SharePoint – the Collaboration Platform
SharePoint is a Web-base application platform developed by Microsoft to provide a number of functions and capabilities to promote collaboration between company employees and organization members. Since its introduction in 2001, continuous feature development and improvement has made it a powerful and reliable resource for businesses.
Despite this, its adoption rate has be painfully slow in most cases. Many organizations find that their employees often prefer to minimize their use of the platform, or ignore it completely. In fact, a 2011 Forrester report indicates that 31% of Sharepoint companies have users that still prefer collaborating via email.
The Badgeville Webinar
Enter Badgeville to address this situation with game mechanics. With Badgeville for Sharepoint the intent is to engage users and have them adopt the different Sharepoint features in a meaningful way to promote collaboration. By integrating smart gamifying elements into the Sharepoint structure, Badgeville enables companies to influence and reward key user behavior, and improve knowledge sharing, resource management and collaboration. This in turn increases the likelihood of valuable actions and performance, providing positive results derived from the initial investment. (Wow, that sounds effective.)
In a recent Badgeville webinar (July 10, 2013), Chris Lynch, Badgeville’s Director of Product Marketing, explored ways to improve Sharepoint adoption through the use of gamification techniques. Featured in the program were Joel Olson, the Managing Director at Salient6 , a Sharepoint consulting firm, and Caroline Dangson, a key producer at Badgeville.
Chris kicked off the seminar with a quick survey, polling the listeners on what they use SharePoint for – which functions they have deployed. (Listeners were allowed to check any and all of nine possible responses.) The results indicated how diverse their use was.
The three leading functions were Site (portal, intranet) (71.5%), Collaboration (58.1%), and Content Management (57.0%). At a more modest level of deployment were the internal-facing Custom Apps (26.3%) and Social (19.0%) functions. At still more modest levels were Insight, consisting of business intelligence and analytics (8.9%), and external-facing Custom Apps (8.4%). (Some listeners responded that they have deployed an unspecified function(s) (7.8%) or none at all (17.9%).)
The Sharepoint Adoption Challenge
Joel initiated his part of the session with comments about the objectives of Salient6’s efforts to unlock business value for SharePoint, by enhancing the user interface and user experience through game mechanics. But there are challenges. Both Forrester Research and Gartner Research have reported that despite over $1B being spent annually on SharePoint, adoption has been slow. Only about 40% of the “line of business” users regularly use SharePoint, with a full 41% of all users preferring more standard tools such as email. Not surprisingly, 51% of all users don’t like the user experience.
To explore this further, Joel initiated a second quick survey of the listeners to poll them on what they felt were the main adoption challenges.
The results point out some key problem areas which have previously been identified. In February 2013, Forrester Research released the report, “SharePoint Enters Its Awkward Teenage Years”, which stated that despite great strides in development, it has been a disappointment in several areas. Specifically, in these four areas:
Adoption – lack of forethought in rolling out SharePoint to regular users
User Experience – the user experience with SharePoint has proven cumbersome and confusing
Tools – people still love the experience of familiar apps, such as email, despite the advantages of SharePoint’s integrated features and the efforts of third party developed apps, such as harmon.ie
Business Value – 40% of the survey respondents indicate their organizations are not seeing business value from SharePoint adoption
In the survey results, the lack of enthusiasm for the user experience clearly stands out and confirms the findings from Forrester. Also the preference for other (more familiar) tools and the lack of obvious business value for users seems to support the earlier findings. (Note that the survey results reflect the exclusive nature of the polling – listeners selected only the “Biggest Adoption Challenge”, not challenges. If the survey would have allowed listeners to select multiple challenges, the cumulative impact would be more obvious.)
The survey results also indicate that the learning curve presented a significant challenge to users. This would obviously affect the user experience, providing little incentive to move away from more familiar apps and tools, and ultimately impairing the rate of adoption.
Joel noted that though IT can deliver the latest and greatest, users will often just turn their backs on new solutions. Especially when there is little support in training or encouragement for adoption. So, if IT just deploys a new application or platform and expects the users to employ it in their daily routine, certain disaster awaits. In fact, often the IT team itself is without the skills needed to understand what can be delivered and what potential benefits can be derived from the SharePoint platform. (He implied that this is a lack of business understanding on IT’s part, for what is possible.)
Digging Deeper into the Problem
Joel further focused on three points for evaluating an adoption situation –
Engagement – it’s not just about getting people to use the solution. If that were the case, you could just put the time keeping app on the intranet homepage. (This would get nearly 100% of your users to use some part of the platform, but it does solve the true “engagement” challenge.) They need to really become involve – actively engaged.
Community – Users need information, training, help, and assistance. Building community increases knowledge sharing. He suggests starting an in-house SharePoint User Group, to find the SharePoint leaders and champions. They will in turn share with others and help in the adoption process, benefiting the community and the organization.
Loyalty & Expertise – Your SharePoint team won’t scale by itself. You need to reward and recognize successful efforts on the part of the power users and champions in business. Encouraged, they will increase their efforts and evangelize the adoption of SharePoint.
To do all of this, Joel encouraged the use of a gamifying strategy. By illustrating personal examples from his Delta Frequent Flyer program, LinkedIn profile strength, and FourSquare badge collection, he demonstrated that participation is recognized and rewarded. And that is a very powerful motivator for most people.
With SharePoint 2013, the Microsoft product group recognized that gamification makes a difference in communities and in contributions. One can look at the community settings and see that reputation is built in. You can see and set reputation levels – how many points you get for the different accomplishments and tasks. Ratings result in different reputation points, with the quality of input and interaction affecting point acquisition.
Unfortunately, the reputation feature that has been built into SharePoint 2013 stops at the community level. The great effort to build recognition for who is contributing and encourage participation doesn’t transfer across communities. So, if you have multiple web applications, it is challenging – and it doesn’t actually interact with your team sites.
Joel’s member page shows when he joined and his reputation score (as a Top Contributor in the SharePoint 2013 community). It also shows him how many points are needed to move to the next level – “Earn 318 more points to move to the next level”, a very nice feature.
Joel presented Yammer as another example of game mechanics being effectively employed in a SharePoint environment. The SharePoint Yammer community, which is on top of Yammer, is a group of over 3,000 users, which was established in 2012. An app enables selected users to view leaderboards inside of Yammer. This allows one to not only see who is active, but who is contributing the most quality. It effectively identifies the leaders and champions.
The Cooperation between Badgeville and SharePoint
As the focus switched back to the collaboration between Badgeville and SharePoint, Chris Lynch explored some of the details of the gamification platform that is built on top of SharePoint. The discussion of how gamification elements are applied to the various instances of SharePoint starts from a functional level. (Caroline Dangson would later present the design perspective.)