Let the right one in (your SharePoint site)

AccessRequest-KnockerWhat do you do when you receive a request for access to your SharePoint site? Accept it immediately (because you want to be done with it, or you feel a bit ashamed that you have excluded someone) or find out exactly what they want because there may be more to the request than meets the eye?

Yes, I thought so. 🙂

Let’s dig a bit deeper into Access Requests. There’s quite a lot you can do with them, including creating unique permissions. You know that I hate that!

Microsoft explains this in detail  but of course they  they let you figure out all the implications by yourself. Or by me :-).

If your email address is in the Access Request Settings, you will receive access requests via email, and the requests will be replicated in the Site settings > Access Requests and Invitations page.

AccesRequests-Link
If you do not see “Access requests and invitations”, you have not received a request yet.

How does it work?

When you get the access request in your mail, you will see the link to the desired content. You can immediately click the “Accept” button from the email and give them Contribute permissions by default.

Access Requests-request
At the bottom you see the link to the document.

Yes, Contribute. That means they can edit the content.

Hmmm, perhaps clicking Accept immediately is not such a good idea after all. Perhaps Read-permissions are good enough. Or, if you have sent this link assuming they had access, it may be a good idea to give them access to the complete site.

Alternative: the Access Requests and Invitations page!

So, here comes the Access Requests and Invitations page to look at (and manage) the request.

You will see three categories: Pending requests, External user invitations and History.

Access requests - page
The page where you can take a closer look at the access request.

Here again, you can click Approve or Decline, or check first what will happen if you click Approve. So, click the … next to the name of the requester. This pop up opens:

Access Requests-open.GIF
“Bewerken”  means “Contribute”, sorry, the language settings in my tenant are a bit out of my control.

Here you see some more info:

  • What Office365 has decided about their permissions. In this case Office365 would add them as an individual to this document with Contribute permissions – most unpleasant!
    You can click the drop down to select the Contributors or Visitors group for the site.
  • Who has asked access and what exactly for. Hover over the link to see the URL.
  • Date and time of the request
  • Approval state
  • Email conversation with the person who requests access. You see I was busy writing this post, so the impatient Mystery Guest asked for permissions again 🙂

What would have happened…

If I had clicked Accept from the email or Approve from the Access Request page, this is what would have happened:

Access request - acceptwithoutchanges
You see Mystery Guest now has unique permissions and is added as an individual with Contribute permissions.

Exception: Site welcome page

There is one exception to this rule and that is when you send the link to the welcome page of the site. In that case the requester is added by default to the Members group. This also may be more than you want, though.

Access requests-sharesite
If you share the site root or welcome page, the person is by default added to the Members group.

History

After approval, the request ends up under “Show History”. This gives a nice overview of everything that has happened in your site.
If you see a name very often, it may be an idea to give them access to the whole site.

Access Request - history
The Access Request history in this site. I may need to make this Mystery Guest a permanent member 🙂

Recommendation

When you receive an Access Request it may be better to spend some time figuring out the details, than to click Accept immediately. This will cost you some time now, but will save you time fixing unique permissions later (and dealing with even more access requests because too many inheritances are broken!).

Have you found any other “interesting” behavior of the Access Request?

Title based on the movie “Let the right one in“.

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The SharePoint survey lifecycle

survey-headerThe other day someone asked me if I could help him set up a SharePoint survey. He wanted to use our nice new intranet and did not even mention the word “Surveymonkey” 🙂

I do not have much time for individual support at the moment so I thought I’d find him some help from the internet.  I found a good article from Microsoft about creating a survey but it stopped at the creation of the survey list. All the other blogs that I found on the topic touched very briefly on other settings at most. The best one I found also included a good number of benefits and examples of how to use surveys,

In my experience most problems occur because people think a survey is ready-for-use once the questions and answers have been set up. However, there are a lot of things you have to think about, so I still had to write the complete manual myself.

What will I cover in this post?

This will be a long read, so let me inform you of the topics I will cover:

  1. Determine your needs
  2. Find a site
  3. Create questions
  4. Give your audience correct permissions
  5. Decide on “show names”
  6. Decide on one or multiple entries per person
  7. Visibility of entries
  8. Welcome page and thank you page
  9. Testing your survey
  10. Launching your survey
  11. Monitoring results
  12. Gathering and analyzing results
  13. Deactivating the survey
  14. Deleting the survey

So, here goes!

