Knowledge Management from support tickets

KMTickets-headerNow that we have launched our intranet we constantly receive questions and support tickets from our users. That is not exactly a surprise, as we know that our current intranet is vastly different from our old one. We have SharePoint Online versus SharePoint 2007 and a completely new governance.
We learn a great deal about our users and our environment from these tickets and the discussions in our dedicated Yammer group.

Of course my team knows that I am into KM, so I am currently in a small “Virtual Expert” group on knowledge sharing. Our goals is to “translate experiences into knowledge”.

That sounds pretty formal, but it is quite simple really. And you know, I like simple, especially when it is about KM.

How it works

KMTickets-process

Whenever we receive an incident, we assign it according to the type of incident. This allows every one of our team to learn about a specific topic or process, and to improve the process or generate knowledge about this topic.
For instance, for a time all incidents dealing with permissions were assigned to me.
When I had gained sufficient knowledge of common permission issues, either by searching online or by doing experiments, I wrote work instructions for the rest of the team. Permissions issues (provided we recognize them when the tickets come in 🙂 ) can now also be assigned to others as we have a common procedure.
Yammer questions that can not be answered by the community receive similar treatment: we do online search and experiments where needed. (Although we ask people to submit a ticket when it looks like something in their site is broken)

We have a regular call to discuss any new and interesting issues.

When we run into a problem that we can not solve by searching online or doing an experiment,  we ask our very knowledgeable tenant admins. They show or tell us when they know the answer. My colleague and myself then turn this knowledge into documentation – be it a work instruction for the support team, a manual or a tip for end users, or sometimes a suggestion for extra communication or even a change to the system settings.

Most materials are stored on SharePoint: in our own team site or in the site we have created for end users.

Love all around!

KMTickets-LoveI love this structured approach. Our manger, who is very much into service delivery, formal processes and stuff like ITIL, appreciates the process we are going through.
Our tenant admins like to share their knowledge, knowing this will free them up to do tenant admin stuff.
My colleague and I have great pleasure in capturing knowledge and turning it into something tangible that helps us do our work faster.
The rest of the team is happy to have good work instructions.

SharePoint Holmes

It may be a small process, but it works for us and we enjoy the benefits.  And you…you see the SharePoint Holmes cases! 🙂

Header image courtesy of Kimberley Farmer on Unsplash.com

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SharePoint Holmes and the Pesky Permissions

SH-Pesky-ByOllieArteThe case

“This user is losing her access all the time”, the site owner said. “She keeps getting an access denied and then asking me for access”.
Now I know that SharePoint permissions can be a bit of a nightmare, but I have not come across situations where people who have access, suddenly lose that without any actions on the side of the site owner or manager of the permissions group.

The site owner told me he had added her to a group in his site. This group needs Edit permissions to the Commercial documents, a document library with confidential information.

“When she gets that access denied message, do you find she has disappeared from that group?” I asked him, but he did not know that.  Not very helpful, but a site owner should not have to be a detective, of course; things should just work.

So…time to get my Detective paraphernalia out of the closet and set out on a hunt for clues.

The investigation

    1. First step: site permissions.
      The group was called L1-CommercialTeam, with Read permissions.

      SH-Pesky-Site permissions
      I still have not figured out why permission levels are mentioned in Dutch, but trust me: The L1-CommercialTeam has Read access on this site.

      That looked OK, knowing she would have Edit permissions on one library. And indeed, when I looked at the “Users with Limited Access” I saw this:

      SH-Pesky-LimitedAccess
      Limited access because this group has Edit permissions on one document library.
    2. I checked the settings of the group. The user was a group member. The owner of the group was the site owner group, so there were no other parties who might have been messing about.
    3. I checked the permissions of the group: Read + Limited Access on the site, Edit on the document library. OK.
    4.  I checked the permissions for the library with confidential information. Indeed, the group had Edit permissions there.

      SH-Pesky-LibraryPermissions
      Enter a caption
    5. So, everything looked OK. What could have gone wrong? It is extremely hard to solve things that “occasionally happen” so I needed some time to think about next steps.
    6. I decided to have a look at all the permissions in the site, knowing that things can be more complicated than you might think at first sight.
      That was interesting: all 3 document libraries in the site had unique permissions, but the L1-CommercialTeam only had access to the Commercial Documents.

      SH-Pesky-Uniquepermissions
      All document libraries in this site have unique permissions
    7. I contacted the user and she confirmed that the she got the access denied when she wanted to go to the other document libraries.
    8. I contacted the site owner and asked him when he had created the Commercial Documents library and the group  – this had been done recently.

