Government // Enterprise Architecture
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Social Business Vs. Old-School Collaboration

Microsoft-friendly IT services firm Avanade shares its social collaboration experience, which includes weaning employees off email lists.

Along those lines, one of the greatest demands from users is to have better social integration with project workspaces, where they can collaborate with the people they are working with on a specific project. At the same time, Dana said social task management "sounds like a terrible idea."

Using the task aggregation features of SharePoint to give each user a personal view of the tasks they need to complete is valuable, Dana said. But if the idea of social task management is to make it easy to assign tasks to people across the enterprise social network, he worries it could break down the governance of who gets to make assignments and who has to accept them. "We already deal with a significant sense that teams feel we are overloading them. Adding a social element could almost drive people to shut down because they've got too much work."

Before the social network implementation could even begin, Dana found he had to revisit the company's intranet information architecture. "We found the scope has to be bigger than just the social tools. We needed better organization around the content and the information, so it could be provided in the right context," he said.

The goal was to make it easier for users to find answers to their questions in documents, where they existed, or through the social network, where they did not. Over time, Avanade has also recognized the hazard of social collaboration creating its own disorganized structures. For example, it does not allow self-provisioning of discussion groups anymore, although it did at the beginning.

"The incentive initially was to prove the value through adoption, so we said everyone can create a group as a way of creating activity," Dana said. That had the virtue of giving users pride in the groups they created. "Now, we provide a place where you can go to request that a group be created, but we'll also help you find one that already exists and convince you to join," he said. Only if what you are proposing has a unique value does it get created, he said. "We're definitely taking a more heavy-handed approach to that over time."

Similarly, Avanade is seeking to strike a better balance between folksonomy -- the hashtag-style approach of creating new content labels on the fly -- and a more formal taxonomy. "Hashtagging is one of those interesting concepts, where initially we left it wide open for the enterprise to coalesce around different labels," he said, but he also sees the need to classify content in a more consistent way. "That's one we want to figure out," he said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr or Google+. The BrainYard is @thebyard and

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)

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