming an integral part of your organization’s collaboration
environment. It is essential that you select a suitable platform for your social computing
needs today, and one that will be robust enough to keep develop on for the future,
making the investment now worthwhile.
To keep up-to-date with the developments in social computing from SharePoint Products
and Technologies, including demos, case studies, partner solutions, and futures
information, please visit the official social computing page at: