Dazed and Confused – by SharePoint online?

confusedWe are moving from an old on-premise SharePoint  intranet to one on SharePoint/Office365.

I have been using SharePoint Online from 2011 so I have become quite used to the interface and its regular changes. But I was very curious what my end-user colleagues would think of the new SharePoint and I recently had the opportunity to train a number of them in the new environment. Our goal for this training was to get an idea of how people would react to the new platform, and which elements would be clear immediately and which would need more help and instruction.

All participants (except one) had experience with managing SharePoint sites. They also knew this was an experimental training so they were encouraged to be outspoken about their findings and suggestions. Each got their own test site in our test tenant, which is on first release.

These are the findings of that first classroom training:

1. The Office365 Homepage

When you log on to Office365 for the first time, you get a lot of pop-ups about Office365. While that is helpful for new users, for this purpose it was annoying because people were less interested in Office365 than in SharePoint.
Clicking around opens up a ton of new screens, which was not universally liked.

2. The SharePoint Homepage

This was a bit confusing, because people have never had that, and the page was mostly empty. The test sites did not show in everyone’s page, despite them having personal access. I do not know if that is a search indexing thing or that you must have visited the site before it is shown in your “recent” sites.
As soon as everyone was on their site’s homepage, I told them to “Follow” it to be able to revisit it quickly, and everyone got it.

3. Site Contents

I took them to Site Contents, and then I found that some of my trainees had the old Site Contents with tiles, and some of them had the new experience . That was a bit confusing, but it was a good illustration of the ongoing changes that everyone can expect.

4. Document Libraries

Document Libraries were already in the New Experience, and I was a bit worried if people would be able to overcome the gap in look-and-feel between our old SharePoint and the new one.
It was a pleasant surprise to notice that, with just limited instructions, people took to it straight away. Everyone saw the benefits of the Pin To Top functionality, and I saw two people nudge each other happily when they learned about the library and document information pane, that also tells you who has deleted a document. No more guessing or blaming SharePoint or IT!

The Document Library with the information pane. Just click the i on the top right of the library. You can see which documents have been created, edited, deleted, restored, by whom and when. Great!

5. Lists

Unfortunately the Lists were still on the “old experience” with the tabs and the ribbon. While I have always loved the ribbon in The Office Suite, I have never taken to it in SharePoint, and I am more than happy to see it go.
My trainees did not use Lists much (an opportunity for later!) but they got it quickly enough.

6. Deleting and Restoring

Deleting and Restoring content is a topic high on my agenda. We often get panicky calls from people who have “lost documents” and have never heard about the Recycle Bin. I added a few exercises with deleting and restoring documents and list items, told them what to do themselves first, and then how to get help. It all went smoothly once people knew how long things will be stored, what goes via the Recycle Bin and what does not, and what they can do themselves and when it is time to contact the site collection admin.


7. Quick Links/Navigation

The Quick Links (team site) and Navigation (Publishing site) caused some confusion since it is a mixture pf settings and edits, and moving the menu items around resulted in unwanted indentation. It is also different from the custom-built navigation many people have used, so this will definitely need some more instructions.

8. Editing a page

Editing a site’s homepage turned out to be quite easy for the trainees. Everyone in the audience had experience with managing Publishing sites. They sighed happily when I showed them they can now insert images from their PC in the Content zone without having to upload them to SharePoint first.
Everyone had already embedded a video before I even talked about it 🙂
Editing the (basic) team site homepage was even easier.

Inserting a picture from PC appears to be so much easier!

9. Image Library/Image Renditions

We have some recommended image sizes preconfigured in the Image Renditions and the trainees thought that was pretty useful. (It shows you how an image will look in that size). In our current environment, you only see it when you have added it to a page, and that can lead to surprises.🙂

The image renditions show you how a picture will be displayed in different formats.

10. Promoted Links

Promoted Links have been designated as an important tool for nice looking links to other content in formal sites. Oops, this was a bit hard. Of course this is a new functionality so people did not know it beforehand. But I also think that the default configuration can be improved. That will be another blog.

Promoted Links with 3 different opening options.