The solution

As the unique permissions in the other document libraries had been created before the L1-CommercialTeam group had been created and added to the site, the L1-CommercialTeam did not automatically get access to those libraries.

I informed the site owner about the permissions in his site – that all libraries had different permissions and that the user had requested access to the two libraries that she did not have access to.
He had inherited the site from a predecessor and was not aware of the unique permissions.
Besides, as the group appeared to have Read permissions at site level, he thought the group had access to everything. I can not blame him, really.

He gave the L1-CommercialTeam access to one library, and re-inherited permissions to the other. No access denieds have been reported since.

So, dear site owner, please check the unique permissions in your site on a regular basis. SharePoint Online has a very useful link on the site permissions page, which has turned into my new BFF:

SH-Pesky-Showtheseitems
This link allows you to see all libraries and lists with unique permissions, as well as libraries and lists that contain items with unique permissions.

 

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.

As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Image courtesy of Ollie Olarte.

Dear user of our intranet

DearUserbyStuartMilesThis morning I received your support ticket.

Many thanks for enclosing the complete email chain with all your colleagues. Apart from a good permissions puzzle, there is nothing I like more than going through a 40-message email chain, and find the hidden clues between the “FYI” and “Can you help” forwards. I am really pleased that you have tried to get help from so many people before logging a call in our incident system, and it is heartwarming to see your colleagues’ empathy and desire to help.

From this wonderful meandering narrative I understand that “editing the Monthly Forecast in the Marketing site does not work”. That narrows down the possibilities, because only 938 of our approximately 15.000 sites have Marketing in the title, so it will save me going through 14.062 sites which are definitely not called Marketing.

Now of course I assume the Marketing site has “Marketing” in its title 🙂

From the company address book I see that you work in the Dairy division, which has 297 Marketing sites, so I can increase the odds even further.

Then it is only a matter of finding a Monthly Forecast document in one of these sites and checking which one does not work. That should not be too difficult: I did a Search and found 6274 hits on Monthly Forecast – it is matter of checking URL’s against the Marketing sites to see which are eligible.

I assume you wanted to edit a recent document so will start from the most recent.

In conclusion, I will check the cross of Dairy Marketing sites and Monthly Forecast docs from the last 2 months, and see which one of them “does not work”. Now of course there are many ways of “does not work”, but do not worry, I will check them all, from permissions to document library opening behavior, checkout, and workflows to corrupted documents.

I have planned about two weeks to go through this and I am quite looking forward to this challenging quest!

However, should you be in a sort of hurry, or have a deadline, please let me know. After all it is the 21st already and I can imagine you will need to update this document before the end of the month. Sending me the URL of the site, the name of the document and the document library/folder it lives in, as well as a description of what you were trying to do and what happened, possibly even with a screenshot of the error message, will reduce the quest to an hour or so. Of course this will rob me of the fun of exploring this all by myself, but I know that this is business-critical content so I can not be selfish.

Looking forward to your information,

Best regards,

The Helpdesk.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SharePoint Holmes and the Embedding Enigma

SH-ObjectDetectiveSmallMy SharePoint Holmes cases are not extremely technical or complicated. Most of the solutions to the issues that I encounter have been amply described in blogs and Microsoft support. So why do I sometimes feel at a loss when I have a new issue to solve?

  • I am still learning about SharePoint Online
  • Users generally do not know what the issue is and they do not use the most precise language. Nobody likes an issue that stops you doing your job and calls for submitting a support ticket, so I can imagine you want to spend as little time as possible on that ticket.
  • As a result, things may have a different cause and solution than I expect from the description. I may think that it is permissions-related (I often do), while it may be PC, browser or document library settings. Or vice versa.

For instance “I can not manage my site” (to me, this sounds like a permissions issue) has meant different things in different circumstances:

  1. “I can not edit my site’s homepage” (because the page has been checked out to someone else – this is a document management issue, not a permission issue)
  2. “I can not manage permissions” (because I am not the owner of the group I want to manage – a permissions issue)
  3. “I can not manage this content in my site” (because this content has unique permissions and for one reason or another I am not in the site owner’s role here  – a permissions issue)
  4. “I do not know how to manage my site” is a training issue

With this SharePoint Holmes series I try to start with the issue as described by the user. As that is not always clear or correct, I sometimes start off on the wrong foot.

The case

“Hyperlinks in a document on SharePoint are not working” the title of the incident read.

