Community Hub on SharePoint 2013

To support the launch of Coca-Cola Amatil’s Maintenance and Engineering Community of Practice we’ve built an online Community Hub in SharePoint 2013.  I invite you to take a video tour of this Hub.  As the tour is 15 minutes I have also provided a brief written description of the spaces set up on the Hub for Community members to connect, share and collaborate. (Note – I’ve recorded this video using Microsoft Lync.)


Key Hub Features

The Hub sits on our Maintenance Engineering SharePoint site, and is basically a dashboard with links to a range of spaces and resources on both SharePoint and the internet.  In the video I walk through the spaces we’ve set up on SharePoint for Community members to interact online, connecting, sharing, solving problems and improving practices together.  All of these spaces are accessible from any mobile device or computer using an organisational login.  The mobile access is particularly important for maintenance tradespeople who spend most of their time in the production environment, away from desks.

CCA Community Hub

The CCA Links on the hub are:

Discussion Forum – standard discussion board with ability to create new discussions, reply and like.  The board can be sorted and filtered in a number of ways, and search is available on the site which will include discussions in results.  A useful function I don’t discuss in the video is that an individual can quickly set up an alert to receive notifications of changes on the discussion forum via email (immediately, daily or weekly).  This is helpful to stimulate those who aren’t working on SharePoint regularly to participate in forum activity.

Shared Notebook – a Microsoft OneNote notebook set up on the Maintenance and Engineering site.  OneNote is a very easy to use, flexible collaborative tool.  We have set up a section for use during the Work Connect and Learn program, and there is currently another section being used for Maintenance Managers meetings.  We expect to see use of OneNote increase as Community members become familiar with it.

Contact Directory – a directory with expandable sections containing SharePoint profile key data.  A person can be added to multiple sections reflecting the different groups to which they belong (e.g. Maintenance Managers, members of a physical site team, system Key Users).  From each person’s directory entry you see whether they are online, start a Lync IM chat or call, create an email, access their contact details, or open their SharePoint personal page.

SharePoint directory

 Example of Contact Directory popup with interfaces to Lync and SharePoint personal page

Supply Chain Knowledge Bites – a separate SharePoint site where anyone can share a short ‘bite’ of knowledge or ‘how to’ information.  Documents and multi-media files can be included in a Bite, along with links to internet resources.  People are often unsure about where or how to share their expertise, so we’ve set up this space to provide a common way of sharing and accessing documented know-how.  The second half of the video explores Knowledge Bites in more detail.

Community members are learning how to use these spaces along with other collaborative tools (notably Microsoft Lync) through our Work Connect and Learn program.  Program activities are being conducted in these normal working spaces so that people get used to using these spaces during the program, and continue to use them afterwards.

How the Hub was Built

Work on the hub commenced with a PowerPoint prototype which a colleague, Justine Jardine, developed with me in just one working day at the request of a keen senior manager who wanted to champion the solution at an annual planning meeting.  We were able to respond so quickly in part because we had seen a demonstration of a knowledge sharing space set up on SharePoint 2013 by a New Zealand engineering firm, Tonkin & Taylor, in a 702010 Forum webinar. We included additional spaces and resources in the prototype, all of which we modelled on existing internal SharePoint sites.  So, our prototype was low risk as we had working examples of all functionality included.

While our internal IT department provisions SharePoint sites using a standard organisational template, they do not build any functionality on sites.  They also do not allow custom development, which ended up precluding some of the prototype features as Tonkin & Taylor had done custom development.  Further, we were unable to use SharePoint ‘Community features’ as IT is still trialling these.

So, I developed the Hub using standard SharePoint 2013 functionality.  While I knew how to build a dashboard, almost everything else I had to learn how to construct.  I searched the internet for information and ‘how to’ articles and videos, with Helen Blunden (who was developing Work, Connect and Learn) researching SharePoint 2013 features alongside me.  There is a LOT of freely available information about how to set things up in SharePoint 2013.  I also got tips from our SharePoint SME in IT (he had time for quick questions), and appreciated some discussion with contacts at Tonkin & Taylor about their Knowledge Shots solution. Of course, the other way I learned was to experiment – to build things and see what they looked like, then adjust.

Several members of our internal Capability Community tested and reviewed the build as Hub components were developed.  Often their excellent suggestions could not be implemented with standard SharePoint 2013 functionality, but did push me to figure out different ways to do things as we continued iterative development.  The experience of building this Hub has made me more resourceful as a self-directed learner, and more likely to figure things out for myself than wonder why IT hadn’t “trained me” on using SharePoint.


At some point I’ll post an update about how Community members responded to the Hub and what adjustments or additional features we introduce.  If you have any suggestions or feedback please leave a reply.

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  1. #1 by Bruno Winck on February 25, 2015 - 9:35 pm

    I found your work on the knowledge bites interesting. Any link for “demonstration of a knowledge sharing space set up on SharePoint 2013 by a New Zealand engineering firm, Tonkin & Taylor”? Didn’t get which technical infrastructure was missing you precisely to reuse their stuff.

    • #2 by Michelle Ockers on February 25, 2015 - 9:49 pm

      Hi Bruno, I became aware of Tonkin & Taylor’s work on Knowledge Shots on SharePoint via a webinar hosted on the 702010 Forum – recording is accessible to members only unfortunately. I did Google it and can’t see that they’ve shared this elsewhere. There were three piecs of functionality that I would have liked to set up but couldn’t:
      (1) a “share” button in each bite which generates an email with a link to the Bite allowing it to be quickly shared with others – it’s much like the document sharing functionality that is standard functionality in a SharePoint document library
      (2) a discussion thread on left side of each Knowledge Bite for discussion specific to that Bite – really like this. It’s much like a newsfeed area but associated with the Bite rather than being on site landing page
      (3) contributor ratings – a little piece of community gamification or encourage contribution. While this could be put on the custom list fairly easily (IT would still need to do this for me) there is some debate about how the ratings are calculated and whether they incentivise appropriately. Our IT department is trialling them on their discussion forum first before deciding whether to make them available on other sites.

  2. #3 by Bruno Winck on March 1, 2015 - 2:22 am

    All 3 look like features I suspect are somehow available in Sharepoint or in an addin.

    It came to my mind shortly after that to be a real social experience one would like to be able to follow a given contributor for his new bites. This would lead to a page per person listing the person you follow and those who follow you. Numbers of followers being as usual a good indicator of rating. I’m sure this could be found in std features as well.

    In term of gamification what is pretty popular are badges. get a badge for reaching 10 bites, another for seating as an expert and so on. Although I overlooked it at first I must admit it’s easy to implement and very popular. Part of the fun being to design the badges.Badges typically appear near users avatar and on their bio page.

    • #4 by Michelle Ockers on March 3, 2015 - 5:07 pm

      Yes, all 3 features are available and I have seen them in use elsewhere. Obstacle to using them in this instance is IT policy on use of ‘vanilla’ SharePoint features (which may mean the subset that they have decided to make available within my organisation) versus ‘custom’ development. Our IT department is also not yet ready to let us use Community features which includes the gamification – they are trialling it themselves. So, fingers crossed that it won’t be much longer before we can start adding these features to our community site.

      • #5 by Bruno Winck on March 4, 2015 - 9:13 am

        I understand that from their point of view keeping the set of features limited makes it easier to assure the coninuity of the operation. Also some features may have some legal implications that must be approved before deployment. Typically everything around sharing private data like profiles, performance. What could be fine for Australia could be an isssue in another nearby country.

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