Using the Social Features of SharePoint 2013

SharePoint Uses Social Collaboration & MySites to Boost Productivity

One of the major improvements to SharePoint in the 2013 version (Server, not Foundation) is MySites.

Specifically, it’s the whole social media aspect of SharePoint. Administrators have heard it a million times now: “SharePoint is more social” and “You can use hashtags and the @ sign and have your own Newsfeed.”  So, by now SharePoint Administrators are aware of the social features (which will get you half-way there…)

After some struggle, we all know how to deploy and configure for MySites creation, but some organizations may not understand how to actually implement social features into their business and encourage end-users to leverage the features. Or maybe they just don’t see the benefit of it all. After all, why have Facebook-like features on a company Intranet site? Why even deploy MySites? SharePoint is for collaboration, right? And the very notion of MySites seems antithetical to the idea of collaboration.

Two Features in MySites That You Should Be Using

The two features of the new MySites that I always encourage end-users to discover (and use) first is the Task list and the Following feature.

The Task List is wonderful because it aggregates your tasks from all SharePoint Task lists. This is actually an extremely welcomed feature for those who like to deploy no-code workflow solutions. Now you can use any task list for workflow to assign a task.

For example, you may have an HR workflow where a user has to complete an online form for next year’s benefits (think Health Care) package. A task is assigned to User A by the workflow initiated by the HR manager. User A also has to approve Purchase Orders over a specific amount. So whenever the Accounting workflow encounters such a Purchase Order, a task is created. There may be other workflows that assign tasks to User A. In SharePoint 2010, User A would have to navigate all around SharePoint to find these tasks. Now, they simply go to their personal site and click Tasks. All tasks are nicely presented. Furthermore, this is an interactive list, so they can mark items as partially completed or completed directly from this one site.

SharePoint 2013 Personal Task List

SharePoint 2013 Personal Task List

As you can see from the screenshot, the tasks are parsed into headings based on the originating task list. So in the example, there are two task lists for which this user has been assigned tasks. You would simply click the arrow to expand the list and see the individual tasks.

Pretty slick. And a feature that undoubtedly saves users (and SharePoint solution developers) time. Of course wherever time is saved, money is saved. For this feature alone, I’d say it’s worth the investment in creating MySites and starting the Work Management Service Application (the service app that does all this work).

The other time saving feature where benefits are readily apparent is the Following feature. In SharePoint 2013, a user can choose to follow not only people, but documents and sites, as well. This basically creates a portal a user can use to easily locate sites and documents (and yes, people) that is important to their work.

I encourage people to freely follow whatever is significant to them to perform their daily duties. For example, if you’re part of a project and a Project site has been created, follow it. You can always un-follow it when the project (or your part) is completed. Follow documents like the Employee Handbook, the contact list of your department or your company, and your in-house catering’s menu (what… you don’t have a private chef at your workplace? …Neither do we). When changes are made to any followed document, you are immediately notified of the changes in your Newsfeed. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this permanent. If you’re collaborating on a document with a team, follow it. You will then know who, what, and when changes have been made. It just makes it easier to stay current.

Following sites creates a nice portal-like page in your personal site. This is an easy way to navigate to the sites important to you.

SharePoint 2013 Following Sites

I’m Following SharePoint Sites

Basically, when I come in to work in the morning, the first thing I do is open my Personal site. All my tasks, important documents, and sites I’ll need to visit are all in one location. I pretty much leave my Personal site open all day, and just open new tabs when I have to navigate elsewhere in SharePoint.

Since doing this, I no longer spend the first moments of the day “sorting through” today’s activities and tasks. SharePoint does it all for me.

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About Matt Milsark

At Fpweb.net, Matt builds many of our clients' environments as well as supports and maintains them. These range from a simple dedicated single server to large multi-server SharePoint farms. Because of the sheer number of clients we have and the myriad of ways they use SharePoint, Matt has become intimately familiar with many aspects of SharePoint. Matt warns, "SharePoint is a beast. You may think you’re an expert at SharePoint, only to find out later you’re an expert at merely a small aspect of the beast's capabilities." Matt is also passionate about vinyl records. Check out his music site at lplives.com.
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4 Responses to Using the Social Features of SharePoint 2013

  1. Pingback: Using the Social Features of SharePoint 2013: SkyDrive

  2. Nic says:

    Hey Matt, Have you ever experienced Follow-up not working? We have a new wave of farms being built for 2013 but the Follow-up feature isnt working while Following is. This is a cross farm federation with Team sites, MySite and UPA all on their own farms. Any suggestions?

  3. trish says:

    does not mention newsfeed……

  4. Pingback: MySite Features | SharePoint Blog

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