SharePoint Online Branding with No-Code - Part 1

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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 already, so SharePoint Online was a natural choice.

Process

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  • [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

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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.

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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

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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:

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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.

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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

Considering intranet in-a-box, here are 3 key things to know

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Time to upgrade your intranet?

As Sam Marshal says in CMS wire article : Creating an intranet on SharePoint can be a slow process – six months is good going; 18 months is not uncommon. Shortcutting this process with a readymade solution sounds appealing ...

With many popular intranet-in-a-box solutions it can be confusing which one to pick. The most obvious is to pick a tool which looks the best or has the most features, but there are few more things to consider. We've surveyed professionals to gather insights on what worked and what didn't on their intranet deployments and here are our findings.

Tool is important but so is The Process

Installing intranet-in-a-box and waiting for it to be adopted is just a hope! Many internal community managers agree on that.

The process is the largest contributor to successful adoption. It has to be upfront.

Just as wearing a helmet when biking, it works the best if you wear it before you fall off the bike.

Here are things to consider related to a process:

  • Determine employees/roles that will take care of your new intranet
  • If you have existing content, whether on a fileshare or another system, have intranet-in a-box vendor inventory it and see how it will actually fit in the new system
  • Have your vendor go through feature and prioritization exercise with you. Enabling every single feature in your intranet-in-a-box doesn't mean you have people to manage them. Managing doesn't only mean configuration, it also includes writing content.

Have a roadmap

Rolling out everything at once doesn't give you enough time to consider what's important and which areas deserve more attention. Doing smaller incremental releases will help with that. Same applies to your intranet-in-a-box, it needs a roadmap which is regularly updated so you don't get stuck with a product rapidly deprecating.

Have your vendor take into account your organization needs and help you determine the roadmap on how to get there. Ideally for more complex organizations, you'd want to start with releasing Minimally Viable Experiences (MVE) first and following on from there. There are few ways to determine MVE, our favorite approach is:

  • Show stakeholders examples of what's possible in the product
  • Determine what they like
  • Determine gaps
  • Rank items in the gap according to what brings the best value to end users
  • Determine effort required to implement those gaps
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At the end you will end up with a graphical representations of various components and their feasibility.

You home run items should be the first items to implement where these have the highest impact to the user and technical feasibility is high as well.

 

 

 

 

Launched, now what?

Enabling social tools and features on intranets spawns great engagement from employees, but you have to keep the fire going. In first few weeks of roll out, employees read, rate, and comment on content. To continue this level of engagement you need to plug in your existing organizational culture into the intranet.

It's not always clear, so here are some of the ideas to drive more engagement from your users on a consistent basis:

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  • Start a discussion surrounding a particular company event, such as internal conference, lunch and learn. This will drive interaction between employees. To facilitate the discussion you can write a Featured Article and allow people to comment on it or use tool like Yammer which bring many more social engagement features.
  • Give recognition and praise. As Lesley Crook says: one start given from a leader goes a long way. Having an area where recognition and shout outs are tracked is great. Have a weekly recognition given out by a leader, this will help encourage others and drive attention around company values and individual efforts.
  • Feature interesting content from parts of organization. For example, it can be article from a front line, client success story, "day-in life of ..." story, or story about a recent win. These are great candidates for a featured news article. The key to featured news is that it has to be consistent; once a week is ideal.
  • Survey/Poll for opinions. Poll is great for this, it give employees the ability to voice their opinion in a controlled way. One of the really good ways to boost employee engagement on a poll is to set poll expiry so that employees can cast their vote within 2 or 3 days. If you combine this with regular updates - you'll see users check for a new poll to see what's happening. Another point is to make polls relevant to what's happening within your organization, or a Featured News to make it relateable.
  • Run innovation campaign. Your employees have amazing ideas locked in their head. Having an area for them to submit their ideas is great but running innovation campaign is what creates an engagement. Combine this with Featured Story and drive innovation campaign to re-organize the process, improve tools etc. This can also be organically combined with a poll first to see what would be a great candidate for innovation contest.

