SharePoint Holmes and the Lost Link (to the News digest)

Another occasion where SharePoint Holmes saved the day.

The situation

“I need to send out a News digest today for my colleague and she showed me how to do it, but it does not work for me” I heard on the other side of the Teams call. “It is our Christmas Newsletter and my colleague is already out for the holidays”.

Of course one calls the support desk rather than another colleague when this happens 😊. And as I was quite busy in the end-of-year period, I thought I’d call in SharePoint Holmes. Usually this was a quiet time for him and I expected that an interaction was welcome. Especially a “it does not work for me” as that can be really anything. So on went my sleuthing hat!

The investigation

We shared screens. She opened the site where the News was published, and showed me the items that needed to go into the Christmas digest.

I noticed there was a “See All” link top right, so apparently the web part was configured correctly, and more than 5 items were published. That was not the problem.

Screenshot of a SharePoint News web part, displaying news posts.
The News web part that is the source for the news digest . There is a “See All” link top right.

She clicked on “See All” and the next page opened.

Hmmm, there were no “Manage Posts” and “Email a News digest” links. A page refresh did not help. That was strange.

Screenshot of SharePoint page where you normally create a news digest from. The link to do that is missing.
The page where you normally see “Manage posts” and “Email a news digest”. But not here.

I looked at one of my own sites and compared it to hers.
I asked her to go back to the Homepage. There were no options to add News or something else. (as in the first screenshot in this post)
I asked her to click on the Gear Wheel. That showed only a very small menu.

Screenshot of the Site Settings for this person. Only two menu items, so this person has very limited permissions on this site and can therefore not create a News digest.
The site settings only has a few options. I expect this person is a Visitor and has too few permissions.

Ah, I got it. Permissions!

The solution

In my admin role, I checked permissions for the site in question. And as I expected, she was a Site Visitor, not a member.

You can only create a News digest when you have permissions to add a new Page to the Site Pages library, and add images to the Assets library. It is in the Microsoft support, by the way, but I only learned that later.

Due to the absence of any other Site Owners, I made her a Member and sent a note to the Site Owner that I had given her more permissions in order to create a News digest. I hoped the Site Owner would remember that for next time…
I stayed in the meeting and looked while she created the News Digest. After a page refresh the permissions were OK and she knew what to do.

SharePoint Holmes saved Christmas! 🌲😁

Happy holidays for all my blog readers. All the best for 2023!

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 needed 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.

Why does my SharePoint News digest not reach my colleagues?

Since a few weeks I am also on Mastodon (@ellenvanaken@mastodon.social) and there I happened upon this question from @almostwitty:

“Does anyone know how to manage the SharePoint “News you might have missed” feature? Some people aren’t getting them and I have no idea why…”

I thought that was a great question, so I started investigating, including the regular News Digest option as well, since issues can occur there too.
I focused on technical/functional reasons, reading “not getting them” as “not receiving them in their mailbox” rather than not understanding what they are about. (But there’s an explanation on how it works from Microsoft in this post as well!)

There are three levels where email newsletters can go wrong: organizational (because of settings or email issues), sender or recipient issues or actions.
In the case of organizational issues, most likely the whole organization, or a specific part of it (e.g. a specific email domain or location), will not have receive the digest.
In case of individuals who have not received it, the issue is harder to identify and solve.

A. Regular News Digest

This is a newsletter with a hand-picked selection of news, sent by a site owner (sender) to an email list or group of colleagues (recipients). You may want to check my earlier post “10 things to know about the SharePoint News digest”
Always think carefully before you decide to send a News digest – not everyone likes to receive “even more stuff to read” from their organization!

In the following cases someone or more people may not receive it:

1. Organization: There has been an email glitch in your organizations Outlook/Exchange

Check with your Microsoft365 admins if this is the case. The glitch can affect all your organization, or parts of it, e.g. with a different email address.

