Tag Archives: Social collaboration

How LiveTiles modernises design and UX in SharePoint

Live-Tiles-logoLiveTiles launched globally in early October and many of you have been in touch to request further product information. In this post we chat with Sepi Ghajar, Senior Consultant and lead LiveTiles Architect in New York, about some of the most commonly asked questions, including what LiveTiles is, what it does and how can it change the way your business operates.

So, what is LiveTiles?

LiveTiles is a product that enables you to have a superior design, functionality and user experience in SharePoint and to reduce the time it takes to build customised interfaces from months to hours – or even minutes. It’s also the first browser-based design tool to support modern UI (user interface) design, rapid mobile site development and out-of-the-box integration with external line of business systems. LiveTiles can be deployed to SharePoint on-premise or to the cloud (SharePoint Online) with Office 365.

How does LiveTiles make using SharePoint easier?
LiveTiles is a very simple, modern interface and doesn’t require a high degree of technical proficiency to operate. It has a straight-forward ‘drag and drop’ functionality and comes with a range of pre-configured apps and tiles. Each of these has in-built functionality and can easily connect to (and display content from) within SharePoint – as well as applications such as Yammer, Dynamics CRM and many third party business systems.

Why does LiveTiles offer a superior UX?
We talk about LiveTiles as ‘flipping the traditional intranet model on its head’ because the days of one-way intranets – where people log in and have to follow a global navigation to source information – are gone. This is not how people prefer (or expect) to work anymore. Good UX now demands that we offer faster, more intuitive, convenient and personalised experiences. Combined with the fact that touch technology is now so ingrained in our daily lives – LiveTiles takes this demand and lets you easily deploy sites that users want to engage with.

Example of LiveTiles as a horizontal scrolling interface.

Example of LiveTiles being deployed as a horizontal scrolling interface.

When a user logs in to LiveTiles they see only information pertaining to them. Individual tasks, schedules, rosters, training videos, business intelligence, and automated workflows are seamlessly combined with global information like a social collaboration newsfeed, corporate policies, important notices or alerts. LiveTiles also leverages SharePoint 2013’s enterprise-grade search capability, meaning enhanced document previews, metadata and people search, as well as discoverable social hashtags or conversations. Strictly speaking, everything a worker needs in their entire day is located within their LiveTiles interface.

In what ways can installing LiveTiles result in cost savings?
From a business value perspective, LiveTiles shortens the amount of time it takes for businesses to see real value from their Office 365 or SharePoint investment. It also helps reduce the risk around technology implementation complexities, and also to achieve sustained user adoption.There are also significant savings to be made from increased employee productivity and collaboration. As an example, the simple act of automating leave requests can reduce a hefty administrative burden and the associated productivity vacuum and costs. Even if each employee only spends an hour submitting and tracking their form each time they take leave, across an entire company, savings of both time and money add up very quickly.

Another example is the use of rich media content to train and educate employees in different geo-locations. The ability to host and manage this through LiveTiles can result in entire training modules being entirely online, removing the need for training facilities, collateral and personnel, and also reducing employee down-time.

How does LiveTiles integrate with SharePoint?
As mentioned earlier, LiveTiles comes with a range of pre-configured apps and tiles which have the ability to connect to both SharePoint and external data sources.

This is achieved by installing the package to SharePoint Solution Gallery. Once the installation is complete, LiveTiles enables you to create aggregated content pages within SharePoint by offering a broad range of page templates with pre-populated and pre-configured content, retrieved from SharePoint lists and librarians. Included in the range of page templates are up to 10 industry specific templates, such as Retail, Education and Manufacturing.

And external business applications or systems?
LiveTiles can connect to and interact with any external data source using SharePoint Business Connectivity Services. Its comprehensive and easy to use tool set allows users to arrange external content as desired on the pages, and to apply look and feel branding concepts by simply dragging and dropping them onto the template.

Got a question for Sepi? Get in touch via marketing@nsynergy.com. nSynergy are the only licensed LiveTiles seller in Australasia. Feel free to contact a member of our Solutions team to arrange a free consultation.