All in all, my trainees did quite well. But then they were experienced and motivated. I think they benefited from my little bit of hand-holding and assuring them that most was still there, just in another place or with another name.
The only person who was a bit lost was the person with no earlier SharePoint experience.

So, I am actually quite content. After all this, I think the ongoing changes will be the largest hurdle, more so than the delta between the old and new SharePoint. (with the exceptions mentioned)

Have you introduced Office365 recently and if so, what have been the largest hurdles for your audience?

Dazed and Confused? I do not think so.

Title inspired by Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Never a dull moment with SharePoint Online

rollercoasterAs I was rehearsing my SharePoint Online training session the other day (more about that later), and checking my back-up screenshots, I noticed that the Office365 homepage in our test & training tenant had changed overnight.
You may know that I really like the new homepage, and since Office365 is new to all my colleagues, I was happy to know that I would show them  the most recent version straight away.  So I exchanged the screenshot in my slides with a smile.

During the training session I noticed that for some of my trainees the “Site Contents” page was in the old tiles mode, and for some it was already in the new mode. That was strange, because all the test sites were  in the same site collection and on First Release.
Luckily I had warned my trainees beforehand that things might and will change all the time, so I could easily talk my way out of that one🙂

The test & training tenant already had the modern Document Library Experience, but not the modern List experience, so I still had to talk about tabs and ribbons for the lists. (Of course I told my trainees that this will change.)

But…what will be there at launch?

Interestingly, our production environment will not be on first release, so we may be launching with the old Document Library experience. I hope we will not, since it means instructing people twice.

And wait, there’s more to come!

Now I just learned that the Team Site Page experience will change as well. Right.

And the new App launcher! Oh.

And the new People cards. Help!

Personally I am OK with all those changes. I think most of the changes are an improvement a so I am quite happy to find out what  will change and how to help users find their way around. That is my job and I have the time to do it, I trust🙂

But my colleagues are just USERS; they have other responsibilities and skills than finding out how SharePoint works today.  I may have trained people on an older or newer version that we will launch with, and they will have to relearn. People may think they know how things work, but that may have changed while they were going to get a coffee.

So I foresee a lot of questions once we will launch…
Never a dull moment when you are a SharePoint support person!

How to keep up?

Over the next few months I will be finding out how these ongoing changes will be perceived by the support team and our SharePoint users. My main question is: Can we all (support team + users) keep up with the number and frequency of changes?

If you already have experiences that we can learn from, please let me know!

Title inspired by the album “Never a Dull Moment” by Rod Stewart. (1972)

Picture courtesy of dtcreations at Morguefile.com




What do YOU call Home(page)?

HomepagesweethomepageThe first page I see when I open a browser on my work laptop is the intranet. That was the case in my previous job and in my current one. When I see peers open a browser window, I rarely see another page, like a search engine page; it is generally an intranet homepage that opens first.

When discussing our new digital workplace the other day, we wondered which page should open when you open your browser. With Office 365 you have a number of options.

  • One person wanted the intranet homepage to be the first page shown, like it is today.
  • Another suggested the Delve page, although he realized that will not be the best page for launch since it needs to fill up with relevant content before people will see the benefits. I personally like the Delve-page, but not as a browser home page. To me it feels too much like a “filter bubble”.
  • A third colleague thought that the SharePoint homepage would be the best option, since it would have all your sites in one place.
  • I preferred the Office 365 landing page since I think that is the best representation of the Digital Workplace. It has all the tools I need on a regular basis: Email, Yammer, Office, SharePoint. With the recent improvements, however small, I think there is a great potential to turn that page into a very useful dashboard to start your working day.

We clearly did not agree so I decided to ask the question in the Office 365 network on Yammer.

The results surprised me!

  • Most organizations have “a specific SharePoint page” as their browser homepage. I assume that is the “intranet homepage”, because the people who voted “Other”, mentioned their intranet homepage as well, but those were not (yet) on Office 365.
  • A surprisingly high number of organizations (19%!) leave the decision to the user. This is totally unthinkable in my corporate world so perhaps these answers were given by smaller consultancies.
  • A disappointing 14% had the Office 365 landing page as their browser opening😦.


I have given my feedback about the new Office 365 landing page to Microsoft. I hope they will develop this quickly so I will get my way one day after all🙂

BTW, since then we decided that the new intranet homepage will be the chosen page.

