With Halloween upon us, here are a couple of fright-inducing wishes for people that manage or support your Office365-based intranet or digitalworkplace. Courtesy of your “Wicked Witch of the Dutch” 🙂
This post has been inspired by Comms Curses by Helen Reynolds.
So, be aware if someone throws one of these spells on you.
Computer and network curses
May your bandwidth be forever restricted
My your wifi drop when you are presenting your new intranet to your Board of Management
May your migrations be throttled due to too much content being migrated at the same time
May your computer need a mandatory reboot in the middle of a global webinar that you are hosting This happened to me once. Thanks to whoever threw that spell on me!
Office 365 Functionality curses
Office 365 has tons of good, well-designed functionalities that you take for granted. So what if someone curses you with sudden changes?
May all your embedded videos start autoplaying at the highest volume when you open the page
May Search and Delve forget their security trimming As if their normal behaviour is not puzzling enough!
May all pictures on your SharePoint modern pages be deleted
May all your Flows stop working without warning
May all SharePoint document and list item permissions be unique
An organizational change can have an enormous impact on your digital workplace. Trust me, I have been there. So you can create a lot of panic and work when you throw an organizational curse someone’s way:
May your intranet need to merge with that of the organization that has just bought your organization Are you already looking forward to the discussions about who has got the best one?
May part of your organization be divested, making it necessary to move that part of your Office365 content to another tenant This happened at my earlier employer, and I tried to write about the project, but it was so much and so complicated that I stopped
May your CEO suddenly come up with the suggestion to replace Office365 with the platform of this nice small vendor that (s)he just met at this event Good luck with talking him or her out of that brilliant idea!
May your Office365 support and/or tenant administration be outsourced I wrote Ouch-Sourcing about this – and I may write more
May your introduction video, meant for employees only, go viral after being uploaded without hiding or security and being included in my Video Collection
The havoc that Microsoft brings upon us now and then is reality rather than imagined 😉 but just in case you want to scare your enemy, let’s go:
May Microsoft introduce new standard functionality that you have just custom-developed yourself My previous organization had just spend a lot of time and money on a custom-built News solution, when Microsoft announced…News!
May the latest update turn your MVP into a NVP
May Microsoft roll out unwanted changes without warning or without the option to undo them.
I am working on the counter-spells but until now I have not been very successful…
Pixel witch image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Noise image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Voodoo doll image courtesy of Kheat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
News image courtesy of rawpixel.com on pexels.com
Witch with pumkin image courtesty of Lekkyjustdoit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In earlier posts we have looked at SharePoint News and the News digest from the sender’s perspective. It is time to look at it from a reader’s point of view!
1. You can find SharePoint News in the following places:
The site where it has been published
The site overview (click “See all” on the web part after publishing 5 articles)
News digests (Newsletters), consisting of the above, gathered with previews in an email
The SharePoint app
“News from sites” on the SharePoint landing page
All “News from sites” if you click the “See all” on the SharePoint landing page
To avoid a very long post, I have compiled some screenshots in this deck. You may want to watch it full-screen:
2. You will only see News articles to which you have access.
The News digest is an exception – it can be sent to you and you may not have access to one or more of the articles.
3. The SharePoint web part on the landing page can not be configured or removed.
So if anyone is posting News articles and you have access, you will see them there, whether you want it or not.
Our project was a first and we did not want to show the News to everyone just yet. That is why we made the News site and the News digest available to a limited group of people only, even thought the content was not confidential. We simply did not want to confront people with something new which may be there only once. (In theory 🙂 )
We received some comments of people in the target audience because it “obscured their view of the Frequent Sites”.
4. You can like a page and/or comment on it.
You will find the options at the bottom of the page. The author will receive an email now and then with the likes and comments. If you @mention someone, they will receive an email immediately. This is great for urgent remarks to the author, and also to inform a colleague about this article.
5. You can save a news article for later.
This will come in useful when you do not have time to read it now, or in case you will want to keep it. There are 3 ways to do that:
At the bottom of the post you will see an option to “Save for later”.
You can also click the label of any News article that you see on the “News from sites” overviews.