1. Determine your needs

It makes a difference if you use your survey for a fun purpose (who will win the World Football Cup?), for a neutral business purpose (to collect suggestions for a new product), or for a serious and possibly even sensitive purpose. (How do you feel about this company? What were your experiences with this project?). For the latter, you will need more thinking, more questions, more careful wording and stricter settings than for the first example.
This is beyond this post’s scope, but this article may be a good starting point.
Update April 4, 2017: And as serendipity would have it, just after I published this blog this Tweet appeared in my timeline:

2. Find a site

A SharePoint survey is a list in a SharePoint site, so you need to have a site. You also need to be a site owner since it is very likely you will be fiddling with permissions and need to monitor responses. If you have one, you may need to consider the survey audience. Is your confidential project site a good place for a survey for all employees? Is your open site a good place for a very sensitive survey for senior management only about an upcoming divestiture? It can be done, but it may be more difficult to set up and manage than if your site has an audience that sort of matches the audience of your survey.
In some cases it is better to have a special site for this purpose.

If you do not have a site, and you are on Office365, an Excel survey may be an option. I have no experience with this, and I do not know if the information below is relevant for this.

3. Create questions and answers

First of all, plan your survey. Microsoft has some help for that, including an overview of the types of questions and answers.
Secondly, create the survey, add questions and answers and change some settings.
Please be aware that you will be unable to export a Likert scale (rating scale) question/answer to Excel for further analysis.

This is what a survey will look like:

Survey-homepage
This is what you see when you access a survey from the Site Contents page. Consider it your “survey homepage” and it is the starting point for many actions.

4. Give your audience correct permissions

Many people expect that a survey is automatically  set up to receive responses from everyone, but this is a normal SharePoint list with normal SharePoint behavior. So, in most cases you will need to give your audience Contribute permissions to the survey.

If you do not give them Read access to the site, be aware that they can only access the survey via the direct link to the survey and they can not enter the site.

5. Decide on “show names”

This is a setting that you will find in “Advanced Settings” when you create the survey, or afterwards in Settings > Survey Settings > List name, description and navigation.
The default is “Yes”. If you select “No”, all names of people will be replaced with ***.
This is not really anonymous because a Site Owner will be able to switch that at will, making all names visible again. During a survey it may make sense to have the names replaced, and only make them visible when you export the results, but this is also depending on your choices for point 7.

Survey-settings1
You can decide to show names, or ***; and also to allow one or more responses

6. Decide on one or multiple entries per person

The default is “No” and in most cases that makes perfect sense.
If your survey collects information such as ideas or suggestions, it can be useful to set this to “Yes” so people can add multiple suggestions.
This setting can also be found in “Advanced Settings” when you create the survey, or afterwards in Settings > Survey Settings > List name, description and navigation.
Please note that most people get into a right panic when they want to enter a survey twice and get the error message. If they read the message, it is perfectly clear, but who reads an error message? 🙂
It may be good to tell them they can enter once only, or multiple times.

survey-error
This message will be shown when you want to respond twice to a survey when you can only enter once. Looks perfectly clear to me! 🙂

7. Visibility of entries

Do you want everyone to see each others responses? This can be a good idea if use your survey for logging issues, so people can see which issues have been submitted already. But for a survey asking for opinions about the company strategy you may want to limit visibility.
Go to your survey, click Settings > Survey Settings > Advanced Settings.

Set the first radio button to “Read responses that were created by the user”.

This way, people will only see their own item. They will still see the total number of items in Site Contents, but they will not able to see anything else.
Also check out the options below about Create and Edit access. By default people will be able to edit only their own responses. In some cases it may be good that they can edit all responses, but to be honest I have never come across the need for this settings.
Never select None because this also means that a user can not add anything, which is rather odd for a survey.

survey-responsesvisible
These are the default settings for a survey. Often it is better to select ” read responses that were created by the user”  so people only see their own items.

8. Welcome page and thank you page (optional)

I often add a page with some more information about the survey and a nice button or text which leads you to the entry form upon click. After submitting their entry, people can be led to a Thank You page, thanking them for their contribution and informing them about e.g. when the results will be published or the prize will be drawn.
The default return page is the ‘survey homepage” (screenshot above).

It is easy to create as follows:

  • Create a page and add welcome text and a link or button to the survey
  • Create a page with a thank-you-and-these-are-the-next-steps-message. Copy the link of this page to Notepad or a Word document.
  • Click “Respond to this survey” on your survey and copy the link into Notepad or a Word document. Delete all text after Source=
  • Add the URL of your thank-you-page after Source=
  • On the welcome page, add the new link to the link or button

Please be aware that your audience needs Read access to both pages, so if you have a confidential site where the audience is much larger than the site’s regular audience, I would not go this way, since it will either mean setting item level permissions (and you know I do not like unique permissions) on those pages OR a lot of error messages 🙂

survey-welcomepage
Example of a welcome page. I have used a Web Part Page for this. When I click on “Enter the survey” I will go to the page below.
survey-survey
This is my survey. When clicking on “Finish” I will  go to the page below.
survey-thankyoupage
Example of a Thank-You page. I have used a Site Page for this; strangely enough it takes my Office365 theme instead of my Site theme.

9. Testing your survey

I have created many surveys, but even I test everyone of them before they go live.  Ask one or two people, preferably from the target audience (again, depending on purpose and audience and complexity), to go through the complete process and respond to your survey. Do they understand the questions and answers? Have you missed anything obvious, or are some things redundant? Does everything work from a technical/functional perspective?

10. Launching your survey

You can inform your audience in different ways, depending on urgency, topic and audience.
If your survey needs to be executed in a certain timeframe, you will probably send a link in an email or post it as a news item.

If you have a long-term survey, you can add the web part to a (home)page, add the link as a Promoted Link, a Summary Link or in the navigation, so all users of your site are reminded on a regular basis to give their feedback.

You can use

  • the link to the survey (people will need to click “Respond to this survey”)
  • the link that you get when you click “Respond to this survey”
  • the combined link that takes people to the Thank-you page after “Finish” as in item 8 (you skip the Welcome page)
  • the link to the Welcome page as in item 8

11. Monitoring results

During the time the survey is active, you may want to keep track of the number of replies you get.  You can set an alert to keep track of new submissions, or look in Site Contents on a regular basis.
When you are on the Site Contents page, clicking on the survey and then on “Show graphical summary”  will show you an overview of the results;  clicking “View all Responses” will show you who has completed the survey and their individual contributions.
Those two options are only available for the site owner.

survey-graphical summary
Example of the Graphical Summary. Q1 is a Choice-question, Q2 is a Rating Scale.
survey-individual responses
An “individual response” . Clicking on the … will show you what I entered

12. Gathering and analyzing results

When you need a status update, or when the survey is over, you can either look at the graphical summary, or export the results into an Excel file for further analysis.
Click Actions > Export to spreadsheet.

Again, please be aware you can only make screenshots of any questions that need a response on a rating/Likert scale. These questions and answers can not be exported.

13. Deactivating the survey

Once the survey is over and you are working on the results, conclusions and next steps, you will want to stop people from making new entries. You can do this by changing the permissions from Contribute to Read and/or deleting the unique permissions, or by removing the audience from your survey or site altogether.

14. Deleting the survey

Once you have exported or captured the results and determined next steps, your survey project is completed and you can delete the survey.
Go to your survey > Settings > Survey settings > Delete this survey.

If you have used a welcome and thank-you page, you can delete those as well.

That’s it, folks!

As I said, this has become quite a long post, but I just wanted to take you through the complete process. There’s more to a survey than just creating some questions and answers!

For your next survey project, I would appreciate it if you would follow these steps and let me know if this has been sufficient information to do it yourself, or if I have overlooked something. (and if yes, what)

Good luck!

Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looking at myself all day in Office365

LookingatMyselfLong ago

Around 2005 I was involved with creating a new SharePoint-based intranet.

At that time we had “Knowledge Areas” on our old custom-built intranet. The Knowledge Areas contained information for a specific region, function, topic or country.
They were an early version of team sites, containing a combination of FrontPage Webs, “Document Cabinets” and Forums.
Each Knowledge Area had an owner, whose name was mentioned on the homepage.

The Knowledge Areas were to be replaced with SharePoint team sites. We wanted to brighten up the design of our new intranet and made a few prototypes to show the Knowledge Area managers.

They all went berserk.

