Some people call me “obsessed” with SharePoint permissions, and especially with breaking permission inheritance from the parent.
They are correct and I’ve got good reason (or so I think): the majority of issues and support questions have to do with non-standard permissions and people not fully understanding the consequences of creating unique permissions that they or their predecessors have done, knowingly or accidentally.
So while pondering my personal branding 🙂 I thought it might be better to embrace the options that Microsoft has created for us to share freely. After all, this thing is not called SharePoint for nothing! In Office365 everything is geared towards sharing content, without any considerations or warnings that many of these options create unique permissions, so who am I to worry, or go against that principle?
And what’s more, people who create unique permissions keep me in work! There’s nothing I like better than a complicated permissions puzzle, so if I want to stay away from boring discussions about columns that do not align 100% or the exact dimensions or rotation speed of carousels, why not make sure that I create some interesting work for myself?
So, let us make sure we all share content freely and without abandon!
In order to do that, I have collected these 7 principles for site owners.
1. Never give anyone “Read” access
This restricts the options for these people to share content. You will give them ugly words to share with (“Restricted Link”…ugh!), and they will need your approval. Come on, these are grown ups that know what they are doing! If they want to share a document, they must have a good reason. And you, as a site owner, have better things to do than approve or decline sharing requests.
Treat everyone the same and give them Contribute permissions at the very least. Who knows, they may have some great insights to add to your policy or project statement. Added April 27, 2017: And they may even help you design your homepage and other pages! Thank you for that addition, Helena! (See comments below)
2. Always use individual permissions
Well, you know there is this site group option of Owners, Members and Visitors, but who wants to be in a group, if the only thing joining you is having an interest in a document? Why bother puzzling out which group would be the best option for a person? You know it never fits 100% – this document is interesting to Stella, Eric and Tom, while the other document is interesting to Stella, Tom and Cindy. How can you make groups if every document has their own audience?
Surely your audience consist of all individuals, with individual needs. Using individual permissions will give you the most freedom to match each document with the people who really need it.
3. Break permissions inheritance freely
When in doubt, break! Or when your boss tells you so, of course. SharePoint has the option to allow access on a granular level, so why not make use of it and enjoy this to the fullest? You can pinpoint any document library, folder or even document or list item and give exactly the right individuals access.
4. Never use the “restricted link” option
Restricted…what an ugly word, it feels so….limited! Why would you want to impose restrictions? When you want to share content, select the “Can read” link to make sure that your intended audience can read it and not bother you with requests for access. Even better, use the “Can Edit” option. After all, your audience may have great ideas to share in that document. Policies and other controlled documents are a thing of the past, let’s crowdsource them all!
5. Immediatelyaccept any Access Request
Hit the “Accept” button and do it quickly, or you may lose a perfectly good reader or editor of the page or document you are sharing. Be ashamed of yourself that you have excluded someone from your content! Rejoice that they go to so much trouble to see it!
Only then, but only if you have the time, find out why and to which content this person wanted access.
6. Never review your permissions
You may be tempted to add Caroline, John and Marcia into a group if you see their name appear on every document, but who are you to decide they need to be grouped? As mentioned in paragraph 2, they are all unique individuals and throwing them into a group only because they read or edit the same documents does not do justice to their uniqueness. And the excuse of “groups are easier to manage for me” is a bit selfish, don’t you think?
7. Stop managing permissionsaltogether
This may be the best advice anyone can give you.
After all, is it not a bit conceited to say that “you own this content” or “you are managing this site”? The other people in the site know very well what they are doing, and they will take care of ensuring that this content is available to all the right people! Together you know who needs, or is interested in, your information. Over time, your content will gravitate towards exactly the correct audience.
To make sure that your unique permissions grow fast enough, you may want to enter in a competition with other site owners. It may well be that companies like ShareGate have a tool that can measure unique permissions. If they don’t, I suggest they develop one quickly.
Let me know how it goes!
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The 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:
Determine your needs
Find a site
Give your audience correct permissions
Decide on “show names”
Decide on one or multiple entries per person
Visibility of entries
Welcome page and thank you page
Testing your survey
Launching your survey
Gathering and analyzing results
Deactivating the survey
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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)
Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In my recent training sessions I noticed that my trainees thought managing Promoted Links was a bit of a pain. I wholeheartedly agree!