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

Food for Thought: Do you have to be agile organization to use Office365?

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Your business is what should matter in your road map; technology is there to support the business.

Many technology leaders recognize that migrating to the cloud is inevitable, and now they’re tasked with devising plans on how to transition their organizations successfully. An organization’s intranet, being a communication tool, is frequently looked at as a first candidate to move to the cloud because of its relative simplicity in comparison to line-of-business applications.

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

Planner notifications on your phone built in minutes without code

Few months ago, we've looked at Planner in detail to see how usable it is for a project in a typical scenario. Few things have evolved since then. One of them being planner phone app. The app not only allows you to get Planner functionality right on your phone, now you can build integration and enhance Planner with Flow.

If you're using Planner already, you'll find this little example invaluable and you can build it by following the video in just a few minutes.

This video shows how to use Flow app on your phone to create push notifications when Planner tasks are assigned to you

What else can you build?

Here are some of the other scenarios you can use Flow app and enhance your planner:

  • Send SMS notifications when tasks are due
  • Send notifications when tasks sit for a while without being actioned or having assignee or a due date
  • Create new tasks in Planner when someone sends an email to a monitored mailbox (great for support or contact workflow)
  • etc... what are your scenarios?

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

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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

Office365: Still figuring it out?

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In a world of Office 365 and the cloud, are you still figuring it out? So are the majority of poll respondents we surveyed last week.

Naturally, we're curious about the companies out there who succeeded at finding the right way with the cloud. I spoke with Asif Rehmani, from VisualSP and David Chappell, Principal at Chappell Associates, to gain their insights.
Here is what they say (for more check out the full video):

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
With rapid Office 365 new feature releases, how do you keep the focus on what's important?

[Asif Rehmani]
It's not about the tool it's about getting your job done. There is a whole pack of services out there. Just because there is a lot of different things that are available to you, doesn't mean that you use everything. These days you can have a conversation via Teams, Yammer, Skype, Outlook, and you can also text, what do you chose and how do you archive if needed?
There is not one specific answer that is going to work for everybody, it has to be addressed as a culture vertical not the horizontal of "here are all the different things that we have, let's use everything".
You also have to remember that and filter the noise, otherwise you'll be in the same spot again next year thinking "we did all this last year and now everything has changed".

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
Is cloud still seen as a disruptor?

[Asif Rehmani]
It's definitely coming to a point where government institutions, banking, financials and sectors with traditional heavy regulation are getting more and more comfortable. They know that this is the right answer, due to costs, updates, and even security. Additionally, more of the similar features they have on-prem are now available in the cloud, whether it's a private cloud or public cloud, and it's there to help them compete within the industry.

[David Chappell]
I see often that technical people and developers tend to make decisions based on features. -"which one gives me VM's that are fastest", and I think that it's totally wrong.
What we have to do is to make assessments about the long terms strategy, fit, and motivations between our cloud platform partner and the organization. If you chose based just on features, one day Amazon has a better offering and the next day Azure is better, but the fundamental strategic differences remain longer over time.
For example, Amazon is very public cloud focused; Microsoft's strength is in the hybrid story, with Azure stack; this is an example of the fundamental difference that seems to be unlikely to change quickly. 

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
When can we expect for AI to start making ripples in a modern workplace?

[Asif Rehmani]
AI is in it's infancy for sure, it's been talked about, and there are a lot of proofs of concepts out there but I have big doubts in my mind that it's going to be a true replacement for individuals in a workplace in next 3 or 5 years or maybe even longer. It's a really awesome toy at this point. However, just as with any innovation in the past, it took a while for it to get adopted but eventually it was and the curve was pretty steep.