If you are on, or planning to move to Office 365, what have you selected as your browser homepage?

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Executive blogging? Hmm…

NoBloggingBlogging by senior management appears to be an ongoing struggle. I wrote about it earlier and remarked that it is not for everyone.
In my opinion, key success factors are:

  • You need to like doing it. It will cost a lot of time and effort, and if you do not like to spend that on writing, you’d better use your time in another way.
  • You need to add something new to the mix, something your employees have not already heard several times through your official channels.

Last week, I came across two other articles about executive blogging.

Do not blog if you do not know where you are going

Erika Parker posted “Executive Blogs: 7 Signs You Should Just Say No “

She also mentions that executives have to feel a need to blog. There should be something driving them, whether that is their personal opinions, a need to interact with employees or a need to change behaviours. If they feel they do it because they have to, they better find another channel or another way altogether.
And while it is not necessarily wrong to hire a ghostwriter, an executive has to feed that person with the direction, the tone-of-voice,  personality and topics. They can not leave it all to the writer. But remember: they should always post their blog themselves!

Do not blog about knowledge management

And if this all does not show enough that blogging by executives is not necessarily a simple thing that you “just do”, Nick Milton posted: “Why you should not ask your senior managers to blog“.

That sounds more forbidding than it really is. Nick warns that senior management should not blog about knowledge management, at least not about anything other than stating its importance.
In general, a senior manager’s blog will be too formal (an official communication), too hierarchical and too conceptual to be of practical use. It is not a good example to start informal company-wide knowledge sharing between peers.

Nick gives a few better options for using blogging as a method of sharing knowledge among employees.
I strongly support that opinion, just like I support blogging instead of publishing monthly newsletters.

I am almost starting to feel sorry for all executives.
If they have the drive and enthusiasm (which appears not to happen too often), then they are forbidden to blog about a certain topic. If wonder if any executive still has any motivation left after all this.🙂

Perhaps you know of a good example?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Organizational change and your SharePoint sites

OrgChangePawnsSharePoint” or “the intranet” is generally not the first thing people think of when an organization changes. But there will always be a moment when people are looking to align their teamsites to the new organization structure.

If you are supporting SharePoint users in your organization, this may be a good “toolkit” to support site owners who are confronted with a major change.
I wrote the following posts earlier, but I have now ordered them t
from overview to detail, which suits the process better.

1. Handover

TeamSiteinheritanceFirst, the new owner should know what (s)he is the owner of.
Which site(s) are in scope, how are they related, what do they contain and who can access what?
Of course this should ideally be done by the former owner, but in real life this is not always feasible, since the former owner has generally left their position by the time the new owner arrives. I have to step in quite often.

In “Congratulations, you have inherited a teamsite!” you can find the first steps toward new ownership. 

2. Review and adjust

OrgchangeWhen the new site owner knows what (s)he has inherited, it is time to review the content. Is all content still relevant, do subsites or documents have to be moved to another place, can stuff be archived, does content have to be updated or new content have to be created?

In “12 things to do in your team sites after organizational change” I have listed a number of items to review regarding Content, People and Pages.

3. Change

While the new owner will probably make the first adjustments during review , there are some more detailed changes that need careful investigation and planning beforehand. When changes in metadata are required, for instance, you have to understand how your list or library has been set up, and how a change is going to affect your content. There is a big difference in behaviour of a library that picks metadata from a Choice field compared to a Lookup List.

Change-PictureIn “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes part 1” you will find info on changing

  • Site name/URL

  • List or library name/URL
  • View name/URL

Changes-image2And in “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes part 2” I have listed how to change

  • Columns

  • Folders

  • Documents and List items

Do you have other suggestions to help new site owners on their way?

Top Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The new Office365 Homepage

Yesterday I logged in to my Office365 and I immediately thought : “Wow, that looks nice”. It is not often that I am struck by a beautiful page, so I decided to write about it.

This is it:

The new Office365 Homepage


And this is the bottom of the page. You can decide to show more documents.