If you would like to know more about SharePoint Online Promoted Links, please read Greg Zelfond’s post first. It explains when and how to use this.
And…here’s how I would like to see it changed. Fortunately I can do most of these myself, but now I have to do this (or instruct a site owner) for every instance.
1. Change the default view (DIY).
When you have just added the app, you will see an empty page that prompts you to go to the “All Promoted Links” view. Why is that view not there in the first place? Or even an “Add” button at the very least?
When you make that needless extra click, you get to the screen I would like to see:
I usually start by changing the default view into the All Promoted Links view. If I want to see how things look, I can easily switch to the Tiles View.
2. Allow adding the image from a library (Microsoft).
These are links, so it is logical that you have to paste or type the link to where the image leads you. But why do you also have to add a link to a picture? It would be so much easier if you could select an image from your PC or a library, like you can on Pages.
This turned out to be really annoying for my trainees, and frankly, a tad outdated.
3. Add an edit button to the “All Promoted Links” view (DIY).
When you have added some Promoted Links and you want to take a look, you check the Tile View for a preview.
Looks nice, but suppose I want to switch the order of the middle and right link, or have to change the URL.
How do I do that? There is no option to select the item for editing. You can go to the “All Promoted Links” view and edit the list in Datasheet view, but you can not edit everything that way.
So, I have instructed my trainees to add an Edit button to the “All Promoted Links” view.
Click the List Tab
Select the “All Promoted Links” View
Click List Tab again
Select Modify View
Add an Edit button to the view and click OK
4. Make the “Tiles” view editable (Microsoft).
The Tiles view is not adjustable. All tiles will be shown on your page and there is no way to filter, limit the number that is being displayed, or add that edit button.
This means that you can not create one big list of Promoted Links and distribute them over various pages using a filter. Alas, you have to create a Promoted Links app for every page, or even per row if you want multiple rows each with its own header.
5. Show a preview of the link (Microsoft).
When you hover over a document name or over a hyperlink in the text, you will see the URL displayed in the bottom left of the page. This can help you decide if this is indeed the information you need. With a Promoted Link you see nothing, so you do not know if you are going to the place you are looking for.
6. Add the 150 * 150 px image rendition to the image library (DIY).
If you use Promoted Links often, you may want to add the image dimensions to your image renditions. It shows you quickly if your picture will show up acceptably, especially if it is not square.
In Publishing sites, go to Site Settings > Edit Image Renditions. (under Look and Feel)
Click Add New Item; add a name and the dimensions, and click Save.
Talking about the Image Rendition feature, did you know….oh no, I will leave that for another time…:-)
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We are moving from an old on-premise SharePoint intranet to one on SharePoint/Office365.
I have been using SharePoint Online from 2011 so I have become quite used to the interface and its regular changes. But I was very curious what my end-user colleagues would think of the new SharePoint and I recently had the opportunity to train a number of them in the new environment. Our goal for this training was to get an idea of how people would react to the new platform, and which elements would be clear immediately and which would need more help and instruction.
All participants (except one) had experience with managing SharePoint sites. They also knew this was an experimental training so they were encouraged to be outspoken about their findings and suggestions. Each got their own test site in our test tenant, which is on first release.
These are the findings of that first classroom training:
1. The Office365 Homepage
When you log on to Office365 for the first time, you get a lot of pop-ups about Office365. While that is helpful for new users, for this purpose it was annoying because people were less interested in Office365 than in SharePoint.
Clicking around opens up a ton of new screens, which was not universally liked.
2. The SharePoint Homepage
This was a bit confusing, because people have never had that, and the page was mostly empty. The test sites did not show in everyone’s page, despite them having personal access. I do not know if that is a search indexing thing or that you must have visited the site before it is shown in your “recent” sites.
As soon as everyone was on their site’s homepage, I told them to “Follow” it to be able to revisit it quickly, and everyone got it.
3. Site Contents
I took them to Site Contents, and then I found that some of my trainees had the old Site Contents with tiles, and some of them had the new experience . That was a bit confusing, but it was a good illustration of the ongoing changes that everyone can expect.
4. Document Libraries
Document Libraries were already in the New Experience, and I was a bit worried if people would be able to overcome the gap in look-and-feel between our old SharePoint and the new one.
