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The Social Enterprise

Editor’s note Today Ben Wilde joins Office Next to discuss some of our investments in social for the Office Preview Release.

Ben Wilde, Program Manager, SharePoint

Social is rewiring the way we communicate and collaborate. Facebook and Twitter have completely transformed how we connect in our personal lives. And new social tools are making it easier to get things done at work.

We believe that the social enterprise needs to be a natural part of the way people get things done, creating a connected experience that extends and enhances familiar tools. And we recognize that companies often need to secure and manage social interactions, just as they do other forms of communication. Our social investments in this release are designed to accomplish both goals.

In this post, I thought I’d highlight how our new social features help me get my job done.

A new way to work together

One of the first things you’ll see in the new release of SharePoint is the social Newsfeed. The Newsfeed has several pivots that help me focus on different kinds of information.

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When I visit the Newsfeed hub, the first view that I see shows me the posts and activities that come from people, documents, sites, and tags I’m following. In other words, things that I’m expressly interested in all show up in this view. For example, I’m following my co-worker Louise and whenever she posts something, I see it here. When she follows a document, I see a notification in my Newsfeed. Because I work with Louise, I like to see what she’s doing and what she’s interested in.

Similarly, if I follow a document (the draft of this blog post, for example), my Newsfeed lets me know when my collaborators have made any changes or whether it’s been shared with additional people for review. My Newsfeed exemplifies the concept of the connected social experience by ensuring that I stay up-to-date about the people, content, and ideas that I care about the most, regardless of where in SharePoint they happen to live.

I work on a team of 100 engineers located in Cambridge, MA, but SharePoint is built by teams around the world (most of which are at the mother ship in Redmond, WA). I use the Everyone pivot to get a broad view of what people across Microsoft are talking about. This view is a Company Feed where I can see posts made by everyone in my organization.

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Since I started reading the Everyone view, I’ve discovered interesting new people and engaging conversations. I can even start following those people right from the Newsfeed so that I’ll start seeing their posts and activities in the Newsfeed view. Working in a remote office, I don’t get to see and interact with my colleagues at headquarters very often. The Everyone view makes me feel connected to them and what they’re talking about.

Keeping in sync

In addition to staying up-to-date with the things I follow by seeing them in my Newsfeed, I’m also able to easily access all of the content that I care about in a single place by visiting my Followed Documents and Followed Sites pages. From these pages, I’m able to easily open documents or navigate to sites that I’ve followed in the past. Plus, by taking advantage of the new unified Enterprise Search engine, I’m able to see high-quality, relevant recommendations to help me expand and grow my network. This has been a great way to find out about new documents that are related to the Social features that I’ve been working on, or community sites where I can have discussions with people who have a shared interest in everything from Windows Phone app development to fine dining in the Boston area.

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I love that the social features are also integrated directly into the Office apps that I use every day, so I never have to stray too far from where I am to stay connected. When I read an email message from someone, start an IM discussion or just open their Person Card, I can see the latest social updates for them, directly in Office.

Rob is a colleague who works on social scenarios with me. He also happens to work in an office that is 3,000 miles away from mine. He frequently reads through important industry journals and posts the news that matters to our team in his feed. When I read an email from Rob or open up his contact card, I can see the headlines he posted without ever leaving Outlook.

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Office also helps me connect with my personal social networks. The Outlook Social Connector for the new Office can connect to LinkedIn to and Facebook without any additional downloads (I just entered my username and password, and with one click, I was connected). When we sat down to design these features, we heard from customers around the world, ranging from large companies to college students, that these two networks help them connect and collaborate.

Whether I’m working in SharePoint, checking my email, or editing a document, presence is everywhere and in one click I can access the People Card. I can not only find out information about them (including their past activities across their social networks, whether they’re free or busy, and where their office is), but I can instantly start communicating with them.

For example, Rob and I collaborated on this post. He left a comment in the document and I was able to click on his photo without leaving Word, see his status and pick the best way to reach out to him to get clarification.

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Build communities

One of the other SharePoint features that I love is a new one that we call “community sites.” You can think about it as a discussion forum, where you can discover connections, ask questions, and get instant feedback on the projects you’re working on. I’d mentioned before that I’m a member of the Windows Phone App Developer community, and I would never have been able to compile the WP7 app that I wrote without it. Because I’m following it, I can navigate there from my list of Followed Sites, and when I land there, I’m immediately able to see some of the hot topics that are being discussed. With a single click I can create a new discussion and at a glance I can see statistics like number of new members, views, or posts, which gives me a sense of what topics are relevant or who is participating. Not only am I able to get questions about my Windows Phone App answered, and I can able to identify experts (based on the Community reputation feature), and follow them and get updates posted directly to my Newsfeed.

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Discover experts

While it’s great to discover experts by looking at people’s reputation in a community sometimes I’m not 100% sure what I’m looking for. I can choose to post a broad question to my Newsfeed, which often produces a quick response, but I also like to have the ability to find someone on my own, then ask them a question directly.

Thankfully, Office and SharePoint each have ways to make it easy to find the exact person I’m looking for, even when I don’t know exactly where to start. When I search for a person in Outlook, the results are automatically ranked based on how closely I work with each person on the list. When I search for an expert in SharePoint, it will return the best matches based on people’s areas of expertise. Plus, with SharePoint’s “fuzzy matching” search, I don’t even need to spell their name right to see them show up in my results!

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Once I find an expert, I can connect with them immediately, either by following them, or by using the Person Card to send an email or start an IM, a phone call, or a video call.

Of course, there’s more where this came from! J In this post I’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible with the new Office. In addition, we just completed the acquisition of Yammer last week, and we’re excited to have such a talented team join us in our quest to change the way we work. We’re still early in the integration process, but we look forward to sharing more at the upcoming SharePoint conference in November. For now, I’d invite you to download the Office Customer Preview to see for yourself how social can help you get more done.

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2 comments
  1. Beautifully simple; can’t wait to get my hands on

  2. This is great stuuf. I can see this being very useful at my workplace.

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