Conferences and OneNote – updated

In-person conferences are back! And while we all managed to attend a lot of conferences online with very few issues, it is great to be able to meet face-to-face again, get swag and rejoice or complain about the catering! 😁

A few months before the pandemic I wrote a post about using OneNote to capture screenshots of presentations. When you do not want to wait until the slides become officially available, you can quickly grab screens and add them to your notes, provided you have two devices.
You can also use this at online meetings of course – just take a picture from your computer screen.

I have updated the post, as the way to take photos with OneNote has changed somewhat. You will see the button with link below, as the “reblogging” that I did the other day (for the new Microsoft365 Homepage) does not provide a good user experience. πŸ˜’

Additionally, I am adding an excerpt that you can use during the conference. You can download it as a PDF (and print and fold it), or use the image op top of this post.

As always, feel free to share with your colleagues. I will appreciate if you mention me when sharing it on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Enjoy many in-person conferences!

SharePoint Holmes and the not-so-Dynamic Description

The case

“Can you help me? I have edited my SharePoint News post two days ago, but the old text is still visible on the News page, under the title. How can I update it?”

SharePoint Holmes had not had a request for help recently, so he was eager to jump in! 😁

The investigation

Not everyone knows that the text underneath the post title on a News web part is determined by the text in the Description field. You can find the Description field in the Page Details on the post or page in question. I recently wrote about the behaviour of this Description field.

On my site’s Homepage I changed the News web part into a List view. This shows a good portion of the Description text.

I created and published a new post.

The new post, with part of the first paragraph in the Description

I checked the Description, and it matched the text; it showed almost the entire first paragraph.

As expected, the Description matches with the body text.

I then made a change to the first part of body text, republished, and checked the Description field.

The Description field still contained the old text, and on the News page the old preview text was still visible.

New body text, but still the old Description.

I then manually changed the Description text into a short summary. I had to change it manually anyway, so I tried to improve it.

As I had to redo the Description text anyway, I thought I’d make it a one-sentence summary.
This is the new Description. I think it looks much better than a sentence that trails off halfway.

The solution

Unfortunately, the Description field does not update itself when you make a change to the introduction text of a news post or page. You will have to manually update it if you want to reflect any edits.
Of course, this behaviour does not always have to be a problem. If you only make small edits, or edits in another part of the text, you do not necessarily need to change the Description.

But even if you do not need to change the text, you may want to change the Description into a snappy one-liner that immediately informs your audience about the essence of your post.

And by the way, I have now found #7 of my post 7 things to know about the Description field in SharePoint pages and news! Told you! 😊

I accidentally I have also found #8: The Description field is shown in the Newsletter digest. Not unexpected, of course, but now it has been confirmed.

The Description is also shown in the Newsletter.

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Teams Housekeeping for beginners

Most organizations will have been working with Teams for about two years now. There was an explosion of usage early in the pandemic in March/April 2020. I remember getting tons of requests for new Teams, as many people thought you need a Team site for chatting and conferencing. πŸ˜’

Many of these Team sites have never been used, at least not in my organization. Of course, the Microsoft365 admin has a role in deleting obviously unused Teams, but that is not sufficient. Team Owners and users have their own responsibility in making sure they are in the right Teams, but I know very well that not everyone has, or wants to spend, the time to do a good review and cleanup. And sometimes they do not even know how to go about it! (The psychiatrists and therapists I worked with, were not all very digitally savvy)

So, in order to avoid confusion and mess in your colleagues’ Teams setup, and colleagues complaining that “their Teams is a mess and that is Microsoft’s fault”, please help them checking their Teams on a regular basis. There are many ways that you can make Teams work for you if only you spend some time on it.

I have created a simple housekeeping flowchart. I love flowcharts and it was a good way to test-drive Visio Online! The functionality is great, but I miss the “arrange nicely” option that is in the desktop version, so please forgive me if things are a bit askew. 😊

Underneath the flowchart you will find a more elaborate description with texts and screenshots.

Feel free to use this flowchart with your audience.

You will find some more detailed instructions and screenshots below.

Step 1: Review the Teams that you are a member of

You will find all your Teams in the left-hand rail of Teams. You can manage most Team-level actions by clicking the … next to the Teams name and selecting the desired action from the popup.

The 2 Teams in my tenant.
The Team actions, with highlights on the ones that are relevant for this post

Is the Team still in use?

For each Team, first check if it is still in use. If not, you can Leave the Team and it will no longer be in your list. If you are the Owner of the Team, please Delete the Team, except when the Team has Private or Shared channels. In that case, please check with the owner and users of those channels, as those are managed differently than the regular channels.

Update 16-11-2022: You can also Archive the Team and make it read-only. This can be an intermediate solution when you want to keep the info from an important project for some time, or when someone is afraid to delete the Team altogether. My personal experience is that nobody ever looks at an Archive, so you may as well just delete the Team, but not everybody knows that yet 😁.
Instructions for archiving. Thanks to Thierry Barthel for pointing this out.

