SharePoint Intranet Essentials and must-haves in a Modern Intranet

Over the years of implementing various SharePoint intranet designs, the conversation with a customer typically started with "what's important to you/what do you need"?

What I'll share here, are some of the most common modules a typical intranet needs to date to be successful and relevant in a medium sized organization. You can use those as intranet ideas in the design of your own intranet.

1. Workspaces and Teams: Document Management

If you think of your intranet as a city, Workspaces or Teams are your residential neighborhoods.

Workspaces or Teams are places for groups and departments in your company to form a close working community to get something specific done. This can be a project, a task force, an internal document repository of a department or a team.

Here are some typical workspace sites:

  • Project Sites
  • HR
  • Finance
  • Legal
  • Marketing
  • IT

Workspaces usually have restricted access with select group of contributors managed by a site owner.

Essential functionality expected on these sites includes:

  • Working together on documents and deliverables
  • Easily search for documents and projects
  • Track versions
  • Track tasks and ownership
  This is an example of a Projects Directory where users can search for their project site and access relevant documents

This is an example of a Projects Directory where users can search for their project site and access relevant documents

 

2. Employee Tools: Employee Engagement

intranet idea.PNG

Employee tools is part of your cultural neighborhood in the intranet city. This is where employees go to find tools to help them be productive and connect.

Typically this area of your intranet includes:

  • New Member Orientation Site
    • Ex: First Week
    • Ex: Ordering Business Cards
    • Ex: Equipment
  • Training
  • Benefits Information
  • Staff Forms
  • Policies and Handbooks
  • Career Growth
  • Staff Directory
  • Employee News and Events
    (where team members can post their content even if it's moderated)

This area is generally open for everyone to read with few select contributors. It's important to clearly identify content contributors and we often display their names on the site so that if some content is missing or inaccurate, everyone knows who to contact.

  Help users connect with the content contributor in a specific area of the site if they find an error or missing information

Help users connect with the content contributor in a specific area of the site if they find an error or missing information

3. Tools/Resources for Business

Help employees quickly access tools they need to get their work done. This is the area where you keep all of the relevant business resources, links, and process information.

Here are some of the most common items we recommend in this section:

    • Process and Methodology Knowledgebase
    • Ex: Logo Usage Guidelines
    • Ex: Supplier Procurement Process
  • Templates and Sample Deliverables
    • Ex: Project Status Report Template
    • Ex: Project Plan Template
  • Request Forms
    • Ex: Marketing Collateral Ordering Form
  • Links to:
    • CRM
    • Reporting
    • Analytics

Help your users find content by tailoring each sub-section to the type of content.

For example, if your company provides services you can help your staff to easily find a company published whitepapers or a case study. Case studies are easier to find when they're in an article format rather than a document.

Here is the example of how you could present your case studies on a Marketing Resources site.

  Illustrates how different content is presented to draw attention to various sections of this department site helping users find what they're looking for.

Illustrates how different content is presented to draw attention to various sections of this department site helping users find what they're looking for.

4. Communication

Communication is a bread and butter of any intranet site. In fact, many intranet initiatives are started by communication department's need to effectively facilitate dialog between employees and the company. In the modern intranet, communication is not exclusively produced by the members of COMMs team, so what is this content?

Typically communication content goes right on the home page of the site with links to other sections of the intranet.

Here are the most common communication tools your intranet needs:

  • Urgent Company Alerts
  • Internal Company News & Events
  • Public and External Company Announcements
  • Employee Welcomes and Recognitions

Some other interesting elements include:

  • Department News
    (targeted to logged in user)
  • Message from Executive
  • KPI's
  • Opinion Polls

In Summary

As you can see, the modern intranet is dynamic and is all about what your team members need to get their work done. It doesn't duplicate information from other sources such as the public site content. It also doesn't try to be a replica for other specialized system such as CRM.
It provides quick access, it's relevant, responsive and helpful.

Hope this helps in your upcoming intranet design strategies. Post your comments below, would love to hear!

ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

@spentsarsky

7 Steps to Effectively Introduce Intranet & Digital Workplace

You've joined a new organization which doesn't have an intranet or it's out-of-date. From your past experience, you see so much value and potential a good intranet could bring. How do you go about convincing others?

Introducing a new tool to the organization can be a challenge but not if you follow organic process and let others be your advocates for the change. Let's take a look at some of the key strategies we saw some of our customers found successful.

1. Plant an intranet idea

First, you need your key ally and a future sponsor. Determine who can be your intranet executive sponsor and run an idea past them. See how receptive are they.

intranet idea.PNG

Here are the goals for this kind of conversation:

  • Do they feel like document and knowledge management in a company can be improved
  • Are they open to you finding out a bit more details and hearing back from you in a week or so
  • Are they open to you leading an informal survey

At this point you won't have to present any business case or budget. Try to keep the conversation high level, ask questions and get their agreement to gather more real data from others (see next step) to back up your point.

Ideally you'd want them to agree on you running a short survey to collect measurable feedback from others.

    The key here is to start with a conversation, spend a minimal amount of effort, and gather more evidence.

    2. Gather evidence in support of an intranet

    Now that you've got some interest from the potential intranet sponsor, gather some more evidence from others. If you're in charge of HR, Marketing, or Communications, this is probably the easiest step for you.

    The goal is to determine the pain points others experience with document management and communication. Start by putting together a quick intranet survey using Survey Monkey or just a plain old email.

    The key here is to collect measurable data so have some pre-defined questions and one or two open ended questions.

    Here are the typical things to measure (tailor messaging to your organization):

    • Rate how easy it is to find documents and versions
      • 5 Very Easy ...  0 Very Difficult
    • How easy do you find it is to collaborate on a single document with multiple people?
      • 5 Very Easy ... 0 Very Difficult
    • Rate how easy it is to find the right information (processes, projects, procedures, forms)
      • 5 Very Easy ... 0 Very Difficult
    • How productive do you find current communication via email (or meetings)
      • Very Productive .... Not Productive at All
    • How satisfied are you with keeping up with company & employee news, and events?
      • 5 Very Satisfied ... 0 Not Satisfied at All

    These are some of the ideas. Feel free to add specifics for your company and make sure you make them measurable (0 ... 5) that way you can build quantifiable picture.

    Try to keep number of questions between 5 and 10 so that people actually answer them.

    Also, feel free to throw in few open ended questions, those tend to generate a lot of ideas and even potential solutions. Those are great narratives to help convince stakeholders and sponsors. Here is an example:

    If you were to describe our current document sharing and collaboration in one word, what would that word be?

    You can boost up the response rate to your survey by posting a bulletin in the office kitchen, or mention it during next staff event. Even drop by team's desks and promote your idea that way.

    3. Find intranet solutions

    While your survey is collecting valuable data, you need to be on a look out for compelling intranet tools, including searching for intranet in a box.

    intranet solutions.PNG

    At this stage you will need to know your options and cost ranges. The best is to pick few intranet solutions and gather pricing details to implement each.

    Here are the key things to keep in mind while reviewing your options:

    • Know the amount of users who will be using the intranet (are those users internal users only or do they include clients, contractors etc)
    • Determine solution cost model
    • What else do you need to make it run
    • Determine the timelines for the implementation
    • What does provider need from you
      • Ex: Maintenance resources, licenses etc

    4. Present intranet business case

    Now that you've gathered some convincing results, build a quick 5 page slide deck to help you put a convincing business case.

    Here are the things to include:

    • Number of survey responses gathered
    • Facts and ratings translated into compelling statistics:
      • Ex: 60% respondents said finding documents is Very Difficult
      • Ex: 40% respondents said current communication via email is Not Productive at All
    • Include some interesting narratives to your open ended questions. Focus on the ones that bring impact and value.
    • Tie your statistics to company's values or goals for the year or in general
      • Ex: [ time saved at work] or more soft benefits such as [reducing siloes]
    • Your preferred solution vendor and some key points why
      • Might include a screenshot or two of the solution
    • Implementation cost based on your research
    • Implementation timeline also based on your research
    • Who will you need from internal resources
      • People who will help you write content etc

    At this stage you might want to present the business case in a meeting. If you find resistance, try to understand why. Perhaps your executive sponsor doesn't have much experience with intranets and needs a bit more help understanding the key benefits. It's not a bad thing.