It was a pleasant surprise to notice that, with just limited instructions, people took to it straight away. Everyone saw the benefits of the Pin To Top functionality, and I saw two people nudge each other happily when they learned about the library and document information pane, that also tells you who has deleted a document. No more guessing or blaming SharePoint or IT!
Unfortunately the Lists were still on the “old experience” with the tabs and the ribbon. While I have always loved the ribbon in The Office Suite, I have never taken to it in SharePoint, and I am more than happy to see it go.
My trainees did not use Lists much (an opportunity for later!) but they got it quickly enough.
6. Deleting and Restoring
Deleting and Restoring content is a topic high on my agenda. We often get panicky calls from people who have “lost documents” and have never heard about the Recycle Bin. I added a few exercises with deleting and restoring documents and list items, told them what to do themselves first, and then how to get help. It all went smoothly once people knew how long things will be stored, what goes via the Recycle Bin and what does not, and what they can do themselves and when it is time to contact the site collection admin.
7. Quick Links/Navigation
The Quick Links (team site) and Navigation (Publishing site) caused some confusion since it is a mixture pf settings and edits, and moving the menu items around resulted in unwanted indentation. It is also different from the custom-built navigation many people have used, so this will definitely need some more instructions.
8. Editing a page
Editing a site’s homepage turned out to be quite easy for the trainees. Everyone in the audience had experience with managing Publishing sites. They sighed happily when I showed them they can now insert images from their PC in the Content zone without having to upload them to SharePoint first.
Everyone had already embedded a video before I even talked about it 🙂
Editing the (basic) team site homepage was even easier.
9. Image Library/Image Renditions
We have some recommended image sizes preconfigured in the Image Renditions and the trainees thought that was pretty useful. (It shows you how an image will look in that size). In our current environment, you only see it when you have added it to a page, and that can lead to surprises. 🙂
10. Promoted Links
Promoted Links have been designated as an important tool for nice looking links to other content in formal sites. Oops, this was a bit hard. Of course this is a new functionality so people did not know it beforehand. But I also think that the default configuration can be improved. That will be another blog.
All in all, my trainees did quite well. But then they were experienced and motivated. I think they benefited from my little bit of hand-holding and assuring them that most was still there, just in another place or with another name.
The only person who was a bit lost was the person with no earlier SharePoint experience.
”SharePoint” or “the intranet” is generally not the first thing people think of when an organization changes. But there will always be a moment when people are looking to align their teamsites to the new organization structure.
If you are supporting SharePoint users in your organization, this may be a good “toolkit” to support site owners who are confronted with a major change.
I wrote the following posts earlier, but I have now ordered them tfrom overview to detail, which suits the process better.
First, the new owner should know what (s)he is the owner of.
Which site(s) are in scope, how are they related, what do they contain and who can access what?
Of course this should ideally be done by the former owner, but in real life this is not always feasible, since the former owner has generally left their position by the time the new owner arrives. I have to step in quite often.
When the new site owner knows what (s)he has inherited, it is time to review the content. Is all content still relevant, do subsites or documents have to be moved to another place, can stuff be archived, does content have to be updated or new content have to be created?
While the new owner will probably make the first adjustments during review , there are some more detailed changes that need careful investigation and planning beforehand. When changes in metadata are required, for instance, you have to understand how your list or library has been set up, and how a change is going to affect your content. There is a big difference in behaviour of a library that picks metadata from a Choice field compared to a Lookup List.
I always forget if I have to click the tile (yes) or the … (no) to open up the list/library.
So, will my concerns be gone after the design change?
This is the new design
Eyecatcher: 3 new content blocks
Number of Site Visits
I am not very active in my Office 365 environment, so the numbers displayed in the screenshot are not exactly informative, but you will get the gist. I am curious to see if the trending content itself will be displayed eventually, apart from the number.
I think this will create welcome transparency.
2. A new way to create new items
Instead of the “Add an app” tile you now select “New” and you can pre-select the desired item you want to add.
It appears that lists and libraries are no longer called “apps” – this calls for a happy dance!
If you click “Library”, you will go immediately to the new document library creation page.
If you click “apps” you will go to the known grid of app tiles.
I have not tested the Lists and Subsites yet.
