The new SharePoint app for iOS

spapp (2)I am not the most frequent user of the SharePoint app for iOS. Nonetheless, I am currently test-driving the new SharePoint app.
I saw the request for testers for the new app mentioned on Twitter a few weeks ago, emailed my interest, and last week I was invited to download it.

Getting started

I downloaded the app via Test Flight and replaced my current app with the new one, which was pretty seamless without another sign-in.
If you are curious…the SharePoint app in the regular App store is still the current one.

The current app has 5 navigation items; the new one has 3.
The items “Links”, “Sites” and “Persons” have been incorporated into a new item called “Find” which is an overview of your content and activity.

So, let’s discuss those 3 new items, shall we? Unfortunately everything is in Dutch and I have not found a way to change the language in the app, but I will explain.

 

Find

This is the landing page and it is an overview of content, sites, persons etc.

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New app: An overview of content on the page and 3 navigation items at the bottom.

The chapters are:

  • Search – for the search box
  • Quick access – these are recently visited items
  • Frequently visited sites – clicking on “More sites” shows you all sites in Card setup – unlike the current app which shows only an icon
  • Persons that you work with – which makes it painfully clear I am all alone in my tenant 🙂
  • Recent documents – documents I have recently created or modified
  • Links (not shown here, you need to scroll down) – which merely links to my no-longer-supported external website and my main team site. I do not see much added value in this chapter in my tenant, but I think this should be comparable to the Featured Links on the SharePoint landing page in the browser.

The new Sites page (with tabs on top: Frequent sites, Followed sites, Suggested sites) displays cards, just like the browser:

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Sites are shown as cards, just like in the browser.

The old Sites page (with tabs Frequent sites and Followed sites) looks rather dull in comparison:

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The current app displays sites just with the icon. Look at the bottom for the old navigation menu with 5 items.

 

News

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News landing page

The News overview comes from the Modern pages and is taken from the SharePoint landing page.

App-NewsinBrowser
This is News as I see it on the SharePoint page in the browser.

If you open a News item in the app, you will see this:

IMG_0118
News item. You can like, comment, share and bookmark

This is the same as the News page in the current app.

I expected to be able to swipe or scroll through all News items, but you can only view the next item when you click the back arrow and go back to the News landing page.

Me

The third navigation item is Me

IMG_0121.PNG

This has two tabs:

  • Recent – content I have recently viewed, created or modified)
  • Saved – everything I have bookmarked.

From this page I can go to My Profile, which shows some more recent files and emails

InkedIMG_0123_LI

There is also a Gear Wheel at the Me-page which leads to personal and app settings.

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Sites

Of course I am very interested to know what is behind the Site cards. So I opened the Summary Links site:

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This is the same as the current app. By default you see latest news and activity.
Clicking Home in the menu leads you to the Homepage as you see it in the browser, so the Homepage is not the first page you see when opening a site in the app. Weird…unless Microsoft thinks that the site Homepage is losing relevance – which would save site owners a lot of hassle in “designing a homepage”. (My Homepages are still Classic btw – does it make a difference if you use this with Modern Sites?)

Viewing documents in sites is easy, but you will need the OneDrive app.
If you want to edit a document, you will also need the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps.

What do I think?

I like the fact that the app has become slightly more compact. That “Find” page is quite useful as it gives you a quick overview of relevant content. It is a mix of the Office365 landing page (which I would appreciate as my browser homepage any day) and the Delve “Me” page.

I would have liked to scroll or swipe through all News, to catch up with everything in one go. The home sofa is an excellent place to do that; I know from peers that making company news available “at home” has resulted in peak views in the evening as people  prefer, or have more time, to read news at home.
I can imagine that the News tab alone is enough reason why people would want to use the SharePoint app.

For the rest, I can imagine this is a useful app but I am a bit surprised that this needs to be tested. It does not differ that much from the current one. Are all Microsoft apps being tested this way? Or have I missed something in the functionality?

 

 

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Using Yammer for a business process

YammerWe tend to think of Yammer as an optional communication and collaboration channel, where you can discuss topics and share information with and ask questions to all your colleagues, independent of where they are in the organization or on the globe.

But Yammer can also be used as part of a business process.

I recently talked to a Retail Sales organization that has been using Yammer for several years for a number of business processes.

1. Sharing information about customers.

A Yammer group has been created for each major customer.

Sales people visit shops, shop managers and customer head offices.
If they see empty shelves where their product should have been, incorrectly priced products, packaging with peeling labels, a nice display idea from a competitor, or anything else they find remarkable, they take a picture and upload that to the Yammer group with their comments.
This way they share it immediately with colleagues and the back-office, and the back-office can take instant action if necessary.
(For long-time readers, this is very similar to the process we had to facilitate with a Team Site as Yammer was at that time not an approved tool within that company)

YammerBus-Nicedisplay
Example of something interesting at the customer.