    What you want to walk away from this meeting is:

    • Does the business case sound compelling and when can you start engaging with vendors
      • Can you request time from your select stakeholders (see next step)
    • If there are gaps in the business case, what are they and are those the only ones to work on
    • If the timing is not right, when can the idea be revisited

    5. Pick your stakeholder team

    content brainstorming.PNG

    You have just secured one of the most important stakeholders, your sponsor, congrats! You now need few more stakeholders to make your intranet a success.

    Your Content Owners are other key stakeholders who will put other important content on your intranet. Those are typically:

    • HR
    • Marketing
    • Communications
    • Delivery
    • IT

    It's important to include representatives from those areas otherwise you will end up with the intranet that's heavily leaning towards one type of content but not the other.

    Luckily, if you've launched an intranet survey from your previous step, your stakeholders are already in the loop.

    Stakeholders can't be just anyone, they need to be people in charge and who can actively participate in meetings to determine what makes it into a final product from their Area or Department. They, in turn, can allocate additional staff/contributors from their teams to join particular meetings so they need to have an authority to delegate and assign tasks.

    6. Ready for launch

    writing content.PNG

    Fast forward few weeks, you and your vendor have finished configuring the tool and you have an intranet ready to be launched, now what?

    You need to populate it with the content.

    Most intranets have [Team Specific] content and [All Company] content.

    • Team Specific content includes documents and artifacts teams use every day. Typically this content needs to be migrated from their previous repositories and everyone on the team needs to be aware where the new location is. Team Specific content can be restricted to users of a specific team for example the Management Team.
    • All Company content includes bits from almost every department. This content has main contributors but anyone can read it. This includes content for Policies & Procedures, Templates, News & Events etc. Typically this content needs to be created by assigned Content Contributors prior to launch, although some of it can be migrated from other repositories if this content already existed.

    Content Owners and key Contributors will need to work with their team to provide key content for all of their content areas whether it's [Team Specific] or [All Company].

    7. Beyond the launch

    The most important part of a thriving intranet is having content contributors know what content areas they're responsible for and how often do they update them.

    One of the things we always provide customers with is a governance and content worksheet. It's a simple blueprint used by Content Contributors to know, especially in the beginning, which content they're responsible for maintaining and how often.

    This ensures your intranet is fresh and users always know who to contact in case of a question for a particular area of the site.

    Hope this helps in your upcoming intranet design strategies. Post your comments below, would love to hear!

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    [Practical Guide]: Avoid Hidden Costs when Selecting Intranet-in-a-box

    Many companies who consider buying an intranet or a document management system also consider it being a significant investment.

    Speaking to customers and being in an intranet business, I often hear people compare various intranet products. In nearly every case I hear things often missed resulting in hidden costs later. These things are honest misunderstandings that could have been clarified early on.

    In this post, I'll highlight several key considerations to look for when evaluating candidates for your intranet.

    Intranet-in-a-box: what's really in the box?

    Often times when I see a product demo, I often focus on features and how those can solve my problems. I immediately want them all and rarely categorize them into [Must have] and [Nice to have].

    The issue is that, with all of these features I get excited about, I may not be necessarily ready for or know how to really take advantage of. When you compare features as items on a restaurant menu, ordering more, will leave you with more leftovers.

    Intranet-in-a-box is no exception.

    In fact, when we do our product pricing at Origami, only a small fraction of what our customer is paying is for the features, the rest is dedicated to workshops, training, assistance in roll out and support. Many customers are surprised when they hear this, but if you look at products out there, you'll start to understand that this approach is common.

    It's important to understand what you're getting in-the-box when comparing various options. But also, what do you need.

    Otherwise, the solution you might be buying into, can come with hidden costs outside of what you expected.

    Pricing

    When shopping for an intranet product you might come across these options:

    • $ per user
    • range $ for 1 ... NN users; $$ for NN .. NNN users
    • $ per feature

    Why is there a difference and what does it all mean to you?

    $ per user

    Every vendor strives for simplicity and $/ user may come across as the simplest way to price things, but is it?

    Things to ask your vendor:

    • Is there an additional setup fee? Or a minimum?
    • What if your user count drops or increases?
    • Does your vendor monitor active usage?
    • How does your vendor enforce increase in new licenses? Are users going to get unexpected messages on pages when you exceed the limit?
    • Are there additional platform fees such as Office 365 license fees or such? Or is this truly end price per user?

    This type of pricing usually indicated pay-as-you-go arrangement but be sure to confirm. It also indicates that the product is pretty rigid (to maintain this rigid pricing) and you may not be able to extend bits and pieces of your intranet so be sure to ask your vendor about that too.

    These are the things to be aware of. The answers you may get from your vendor maybe exactly what you expected and there are no surprises.

    range $ for 1 ... NN users
                $$ for NN ... NNN users

    This pricing method often means that the vendor breaks down services required for a successful implementation of the product into, usually, 3 groups: Small/Medium/ and Large.

    Obviously if you're a large organization, the level of support you require to deploy an intranet will be much different that an organization of 10 people. Understanding this, the vendor tailors their offering and includes services necessary to make it a success.

    What if you're on the cusp or lower end of the spectrum? Say, you have 200 users but the range covers 1 ... 250 users.

    Don't worry, this pricing method doesn't mean you're paying for user licenses you don't use. It's just a guidance what services are required for this size organization.

    Things to ask your vendor:

    • Is there a subscription fee or is this a one time cost
    • What do you get with the subscription after the first year?
    • Is there a minimum time commitment for a subscription (2 years etc)?
    • What happens when you outgrow your range? 

    $ per feature

    Also known as price per module is a common practice among some vendors.

    Knowing modules you need obviously requires knowledge of what you're building. Since most customers require help determining the correct configuration of modules, this pricing typically means that your vendor is targeting deployment through partners. Partners in turn talk to customers about their needs and recommend required configuration.

    This doesn't mean you can't buy your intranet directly from the vendor. You just need to know what you're buying. You'll also need to know how to configure and deploy your configuration.

    Things to ask your vendor:

    • Is this a subscription or one time cost?
    • Who can you turn to for help? What services do they provide? Only technical or training and support?
    • How does vendor handle upgrades and extensions? Since with modular purchases there is more chance of interacting with other 3rd party modules.

    Adding Enhancements

    Some customers I speak with fully expect that intranet-in-a-box means [a layers of intranet product] + [anything else they need] can be added or built. This is usually the case but not always.

    The product might be very rigid and there are few products on the market that follow that rule. These vendors usually suggest that for many integration options you can use tools like Zapier or Flow allowing their product to connect to many other systems. Bear in mind though that even Zapier and Flow have their limitations.

    Of course, as with anything, there are masters and consultants who can overcome any integration challenge with a clever solution but this can become a hidden cost if not known upfront.

    Hope this helps in your upcoming intranet design strategies. Post your comments below, would love to hear!

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    Remote Work Essentials: What Organizations are Missing Today

    Last week I had a chance to attend Remote Work Summit and really understand the disruptive forces that remote workers are bringing to industries. Many employers are unaware of significant shift in how their teams are evolving and what it takes to keep their productivity high.

    After listening to dozens of executives and managers successfully running remote teams, few patterns started to emerge which boil down to:

    • Managing Communication
    • Managing Knowledge

    In this post you'll find the insight I got from managers and executives of successful remote-first companies.

    Companies operate in remote-like mode without realizing it

    Many large organizations these days are distributed geographically, does that mean they are remote enabled organizations? What about companies which have offices in the same city but employees of one office never meet someone from another office, have a separate lunchroom, separate boardrooms. In relation to each other these teams operate in a remote mode.
    How about companies with employees on different floors rarely visiting one another. I've seen entire office events organized for members of a particular floor purely based on the job role of people on that floor. Entire teams operate in semi-remote or mixed-mode without even realizing it.

    The issue with operating in remote-mode without actually realizing it is that there is lack of processes and tools which positively enable such teams to function. This results in frustrations, loss of productivity, and ultimately turnover.

    So what's required to successfully make this mixed-remote environment happen?

    Managing communication is all about expectations

    The biggest fear of any company looking at introducing remote is that team members will not be able to get a hold of each other in time, miss deadlines and start blaming technology as an excuse.