Do you still need to be a member?

❌ If you have changed jobs since you were added to this Team, you may no longer need this. Or perhaps the project in this Team has been completed or stopped, or any other change may have occurred that makes this Team no longer relevant for you.
If you do not need to be in this Team anymore, Leave the Team.

❓ If you do not know, you can Hide it. The Team will then be moved to the bottom of the list of Teams, under Hidden Teams. You can occasionally check if something has happened by clicking on the Hidden Teams and checking the Team. If the Team is useful after all, you can unhide it by clicking … next to the Team’s name and selecting “Show” from the popup.

The Demo Team is hidden and no longer clutters my list of Teams, but can be made visible easily

Alternatively, you can keep it where it is and check now and then whether you still need this. It may be a good idea to collapse the channels so you only see the Team’s name. You do this by clicking the little triangle to the left of the Team’s name. To reverse this, click the triangle again.

Teams expanded, so you see the channels that are not hidden)
When you hover over the Teams names, you will see the triangle to expand or collapse the Teams.

βœ… If this Team is still relevant for you, please check the channels as in Step 2.
If you have many Teams, you can drag the most important Team(s) to the top of the list by selecting the Team name. By default, they are sorted in order of creation.

Step 2. Review the channels in the remaining Teams

If you are certain this Team is important for you, check each channel in this Team. You cannot leave a channel, but you can hide it to make it less visible (except the General channel). It is also possible to mute notifications.

You can manage most channel-related actions by clicking the … next to the channel name and selecting the desired action from the popup.

The channel actions, with highlights on the ones relevant for this post

You will have the following options:

❌The channel is not important
Please Hide it. Once there is a new message, the channel name will show in bold letters, but if you have hidden the channel, you will not see that until you click on “Hidden channels”. You can also decide to turn off notifications.

When there is a new message in a hidden channel, you only see it when you click on “x hidden channels”. 3 channel names are bold, so there are new posts.

❓You do not know yet whether this is an important channel.
Just leave it there until you know. You can also Hide it to see if you are missing something and decide to turn off notifications.

βœ…The channel is important.
Make sure you can easily find it and get notified whenever something happens in the channel.
You can Pin it to the top of your Teams list so you can quickly find it.

A Pinned channel on top of the list, so I can easily find the most important one. 😊

With the Notifications you can make sure you will quickly know when something has been added or you have been mentioned.
You will set notifications for all your Teams and channels in your Teams settings, (click the … top right of your Teams app, next to your name, and select Settings > Notifications) There are quite a lot of options so please check it out yourself.
You can deviate per channel where necessary by using the Channel notifications in the channel actions popup.

Channel notification settings. You can set these in general in your Teams settings, and individually per channel where necessary.

Hopefully this is a good first step for most colleagues! You may want to remind them once a year that they should spend some time reviewing – once Teams have been set up properly, it will most likely only need a small revision.

7 things to know about the Description field in SharePoint pages and news

My former colleague recently asked me how to add metadata or tags to SharePoint news or pages, in order to be able to make them link to a certain common topic, and be able to find them in Search.

My first thought was to add metadata to the pages in the Pages Library, but I quickly dismissed that thought as it would mean that every publisher would have to go into the library after publication to add their metadata. It would also mean that every Page Library would have to have those fields added and back-filled and oh well, I got tired just by thinking about the implications! πŸ˜„

But then we remembered that we had once added something on the page, “somewhere in a popup to the right”. I started investigating.

It turned out that the place to look for is the Description field. You can find it by clicking on the link “Page Details” during or after creating a new post or page.

There are a few things to know about this field.

1. The Description field is almost on top of the popup

It is directly under the thumbnail of the header image.

After clicking on Page Details (1) the popup will open and you will see the Description (2).

However, the popup often opens “in the middle” so you need to scroll up to see it.

If the popup opens like this, please scroll up!

2. The Description field is auto-populated after publishing

It will be populated with the first 255 characters of the body text.

SharePoint will tell you how many characters you have left.

3. You can change or remove the text after publishing

Now why would you want to change the description text manually? Items 4 and 5 will provide the answer!

4. The text in Description is shown in the News web part

Rather than having a text that suddenly ends in the middle of a sentence, you may want to edit the Description to provide a good summary to your readers.

The number of characters displayed is depending on the configuration of the web part, e.g.

  • If you have no image, you will see more characters than with an image.
  • If your News is in a page-wide column, you will see more characters than when it is one of three columns.
  • Hub, Carousel and Tiles layouts do not show descriptions.
In the red-lined example, we can remove all text behind the ! in the Description and have one proper sentence.

This preview is not relevant for pages, as these are not shown on web parts.

