My personal gems from IntranetNow

GemsOn October 5 I participated in IntranetNow, and a wonderful conference it was!

There were plenty of interesting and enjoyable presentations but below are the ones that resonated most with me:

1. An excellent Yammer use case

Baxter Willis of WM Reply shared a great Yammer use case from one of his clients, drinks business Diageo.
Apparently they have an archive of all bottle types, advertising materials, recipes etc. Nobody was really aware of that department, until recently. They are digitizing their content and the archivist posts something interesting on Yammer every day, e.g.
“Did you know that Pimm’s has been associated with Wimbledon from the 1930’s?” accompanying a picture of a nice old newspaper ad proving her point.
This lady is now the toast of the company and her Yammer group is very popular.

I like this because it is another easy way to share knowledge, which would otherwise be hidden in the archive. Posting it on Yammer costs nothing more than 5 or 10 mins a day. It helps the Marketing and Social Media people in their current work by giving them new insights to the company and its history.

The new Smirnoff label is now based on earlier labels throughout time, and this is also caused by this work!

2. How to get feedback from your employees

Emma Morrison and Usman Hasan of Hyde discussed the their intranet redesign, based on feedback sessions with their employees.

What I liked about this is that they used a simple but effective approach of lunch sessions, and shared their learnings.

The “let them rant” or “whine and dine” idea resonated with me, as I have also found that sometimes people just want to vent, sometimes not about the intranet itself, but about related things.
In my situation I have heard from several annoyed people who had been handed over a team site due to reorganizations – either because they had a new role and the team site came with it, or because the previous owner had moved on. Someone else’s team site can be quite hard to handle as the setup and especially the permissions are not always documented or intuitive.
I have learned that the best way to help them is to go through their site together, trying to make sense of it (looking at site contents, checking permissions), rather than trying to defend something or taking it personally. 🙂

3. Improving an intranet with no budget

Janet White shared her approach to improve an intranet with very simple means and no budget. Anyone who can get good results with creativity and elbow grease, rather than money, is my hero!

Using simple tools like card sorting, tree testing and talking to users helped her to improve the navigation of the intranet (better labels and better structure) and some of the content.

Note

I have linked to the Slideshare versions of the presentations as I expect the information on the IntranetNow website will be replaced next year.

Image courtesy of Aasimshaz

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The new SharePoint app for iOS

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

Getting started

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

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

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

 

Find

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

IMG_0119
New app: An overview of content on the page and 3 navigation items at the bottom.

The chapters are:

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

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

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

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

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

 

News

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News landing page

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me

The third navigation item is Me

IMG_0121.PNG

This has two tabs:

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

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

InkedIMG_0123_LI

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

IMG_0124

Sites

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

20180728_142846132_iOS

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?

 

 

SharePoint Holmes and the elusive Link

HH-header

“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.

The case

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 investigation

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.

HH-Local News
The Local News list. “Read More” should take you to a document.

The News Documents library contained 2 items.

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The News Documents library
HH-NewsDocumentsLibrary
The 2 documents

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.

HH-Library-user
As a normal user, I can see the News Documents library contains 2 documents.
HH-emptylibrary
As a normal user, I do not see any documents in this library.

I went back into admin mode, and checked again.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Had the documents been checked out? No, I did not see the green tell-tale mark.
  4. 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.
HH-FullDocumentLibrary
I had not seen the “Version” and “Approval Status” columns in my earlier investigation…

AHA.

The solution

In the Versioning settings I noticed that content approval was enabled, and only people with approve permissions and the author could see drafts.

HH-ContentApproval
The Content Approval settings

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

91 ways to display Summary Links

SL-headerYou can use Summary Links to display links on a SharePoint page.
It appears to be a forgotten web part. Microsoft has written support information about it for SharePoint 2007 which is still mostly correct today, so it appears not to have changed since launch.  I have not found many blogs about it; even Greg Zelfond did not mention it recently when he explained the various Links options in SharePoint.

I have always preferred the Links List, since that allows all the flexibility of a list AND you keep the data if you remove the web part from your page or mess up the view. Additionally, if you remove a link it will go to the Recycle Bin.
My main concern with Summary Links is that it only exists on the page, so if you accidentally delete a link or the web part you have to start all over again from scratch. However, it has its uses:

  • When you want to add icons or pictures to your links
  • When you need multiple columns, e.g. as a footer on your site
  • When you want the links list to make a visual difference to your page

Adding the web part

Click the Gear wheel and select Edit Page from the menu.
Click the zone where you want to add the web part. This will often be the Right zone or a Bottom zone if you want to use it as a footer, but it can be anywhere you want.
Click “Content Rollup” in the web part gallery and you will see Summary Links.

