Evolution of the Enterprise App

By Christian Buckley posted 11-28-2011 20:53


Social Informatics is the study of information and communication tools in cultural and institutional contexts. It is a broad, inter-disciplinary analysis of usage patterns that spans sociology, anthropology, psychology, technology, and business. More specifically, it is a study of the way that we do business – the tools we use, how we connect and collaborate, and how we consume and disperse information.

It is important to understand social informatics because the fundamentals of how the next generation of your workforce (Millenials and beyond) relate to each other, how they work alone or together, and how they use technology has changed **dramatically** over the past decade. Understanding these changes in how people think about their enterprise applications may help you to evolve your thinking about how to deploy or transform your SharePoint platform.

Within the context of SharePoint are the building blocks of an enterprise social informatics shift, helping you to shape your environment to meet the needs of your evolving end users: metadata and taxonomy, service applications, social computing features, and the first steps into mobile. Some things to consider from an informatics perspective:

■Metadata and Taxonomy

It is important to build and (proactively) maintain your metadata and taxonomy regardless of your SharePoint architecture and future plans, but even more so with SharePoint 2010. Metadata is the building block of collaboration, powering both search and social computing. Build a governance model that allows for fast, flexible, and transparent changes, so that end users can develop confidence that their input is being heard – and so that they can find their content quickly and easily. Review usage patterns (just like you do for Search Engine Optimization of your online advertising) and make adjustments often. 

■Service Applications

The beauty of the service application framework within SharePoint is that you can retain centralized control while supporting individual freedom to move about the system. An important paradigm for the next generation is for you to provide guidelines on what needs to be accomplished, but allow flexibility in how those business objectives are achieved. In other words, tell them what to do, not how to do it. The service applications are a huge step in this direction, allowing end users to consume data in a controlled, managed way, but with the freedom to build and deploy rich solutions for themselves or peers, analyzing and disseminating data as they see fit – within the guidelines you set.

■Social Computing

Think of social computing as another layer of search. Aside from the fact that the rich user profiles power many other capabilities than social tools (for example, use these profiles to build workflows), social computing is a core component of the way we now work. Look beyond the consumer-based platforms, and what you see is a real-time web of connections and data that can be searched, analyzed, and connected to create a whole that is better than the sum of its parts. The key to social is understanding the features which your company or team is culturally and organizationally ready to adopt.


SharePoint has taken the first steps toward anywhere-access. While still a nascent technology, Microsoft is making strides in this area which will eventually become a major component of the platform. As with the social features, you need to clearly understand your end user requirements for mobile, the business value of offering mobile solutions, and how these solutions will be introduced and supported within the business. It’s a fine line between anticipating future needs and promoting technology that nobody is asking for.

Informatics is a huge topic to try and fill in a single post, but hopefully I got you thinking. How you apply these things depends on a number of factors that span environmental, cultural, governance and informatics considerations. As you develop your SharePoint strategy, understanding how your end users work and their enterprise application expectations will help you set the right path. 

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