SharePoint MySites are often controversial parts of any SharePoint implementation project. Yet set up and used in the right way — often an involved project in its own right — a personal MySite offers its users a number of great features and functionality. A good SharePoint BA needs to understand when and how best to use the MySite to solve problems they will face during the requirements stage.
NB: I’ve not had a huge amount of time to play with SharePoint 2013 MySites, so this stuff is about 2010, but lots of it is still relevant.
Companies become nervous when they hear that employees can add their own documents and content via MySites. They hear the (misleading) phrase ‘Facebook for the enterprise’, and run for cover, nervous of chatrooms and Justin Bieber fan sites. Yet SharePoint MySites are in fact a very useful tool to give to employees, especially when looking to encourage collaboration between small numbers of geographically dispersed people.
Let us look at the top 5 ways a MySite can help individuals collaborate effectively:
1. ‘My Colleagues’ and ‘My Org Chart’
The first place to start when collaborating with colleagues, is to find the right people to work with. Maybe they are people you know and you are simply looking for contact details. More likely, you are looking to pull in skills of people you don’t really know.
The colleague tracker will show you suggested colleagues, based on your SharePoint and Active Directory profiles. You can edit this list, adding in people the system may not be aware of. This list can be thought of as a simple directory of people you either work with, or should. All conveniently placed in your MySite.
The organization chart builds on the colleague tracker. This is basically an interactive Silverlight component, allowing you to click through a graphical hierarchy of users. In truth, it is really just eye candy, but it is a nice way of traversing the usual list of users. Combined with colleague tracker though, these features put user information at your finger tips. Next step, making sure people can find you and your profile.
2. ‘My Profile’
My profile is fairly self explanatory, but very important. Here you can fill out a range of information about yourself. The fields requested vary depending on how customized your solution is, but the more you fill out the better. This is all about providing information so people can find you. It is all very well you finding people to work with, but you yourself have to be ‘findable’. ‘My Interests’ and ‘My Profile’ will both help with this.
3. The ‘Noteboard’
The Noteboard can be thought of as a ‘Facebook wall lite’. It is a place where other users can easily post short messages addressed to you, but are viewable to everyone else. Perfect for short conversations, or multiple people, the noteboard is where collaboration can really begin. Sometimes email is too heavy weight, or too private. Simply use noteboards and publicly document a conversation. Though standard in each MySite, they can also be used all over SharePoint sites, using the standalone webpart — perfect for adding a simple ‘comments’ section to the bottom of a page.
4. ‘Recent activities’
This area of your MySite profile page will show everything you have been up to recently on this SharePoint implementation. From updating your contact information, to writing on noteboards and adding documents, this is a great place to let other users keep up to date with your SharePoint movements.
5. ‘My Content’
This is an area where you can store public and private content. In terms of collaborating with others, My Content is perfect as a public ‘My documents’. Store everything here and let people dip in and out as they need to. Write permissions are yours alone; Read permissions belong to everyone. A separate document library, for personal material, is included for keeping some content private if required.
SharePoint MySites are actually a great place to let your users collaborate, in a really relaxed adhoc way. They really major on helping you find the right colleagues for a specific task, through profiles, interests or recent activity. Once found, you can share content really easily or swap notes. MySites are not Facebook, nor are they really social networking at all, but then they were never designed to be. Use them as they were intended and the majority of users will find them a great help.