SL-webpart gallery
The Summary Links web part can be found under Content Rollup

You can edit the title of the web part, hide it, and do the usual things via the web part menu. Adding links and groups and changing style are done in the web part itself.

SL-Webpart config
All “work” on the content is done in this Edit view

Adding links

If you want to group your links, it is best to create your groups first so you can add any new link to an existing group immediately. You can select a style later.
Adding a link gives you the following screen:

SL-New Link
The New Link screen.

You can either browse for pictures or for the items you want to link to (e.g. pages or documents that live in your site or site collection) or you can paste the URL’s.

How to change the styles for links and groups

Now, suppose you have some links added to your web part and you are curious to see how they display on the page. Click “Stop editing” and see what your page looks like. The default setting is quite good, but there are other options.

To change the style, put your page in Edit mode again, go to the web part and select “Configure Styles and Layout”.
You then get the screen below which allows you to select one of 13 Links styles and one of 7 group styles. That’s 91 combinations to choose from!

SL-configurestyles
You can change the default style of newly added links, but also change all existing links in one go.

To save you time, I have created a Summary Links web part and tried all styles and groups. They are in the file below so you can easily scroll through them to see

  1. What the web part itself looks like (left)
  2. How the page looks with this style (right). The size of the web part will vary greatly depending on the style chosen and the rest of the information on the page, so this is a factor to reckon with.

Please view in full size!

Save a copy!

Once you have added all your links, and you are happy with the end result, it is wise to create a copy in case you need a restore. You can do that via Edit page > Open the web part menu > Export. You can then save a copy to your PC and/or in your site.

Enjoy the variety! What is your favorite style?

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

7 ways to create and foster unique permissions in your SharePoint site

SnowflakeUniquePermissionsSome people call me “obsessed” with SharePoint permissions, and especially with breaking permission inheritance from the parent.

They are correct and I’ve got good reason (or so I think): the majority of issues and support questions have to do with non-standard permissions and people not fully understanding the consequences of creating unique permissions that they or their predecessors have done, knowingly or accidentally.

So while pondering my personal branding 🙂 I thought it might be better to embrace the options that Microsoft has created for us to share freely. After all, this thing is not called SharePoint for nothing! In Office365 everything is geared towards sharing content, without any considerations or warnings that many of these options create unique permissions, so who am I to worry, or go against that principle?

And what’s more, people who create unique permissions keep me in work! There’s nothing I like better than a complicated permissions puzzle, so if I want to stay away from boring discussions about columns that do not align 100% or the exact dimensions or rotation speed of carousels, why not make sure that I create some interesting work for myself?

So, let us make sure we all share content freely and without abandon!

In order to do that, I have collected these 7 principles for site owners.

1. Never give anyone “Read” access

This restricts the options for these people to share content. You will give them ugly words to share with (“Restricted Link”…ugh!),  and they will need your approval. Come on, these are grown ups that know what they are doing! If they want to share a document, they must have a good reason. And you, as a site owner, have better things to do than approve or decline sharing requests.
Treat everyone the same and give them Contribute permissions at the very least. Who knows, they may have some great insights to add to your policy or project statement. Added April 27, 2017: And they may even help you design your homepage and other pages! Thank you for that addition, Helena! (See comments below)

2. Always use individual permissions

Well, you know there is this site group option of Owners, Members and Visitors, but who wants to be in a group, if the only thing joining you is having an interest in a document? Why bother puzzling out which group would be the best option for a person? You know it never fits 100% – this document is interesting to Stella, Eric and Tom, while the other document is interesting to Stella, Tom and Cindy. How can you make groups if every document has their own audience?
Surely your audience consist of all individuals, with individual needs. Using individual permissions will give you the most freedom to match each document with the people who really need it.

3. Break permissions inheritance freely

When in doubt, break! Or when your boss tells you so, of course. SharePoint has the option to allow access on a granular level, so why not make use of it and enjoy this to the fullest? You can pinpoint any document library, folder or even document or list item and give exactly the right individuals access.

