Tag: Social

MySite Provisioning Methods

A number of times over the past few years I have stumbled into discussions (in person or online) about how to automate the creation of MySites for all users in the organization.  Creating the sites programmatically is actually pretty simple, but the real question is “Why do you want to do that?”  There are advantages and disadvantages to automating the process, but for me it almost always comes down to two big things; Governance and Business Reason. 

MySite Governance

MySites present an interesting challenge with regards to governance.  While most of the topics are outside the scope of this article there are a few important topics that relate to the number of MySites within an organization.

Storage Considerations – Even with quotas in place it is easy to see exponential growth for the storage requirements.  In larger environments with 1,000s of users serious planning needs to take place to build out a SQL environment to support the site collections.  Planning should also be done to manage the number of sites per content database to ensure long term maintainability. 

When you provision all of the sites at once all of the planning has to be done up front, where conversely if you provision the sites slowly over time you spend a little time planning out the long term assumptions and then tweak the strategy over time as the sites and their usage evolves.  It is much easier to make corrections with the slow approach.

User Support and Training – A MySite is very different than an email account which is something nearly all computer users are familiar with at this point.  The average SharePoint user has never received any formal training and has little understanding of the capabilities of a site collection.  Without proper training it is unlikely that user will be able to take advantage of any of the real benefits of the MySite leaving them to just use it as a replacement for a personal network share (see Storage Considerations above). 

In my experience site owners or administrators for traditional collaboration or department sites are much more likely to have success and less likely to need extra support.  That narrower group of people is a much better starting point, and they are also sophisticated enough to initiate the automatic provisioning process themselves.

Business Reason

Each organization should develop a user story for what the purpose of a MySite is within their organization.  Like any site collection, it can be used for many different purposes such as; Landing Page, Dashboard, Personal Site, etc.  The user story may help establish how the MySite will be used, who is expected to use it, and ultimately if customization is needed to provide the functionality and content.  The answers to those questions should help guide the decision about how to provision the sites. 

Closing

While I tend to like the go slow and make adjustments path, there are valid reasons for needing to auto-provision sites for large groups of users.  Hopefully the guidance here will help to guide the team through proper planning so that the implementation can be successful.

Related Posts

Presentation – SharePoint 2010 Personalization Overview

On Thursday, March 18th I’ll be presenting on SharePoint 2010’s Personalization features for the Sandhills SharePoint User Group in Fayetteville, NC.  While the group is relatively new, I know there is strong interest in SharePoint so I look forward to the opportunity to present on one of my favorite topics.  I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Additional details can be found on the group’s site here.

My Sites in the Enterprise: Today and Tomorrow

As we inch closer to SharePoint 2010 and the vast improvements made to the My Sites feature set I thought it might be time to revisit some key concepts when looking to leverage My Sites in an organization.  In many organizations I see My Sites as still under deployed and under utilized.  In some cases it is because leaders do not know what to do with it while in others they are not sure how to support it.  I hope to address both of those issues here along with offering some other advice.  By addressing the topic now I hope that business can get a jump on implementing the tools based on the current technology as well as bring it to the forefront of the 2010 upgrade planning so that they will be able to better leverage the tools in the years to come.

What is the purpose of My Sites?

In its simplest form, My Site is a SharePoint site collection owned by an individual giving them the ability to have both personal and shared content.  It also includes the bases for many personalization features including a Colleague tracker, My Links, and the ability to aggregate content like tasks and documents they are involved with throughout the entire farm.  Since the sites can be automatically provisioned in most environments it takes little or no IT interaction for a user to get started.

In some environments the the feature is limited to IT and some power users, while in others the service is available but its benefits have never been communicated to the organization as a whole.  By widening the audience and its participants more value can be derived from the tools.

Enterprise 2.0

These tools are a good foundation for an Enterprise 2.0 strategy helping your users find and communicate with each other.  In most organizations people are already using these types of tools, but they are doing it for different purposes and with tools hosted outside your company’s network.  Look at LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter which probably already have unofficial groups or networks organized around your company.  By pulling some of this into your network you can expand productivity around internal information assets, provide some level of information security, and increase the overall socialization activities.

In a recent post I wrote about Overcoming Obstacles in SharePoint and Ent 2.0 which addresses a few of the biggest issues; Fear of Change, Information Power, and Lack of Interest.

Governance

Like most SharePoint topics we cannot have a full discussion without mentioning Governance.  Oddly enough, this is one area that I think perhaps can be over governed.  The cornerstone to Social Computing is social interactions and for it to be social there needs to be room for an individual’s creativity.  That isn’t to say that anything goes, but in many cases things should be generalized into more of an appropriate use policy. 

Personal Photo – One of the most personal aspects of personal computing is the individual’s photo or avatar.  Hopefully within an organization people feel comfortable enough to have a photo or at least an avatar.  While a photo of the person is great it probably shouldn’t be a requirement and hopefully isn’t their mug shot from the badge or security system. 