Well, “not working” or “is broken” are always great and accurate descriptions that any support person loves to see 🙂 . So I called the owner and asked him to demonstrate the situation.

The issue was with a manual (in Word) that lived in a document library.  The document had some embedded documents as well as some hyperlinks to a company system.

The real problem was: “In this document, the embedded documents as well as some specific links can not be opened – they appear unclickable”

The investigation

    1. I opened the manual – I noticed that the document opened in Online format.
    2. I clicked on a number of links – all links to pages worked OK but I could not open the embedded docs. There was no “hotspot” or “zone” where the cursor showed something clickable.

      SH-Object Online
      The embedded Word document was not clickable
    3. The special links (to a certain system) looked properly configured, but they gave an error message.
    4. I could not find anything strange in versioning settings (no mandatory check out) or advanced settings. The opening behavior was set to “use the server default (open in the browser)” which is standard practice.
    5. I determined to take a better look at the document, because only that document caused the issue. I did not want to make changes to the content, so I downloaded it.
    6. I opened it in Word. The embedded documents could be opened – they had an active window. And I could open the special links too!

The solution

OK, this was easy. I changed the library’s opening behavior to “open in the Client application” and opened the document again. Yes, the embedded documents and the links were now clickable and opened without problems.

SH-Object Client
An active zone appears around the embedded document when opening the document in Word

I can not explain what was happening with the links but they could be opened in the Client software.

This is yet another illustration of the fact that the Online versions of the Office programmes are limited in functionality.

The owner of the manual was happy, but I suggested to upload all embedded documents into the document library and making links to them from the “Master Document”, instead of embedding. If they are in a document library, you can manage and update them online when needed, and the link in the Master document will always lead to an up-to-date document. If you embed the document, it will live on its own and there will be no history of changes or anything.

Which issues with the opening behaviour of document libraries have you encountered? (Apart from my earlier password-protected document case)

Image courtesy of Craig Whitehead on Unsplash.com

SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Metadata

SH-MissingMetadata

After all the recent permissions issues it was nice to get a Document Management case for a change.

The case

The issue was: “Every time I edit a document and save it, it is checked out and we need to check it in again and add the metadata. We have not set mandatory check-out in this library – what is going wrong?”.

I put on my SharePoint Holmes paraphernalia and set out to solve yet another case. Or so I hoped 🙂

The investigation

  1. I looked at the recently edited document. Indeed, the document was checked out with the yellow box where the metadata should have been.

    SH-MissingMetadata-ClientLibrary
    The document was checked-out and missed required metadata.
  2. I checked the Library Settings. Set to modern view, to open documents in the Client application, indeed no check out required. The “Topic” field needed a value.
  3. I uploaded another document and edited it without any issues – the document stayed checked in and retained the metadata. I edited the properties, no problem.
    Hm.
  4. I selected the checked-out document to view the properties. I quickly scrolled down the details pane to see the metadata. Yes, no topic selected, as expected.
  5. I Googled on the check-out issue as I had no clue what happened here.
    The solutions all pointed to something with “metadata” so I selected the document again to have a closer look at the metadata, and hoped that permissions and edit history would provide some extra clues.
  6. Someone called me on Skype so I left the details pane open without scrolling down.
  7. When I came back from my call, the answer stared me in the face.

    SH-MissingMetadata-NoPreview
    No preview available – aha!

The solution

I had seen this “No preview” message before on a password-protected Excel file. The owner confirmed this.
After some searching I came across several posts describing this behaviour. Apparently, SharePoint does not only respect the content of a password-protected document, but also the metadata. Hence, you have to re-add the metadata after each edit.

A request to change this behaviour has been submitted to Office 365 User Voice.

I discussed with the owner whether password protection was really needed as SharePoint has its own protection. As it turned out, the people who had the password were the same people who had access to the document and the document library, so she decided to remove the password.

I also checked what happens if this would have been a document library that opens documents in the Online version.
First, you get a warning message:

SH-MissingMetadata-Online

 

After editing in the client, you have the same result in the document library: the document is checked out and has missing metadata.

Another reason not to use password-protected documents in SharePoint!

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SharePoint Holmes and the Haunted Homepage

sphomepage-thumbPart of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

The case

“Oh, Ellen, I think I have done something terrible to my site”, the site owner said, a note of panic in her voice. “I keep getting requests for access, while this is a site for all employees, and I do not know what I have done wrong”.

We had already noticed a number of tickets where people complained that they had lost access to this important site (and it was period-closing time so many people had to upload reports).