In the SharePoint app you can click the … at the right of each article and select “Save for later”
There are 3 places to see your saved articles:
On the News cards in “News from sites”, saved articles will show with a “filled” label as opposed to have the outline only (Is this proper English? 🙂 )
On your SharePoint landing page, in the left-hand menu under “Saved”
In the SharePoint app News, under Filter (on top) you can select the “Saved Items”.
I would have expected this to be on Delve, together with bookmarks. But no.
6 a. The SharePoint app (iOS and Android) is excellent for reading News.
The Newsfeed (in order of First Published Date) looks great and your saved items are available in a separate place. (Click the filter on top to see only the “Saved Items”)
You can easily read the News in public transport or in the evening on the sofa!
News in the app. The third item is “saved for later”. You can see all saved items nby changing the filter on top.
This items is “saved for later”.
I often hear that people “do not have time to read the news during the day”.
I also heard a story from a bank that made the News available on smartphones (this was pre-SharePoint News and app) and they saw a massive spike in views around 8 pm, when people were ready to settle in for the evening. Apparently employees do not mind spending private time on work-related News, as long as they can consume it at a time that suits them.
6 b. The Android app is very sticky when it comes to post-publication changes.
Both iOS and Android are fast to show freshly published News articles. But while the iOS app is fast to respond to post-publication changes (e.g. items being renamed, edited, depublished or removed) the Android app is very slow and can take several hours to change. Some unpublished or deleted items never even go away, providing you with a 404 (not found) message when you click them.
Android phones and fast-moving news such as IT outages and their fixes are therefore not a good combination.
7. Make it a habit to click on the title to open a News article.
Clicking on the image in the News Digest will only show you the image. Everywhere else you can also click on the image. Weird.
8. You will get notifications of new News articles in the app.
This happens when someone you work with frequently posts a new article. This is determined by the Microsoft Graph (the machine that also provides you with suggestions of documents, sites and people) based on your interactions, so there is not much you can do about it 🙂
9. Alerts suck big time.
If you do not like to wait until you get a News digest or an app notification, you may think about setting an Alert. Please don’t – Alerts do not work.
Here’s what happens:
If you set an Alert based on “All changes” you will get two Alerts – one with the raw URL and one with the title, content and metadata. After that, you will get notified of all changes, of course.
If you set an Alert for “When new items are added” you get…nothing!
I also tried a Flow but the “Send email when new file is added” did not work (404 error) as it links to that “raw” URL which gets overwritten. Only once did I receive the correct URL and I have no clue why.
If someone has found a Flow that works for this scenario, please share!
Using a filtered view (Published items, “version contains .0”) did not solve the issue with Alerts or Flow. Besides, would any reader know that?
10. You can unlike a comment, but not news post.
Be careful with your likes on news posts: they stay there.
However, you can unlike a comment to a news post.
1. You need 5 published News articles before you can send a News digest.
Frankly, this one drove me nuts. I knew I had seen Jasper Oosterveld and other people demo this functionality, so why did I not see the “See all” link on the homepage? Well, because I had only posted 4 items. Duh!
2. The order is by selecting – the first article you select is on top.
This is independent of the creating or publishing order. You can change the order of items after selecting them and clicking “Next”. Using the arrows you can then drag and drop the items into the desired order. The “x” will remove the item from the selection.
3. You can only send this to an Office Group, Distribution List or individuals.
It looks like you can send this only to items which appear in the Global Address List.
I would have expected you could also use a SharePoint site user group (from this site) or a personal Group of Contact Persons from your Outlook, but no. In this case, it meant that our project manager had to add all people to a Distribution List. (We are not using Office Groups yet)
4. It is unclear (to me) what determines the logo.
If you do nothing the logo displayed will be the new SharePoint logo
If you replace the site icon by another image, the logo displayed will be the old SharePoint logo
Your organizational logo (the one in the Office365 top bar) does not show in the News digest
I would like to know how this works, as I would prefer to distinguish the various News digests from one another by using a custom image. On suggestion of Juan Carlos I tested this with a modern team site (instead of a Communication site), but it did not work there either. That said, if there is one site template I would expect to allow more branding, it would be the Communication site!
There is already a number of User Voice requests out there for more options to manage the News digest look-and-feel.