5. The text in Description is shown in Search results

When you have executed a search, in all of Microsoft365, SharePoint or your site, the Description text will show in the Search results, at least the text around the keyword.

Please compare this screenshot of a news web part, where the word “peregrine” is only

  1. In the title
  2. In the body text
  3. In the Description
  4. In a different text web part

To this screenshot of a search on the word “Peregrine” in the Microsoft365 homepage search box. The numbers correspond to the list above.

The search word ‘peregrine” is in various places in the news posts, but they will all turn up in search.

Please note that I have filtered the search for News, to avoid that the various images that have been auto-uploaded to the Site Assets library during news creation, clutter the list. How was it again with images in SharePoint news? This post will tell you all.

6. The text in Description is searchable

From the screenshots you can see that the keywords can be on various places on the page, but the posts all turn up in Search.
This means that you can add keywords or metadata in the Description, without having to use that text in the title or body of the post or page.

For News, you’d best add the keywords at the bottom of the field after the summary text, so you do not show the keywords alone in the news preview. My news post 3 only has “peregrine” in the Description, and it makes a meagre preview on News.

For pages, you want to make sure that you have a good text for Search, but you do not need to worry about any preview.

Please note that I chose the word “peregrine” in my example because I have not used it before in this tenant. In real-life you will get more search results so you may need to filter.

7. The text in Description is not dynamic

When you are editing your post after publication, the description will not be adjusted. This does not have to be an issue, but you need to be aware, especially when you have edited the first paragraph of your post. My post SharePoint Holmes and the not-so-dynamic Description tells you more.

You can leave the description as is, replace it with the new intro, or even better, replace it with a summary of your post so your readers get the gist immediately!

8. The Description shows up in Newsletter

It will be no surprise, but just to be complete. The Description is also displayed underneath the title in the SharePoint Newsletter.

Conclusion

The Description field in the Page Details can be very useful in the following scenarios:

  • Providing a one-sentence summary of your news post on the News page(s) and Newsletters instead of the first words that trail off somew…
  • Making sure the post or page can be found in Search results. You can add the relevant keywords without having to add them to the title or the text. For instance, if it is related to a certain project or topic, but you do not want to use that word all the time.

Do you have other scenarios?

Are you using the Description field consciously or do you have another scenario where it comes in useful? Please let me know!

The new Microsoft365/Office365 Homepage – revisited

Of course, we all knew that Office365 would be renamed/rebranded into Microsoft365, but not when it would happen exactly. To be honest, I had forgotten a bit about it, thinking that Microsoft365 was the subscription to Office365 + additional enterprise functionality.
At Microsoft Ignite 2022 we learned that it will happen, and soon – from November 2022 onwards!
Read more: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/microsoft-365-faqs

I noticed the announcement on my Microsoft365/Office365 homepage, and as I have had many new followers recently, I thought it might be nice to share my collection of Homepages over the years so they can see how this page has developed.
Enjoy the nostalgia! 😁

Ellen's Digital Workplace

Over time I have captured the various appearances of the Office365/Microsoft365 Homepage. As you may know, I quite like this page as the page where I start work.

That page is updated quite frequently, and I keep all versions in this post. Please scroll down and get some nostalgic feelings. πŸ™‚

Update October 2022 πŸ‘‡

As announced during Microsoft Ignite 2022, Office365 will be renamed Microsoft365. We knew this for more than a year, but it was unclear how exactly and when this would happen. Now we know:
β€œIn the coming months, Office.com, the Office mobile app, and the Office app for Windows will become the Microsoft 365 app, with a new icon, a new look, and even more features.” This will start from November 2022. Microsoft FAQ.

The announcement is on the homepage now. And compared to the December 2021 update, I now have recommended posts, and colourful…

View original post 2,061 more words

Diverting SharePoint News comments to the Author

K: “Hi Ellen, can you post this on the ICT News page for me, please?”

E: “Sure Karla, will do and I’ll let you know when you can review it.”

K: “Can you make sure all comments are directed to me?”

E: “Uh…I do not know if that is possible, I will try to find out.”

The other day a reader of my blog asked me how you can send the News comments to the person mentioned as the Author (rather than the person who created the post). I did not have an answer ready, so I decided to find out and report. I love investigating these kinds of things and finding as many workarounds as I can!
And yes, I have found a few workarounds.

Recap of the basics:

1. Read my earlier post on the topic

I suggest you read my earlier post “4 ways to manage comments on SharePoint news and pages” as a starting point.

2. By default, the Creator of the News post = the Author

When you use the defaults, the post will appear with you as the Author.
When you post something on someone else’s behalf, it is possible to click on the Author field and insert name or email address of the author. The author’s name will then be displayed on various places as the responsible person for this post.
You can simply click on the field below the title and insert the name/email address of the author. BTW, this is called the Author Byline. You can make the Author Byline visible in the Site Pages library (see screenshot with #6)

You can add the Author (when this is someone else than the publisher) by clicking on the highlighted field.