    Another fear, this time from employees, is that they will be getting messages and requests from their managers and colleagues all times of the day resulting in work creeping into their personal lives.

    All this will happen without proper expectations in place.

    Successful remote-first companies such as Doist, Trello, GitHub and others, set communication expectations and build culture to solidify these expectations.

    It's also about the tools that let you manage your communication and not bombard you with everything as high priority request. Email is an example of such (bad) communication tool where every request that comes in has to be reviewed and prioritized by you before you determine if it's important or not.

    Tools such as:

    • Slack
    • Microsoft Teams
    • Twist

    ... help solve fundamental problem of everything-is-important but it's up to you to set up the culture to get on board with that.

    "[Tools] don't solve the problem, you do" - is my interpretation of city's recycling slogan from below.
    on-street_recycling_station_-_back_small.jpg

    But it's far more than tools and expectations, it's also about planning

    Managing communications is about planning

    Planning is an important part of successful communication since much of communication these days is non linear. If someone is cramming for Monday morning presentation and needs your input at 9PM on Sunday knowing you're off at this time, that's poor planning on their part. It will result in stress for both of you.

    Better approach is to set and manage your deadlines and communicate them with the dependent party. This way both of you know what to expect when well ahead of time.

    Tools like:

    • Trello
    • Microsoft Planner
    • Aha!
    • Todoist

    ... are all great starting points for planning your communication and work.

    Managing Knowledge is the key

    Managing knowledge is the key theme in Remote Work since most of the time you can't tap someone on their shoulder and ask question.

    According to Nielsen Norman research on productivity, average organization of about 10,000 people looses $8 - $13.5 million each year from employee time lost while searching for  information.
    When users can't find: a template, a chart, a PowerPoint deck to reuse they end up re-creating the work which can take hours or days.

    This isn't a new problem, in fact it's a great practice to manage your organizational knowledge whether you have remote employees or not. With remote workforce in particular, the importance of knowledge management becomes more relevant yet.

    The issue of knowledge management is my favorite problem to solve because we're in the intranet business. Just as in my previous points, there are a lot of arguments about what tool to use and which one is best. The reality is that, again, knowledge management starts with the culture of your organization. You need to understand what kind of knowledge you're storing and what is the best tool to use for that.

    In our organization we use videos a lot to manage interaction requirements of the software. Among other methods we tried, videos are the best method for our culture and how our team works. We found a balance in this method and no, not every requirement is a video.

    For some other organization, written requirements are best. Other organization will use requirements database or a Planner or Trello.

    The key is to determine the type of information you're storing and then select a tool. If you try and retrofit tools to host your information you will end up with a lot of customization or people will just not use the tool due to it's complexity.

    These aren't the only challenges in building remote workforce but these are certainly fundamentals on which things are built.

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    SharePoint Conference 2018 (SPC18) - What You Need to Know

    Last week one of the most important events in SharePoint community took place - the revived and long awaited SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas.

    As with any major event, there is a lot of buzz from Microsoft and community. In this post, I'll focus on key items which help understand where the product is going in next 2 years. I'll back this up with Microsoft public sources and some analysis.

    Key Themes

    Product is evolving - Faster than you think

    When Jeff Teper gave a demo of new SharePoint spaces he mentioned something that stuck with me: it took ~18 months from writing the idea on a paper to having it demo on the stage. Now think about it, that's incredibly fast to integrate SharePoint, and VR equipment, and create authoring experience all ready to be demo'ed in such a quick timeline. What this means is that important features you see these days requested on user voice will make their way into the product in a very short time. This creates much more attractive environment for Office 365 and many customers are seeing these advantages. It also creates fast paced environment for 3rd party ISV's like Origami to innovate but not over-engineer.

    Modern UI is getting more modern

    Microsoft continues to invest in modern UI, picture is worth a thousand words so take a look at some of these highlights (open in new window for larger picture):

     Planner Integration into modern lists

    Planner Integration into modern lists

     New list creation experience

    New list creation experience

    More here on how to Enrich your SharePoint Content with Intelligence and Automation in a post by Chris McNulty

    SharePoint 2019 On-Prem is still relevant, but customers are transitioning

    During the keynote, Jeff mentioned that Microsoft is still committed to on-prem and some of the major features such as modern sites are coming to SharePoint 2019. After my sessions I spoke with a customer to whom SharePoint on-prem is the only option due to regulatory requirements. However, many more customers are now looking to transition and it's becoming lesser of an obstacle for them. Microsoft's new strategy to win users over with better and new features in Office 365 is paying off and customers are considering this less pushy environment also.

    PowerBi - everywhere, effortless

    PowerBI has always been interesting  but unless you've set it up before it was a pain to set up to even give a demo to a customer. Few new features are coming which include PowerBI integrated and woven directly into the UI fabric.

    power bi integration.png

    My favorite : Lists will soon have intelligent graphs with data discovered from your list, how cool is that, no code required it's just there.

    This is great for ISV's and developers since you get this new feature without having to code anything as long as your data is stored in the list, your customer will get this feature automatically.

    Teams

    Microsoft continues to heavily invest in Teams. It's interesting, that, from my experience, only large organizations are truly jumping on using Teams but it's still major area of focus. Few key features are coming to Teams that look interesting:

    • Ability to Add Planner (Schedule and Chart Views) into Teams
    • Coming soon ability to add custom WebParts into Teams as tabs
    • Full Document library feature integration

    Extensibility, Workflows and Integration

    As ISV, we constantly look at integration and extensibility features that platform like Office365 has. These are freebies that we don't have to spend time on. Few major announcements that make SharePoint Online more attractive in terms of extensibility include (more highlights here):

    • Extending search with custom sources
    • Run custom scripts when site is created or associated to a hub site (Powered by Flow)
    • Coming up: row formatter to extend how your lists look like (more here)
    • SharePoint FX has new capabilities to extend modern pages, lists and even sites

    Should I come to SPC next year?

    As a speaker you might say, I'm biased. As an advisor, my recommendation is the following.

    SharePoint Conference Las Vegas.jpg

    If you're a Microsoft shop - keep a close touch and attend SPC. It's not about whether the technical or upcoming release information is available online. It's about being able to ask speakers, vendors, insiders questions that can influence your strategy. Much of the content you see posted (after the session) online get filtered. By attending live event you get bits you wouldn't know otherwise.

    So, yes, do come to SPC19 in Vegas next year!

     

    Hope this helps in your upcoming intranet design strategies. Post your comments below, would love to hear!

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    SharePoint Online Hub Sites - What You Need to Know

    Since the initial launch of hub sites in late 2017, we hear about them occasionally as they make their way through various releases. New and existing customers are trying to figure out how to take advantage of some of the hub site features.

    As with every new major feature, it takes a while to understand the impact and the direction Microsoft is taking. While that impact is assessed, there are a lot of myths of what hub sites are and where are they going.

    I've collected few of the important points here and backed them up with Microsoft public sources.

    So what is a hub site?

    In short, a hub site is a modern site (collection) just like any other modern site. This site can then be "set" by administrator as a hub site using a single PowerShell command (Register-SPOHubSite).

    Once that site becomes a hub site, users who create a new modern site can associate their newly created site to a hub site thus inheriting hub site's: Navigation, Theme, and Logo.

    In addition to providing common theme and navigation, hub sites will aggregate news content from the sites associated to them just as Content Search Web Part would in traditional/classic scenario.

    Here are the things to know?

    Despite this simple model there are few things to remember, here they are:

    Associating Sites to Hub Site

     Associating SharePoint Modern site to a Hub Site

    Associating SharePoint Modern site to a Hub Site

    You can associate modern site, as you create it, to any hub site. You can also associate the site at a later time

    You can "demote" the hub site to a regular modern site at any time using a PowerShell command. If that hub site has been demoted, the related sites which have been under it become "orphaned". This doesn't mean they're lost, users can still get to them using the URL or the SharePoint dashboard in Office 365.

    Moving Sites

    Having the flexibility to create sites which don't follow any particular hierarchy doesn't mean you can create and re-create sites without impacting users. As you build up your first hub site as an umbrella for a group of sites your users will expect this content to stay there. Of course you can move things but you'd still have to follow the same change management you did in the past.