2. Sender: You have exceeded the Outlook sending limitations

Check the sending limitations here. E.g. you have sent your newsletter to more than 500 people, of you have sent too many emails in one day. The limits appear to be lower for people who have been in the organization shortly and have no reliable reputation yet.
Solutions may be to send the newsletter in smaller batches, to use organization-wide groups instead of individuals (any group that is in your Company Directory), or to send the newsletter from a different email address. (e.g. a department mailbox rather than your personal email)

3. Sender: you have more than 256 characters in your subject line

See all Exchange Online limitations (link below) under “Messaging limitations”.
A more complete, but more complicated overview of all Exchange Online limits here.

Please create a shorter subject line.

4. Sender: your digest mail is seen as Junk Mail

This has happened to me when I first sent some digests, because I sent it to a lot of people who had never had any interaction with me.

Please inform colleagues that you are starting an email newsletter, monitor delivery of your first digest, train your colleagues how to add senders of in-company newsletters to their safe senders and ask them to check their Junk Email folder on a regular basis.
It can also help to send the digest not from your personal email, but from an organizational account, e.g. Communications, or Department XYZ.

5. Recipient: Has deliberately blocked your email address, reported earlier newsletters as Junk and/or has set a Rule to send your mails to the Deleted Items

While option 4 is more or less an accident, this one is a deliberate action. There is no “Unsubscribe” option for SharePoint News digests, so every employee who is not happy to receive and read your mail will find ways to avoid it. Your digest will probably be in their Junk Email or Deleted Items.

It may be good to inform colleagues about the benefits of the News digests. Additionally you could train them how to add senders of in-company newsletters to their safe senders and to to check their Junk Email folder on a regular basis.

6. Recipient has accidentally deleted or archived the mail

Sometimes I do that too – I delete something by simply pressing the wrong button, swiping the wrong way, etc. Sometimes it is because I am interrupted while reading email, sometimes I decide too fast that this is not interesting, it can be anything really, and nothing personal! 😊

The email may be in the Deleted Items or in the Archive.

7. Recipient’s mailbox is full

Especially when your organization has many F3-licenses, it may happen that their mailbox (only 2 GB) is full and can no longer receive emails, even though the News digest is a small email in size. Check out the Quirks of the F3 license.

There’s not much you can do there. The recipient will have received one or more warnings to clean up their mailbox.

B. News you might have missed:

This is an automated digest of items that you have access to, may be relevant for you (according to the Microsoft Graph) but have not read yet. More info from Microsoft.

In this case, there are only organizational or recipient issues. People may not receive this for the following reasons:

8. Organization: it has been disabled on organizational level

Microsoft provides information on how to do that. You may want to discuss with the Microsoft365 admins (and others involved) to turn it on again, because there may have been a good reason to disable the functionality.

9. Organization: There has been an email glitch in your organizations Outlook/Exchange

(Similar to 1.) Check with your Microsoft365 admins if this is the case. The glitch can affect all your organization, or parts of it, e.g. with a different email address.

10. Recipient: There is no news that they have missed

They may have read all there is to read. That may be because they have been a colleague for only a short time and does not have access to many sites yet.

11. Recipients have turned off their subscription in the email or on their SharePoint page

This is ON by default. At the bottom of the email there is a link called “Notification settings” that takes you to a page in the SharePoint homepage where you can disable this digest.

Screenshot of the bottom of the "News you may have missed" email, with the link to change your notification settings.
You can disable this automated digest here.

You can also do this from the SharePoint home page by clicking the gear wheel > Email notification settings.

Screenshot of the SharePoint landing page and the menu under the gear wheel. With "Email notification settings" you can turn the digest off.
On the SharePoint landing page you can also turn off this digest.

In both cases, you will go to the below page where you can toggle off the button at the bottom.

Screenshot of the Notification settings page where you can determine if you want to receive "News you might have missed" or not.
If you do not want to receive “News you might have missed” you can set this button to “Off”

12. Recipient: Has deliberately blocked noreply@sharepointonline.com, reported earlier digests as Junk and/or has set a Rule to send mails from this sender to the Deleted Items

(Similar to 5.) This is a deliberate action. The digest will probably be in their Junk Email or Deleted Items.