3. Readers can Like and Comment to posts and comments

There’s a simple thumbs-icon for Likes and a field to add comments. Anyone who can read the News post can give feedback.

This setting is enabled by default. If you find it is not, check with your SharePoint or Office365 admin because this is a setting in the SharePoint admin center > Settings >Pages.
The Author can decide to turn Comments off, but for News I do not think this is good practice. For Pages it can be a good idea, especially if they are meant for long-term usage.

You can Like or Comment at the bottom of the post, when enabled.

4. You can receive or stop email notifications of Likes and/or Comments

  • Check your settings on the SharePoint Homepage.
  • Click the gear wheel top right
  • Select Email Notifications Settings
  • Make sure you have the first 3 enabled if you want to be notified.

Please note this setting is for all sites you have access to, so you cannot set this per site.

On the SharePoint home page, you can click gear wheel and then Email notifications settings
The top 3 buttons should be enabled to receive notifications

5. External publishers (Creators or Authors) NEVER get email notifications

I do not think this will be a big deal for most organizations, but in my own tenant, where I am the only user, I always need externals when I want to test things like these.
So I need to plan my tests carefully. 😊

6. You can show Likes in the Pages Library

You can make the column Like Count visible in the Pages Library. This can be helpful if you do not want to receive an email every time, but you do want to keep track of Likes.
You cannot show Comments in this way, nor is there a list of Comments in the site, as far as I know.

Like count is a column that you can add to a Site Pages library view. To the right you see the name of the Author of the post (Author Byline). In most cases this is me, but some posts have another author.

7. Email notifications only go to the Creator of the post

And this is where the problem is. Although Karla would like to receive a notification of the comments, they will always be sent to me.

How can I make sure that the Author gets notified of comments and likes?

There is no simple straightforward way to set this, but workarounds a. to d. may help:

a. Train people to ALWAYS @ the Author when making a comment

As you do not see who the Creator is (unless you go to the Site Pages library) this will have to become a habit for every post within the organization. This will need education and change management!

These comments will go to the Creator (when mentioned) and also to external Creators and Authors, so this is very dependable. 😊

However, if you are a Creator who has disabled Comments on the SharePoint homepage, you will still get these messages. πŸ˜’

@mentioning the Author is workable, but will need change management

b. Use an Outlook Rule to forward Comments to the Author

The Creator must be internal and needs to make sure he or she has comments enabled on their SharePoint Home Page. They can then forward notification mails to the Author.

If they always create News for someone else, or for the same person, they can add a simple Forward rule based on the word “Comment” in the subject.

This Rule will forward all comments and replies to comments to Mystery Guest.

If they only occasionally post News on someone else’s behalf, they will need to be more specific and create a new Outlook Rule for every post, based on the title. πŸ˜’

In case the Creator only posts something on someone’s behalf occasionally, they will need to set a Rule for each post, based on the title of the post.

If the Creator does not like to have the comments, they can add an additional rule that these messages are deleted immediately after forwarding.

This also works for external Authors, providing your organization has not blocked external forwarding.

c. Use PowerAutomate

I tried to find a “trigger” for the addition of a Comment or Like, in order to notify the person in Author Byline if this was different from the person in Modified By, but could not find it. Whenever I thought I had a good trigger, I could not select the Site Pages library, so I guess Power Automate does not want me to automate something from here. (Which is strange, as the Power Automate link is visible in the Site Pages library)
Does anyone know if this is correct? Or have I just selected the wrong triggers?

Of course you can use Power Automate to forward the email that goes to the Creator, but I find Outlook Rules much easier to use.

d. Add a web part with instructions to move the conversation to Yammer or Teams

You can also disable Comments and divert the discussion to a Yammer or Teams community. The Author can set notifications there and join the discussion.
(For external Authors, please make sure you have externally facing communities!)

This will be most useful for updates for important projects that will stay in the organization for some time, as it will allow you to have an ongoing conversation about the project and its outcomes.
For a very temporary news post I think it is too much work, unless you have a generic News discussion community.

An example of diverting Comments to an open Yammer community with the relevant Yammer web part to the right.
You can also divert Comments to an open Team site. There is no web part, so I used a button, but if you publish this news in a Teams-connected SharePoint site, people can find the Team easier.

There are also some options that do NOT work or are not advisable:

e. Set Alert for Likes

Likes or Comments do not count as a “Modification of an existing item”. The Modified column shows no change when a Like or Comment is added. So, an Alert does not work for this purpose.

f. Set SharePoint Rule “when column value changes”

Sadly, this type of Rule, available for most types of modern Libraries and Lists, is not available for Site Pages libraries. πŸ˜’

For more information on this nice, but rather obscure functionality, read my earlier post: List Alerts Rule.

