Reaching beyond the usual suspects

IntranetNowBlogheaderOn October 5 I participated in IntranetNow in London. I presented there, and thought it would be nice to create a write-up in my blog, with some images from my presentation. If you prefer the PowerPoint variety, please check out my presentation on the IntranetNow SlideShare.

What brought this on?

Recently we introduced a new intranet (Publishing and team sites) to the organization.

Blog-changes
A overview of the old (left) and the new situation (right). Lots of changes!

We went from a SharePoint 2007 environment on-prem, to SharePoint Online in the cloud. That alone was a big change.

Our old platform was created 10 years before, when the organization was still very decentralized, and people could do on the platform whatever they wanted (which they did) as long as they did not break it (which they did…sometimes 🙂 ).
The new intranet is strictly governed, as there is now a strong central Security and Compliance team, strong Enterprise Architecture, many Governance Boards and Steering Committees and of course our new landlord Microsoft, and they all tell us what people can do and what not.

Additionally, we went from being one large company to two companies and we reorganized as well.

Challenges

We knew we were going to make a big change, so we secured the help of our “usual suspects”, a small group of people active on Yammer, and a small group of active content owners. They kindly agreed to be our Champions, helping us launch the new intranet to their circles of influence.

However, many of them left the organization during the project, or moved to another job, due to the reorganizations. So we were left with an even smaller group of “usual suspects”.

We tried to make up for it by increasing the communications:

  • Yammer messages and YamJams
  • News articles and Newsletters
  • Webinars with demos and question time
  • Local sessions to inform people
  • Emails to site owners
  • Creating training

But well, you know how it goes:

  • People do not always read or act upon communications
  • People only learn when they have a need, so many people left the learning until they had their new intranet and their new site(s).

So despite our efforts, this is more or less how people reacted when they saw their new tools for the first time:

Chaos wallpaper2.png
Sadly I do not know the creator of this wonderful image, but I have used it anyway since it is the best I could find to depict the response of the audience…

People were confused, did not know where to find their content, how to manage their sites, how to navigate, etc.

Action needed!

Well, if you want to implement a new effective digital workplace, this may not be the best response. So we introduced a new role into the organization: the Adoption Consultant. It is their role to make sure that employees

  • know what the DW is,
  • can use it to their advantage
  • and like it, so they will promote it and help others use it

Within this organization, the DW consists of the Office 365 suite plus a few other tools available for all employees.

So we are currently embedding this process into the organization:

Blog-cycle
The Process
  • There is a UX manager who runs a survey with 1/12 of employees every month, asking for user feedback about all IT tools and services.
    There are other sources for feedback (Yammer, support tickets, etc.) but the survey is the most formal one.
  • He turns the responses into usable data and insights.
  • If something relates to the Digital Workplace, he asks the Adoption Consultants to help with it. They determine which remediation actions need to be taken.
    New functionality will also be handled by the Adoption Consultants, as some projects have the objective to “get the software installed on people’s machines” without thinking beyond that point…
    So they think about whether extensive communication and training sessions are needed, or if a link to the help materials of the vendor is sufficient, or anything in between.
  • By implementing those actions it is expected that the complaints and remarks about this topic will be reduced.

Yeah, interesting picture, but what does that mean in practice?

Users: “I can not find anything on the intranet”

UX Manager: “We have found that “I can not find anything on the intranet” is in the Top 3 of complaints for the past months. Adoption Consultants, would you please look into this”?

Adoption Consultants:  “What does it mean exactly, “I can not find information on the intranet”? Do people not know how to search? Are they looking for information that is not there? Do they not know how to navigate?”
* arrange interviews with a selection of complainers*

Adoption Consultant: After some discussions I think

  • We will need to create a campaign to inform people about the options available in Search.
  • We need to suggest to this department that they properly archive their outdated procedures and provide more meaningful and descriptive titles and tagging for their current content.
  • We need to discuss federating SharePoint Search, as some people appear to be looking for content which lives in our IT service system.

What else have we done so far?