How dared we propose to add their pictures to their name? They did not want to be on public display!
HR and privacy officers stampeded into our offices or called us with questions and concerns. We could not do such an unheard of thing without approvals from all kinds of senior officers!

Of course we had a company directory where all employees could find each other, search for expertise and create organigrams. Of course there was an option to add a picture, but few people did that. I often asked people why they walked on the company’s premises freely, without a paper bag on their head, yet were afraid to show their face to other employees. For some reason this did not have the desired effect 🙂

I have have always liked seeing pictures of my colleagues, especially if they are not in my location. It helps to know what they look like, especially when you may meet them in another office or while travelling to other locations, which I did frequently in those days. But not everyone is an early adopter and some people rather wait until they have seen that no harm befalls those who have shared their looks in the directory.

The only person with an acceptable excuse (in my book) was the Director for Mergers and Acquisitions. If you saw him in your location, you could bet that an acquisition or divestiture  was in the works, with all the speculations, gossip and general unrest that go with a big organizational change. So I understood that he did not want to become too well-known.

Recently

Since 2005 we have all gotten used to seeing our own and other people’s pictures in various places on the intranet: as a contact person for a team site, in permission settings, in the enterprise social network, etc. And now that Office365 uses People Cards, it is more and more important that your profile is uptodate – with a picture to match.

BTW, if your people directory is lagging behind, these tactics may help.  And if you think your people directory is awesome, please take this test.

Now

With Office365  we have switched to the other side and suddenly I am looking at myself ALL DAY.
Not only do I see my face in the details pane in document libraries or list, in Delve, on Yammer, in Search results, but I am also displayed in the Office365 top bar.
A new Office365 profile “experience” has just been announced. I do not know yet if that exposes my face to myself even more 🙂
I find that a bit weird and disconcerting.  Does anyone else feel that this is a bit too much?

Office365bar
OK, it is a small picture on the top right, but still…

Narcissus image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Get a Link – Get a Break!

getalink-brokenchocolate2As I am writing help materials for our new intranet I do not only have to think about “HOW do you do this” but also “WHY would you do this” and “How can you do this BEST, without spending too much time, adding maintenance or messing things up?”

With the migration of content to the new platform, many Site Owners need to rework their publishing pages. Generally these pages contain (clickable) header images, Promoted Links, Summary Links and links in the text.

On the old platform, when you want to grab the link to a document or image, you go to the library, right click on the name and select “Copy Shortcut” from the pop up. This is no longer available in SharePoint Online.

So, how does one get a link in SharePoint Online?

I have found 3 ways to link to a document, page or image:

  1. In Summary Links as well as the Rich Text Editor on a page (Wiki page style), you can browse for the link to a document or image that lives in your site or site collection.
    getalink-insertlink
    Insert > Link > From SharePoint will allow you to browse the libraries and lists in your site and link to the desired content.

    getalink-summarylinks
    When creating Summary Links you can browse for the content in your site.
  2. You can open the item and grab the URL from the address bar.
  3. There is the new Get a Link option, which you will see when you select a document or image from a library, in the Action Bar (is that what it’s called?) and the pop up menu.
    getalink-actionbar
    The Action Bar shows the Get a Link option when you select an item

    getalink-actionbar-gif-popup
    When you click the … behind an item name, you will see this in the pop up

The users in my company are all accustomed to grabbing a link when they want to share a document via email or on Yammer, so I think this “Get a Link” will appeal to them.

However, at first glance I see 5 different options. What to select?

getalink-options
5 options to Get a Link? Please note that the “no sign-in required” options can be disabled by the tenant administrator. This allows you to share links with anyone, in and outside of your company.

Let’s find out how this works!

Microsoft has already written about this but it is not very detailed.
So, I have created a brand new site in my own tenant. In this site I have uploaded 5 documents, each named after the action I will take.

getalink-documents

I assume the file type is irrelevant so I have used a mix of Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

Please note I am the tenant admin, so I am not a normal Site Owner. Some things may work differently for a regular Site Owner with Full Control.

My tenant is almost out-of-the-box and external and anonymous sharing has been enabled on all site collections.

How to use Get a Link:

  1. Select the document and click “Get a Link”
  2. Select one of the 5 options
  3. Click “Create” (if the link has already been created earlier you will immediately see “copy”
  4. Click “Copy” and the link will be added to your clipboard
  5. Paste wherever you need it.