First good impressions:

  1. The small top bar is much larger now and that really looks good. It must be my Raspberry theme, although it also looks cool with Cats  :-)
  2. The welcome message is nice, although I know it is calculated from my timezone and my account. Still, it looks vibrant and cheerful.
  3. Your most recent documents are displayed underneath.
  4. You immediately see you can install software. On iPad, you can download Office apps.
This is the new Office365 Homepage on iPad


What would I like to see as improvements?

  1. It would be nice if you could also search for other things than documents. I am trying to wean myself (and my colleagues) of documents where possible, and this does not help.
  2. That also goes for the recent documents underneath the apps. I would like to see my unread email, or my unread Yammer messages, or the Tasks due today, as well as documents. If Office365 is going to be my Digital Workplace, it should display more than just documents.
  3. A little badge on each app to show the number of unread messages, or new tasks, or something like that,  would also be nice!
  4. The coloured bar overlaps the profile picture a little, so that needs some tweaking.

And this is the page as it used to look (on a different tenant) or still looks, if you are not on First Release.

The “old” Homepage 


All in all, I quite like this change and I think it can be made even better!

The new “Site Contents” layout

Just when I had recovered from the (pleasant) shock of “the new document library experience” I found out that “Site Contents” has had a design overhaul.

I have not seen many blogs on this new feature yet so let me show you more.

What did the Site Contents page look like?

The “old” look and feel of Site Contents


My concerns have been:

  • I personally do not like the grid layout with tiles, I can read a list better. Call me old-fashioned🙂
  • Although the tiles occupy plenty of real estate, they do not provide as much info as they could, as I described earlier in “SharePoint tiles I’d like to see”.
  • I always forget if I have to click the tile (yes) or the … (no) to open up the list/library.

So, will my concerns be gone after the design change?

This is the new design

The new design – top of page


  1. Eyecatcher: 3 new content blocks
  • Number of Site Visits
  • Trending content
  • Tips

I am not very active in my Office 365 environment, so the numbers displayed in the screenshot are not exactly informative, but you will get the gist. I am curious to see if the trending content itself will be displayed eventually, apart from the number.
I think this will create welcome transparency.

2. A new way to create new items

Instead of the “Add an app” tile you now select “New” and you can pre-select the desired item you want to add.
It appears that lists and libraries are no longer called “apps” – this calls for a happy dance!

Creating a new item


If you click “Library”, you will go immediately to the new document library creation page.
If you click “apps” you will go to the known grid of app tiles.
I have not tested the Lists and Subsites yet.

3. The actual content

Underneath, your site’s real content is displayed.

The actual Site Contents. Please note the site top bar and header stay where they are when you scroll down.

These are no longer displayed as tiles, but as a list. The list is sorted on list type, and then alphabetically on name, displaying icon, name, type, number of items and last modified date.

The subsites are displayed on a separate tab:

The list of subsites, with #Views, and Created and Modified Dates.


What do I think?

I like this new design.

  • I especially like the list of apps with their smaller icons, because the smaller icons show more variety than the big blue tiles, and are therefore easier to distinguish.
  • The modified date is a granted wish. I am totally fine with “one hour ago” or “two days ago” but when it is more than a month ago,  I prefer to see the exact date.
  • Sorting the list on List type is helpful.
  • The Created and Modified Dates for the subsites are also very helpful.
  • I still have to see what extra value the 3 new blocks on top will have, but I can imagine these will be useful.
  • Also, it looks like older versions of SharePoint. While this may be a disappointment to some, at this moment it is very welcome to me. The company I work for is moving to Office 365 and I am concerned that our users will be totally lost in their new environment.

What do I miss?

  • The description of the list or library.


  • The link to go back to the new look-and-feel!!!

When I noticed the new design, I found it had been changed across all my sites. That annoyed me because I did not have a screenshot of “before”.
Then I noticed a link, bottom left, saying: “Return to Classic SharePoint”. I created some screenshots of the new situation “just in case” and clicked that link…

All my sites turned back to the Classic look, with no link to the new design😦

I can only hope that this change will be rolled out irreversibly in a few months. But if you know how to reset it, please let me know!

[Update June 13, 2016: Fortunately Andrew Gilleran knew the solution: Log out and log in again. A new session will restore the new look-and-feel! Thanks, Andrew!]