You Can Get There From Here

I grew up in a pretty remote area. People would make a joke every now and then that included the line “You can’t get there from here.” The notion was that there were some places that were so difficult to get to that it was just easier to tell people that you couldn’t get there rather than try to actually explain or equip them to make the journey themselves.

Interestingly, I see a parallel in the lives of workers in companies today. In this case, workers have many places they can (and often should) get to, but they don’t have time to go to all of them. In many companies, multiple intranets, ERP systems, content management platforms, HR systems, custom applications, and more all demand the attention of workers. In a way, it’s the same kind of problem – you can’t get there because you don’t have time or don’t remember to go check.

So if workers can’t go everywhere, the answer has to be to bring everywhere to them. This breaks down into two problems. You have to know the things that are important for a worker across many systems (I’ll talk more about this in another blog post). You also have to bring these things to the right place in the right way. I’ve talked about the Lookout interface in Social Sites before. It focuses on letting users decide what is important to them and makes sure they don’t miss any of those important things. The screenshot below shows the web UI for Lookout.

But even though this interface brings together tons of information in one place, it is another place for some workers to view. So, now we’re bringing the power of Lookout to other places where workers are already spending their time. The first one is an Outlook plugin.

The screenshot shows the view of the tiles that I use to manage my day. You can see ones that I use to keep track of the executive team, my direct reports, key communities I monitor, top subject tags, and more. Clicking on any of these opens up a view of the items to let me take action (comment, like, mark for follow-up, etc.).

You can also see that the ribbon includes a control to create a new post. This lets me ask questions or post updates without ever leaving Outlook.

These same capabilities are also now available in a universal toolbar that can be placed on any web site. The screenshot below shows the toolbar on a SharePoint website. (Note: The toolbar can be deployed on any kind of web site. For SharePoint, it is enabled with just a click from Central Admin. On other web servers, it is added as javascript.)

You can see how the icons show counts of unviewed items. While it’s not shown here, the toolbar can show additional links as well as offering extensive control over color and layout. Clicking any of the icons displays a list of the items for that filter.

The icon next to the “Lookout360” text lets users post questions, microblogs, or private messages from anywhere.

So this is how Social Sites helps users “get there” without having to go anywhere new. These interfaces, like all of the Social Sites clients, focus on three key concepts: (1) monitor the things that matter most, (2) let users respond easily, and (3) give workers the ability to initiate a social interaction from any place.

At the end of the day, the people who used to say, “you can’t get there from here” had a point. Often, it was more trouble for people to get to some places than the benefit of getting there. With Social Sites, we’re changing the way workers get things done. So if you’re in Outlook or anywhere on your intranet, now you can get there.


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