At this moment Microsoft says in their support article that “It is not yet possible to make changes to the appearance of images, header area, or summary area of the email.” That gives hope for the future!
5. Your News digest will display the site’s name.
So make sure your site has a meaningful name.
This is of course another good way to tell the difference between this digest and another, but I still would like to have an image, too!
6. Access requests will be sent for the News article, not for the site.
If someone has been forwarded the News digest, clicks on the first item and then finds out they need access, they will send an access request to the News article.
You can click “Approve”, but
You will only give access to this specific article, so they will have to request access for the next article and the next, etc.
They will not see the header image because that lives in the Site Assets library, to which they do not have access.
I would suggest to treat the access requests as a general request for access to the complete SITE.
In our case, I have added a link to the Visitors group on the top of the site, so the project manager can quickly open the list and add new people.
He grumbled a bit but is IS a sign of success when people forward the News digest 🙂
By the way, the access request email looks really nice these days. Sadly you can only Approve from the email if you are an Owner (not if you use a custom role, like we do) AND you can not give permissions for the complete site from this mail, only to the link requested.
7. Access requests will go to the original name of the article.
Have you changed the title of your News article after publishing? When you get an access request, the original name will be shown. If you have forgotten what it was, never mind – another reason to give access to the complete site! 🙂
8. You can send this to external users.
The email and the articles will look just as nice for your external partners as for your internal colleagues, including all logos and pictures. Of course your external partners can only read the full articles when your site allows external sharing AND they have access.
9. Your News digest may end up in the Spam box.
I have had to dig my beautiful News digest out of several spam boxes, for different email addresses 😦
So if your first News digests do not get the attention they deserve, you may want to ask around if people have received the emails. (and help them mark it as Not Spam)
10. Place-holder for something that I do not know yet.
I am quite positive that something will turn up. If you have found something, please let me know!
Overall, our audience was positive about the News digest and we have already received inquiries from another team.
My next post will be about experiencing SharePoint News as a reader. Stay tuned!
Last week we distributed our first SharePoint News digest! One of our project teams wants to keep their audience informed with a Newsletter, and we decided to give the standard SharePoint News option a try.
So here are a few real-life things that your Communications colleague may want to know:
1. You can add max. 110 characters in the title, but will they all be shown?
A different number of characters will be displayed in any of the other places where the article is shown:
SharePoint homepage and News overview: 48
SharePoint site, 2 side-by-side: 43
SharePoint app: 59
News Digest email: 110
Please note this is based on my screen with my test text. The “i” is a very thin letter and you will get more in the same space if you only use that one (for instance 100 on the SharePoint homepage and overview) the “m” and “w” are wide letters and you will get fewer in that space (for instance 27 on the SharePoint homepage and overview.) So…it all depends…on your title!
And then I am not even talking about the body text!
These things can drive you nuts if you are trying to provide guidance! 🙂
2. When you have no background image, the title is black. With a background image, even a light one, the title goes white.
Seriously, I would never notice these things but my colleague did! It is a tad annoying as I think black would provide more contrast in many cases.
3 a. Every News article is a site page and lives in the Site Pages library.
In my organization we use SharePoint sites mainly for document management (well, until I came along 🙂 ). Every site has a homepage and that’s it. So working with the Site Pages library was a new thing for my colleagues.
Unfortunately all News article pages live in the same Site Pages library, including your site’s homepage and any other page not related to News. Make sure you do not accidentally delete those while cleaning up old News articles.
3 b. A News digest (Newsletter) is another page in that Site Pages library.
If you create a News digest, you create another page in that library. That makes it easy to make it available for everyone who is not in the distribution list for your News digest, but it can make it difficult to know what is what.
Microsoft suggests to add the date to the title, to identify it better, but…
4. There IS a way to know if a certain page is a News article or another page.
A big applause to Elio Struyf who figured this out first, as far as I know.
In your Site Pages library, click on “Add Column” and then “Show/hide columns” at the bottom of the popup.
Then select the “Promoted State” column to add to the view. Be aware that this column is only available on the page itself; NOT via the Library Settings. (trust me, I tried 🙂 ) And also remember to click “Apply”!
