October 9, 2012
10 Great Social Features For Microsoft SharePoint 2013 (click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Enterprise social networks are supposed to help us learn by allowing us to find answers that aren't written down anywhere, by finding the people who have the answers. On the other hand, if you're one of the people with the answers and you're getting the same question over and over again, you might want to shortcut the process.
NewsGator's Enrich add-on social learning module, announced Tuesday at the HR Tech conference, is designed to make it easier to distill conversations from the Social Sites enterprise social network and turn them into knowledgebase articles--organizing the information so questions can be answered with a link rather than a full explanation. Enrich also supports a two-part video learning method based on a technique used at West Point to train officers on tactical and managerial decision making skills. The way employees learn and the things they need to learn have to change to keep pace with a rapidly changing workplace, product manager Chris Keyes said in an interview. "Expectations really have been changing in the workplace, where employees want access to the same tools on Monday morning that they had on Sunday night. There's a lot happening around peer-to-peer, where they're not just interacting with management and someone telling them what to do." NewsGator Social Sites provides a suite of enterprise social networking functions implemented as an application that works with Microsoft SharePoint. Enrich is the first of the more focused application modules NewsGator promised as part of adjusting its strategy now that Microsoft is getting serious about making SharePoint function as an enterprise social network in its own right. Keyes works with a Canadian business unit associated with Tomoye, an online learning company NewsGator acquired in 2010. The Tomoye software continues to be supported as an independent product. In addition, Keyes' group created the video module for Social Sites. Tomoye was already a mature product when it was acquired, with some of its own social features built around organizing professional communities of practice, so it has a life of its own, Keyes said. However, NewsGator has applied the expertise of the Tomoye developers to the design of the Social Sites communities, the "onboarding" features that help new users learn their way around the enterprise social network, and now to Enrich. West Point is a customer of Tomoye, not Social Sites, but the video component of Enrich is based on a technique instructors at the U.S. Army college have used effectively to train officers on dealing with difficult decisions where there might be more than one answer. The idea is to present a scenario in two videos, where the user first views a video describing a problem to be solved. At West Point, that could be a tactical problem, or a leadership question like how to deal with a bereavement issue. "One of the popular ones is racial harassment," Keyes explained. After viewing the video, the user is prompted to describe how they would address the issue. Only after giving their answer are they allowed to view the comments from others who have taken the test, as well as the second video outlining the recommended solution. "This is cutting into that 90% social learning pie, where most of learning comes from your own experience," Keyes said. The two video technique provides a way of sharing what you've learned through experience, and allowing others to interact with that experience and comment on whether they agree with your proposed solution, Keyes said. Corporate equivalents to the West Point example might include training on how to deal with regulatory compliance challenges, he said. The technique is also relatively simple--"as easy as uploading two videos and adding a title," Keyes said. The knowledgebase functionality included in Enrich allows Social Sites users to do something similar in the form of a document. Social learning begins with providing an environment where people can answer questions and others can answer them, which tends to be particularly effective within focused communities, Keyes said. "If someone is a little bit shy about asking questions, they can at least come in and see the existing answers." The Enrich knowledgebase is essentially a "helper function" built on the wiki included in SharePoint, making it easy to create, classify, and tag articles for discovery, Keyes said. "Often the people creating the knowledgebase articles are the people answering the questions, who find themselves answering the same questions over and over again." These articles can include slideshows and other rich media. "You're trying to extract those learnings and bubble them up to the top so people can discover them," Keyes said. "Enrich helps employees learn faster and easier by creating a persistent, socially interactive learning culture inside the company. It makes the entire organization much more responsive to changing business challenges," said Yvette Cameron, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research in a prepared statement. "The best learning comes from the shared knowledge and experience of our peers. Enrich unleashes that knowledge in a natural way that is easily consumed when and where people need it, in the context of their daily business workflows." Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard 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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