You may want to inform users that blocking noreply@sharepointonline.com is not a good idea, as they will also not receive other mails about their SharePoint sites and documents. (e.g. auto-deletion of Teams recordings) Creating awareness about this email may be good idea, as is teaching them how to disable the “News you might have missed” email instead, as explained in 11, if they really do not want it.

13. Recipient has accidentally deleted or archived the mail

(Similar to 6.)

The email may be in the Deleted Items or in the Archive. Again, creating awareness about this email may be a good idea, and you may also want to teach them how to disable it properly if they do not want to receive it.

14. Recipient’s mailbox is full

(Similar to 7). The mailbox of F3-licensed users (only 2 GB) may be full and can no longer receive emails, even though this is a small email in size. Check out the Quirks of the F3 license.

There’s not much you can do there. The recipient will have received one or more warnings to clean up their mailbox.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why someone does not receive a SharePoint News digest or a “News you might have missed” digest. The reasons can be on organization, sender and recipient level, and may be deliberate or accidental. That makes it hard to troubleshoot, but I hope I given you a few ideas to start with. Good luck!

Please let me know if I have forgotten any!

Can you get a text preview in a SharePoint News Carousel?

I recently got the following question: “Is it possible to get a text preview from News in a Carousel? This would be for those users who want to see more than just the title, but without clicking.”

I love this type of questions, so I decided to find out.

Carousels and me

I am not a big fan of Carousels. I can imagine the large images look nice, but I have read too many negatives. The quick why? This website: https://shouldiuseacarousel.com/

They do not provide good usability, for instance:

  • People tend to overlook them.
  • Most people do not spend enough time on a page to see all the items in the Carousel, so generally only 1 or 2 posts are being seen by most visitors.
  • The buttons to move them forward are too small and not easily clickable for people who have problems with their motoric skills.
  • Screenreaders cannot deal with them.

At the bottom of this post I have added a number of articles.

When Microsoft introduced a Carousel for SharePoint News, I honestly thought that they had solved the issue because why would they, who are pretty big on usability and accessibility, introduce functionality that would not have a good usability? But when I saw the product, I noticed that it just looked like all others. I could not find a usability review by anyone. (Please let me know if you know one).

BTW, I really love the below image (from Microsoft’s Inclusive Design pages) to show that inclusivity issues are more common than you might think. Not everyone has a permanent issue, but many people have temporary or situational issues. A small part of the population is blind, but many people have eyesight issues, including myself before my cataract operations – I had problems with colour contrasts and very small print, for instance.

Diagram with common situations when someone cannot touch, see, hear or speak "normally" due to permanent or temporary disability, or a specific situation, such as a bartender that cannot hear well because of a noisy environment.
The Microsoft Inclusive design Persona spectrum. I LOVE this.

But I digress! The question was: Is it possible to show a preview of the post, and not just the title, in a Carousel?

I checked a number of items:

1. News web part

I started out with changing my Intranet site’s News web part to Carousel. This is what the Carousel looks like in Edit Mode:

Screenshot of Edit Mode for a News web part in Carousel mode. It has some options to adjust how it is displayed on the page. e.g., number of items, automatic cycle and call to action.
Edit mode for the News web part, when selecting Carousel
  • You can determine the number of posts to show (recommended is max. 5, but you can go to 8)
  • You can change to the next item automatically (not recommended) and set the interval for change.
  • You can show a call to action. We will come back to that later.

So, there is no option in the Carousel itself to make extra information, such as the Description field, visible. On to the next option.

2. News post

The next step was to open one of the posts and see if there is any option for an extra text, image description or anything that could be shown in the Carousel.

In the web part menu, you can add “Text above title” where you can add 40 characters of text, so I did. It is immediately shown. I also added an Alt Text for the image.

Screenshot of news post in edit mode, showing some options for the image and for the display of the post.
Edit mode for the news post, with options

3. Page Details

Then I looked at the Page Details, changed the Description into a snappy summary and added a Call to Action with a link to a Form.
More on the Description field in this post.

Publishing the end result

So, I have 4 possible options to display:

  • Description
  • Text above title
  • Alt text for the image
  • Call to Action

I republished the page and looked eagerly which of the items would manifest itself on the News page.