Previous SharePoint blogs you might enjoy:

Why a SharePoint project is like building a house (or should be) – Part 1

Why a SharePoint project is like building a house – Part 2 The Build

What’s the buzz? Demystifying Modern UI

Leveraging social tools to drive culture and adios 15,000 emails

By Peter Nguyen-Brown, nSynergy COO and Co-founder

Peter and nSynergy Principal Consultant Daniel Goss collecting the 2013 Microsoft Collaboration & Content Partner of the Year trophy on 20 August.

Peter and nSynergy Principal Consultant, Daniel Goss, collecting the 2013 Microsoft Collaboration & Content Partner of the Year trophy on 20 August.

As COO of a company with 11 offices over five continents, it should be challenging for me to keep across everything happening in the business. But in reality, our social culture makes it easier than you might think.

To begin with, to anyone who believes social collaboration is just a passing phase or ‘Facebook for the enterprise’ – I’m here to tell you, you have been misinformed. Similarly if you are concerned that social collaboration will wind up being just another disparate business system to worry about – in actuality, this technology has the capacity to integrate with and share information from virtually every area of your business.

Social collaboration is the reason our business is able to remain connected, agile and profitable in multiple markets. It does this by acting as an unbreakable thread which connects each and every person, 24/7, 365 days a year. The prevalence and value of our social interactions has resulted in all employees regarding the intranet as their ‘home base’. Company HQ. The central point from which they start and finish their days, and coordinate their individual tasks. It’s also the place where they build real relationships with colleagues in other locations and gain awareness of activities occurring in and around the business.

Since implementing social collaboration technology, my personal email traffic has reduced by a staggering 60 per cent (the company-wide figure is closer to 50 per cent). Given the average number of actionable emails I receive is around 80 per day, this has banished some 15,000 emails per year, eliminating around 500 hours or 50 days of administration, and releasing me to focus on more strategic, higher value business tasks.

How does a social COO operate?

Let me show you. Here is a snapshot of my activity on our social news feed today:

  • Uploaded a follow-up document from our Board meeting and shared with the Board community (13 comments, 7 likes)
  • Shared monthly reports with Global Leadership Team in the Leadership community (18 comments, 8 likes)
  • Shared a collection of slide presentations from a recent Microsoft Conference with all employees (22 comments, 11 likes)
  • Followed up an all-company meeting with details on our new Modern Consulting Practice strategy (10 comments, 33 likes)
  • Recognised a team member from San Francisco for demonstrating one of our core values (8 comments, 19 likes)
  • Added my congratulations to our Sydney team who have secured a third contract with a major client (16 comments, 16 likes)
  • Answered a question by one of our Principal Consultants regarding which former extranet projects would make relevant case studies (24 comments, 9 likes)
  • Added three new colleagues from New York, Shanghai and Sydney
  • Followed two new communities

In addition to these actions, I scanned the news feed and noticed a number of activities and updates in regards to project milestones, people and communities, which adds huge value to my day in terms of ambient awareness.

The power of ambient awareness

This refers to how we absorb knowledge and store it for future reference – a very powerful tool to arm your employees with as it helps protect you from developing silos, as well as creating shared accountability. For example, before we adopted social technology my first port of call each morning was my email inbox. Now, opening the social newsfeed is the first thing I do every day, without fail.

It goes without saying that expectations around social use and awareness are within reason. There is a distinct difference between spending several minutes scanning and contributing each day, and wasting hours posting non-business related content. The good news is we have only had to ask an employee to dial down their social activity on one occasion, in almost two years. (I believe the fact that each leader in our business utilises social daily, but purposefully, help to set a good example).

Higher user adoption

The knock on effect of a highly-valued social culture is that it helps you to achieve sustained adoption of your intranet, adding continuous value to your employees (and your business). That social interaction also helps people be more productive, useful and visible also results in higher engagement and satisfaction levels.