You can remove a link if you longer want to share. This means the link will be disabled if someone clicks on it.

For links with “no sign-in required” you can set an expiration date. This means the link will no longer work if someone clicks on it after the expiration date.

getalink-expirationdate
For “anonymous sharing” you can set an expiration time.

Results

  1. The links look as follows:

Restricted link:

https://company.com/Sharing/Shared%20Documents/GetLink-RestrictedLink.pptx?d=wa1065f209e79474cb70b1d349a3d5c1c

View Link – account required:

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?guestaccesstoken=g5GzCR4X%2bSQeQkoUVxhvy6ObgkIgAOAwWPxUubf%2bNlY%3d&docid=2_061f40460a0bb4a509b5f126109e2f28e&rev=1

View Link – no sign-in required

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?docid=0d7dc303b58164d169fe1e15c05981740&authkey=Acc4tb7-2Nb5GYqUQPj4Oy0

Edit Link – account required

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?guestaccesstoken=OygCzI%2f3Nkr8YKUhpYNPucCNr3H7x4zTfJowLrST0lI%3d&docid=2_17f6bad80545a42428c32907a3503e6f4&rev=1

Edit Link – no sign-in required

https://company.com/Sharing/_layouts/15/guestaccess.aspx?docid=11bf22e7919224e2987caf7ea39f9f4f5&authkey=AReBJ-AIIrhwFnuFeCqR1e

2. Using the “View” and “Edit” links will break permission inheritance for the document as soon as you hit “Create”.

getalink-what
Pardon my French, but what did you just write there?

Yes, you may want to read this again:

Using the “View” and “Edit” links will break permission inheritance for the document as soon as you hit “Create”.

I was a bit worried about the word “guest_access” that I saw appearing in 4 of the 5 links, so I decided to check the permissions of my site.
Microsoft mentions this in the small letters of their post, but it is easily overlooked.

You know you can now see immediately if you have items with different permissions in your site. That is very convenient. Normally, only the Microfeed has different permissions, but now my Documents have too!

getalink-brokenpermissions
The document library has “exceptions”. That means: some items have different permissions.
getalink-4outof5
Only the “Restricted Link” does not break permission inheritance!

4 of the 5 docs have broken permissions inheritance! The permissions have not changed yet, but the inheritance has broken. This may not appear to be a big deal now, but if you ever happen to add a new group or individual to your site, which is not unlikely, you will have to remember to give them access to these documents.
Do you seriously think any Site Owner will remember this? Or have the time for that?

More scary and inconvenient findings

  • As soon as someone clicks on a link they are added to the permissions of the document, regardless of their existing role in the site.
getalink-added-after-clicking
I am the tenant admin, and have Full Control of this site, yet I am added as soon as I click the link.
  • People in the Members group get all the options for “Get a Link” as well!
    I have tested this in my work environment and it turns out Members can see and use the “view” and “edit” options so they can break the permission inheritance of documents without the Site Owner being aware!
  • You can only find out which links have been created by checking the options for each document. Click “remove” if you see that an unwanted link has already been created. Now go find out which of your links (In a text, in Summary Links etc.) used this link 😦
  • You can remove the link, but the permission inheritance is still broken.
  • You can only “delete unique permissions”  per document, so you have to go to Site settings > Site permissions > Show items with different permissions > View Exceptions > Manage permissions > Delete unique permissions.
    This is a tedious process.

I think this can turn into a serious issue. I have found that many Site Owners do not fully understand the consequences of broken permission inheritance, and do not understand the extra maintenance and support issues involved. I have tried to tell them NOT to break permission inheritance unless it is really needed, and to never do this on a document or item level.
And even if they know, it is a time-consuming job to reset the permissions.

Also, why all this complexity for just getting a link? I think only the “Restricted link” would be sufficient. Who would ever want to use the “edit” options when linking to an image? Why would you use the “Get a Link” option to share via email if there is also a “Share” option which sends an email? (and which, in some cases, asks permissions to the Site Owner first?)

What would I recommend if you need a link?

  • Use the “Insert > Link > From SharePoint” option to link to a document or image when working in the text editor of a page
  • Use the “Browse” option when creating Summary Links
  • Use “Get a Link > Restricted View” when you want to get a link otherwise. This respects the permissions of your library.
  • Instruct your site Members about the dangers of Get a Link and ask them to use the Restricted Link.