Rules available on all types of Lists
Rules available on all types of libraries, except the Site Pages libraries

g. Add a web part with instructions and Author’s contact details

You could disable Comments and add the Author’s contact details and ask people to message or email them. (Just clicking on the Author’s name will already bring these details, but you may need to be more specific)
Apart from being extra work for the Creator, this will make the comments invisible to the rest of the organization. Comments are meant to start some open discussion in the organization. Moving this discussion to a personal email conversation is not the way to go.

You can try to redirect people to email but that is really not the way to go.

Conclusion

I think being able to redirect Comments to the Author of a News post or page is useful functionality. There are a number of items on this topic in the Microsoft Feedback Portal and you may want to add your votes.

Depending on the situation one of the following workarounds may work:

  • The best option for now is to train your users to always use the @mentioning in Comments. This will always send a notification to the person in question, external or not.
    However, this will override disabled notifications for Comments on the SharePoint home page. πŸ˜’
  • If you post for the same person on a regular basis, you can set an Outlook Rule to forward the comment email to the Author.
  • If the News is part of an important organizational topic or project (and you post on behalf of the Project Manager, for instance) you may want to switch off Comments on the page and direct people to a Yammer or Teams community for any comments and discussion.

Please let me know if you have found other options!

My third SharePoint intranet

This was also very likely my last! πŸ™‚ Start and finish: 2021.

When I arrived at the scene, the organization had an intranet on an outdated, unsuitable platform. It was very complicated to create News and add pictures, content was outdated as it was quite a job to update stuff, and there was no interactivity at all.
The formal document management system (on the same platform) was cumbersome, the content outdated, the owner had left and nobody felt really responsible for that system.
On top of all that, there were considerable costs involved while we also had Office365, so it was only a matter of WHEN we would move to SharePoint Online and other Office365 applications, not IF.

Fortunately the project could start when I was still there and we would launch before I would retire.

This was a model project, quite unlike the two I had experienced before. In my first intranet we customized for functionality, in my second intranet we customized mainly for branding, and this one was a breeze: no customizations wanted or needed! Of course, SharePoint Online had evolved since I was involved in my second intranet, but there were a few other success factors as well:

1. Two projects: intranet and document management system

While I was trying to convince everyone that we really needed to start working towards SharePoint, I noticed that there was a lot of pushback. Gradually we understood that the governance model was unclear. We tried to help people see that the intranet and the DMS (document management system) happened to live on the same platform (at that time under one governance) but were two very different things. We needed to separate the two projects with different project teams and ownership.

My colleague was involved in the DMS, as this would be more complicated and she was expected to stay in the organization after my retirement, so it would save a handover. The intranet was simpler and I could easily document and transfer the knowledge to her.

So, from now on, this post will deal with the intranet.

2. SharePoint out-of-the-box

This was a strong wish from everyone involved. We did not think customization would be necessary for our requirements: News, formal information from various departments and processes, and an entry point into applications such as the HR system and the DMS.
We also wanted to avoid complexity, a longer timeline and costs.

3. Office365 was already in the organization

We did not have to worry about technical implementation, as we already used the Office365 suite. We needed to set a Homepage and make sure we could create Hubs, but those were only small adjustments.

Our colleagues were also already familiar with how things worked, so it was not a major change. We already used SharePoint sites for projects, departments and what not. Those would not be included into the intranet per se but could be linked to when needed.

4. Small project team

There were only three people involved in the day-to-day project management:

  • The project manager and intranet owner from Communications. She was in charge of the content and design, and also liaised with the various stakeholders in the organization.
    At launch she was responsible for Communications and training of News publishers and other colleagues.
  • An external Microsoft consultant who had created intranets before. He knew all the functional details, and he also brought experience from other organizations as to what worked and what not.
  • And then there was me, who knows about SharePoint, but I did not have experience with Hubs and Homepages and Organizational Assets and those kinds of things. I was the liaison for IT-matters, and e.g. informed my colleague and our systems administrators what was happening, and which changes we needed to make in the system.
    At launch, I was also involved in the training sessions.

This was very effective. No large meetings, no endless discussions, we shared progress with the organization and asked for their feedback and worked that into the new intranet.

5. No additional branding needed

After having worked for a number of brands, with branding customizations that were “absolutely essential”, it was very strange for me to notice that this organization (mental health care) was not really interested in branding. Every site beloning to the intranet has the intranet icon, and the DMS (called “Werkwijzer” aka “Work directions”) has its own icon, but that’s it.
Everyone can select their own Office365 top bar colour/pattern, we did not need the name of the organization in the bar, and the “default blue” SharePoint theme was close enough to the company colours. I tried to convince the project manager that we could easily change the theme to the actual blue from the corporate colours, but that was not needed.