[David Chappell]
One of the most common things you see today are Machine Learning processes that create predictions for things like credit card fraud. Some of the more interesting cases could start including customer retention scenarios. Suppose you are a mobile phone company with a call center. Some of the customers that call you are happy customers, others, not so much, but you still want to retain them. What if you could based on the usage, past history of call flow and behaviors determine how likely it is that the customer is going to walk away and offer them a retention deal. With all the data available to the organization like this, Machine Learning is a really powerful tool to find patterns in a large data set like this.

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
What are some of the upcoming trends you expect to materialize?

[David Chappell]
The focus on Machine Learning is going to get stronger and stronger. The focus on data in general will also get stronger and with it, data visualization tools, data analysis tools, and finally more archiving solutions etc.

There you have it! What do you think, do you agree?

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

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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 internal user community of over 100K users, here's what we found"

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Recently, I had a pleasure to stop and have a chat with Joe Francis from GSK and Lesley Crook from Perspicuity. They've been able to share something that you can't find out just by reading a book. They've successfully created and continue to manage huge network of over 100K of internal Yammer users. Naturally, the topic caught my attention since many organizations struggle to manage much smaller internal networks.

Here are some of the most valuable bits of our conversation, for more check out the full video

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
How did you come across Yammer as a tool? Did you have to "sell" it?

[Joe Francis]
It was actually an eight-year journey for GlaxoSmithKline - to get to where we are now. Yammer started originally as a disruptive computing experiment. We had students and interns that were challenged to come up with a new way of collaborating and working together and they fell upon Yammer and from those humble beginnings is how we started. Initially we worked through a lot of viral growth and then there was a lot of uptake. IT decided look at this as something that is going to work and decided to put some effort behind it. We partnered with our with our friends in communications and began making it a real thing.

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
Was there a resistance to this new tool and how did you overcome it?

[Joe Francis]
There are absolutely those that get it a 100% and it doesn't matter what part of the organization they are. There are definitely those who don't and have to be
convinced. There's definitely a paradigm: the green dots, the yellow dots, and the red dots. The red dots being the ones that are hardest to convince, the green dots get it automatically and the yellows can be convinced. The challenge is to get those yellows over to green and once you're there, come back and work on the reds and we definitely had to do a bit of that.

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
What are some of the top tips turning those yellows into greens and those red ones into yellows?

[Joe Francis]
It's really all about finding a bit of business fit justification. Putting it out there is not going to
bring most people in, so if you can find out what the pain points are within a group or an organization it helps.

[Leslie Crook]
Doing a yam jam campaign around certain event is one of the ways [...] it's a 24 hour activity on the network in a probably a specific group where you gather together subject matter experts from the company [for example] people from the analyst team in finance, social media, corporate communications.

[Joe Francis]
Another example, for leaders, is to wrap it around a big event like senior leader conference bring it in naturally as part of what are the problems we're trying to solve and how can we support this conference how can we go out to employees whilst we're still at the conference get their opinion about what we're talking about at this conference and then bring it back. It's important to use a hashtag around the event for people to immediately recognize it.

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
Can a network like this run on autopilot once set up or do you need someone to constantly keep the fire going?

[Joe Francis]
It can run on autopilot short period of time, but in reality you're only gonna have success if you've got somebody drive it. Whether it's a group or a division or an individual or different company that are helping out. You really have to figure out ways to keep those topics
that are being discussed, keep them live, keep them active and that takes just going out and actively liking post or putting in provocative responses to try to draw people in. Without the engagement it doesn't work so just having it there it can be it can work but it's not really successful.

[Leslie Crook]
Model that I use called six Yammer hats which is based on Edward de Bono's six thinking
hats, describes skills of champions or community managers in a social network, so those are:

"Detective" where you might work in a private group. You might be a surveyor where you're doing polls and asking questions right across the enterprise getting a temperature check

"Astronaut" where you're more of a community manager but you're connecting, sharing, solving and innovating which is Simon Terry MPVs model that I'm quoting there

"Fedora hat" you could be working in communications where you're looking for you
you're on the network but kind of in the background and you're picking up grassroots stories that might be coming from manufacturing or from the labs in R&D and bringing those stories that have been bubbling away back to corporate comms to the editorial team to make proper intranet SharePoint stories

"Tiara" for giving praise. One "like" by a leader is priceless

"Baseball cap" is all about having fun with a purpose and there were many groups that. Example: group around the cycling, group for sustainable transport, photography, pets, baking so it's it's having fun at work

[Yaroslav Pentsarskyy]
Did you feel like you have to do a lot of governance planning?