What are your experiences with the Get a Link functionality? Have you been able to reduce the scope and if yes, how? I would appreciate to hear and learn from you!

Kitten image courtesy of Top Photo Engineer at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Text added by myself.

SharePoint Online Site owner training

Learning-Collect“There’s plenty of SharePoint Online help, blogs and videos around” I boasted some months ago, when I set off to execute the training plan for the SharePoint Online intranet that we have launched recently.
I expected to “curate” most of the learning materials, and to create only a few.

Our criteria

We set off with a number of company and project criteria:

  • The company’s learning strategy is the 70/20/10 model. This means people learn new skills and knowledge in different ways: 10 % in formal training, 20% in peer-to-peer learning and 70% in their daily work.
  • Learning is based on the 5 moments-of-need model, so we have to make sure the right materials are available at the right moment.
  • We have made some customizations, such as a limited permission set for Site owners (less than Full Control), and a custom display on Promoted Links. We knew beforehand we would have to create materials for those topics.
  • I would focus on learning materials for Site owners.
Learning-principles
Our learning principles

Formal learning

The 10% formal training now consists of an e-learning program providing a high-level overview of purpose, concepts and functionalities of the new intranet, including the Critical Skills. (The “how-to-click” details are in the “on-the-job learning materials” which are referred to in the e-learning). It takes between 1 and 1 1/2 hour.

elearning-testI created several modules in PowerPoint, and recorded voice-overs. This means we can replace any module (e.g. Permissions, or Custom Site Templates) easily without having to redo it all. Some inconsistencies are still being fine tuned as I write, new functionality developed, and Microsoft may change some things as well 🙂
I then created a number of test questions with multiple-choice answers, and added a Site Owner agreement (rights & responsibilities) which all trainees have to sign off (using a SharePoint survey).

Our e-learning specialist turned this all into an e-learning programme. It looked very easy but he has obviously done this before 🙂 (He also does freelance work if you are looking for someone!)

This e-learning is mandatory for all existing and new Site owners.
And before you ask how we are going to enforce that: content migration from the old into the new platform is still going on, and a Site owner can not start working in their SharePoint Online site until they have completed the training.

Peer-to-peer learning

The 20% was easy to set up: a Yammer group to ask peers or the intranet support team about all kinds of intranet- and SharePoint Online-related questions.
With the platform being launched recently and the migration of content in full swing, it will be no surprise that this channel is currently very active.

elearningyammerIn the e-learning and in all communications we invite people to share their questions in this Yammer group, and we make it a point to have all questions answered quickly.

For issues, such as things not working as they should, or errors, we have a more formal support channel.

On-the-job learning

The 70% would be the “curated content” I envisaged. I set off enthusiastically in the Microsoft support pages, as well as in many other blogs by people who write for Site owners, such as Let’s Collaborate, SharePointMaven, Sharegate and icansharepoint. Oh, and my own blog of course. My posts are often inspired by “my users” and my daily work.

Well, that was a bit of a disappointment.

Learning-format

As it turns out, the majority of the available information is not 100% applicable to us.

  • Our customized Site owner role made it hard to use anything that has to do with permissions. But also materials that tell you how to customize your site are not appropriate because the new role also has limited design options. So I could not use Gregory Zelfond’s Power User Training, for instance – it starts with creating a site and changing the look.
  • Our custom Promoted Links display needs some extra steps for certain page templates.
  • Many of the materials were not 100% current – with document libraries being managed with Tabs instead of the Modern look-and-feel, for instance. I wanted things to be 100% applicable when we launched – the correct look-and-feel and correct functionalities. The difference between the old and the new platform is too large otherwise.
  • Most of the materials have NOT been written in a “life cycle” format
    1. What it is and when to use it
    2. Create and configure “app”
    3. Add to and configure web part on page
    4. Add item to app
    5. Edit or delete item in app
    6. Modify something in app and/or web part (views)
    7. Delete web part
    8. Delete app
    9. Tips & tricks & troubleshooting
    10. Good practice

So, I have done a lot of writing, and my colleague has made tons of videos to accompany that. I have used Microsoft materials and some of the blogs I mentioned – often as “additional information” or “good practice”.