6. No content migration

We decided not to migrate anything centrally. If a site owner wanted to move content from the old intranet to the new one, they had to do that themselves. We advised against copying, as most content was outdated. This led to some struggles with people who did not want to refresh their content, but the project manager insisted on at least a review and preferably a complete redesign to fit in the new setup, such as more picture materials and better use of page columns.

7. Guidelines for News and pages publishing

During training sessions of the future news and page editors we noticed that some people felt confused about all the options for visual display of their News and pages.

We decided to create some guidelines to help the publishers and keep things consistent. That post (from April 2022) got a lot of positive responses in the SharePoint/intranet community, so I guess this is interesting for other organizations as well.

8. A hard shut-down date for the old intranet

We needed to shut down the old intranet before November as the yearly bill was due then. We closed it down for employees three months before the pay date, but every publisher and content owner still had time to check if they had everything in their new site. The project manager warned everyone several times about the final shut-down date until it was finally gone forever.

What did not go so well?

Although nothing went wrong, we found that having many different News channels and publishers in one Hub site made the News part of the intranet a little crowded and overwhelming for some. Every News post is public, so a lot rolled up into the Hub, meaning a very short visibility time for each item on the Homepage. (Only 4 items were displayed at any given time)
Besides, some posts were duplicated as a re-post, and it was not always clear where a post originated. We spent some time fine-tuning the number of items, creating links to the Hub site, communicating how things worked etc. in order to improve.

Below is a screenshot of the Homepage just before I left (December 2021). You see it is standard SharePoint. It is all in Dutch, but I think you can guess what is what: Central news, the DMS, Events (including our Office365 webinars), the various intranet sites/departments, some highlighted items and links to various sites and applications.

Homepage December 2021

Three months after launch it was decided to show more items on every page, to address the wishes from the organization, and to rearrange things a little. The screenshot below is from October 2022.
The News and Events are both a little longer, there are some (pink and green) highlighted organizational projects, changing every month, and the various external web sites have a separate row with yellow icons. This was all done by the intranet manager herself, no difficult customizations needed!

Homepage October 2022

Now: Happy intranet manager and publishers

The intranet manager (the former project manager) informed me she is really happy with SharePoint. She finds it easy to work with and regularly makes small changes to the homepage herself, such as new buttons, or new highlighted items, to keep things fresh.

Furthermore, the news and page publishers like working with it, too! They inspire and stimulate each other to make posts and pages as nice and useful as possible. How cool is that!

Now: Proper governance

In the old intranet, both content, design and technical/system support for the intranet and the DMS were the responsibility of the Communications department.

Now, Communications is responsible for design and content of the intranet, while the DMS Owner is responsible for the design and content of the DMS.
ICT is responsible for technical and functional support for both.

Conclusion

All in all, we completed the project in about 6 months. It could perhaps have been done faster but things were a bit slow over the summer holiday period. Still, it was the shortest intranet project I have ever been involved in, and it was a most enjoyable last project. I could finally prove that customizations are not needed for a good intranet!

So, go for standard out-of-the-box SharePoint, folks! There are already so many options, and most of them have been well thought out for intranet use. No need to re-invent your own wheel!

My second SharePoint intranet

This project was started in 2015 and launched in 2016.

The situation

The old intranet was built on SharePoint 2007 (on-prem) and bursting at the seams. Each business had their own site collection, with many subsites underneath. Each site collection could only hold 2 GB (!) so it was a constant struggle to keep within those limits.
I was the functional owner of a number of site collections and most of my posts from that time deal with keeping the storage space within its limits. So I shaved off versions, migrated stuff to archive collections or even shared drives, optimized presentations and what not, in order to keep the ever growing collections within limits.

The different business were quite autonomous in their approach, so some site collections had been nicely reworked with SharePoint Designer, and some had lots of workflows. There was an attempt to have common procedures, but this was all voluntary and not mandated.

All business and ICT folks who were involved with content, support and system maintenance really wanted a new intranet!

The project

After many years of project proposals we finally got approval to start creating a new intranet, based on SharePoint Online. This was not so much because the budget holders thought they needed an improved intranet, but because support for SP2007 would stop and the business wanted to move more applications to the cloud.

A Microsoft partner was found and off we went! At the beginning I was not really involved, which frustrated me. At a certain moment I just inserted myself into the weekly progress meetings and started asking questions and giving advice. After all, I had more direct contact with users of the current intranet than anyone else in the project, so I thought my input could be useful. Some weeks passed and I was considered one of the project team 😁

Mistake #1: Majority of budget went to News

We spent the majority of budget on creating a custom News function, which would be targeted and personalizable. It consisted of one page per news item in a special page format, a (too large) number of tags, and a publishing flow. Especially the targeting and personalization took up most of the work, as it had to be build and was rather complex.