Dressing up the My Site – The individual should be allowed to change the theme to personalize the color scheme and select a personal icon or banner for the site.  Even if the rest of the SharePoint sites are fully branded with the corporate identity, small things like this can really increase the interest level since it gives them a chance to be creative and truly gives them ownership of the site. 

Quotas – Quotas should be set at a reasonable amount.  Too little and users will end up going back to Shared Drives which will undermine use of the tool.  Of course too much and there is the possibility that storage costs can escalate quickly along with backup and recovery times. 

If used appropriately it should draw down the storage requirements in email and shared drive storage thereby just shifting storage from one system to another.

Taking it to the Next Level

SharePoint 2010 will add in both the Facebook “Wall” concept as well as some enhanced social bookmarking, both of which have been painfully missing from the 2007 offering. 

While both of those features are welcomed additions, there are more opportunities to extend the system as well.  One of the things I like best about systems like Facebook and LinkedIn is there are all kinds of tools that have been created to help interact with the platforms.  This includes everything from mobile browsers to make posting updates easier to the LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar that can expose user’s LinkedIn profile, status, and network information in Outlook.  The Outlook team has responded by offering the Outlook Social Connector which promises to offer an extensible provider platform for integrating with multiple social platforms including SharePoint 2010 as well as Windows Live and anyone else that can create a provider. 

Other extensions and tools are still needed though.  In the past I wrote a bookmarking component that supported adding items to My Links from both inside of SharePoint as well as other ASP.NET applications.  As soon as I get a handle on the final features of SharePoint 2010 I plan on updating that and making it available as a project on CodePlex.

Simple content components like a Quote of the Day or slide shows can also increase the personalization of the system. 

Isn’t this for Business?

This is for business, but it can still be fun.  Increasing the fun factor will get people to be more engaged and interactive.  Also, it is a proven fact that teams that know each other at a personal level and can maintain relationships function at a higher level.

Related Posts

Overcoming Obstacles in SharePoint and Ent 2.0

One of my favorite general IT blogs is Michael Krigsman’s IT Project Failures blog.  Michael provides a balanced view with great insights into the failures of many organizations.  These are lessons that every implementer, integrator, or system stakeholder should pay attention to.

In a recent post titled Resistance to change:  The real Enterprise 2.0 barrier Michael discusses some of the challenges to implementing Ent 2.0 systems.  As always it is a great and relevant read, but I think it matches much of my experience with implementing SharePoint in the Enterprise.  The top obstacle listed was Resistance to change.  The capabilities of the tools are not the biggest limiting factor, user adoption is.  Some of the reasons discussed include fear of change, the power of information holders and lack of interest.

Fear of Change – This is a natural human response.  Much has been written about how to drive change in an organization, but I think the most critical technique is end user involvement.  When people are involved they are much more likely to have a positive view of the change and you are more likely to value insight into how things are actually done in practice. 

This also provides a good opportunity to fine tune your feedback collection techniques so that all stakeholders continue to have a voice after go live. 

Information Power – In some organizations there is a culture in place where people feel like they have to be a gateway to information.  With the recent economical downturn people are all the more desperate to be seen as irreplaceable.  Organizations need to work towards transparency and openness.  A positive side effect of this is better use of the subject matter or domain experts who are normally over worked in closed organizations and frequently have to answer the same questions repeatedly.

Lack of interest – Lack of interest can definitely have an impact on the life of a system.  Some users still do not understand or have any interest in Ent 2.0 systems.  I think easiest way to get passed this is to show sustained value.  It is easy to establish and maintain interest with small groups, but it gets exponentially harder as the size of the group increases.  Keep the tools current, and show incremental advances to keep stakeholder interest.

I’ve also seen turnover in key positions or management impact a groups use of these tools.  It is important to work with the new stakeholders to review what is there and what can be done to align it with any changes to the group’s direction.

Closing

I’m always interested in hearing feedback.  Do you agree, disagree?  Have any other tips to decrease the resistance to change?

Related Posts

Using jQuery to Customize the User Profile Display

The User Profile engine in MOSS Enterprise is pretty powerful.  Out of the box it has some great capabilities and is very easy to setup.  There is support for wide range of field level attributes along with global and personal privacy policies.  The main profile block rendered on the page is very dynamic.

The one big short coming of this approach is a lack of formatting control in the output.  You have the option of a custom display but then you have to try and reproduce all of the logic for each field.

jQuery offers up a nice alternative.  Instead of changing the underlying logic, you can simply adjust what is rendered to the page.

 

Some Background

The organization I’m currently working with uses Skype for collaboration and as their primary IM platform.  Early this year, long before I made the jump to jQuery, I wrote a custom web part that was added to my organizations My Profile page (person.aspx).  Its sole purpose was to show the user’s Skype information, status and some simple Skype commands.  The web part called the UserProfileService in order to grab the SkypeID listed in the profile and then rendered the output.  The web service call was somewhat redundant since the information was already on the page.  The web part worked well, but in the end the Skype info was shown in multiple places, which is not desirable.  It would be best to be able to integrate it into the main profile.  In the time since I have gotten a few other requests to modify the output of certain fields.  I recently took the opportunity to revisit this topic and used the Skype field as the test bed.