    The good news is that since now all of the sites are flat and don't have hierarchy, when your users bookmark something, even if it becomes part of the hub sites, the URL will not change and their link will remain working. In the past, in classic experience, as you move sub-sites around URLs change and users would get 404 error.

    Hierarchy of Hub Sites

    If you're thinking to create traditional Information Architecture where you have hub sites acting as landing pages and then more hub sites under them, unfortunately that's not possible at this time.

    In other words, hub site can not be under another hub site. You can have parallel hub sites but they can't be grouped under an overarching hub site. Having said that, you can fake that hierarchy with a lading site which has links to various hub sites. In many cases this will suffice and users will navigate from landing site to their respective areas.

    On the same token, site can only belong to a single hub site and polyhierarchy is not supported. This may sound like a limitation but polyhierarchies are usually not popular on the intranet since rarely we want to have particular content reside under 2 separate branches. This is common for public e-commerce sites though.

     In this case "Consulting" can not be associated to Hub Site called "Departments" and another Hub Site called "Projects".

    In this case "Consulting" can not be associated to Hub Site called "Departments" and another Hub Site called "Projects".

    Classic Experience and a Hub Site

    Can a classic site in SharePoint Online be joined to a hub site? Yes, but ...

    You can't pick a random classic sub-site under a site collection, only site collections can be joined to a hub site. This is likely to preserve flat URL approach which is only possible with site collections.

    Provided then, you have a classic site collection, you'll need to create a new modern page as a home page under that classic site collection so that you have access to the association UI to create a link to a hub site. However, this means that your classic home page on that site collection will not longer be displayed to users. After it's been associated, you can switch back the home page to the classic UI.

    As a workaround, if you'd like to join a classic sub-site to a hub site, you'll want to migrate that classic sub site to a new site collection and associate it.

    Hub Sites On-Prem

    Hub sites are likely to make it into on-prem but have not confirmed yet according the source

    Can on-prem sites join a hub site? Not for a bit but likely is coming.

    Hope this helps in your upcoming intranet design strategies. Post your comments below, would love to hear!

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    [How-To]: Auto generate documents from data stored in SharePoint list and send them for signatures with DocuSign

    If you're like most of us, you probably deal with a lot of document signatures. SharePoint is a great place to store those. What you don't want is to become a hub of all this communication between participants who participate in signing.

    In this video, we literally take just few minutes to see how you can automate generation of e-signature enabled document based on the data stored in SharePoint list. You can then circulate the document between required parties without being involved in the logistics of the process.

    The second part is being able to pick up the signed document and put it back as a list attachment, let me know if you're interested in seeing that and I'll be sure to post the solution.

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about so we can feature the most popular topics

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    How to [convince your boss] to send you to SPC18 this year?

    SPC18 is around the corner and few people asked me to help them with convincing their boss in sending them to the event.

    You need to be crisp and clear about immediate benefits of sending someone to an event. Here is the email you can use as a starting point to convince your boss.

    Hi [insert your managers's name],
    I wanted to bring up an opportunity for me to attend SharePoint Conference this year in May 21-23, in Las Vegas. SharePoint Conference is the largest focused event of it's kind in North America with over 100+ sessions from Microsoft, vendors, customers and worldwide experts.
    With some of the big-name speakers like Jeff Teper, Microsoft Corporate VP, Mark Kashman Microsoft Senior Product Manager, and Bill Baer there will be many key announcements and strategic sessions at the event. Also, some of the most well known experts and MVPs, such as Andrew Connell, Ben Curry, Dux Raymond Sy, Spencer Harbar, Todd Klindt, Susan Hanley, to name few, will be delivering sessions on Office 365, Teams, Azure, PowerBI and more. Here is the link to all the tracks and session.
    It would be a 3 day learning opportunity with 150+ hours of training, and over 2500 attendees to network with.
    I believe this year's SPC will bring huge value to help me in particular on the following projects:
    1. [Project Name]
    2. [Project Name]
    3. [Project Name]
    In addition, after the event I can share materials and the knowledge with my team as series of lunch and learns so that everyone can benefit and increase the return on the investment.
    I've estimated the cost breakdown below with Early Bird and referral discount included:
    -Flight: $
    -Hotel: $
    -Transportation: $
    -Meals (breakfast and lunch included): $
    -Registration: $
    --
    TOTAL: $
    I'd love to talk more to see what you think.
    Thanks so much!
    [Your Name]

    Be sure to drop by your manager's desk next day to follow up on the email and let them know about Early Bird pricing they can take advantage of by registering you early.

    Hope this helps, see you there!

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    Business Case for building a phenomenal [Information Architecture] for your intranet

    ia.PNG

    Even with a great intranet search, clear and intuitive information architecture is very much relevant for improved information searchability.

    Information Architecture versus Navigation

    Many confuse information architecture (IA) with the navigation because there is a tight link between the two, but they are not one and the same.

    Information architecture describes the relationship between the information on the intranet, so that we don't forget about key content we need.

    For example: Let's take [Policies].
    Policies can be broken down to [Expense Policies], [HR Policies] etc.
    [HR Policies] can be further broken down to [Recruiting] and [Benefits].

    It's important to know what IA you will have on the intranet but navigation may not necessarily use the same labels. Some deeper parts of the IA can be used for thing like content types or libraries represented in a view.

    For example instead of using this navigation: [Company Operations] -> [Policies] ->[HR Policies] -> [Recruiting], we may have a top nav link titled [How We Work] and have a single search tool allowing you to search resources based on a tag. Those tags can include policies and related documentation. In this case, the end user doesn't necessarily see the IA, but the author who tags the content is aware of the IA so that the right content is tagged correctly

    policy search.PNG

    Search versus IA

    Searchable doesn't always mean it's findable.

    Why is that? Even if you name the content with descriptive keywords, people still need to know those keywords. Let's take the term [WebPart] from SharePoint. Someone who's unfamiliar with SharePoint framework could call it: [Widget], [App], [Component], [Tool] ... now try searching Google for something you'd normally find if used the right term versus the wrong term - the result may vary significantly. Same applies in context of your intranet search.

    Having the right IA and contextual search like in the example above is more more efficient than a global search which searches everything and find nothing.

    Additionally, have you ever found something with the right name but the content is completely not what you'd expect? My favorite one is when you search for a logo or marketing collateral and find variations of "unapproved" logos or out of date PowerPoint slide decks. Figuring out the reliability of the search is not always easy.

    In this case, with IA you can build structure which will help users find the content from reliable sources as opposed to rogue versions or out of date information.

    How to build great IA

    Building an IA can sound like a daunting task because there is so much to consider. However, provided you have a right process it's quite easy to get outputs you're looking for. We always use structured workshop format to help build an IA for intranets and it works really well keeping everyone engaged. After all, IA design workshops can be 1.5 hour in length and sometimes may have more than 15 participants.

    Here is the high level flow of our typical IA workshop:

    Preparing

    1. Set a workshop team. Having the right people in the room is important but it's not always the easiest things to accomplish.
    2. Ask participants to come prepared with ideas about the content they would like to have on the intranet. If the company has an intranet already, this is always easier since they have some ideas of what they had previously.
    3. Bring plenty of sticky notes, permanent markers, and a white board marker. Ideally you'll have a room with at least one whiteboard large enough to hold all of the sticky notes. One person typically generates about 15 to 30 sticky notes, so plan large enough space if you have 15 or so people come into the workshop.

    Workshop

    1. Explain the purpose and the process to participants.
       
    2. Ask participants to take 5 minutes to write one content idea per sticky without interacting with other participants.

      Some participants will be very detailed and will generate 20 or more stickies, others may write down just 5 or so. If anyone has questions, they can ask those for clarity. At this point no one needs to structure the content in parent-child relationship, this will be done later.
       
    3. When the time's up, ask each participant to come to the whiteboard and take 3 min to read out their stickies and put them up on the board.

      If others have questions about a piece of content, they can clarify now but if some content areas raise more of a discussion, take that idea down on a separate sticky and place it in the separate part of the whiteboard titled "Parking Lot" - those can be discussed later.

      We usually ask first two volunteers for this part since some people less confident catch up on the flow of the exercise.
       
    4. Now that everyone has shared their content ideas, we need to eliminate duplicates and group them into content categories. This is a group exercise. Allocate 5-10 minutes for this round.

