Shine Bright Like a Diamond or Hit the Boulder for Water:  Is Your Intranet in need of CPR?

When was the last time a friend called you while you were driving, or on the way to somewhere, or at the office and said, “I have great news, I’m engaged!” Well unless you’re really not a fan of the significant other, it’s highly unlikely you won’t be ecstatic for your friend and feel like you’re really a part of something new, fresh and exciting.  Engagement. User engagement. Still excited?  Or are you waiting for the diamond ring to appear? How about a diamond SharePoint portal? If you think intranet portals that are shiny, sparkling and just as entrancing as the ritual of engagement of two lovebirds don’t exist, you’re wrong. They can and they do, so knowing how to remember essential factors and tools at your fingertips can ensure your portal is top notch.

Have Internets Become Fossils or is just a matter of Revival?

I recently read an article called “So people still have intranets?” on how intranets might be a dying breed when it comes to a hub for congregating and collaboration within organizations. I seriously doubt it, but it’s interesting that an article like this would come about at a time when there are so many readily available resources both out-of-the-box with SharePoint and with brilliant engagement tools like Yammer, SharePoint social and third party tools that can reach out to your end users in a personal and insightful way.

Your Portal Can Take You to a Different Dimension:  Social Collaboration.

SharePoint 2013 Social offers a variety of features such as liked content, sharing content, rating it, communities – (similar to Facebook groups), following users and of course document uploading, posts and discussions.  Listen, just because the tools are there, doesn’t necessary mean people will use them right? Nope.

It’s all about incentive and viral chain reactions. It takes one brilliant mind in each department to get moving with the process, and use of social tools like these can catch like wildfire.  Prior to seeing this movement evolve, what needs to be articulated first and foremost are business needs, departmental needs, and goals to be achieved with the portal.  Then portal admins and executives can look at the specific options social can offer: centralized project planning, discussions on the same topic that can be followed with hashtags and enriched metadata, easy access to documents that can be shared within the social communities, project development, contact sharing and insights. Give people an easier way to get things done and they’ll take you up on it.  Trends have to be set before they become trends.

Yammer – what’s all the Hype About?

It’s fairly clear that Yammer is taking the SharePoint and enterprise social bull by the horns, while still remaining controversial as to whether it’s best suited to all business environments as a cloud-based solution. Recently at SPC14 there were more than a few sessions that discussed Yammer’s advantages in the SharePoint social sphere.  Other than clearly having speakers indicate that there needs to a strong rollout process to initiate adoption of the platform, with Yammer events and conferences for executives to help boost adoption, “Yam Jams” or executive powwows for event planning and adoption leveraging, there are those that even explore the possibility of moving a company newsletter into an organization’s news group, and getting the communications department involved while actively generating activity and interaction with others.

One of the few intriguing aspects of Yammer’s system is its ability to be integrated into various aspects of SharePoint – internal communication and external.

Along with the fairly standard use and features of Yammer that comes with social networks – likes, posts, discussions, groups, following users, content and discussion, in addition to uploading content such as documents and files, you can also take a moment to remember that you are indeed working with human beings who each bring their own gift to your organization.  How?

Praise them and they will come.

No, I don’t mean go over to your Regional Marketing Director’s office who’s in the Houston office while you’re the VP and in the L.A. office. I mean praise them on Yammer.  If they just launched a hugely successful campaign that’s bringing in leads in swarms then give them a nice little social trophy on Yammer and a chance to be glorified online.  Emails drown each other out, but in the social newsfeed users catch info and updates on organization’s shining stars, especially those who might be otherwise overlooked.  Social newsfeeds in Yammer and the praise feature can also help others know who they can reach out to for specific needs, questions, insights, and essentially help you identify evangelists in specific fields.

Everybody’s Free:  Sharing Insights Hierarchy-Free.

One overlooked aspect of these social platforms is that the corporate hierarchy of top down communication that usually comes from portal newsfeeds is eliminated. The Yammer newsfeed is not an organization’s HR department spewing company policy, changes, updates, events, and etc. head down from the organization to the employees. The virtual corporate world of Yammer gives everyone a voice.  If Microsoft indicated that within a year of their acquisition of Yammer, over 85% of Fortune 500 companies deployed both SharePoint and Yammer, with a user base growth of 55 percent and a paid network growth of over 200 percent publicized, then there’s got to be something to this super-tool, especially when considering engagement and collaboration.

Say What? Tell Your Portal Admins What You Need – Surveys.

No question about it, most people run away from street marketers running after you trying to get you complete their latest market research survey.  So how can you make this process simple, easy and sleek with your portal environments? Voice of Customer surveys – they’re responsive, unassuming and can be designed so that each question’s answer can prompt the next question, depending on the answer. Most significantly, you can get solid feedback on what your end users actually need. Without an intrusive pop-up in the middle of your screen or having your users transferred to an external page or moved to another URL, you can get insights on what their seeking and what they’re not acquiring out of their user experience.

The image above presents a close-up on how a Voice of Customer Survey appears (bottom right corner), powered by CardioLog Analytics.

I Want a Scream, I Want to Shout…They Can Read All About, Subtly:  Message Bar

As mentioned, pop-ups are annoying and have limited reach due to the nuisance of them imposing on the page you’re on and the number of users that simply close and dismiss them.  So having a subtle, non-intrusive marquis style message at the top of your portal UI is certainly both an effective and aesthetic means for delivering a message to your users.  The beauty of the Message Bar is both its visually clean and easy to use set up, but also you can customize it based on SharePoint Active Directory or User Profiles.  Personalized and can include links to internal or external pages, the Message Bar projects announcements, news, updates and anything you might want your users to be aware of.  Engaging users, this tool can yield higher adoption rates with its ability to redirect users and inform them of relevant news.

In this image you can see how the Message Bar Tool becomes a slim header within your portal environment at the top of the UI, (powered by CardioLog Analytics). 

Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Don’t design your Portal Blindfolded:  Behavioral Targeting.

You wouldn’t dress every kid the same way on their first day of school, unless they’re going to a school with mandatory uniforms which don’t reflect their own personality and interests.  Same goes for your portal. Creating a UI that’s customized based on end users’ needs can definitely escalate the interest and motivation for users to use their portal.  With Behavioral Targeting you can create a personalized design via SharePoint Active Directory or SharePoint User Profile info, with diverse visual options, text and increase user engagement along with adoption levels.

The image above presents a close-up on how a Voice of Customer Survey appears (bottom right corner), powered by CardioLog Analytics.

What are your insights and ideas that you feel can increase portal user adoption with social tools?

Are there specific features of both SharePoint social and Yammer that you think are ideal?  Do you feel there are other platforms that are equally, if not more helpful?

If anyone has any success stories with adoption levels, we’d love to hear about them.