Nothing. Zero. Zilch. It still just showed the title. Hovering over any element (image, title) did not show anything. 😥

Screenshot of the News post after adding the extra options, such as "Text over Title", Description, Alt Text for the image, and Call-to-Action. Sadly, nothing is visible, not even when hovering over image or title.
The Carousel after adding all the extra’s and republishing. Sadly, none of the additional items are visible.
  • The Description is only visible in the web part layouts Top Story, List and Side-by-Side.
  • “Text above title” is only visible on the news post itself.
  • Alt text for the image is only available on the news post itself, in the Immersive Reader
  • The Call-to-Action does not show up, and the text and link in the Page Details are deleted after publication, so I guess this does not work. I added a Call-to-Action web part, hoping that it perhaps needed this nearby, but nothing. I will look into that; I remember a discussion on Twitter but forgot between whom.

Conclusion

I think it is currently NOT possible to show a preview, neither by default, nor by hovering over an element. If any of my readers have found a way to do it, please let me know!

Suggestions

At this moment I can only suggest using another web part layout, such as Top Story, List or Side-by-Side. Use the Description text to provide a good summary of the article. This is better for usability and accessibility and would allow users to see what the story is about, so they know whether it is worth their while to click.

Top Story layout. This shows the post’s Title and Description.

Additionally, you can use the Microsoft feedback portal to make a suggestion to allow a preview.

Articles on Carousels:

Carousel Photo by Mihai Vlasceanu: https://www.pexels.com/photo/carousel-with-lights-1403653/

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. 😒

@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. 😒

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. 😒

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. 😒
  • 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!

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 🙂

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. 🙂

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 🙂

Uploaded September 2021.

That’s all for today, folks!

Photo by Terje Sollie from Pexels

Images in SharePoint News and Pages

We have established that creating pages and news in SharePoint is easy and gives excellent results. As our intranet publishers get more experience, they are also asking more questions, such as “where are my page/news images stored?”

In proper SharePoint style: It depends! 🙂 on the original location of the image.
Let’s take a look at the various image sources. These are your 8 options when you add an image to a news item or a page. If our admin has NOT enabled the Organization Assets option you will not see “Your organization”.

Your sources for images for news or pages

A copy of the images used (for any page or news post) may be stored in the Site Assets library in your site, in a folder Site Pages. If yes, the page/post will get a new subfolder with the name of the page/post and the images used.

Experiment

To check what happens exactly, I created news items using each available option. I have no Organizational Assets library enabled in my tenant, but I know from work how it behaves.

These are the news items I created, with the name of the image source:

7 news item, each with a different image source

Results

Only Web search and Upload create a new folder.

Web Search and Upload create a new folder

The good thing is, that adding images is very economic; you seldom get copies taking up storage space.
I know storage quota is not really a thing anymore in modern SharePoint, but I have spent so many years worrying to keep SP2007 site collections within their 2 GB storage limit, that this topic will always be on my mind. 🙂
The bad thing is that you will not collect your used images in your site, if you plan to re-use them again. Also, if someone decides to remove their image from the internet or their SharePoint site, you may end up with no image. For News this will not be so serious as most news is volatile. For long-term and important pages, it may be worth keeping your images under your own control.

Results

In the overview below I am sharing my opinion on the various options, based on my experiences, together with their storage behaviour. I have added a ⭐ for my favourites. Feel free to disagree, I like learning from others!

Recent

👍 Convenient

👎 You have probably used this recently, so do you really want to use this again?

📂 No new folder, image is stored in its original folder.

Stock Images ⭐

👍 Good variety of images, freely available

👎 They might get over-used

📂 No new folder

⭐ This is the simplest solution if you need an image and do not want to spend too much effort

👍 All images you can think of

👎 Beware of copyright – finding out can be time-consuming, not finding out can be costly

📂 Creates new folder

Your organization ⭐

👍 Custom images suitable for your organization, no copyright issues (assuming you use your own and bought images)

👎 You need someone to manage these assets. I am lucky as our Communications manager is both a keen and expert photographer AND a tenacious intranet manager, so she really keeps an eye on this collection and is always happy to add new images when you ask.