Final setup

Learning-tabel
This is the final setup

Next steps

I will continue to adjust my own materials and scout for other good stuff. I hope that over time, people will learn to deal with the ever-changing look-and-feel and not be confused by a video of a document library that has “last years style”. Then we will be able to use more materials created by others.

We are also working on a plan to make sure the Yammer channel keeps being active when everyone will be in the “business as usual” mode again.

I will also have to adjust the e-learning on a regular basis.

It has been quite an interesting project to create all this, but it is strange to be doing that while there are so many materials already available on the internet. It feels as if I am reinventing wheels, which I hate!

Have you created learning materials yourself or have you borrowed with pride?

Multiple choice image courtesy of Becris at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Working in a SharePoint box

spintranetsinaboxRecently I have been helping to launch a new Office365-based intranet.
While we set out with the idea of “out of the box” (a sound strategy, knowing my earlier experiences with extensive customizations) we have had to create some custom things to meet the requirements of several stakeholders.

I was therefore very interested in Clearbox Consulting ‘s evaluation of 26 “SharePoint intranets in a box“.
Unfortunately this report was published when we had already progressed very far in our intranet journey, so there was no reason to buy it.
Still, it kept nagging me because I was really curious if we could have used one of the “out-of-the-box” solutions.

So you can imagine my surprise and elation when Sam Marshall provided me with a copy just before Christmas, as well as a discount code for the readers of this blog.

What is this report about?

It compares 26 products of companies claiming to have a ready-made SharePoint intranet. This means that you do not have to do any developments yourself. It is just some configuration and a little branding.

The researchers have made the evaluation by comparing a set of standard scenarios that most intranets will need:

spbox-content
Content of the report. (Screenshot from the website)

Strengths

The major strengths are:

  • Many offerings compared – I never knew there were currently 26 different products!
  • The evaluators are all experienced intranet peeps who know what they are doing.
  • The evaluation is based on recognizable business scenarios.
  • Consistent and objective evaluation. (We could never have done it, since we would undoubtedly be biased by our own requirements)

To think about

  1. The cases provided are all very common in the intranet world. However, you may have some unique requirements that are not mentioned here. In that case, you may need to create your own filtering to find out who would be the best in-a-box-partner for you.
  2. As mentioned earlier, SharePoint and Office365 are changing very rapidly, and I do not know a. how well all vendors can keep up, and b. if and how quickly SharePoint developments will catch up with the vendor’s unique features. (I heard “Corporate News”  is on the Microsoft roadmap for 2017)
  3.  I expect new vendors to appear as well as consolidations.

So, I therefore hope and expect that there will be regular updates to this report…

Who should read this report?

  • Anyone who is starting on a new intranet should definitely read this.
    This may help you to decide if SharePoint would be a good option for your organization. You may think SharePoint is too much and too big, but an out-of-the-box solution may just offer what you need without too much hassle.
    If you already know you are going the SharePoint way, the report may help you to determine if a ready-made solution would be useful. Even if you think you know SharePoint well, you will learn a few things that may be relevant for you now or later.
    You may decide not to go for a ready-made solution, or even not to go for SharePoint at all.
    The report may also trigger you to refine or extend your requirements. For instance, we all have “Company News” on our radar, but have you thought about if and how SharePoint can be used for ideation? If Communications is your major stakeholder, they may not immediately think of the need for transactions. You may want to check with all stakeholders if they have thought about those things.
  • Anyone who has to decide on the need for custom development.
    If none of these vendors mentions what you are setting out to do, you may indeed need to develop it yourself. But if they all provide this functionality, it is probably available as an app somewhere.
  • Anyone who is working on their intranet or digital workplace roadmap, to determine whether it makes sense to move to a ready-made platform in future.
  • Anyone who is curious what intranets-in-a-box have to offer.

But isn’t this a lot of money?

No, it is not.

  1. That amount of money will buy you only a few hours of consultancy.  If you want to set up your own requirements to test against, agree on it, find and talk to all the vendors, have demos and evaluate all the results in a consistent way you will need much more time than “just a few hours”.
    Besides, the evaluators have not been biased by their own requirements.
  2. I can offer you a 10% discount if you use the code IIAB2CBOX10on the product page .
  3. You can probably get away with charging this (< 500 € / £ / $) on your credit card and submitting it as expenses 🙂 .