  • We have given “Digital Workplace roadshows” in various locations across the world, explaining what the Digital Workplace is and how people can best use it. These have been received really well.
  • We have started a campaign about the different options of Search, update your profile, etc.
  • We manage a “Digital Workplace” group on Yammer as THE place for discussion. This is really well-used and popular.
  • We have created procedures to communicate consistently about projects that bring new functionality to the organization, using consistent channels (such as that Yammer group).
  • We are working with local focal points as they know more about their specific situation.

What are the results?

As we have only started this role last July, we have not accomplished a reduction in unfavourable feedback from the employee survey. But we have achieved a few things:

  1. Through the roadshows, we have met a number of new enthusiastic content owners, willing to help their circle of influence with the new Digital Workplace
  2. Interviews with colleagues who responded in the survey have revealed unexpected and useful feedback.

And that survey…we will do our best to improve the results over time!

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7 Risks of Copy To and Move To (in SharePoint Online)

In my earlier post, I explained what happens when you use Copy To and Move To. CopyMove-Risks

I really like using it, but of course there are some risks too, especially because it is very easy to do.
I have already encountered the first casualties and I assume many more will follow.

So here are some things that I think are a tad dangerous:

  1. Even people with only “Read” permissions can Copy your content to a site they have more permissions to, or to their OneDrive. What does this do for “one version of the truth”?
  2. It is now very easy to Copy confidential content to a location with a completely different audience.
  3. People with Contribute or Edit in your site can Move documents to another site and delete them from your site.
    This has been a recent issue with one of my users. He reported that he had lost a large part of his site’s content and did not know what had happened. Fortunately I found his (200+) documents in the Recycle Bin. They had all been deleted by the same person, in a time span of about 5 minutes. I still do not know if that person had really used the Move option, but it is plausible.
  4. There is no way for you, as a site owner, to see if content has been Copied to a different site.
    You can see in the Document Information Pane if people have deleted content. You could also set an Alert for Deleted Items, so you know quickly if an unexpected large number of documents has been deleted and you can ask the deleter if they have Moved content. But for Copy…no option.
  5. As far as I know, there is no option for the site collection admins to see what has happened, except when documents that have been deleted are mentioned in the Document Information Pane or show up in the Recycle Bin. (Please let me know if you have found how to do it – a third-party tool perhaps?)
  6. You can lose metadata and versions if the target contains fewer than the source. With the new versioning settings the latter will probably not cause many issues.
  7. You can break links as I found out recently. I moved some documents around because I wanted to combine some libraries and I had forgotten these were accessed from Promoted Links. Duh! 🙂

How to counteract:

1. Give everyone only the permissions they really need

Making sure every person has the correct permissions is getting more and more important.
With the defaults for sharing and access requests set to give people “Contribute” or “Edit” permissions accidents with Copy or Move are more likely to happen.
Delve, that shows you potentially interesting information that you have access to, makes this part of site ownership even more important!
I often use an extra permissions set called “Contribute without Delete” which means people can Read, Add and Edit but only the Site Owner can delete content. That reduces the likelihood of content disappearing.

2. Inform users how Copy To and Move To work

If your users know how this works, they may be more aware what they are doing. Perhaps this picture helps to convey quickly what happens.

CopyMove-Versions

3. Inform users of the confidentiality of your content

Always make your site’s audience aware of the confidentiality status of your content. Not everyone may realize that some content (such as new brand names, prices or competitor info) may damage your company, should it fall into the wrong hands.
Tell your audience which content should not be shared and copied, and what the consequences could be if they do, both for the company and perhaps even for themselves.

4. Set Alerts for deleted items

You may want to set an Alert for content that is deleted, so you are warned when you see an unexpected large amount of deletions, for instance. As you can not restore the content someone else has deleted, contact your support team as quickly as possible to restore the content.

Of course I am curious to learn which issues you have encountered, and how you have solved those!

Image by Glenn Wallace on Flickr. 

An unpleasant inheritance

inherit-picInheriting something is a mixed pleasure.
You can become the proud owner of your uncle’s lovely old-timer, or be able to wear your grandmother’s diamond necklace and matching earrings at grand events, but you generally receive those treasures only after a dear one has passed away.
But you can also inherit debts, a house with an expensive mortgage, a nephew or other “things” that you have never wanted.

