When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke to thousands of partners at this summer’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC, he mentioned a key change being made across the face of the company – the inclusion of telemetry and data analysis roles in most teams. Data-driven development has been on the rise for years, especially across cloud-based platform and application development shops. And it all fits into the broader social informatics shift happening within various business and technology segments.
Social Informatics is the study of information and communication tools in cultural and institutional contexts. It is a broad, inter-disciplinary analysis of usage patterns that spans sociology, anthropology, psychology, technology, and business. More specifically, it is a study of the way that we do business – the tools we use, how we connect and collaborate, and how we consume and disperse information.
You’re probably asking: what does any of this have to do with SharePoint?
It is important to understand social informatics because the fundamentals of how the next generation of your workforce relates to each other, how they work alone or together, and how they use technology has changed dramatically over the past decade. Understanding these changes in how people think about their enterprise applications may help you to evolve your thinking about how to deploy or transform your SharePoint platform.
Within the context of SharePoint are the building blocks of shaping your environment to meet the needs of your evolving end users, including metadata and taxonomy, service applications, social computing features, and the first steps into mobile. While telemetry will measure every click (and non-click) that happens within a platform, sharing that information back to the development organization, providing them with real-time (or close to it) data on how the system is being used, there’s value in understanding the business layer of these usage patterns. Some areas around which to consider expanding your metrics from an informatics perspective:
- Metadata and Taxonomy
It is important to build and (proactively) maintain your metadata and taxonomy regardless of your SharePoint architecture and future plans. Metadata is the building block of collaboration, powering both search and social computing. Build a governance model that allows for fast, flexible, and transparent changes, so that end users can develop confidence that their input is being heard – and so that they can find their content quickly and easily. Reviewing usage patterns (just like you do for Search Engine Optimization of your online advertising) and making regular adjustments could make a major impact on the usability of your platform – and could improve adoption and engagement by users.
Think of social computing as another layer of search. Aside from the fact that the rich user profiles power many other capabilities than social tools (for example, use these profiles to build workflows), social computing is a core component of the way we now work. Look beyond the consumer-based platforms, and what you see is a real-time web of connections and data that can be searched, analyzed, and connected to create a whole that is better than the sum of its parts. Measuring what people use, when they use it, and with whom could help you to better understand the influencers within your organization, and where communications breakdowns are happening.
As with the social features, you need to clearly understand your end user requirements for mobile, the business value of offering mobile solutions, and how these solutions will be introduced and supported within the business. As with social, knowing how people are using these tools, when they are using them, where they are using them, and with whom they are collaborating can help your organization improve upon areas such as productivity, strategy, and security.
- Service Applications
The beauty of the service application framework within SharePoint is that you can retain centralized control while supporting individual freedom to move about the system. The service applications allow end users to consume data in a controlled, managed way, but with the freedom to build and deploy rich solutions for themselves or peers, analyzing and disseminating data as they see fit – within the guidelines you set. Every aspect of the app experience should be measured, from review to provisioning, and from usage to decommissioning.
How you apply the data learnings from these areas depends on a number of factors that span environmental, cultural, governance and informatics considerations. As you develop your SharePoint and your broader collaboration and communication strategy, understanding how your end users work and their enterprise application expectations will help you set the right path.