Promoted State: (Thanks to Susan Hanley)
0 = News digest or regular page
1 = News article page, not yet published
2 = News article page, published or unpublished
Please note that the default view (Grouped by Author) does not keep the column, so if you edit the view or log out it disappears. If you really want to make it “stick”, use it in a non-grouped view. Here’s an interesting thread about this topic.
5. You can unpublish an article.
This will keep the article in the Site Pages library, but will remove it from any views. Deleting the page has the same effect, but the article will be gone, of course.
You can unpublish as follows: Go to the Site Pages library, hover over the article and click the 3 vertical dots. Click “More” from the popup and then “Unpublish”. You can publish it again.
Please note this is not available everywhere – it may have to do with the site/web part type. I could not find it in some older posts in different site types, for instance.
6. The Version tells you whether a News article is published or unpublished.
I have been looking all over the place to find how to see the difference between a published and an unpublished News article, and guess what? It is the Version, which has a x.0 for a published article and a x.1 for an unpublished article.
Thank you, Susan Hanley!
7. The author mentioned is the person mentioned in Author Byline or Created By (if Author Byline is empty).
My Communications colleague helped the project team out with their first efforts, but she did not want to appear as the author. We tried to leave the header empty, the project manager edited the item, but everywhere her name showed up.
However, Marc Anderson came to the rescue here. If we replace the name of my colleague in the article header (this is called the Author Byline) by the project manager’s name, HIS name will appear in all places. As I have only one user in my tenant I can not show it in a screenshot, but I have tested it at work and yes, that is the solution.
8. News articles are shown sorted on First Published date.
This can be different from the Created date! Thanks to Christopher Webb for pointing that out. As we published the articles as soon as they were written, we had not noticed.
It makes therefore no difference for the order of appearance if you change the article after a few days. It does not suddenly show on top.
The order of appearance/moving for the side-by-side webpart is top left > top right > bottom left > bottom right > off page.
(WordPress, I would appreciate an “insert table” option!)
9. You can change the order of appearance on the News web part manually.
This will be useful if you want to keep one (or more) important News article visible for some time, without it being pushed off the page by more recent articles.
Edit the page and click “Edit webpart” next to the News web part. Scroll down in the menu on the right-hand side and click on “Select news to organize”.
Drag and drop the News Article(s) you want to keep in the same place, to the desired place(s) and click the x top right. Remember to remove it when it has outlived its purpose, as it will stay there otherwise. And please note that this order goes for this web part only!
10. All images that you upload will be added to the Site Assets library.
You will get a folder for Site Pages and then one folder per page.
In most cases you will end up with one folder per page with one image. What a waste of folders and clicks!
11. Images should ideally be 16:9 with a good focal point that is not too close to the edges.
Another “vague” specification that is a big change from the “images should be square, in .jpg or .gif format, max. 1600 pixels wide and max. 2 GB in size” spec that we used to work with before Modern SharePoint came along. In real life it means that you generally get a decent result without being able to predict it. Keep in mind that the header image is wide and low, but in other places the images are displayed as a “normal landscape image”‘.
A deep bow for two ladies who have figured out picture behaviour extensively, so you do not have to:
Beth Hall: How SharePoint handles images.
It is a long and thorough post, and a little bit beyond me at times, but my Communications colleague, who is an expert photographer and editor, understood it very well.
12. If you delete a News article, the associated folder and images will stay in the Site Assets library.
Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but just so you are aware!
13. Changing the title of the News article after publication will not change the URL, the name of the Site page or the name of the image folder.
So this means links will keep working, which is good. On the other hand, you will lose track of that new title once the item has disappeared from the overviews and from the mind.
14. The News web part is not very stable.
When I was creating screenshots for item 7, I kept getting an empty web part when returning from the web part menu. Reverting to an earlier version helped now and then, but as soon as I hit the “Edit” or “Select news to organize” buttons, an empty page glared at me. I removed the web part and added it again, which helped, but it may be wise to not touch it too often! Microsoft help for the News web part.
John Sanders of Microsoft has kindly offered to look into that!
15. Edits take some time to update.
When you edit and republish an article after publication, the changes will be immediately visible in the article, the News web part and the overview in the site that the News lives in.
