Marc Benioff may think that SharePoint belongs in your Grandmother’s attic because he has not seen Colliers International site. For that matter, he probably has not seen a lot of SharePoint Social sites.
The first time I remember hearing the terms ‘social’ and SharePoint in the same sentence was when I was being asked to attend a business sponsored charity event. “Please RSVP on the SharePoint Wiki”, the email read, but instead of calling it SharePoint we gave it a Latin name for brain. Like magically, that was supposed to make the company smarter.
Back then, our site perhaps did belong in the attic. Primarily because we did not have a visionary like Veresh Sita, the Global CIO of Colliers International. And Sita is no senior citizen stuffing the family heirlooms up into the rafters. He’s taken SharePoint and built a village.
Can SharePoint be Social? Yes of course it can. Pause for a moment and study how Sita and his team at Collier’s are creating one of the most prolific SharePoint Social sites in the Global 1000.
“We have the equivalent of LinkedIn for Real Estate on the SharePoint Platform,” Sita told me as we were discussing how Collier’s views SharePoint as mission critical to their global business.
Sita elaborated, “When we first started out with we asked, ‘if only Colliers knew what Colliers knows.’ and after implementing SharePoint plus our own custom enhancements, we now know what we know.”
This is not your Grandmother’s people search engine. In fact, SharePoint is pulling information from enterprise systems to create a more complete profile of their employees. That way, if an employee needs help on almost any esoteric subject, the system responds with individuals that can help.
How they did it: In order to create the powerful expert search engine, Colliers had to customise SharePoint’s enterprise search to suit their specific requirements. They also integrated their CRM and ERP systems for increased relevancy.
Colliershub is Social
“Everything that Microsoft dreamed SharePoint would be used for is how we are using it,” Sita explains, “SharePoint out of the box is not as friendly as we wanted it to be, so we spent a lot of time customising it”
SharePoint is so successful at Colliers that Sita points out,”The word SharePoint in our company seems to be the answer to everything. Whether it will work or not is another matter”
Sita wanted the company to use SharePoint to connect and collaborate with customers and employees. Colliers does that by enabling external client access to SharePoint. Clients can see individual dashboards, documents and can interact with brokers all from a secure SharePoint portal.
Employees interact with each other through activity updates, wiki’s, blogs and Microsoft’s Lync (peer to peer video, audio, web conferencing). They can also create MySites (from Colliers’ customised templates) for specific topics or themes.
Why it’s important: Most SharePoint sites are out of the box installations that provide little more than a document repository. Colliers proves that with some effort, SharePoint can be transformed into a social solution that helps build a valuable community for clients and employees.
Colliershub Generates Revenue
“People care about how they are represented in the company and we are a business where people rely on referral business. So if our employees are anonymous they will not get a referral,” says Sita.
And since clients are connected via a secure portal, brokers have a customer service advantage over their competitors because of the direct client relationship and increased transparency.
Brokers and clients also use forms in SharePoint that connect directly with Colliers line of business applications for quick access to information. They no longer need to context switch out of SharePoint and into yet another application. It can all be done in SharePoint, all in context.
Why it’s important: Sita and team have intelligently designed SharePoint to be a platform for prospecting, a platform for best practices and place to connect directly with clients. It’s generating measurable increases in revenue while giving their sales team a competitive advantage. This is not something you want to toss up in the attic.
A Closer Look at Colliers SharePoint (colliershub)
UNDER THE HOOD
Based in Seattle, WA. USA customised enterprise search 15,000 employees Custom MySite templates 60 countries Automated self service content creation tools 500 offices Some integration with Microsoft Office 60% employee adoption rate of colliershub No 3rd party add-ins (yet)Recommendations and Advice
“In our early days we spent a lot of time with the Naysayers. But now if they don’t want it, we move on. In fact, I am proactively telling them that they don’t qualify to use our SharePoint site. Ironically we found the adoption rate is going up and the Naysayers are coming back,” says Sita after I asked him for advice for other companies caught in similar situations.
Colliers has a 60% adoption rate for SharePoint and Sita claims it will be higher once they roll it out to the entire company. “We are also creating specific business use cases so that people start to understand how to best use SharePoint,” Sita said.
A few other pointers:
- Do not build SharePoint by committee. It’s faster and more efficient to get a few people to build it, receive feedback, then change SharePoint accordingly.
- Create and promote areas in SharePoint where people will receive a direct benefit.
- Launch a pilot with groups of people that work well together. Then measure and evangelize the success.
The “Grandmother’s attic” metaphor certainly does not apply to colliershub. They are leveraging the information in SharePoint to increase revenue and client satisfaction.
And admittedly, for most users, SharePoint is not seen as Social. Benioff’s Chatter has more people talking. But from my conversations with leaders like Sita, they’d probably retort that the Chatter stops when Grandma loses her dentures.
Read more posts on Seek Omega »