Over the past several months, I've been talking with customers and partner organizations about how they measure the success of their collaboration efforts today -- and am shocked at how much companies really understand about what is happening within their environments. Most collaboration deployments fail to adequately capture and measure data around their platform to better understand what people are using, where they are active, which processes or workloads or teams are more successful, and why they are successful.
Why is measurement such a big issue? A common theme across most of these organizations is the need to improve collaboration. Organizations want to improve adoption and engagement -- and yet they have not even taken the steps to define what adoption and engagement mean. And if you don't have these defined, how can you improve them?
The problem, of course, is that the data most tools provide are simply insufficient for measuring activity to this detail -- and vendors need to wake up and solve this problem. At SPTechcon in Boston earlier this year, I presented a session on the topic of governance of the social capabilities within SharePoint and Yammer, identifying the limitations around out-of-the-box reporting to help organizations easily track and measure key insights into social behaviors.
Surfacing data quickly and visually is key, and then providing administrators with the proper channels to take appropriate action. A report on number of logins to a platform in a given month is useless information. Who were they? What did they do once inside the platform? How long did they stay? Were they able to find the data or complete the workload that they had intended? How do their activities compare with those of their peers? Of other business units? And how do these statistics change over time? Are we seeing an increase in usage, or a decrease? Are people uploading more, or less content? Are they commenting more , or less?
Data visualization, and the desire for stronger business intelligence (BI) capability is a rapidly growing segment of collaboration. For example, Microsoft has made BI a major pillar of their development strategies for SharePoint, with some new features being built exclusively for SharePoint Online, part of their Office 365 platform. However, there is not yet a documented roadmap for providing these kinds of data within their BI platform -- which seems like an opportunity for a huge win on the part of Microsoft. Don't just build us an empty platform -- fill it with the data we need about the online and offline platforms you sell us.
And allowing for personalization is key: managers must understand how data rolls up into the divisional and corporate levels, and which data they must dig deeper into to understand the nuances of their own business. Much like all SharePoint reporting, these BI solutions need to provides windows into the data for different security levels, allowing you to measure social activity by role, as well.
You cannot, ultimately, manage social by spreadsheet alone. The data you capture and track informs you, but what the data often does is to highlight the offline actions you must take, such as providing training, or adding additional functionality to improve the end user experience. Reporting and BI tools are directional -- they help you to see trends and insights into your platform activity, and social collaboration activities are no different than structured collaboration activities, such as using SharePoint. What we need are better tools, more data, and improved management capabilities of social collaboration.
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