      For smaller groups of < 5 people, everyone can work as a group. For larger groups of 6 people break them up into teams focusing on a particular area. For example: HR team working together, etc.

      If you have several groups, allocate another couple of minutes so that each group explains their content grouping to others.

      As a result you'll have clusters of content ideas.
       
    5. Now, you're ready to build a draft hierarchy. Allocate another 5-10 minutes where participants will build relationships between groups and label each group of content with a label that can be used to reference this particular content group.
       
    6. Final 5-10 minutes participants solidify labels for all the content groups which will produce a structure similar to this:
    ia.PNG

    After the Workshop

    You will end up with a lot of stickies; take photos of clusters. For larger groups we take photos as things are grouped after each exercise since stickies sometime fall off and you lose bits of information. Once you've got photos, you can use any mind map tool such as MindMap or Mind Manager to enter the data into the tool.

    Share the diagram with others so they see the product of their hard work. This can evolve further but should serve as a great basis for your IA.

    Remote IA Workshops

    There are few tools you can use with remote workshops such as Optimal Workshop or Mural, but the tool is there just as a mechanism. Ensure you plan how the remote workshop will run, and if you need to adjust the pace to fit in remote participants or do a pre-meeting - it can save a lot of time and keep everyone engaged.

    In summary

    Building good IA for an intranet is as important for the success of the project as having the content. After all if people can't find the content, it's as if it doesn't exist in a first place. Knowing how to get the right inputs to your IA comes down to interactive IA workshops, which help getting input while keeping people engaged.

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    SharePoint Conference North America Discount Code: "YARO" ($50 OFF)

    SharePoint Conference North America marks re-loaded version SharePoint Conference and here is why you should be there!

    Here is how to claim your $50 OFF discount:

    It's Vegas

    ... and I can't imagine SharePoint Conference anywhere else.
    Sorry Orlando, but it's easier flight, more accessible hotels, plenty of entertainment and just more fun vibe. That's what we've been missing, that's what we want back and that's what we got! 

    New Announcements and candid answers from speakers

    Microsoft has prepared tons of new announcements for this May. Jeff Teper says (full video):

    “You know you’ll see a good mix of things that people have asked us for that are very feed back driven and hopefully you’ll see somethings that will surprise you.  You’ll want to be there in person in Vegas to see those things.”  Really don’t dilly dally.  We all promise the product team is going to show up in force and bring our ‘A’ game like we’ve never brought it before.”

    You've seen all of the new developments in modern UI and it's evolving every week. Be prepared to see much more this summer and be the first one to know what else is coming. I personally find out more about the roadmap not just from announcements but also from talking to speakers after their session and asking for ex.: "hey so where is this really going, is modern UI going to re-introduce template packaging similar to how Squarespace does it". Guess what, likely you will get an honest answer or a hint to an answer month earlier and that's worth gold when strategizing for your own deployment.

    Quality over Quantity

    I spoke twice at Microsoft Ignite, I like the conference but the quantity is overwhelming and it was nearly impossible to book colleagues for a catch up let alone run into someone you know from blogs. Everyone I speak to agrees that having a focused event is long overdue. Jeff is seeing the same thing:

    “We were excited to do it again, but to be honest this was one where I think all of us were pleasantly surprised by the feedback from the last 18 months of people almost demanding it!   People were banging on our doors, saying you’ve got to bring this back, because you don’t understand the magic of this is as much the community. “We want to get together in person with people and talk about this stuff.”

    There are clear tracks on Dev, ITPro, Biz and Microsoft has their own track where you hear all of the announcements and have Microsoft speakers present.

    Not just SharePoint

    Yesterday I was talking to a client and as many of us, their concern was "well I don't just supervise SharePoint, it's all the other related tools". Well this conference is not just SharePoint, check out the session filters, you'll find much more than just SharePoint session but all of them are related to the platform. Intune, Azure, even AI or PowerBI, Project ... some of the session topics you'll also find, be sure to check out what else is there

    sharepoint conference session topics.PNG

    As Jeff says it:

    “You know you’ll see a good mix of things that people have asked us for that are very feed back driven and hopefully you’ll see somethings that will surprise you."

    Value for Business Users

    There is a clear track for business users and this is something I'm excited about since I'm presenting both sessions on this track. Coming from a technical background, few years ago I started appreciating the benefits of attending business focused sessions which to this day help me build more usable solutions and deliver what truly matters and not just what sounds cool.

    This year my session is on, be sure to check it out:

    Facilitating Design Workshops to help deliver a solid and engaging intranet.

    I can't wait to share my approach and exercises with you and hear what worked for you to be able to share it with others.

    In summary

    In summary, well, be there for the re-launch! As a teaser you can get $50 off on registration by using YARO as a discount code during the registration. So now with 50 bucks in your pocket you have no excuse!

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    Building Better Business Case for Employee Engagement and Communication

     Use  SharePointNA Registration Discount Code : YARO

    Employee engagement is not a nice-to-have, but how do you measure it?
    --Source: 15five

    Employee Engagement

    Employee engagement is tightly connected with organizational culture and a key way of seeing what people think about the work climate.

    Engaged employees result in increased organizational performance because they tend to care about how thing are running, resulting in process improvements, fresh ideas, better problem solving, and have more drive to succeed.

    Measuring Employee Engagement

    So what are the qualitative metrics involved?

    According to Gallup, businesses with highly engaged teams experience a 20% lift in productivity. According to the Workforce Institute on Absenteeism, businesses saw a drop in absenteeism (unearned PTO) by 41% when teams were engaged in their work.  

    On average, highly engaged teams will experience a 40% improvement in turnover. This improvement can vary from 24% in high-turnover organizations to 59% in low-turnover organizations. You can find more details about this in the Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis Report.

    Since engagement and communication go hand-in-hand, effective employee communication is a leading indicator of financial performance and a driver of employee engagement. Companies that are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that are the least effective communicators.

    Being able to measure engagement in your organization is critical to building a convincing business case on how it's improving and in turn the impact brought to an organization. Measuring business metrics (unearned PTO, improvement in turnover etc) requires time since you need a good sample of data to be able to flag trends. Usually you need to wait 6 months to a year to be able to say how the organization is trending in terms of turnover etc.

    There are far more immediate tools you can use today to capture measurable employee sentiment and engagement.

    Tools

    In many organizations, company intranet has become a main tool to share information and collaborate. It is also often used as a communication and engagement tool. By enabling some of these engagement features you can gain a relatively quick insight.

    Here are some of the features we recommend to measure and improve your employee engagement through company intranet:

    shout+outs.PNG

    Staff recognition and new staff shout outs can serve as a broadcast to communicate new employees joining the team. You can also enable "likes" and  "comments" to see how many of the staff are actually reading new updates and actively "liking" the update. Higher likes in turn mean your staff is excited about new members joining the team and care about them being welcomed to the group.

    Polls
    Timely polls can gather valuable insight about what your staff thinks about various issues. It's an easy way to test ideas.

    poll.PNG

    Remember to keep things simple in terms of poll questions and answer options. We also recommend enabling the ability to suggest a new poll to give your staff an option to voice what is important to them. A time limit encourages interested parties to cast their votes. If they miss something they care about, they will check that area of the site more often. Naturally more votes mean better engagement, but make sure that questions are relevant and relatable.

    Idea submissions
    Just as polls, idea submission allows staff to describe an issue and their idea in detail. The key here is to collect the name with each idea and not making it anonymous. This promotes ownership of the content that's created. Additionally, we recommend enabling likes and comments so that others can vote up the idea or ask questions. Anyone who submitted an idea always wants to be recognized, we recommend including "resolution" or "outcome" section for each idea where management can comment on whether this idea is [In Works] or [More Detail Required]

    ideas.PNG

    Featured Staff News
    Another great tool which is free in most intranets is the Featured Events tool. We recommend featuring spotlight articles on your employees to bring up interesting stories and spark a conversation. If available in your intranet, enable comments and likes to be able to see what kind of engagement you get on this content.

    In summary

    Measurement is critical. Companies that are less-effective communicators are much more likely than highly effective communicators to report having no formal measurements of communication effectiveness.
    Build quick and concrete evidence of employee engagement by enabling social likes and comments features in your intranet. Take advantage of some of the built-in widgets such as polls, idea submissions, and shout outs.

    Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    [How-To]: Create Modern SharePoint Communication and Team Site Templates / Site Designs

    In this quick how-to video, we look at how you can easily script site template provisioning in SharePoint Online modern communication and team sites.

    Links in this video:

    Code used in the video:

    //------------------------------
    // Theme Provisioning
    
    $themepallette = @{
    "themePrimary" = "#9b59b6";
    "themeLighterAlt" = "#faf7fb";
    "themeLighter" = "#f5eef8";
    "themeLight" = "#ebdef0";
    "themeTertiary" = "#d5b9e0";
    "themeSecondary" = "#a569bc";
    "themeDarkAlt" = "#8e4ba8";
    "themeDark" = "#6e3a83";
    "themeDarker" = "#572e67";
    "neutralLighterAlt" = "#f8f8f8";
    "neutralLighter" = "#f4f4f4";
    "neutralLight" = "#eaeaea";
    "neutralQuaternaryAlt" = "#dadada";
    "neutralQuaternary" = "#d0d0d0";
    "neutralTertiaryAlt" = "#c8c8c8";
    "neutralTertiary" = "#d6d6d6";
    "neutralSecondary" = "#474747";
    "neutralPrimaryAlt" = "#2e2e2e";
    "neutralPrimary" = "#333333";
    "neutralDark" = "#242424";
    "black" = "#1c1c1c";
    "white" = "#ffffff";
    "primaryBackground" = "#ffffff";
    "primaryText" = "#333333";
    "bodyBackground" = "#ffffff";
    "bodyText" = "#333333";
    "disabledBackground" = "#f4f4f4";
    "disabledText" = "#c8c8c8";
    }
    
    Add-SPOTheme -Name "Origami Purple" -Palette $themepallette -IsInverted $false
    
    //------------------------------
    //Site Structure Provisioning
    
    $site_script = @'
    {
      "$schema": "schema.json",
      "actions": [
        {
    		"verb": "applyTheme",
    		"themeName": "Origami Purple"
        },
        {
    	   "verb": "addNavLink",
    	   "url": "/",
    	   "displayName": "Employee Services",
    	   "isWebRelative": true
    	},
        {
    	   "verb": "addNavLink",
    	   "url": "/",
    	   "displayName": "Business Services",
    	   "isWebRelative": true
    	},
        {
    	   "verb": "addNavLink",
    	   "url": "/",
    	   "displayName": "Workspaces",
    	   "isWebRelative": true
    	},
    	{
        "verb": "setSiteLogo",
        "url": "https://sharemuch.sharepoint.com/sites/OrigamiV10/SiteAssets/static1.squarespace.com.png"
    	}
      ],
      "bindata": { },
      "version": 1
    }
    '@
    
    
    Add-SPOSiteScript -Title "Origami" -Content $site_script -Description "Creates Origami Site Script"
    Add-SPOSiteDesign -Title "Origami" -WebTemplate "68" -SiteScripts "" -Description "Origami Site"
    
    
    //------------------------------
    // Cleanup
    Remove-SPOTheme -Name "Origami Purple"
    Remove-SPOSiteScript 
    Remove-SPOSiteDesign 
    

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about so we can feature the most popular topics

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    Branding SharePoint Modern Communication Sites - Adding Corporate Color Themes

    In this quick how-to video, we look at how you can apply your own company colors to SharePoint Online modern communication site. I'd call this how-to no code since small amount of code you have to copy is just copy & paste.

    Links in this video:

    Code used to update the theme:

    $themepallette = @{
    "themePrimary" = "#eab905";
    "themeLighterAlt" = "#fffcf2";
    "themeLighter" = "#fef9e4";
    "themeLight" = "#fef3ca";
    "themeTertiary" = "#fde590";
    "themeSecondary" = "#fac810";
    "themeDarkAlt" = "#d3a604";
    "themeDark" = "#a48103";
    "themeDarker" = "#816603";
    "neutralLighterAlt" = "#e8dfdf";
    "neutralLighter" = "#e5dada";
    "neutralLight" = "#ddd0d0";
    "neutralQuaternaryAlt" = "#d1bfbf";
    "neutralQuaternary" = "#c9b4b4";
    "neutralTertiaryAlt" = "#c3abab";
    "neutralTertiary" = "#d6d6d6";
    "neutralSecondary" = "#474747";
    "neutralPrimaryAlt" = "#2e2e2e";
    "neutralPrimary" = "#333333";
    "neutralDark" = "#242424";
    "black" = "#1c1c1c";
    "white" = "#ece5e5";
    "primaryBackground" = "#ece5e5";
    "primaryText" = "#333333";
    "bodyBackground" = "#ece5e5";
    "bodyText" = "#333333";
    "disabledBackground" = "#e5dada";
    "disabledText" = "#c3abab";
    }
    
    Add-SPOTheme -Name "Origami Yellow" -Palette $themepallette -IsInverted $false
    

    Code to remove the theme:

    Remove-SPOTheme -Name "Origami Yellow"

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about so we can feature the most popular topics

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    SharePoint Online Branding with No-Code - Part 1

    tim-mossholder-303025.jpg

    SharePoint Online can seem tricky to align to your company's look and feel, especially if you're limited to no-code options. There are several solutions that will give you quite a lot of flexibility without needing to write code. That's what we'll cover in this series of posts.

    Color Palette Updates

    Nobody wants their site to look like this.

    ootb.PNG

    Basic Options

    Let's see how we can replace this vanilla blue with something that matches your brand. Out of the box, you have an option to pick one of several available themes but what if none of them match what you're looking for. At first, those seems like a lot of options but after few clicks you realize you've exhausted your options.

    change the look.gif

    More Advanced Updates

    There is a tool you can use to give you much greater control of what colors you would like to see on your site. It's called SharePoint Color Palette Tool and can be. Once you download the tool, you can easily create your own color scheme by choosing primary color and letting the tool decide the color balance for the rest of the elements by clicking the [Recolor] button.

    color palette tool.PNG

    Choosing for the tool to Recolor the palette is a good starting point since 95% of elements will be matched with complimenting colors to your chosen primary color. You have an option to refine this color selection further by expanding color buckets on the left and choosing a color for an element or group of elements you'd like to look differently.

    You can preview your changes as you go along. When ready click File -> Save and save the file with the desired name.

    Uploading the new palette

    Next, we'll upload this newly created theme.

    1. Click the [Gear] button and select [Site Settings]
    2. Under [Web Designer Galleries] click [Theme]
    3. Navigate inside of the [15] folder
    4. Upload the color theme we have created a moment ago into the library

    Making palette available in gallery

    Now the color Palette is uploaded and we need to make it available in the gallery

    1. Click the [Gear] button and select [Site Settings]
    2. Under [Web Designer Galleries] click [Composed looks]
    3. Copy into the clipboard the following links from one of the existing Composed looks:
      1. Master Page URL (in my case https://sharemuch.sharepoint.com/sites/Example/_catalogs/masterpage/seattle.master)
      2. Theme URL (in my case https://sharemuch.sharepoint.com/sites/Example/_catalogs/theme/15/Origami.spcolor)
    4. Click New Item to add your own Composed look, fill in
      1. Title - this is what will be used in Composed Looks gallery
      2. Name - keep it the same as [Title]
      3. Master Page URL - use the same one from above
      4. Theme URL - use the one from above but replace the filename to the one we uploaded earlier
      5. Display Order - keep at 100 or set to lower number to show your Theme at the top of the gallery

    Using the new palette

    Navigate back to the Change the Look page to find your own look available to apply. Now, the site will inherit our bold new color set earlier in the Color Palette Tool.

    updated.PNG

    What's Next?

    If you need to tweak few things in your color palette, you can reopen the palette file in the SharePoint Color Palette Tool. For changes to take affect you must re-upload the file and still go through Change the Look page to select the same Composed Look even though it's already selected. This ensures SharePoint recompiles new changes in the Palette definition.

    Next, we'll take a look at how you can make structural updates to your key pages to fit the content you require while keeping the look and feel consistent.

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    Migrating your on-premise SharePoint solution: key strategies and lessons learned

    a-j-447538.jpg

    Since Microsoft’s announcement of upcoming SharePoint 2019 later this year, many organizations are planning to move to SharePoint 2016, SharePoint Online, or Hybrid.

