Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Making social productivity a snap

There’s social, and then there’s social productivity.

This distinction is at the heart of what SnapWorkSocial – a startup founded by ex-Quest evangelist Mike Watson – is looking to bring to market. “Social is the new way of computing, almost as revolutionary as computing itself,” Watson told SPTechReport in a recent interview. “We’re looking to take ‘social’ to the next level and make it work-ready.”

In the early days of computing, there was a 1-to-1 relationship between a user and a machine. The advent of the Internet allowed many people to connect to many entities. But machines only store data, Watson said; it takes people to decipher it and add context through conversation.

SnapTeam, the company’s free social software (now in beta) for SharePoint 2010 and Office 365, addresses some of the shortcomings extant in other social tools, Watson said. “There are problems with traditional social tools,” he said. “It takes months to implement, then you have the adoption process, and you end up with lost productivity, not increased productivity, because social tools can be a distraction, allowing you to connect to things other than business.”

Most social tools do not allow ownership of issues, while in business, hierarchies of people exist to enforce how business is done, he added. Further, he said, most social tools today are reactive, with items appearing in an activity stream. “But older items just stream off the page, whici is bad for productivity.”

SharePoint 2010 does introduce social features via MySites, but Watson said these are difficult to implement and control, and require big infrastructure to run. “MySite social is not what people expect,” he said. “You quickly run into roadblocks. For instance, you can only share a status; there is no ‘at’ replies, and no hash tagging. The profiles are great, but there’s a lot missing.”

SnapTeam has Microsoft’s TeamSite styling, and users can create tasks for individuals, color-code them as to the status and the approaching due date. Users can communicate back and forth; open documents out of SharePoint for review, revision and comment; and see a maintained thread of discussion that is searchable with metadata. It takes the best of twitter and Facebook and combines those features – along with SharePoint – into a single UI, Watson explained during a demo of the tool.

SnapTeam installs on a single site collection as lives as part of the site infrastructure, but not on the server infrastructure. That’s why in the free version, tags entered into discussions are not associated with SharePoint metatagging. But the free version also has an app store built right in for people who want to add more professional features – some are free; some are not, Watson said. He added that the company will release a professional version in the first quarter of next year.