Good to know

I have reviewed this report for a number of reasons:

  1. I was interested in the topic because I was curious if the intranet I am working on could have been done out-of-the-box, which might have saved us a ton of time and hassle.
    (Answer after reading the report: I think we really needed the extra work we have done to meet the requirements.)
  2. So far, I have been the only “practicioner” who has reviewed this report. I think it is important that someone, who is actually in the middle of a SharePoint project in a company, shares their view.
    You will find more reviews on the Clearbox blog.
  3. I have known Sam Marshall personally for a number of years. I also know most of the people who have worked with him on this report. I have great respect for all of them. Therefore I trust this report.
  4. This has been a Christmas present so I have had the time to read and think. 🙂

So, everything came together very nicely this time.

Title inspired by “Living in a box” by Living in a Box from 1987.

 

 

No editing pain with the details pane

docpane-picredRecently I sang the praise of the details pane in SharePoint document libraries, because I firmly believe this will make it easier for site owners (and supporters) to know what has happened to their documents.

But there is more to that pane than just information about the library. It also shows useful info about each document.

When you upload a document to a library, the newly added document will be selected and the details pane opens.

docpane-justuploaded
When you upload a document, the details pane opens with a warning that some required metadata are missing.

On the details pane you see the following from top to bottom:

  • A preview of the document’s first page
  • Document name, size and modified date.
  • A warning that this document misses mandatory properties
  • The properties
  • Recent activities for this document and by whom
  • Who it has been shared with
  • Document information such as file type, path and size
    docpane-firstscroll
    Top part of the document details pane
    docpane-secondscroll
    The second part of the document details pane

    docpane-thirdscroll
    The bottom part of the document details pane

There are now three ways to edit the properties of the document.

1. Traditional: Via the document menu

-Click … behind the document name, click “More” in the menu and then “Properties”.
You will go to the document properties page.

docpane-traditionaledit
The document properties page

-Click “Edit all” and you will go to the edit page
-Make edits and click “Save”
-You will go back to the document item page, as per screenshot above

Hmm…you will have to find your way back to the document library again 😦 .

2. Via the “Edit all” link

-Click “Edit all” in the details pane, next to “Properties”
-You will immediately go to the edit page of the item

docpane-edit-all
The edit page.

-Make edits and click “Save”
-You will go back to the library.

Now, that is better. It saves me a few clicks and I stay in the context of the library.

3. In the details pane

-Click on the field below the column name (in this example: Name, Title and Topic).
-The field will now open up and can be edited
-When you have made your edits, click below the edited field
-You will see “saving”, “saved” and then the field will look normal again.
-Click on the next field and repeat.

I think this will benefit from a short video demo. Please watch in full screen mode and look at the right side.

Yay, this is very fast and I do not even have to leave my document library!

This also works for lists. You can even add an attachment to a list item from the details pane. (I am not a big fan of attaching documents to list items, but that is another matter)

docpane-list
Editing properties of a list item

Some quirks!

  1. If you have many required properties and they are all Choice or Lookup fields with many choices, you will have to do a lot of scrolling. Using “Quick Edit” (the former “Edit in Datasheet”) may be a better way.
  2. The “wobbling” caused by the words “saving” and “saved” appearing and disappearing makes me a little seasick, especially when I had to edit about 50 documents recently  🙂 . In that case, “Quick Edit” may be better.
  3. There is not much space available to show texts, so if you have a long description, you may lose track of what you are writing. Save your text to see if your sentence still makes sense. Using “Edit all” (option 2) may be easier, although the space there is limited, too.
  4. In older SharePoint versions, a document was only visible to the audience once it had been properly checked in with all required metadata. This appears to be no longer needed. So there is a larger risk of documents in your library that do not have all required metadata added.
  5. This is a very new way of editing SharePoint stuff, so will need communication and adoption efforts.I can imagine that people will be looking for an “Edit”or “Save” button.

Conclusion

Editing a document’s properties in the details pane is a very easy way to adjust metadata while staying in the context of your work. It does have a few quirks, so may not be the best option for every purpose. I think it is great for adding metadata to newly added documents, or for making small adjustments to a limited number of documents.

What do you think of this? Do you like this pane or not, have you found any other gotchas? Is this something you actively communicate to your users? Please let me know!