    Lift-and-Shift

    Often companies choose a lift-and-shift approach, where the solution is moved to a newer version of SharePoint with no functional changes. This approach is cost effective especially if your previous solution has not been heavily customized, and you just want to take advantage of all the new features available. Lift-and-shift can also be selected as a “phase one” migration, followed by functional enhancements in later phases.

    Although this is a relatively straightforward path, here are the key tactics we found crucial with many customers over the years.

    Do a trial run / Have Pre-Production environment

    As your SharePoint environment goes through updates, it’s hard to keep track of everything. Small customizations are often implemented by Power Users directly on the page via script. Sometimes it’s a piece of JavaScript, or a workflow built using SharePoint Designer. Those may not easily translate to a newer version of SharePoint and that’s why we recommend doing a trial run on a development environment using DB attach process.

    Once you have ran the migration, you can involve your key users with a smoke test of their specific areas. This brings us to a next point of having a RACI matrix to know who does what.

    Have a RACI

    It’s an all familiar [Responsible/Accountable/Consulted and Informed] matrix. Here is why we need it:

    • To identify who will be doing the smoke test of trial migration and catching any issues on key pages (landing, key areas, and department pages etc
    • Know who to contact when things need to be fixed or content retired
    • Understand who makes go/ no-go decision, and understands all aspects of the solution
    • Identify stakeholders to prioritize issues before migration to production
    • Know who will send communication to which users at various stages of the migration
    • Know who will support users who are unfamiliar with some new UI present on their pages
    • Identify staff and contractors supporting outages after hours or on a day 1 after the migration
    • Identify who will track task completion, or who's your project manager

    Prioritize Issues

    To some people an issue may not be an issue, and sometimes that’s a big issue :)

    With the help of RACI you can determine key stakeholders who can help you drive what’s to be addressed right away or after Go-Live. If there are items on which your team can’t agree, use your Go /No-Go meeting to decide with [Accountable] stakeholders.

    Keep track of the decisions for each issue discovered and what resolution should be. It will help you see what was done as you migrate from development environment to staging and finally to production.

    Track Action Items

    Migrations strictly rely on correct sequencing of events because they involve switching users from one production system to a new system.

    If someone doesn’t complete their task or completes it partially, it’s likely to have a bearing on the next steps in the sequence. For example, if you decide not to set automatic link redirect to a new system, be sure to send an email communication about that as it may impact some users.

    We recommend using Trello or Microsoft Planner to track activities and checklists, and move them from one bucket to another as they change their state.

    editorial.PNG

    Prepare Communication

    Having adequate communication sent to users will set their expectations and significantly increase customer satisfaction. As a bonus, your users will feel that you care about their experience.

    Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to message things via email, staff meetings or other methods. Chose the method so that no one misses your planned outage window.

    Raise awareness of the upcoming change by sending initial communication first, in advance of the migration and more details closer to the migration.

    Don’t forget the details:

    • What will happen (outage, system unavailability etc)
    • When will it happen (and for how long!)
    • What to expect after (redirect on some page, new login, new UI etc)
    • Who to contact if they have a problem (chose method which can handle larger than normal traffic)

    Have a Go /No-Go Strategy

    Schedule Go /No-Go decision early on to ensure everyone at the table is the right decision maker. It’s important to consider not just technical readiness but also change impact. Short notice change may introduce risk of wider outage so it’s key to chose your options wisely with the right people at the table.

    Prepare to handle outages

    Continuous testing helps but outages always happen.

    This might sound obvious, but have technical resources allocated to work over the weekend or evenings surrounding the migration milestones. Even if you won’t need their help, it’s good to have a backup. It might be permission access to a file-share or incorrect login credentials that will stall entire migration. Same goes for users who will perform smoke test of the migrated system. Having the right people available at the right time is crucial.

    We recommend developers and admins clear part of their day the morning following a successful migration to help address anything urgent as users report problems.

    In summary

    Technical aspects of a lift and shift migration are as important as change management parts of the process. Feel free to adapt some of the tactics above to your organization based on the size and culture. In many cases, you’ll be glad you clarified assumptions and avoided set-backs.

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    Scoring high employee engagement through empowering content authors

    content author.png
    Your intranet or corporate social network can be a digital workplace's best channel to establish engagement and a reliable two-way link between your employees and organizational culture.

    We often hear about employee engagement, but how do you achieve it?

    In a Digital Workplace, engagement is about using digital tools, such as your intranet or a corporate social network, to establish reliable two-way link between your employees and organizational culture.

    This is a continuous process where content authors play a key role on a frequent basis. Their role involves understanding what content to feature and being able to make it engaging, relatable and relevant. To consistently engage your employees using digital, it’s not just about coming up with ideas to write interesting stuff. It’s about understanding what tools you for trend analysis and how to best put a spotlight on relevant trends to build organic interest in areas you feature.

    Read full article

    Leave your comments on what are some of the things you're curious about and we'll try to get an expert insight on the topic

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    How To: Work less [in] your email

    Let's face it, email isn't bad for communication, but when we make it the vehicle where all of the work happens things start to get out of hand. It happens to me throughout the day. This quick poll on Twitter tells me I'm not the only one.

    KeepUpWithWork.PNG

    The issue

    So why does this happen that our mailboxes often become workflow, document management, collaboration, sharing, notification, and reminder tool. Well, it's what we are most familiar with, it's handy, so we try to use it for everything. Email is also super easy, free, and you don't need any extra apps.

    The side effect of using an email is that any processes we have worked into it are most likely only known to us making the knowledge locked inside our heads. This isn't usually a problem until you get overwhelmed and need to scale or delegate parts of that manual process.

    Email messages along with other communication are pieces of puzzles that form a cohesive picture, whether it's a request, or a task. Relying on email alone will give you the granularity, but won't give you the big picture at quick a glance. It's easier to miss a hidden context related to a timeline for example.

    The more email we have the harder it is to separate distinct strains of processes buried deep in your mailbox.
    To make sense how to deal with the issue we classified the types of emails we often get ...

    Types of email

    We looked at the most common types of emails landing in our mailboxes to see how we can deal with them. Here is what we found:

    Quick Ask

    This is direct request and something we can answer quickly. We don't need to do research, dig some data, ask anyone else, or go through documents. This can also be a meeting request, something we can easily accept or decline.

    What happens: These usually get responded to "right away" or as soon as you're free from whatever else you're doing.

    FYI

    No response required, not urgent enough to read it now but something we want to go back to maybe today or tomorrow. This can be work related or external like a webinar we want to watch.

    What happens: This typically sits in our mailboxes for few hours to few days, to few weeks depending how busy we are.

    Task

    This is basically an assignment someone has given us whether they realize it or not. Often disguised as "quick question" but actually has no a quick answer. It can also be an automated alert we need to action. For this we need to go back and do some research before we can answer. Now the part between someone giving us a task and us responding to that email is a "black box", sometimes no-one knows what happens.

    What happens: This can be a dreadful one, it can turn into quite some work. These emails usually sit and wait and often can turn into more emails to other team members, a meeting or a document etc. The requestor can wait for days or sometimes weeks to an answer.

    How to better deal with them?

    Apart from a task-type-email other are easy to deal with. However, there are things we can do to improve the situation:

    Lots of "quick asks"

    This means that you're a hub, a power broker. This sounds important since lots of things need to flow through you. However, don't let the hub situation turn you into a bottleneck. If you expect growth: of your organization, customers, offerings etc, you need to work on becoming less of a hub and more of an information broker.
    Things you can do:

    • Setting up a knowledge base with FAQ's on your intranet
    • Sharing responsibilities, even if it's part time
    • Enabling self-serve: creating quick-steps-sheet or video
    • Organize Lunch and Learn

    Quick asks often turn into Tasks

    This means people don't understand the full picture or there are missed expectations. The drawback of this is that people don't really understand what you're doing and think that it's not a significant request, where in fact it is.

    Things you can do:

    • Clarify the request to make sure you understand it correctly
    • Try to find a mutually convenient workaround to reduce the size of the task
    • Track the task in a tracker tool such as Planner or Trello

    Here is an example of tracking editorial calendar so that you can see everything that goes into writing and what's outstanding, the deadlines, and dependencies

    editorial.PNG

     

    Too many FYI's

    This means people may not be clear about the process and over-communicate to cover all the bases. This may also indicate that people don't have a place to talk or engage.