Staff often tell me that one of the reasons they love working at nSynergy is that they feel so close and comfortable with the owners of the business, and that they can make a positive impact, which makes me extremely proud. However one example from outside our business comes from the CIO of a major client, who was responsible for managing a large intranet rebuild project. As such, he needed to get buy in from other business leaders and ensure it was well adopted by staff. With guidance from us, he leveraged social tools to share his vision, gain traction and receive feedback as soon as the intranet was launched. This resulted in many useful conversations and high awareness across the business. The best thing was that employees immediately saw the power of social collaboration, which led to high user adoption levels.

Measuring social ROI

In my view, social ROI is primarily about increasing productivity and efficiency. Social collaboration reduces the time and effort it takes to get things done, which is vitally important in such a dynamic business environment. These productivity gains help keep our business ahead by driving faster innovation, harnessing our IP and providing the most valuable outcomes for clients. This is why we are in business – it’s that simple.

Social collaboration is harder to measure when it comes to things like culture. However, in my experience, it certainly goes a long way towards building or enhancing a culture people want to be a part of.

I will wrap this up with a final anecdote. Last week, two staff members (both very effective social users) from our New York office came to Melbourne for the first time. Upon arrival at the office, they walked in to be greeted with handshakes, hugs and even a few high-fives. It was a particularly noisy few minutes with everyone talking at once and asking our guests questions.

You would never have guessed that these people had never met – they were like long lost friends. As I sat back and watch everybody interact in this way, it occurred to me that what I was witnessing was the power of a positive social culture in action.

Got any questions for Peter? Get in touch with him at peter.brown@nsynergy.com.

Recent blogs:

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How to get the troops onboard with social collaboration tools

CollaborationIn our last blog we talked about SharePoint 2013’s new social collaboration capabilities. If correctly installed and rolled out, these tools can result in significant productivity improvements and financial savings, as well as becoming the perfect breeding ground for ideas and innovation. Therefore today we would like to start drilling down into a few best practices for User Adoption.

1.       Develop taxonomy for information

Many organisations learn the hard way when giving employees freedom to information if they don’t take the time to create standards around how information is presented and shared.

You can combat this by developing taxonomy or set of guidelines around content e.g. establishing naming conventions or subgroups. Setting the right parameters can make a big difference to how effective and useful collaboration is.

2.       Invest in education and training

We encourage every organisation we work with to adopt some kind of training or education program specifically for social collaboration. Generally, we do this through a combination of group training with some one-on-one sessions – tailored to each user group as necessary.

In addition, training on company collaboration tools should be part of the on-boarding process for every new employee. If employees understand the benefits of the tool from the outset they will quickly learn how to apply it to their work.

3.       Emphasise senior leadership support

Demonstrating that senior-leaders are visibly involved creates a powerful sphere of influence. Make it a priority to get your top people trained up early on, so their use of the technology can become a public endorsement.

For example, when rolling out their social collaboration tools, one of the biggest global IT companies encouraged senior leaders to be among the first to complete their profiles, start blogging and post status updates. Trust and transparency was created and, within one year, they went from 5,000 active employees to over 15,000.

These are just a few of the tactics we employ to ensure our clients achieve the highest rates of User Adoption when launching social collaboration tools. But as this is such a far-reaching topic, we’ll be sure to touch on it again in future. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch if you would like to learn more about SharePoint 2013 or our approach.

Why get social? SharePoint 2013 social collaboration tools

We will be kicking off a series of posts about the new features of SharePoint 2013 shortly, but in the meanteamworktime, we’ve been fielding a lot of queries about one aspect in particular – and that is SharePoint 2013’s new social capabilities. So let’s take a look.

Enterprise social collaboration has been gaining a lot of momentum over the past few years, and certainly in the last 12 months, we are having more and more conversations with clients who are ready to introduce it to their business.

Far from being just a passing phase – as some predicted – social collaboration tools are helping businesses around the world unlock unprecedented levels of productivity and profit. According to The Social Business: Advent of a New Age study published by IBM, 57% of CIOs whose companies have invested in social media tools outperform their peers. The study also revealed that 55% of companies reported social networking played a significant role in the growth of their business.