When we launched, it was not fully ready but most of it worked. Improvements were on the roadmap.

The project team then attended a Microsoft event and heard that Microsoft would launch SharePoint News a few months later. We collectively cried a bit πŸ˜‚

Mistake #2: Agile development, Waterfall operations

This project would be a pilot for introducing Agile methodology into the organization. We got trained and it went actually quite well. I like having many short improvement cycles, it suits my working style. When I was creating “Business solutions” at my former employer, I also worked like that, knowing that ideas and requirements would change as my customers learned more about the capabilities of SharePoint as we progressed.
(I know there’s more to Agile but this stood out for me)

At launch, the intranet was a Minimal Viable Product. We had a roadmap to improve it over the next months. Only…due to cost savings the improvement budget was cancelled, which was a big disappointment and not a good way to deal with Agile. It turned out that an MVP is a good, but vulnerable, concept.

Additionally, no budget was provided (let alone left) to provide adequate documentation, as that is “not Agile”. That did not sit too well with the operations manager who had to provide the support, but we thought we could manage, as both an important developer and myself were in-house. I wrote about this mistake as well. (TLDR: the developer left shortly after launch…)

Mistake #3: Custom design

The idea was to make the intranet look like the corporate website. I do not always like this, as the purposes and audiences are completely different and one generally changes the website design more frequently, leaving the intranet with an “old” look-and-feel. I have ranted about this earlier. 😁

It meant that, for communication sites, we had

  • a non-standard font size, rather large
  • a Promoted Links tile that had slightly different behaviour (dimensions, hover-over) than regular, causing tons of confusion with people who looked on Microsoft Support or YouTube for instructions
  • 65% white space, which drove people nuts because they had to scroll a lot to see the content they had to work with daily
Example of a page with customizations.

We had custom page templates to allow these features.

For team sites, we had custom content types, created to make a difference in stages of a document, as well as hidden tags to help Search. These were also organization-based. Then we changed the organization. Do I need to tell you about the consequences? Fortunately, not many people were aware of the custom content types, most people just used the default and never looked back…

In my post about my first intranet I already mentioned the joy of customizing SharePoint, so I will not do that here. Let’s keep things cheerful! πŸ₯³

Mistake #4: Migration mistakes

The project team initially decided that we would only centrally migrate content that was no older than 2 years. Older content could be migrated by the owner if they thought it was necessary. However, the business insisted that everything should be migrated, as it was too much work to filter out the relevant content and “we had enough storage space now”. So even very old files that I could no longer open in our SP2007 environment were migrated, and still could not be opened. What a waste!

Additionally, the “migration factory” (as the migration team called itself) often forgot to include the new page templates and/or to remove the old page templates. This led to frustrated users who could not use the new templates, and to frustrated support people as people kept using the old templates so we did not get the uniform look-and-feel that we wanted. It was up to Support to adjust all mistakes as these would generally show later.
Permissions were migrated as they were, and not (as we preferred) on the site level only (to allow the business owners to review any more detailed permissions).

Of course we also have some successes to report:

Success #1: Modern SharePoint environment

Apart from all the other SharePoint mod cons, we finally managed to make every site stand-alone; the subsites (sometimes 7 layers deep) were gone, and we had STORAGE SPACE! πŸ₯³

Success #2: Central governance

The organization had given a more central role for ICT. This meant that all site collections were now managed by one ICT team, rather than by the various businesses and ICT. This allowed us to finally have one central governance, for instance:

  • Central creation and deletion of sites
  • Naming convention for sites, so each site had a unique identifier. We used a number, which I thought was rather unpleasant as it gives you no clue what the site is about, but with about 25,000 (!) sites it was the easiest system
  • Custom role for the site owner, so they could not do everything (esp. in design)
  • Central review and reporting on the site collections

Success #3: Mandatory Site owner e-learning

I have always been in favour of a sort of “site owner exam” and it fitted within our more strict governance, so I created a training and a test in e-learning format.
Remind me to share the test in a Form one of these days, so you get an idea of what we wanted people to know. An earlier post about our training setup.

Success #4: Launch video!

The communications department created a rather nice teaser video to celebrate the launch. The original version lives on a corrupted USB-stick, but I managed to find an old Teams recording showing it. Please play at 2 x speed to see it properly. The sound has been lost during the process, there was a simple music soundtrack behind it.
Now you understand why I am partial towards intranets called “Connect”! 😊

My very first SharePoint intranet

During my career I have helped to create and implement 3 SharePoint-based intranets:

  1. Custom-built > SharePoint 2003 (on prem)
  2. SharePoint 2007 (on prem) > SharePoint Online
  3. Other platform > SharePoint Online

I have made mistakes and created things I am proud of, and I thought I’d share it for your amusement and possibly learning.

Let’s start with the first one, this was in 2005.