    Things you can do:

    • Document and communicate the process if those FYI's are related to process or work
    • Set up a News & Events area on your intranet with comments, if those FYI's are related to general company communication

    Dealing with TASKS

    The key to dealing with tasks is tracking. Just as shown above, for a simple editorial process you may end up with dozens of little tasks. No need to keep them spread around in your email folders. Same applies to your sales and marketing pipeline, your support requests. Tracking will ensure you keep you promises while remaining sane and not drowning in a flood of email.

    Below is an example of on-boarding view where your team members responsible for on-boarding can easily see the process and execute it if required in your absence.

    onboarding.PNG

    Another step further is automating some of the activities with workflow tools like Zapier or Flow. For example, using our on-boarding example, you can automate electronic contracts or offer letter signing and filing directly into SharePoint without using any code with Flow or Zapier. This will eliminate at least 2 or 3 emails for each of the participants and keep documents securely stored and accessible by those who need to see them.

    Using these techniques we were able to significantly reduce the amount of interruptions our team gets daily and keep on track with our deliverables providing visibly better service.

    How are you using email and what are things you're thinking about automating? We'd love to hear from you.

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    The subtle art of making a great intranet: a perspective from HR

    If there’s one thing many case studies agree on is that intranet project is a team effort. The more subtle truth is that anyone can be the initiator and key driver.
    human-resources.jpg

    Whether you’re in corporate communications, HR, IT, or a specific business unit, you’ve got the power to successfully initiate an intranet project and build a digital workplace.

    What happens next is a methodical set of activities to see it through completion.

    Here is the perspective of how an intranet project got its roots in HR at a manufacturing company. Elena Bobyreva, Director of HR at Peak Products shares her valuable insight in my recent interview with her:

    Background and Intranet Project Roadmap

    • [YP] Why an intranet?
    • [EB] What I like about intranet is that it helps our company to deliver information to the employees and internal stakeholders as well as collect their feedback. It is a forum for employees to communicate and connect and that builds engagement.
       
    • [YP] What was used previously at your company?
    • [EB] Previously we relied on emails, phone conferences or calls, and in-person meetings.
       
    • [YP] What were top things important to you in your intranet?
    • [EB] News and updates - a consistent place for company information to keep employees in the know.
      Employee Announcements - to keep everyone in the loop on who’s joining the team, who’s being recognized for their achievements, etc. This section was adopted quite quickly, we started seeing responses, comments, and likes right away. We see people from different departments recognize people from other parts of organization which encourages the culture of collaboration and performance.
      Polls and Surveys - one of our tools to give voice to our employees.
      Finally, informational sites for things like [Benefits and Career Opportunities], and a dedicated section for new hires to help them onboard with the company.

    Intranet Project Planning

    • [YP] What were some of the challenges you had to overcome to get a buy-in for the project?
    • [EB] It was important to present decision makers with facts and numbers to help them understand the importance and value of the intranet.
       
    • [YP] What were some of your strategies?
    • [EB] I have seen and worked with many intranets before but there were parts needing expert input.
     Sample Twitter poll launched externally

    Sample Twitter poll launched externally

    First strategy was to determine the pain points. We launched an employee survey to collect the feedback at all levels about everyone’s communication needs, and pain points. We received a lot of ideas on potential solutions. The response was very positive towards having a tool like an intranet.

    From there, our next step was to work with an expert to understand how everything fits together in terms of the process, features and capabilities so that decision makers see the return on investment.
    These two were key to build a compelling business case.

    • [YP] Were the benefits you presented more along the lines of “time saved at work” or more soft benefits such as “reducing siloes”
    • [EB] It was a bit of both. Numbers are important and so are qualitative benefits related to eliminating errors through collaboration. We also put an emphasis on reducing the volume of emails to help people with time management.
       
    • [YP] How did you arrive at SharePoint Online as a platform?
    • [EB] We used Office 365 Platform already for email, so SharePoint Online was a natural choice.

    Process

    card sorting.jpg
    • [YP] What was the process around building the intranet?
    • [EB] First, we started by clarifying roles and responsibilities of who will create and maintain the content on the intranet. This formed our core team. Then, we moved on to brainstorm what is needed on the intranet and what employees told us they want to see based on the survey we collected earlier.
      We then engaged in a workshop with a cross-functional group of employees and the SharePoint expert to select the right features we need to deliver the content.
       
    • [YP] What were the constraints?
    • [EB] Whatever features we chose, they needed to be easy to maintain so that the learning curve for new content authors is smooth. Also, the design of the site needed to reflect company’s external website and brand.
      Finally, we needed something that we can maintain in-house with our own resources. We needed to ensure the system is supportable and maintainable.

    Intranet Adoption

    • [YP] How did you roll out the site?
    • [EB] The content was reviewed and approved by the key stakeholders. Once that was completed, we soft-launched the site. Gradually we started transitioning communication and sending newsletters highlighting key content on the intranet in various areas. People started getting used to checking the site more and more often.
       
    • [YP] What are some of the things you’re glad you did when planning?
    • [EB] Having an expert to take us through the process. Going alone would have been much more difficult. Having a matrix of who will maintain the intranet and draft, author, and approve content was crucial because it gave everybody clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
       
    • [YP] What’s Next?
    • [EB] Having a co-author or someone who shares passion for driving interesting content and engaging people. Move more content and processes to the intranet, things like reports, documentations, guidelines, LMS.

    In summary, Elena captured an opportunity to bring digital to an existing workplace and highlighted those benefits to her leadership. One of the tools she used to back up her assumptions were employee surveys. This has remained on the agenda all the way throughout each brainstorming session and every decision made.

    When employees see that their feedback is brought to action, it builds trust and buy-in, even if decision making team is a much smaller group.

    Using the insight from Elena and how Peak Products benefited, see how you can kick off a transition like this in your organization.

    What area of the business are you coming from? Are there items not considered in this post you'd like to mention?

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky

    Have you seen rich analytics locked in your Office 365 tenant? Here is how to enable and access them

    analytics.PNG
    How many new vs. returning users? Which content did they access? and when?

    These and many more answers are available at your fingertips if you know how to access them. With those you could easily build a story around how people are using your intranet and demonstrate the value it has for your organization.

    So how do you enable these fabulous reports?

    1. Log into Admin Portal with Tenant Administrator username and password: https://portal.office.com/AdminPortal/Home

    2. In the left hand panel click [Reports] -> [Usage]

    3. Scroll down to the page to see [Office 365 Adoption (Preview)], as shown below.

    At first you will need to click on the card and chose [Make data available to the Office 365 Adoption content pack for Power BI] to [ON] ... click [SAVE]

    This can take few hours (for large tenants especially, can take 2 days as Microsoft says) so you'll want to check back again and see when you get [Office 365 Adoption (Preview)] to show you the button saying [Go to Power BI] as you can see below.

    admincenter.PNG

    That part where I have [redacted] in the screenshot, is the ID you will need to copy for our next steps.

    4. Click [Go to Power BI] and when prompted to [Sign In] click on it. Since this functionality is still in preview you may get few more "consent" screens but eventually you'll land on this one ... asking you to [Add a Service], follow as shown below

    adding service.gif

    5. Now this is where you will be prompted to enter that ID you copied earlier in step 3 where I had it "redacted"

    6. Once entered click [NEXT] and on the following screen click [SIGN IN]. You'll be once again prompted to confirm your Tenant Admin account.

    7. Next you may need to wait few minutes while data import has completed. When it has you'll know by the [Office 365 Adoption Preview] button showing as active as opposed to greyed out as shown below:

    powerbi.PNG

    Once enabled, click on the button to load all of the dashboards. In my case it took another minute for dashboards to populate so if it does for you - that's normal, no need to refresh the page.

    From here you are free to navigate around to discover all there is.

    For SharePoint specific data

    Click [Adoption Overview] chart and select [SharePoint] from the list of available products to chose from. 

    You may also use navigation at the bottom to drill down to specific SharePoint metrics.

    sharepoint analytics.PNG

    How did you find PowerBI analytics? Did you find insights you were looking for?

    ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

    Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get an intranet designed for them without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.

    @spentsarsky