Inheriting permissions in SharePoint can also be a curse rather than a blessing.
“I have suddenly lost access” has been the title of many recent incidents. No need to blame this on Microsoft, SharePoint or the support team, because in 99% of cases this is a human error:

  • The Site Owner accidentally removed their own permissions while cleaning up a document library’s  or site’s permissions. The support team can easily fix this.
  • The Site Owner accidentally inherits the permissions from the parent site. That is pretty serious and has happened alarmingly often!
inherit-removeuniquepermissions
A dangerous button that will inherit permissions from the parent – this can be wanted in documents, folders and libraries but can wreak havoc in sites.

I have already mentioned in many of our instruction materials: “if you see “this web site has unique permissions” in the yellow bar, DO NOT CLICK “Delete unique permissions” as you will

  • Inherit the permissions from the parent site
  • Lock yourself out of your site if you have insufficient permissions on the parent site
  • Remove all unique permissions in your site (and there is no “undo” or “restore” option)
inherit-thiswebsitehasnqiuepermissions
If you see this text, you are at the site level!

The warning message appears not to be informative enough to keep people from proceeding.

inherit-warning
The warning message before you inherit the permissions from the parent site.

Recently I have guided a few people through “permissions stuff” via screenshare and I notice that they always want to click ‘Delete unique permissions” when they want to remove users. In several cases these users were individuals who were not in a group and therefore were seen as having unique permissions.
On those occasions I have been just in time to guide their mouse pointers to the right button: “Remove User Permissions”.

inherit-removeuserpermissions
Use this when you want to remove  groups or individuals from your site

This has now happened so often, with such serious consequences, that I have added a suggestion to Microsoft SharePoint Uservoice to rename “Delete Unique Permissions” into “Inherit permissions from parent” as this is probably easier to understand for the user than the current wording. If you agree, please support my request. (Happy to return the favour, of course)

You know, like in SharePoint 2007:

Inheritpermissions2007
What it looks like in SharePoint 2007 – much more intuitive! (Pic taken with Phone)

And if you have taken any measures that successfully prevent this accidental inheritance, please share!

Image courtesy of Phil_Bird at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

The Intranet Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt - PongWhen 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

  1. A News article to introduce the Treasure Hunt
  2. A News article with clues and a direction to the next place of the hunt
  3. More News articles or intranet pages with clues and directions – as many as you need
  4. Emailaccount of our Founding Father
  5. Autoreply message from Founding Father
  6. Yammer message
  7. A page where people are instructed how to enter their solution
  8. A survey to collect the solutions
  9. The solution: in our case a sentence that people had to create with the clue words
  10. A thank-you page with information about the next steps
  11. Prizes

 The mechanics

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.

Treasure Hunt Announcement
The first announcement about the Treasure Hunt

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 🙂

Treasure Hunt - all news
It was easy to find the oldest News item!

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.

Treasure Hunt Oldest News
This is SharePoint News, slightly different than our own custom News setup, so I can not show you the Author button + email link (but I trust you will get it)

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.

Treasure Hunt Email
The email message – I quite liked the “Eternity Leave” that our Comms people came up with 🙂

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.

Treasure Hunt - Yammer
This Yammer message sent people to the new Policies & Procedures site, where you were asked to follow the IM page for later reference. (When will Yammer have a proper text editor?)

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

  1. Set your News preferences
  2. Make sure you had uploaded your profile picture
  3. Click on a link
Treasure Hunt- entry page
The last part of the journey

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).
Treasure Hunt Survey
The survey

After clicking Finish you would go to a thank-you page (10) with more information about the publication of the winners.

Treasure Hunt-Thank you page
The Thank-you page – I like to use this with surveys

All in all, by doing the treasure hunt people have been exposed to:

  • Finding News
  • Setting their News preferences
  • Going to Yammer and finding a person’s conversations
  • A number of new sites with important company-wide information
  • Following sites
  • 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>)

Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net