On the SharePoint landing page, the all-News overview page and the mobile app the changes take some time (in my test about an hour) to show up. This is probably due to the lag time in Search indexing.
16. Give access before publishing News.
Darn, a number 16! The other day I was given access to a site where a few News items had already been published. It took until the next day before the News was shown on my SharePoint landing page. Not a very big deal, but again something to be aware of!
I really enjoyed this project with my Communications colleague and the project manager. I appreciated their inquisitiveness and it was fun to research all their questions, find new blogs and support pages, see User Voice items, etc.
And…creating the News digest also generated some questions and insights. That will be my next blog as this one is quite long already!
My OneNote conference workflow is now to have the same notebook open in phone and on PC, and to use the built-in OfficeLens tooling to capture slides on the phone while I take notes on the PC: images appear inline as they are taken.
I really liked that idea but I could not very well imagine how it worked exactly. And as this is another way I can make work easier for my colleagues, who generally do not have the time or the interest to find out these things, I decided to try it and write it all down. The Office 365 and SharePoint Connect conference in Haarlem was a good moment to test it all, using a tablet, but it works the same on a PC.
The day before the conference
Make sure you have the OneNote app installed on your tablet/PC and smartphone, and that you are logged in on both devices with the same account.
If you have never used the camera option of OneNote on your phone, make sure you know where to find it, and practice by photographing something, e.g. your PC screen, with the automatic edge detection and cropping.
Create a notebook for conferences.
Create a section for the next conference. From there you can create a page for each session.
Charge your devices and a power bank if you have one. It may be my iPad but it devoured battery. A charger may be useful as well, to use during breaks.
Clean the camera lens on your phone 🙂
Before each session
Make sure your devices are connected to the conference wifi
Create a page for the next session
Open tablet/PC and phone on the session’s page
During the session
Make notes on your tablet/PC
Whenever you want to capture a slide, take a picture with your phone while both phone and tablet/PC are on the session page with the cursor below the current notes. Take the picture when the purple lines are around the slide. The “Document” picture option appears to give the best results.
The picture captured in the purple lines will be added to the page at the place where your cursor is, on both devices.
After the conference
Process your notes like you are used to.
Remove the original pictures from your phone’s photo gallery to free up space. Your slide pictures will still stay in OneNote.
I really like this option. I love the fact that the cropped image automagically appears in your notes 🙂 . I also like the fact that you have the slides immediately; of course you can also wait until the organization makes the decks available, but by that time I generally no longer have the time and patience to cut and paste all this.
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.
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.
This is the landing page and it is an overview of content, sites, persons etc.
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:
The old Sites page (with tabs Frequent sites and Followed sites) looks rather dull in comparison:
The News overview comes from the Modern pages and is taken from the SharePoint landing page.
If you open a News item in the app, you will see this:
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.
The third navigation item is Me
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
There is also a Gear Wheel at the Me-page which leads to personal and app settings.
Of course I am very interested to know what is behind the Site cards. So I opened the Summary Links site:
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?
No, I am not going to bash the SharePoint Most Valuable Professionals! I have received help, feedback and support from many MVP’s including Veronique Palmer, Jasper Oosterveld and Gregory Zelfond, and I have read and used the posts and presentations of many others.
Let’s celebrate the unsung heroes: “The @MVPAward recognizes individuals who, over the past 12 months, have demonstrated superior knowledge, leadership and passion, combined with a desire to help and accelerate other’s learning, careers, and abilities.” https://t.co/R0eebaLcz5
This blog will be about another MVP – the Minimum Viable Product, a common word in Agile development, meaning you will launch a product that meets the basic requirements (as defined at the start of the project) and will be improved incrementally over time.
I think I have been woking somewhat agile when I was configuring solutions, and met with my business counterparts on a very regular basis to discuss the proof of concept/prototype and checked if this met their expectations.
I only created a very small list of requirements, as I knew that many business partners only had a vague idea of what they were really looking for, and when confronted with my interpretation of their requirements all kinds of unexpected, or in any case, unspoken, things came up.
Is there an option to leave this field blank?
Yes, but that means that we either leave this non-mandatory (which may lead to more blanks than you want) or we add a dummy value such as “please select”. What do you think is best?
Can we have a multiple choice for this field?