My first thought was “I hope she has not clicked “Delete Unique Permissions” when on the site permissions page” because that inherits the permissions from the parent AND removes all unique permissions from the site.
Although I like that as a thorough cleansing option for when you do not know how your permissions are set, in this case it would have been rather disastrous.

SharePoint Holmes to the rescue! I put on my admin cap and ventured into the site.

The investigation

  1. I opened the site. No problems for me, but then I am an admin so I have permissions for everything.
  2. Gear wheel > Site Settings > Site permissions. Phew, “This web site has unique permissions” was still there. So permissions had not been inherited.
    There were a number of groups with a variety of permission sets, including a Visitors group with Read permissions, which included all company employees. That looked OK.
    Of course there were also a few items with unique permissions, but that is not unusual and it hardly ever leads to a sudden flood of support tickets.
  3. I looked at what had been set as the homepage. (Site Settings > Welcome Page). “Homepage_New”.  That made sense.

    SPHomepage-WelcomePage
    You can determine the welcome page yourself.
  4. I checked the Pages library. Yes, there was a page called Homepage_New and it was the page I had seen when I entered the site.
  5. It was time to check the permissions for the Pages library. Aha, “This library has unique permissions” and only the Owners (Full Control) and Visitors (Read) were mentioned. Good idea – you do not always want everyone with Edit or Contribute permissions to manage (and mess up) your pages.

    SPHomepage-Libraryperms
    The Pages library had limited permissions to avoid unwanted editing. But Visitors (Bezoekers) have Read (Lezen) permissions. (I have tried everything to get this page to display in English, not Dutch, but it does not work.)
  6. Then I noticed something in the yellow box: “Some items of this list may have unique permissions which are not controlled from this page”. And yes, one of the pages was “Homepage_New” to which only the Site Owners had access…

    SPHomepage-Pageperms
    The Welcome page had different permissions – in this case only the Owners had access.

The solution

I quickly deleted the unique permissions from the page so at least Visitors could access the homepage again. Then I informed the site owner what had been causing the issue.

So yes, this was a permissions issue, but everyone still had access to the site. It was only the Homepage that was restricted, leading everyone to believe that they could also no longer reach the content of the site.

Tip

When this ever happens to you or your audience, and you expect that you have access to this site (e.g. because you have always had access or you have just been invited), try checking Site Contents.
Take the root of the site (https://company.sharepoint.com/…/sitename/) and then add “_layouts/15/viewlsts.aspx?view=14” to it. Create the link and paste it in the browser.
If you still get an access denied, you likely have no permissions.
If you see the content, it means there is something wrong with the welcome page.

Has this ever happened to your users?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Diamond Awards are a girl’s best friend!

Diamond Award

To my immense delight and surprise I have won IntranetNow’s Diamond Award for 2017!

Delight, because it is a huge shiny diamond with an inscription. Oh, and I rather like winning 🙂

Surprise, because compared to some of the nominees, my blogs are rather down-to-earth and practical, and my video collection is frankly just picking and posting and anyone could have done it. Don’t you dare, though 🙂
Other nominees publish posts with far more depth and thoughts than my “click here and check box”  posts. I would have voted for someone else, to be honest.

Not that I am complaining!

Apparently my blog has “explored SharePoint permissions, intranet features and the practice of intranet management for over six years, in an accessible and often fun manner.”

It has set me thinking: “why do I do this”?

  1. From an early age I have liked writing, but it took me a while to find my topic.
    I like shaping an idea into a post, to discover the different angles to a story, trying to find out what point I am actually trying to make, and trying to write as concisely as possible.
  2. Although everyone appears to be using SharePoint and Office365 these days, everyone has a different Office365 positioning, implementation and governance. In the admin console alone there are a ton of settings and boxes to check and make your setup just a little different from others.
    Through sharing my experiences I may be able to help others because there are so many things to know and find out.
    It is why I also like to read other people’s blogs – they help me understand things or solve user issues.
  3. It serves as my personal notebook. Sometimes I have to re-read my own blogs to avoid having to do a lot of experiments again. It must be age 🙂
  4. My video collection was supposed to be a one-time blog post, but it unexpectedly hit the sweet spot with a lot of people so I though it might be nice to expand. But seriously, it was not planned.

Thank you very much, Wedge Black, Brian Lamb and everyone who was involved in the judging!

Updated Monday October 9: Hmm…Wedge has asked me to link to the IntranetNow site which features an announcement and a video of my acceptance speech. I was actually trying to avoid that 🙂

Title inspired by…do I really have to explain that?