📂 No new folder

⭐ Easy to use and this allows you to use specific imagery that fits your organization

OneDrive

👍 Nothing

👎 Private by default, so you need to share them first with your intended audience (see my earlier post, SharePoint Holmes and the Invisible Illustration)

📂 No new folder, the image stays in your OneDrive.

Site ⭐

👍 Easily available, good if you have custom images for your site, e.g. with specific theme or branding. Best option for long-standing pages as deletion is within your own control.

👎 Might become repetitive if you have used them before. When you are storing images in a separate library, you or fellow publishers need to remember where they are.

📂 No new folder, the images stay in the library where you have stored them.

⭐ Useful when you create content that will be relevant for a long time, and/or when you have custom illustrations.

Upload ⭐

👍 Familiar experience for most users. Best option if you want to use an image from your OneDrive – upload it from your OneDrive client.

👎 Nothing

📂 Will create new folder

⭐ Especially when you start using SharePoint you will probably have to dive into your own collection on your PC quite often. After some time you will probably be using your Site images, see above.

👍 Good way to re-use suitable images across the organization

👎 This can only be a link to an image within your organization (OneDrive or SharePoint).
You need to know where the image lives and be sure that your intended audience has permission to see it.
The owner can remove it, leaving you with no image.
Once you have used it, it is quite hard to find the link to the image and the site. I could find it using F12 (developers tool) and search for the name of the site or the image (if you know) but that is not very convenient. Please let me know if you know an easier way!

📂 No new folder

Conclusion

My suggestion would be to use Stock Images, Organizational Assets, Site or Upload; they appear to be most user- and maintenance-friendly for short and long term.

Your experiences/opinion

Did I forget anything, or is there an option you really like or dislike? Please let me know!

The deconstruction of the intranet

Deconstructed-PuzzleJust after publishing my last post, I found three interesting things that increase my belief that we are currently “deconstructing” the intranet and making it into something different.

1. No more Internal Comms department.

A Dutch bank and insurance company reported they have done away with their Internal Communications department. The rise of enterprise social networks (two-way communication – I wrote about this earlier) as well as the large number of customer-facing employees in webcare and other business processes had made them decide that communications is no longer a role for one department but for all the company.
English version of article.

Why is this important? Because it is often Internal Comms that has been the department that has introduced intranets to their employees as a communication tool for all the company. They have made sure intranets looked good, that people got training and that the corporate news got the best real estate on the homepage.  🙂

Most of them have realized that the intranet is no longer only a communication tool, but a tool to do your work. In that respect, it may be time to hand over the ownership of the intranet to a different part of the organization, and the digital workplace team may be the best candidate. They can take care of a proper technical installation, governance, training, app selection and development, usability etc. (which, incidentally, apart from the technical installation, are all things I really like to do :-))

If Internal Comms is no longer the owner of the intranet/digital workplace, it means that we can finally use that prime real estate for the most important work stuff, regardless of what that is. Perhaps we can also be less fanatic about design and branding, 🙂 and focus on usability.
But of course this is just one company. I have no idea if (m)any others will follow suit.

2. More talk about an app-store on your intranet.

I came across an article about Neil Morgan’s work for an intranet app store at Richemont. And that was done in 2012!

3. More proof that the app intranet exists! 

And then I found another intranet teaser video featuring a Windows 8 tile view with apps! This is the screenshot. (Please click to enlarge)

Screenshot of the desktop
A screenshot from 19s into the video shows the desktop, with various apps. Source: http://vimeo.com/98925422

Once again, all kind of tools are displayed on the desktop and several elements from the intranet are there (news (in the centre – prime real estate!),  time and weather, an HR app). But there appears to be no integrated website called “intranet”.

[Update October 17th, 2014: Unfortunately, the video was suddenly made private, so I removed the embedded link. I am glad I made that screenshot! ]

This feeds my theory that the “intranet” will be replaced by the individual building blocks of the intranet-as-we-have-come-to-know-it + other tools. I will call it the “deconstructed intranet” 🙂
This term has already been used earlier in a blog by Russell Pearson. I am not sure if he meant exactly the same thing though.

