He recommends customizing the UI design of MySites. SharePoint MySites can be sterile on their own, says Sita, and could turn people off from using them. UI enhancements can be done in-house or through a third party such as NewsGator or Atlassian. Colliers tweaked its UI internally.
"This is about people and relationships, so it's worth it to invest in UI design to make MySites more visually appealing and user-friendly," he says.
Making SharePoint Search Your Own
But all of this connecting and collaborating wouldn't mean much if Colliers hadn't also customized and refined SharePoint's enterprise search functionality.
To that end, Colliers IT team spent four months building a portal called "Our People" that employees worldwide now use to find each other. The key to Our People, says Sita, is how he and his developers, with help from Microsoft's product development group, customized SharePoint search to provide deeper contextual search results.
The employee profile pages fuel this search because they contain not just biographical information, but rich content such as what clients are affiliated with a person or what specific deals he or she has worked on.
To create this contextual search, Colliers integrated its CRM system, its invoice system and its deal tracking system into SharePoint 2010 to provide rich data about deals and clients.
"You can type in a client name like Proctor & Gamble and get contextual search results on everything we know about that client and what people have worked with them," says Sita.
"Then you can contact the right person directly through SharePoint and Lync and say, 'Hey I noticed you've worked with this client. Can you help me?'"
Giving Clients Access, Just Not Full Access
In a relationship-based industry like commercial real estate, how much access do you give clients to private SharePoint sites?
Colliers clients do not have access to the Our People portal, says Sita, but they still have access to the Colliers external site, www.colliers.com, where they can at least access the information in the Our People section. The Our People section itself and Profile Pages are for employees only.
Nevertheless, giving clients access to some SharePoint sites is becoming more common, says Sita.
"We've created external connectors and specific portals for clients within SharePoint to let them view their personal dashboards, share documents and start discussion threads with Colliers employees."
For now, clients get a special URL to log into Colliers SharePoint sites. But the firm is redeveloping its website so that clients can log in from the site and go straight to a SharePoint portal.
After this upgrade, "the new site will be fully integrated with SharePoint," says Sita.