I love Facebook and anybody who’s friends with me on Facebook knows how much I love and use it. It’s a great place for me to keep in touch with my friends and family members whom I don’t quite see or talk to as often as I’d like. Whenever I have free time during the day, I’ll often find myself on Facebook to see what’s happening or to share a post or perhaps a picture with my friends and relatives. I suspect most other people use Facebook the same way and find themselves on Facebook for the same reason. It’s a convenient place to pass the downtime.
While this type of social works well enough in my personal life, this kind of social doesn’t really meet my needs at work. Sure, connecting with colleagues at work is useful and important, but I need more than that. As I tend to be involved and responsible for many different things, how I manage my time is critical. I need more than a time-filler — I need a social platform that can help me maximize my time and increase my productivity with tools that don’t act as a barrier to efficiency but rather facilitate it. What I need is smarter social.
When I think about what smarter social means, I think about features in the social platform that can help you, either automatically or prescriptively, accomplish some task or process. As a simple yet powerful example, social tools are often used to be able to get answers to questions quickly. By adding basic social tools within your organization, you can easily post a question and tap into the collective wisdom of the crowd to get the right answers. The drawback here though is that, for a variety of reasons, you’ll often see the same questions being asked repeatedly.
With NewsGator Social Sites, we already address this issue with knowledge bases and the ability to quickly create a knowledge record from an activity found in the stream. And while many of our customers find this to be very useful, we’ve also introduced smarter capabilities in the latest release of Social Sites that further enhance the questions and answers use case.
One such feature is the new suggest-ahead functionality (Figure 1). With this feature, as you type a question, Social Sites examines the question and makes suggestions on posts and questions that are similar to what’s being typed. With this feature, you are still able to get the answers to your questions but you do so without adding to the stream noise or bothering people who’ve already answered the question previously. That’s smart social.
Figure 1 - Suggest-ahead predictive matching
Smarter social tools also understand my current context. They know what’s important to me and they deliver the information that I need, when I need it, wherever I need it. When we introduced the Lookout interface, it helped our customers by allowing employees to have personalized dashboards to monitor the people, communities, and other information that were uniquely important to them. In the latest release, we’ve added even more capabilities to allow you to track exactly the kind of information that you need to keep track of — things like following important documents and subscribing to hashtags. Think about it — how often do you search for the same thing over and over in SharePoint? You know you put it somewhere, but you just can’t find it. With a hashtag attached to it, you could use search and sift through the results, but wouldn’t it be more convenient to have alerts just sent to you for the things that matter to you? Maybe for critical documents or specific topics that concern you? What if the news that matters to you is the first thing you see at the top of your activity stream? What if you could choose the level of alerts you receive from your activity stream? Maybe you want to see blogs, but not likes. Maybe you want to see discussions but not receive a notification for every event that occurs. NewsGator knows that social needs to be relevant to every employee in an organization and personalization and intelligent routing make it that way.
Figure 2 - Personalized activity stream settings
Finally, at work, I use many different tools, applications and platforms. A smart social platform ties all of these together and reduces the amount of time it takes to go to different systems and applications just to find information or take some action. Smarter social aligns to my daily activities and workloads. Social Sites takes social deeper into the business processes — integrating with CRM systems like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, for instance. And now, Social Sites is enabling in-the-stream approvals, like employees may be used to seeing with SAP. With the new workflow approval capabilities (Figure 3), you now have the ability to submit and respond to approval requests for anything from PTO requests to expense approvals.
Figure 3 - Approval workflow task
All of the enhancements and new features we’ve added to Social Sites are just examples of how NewsGator continues to innovate and lead as the #1 social business solutions provider in the Microsoft ecosystem. We continue to add real value for our customers and during every release, I am reminded of just how amazingly talented the people I work with truly are. We get social beyond the basics and deliver social solutions that enable the workforce to go beyond simple communication and collaboration scenarios to unleashing real productivity improvements. With every release, Social Sites gets smarter and smarter. I can’t wait to see what’s next!