Is this the same as a Digital Workplace? I do not think so – this may be part of a Digital Workplace or a stage towards a Digital Workplace, but I think the Digital Workplace has more to it than just a set of tools.

Have you seen other examples of “deconstructed intranets”? I am ever so curious how this will develop!

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The pick-‘n-mix app intranet

PicknMix-JellyBeansLong ago, our intranet was custom-built because there was no intranet software available. We always spent a lot of time integrating our third-party applications nicely into the intranet. Any application, e.g. travel booking or ordering office supplies, was built with the same user interface and style as our intranet, and of course they were all single-sign-on!

Later, budget restrictions, the availability of intranet platforms, our management’s decision to buy rather than make, as well as the rise of internet-enabled third-party applications resulted in a mish-mash of different color schemes, user interfaces and password requirements on our intranet. I hated the fact that our employees could not move frictionless from one application to another. But I learned to be happy with small things like seeing our company logo on the travel booking system. 🙂
I strongly believed that a consistent user interface is a prerequisite for an effective digital workplace.

Is consistency in design and user interface still relevant now?
That belief has been shaken recently by an intranet introduction video (unfortunately it has been deleted) where the intranet was replaced by a collection of different apps (Office suite tools, general apps and custom intranet apps) on the desktop in a Windows 8 tile view. The intranet as an integrated website no longer existed.

Although I was shocked at first, I now think this is not such a strange idea. In our private life we are managing many different apps with different interfaces without thinking. We love spending time collecting them on our devices, moving them around, updating them and learning different interfaces, because we want or need to use them. With the rise of Bring-Your-Own-Everything, is designing your own workplace not a logical next step?

What did I see in that video?
I have tried to recreate the video’s concept.  Since I know Microsoft Office suite and SharePoint best, I have used those elements, but of course this concept works with any Office and intranet suite.

At the moment, we generally make these big blocks of functionality available to our (new) employees.

New employee desktop
1. This is the software on the desktop for a new employee.

Over time, most employees adjust that by adding individual links to Office and other tools to their desktop or task bar.

This is the workplace that the video showed. All suites and the intranet have been broken up into building blocks to create a personal digital workplace, in this case for a Sales-type role.

The new toolset as seen in the video.
2. This is what I saw on the video – a selection of all kinds of specific tools, without any mention of the word “intranet”.

What are the implications of this concept?
I think this is a plausible direction, but it raises many questions:

  • If it is pick-‘n-mix, will some apps be mandatory or will you leave it to the employee? Or will you have mandatory or recommended sets for different roles within the organization?
  • Will people have the same patience to create their own start page and learn different tools in the work environment as they have in their private life?
  • Will more employees spend effort in personalizing their start page than the reported 5% that has ever personalized their intranet homepage?
  • Who will be responsible for management and governance? Will it be one role or will every department have responsibility for their own role apps? Or a mix?
  • Will the responsible have any influence on a consistent user interface for internal and external apps? Or will they only be responsible for a set of design standards that every department will have to stick to?
  • Will  “consistent design and user interface” still matter, or is it sufficient that apps adhere to common usability and accessibility standards? (And what would those standards be?)
  • Will the responsible brand apps and if yes, which ones? (after all, we all love email and spreadsheets, and nobody has ever branded those)
  • Will it mean that the employee can pick-‘n-mix another set of apps for their mobile or tablet device, if that works better for them?

What do you think?
I am building this theory on the basis of one deleted video, so I may be completely off the mark. 🙂  On the other hand, it may as well be a plausible and tangible example of a digital workplace of the near future. I certainly have never seen something like figure 2 in real life yet, and I am very curious if this will ever happen. Have you seen anything like it, or are you working on something like this? Or do you think this will take a different direction altogether? Please share!

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The oldest mobile intranet in history?

Mobile IntranetIt was the year 2004.
It was long before the iPhone was introduced.
It was long before the word “app” had the meaning it has today. If it had any meaning at all.
You could say it was the year 3 BA:  Before App. 🙂

The BlackBerry was all the rage in the corporate world. Everyone wanted one, and only senior management had one at that time. Having a BlackBerry meant you had arrived!