SharePoint 2013’s social tools are a great start for companies who are ready to begin their social journey. In our experience this technology represents a much safer, more scalable option than free social collaboration tools like Jive and Yammer (incidentally now Microsoft owned), as it allows for greater integration with other systems, whilst providing a higher level of governance and control. Plenty of companies come to us reporting that their workforce are readily engaging through one of these free sites, having never stopped to consider lack of governance and security as an issue. In the case of one client, ex-staff members who were now working for the competition were still very much engaged in their old communities six months after leaving the business. We can only imagine how much IP and strategy walked out the door during this time!

In most cases, the free cloud based social platforms mentioned are not subjected to the internal de-provisioning processes which traditionally ensures ex-staff members can no longer access valuable information. As the aforementioned studies have shown, staff are happy to use social tools to collaborate with their colleagues – but the same rigor and security should be applied as with any other business application.

Through SharePoint 2013 you can promote an even higher level of collaboration safely within the confines of your own environment. More than this, conversations can be categorised using hash tags and keywords, which can then be easily searched for at a later date. This information can then form the basis of a powerful knowledge database for the future.

Consider all the IP that has traditionally sat within an employee’s email account. Insights, work arounds, problems solved, ‘how to’ conversations – valuable knowledge that dies with the end of an email thread and gets filed away out of your reach. Now imagine all of that knowledge been safely recorded within your SharePoint environment, available to your entire workforce at the click of a button.

From a user’s perspective, SharePoint 2013 also begins to understand what information they want. They can follow people, sites, content and conversation and receive activity feeds each and every day – and the best part is, they already know how to use this technology. Social media is more than just familiar, it’s how they want to receive information.

What could your employees achieve with hours of productivity unlocked? Feel free to get in touch with us for more information about SharePoint 2013 or social collaboration tools.

Building the ultimate test case in our own backyard

nSynergy has offices in New York, London, Shanghai, San Francisco, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane

nSynergy has offices in New York, London, Shanghai, San Francisco, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart

While it may seem slightly unorthodox to write a blog about our own business platform, the reality is, we rely heavily upon Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 technologies to keep our processes optimised and our business profitable.

With eight offices across four continents, we have a strong presence in all global markets and push our project teams to be competitive among the world’s best providers. This is great news for our clients! But it does require us to maintain a highly collaborative, communications-focused environment, so our SharePoint consultants and developers from around the world can easily share insights and information.

In addition to running a dynamic SharePoint intranet with enterprise search capability through FAST search, we have adopted NewsGator’s Social Sites add-on to extend SharePoint’s existing capabilities. We estimate that social collaboration functionality reduced email traffic by around 50% in the first six months – although our CEO happily reports that the reduction on his personal email traffic was more like 60%! Even more importantly however, is the ability to use social collaboration as a way to harness internal knowledge.

(Great news for customers – SharePoint 2013 now includes a range of social collaboration tools – and we’ll be covering this in a separate entry soon).

Office 365’s cloud-based technologies also play a daily role in the growth of our business. For example, video conferencing and desktop sharing through Lync enhances our ability to work as a cohesive unit. From Shanghai to New York, and London to Sydney, Melbourne and several cities around Australia, our staff are able to constantly collaborate in real time.

When they are not engaging with each other, our team are contributing ideas to an innovation centre we call the Think Tank. These range from insights about SharePoint to major creative ideas, which are then fleshed out by input from other team members. These contributions to the Think Tank are regularly explored and have resulted in some exciting innovations. But more than this, we now have a culture where people want to contribute to the success of the business – and they encourage each other to challenge the status quo and come up with better solutions.

A final piece to the puzzle is the real time project collaboration we are able to have with clients through our extranet site, Engage. Through Engage, project teams from both sides can access properly governed shared files, review design concepts and track project milestones – without any concerns about version control or security.

Having our business activities underpinned by such powerful technologies as these creates the perfect backdrop for innovation. Read the full case study hereImagine what it could do for your business – get in touch with one of our professional SharePoint consultants today.