4. Never use the “restricted link” option

Restricted…what an ugly word, it feels so….limited! Why would you want to impose restrictions? When you want to share content, select the “Can read” link to make sure that your intended audience can read it and not bother you with requests for access. Even better, use the “Can Edit” option. After all, your audience may have great ideas to share in that document. Policies and other controlled documents are a thing of the past, let’s crowdsource them all!

5. Immediately accept any Access Request

Hit the “Accept”  button and do it quickly, or you may lose a perfectly good reader or editor of the page or document you are sharing. Be ashamed of yourself that you have excluded someone from your content! Rejoice that they go to so much trouble to see it!
Only then, but only if you have the time, find out why and to which content this person wanted access.

6. Never review your permissions

You may be tempted to add Caroline, John and Marcia into a group if you see their name appear on every document, but who are you to decide they need to be grouped? As mentioned in paragraph 2, they are all unique individuals and throwing them into a group only because they read or edit the same documents does not do justice to their uniqueness. And the excuse of “groups are easier to manage for me” is a bit selfish, don’t you think?

7. Stop managing permissions altogether

This may be the best advice anyone can give you.
After all, is it not a bit conceited to say that “you own this content” or “you are managing this site”? The other people in the site know very well what they are doing, and they will take care of ensuring that this content is available to all the right people! Together you know who needs, or is interested in, your information. Over time, your content will gravitate towards exactly the correct audience.

To make sure that your unique permissions grow fast enough, you may want to enter in a competition with other site owners. It may well be that companies like ShareGate have a tool that can measure unique permissions. If they don’t, I suggest they develop one quickly.
Let me know how it goes!

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Looking at myself all day in Office365

LookingatMyselfLong ago

Around 2005 I was involved with creating a new SharePoint-based intranet.

At that time we had “Knowledge Areas” on our old custom-built intranet. The Knowledge Areas contained information for a specific region, function, topic or country.
They were an early version of team sites, containing a combination of FrontPage Webs, “Document Cabinets” and Forums.
Each Knowledge Area had an owner, whose name was mentioned on the homepage.

The Knowledge Areas were to be replaced with SharePoint team sites. We wanted to brighten up the design of our new intranet and made a few prototypes to show the Knowledge Area managers.

They all went berserk.

How dared we propose to add their pictures to their name? They did not want to be on public display!
HR and privacy officers stampeded into our offices or called us with questions and concerns. We could not do such an unheard of thing without approvals from all kinds of senior officers!

Of course we had a company directory where all employees could find each other, search for expertise and create organigrams. Of course there was an option to add a picture, but few people did that. I often asked people why they walked on the company’s premises freely, without a paper bag on their head, yet were afraid to show their face to other employees. For some reason this did not have the desired effect 🙂

I have have always liked seeing pictures of my colleagues, especially if they are not in my location. It helps to know what they look like, especially when you may meet them in another office or while travelling to other locations, which I did frequently in those days. But not everyone is an early adopter and some people rather wait until they have seen that no harm befalls those who have shared their looks in the directory.

The only person with an acceptable excuse (in my book) was the Director for Mergers and Acquisitions. If you saw him in your location, you could bet that an acquisition or divestiture  was in the works, with all the speculations, gossip and general unrest that go with a big organizational change. So I understood that he did not want to become too well-known.

Recently

Since 2005 we have all gotten used to seeing our own and other people’s pictures in various places on the intranet: as a contact person for a team site, in permission settings, in the enterprise social network, etc. And now that Office365 uses People Cards, it is more and more important that your profile is uptodate – with a picture to match.

BTW, if your people directory is lagging behind, these tactics may help.  And if you think your people directory is awesome, please take this test.

Now

With Office365  we have switched to the other side and suddenly I am looking at myself ALL DAY.
Not only do I see my face in the details pane in document libraries or list, in Delve, on Yammer, in Search results, but I am also displayed in the Office365 top bar.
A new Office365 profile “experience” has just been announced. I do not know yet if that exposes my face to myself even more 🙂
I find that a bit weird and disconcerting.  Does anyone else feel that this is a bit too much?

Office365bar
OK, it is a small picture on the top right, but still…

Narcissus image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Working in a SharePoint box

spintranetsinaboxRecently I have been helping to launch a new Office365-based intranet.
While we set out with the idea of “out of the box” (a sound strategy, knowing my earlier experiences with extensive customizations) we have had to create some custom things to meet the requirements of several stakeholders.

I was therefore very interested in Clearbox Consulting ‘s evaluation of 26 “SharePoint intranets in a box“.
Unfortunately this report was published when we had already progressed very far in our intranet journey, so there was no reason to buy it.
Still, it kept nagging me because I was really curious if we could have used one of the “out-of-the-box” solutions.

So you can imagine my surprise and elation when Sam Marshall provided me with a copy just before Christmas, as well as a discount code for the readers of this blog.

What is this report about?

It compares 26 products of companies claiming to have a ready-made SharePoint intranet. This means that you do not have to do any developments yourself. It is just some configuration and a little branding.

The researchers have made the evaluation by comparing a set of standard scenarios that most intranets will need:

spbox-content
Content of the report. (Screenshot from the website)

Strengths

The major strengths are:

  • Many offerings compared – I never knew there were currently 26 different products!
  • The evaluators are all experienced intranet peeps who know what they are doing.
  • The evaluation is based on recognizable business scenarios.
  • Consistent and objective evaluation. (We could never have done it, since we would undoubtedly be biased by our own requirements)

To think about

  1. The cases provided are all very common in the intranet world. However, you may have some unique requirements that are not mentioned here. In that case, you may need to create your own filtering to find out who would be the best in-a-box-partner for you.
  2. As mentioned earlier, SharePoint and Office365 are changing very rapidly, and I do not know a. how well all vendors can keep up, and b. if and how quickly SharePoint developments will catch up with the vendor’s unique features. (I heard “Corporate News”  is on the Microsoft roadmap for 2017)
  3.  I expect new vendors to appear as well as consolidations.

So, I therefore hope and expect that there will be regular updates to this report…

Who should read this report?

  • Anyone who is starting on a new intranet should definitely read this.
    This may help you to decide if SharePoint would be a good option for your organization. You may think SharePoint is too much and too big, but an out-of-the-box solution may just offer what you need without too much hassle.
    If you already know you are going the SharePoint way, the report may help you to determine if a ready-made solution would be useful. Even if you think you know SharePoint well, you will learn a few things that may be relevant for you now or later.
    You may decide not to go for a ready-made solution, or even not to go for SharePoint at all.
    The report may also trigger you to refine or extend your requirements. For instance, we all have “Company News” on our radar, but have you thought about if and how SharePoint can be used for ideation? If Communications is your major stakeholder, they may not immediately think of the need for transactions. You may want to check with all stakeholders if they have thought about those things.
  • Anyone who has to decide on the need for custom development.
    If none of these vendors mentions what you are setting out to do, you may indeed need to develop it yourself. But if they all provide this functionality, it is probably available as an app somewhere.
  • Anyone who is working on their intranet or digital workplace roadmap, to determine whether it makes sense to move to a ready-made platform in future.
  • Anyone who is curious what intranets-in-a-box have to offer.

But isn’t this a lot of money?

No, it is not.

  1. That amount of money will buy you only a few hours of consultancy.  If you want to set up your own requirements to test against, agree on it, find and talk to all the vendors, have demos and evaluate all the results in a consistent way you will need much more time than “just a few hours”.
    Besides, the evaluators have not been biased by their own requirements.
  2. I can offer you a 10% discount if you use the code IIAB2CBOX10on the product page .
  3. You can probably get away with charging this (< 500 € / £ / $) on your credit card and submitting it as expenses 🙂 .

Good to know

I have reviewed this report for a number of reasons:

  1. I was interested in the topic because I was curious if the intranet I am working on could have been done out-of-the-box, which might have saved us a ton of time and hassle.
    (Answer after reading the report: I think we really needed the extra work we have done to meet the requirements.)
  2. So far, I have been the only “practicioner” who has reviewed this report. I think it is important that someone, who is actually in the middle of a SharePoint project in a company, shares their view.
    You will find more reviews on the Clearbox blog.
  3. I have known Sam Marshall personally for a number of years. I also know most of the people who have worked with him on this report. I have great respect for all of them. Therefore I trust this report.
  4. This has been a Christmas present so I have had the time to read and think. 🙂

So, everything came together very nicely this time.

Title inspired by “Living in a box” by Living in a Box from 1987.