 

Step 1 – Create or Identify the field

The Skype ID (SkypeID) field is a simple string field that the user is able to edit.  It is pretty similar to the phone number fields.

 

Step 2 – Write the Script

I’ve referenced the GoogleAPIs library.  I run all of our jQuery scripts off a localized copy to reduce dependencies.  This also depends on a Skype script as well as seen below.

The main selector can probably be improved, but it seems the system consistently sticks with the identification referenced.

Our environment runs with SSL so the status field could not be supported in this implementation.  For implementations where SSL is not used you can grab user’s status by linking an image to this path:  http://mystatus.skype.com/smallicon/skypename







$(document).ready(function() {

var cntID = $("#ctl00_PlaceHolderMain_ctl00_PlaceHolderMain_ProfileViewerValueSkypeID").text()

var mOutput = "   Add   ";

$("#ctl00_PlaceHolderMain_ctl00_PlaceHolderMain_ProfileViewerValueSkypeID").append(mOutput);

mOutput = "Chat";

$("#ctl00_PlaceHolderMain_ctl00_PlaceHolderMain_ProfileViewerValueSkypeID").append(mOutput);

})


Step 3 – Prepare the Web Part

I’ve placed the script in a Content Editor Web Part on another site and then added it to the catalog on the Personalization site collection.  Be sure to set the title, and I recommend setting the Chrome type to “None.”

Step 4 – Add the Web Part the Person.aspx Page

The Web part can now be added to the page.  Its placement really doesn’t matter since it will not render anything to this section.  Once on the page it will show the updated output if the value is present.  If the referenced field is not shown, doesn’t have a value, then it will not modify anything.

Here is a sample.  The “[Add]   [Chat]” links were added which give visitors the option to add the user to their Skype contact list or to initiate a chat with them.

Summary

While this example is pretty simple, it should do a good job of illustrating some of the capabilities developers and customizers now have. In addition, I now have one less web part and assembly to manage on the server.

This same process can be applied to each field to change the connection to the people search, integrate with other systems, or to simply reformat the text returned.

Social Computing – Communities

I was very excited when heard that “Communities” was going to be one of the pillars for SharePoint 2010.  I think the Social Computing and Communities aspect is where SharePoint has the potential to really revolutionize business collaboration and computing.  Administrators and Developers don’t have to wait until upgrading to SharePoint 2010 though to start taking advantage of some of these concepts.  By making the adjustment now you and your end users will be better positioned to leverage these concepts sooner.

 

Key Features and Recommendations

Collect Feedback – Find ways to gather community feedback on content.  Take advantage of features like Content Rating and Comments, develop Surveys, and make it easy to access user contact information.

Notifications – Show the members how to take advantage of the Alert features so that they can receive timely notifications for relevant information.  In my experience, most know the Alert Me feature is there, but few know how to configure it to only get the notices they want to see.

Tagging – In the past few years tagging has been a popular way to describe and categorize content.  While it is not built into SharePoint 2007 (MOSS /WSS 3.0) there are a number of custom or add-on features available.

Show Related Content – Find ways to show related or relevant content.   If you are currently running MOSS, now would be a good time to dig in and learn how the filtering web parts work, as well as the search web parts.  If there is related data on the page, be sure to filter views.  Configure some search results web parts that can automatically show results based on what is being viewed.

Use Content Types – Using content types will help you better aggregate and work with the data.  This also simplifies the process of identifying the data in search.

Content instead of Documents – Think in terms of content, not just documents.  Most traditional information workers still think in terms of documents, but long time users of the SharePoint platform are starting to come around. 

 

Advantages

Member Involvement – These solutions get people involved which can lead to a self-sustaining effort.

Easier to find golden nuggets – Following these concepts will let the good content rise to the top.

SMEs and Knowledge Management – This gives you an opportunity to better utilize your SMEs in a group setting instead of one on one communications.  This can also be used to identify and develop new SMEs greatly increasing your Knowledge Management capabilities.

 

2007 Add-Ons and Solutions

SharePoint Tool Basket V2 – A number of features that can be enabled for collecting user Rating and Comments feedback on all types of content.

Community Kit for SharePoint (CKS) – Templates and features that extend the standard SharePoint feature set.

SharePoint Search-As-You-Type with jQuery – Instant search results by adding in jQuery.  Always an end user favorite!

 

Things to Consider

While I think that it a good idea to leverage these features now it is important to consider the upgradability.  In some cases the features may be built into the next version of SharePoint (Content Rating, Tagging).  If you add those features in now, you will likely loose that data during the migration process.  When approaching a version upgrade for a Knowledge Management or community application it is almost always best to build a new solution and migrate the existing content anyway though.  This gives you the chance to take advantage of the new features. 

 

Wrap up

Any questions, comments, or other solutions that you would like to recommend for extending the current 2007 platform? 

 

Related Posts

%d bloggers like this: