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!

More #intranet promotion videos (#13)

May I present you with the latest batch of intranet promotion videos? And now that we are talking about this, would you please complete my survey on the relevance of my collection, if you have not done so already? Many thanks!

1. Teaser for fintech solutions provider

Nice teaser for a new intranet – from the imagery it must be fabulous! It looks communications-based and it is available on all devices, but that is a given these days.
Uploaded February 2022.


2. New intranet for an online market place for the public sector (in French)

If I understand correctly, this organization manages an online marketplace where the French public sector can buy things that are approved by the government, so they do not have to set up complicated procedures to select the right vendors and products.

The new intranet is called Connect (another one! I can almost start a collection of intranets with this name πŸ™‚ ) and the format is interesting: 4 employees of different company backgrounds have tested it and they answer a number of questions, such as “what do you like best?” and “what do you think of the name?” Of course they are positive, but this is a nice way of showing that you have engaged real employees during creation of their new intranet.

Sadly, there is no screenshot of the intranet. They refer to Office365 so I am curious whether it is SharePoint.

Sadly, the video can not be embedded but if you click the button, it will show.

Uploaded March 2022


3. New intranet for an architect company

Teaser with some screenshots of a new intranet for a London-based architect. It is all very elegant and colourful, in line with their website, and it is based on SharePoint.

Uploaded March 2022


4. Intranet for the university of Verona (in Italian)

I had to see this video twice because I was very much distracted by the visuals. πŸ™‚ Ah, Italian design! Starting with the classic Italian building behind the university’s CIO, moving to interesting modern buildings and halls, a row of bespectacled phone users (Myopia will be an epidemic as more and more people spend more and more time on small screens) and an enormous touch-screen whiteboard.

But back to the intranet. There are no good visuals, which is sad, but it should be the place where all students, teachers and personnel can find their information, reserve rooms, communicate quickly, collaborate in project groups and what not.

Uploaded May 2022


5. Intranet for a plastics manufacturer

I have a large backlog of videos, including this one from a plastics manufacturer in the UK. The design may be a little less familiar (SharePoint is so ubiquious these days) but the content looks good – lots of interaction options, including questions to the Executives and interest groups, as well as news, procedures, and other shared content. And this was already available on multiple devices in 2018!

Uploaded March 2018

That’s it for this week, folks!

And please remember to complete my survey!

4 ways to manage comments on SharePoint news and pages

Whenever I published a SharePoint news post, I have always been happy when people took the trouble to read my posts at all, let alone push the πŸ‘ button or even spent time on a reply.

But when we introduced the publishers to these feedback options a few people were hesitant. When we told them they would get an email for feedback some were relieved that they would not miss comments, some were even more hesitant because it meant “more email to take care of”.

Nonetheless, we strongly advise publishers to allow interactions for news posts. It means more two-way communication and that is a good thing.
For static pages, which are available all the time, we leave it to the publisher. It may be better to mention the responsible person or provide an email address for questions about a page on processes within the organization, for instance.

So, how can you manage comments and likes?

1. Best option: as is

When you publish a page, comments and likes are on by default. When someone likes or comments, the post’s creator (this is not necessarily the author mentioned on the page) will immediately receive an email for each interaction. (The Microsoft info says it is batched, and I remember it worked like that, but during the creation of this post all likes and comments turned into individual emails.)
This email may end up in “Other” if you have enabled the Focused Inbox.

Whether this floods you with emails, is dependent on many things: how frequently you post, the type of info you post, the size of the organization, and how interactive the audience is, for instance.

This is the email for a comment.

When do you NOT receive an email?

  • When you like or comment on posts you have created yourself
  • When you are an external publisher, i.e. you have no (email) account on the tenant where you publish
  • When you are mentioned as the author, without being the person who created the post. The person in “Created By” will receive the email instead.

2. Collect all feedback mails in one folder by using Outlook Rules

If you receive (too) many feedback mails, and/or you do not like to have all these mails scattered around your inbox, you can use Rules to collect all these in a separate folder.

Make sure you create a folder first and then set up the rules, based on ‘subject includes”

The subject lines for the various posts are

  • [Person] liked [Title of post]
  • [Person) left a comment on [Title of post]
  • [Person) replied to a comment on [Title of post]

You can also do this in PowerAutomate, of course, but Rules are easier.

My Rule to move comments to a special folder in Outlook on the web

You can also use this when you are often posting news on someone else’s behalf; you can forward comments to them using a Rule. In that case use “Forward to” as the action.

Remember to look into this folder on a regular basis, and to reply to comments where needed. This is important as the phrase “left a comment” is also used for comments on shared documents and Lists!

An alternative option for Likes

It is possible to see all Likes in the Pages library, so you could also choose to make that visible in the library, look there on a regular basis, and move the emails to the Deleted Items with a Rule. After all, you are not expected to react on Likes.
You can make it visible in the Pages library as follows:

  • Open the Site Pages library (Gear wheel > Site contents > Site Pages)
  • Click “Add column”> “Show/hide columns”
  • Select “Like count” (at the bottom) and click “Apply” top left.
    You can also do this by editing the View, but that is more work.
Add the Like Count by using Add Column

3. When appropriate: Turn off comments for one news post or page

When you click “Add > News post” from the web part, you will see the Comments option on the bottom of the page. When you toggle the switch before publishing, nobody will be able to add comments.

Toggle the switch and people will no longer be able to add comments

People can still like your post, however, and this will send an email to the creator’s mailbox.
This will also happen when there is no author mentioned or when the mentioned author is not the creator. The creator will receive the email.

There is still a “Like” button, and this will send you an email when clicked.

So, turning off comments on your posts or pages can save you some emails, but you will still receive an email for each like, so you could also use the “autodelete” option by using a Rule.

4. Not advised – turn off all notifications across SharePoint pages/news

I would not advise to do this, but for completeness’ sake I can inform you that there is an option on the SharePoint landing page to remove ALL likes and comments across SharePoint news and pages for all your SharePoint sites.
I honestly can not think of any good business case to do this (except for the Likes, see 2.), so if you have a reason to recommend it, please share in the comments!

There are two ways go reach the page with the settings:

  1. Click “Notification settings” at the bottom of every email notification for news and pages.
  2. Click the gear wheel on the SharePoint landing page, and select “Email notification settings”
Here you can turn off all news/pages notifications

You can toggle the notifications on and off.

Please note this does not stop the comments on documents. If you click “Notification settings” at the bottom of a “document comment email” you will be taken to your OneDrive notification settings, where you can turns some notifications off. But why would you?

Conclusion

If you are a news and/or page publisher, and you receive too many notification emails because your colleagues respond frequently, first congratulate yourself with being a publisher that can set people in motion! πŸ™‚
After giving yourself this constructive feedback, check if 2 or 3 are suitable options to reduce the noise a little.

If you have any experiences with managing comments within your organization, would you please share them in the comments?

Writing SharePoint news posts (our way)

A few months ago I helped create and introduce a SharePoint intranet for “my” health care organization. The majority of the new intranet consists of SharePoint Pages and News, default functionality. As this provides our publishers with tons of options for layout, colour schemes, styles, fonts and what not, we had to take a few measures to keep a somewhat consistent look-and-feel.
Additionally, many publishers wanted some guidelines as they were a tad overwhelmed with choice.

I mentioned before that our Communications function is not too fanatical in enforcing the corporate style guide on people – everyone can select their own Office365 theme, for instance. But some consistency is needed, of course.

What a difference with my (multinational) employer before! There we spent the majority of our intranet redevelopment budget on creating a complicated News setup, which was at that time not available in SharePoint, with fixed page templates and colour schemes, fonts, whitespace and what not.
Did I ever tell you that, after launch of this beast, the team attended a SharePoint conference and learned that Microsoft would be introducing SharePoint News? Out of the box? FOR FREE?
You can imagine what we felt when we heard that πŸ™‚

Please find below an overview of our attempts to keep things consistent. Feel free to translate these to your own organization or clients, and please let me know if you use any other guidelines for this purpose.

1. Structure what can be structured

  • All “formal organizational units” have their own site for publishing pages and news posts.
    Although I know you should not structure your intranet according to the organizational setup, there were hardly any other ways to structure it by without running into other issues, such as ownership. Trust me, we tried πŸ™‚
  • All organizational sites are grouped into one Hub site.
    This allows for one navigation and colour scheme, and roll-up of news.
  • All hub sites have the Blue theme.
    This matches best with our style guide. I offered to change the main blue colour into the actual style guide colour, but that was not necessary.
The standard Blue theme matched well
  • Every hub site has the same site icon.
    This way it is always clear if a site belongs to the intranet.
  • The news web parts on all sites are configured to display title, summary and date only.
    Adding too many data provides a cluttered look. It also uses a little more vertical space.
Left colum: with author, date and views, right column: date only.
  • Headers are compact, footers simple.

2. Provide guidelines for what is flexible

As we use the standard functionality, we had to create some guidelines for writing and design to try and keep the pages and posts consistent and in line with our standards, and to limit the options for publishers. Those guidelines were brought up in training sessions for all potential publishers (and whoever was interested), and are available as reference material.

  • Use a short and catchy title, one line max.
    The title shows what interesting information your text contains, attracts attention, is informative, distinctive and piques curiousity. There are internal trainings for writing catchy titles!
  • Use active text.
    Do not use verbs such as ‘will’, ‘can’, ‘be’, ‘may’, or ‘become’.
  • Do not underline your text.
    Readers may think it is a hyperlink.
  • Avoid abbreviations where possible.
    If you must use one, first write it out completely and add the abbreviation behind it in parentheses. For example: “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)”
  • When you add a document, give the document a clear title, without date or version.
    The date and other information can be viewed from the document library it lives in. And in case you need to edit the information, you do not need to edit the title.
  • Keep your page or news item as short as possible.
    When you really need a long text, please break up your text with headings and use anchors to allow the reader to jump to the desired part immediately.
  • Use capitals sparingly.
    There is a paragraph in the style guide for the use of capitals. (I am a Big Fan of Capitals, but the style guide is not :))
  • Use “One column” or the “One-third right” layout for news posts
    The first one suits straightforward posts, the other is better when you want to add a photo, button, etc.
    For static pages, publishers can use another layout.
The preferred page layout for news when you want more than just text
  • Use our “Image bank” (Organizational assets) or Stock Images for images where possible.
    The photo’s in the image bank are suitable for the organization, and, like the Stock Images, have no copyright issues.
  • When using an introduction text, use standard size, bold, black or “theme dark alternate” blue.
    That blue is well readable and matches best with our corporate colours.
The preferred blue colour
  • For headings, use standard size bold, standard size italics OR heading 2 or 3.
    You can use black or “theme dark alternate” blue, as long as you use the same colour of the introduction text.
  • Add the Publish date on your news posts.
    By default this is off, so this is easy to forget. Perhaps a new page template may help. If anyone knows how to turn this on by default, please let me know!
Show the published date is off by default. 😦
  • Enable comments for news and short-time pages.
    This allows for discussion within the organization.
    You can disable comments for static pages.
Comments are on by default

You probably recognize some of these as standard writing guidelines, but it never hurts to repeat, as not all publishers are experienced writers.

Please note publishers can deviate from these guidelines, e.g. if they have a post or page about a special topic that needs to stand out.

What have we missed? What do you use?

Please let me know which other guidelines you are using to make your vanilla SharePoint news a little consistent.

Intranet promotion video’s #12

The latest choice of intranet and digital workplace launch videos!

I recently searched on YouTube, but nice videos are hard to find there. There are many school projects (“what is the difference between internet and intranet?”), recorded meetings, game videos and commercial videos for intranet platforms. Vimeo is apparently more of a catalogue for video creators, and has tons more of the video type I am looking for.

However, please be aware that recently upladed videos on Vimeo need to be “rated” and this will give you a warning. Creating a (free) Vimeo account and logging in solves that issue, so in case you do not see a preview, please make sure to log in!

We have a lot of “people” video’s today!

1. Another intranet with a person name: Lucy

I always like videos with the name of a person. In my most recent overview, there was an intranet called Charlie, named after the founder. This one, for a health care service center based in the Dominican Republic, is called Lucy and that stands for “Linking Us ContinuouslY”.

The VP of Human Resources and the local Marketing Manager show News, training courses, colleagues, work procedures, well, everything you need to make your work life easier.

Uploaded February 2022.


2. Intranet for electricity supplier (in Spanish)

This is an older intranet, you can see it from the design but also from the date of the week menu πŸ™‚

This electricity company from Peru has a homepage with a news carousel. It also has a Photo gallery, Calendar, HR information etc. Strangely enough, the buttons open small popups, and they appear to lead to pdf’s. Hmm.

Uploaded March 2022.


3. Personal welcome to the intranet for temps

I quite like this idea. When you start temporary work for this Australian recruiter, you will get this “personal” welcome video and introduction to the intranet from the General Manager and Founder herself. She explains the importance of the platform, what you can expect, and invites new “hires” to give feedback.

Uploaded February 2022.


4. Another intranet called Connect!

You may remember that I used to work for an organization which named its new intranet “Connect”. Since then I have seen a ton of intranets with that name. Perhaps I should dedicate a post to intranets called Connect! πŸ™‚
This one is for a stairlift company which was founded in the Netherlands, apparently. It is now an international organization. The VP Commercial introduces the new intranet and invites everyone to participate and share their stories. Because “the more you put into it, the more you get out”. This is interesting, as most organizations who did an intranet relaunch boasted that they removed tons of old content clutter and are only relaunching with the bare minimum of necessary information.

Uploaded March 2022.


5. Intranet for a beauty and cosmetics company (in Portuguese)

This intranet, for a Brazilian beauty and cosmetics organization (not sure if it is cosmetic surgery or mainly injectables and fillers – is there a word for that?) looks just as beautiful as their website and their models. πŸ™‚ Nice purple colour, nice icons, large photographs, modern look & feel. It has all the things you expect from an intranet – news, pictures, calendar, social network, and a mobile app.

Uploaded March 2022.

That was it for this time, folks!

Image by Gabriela Palai via Pexels

Intranet promotion videos #11

I thought it was time for a few new intranet videos. The below are all from Vimeo, which has turned out to be a better source than YouTube. The only drawback is that you will need an account (free) with Vimeo and log in in order to see some videos. This is a recent measure.

So, create an account, log on and enjoy!

1. New intranet for a global construction/engineering company (teaser)

“A Digital Headquarters to bring employees from all geographies together”. This intranet for a global engineering company (mostly agricultural from the website) is named after the CEO (who is also the name-giver for the company) which is a nice touch. Many employees feature in this teaser.
Sadly you can’t see much of the actual intranet, but it is supposed to be social and connecting, and not just functional en efficient. I also get a little irritated these days by all that corporate talk and big intentions, but I am sure that’s just me!

Uploaded January 2022.

2. Updated intranet for an Australian child care organization (demo)

After a rather bombastic musical intro, you see a decent functional SharePoint intranet with all the usual trimmings. The demo takes you through all the menu items. It has a focus on documents and links rather than news. (Nice search options in the central Document library, by the way).

There’s also some community elements.

The site title shows this is a demo site, so I hope that they have had the time to add some images to the link tiles, and to update the icons for the Office applications in the real site πŸ™‚

Uploaded September 2021.

3. Canadian university/college (teaser)

“The more you engage the better it will be”. Quite a cryptic promise, especially because there is no explanation of how that would work.” There is also no preview of the intranet, which is disappointing.

This teaser is one big promise for a new intranet called College Connect, and as you may know, one of the intranets I worked on/for has been called Connect, so I have always been partial to the name. πŸ™‚

Uploaded February 2021.

4. Intranet for a Swedish university (demo)

An interesting SharePoint intranet with a few non-standard items, I think: breadcrumbs on pages, selection of news sources (different than following sites) and My Menu.
I like the yellow dots that signify central sites. Technically it is just the site icon, but I like the concept to separate content in subtle ways, while keeping the design consistent.

There’s also some attention for general SharePoint stuff: search, save for later, navigation and the SharePoint mobile app.

Tip: if you think the speaker talks a bit slowly, you can speed up by clicking on the gearwheel at the bottom of the video and adjusting the speed.

Uploaded January 2022.

5. New intranet for a US online fashion store (teaser)

Nice colourful teaser for this fashion store. It has relevant info and a social component, and even “integration with Slack and workspaces”. I do not think this is a SharePoint intranet πŸ™‚

Uploaded September 2021.

That’s all for today, folks!

Photo byΒ Terje SollieΒ fromΒ Pexels

SharePoint Holmes and the Invisible Illustration

Creating news in SharePoint is relatively simple compared to publishing on the old intranet, our news publishers have informed us. They especially like the many easy options to add images and web parts.

Still, the other day we got a small mystery to solve.

The case

One of the News items showed a strange header image. The publisher told us that she saw the illustration as intended, and that she had used the standard “Image and Title” template because she wanted to use a header image. The rest of our organization saw a grey/white image instead.

Strange image in the news post, not what the pusblisher intended!

She told us she had followed all the steps she usually did.
Time to wrap up in my SharePoint Holmes cloak!

The investigation

I looked at the news post but I could not see anything wrong with it, not even in admin view.

I checked the Site Assets library where images used on Pages are stored, but there was no folder with the name of the news post. This could either mean the image had not been uploaded, or that she had used a selection option that does not create a folder in the Site Assets. (More on that in my next post)

All images used on pages and news are stored in the Site Pages folder in the Site Assets library.

I then asked if she could reproduce her steps while I was looking, as just looking at people’s actions can give you a ton of extra information.
When it came to adding the header image, she selected “OneDrive” and selected the image of choice. She got a popup and clicked “OK” before I could read the message properly, so I asked her what the message said. She said she just clicked “OK” as this added the image to her post, and she had found that if she clicked “No”, she would go back to the image selection and had to start again, so that made no sense.
She then published the news post and it showed correctly on her screen, like this:

The News publisher sees this image from her OneDrive

But not on mine or anyone else’s.

This is the “image” everyone else sees.

It was time to look at that popup. This is it:

When you use an image located on your OneDrive, you need to share it with everyone in the site.

So, if you want to use an image from your OneDrive, which is private by default, you need to share it first with your intended audience. This makes sense, but there is no way to share it while you are in the process. Clicking “OK” assumes you have shared it, clicking “No” brings you back to the image selection. It would be nice if you could adjust the permissions then and there, like you can do with documents you upload in Teams chats!

The solution

In this case, I suggested to use the “Upload” option and select the image from her OneDrive client on her PC. This will upload the image and create a folder with the illustration, shared with everyone who has access to the site.
She could also have uploaded the image to the Site Assets in her news site, and then select “Site”.
It is also possible to share the illustration with everyone on her OneDrive, before adding it to the news post, but I thought that was too complicated. Not everyone knows that “Everyone except external users” is the group to share it with.

To fellow support folks:

Please notice the difference between adding a OneDrive “image” (1) and not adding a header image (2). This can help you find out if this is a similar case.

1: OneDrive image, not shared. 2: No header image (and no other images) added to the post.

My next post will discuss the various image upload options, so stay tuned!

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have 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 introduceΒ SharePoint Holmes, SharePointΒ investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

See Microsoft365 live – at Digital Workplace 24 Live!

On September 30/October 1 it is time again for Digital Workplace 24 Live, a free 24-hour online #intranet and #digitalworkplace (and much more) event organized by Digital Workplace Group.

It has been going on from 2008 and it was the first event of its kind. Over the years I have enjoyed every single event, as there are many live tours of intranets, and you get to hear from many interesting people in the field. Actually, one interview inspired me to work six weeks from Spain some years ago, as my work can be done from any place. By now all of us know that, but at that time I still had to convince my then manager that working from another location would not make any difference to my contacts in China, the USA, Sweden or Brazil. πŸ™‚

Why am I telling you this?

Because there will be a lot of real-life Microsoft365 in Digital Workplace 24 Live, whether it is SharePoint, Teams, Yammer or all of them. And you will see it from the business perspective, not “just” from the functionality perspective that we Microsoft365 geeks usually focus on. πŸ™‚

Which tours to expect?

I do not have the full details for each tour, but you can expect Microsoft365 aspects in at least the following:

  • Oxfam
  • Velux who have an Office365 digital workplace. They have a lovely over the top introduction video!
  • Fidelity
  • KBC group
  • UPMC
  • Duke Energy
  • HAVI, who had a nice intranet introduction video in my collection, but that has been removed 😦
  • St. John Ambulance
  • ING
  • ZSL – Zoological Society of London

And I expect there will be more but those have not been published on the schedule yet.

Besides, Microsoft folks Morten Dal and Brad Grissom will also be studio guests. And if you need more reasons, this post lists twelve reasons to attend. Why not organize a viewing party for your team or be a Tweeter-in-residence?
So, what’s keeping you? You can register here – and did I mention it is free?

Please note: I do freelance work for Digital Workplace Group. I have written this post because I genuinely love the event and would like to spread the word. I have not been been asked to do it, nor am I paid for it.

10 things to know about the SharePoint News digest

After my massive list of things-to-be-aware-of when creating and managing SharePoint News, I though it would be good to share some lessons about the News digest (Newsletter) separately.

The News digest is a Newsletter created from News articles. It looks very nice in all browser and systems:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletteremail
The News digest as an email

This is what it looks like as a page:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletterpage
The News digest page or the “web version”.

So, here’s a few things that are not in the official support article but may be relevant.

1. You need 5 published News articles before you can send a News digest.

Frankly, this one drove me nuts. I knew I had seen Jasper Oosterveld and other people demo this functionality, so why did I not see the “See all” link on the homepage? Well, because I had only posted 4 items. Duh!

SPNEwsDigest-See all
The elusive “See all” link that allows you to send a News digest

2. The order is by selecting – the first article you select is on top.

This is independent of the creating or publishing order.Β  You can change the order of items after selecting them and clicking “Next”. Using the arrows you can then drag and drop the items into the desired order. The “x” will remove the item from the selection.

SPNewsDigest-moveitems
The yellow-marked icon shows “Move” and allows you to change the order.

3. You can only send this to an Office Group, Distribution List or individuals.

It looks like you can send this only to items which appear in the Global Address List.

I would have expected you could also use a SharePoint site user group (from this site) or a personal Group of Contact Persons from your Outlook, but no. In this case, it meant that our project manager had to add all people to a Distribution List. (We are not using Office Groups yet)

4. It is unclear (to me) what determines the logo.

  • If you do nothing the logo displayed will be the new SharePoint logo
  • If you replace the site icon by another image, the logo displayed will be the old SharePoint logo
  • Your organizational logo (the one in the Office365 top bar) does not show in the News digest
  • Both the support info and this blog by Juan Carlos Gonzalez Martin show that the site icon is displayed in the News digest.

I would like to know how this works, as I would prefer to distinguish the various News digests from one another by using a custom image. On suggestion of Juan Carlos I tested this with a modern team site (instead of a Communication site), but it did not work there either. That said, if there is one site template I would expect to allow more branding, it would be the Communication site!

There is already a number of User Voice requests out there for more options to manage the News digest look-and-feel.

At this moment Microsoft says in their support article that “It is not yet possible to make changes to the appearance of images, header area, or summary area of the email.” That gives hope for the future!

5. Your News digest will display the site’s name.

So make sure your site has a meaningful name.
This is of course another good way to tell the difference between this digest and another, but I still would like to have an image, too!

SPNewsdigest-logoandname
The logo (that I would like to be customizable), and the site name.

6. Access requests will be sent for the News article, not for the site.

If someone has been forwarded the News digest, clicks on the first item and then finds out they need access, they will send an access request to the News article.
You can click “Approve”, but

  • You will only give access to this specific article, so they will have to request access for the next article and the next, etc.
  • You will break the permission inheritance in the pages library, so every page will have its own permissions.
  • They will not see the header image because that lives in the Site Assets library, to which they do not have access.

I would suggest to treat the access requests as a general request for access to the complete SITE.
In our case, I have added a link to the Visitors group on the top of the site, so the project manager can quickly open the list and add new people.

SPNewsdigest-linkontop
Easy to reach for giving access.

He grumbled a bit but is IS a sign of success when people forward the News digest πŸ™‚

By the way, the access request email looks really nice these days. Sadly you can only Approve from the email if you are an Owner (not if you use a custom role, like we do) AND you can not give permissions for the complete site from this mail, only to the link requested.

SPNewsDigest-access
The new access request mail allows you to select role (but not Group) and Approve/Decline, for this specific News article.

7. Access requests will go to the original name of the article.

Have you changed the title of your News article after publishing? When you get an access request, the original name will be shown. If you have forgotten what it was, never mind – another reason to give access to the complete site! πŸ™‚

SPNewsDigest-accessrenamed
I renamed that article into “Share your best holiday pix” but the request goes to the old name 😦

8. You can send this to external users.

The email and the articles will look just as nice for your external partners as for your internal colleagues, including all logos and pictures. Of course your external partners can only read the full articles when your site allows external sharing AND they have access.

9. Your News digest may end up in the Spam box.

I have had to dig my beautiful News digest out of several spam boxes, for different email addresses 😦
So if your first News digests do not get the attention they deserve, you may want to ask around if people have received the emails. (and help them mark it as Not Spam)

10. The web part layout determines if there is a “See all” link

I only recently found out that the Hub News layout does not show a “See all” link, even when you have 5 items or more. Additionally, if you turn off “Show title and commands” in the web part, the link will not show either.

Next steps?

Overall, our audience was positive about the News digest and we have already received inquiries from another team.Β 

My next post will be about experiencing SharePoint News as a reader. Stay tuned!