3. The actual content
Underneath, your site’s real content is displayed.
These are no longer displayed as tiles, but as a list. The list is sorted on list type, and then alphabetically on name, displaying icon, name, type, number of items and last modified date.
The subsites are displayed on a separate tab:
What do I think?
I like this new design.
I especially like the list of apps with their smaller icons, because the smaller icons show more variety than the big blue tiles, and are therefore easier to distinguish.
The modified date is a granted wish. I am totally fine with “one hour ago” or “two days ago” but when it is more than a month ago, I prefer to see the exact date.
Sorting the list on List type is helpful.
The Created and Modified Dates for the subsites are also very helpful.
I still have to see what extra value the 3 new blocks on top will have, but I can imagine these will be useful.
Also, it looks like older versions of SharePoint. While this may be a disappointment to some, at this moment it is very welcome to me. The company I work for is moving to Office 365 and I am concerned that our users will be totally lost in their new environment.
What do I miss?
The description of the list or library.
The link to go back to the new look-and-feel!!!
When I noticed the new design, I found it had been changed across all my sites. That annoyed me because I did not have a screenshot of “before”.
Then I noticed a link, bottom left, saying: “Return to Classic SharePoint”. I created some screenshots of the new situation “just in case” and clicked that link…
All my sites turned back to the Classic look, with no link to the new design 😦
I can only hope that this change will be rolled out irreversibly in a few months. But if you know how to reset it, please let me know!
[Update June 13, 2016: Fortunately Andrew Gilleran knew the solution: Log out and log in again. A new session will restore the new look-and-feel! Thanks, Andrew!]
In my opinion, the way to embed Knowledge Management in an organization is to a. avoid using the term “Knowledge Management” as much as possible (like “Employee Engagement”, but that is another topic) and b. keep it practical and aligned with the needs of the business or team.
That means you will still have to know the theory and do the thinking process, but you need to translate it into one or more products that work for you.
This is a small, but powerful, example of practical knowledge management: a list of good practices. This is one of the Knowledge Products from my earlier post.
In my earlier role, we had a team of 5 people creating Business Solutions, sites that were custom-configured to facilitate processes. Scroll through the tag “Business Example” to see what I mean. We advertised our services as “We have the experience, and we configure all solutions in a consistent, user-friendly, low-maintenance way”. We had expectations to live up to!
What did we do?
One of our tools was our “Good Practices List”. Here we added experiences, common issues, uncommon bugs, workarounds, useful URL’s, and other things we had found, wanted to share and/or did not want to forget. Examples:
We agreed on a standard button from a button-creation website, and stored preferred shape, shadow, colours, typeface and font information.
We collaborated on a good explanation of the difference between targeting and permission settings.
We discussed the pros and cons of Choice and Lookup columns and as a result created some recommendations of when to use which type. (I turned it into a blog post)
We stored code snippets and instructions on how to use them for instance to change text colour on the edit page of a list item.
Everyone was free to add or comment on each item. We discussed new items and changes every two weeks in our team call.
At first, we all felt a bit hesitant. Sometimes we thought: “is this important enough to even write about it, let alone call it a good practice?” But once we got used to it, and we started to re-use more and more ideas from our list, it started to become a game. Who could add the most practices? Who found the next unexpected issue in our rather finicky content query tool? Who would finally find the code to use conditionally coloured texts in list columns?
What were the results?
We became more aware of the benefits of having and sharing good practices. We learned about so many issues, small and large, that with every new solution we created, we thought more deeply about implications of changes over time, common misunderstandings from users, daily and on-demand maintenance etc.
We turned out to be complementing each other: one was very good at code; the other with visual design, etc. Each of us had our specialties that the others could learn from. We were stimulated to show our talents. This also resulted in shorter development cycles (we did not have to reinvent every wheel), and a better distribution of projects over the team.
Our solutions became indeed more consistent.
I am still using the knowledge from that list. Many SharePoint functionalities have not changed that much over time and some practices are still relevant. I have created a similar list in my current role.
It is not magic. In fact, the list itself was pretty straightforward:
It was just being practical and realizing that creating and sharing experiences is fun and helped the team forward. It gave us all recognition.
So, this simple SharePoint list supported Knowledge Management AND Gamification! 🙂