Ofcourse, but that means you will be unable to group on this in the views, so we will have to resort to a connection for filtering. Oh and then it is better to make this field a look-up field instead of a choice field. Let me rework that.
What if someone forgets to act on the email?
We may want to create a view that allows the business process owner to see quickly which items are awaiting action.
And more of those things. I generally met with my business partner once every fortnight, if not more often.
So I am all in favour of especially the short development cycles of Agile.
“Users” does not mean “end users”, exclusively!
I also think that “user stories” are much more realistic and human than “requirements”, although they sometimes look a little artificial.
By the way, I would recommend any team to think not only of “end user stories” but also of “tenant owner” stories or “support user stories” as other people involved have their own needs or requirements.
I also like the idea of launching a Minimum Viable Product and doing small, rapid improvements on that, based on feedback and experiences, because
You can show users that you are listening to them
You can show that you are not neglecting your intranet after launch
It gives you something new to communicate on a regular basis
So, when we were launching our intranet I was quite interested to be part of the project and to work towards an MVP.
When we finally launched our MVP we also published the roadmap with intended improvements, and shared the process of adding items to the roadmap. That way users could see that we had plans to improve and that we would be able to spend time and attention on meeting the needs of the business.
When launching an MVP with a promise to make ongoing improvements you are more vulnerable than when you do a Big Bang Launch & Leave introduction. What about the following events?
Cuts in the improvement budget.
Those can be a blessing or a curse, but they may happen.
People who leave before they have documented what they have created.
I have never liked the extensive Requirements Documents and Product Descriptions that go with traditional development, but if you are handing over your product to the Support organization, you really need documentation of what you are handing over. End users can have the weirdest questions and issues! 🙂
Reorganizations which turn your product team or even your company upside down.
Microsoft changes that mess up your customizations. We have a webpart that shows your Followed Sites – it suddenly and without warning changed from displaying the first 5 sites you had followed to the last 5 sites. Most annoying!
So before you know it, you end up with a below-minimum viable product. ☹
What can be done?
So before you start singing the praises of Agile development and put on your rose-tinted glasses
Make sure you have a safe development budget that can not be taken away from you.
Ensure you have an alternative no-cost optimization plan, such as webinars, Q&A sessions, surveys, configuration support, content changes etc. to make the most of the launch of your MVP and to get feedback for improvements for when better times arrive.
Insist that everyone documents their configurations, codes, processes, work instructions etc. as quickly as possible. It is not sexy but will save you a lot of hassle in case your team changes.
If you are in need of extracting knowledge from leaving experts, here are some tips for handing over to a successor, and some tips for when there is no successor in place yet.
Be prepared for changes in processes, data or organization. You do not have to have a ready-made plan, but it is wise to think about possible implications for your product or process if the Comms team is being reorganized, someone wants to rename all business units, or you need to accomodate an acquired company in your setup.
Keep customizations to a minimum. Use existing templates and simple configurations.
Personally I would be totally content without a customized homepage. The SharePoint landing page or, even better, the Office365 landing page as the start page to my day would work perfectly well for me, but I have learned not many people share that feeling.
Any experiences to share?
Have you had similar experiences? Have you found a good way to handle budget cuts, a way to develop budget-neutrally, how to deal with people changes or another way to deal with unexpected events that endanger your MVP? I am sure there are many people (including myself) who would like to learn from your stories!
When we launched our new intranet at the beginning of 2017, we also set up a Treasure Hunt to make people familiar with the new look and feel and setup. After all, moving to SharePoint Online has been quite a large step from our old SharePoint 2007 environment.
Many intranet folks have talked about doing treasure hunts, but as far as I know nobody has ever explained what they have done in detail, so let me share our recipe.
The ingredients and preparation
A News article to introduce the Treasure Hunt
A News article with clues and a direction to the next place of the hunt
More News articles or intranet pages with clues and directions – as many as you need
Emailaccount of our Founding Father
Autoreply message from Founding Father
A page where people are instructed how to enter their solution
A survey to collect the solutions
The solution: in our case a sentence that people had to create with the clue words
A thank-you page with information about the next steps
A few days after launch, a News article (1) appeared on the new intranet homepage. It explained the treasure hunt and the mechanics. You were to look for clues to the next place and for words that were written in a certain way, e.g. <word>. The words you would find during your search would form a sentence.