Our custom-built intranet was just beginning to take off, and when we moved to SharePoint 2003 we did not want to lose momentum. So our goal was that everything worked as much as possible as the current system. This may not have been the best idea, but we had even worse ideas. 😁

Mistake #1: Too much customization

I have described most of this in my post “The Curse of Customization” because we customized everything, and that included adjusting texts in the back end and removing the Folder capabilities from Document Libraries and replacing that with a mandatory column called Category, which was totally cool but most annoying when you quickly wanted to add a new category.

Mistake #2: Too complex usage statistics

Another idea that seemed great at the time was custom-built usage statistics. The standard SharePoint info was (and is) meagre, and we wanted to be able to break down usage at various organizational and business levels, just like we had with our old intranet.

How that turned out, you can read in “KISS: Keep Intranet Statistics Simple

Mistake #3: Outsourcing support

This was not our decision of course, but a company decision. For our intranet this was rather devastating, as you can read in my post “Ouch-sourcing“.

Of course there were also things that went well!

Success #1: Do More with SharePoint: our Business Solutions

Although in the beginning people were a bit hesitant to use the new intranet, we quickly created a process to help them make the most of it. We turned into a “Business Solutions team” that improved problematic business processes, based on a business case. Our calculation method to determine priority for us, and benefits for the business, has been described in this post. And yes, this method was approved by our finance team.

One of the most successful cases was a pre-SAP automation of the CRM-process of part of the organization, where different teams analysed every complaint and determined whether they needed to re-imburse the customer or that someone else was responsible for the complaint and any damage. See “CRM in a Team site

You can find more examples here: https://mydigitalworkplace.wordpress.com/tag/business-example/ (you may need to scroll down a little)

This was REALLY fun to do, we all learned so much about SharePoint and the business was happy with better and cheaper processes. Sadly, my later employers were not really interested in this setup. πŸ˜₯

Succes #2: Good score in Digital Workplace Group’s Benchmarking tables

We became members of the Digital Workplace Groep (then: Intranet Benchmarking Forum) and we quickly rose to the top of the league for most categories except Usability and Design. More information on the Benchmarking process: https://digitalworkplacegroup.com/benchmarking/ 

The homepage above the fold; you can see some more here

Succes #3: The oldest intranet promotion video in my collection!

Although I can not imagine that we were really the first organization that created an intranet launch video, our video is the oldest in my collection that I am aware of. Enjoy!

Dark red apps = danger?

I have always wondered about the logic behind the Office365 apps colour scheme. Is there one and if yes, where can I find it?

  • There’s lots of blue, which all have to do with the more traditional Microsoft programmes, but also with collaboration and workflows.
  • There’s bright green, which is about “Dates and Data”, such as Excel, Planner and Project.
  • There’s teal, which appears to be related to “Create beautiful content”, such as SharePoint, Publisher, Sway and (surprisingly) Forms.

…and there’s dark red: Access, Delve and Stream

Those apps are special. For instance, they have limitations for F3-licensed users.

  • Access is a desktop app, while F3 users only have web apps.
  • Employees with a F3 license can view videos in Stream, but not create/add them.
  • And the Delve app is not visible for them, although there is a workaround.

Access

Hands up anyone who does NOT have an important business process built in MS Access, which has been running for years and years and the person who knew all about it, has left, so suddenly IT has to maintain it. And of course there is no documentation. And databases are notoriously large, resource-heavy and non-collaborative.

I do not hear much about new Access applications, because Power Apps + Dataverse are taking over this role. Switching from Access to a new solution is not always easy (no documentation often means that all requirements need to be re-invented and data migrated), so I do not expect Access to be phased out quickly, but I would not be surprised if that is on the horizon.

Delve

I have wondered earlier if Delve would be with us to stay, as so many functions are now elsewhere in the suite. Functionalities from Delve are incorporated into

  • Outlook (contact details, organigram)
  • Calendar (Boards, where you can create more than just boards of documents)
  • SharePoint (Saved for later)
  • Search (MC 320462 is rolling out – When people click on people suggestions in the search box and a results page with documents they are working on and the searcher has access to, will come up – prepare for havoc! 😊)
  • The Office365 home page for recommended and shared files

Stream

We know Stream technology is being incorporated in SharePoint – I wrote a number of posts about the topic recently. Although this change will bring a lot of migration work for support folks, it means that videos can now benefit from all the document management capabilities in SharePoint. Good!

It also means that F3-licensed users can freely create videos, as long as their OneDrive has sufficient storage space or they have access to a SharePoint site. Nice!

I am not sure if the tile will go away or that it will only be used to go to your video landing page on SharePoint.

So…

If my hunch is correct, there will be no more dark red apps in the Office suite, over time. Having a few tiles less would not be a bad idea. At my most recent organization, many people were confused by the (too) many Office365 tools they had at their disposal.

What do you think?