That year our team launched an “icon” on the BlackBerry’s home screen, that opened a small part of our intranet. That part of the intranet that we thought would be useful if you were not in the office.

This must have been one of the first mobile intranets. It was created and introduced by another part of the team I worked in, and all credit goes to the people who had the foresight and the skills to come up with the concept and make it happen. With this post I want to give them the applause that they deserve.

While reading about mobile intranets, and people proudly showing that they have features such as an employee directory especially for mobile use, I suddenly remembered our old BlackBerry app and that I still had some screenshots. So, for history’s sake, here are some more details. Remember that all information shown is outdated.

The intranet “icon” was automatically pushed to your BlackBerry, but not everyone was aware of it, or how you could use it. Of course we communicated, but we did not reach everyone. But everyone who knew about it, was very happy with it. It was still functioning when I left the company in 2011.

This was the icon. It showed our intranet’s logo.

BBAppHome
On the top right you see the icon leading to the intranet. It was the intranet logo, unfortunately not very well visible.

If you clicked it, you could choose 3 options.

1. Stock Quote

This was updated regularly throughout the day. I have not used this much myself, but I know there were people who could not do without it.

Stock Quote
The Stock Quote, updated every 15 mins. or so.

2.  News

  We showed Corporate News and External News only, because we could not target the regional and local news, as we did on the regular intranet Homepage. When I was sitting at an airport, it was good to be able to learn about organizational changes as soon as they were posted. I might have been on my way to a business manager who had made a promotion…or a sudden exit :-).

News
The News. Only limited news types could be shown.

3. Employee Directory

This was really useful for me, especially when travelling. You could search for someone, and their name, position, telephone numbers, email address and assistant would be shown. I have often used this functionality  when my plane was delayed or cancelled, or when I just wanted to email or call someone while being on the road.
If anyone in my audience is still  discussing an employee directory for use on-the-go: yes, this is useful. I think it should be one of the first things to implement on a mobile intranet!

Employee Directory
The Employee Directory. This has been really useful to me.

I hope you liked this little blast from the past! 🙂

If you would like to see more modern mobile or responsive intranets:

Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Watch. Intranets. Innovate.

This watch just looks smart!
This watch just looks smart!

In the old days, it was customary to receive a gold watch from your employer, after you had worked there for 25 or 40 years or when you retired.

Today, it is more likely you will receive a watch when you START your new job. It will not be gold, it will be smart. 🙂

I really like watches, but I have trouble imagining how a smartwatch could add something to my day. I have already turned most PC and telephone notifications off, because I do not want to be distracted all the time. Do I really need another kind of noise? Is there any essential functionality that would not involve a notification?

Perhaps you have other ideas. Perhaps you already have implemented smartwatch functionalities or other wearable tech on your intranet. Perhaps you have something else which is really innovative on your intranet. If you have, please think about sharing this with the world!

I am proud to be one of the judges for the Intranet Innovation Awards this year, and I am looking forward to interesting innovations on intranets and digital workplaces. I am mostly interested in “things” that improve productivity, but I am open to all good ideas :-).

What is in it for you?

As you probably know, the Awards provide a really good insight into the current state of the intranet/digital workplace. Everyone will benefit from that. But there are also benefits for yourself:

  • Describing what makes your intranet (or part of it) innovative, will make you rethink your intranet’s goals and purpose. When is the last time you did that?
  • By sharing your insights and screenshots you will contribute to the collective knowledge of all intranet folks
  • You have the chance to win a nice crystal trophy and a lot of career-enhancing attention
  • You and your intranet may turn into a good example for your peers for years to come

So come on, make some screenshots, complete and dispatch the entry form before June 6, and feel good about yourself!

How to participate:

There are five categories for the Gold Awards, and organisations can submit for one or more of these categories:

1. Core intranet functionality

2. Social, collaboration and communication

3. Business and frontline

4. Enterprise mobility

5. Intranet rework

You can find much more information, as well as useful tips, on the site.

I am looking forward to all entries!