The first clue was to find the oldest News post on the intranet. As we had not migrated older News articles that was not so hard to find. The oldest post (2) turned out to be a post written by our Founding Father. It was full of hope for the future and predicted with remarkable accuracy some inventions we would do later 🙂
Of course there was another <word> in his post. At the end he asked to send him an email asking for guidance. As his contact details were on the page (as is the case for all News items) (3) it could be done with the click of a button.
When you sent him the email you received an autoreply (5). He sent you to the “modern watering hole Yammer”, where we were to look for a post from one of our senior management about a certain topic.
On Yammer, it was easy to look for that certain person (once you knew how to search) and the message (6) in question. Once again, it contained a <word> or two and a link to the next clue.
After sending you to a few other important new sites (with <words>) and asking you to follow those pages, the last link led to a page (7) which welcomed you to the Treasure hunt and asked you to
Set your News preferences
Make sure you had uploaded your profile picture
Click on a link
The link led to a survey (8) with two questions:
Create a sentence (9) with the <words> you have found. The sentence was one of the company values, so not too hard to compose once you had the words.
Describe why you should get the prize. (That was an easy one for me: I said this treasure hunt would not have been possible without me – as I created the pages & survey).
After clicking Finish you would go to a thank-you page (10) with more information about the publication of the winners.
All in all, by doing the treasure hunt people have been exposed to:
Setting their News preferences
Going to Yammer and finding a person’s conversations
A number of new sites with important company-wide information
Adding a picture to your profile
This was a very simple setup, but of course you can extend it as you like.
(Disclaimer: I have replicated this on my own tenant in a schematic way. Our real Treasure Hunt looked much better and the texts were created by communication professionals)
BTW, Sadly I did not win any prize as I was part of the organizing committee 😦
The <words> in my screenshots form a sentence as well…please add it to the comments if you have found it! (again, exclude <word>)
“Users can not access links”.
What a boring title, I thought when this incident was assigned to me. But, as usual, there was a twist to it.
Several users of a local site received a “you do not have access” when they clicked a link that was added to a news item on the homepage. This link directed to a pdf-document. According to the site owner, they should have access.
So I put my SharePoint Holmes Admin Hat on, and dove into the site.
The homepage contained an Announcement list in Newsletter Style. The text “read more” (I know, not the best way to name a link) led to a pdf in a document library in the same site, called News Documents.
The News Documents library contained 2 items.
The document library inherited permissions from the site.
The audience included myself, so I decided to take a look as my “normal” self.
Yes, I could access the page. But when I clicked on the link “Read more” I got a “Sorry, you don’t have access to this page”.
I looked into Site Contents and saw that the library contained 2 items, but when I opened the library, I saw no documents. Hmmm.
I went back into admin mode, and checked again.
I checked the link on the homepage – was it perhaps a broken link? No, it looked solid and led to the pdf without further ado.
Did the documents open in browser by default, which might hamper the opening of a pdf? I checked the Advanced Settings but it opened by default in the client.
Had the documents been checked out? No, I did not see the green tell-tale mark.
I wanted to take a better look at the views, to see if those could tell me more. There were rather a lot of columns in the default view, so I had to do some horizontal scrolling to get to the Views link.
“Draft” I suddenly noticed in the right-hand column.
“0.1” I saw in the column next to it. That column was called Version.
In the Versioning settings I noticed that content approval was enabled, and only people with approve permissions and the author could see drafts.
Both documents had never been approved and were therefore visible for only a few users. Everyone else got a “you do not have access” as for the majority of users, these documents were not yet accessible.
That explained why I could see it as an admin, but not as a normal user.
The site owner was not aware of the versioning as he had inherited the site. When I explained, he decided to turn of the content approval as that was not really needed for these documents.
Another issue solved! Now would you classify this as a document management issue or a permissions issue?
Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently 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:
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
I can offer you a 10% discount if you use the code “IIAB2CBOX10” on the product page .
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:
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.)
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.
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.
This has been a Christmas present so I have had the time to read and think. 🙂
So, everything came together very nicely this time.