2. Flagging opportunities for improvement.

A dedicated Yammer group facilitates this process.
Whenever something could be done better, this is mentioned in this group, such as:
“I notice that the company flag at the Customer Center looks a bit worse for wear – can we have a new one?” or  “Can we please agree on a standard update interval for prices as I now have to find the latest prices in my own files rather than in the system?”
The Sales Managers discuss these suggestions and take the necessary action.

YammerBus-ImprovementsPost
Example of a potential improvement: reduce postage costs for samples

 

3.  Sharing winning strategies and achievements.

Another group has been created to share wins and winning strategies, as well as losses. Of course the Sales people are eager to share their wins, or show how they have added value or made a customer happy! Losses can also be a source for learning of course.
That information helps colleagues in two ways: they know what is happening with that customer, and they may learn different tactics to increase their negotiation repertoire.

YammerBus-Winexample
Example of win and interesting developments.

 

Not perfect

Is this perfect as a business system?
No. Yammer is not a CRM or Task Management system and conversations are easily lost without a process in place to capture and follow-up on them. Management and back office need to capture all posts manually and turn them into action lists and reports.
Posts are sometimes shared in the AllCompany group instead of in the group. (But you know you can move Yammer posts to different groups, right?)

YammerBus-Move conversation
In case you did not know – you can move conversations to a(nother) group!

 

But it works for them – the mobile Yammer app saves time for the Sales people, who are the face of the organization. They are on the road a lot and taking a picture with their phone and explaining in a few words at which branch of which customer they are and what they see, is quick, easy and useful.

As the Sales force does not often meet at the office, general improvements or the sharing of sales tactics might be forgotten without the Yammer group – but with the app they can share details immediately from any location.

Examples work!

The scenarios above may not work for you. But I have found that sharing examples help people to imagine what they can do with Yammer.

The other day I showed a rather skeptical audience these, and some other examples, of using Yammer. I also explained that, contrary to email chains, Yammer conversations are visible for people who get added to the group, e.g. new employees in the team.
All of a sudden one person said: “Aha! I am a Subject Matter Expert and I get a lot of emails from different people, asking me the same questions over and over again. If we use a Yammer group, we can share the questions and answers with everyone. That will save us all time. ”
We created that group there and then – it was also a good demo for the audience 🙂

Can you share some examples of how you have used Yammer for business processes?

350 intranet promotion videos!

350 videosRecently I passed the 350 mark in my collection of intranet and Yammer promotion videos. Time for another modest celebration!

New trends

More and more intranets are promoting a section for video content, so I guess this is a new trend.
Otherwise, “simplification” and “user feedback” still play an important role in every relaunch, and so they should 🙂 .
Also, more and more intranets (but not all!) are social, and “usable on all devices” is starting to be the norm, rather than the exception.

Of course my collection is meant for your information and amusement, but I occasionally hear that people are using it as a serious starting point for their own video. In general, I can suggest the following steps:

1. Check what related organizations have done

Use the filter and see what your industry peers are doing, and what their intranets look like, if the video shows that. Most selections contains a variety of styles (talking heads, animations, demo’s, stories, serious, funny, etc. ) that may give you ideas about the sort of video you would like to create.

2. Determine your boundaries

Watch my list of rather extreme videos. Do you also want to create a full movie, a very silly video, have a hysterical voice-over, or would you rather stay on safer ground?

3. Watch metaphors for solving common business issues

If you are looking for metaphors of solving common business problems such as too many emails, or not knowing where the expertise is in your company, this selection may help you on your way.

4. When in doubt, create a demo

A well-made demo is always worth the investment, so if you have no other needs or wishes, a demo may be the best way moving forward.

  • you can show employees how to work with the intranet, reducing the need for extensive classroom or webinar training
  • you can show employees how they are supposed to work, if a new way of working is among your goals for the new intranet. In a demo video it can be done subtly and matter-of-fact.
  • it can be used for onboarding new employees for a long time after the launch
  • if you share it, we can see your intranet! 🙂

This is my selection of good demos.

I hope you can use these tips to create your own video. And please remember to put it online for others to enjoy!

It never ceases to amaze and delight me that so many people enjoy my videos. I even got sort of suggested for the Diamond Award of IntranetsNow 2017!

Treat!

And finally, to celebrate, I have a very special video: the one that was made to celebrate the launch of the new intranet of my former employer Sara Lee, in 2005. It has not been added to my collection yet – you saw it here first! It is “vintage”, so please ignore the bad quality 🙂

And then to think this all started as a whimsical blog post!

Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net (“350” added by me)

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.

 

 

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