[Joe Francis]
You'll fail if you don't. One of the biggest things to make you more successful is ensuring that you've got legal, security and risk groups on board with you. They're gonna want to know: are there ways to monitor the content and are we protecting ourselves, are we making sure we don't have data leaks. Having support from the legal team is crucial. You need to have that written as a policy that everybody accepts when they go in and there's general awareness this is how you act.

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 a founder of OrigamiConnect, rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get the intranet that's 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

Digital Transformation and Knowledge Management and how do we deal with a Digital Chaos

Riyaz Lakhani has a wealth of experience in Knowledge Management being Colligo's Enterprise Strategist he's seen every success and horror story.

This week Riyaz shares with us some of his experience in this 5 min interview from MSIgnite.

 

This Week's Topic

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Knowledge Management story is evolving, but the problem still exists. Now that most of the knowledge is digital - how do we deal with digital chaos.

Key Questions

Here are some of the key questions we've got answers to with much more in the video:

  • What's the current state of Knowledge Management?
  • New Trend: Digital chaos ... too many line of business systems make it hard to manage actual knowledge
  • How do you sell Knowledge Management to an executive?
  • How does cloud impact Knowledge Management?
  • Adoption is it all about measurement?
  • Fully implemented project doesn't mean fully adopted!
  • Much more ...

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 a founder of OrigamiConnect, rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get the intranet that's 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

Managing Online Communities and Creating Engagement within Organizations

Lesley Crook, Yammer MVP and Microsoft Ignite Speaker is also Yammer Adoption Consultant at Perspicuity - Microsoft Gold Partner. Joe Francis is a Collaboration Services Improvement Manager at GlaxoSmithKline and also Microsoft Ignite Speaker.

 

This Week's Topic

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This week's discussion is focused around managing online communities in your organization. From building the engagement to maintaining it while people and organization evolves. The tool our experts are discussing is Yammer but methodology and approach is tool agnostic. Whether you're using Teams, SharePoint, or Yammer there are some great examples and methods you can use to engage your users.

Key Questions

Here are some of the key questions we've got answers to with much more in the video:

  • How does Yammer fit with the rest of Microsoft collaboration tools such as Teams, SharePoint and Email?
  • What are some of the key characteristics of successful online community manager?
  • Does Yammer require governance planning and if so, what are the key things to watch out for?
  • Measuring adoption? Are there tools or methods you'd suggest to an organization?
  • What are some of the surprise findings you've seen from your analytics?
  • Does Yammer require culture change?
  • Much more ...

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 a founder of OrigamiConnect, rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get the intranet that's 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

Succeed with Yammer in a mid-size organization

Last week at MS Ignite 2017, we've got a chance to catch up with some of the most amazing speakers and industry-leading experts.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to share a set of our exclusive interviews with insight on some of the hot topics.

This Week's Topic

Yammer has been on a top of our list to get some insight into as there has been a lot of talk about it leading up to the conference. We're interested to see how mid-sized organization can successfully implement Yammer and what does it take to keep it running. Finally, how do you measure the success of the implementation?

The Experts

Becky Benishek, Yammer MVP and Microsoft Ignite Speaker is also Social Media & Community Manager, Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). Larry Glickman is a Yammer and organizational transparency advocate working for a non-profit organization.

Key Questions

Here are some of the key questions we've got answers to with much more in the video:

  • Can Yammer "fly" on autopilot once launched or does it require someone to "watch it"?
  • Does Yammer require governance planning and if so, what are the key things to watch out for?
  • Measuring Yammer adoption? Are there tools or methods you'd suggest to an organization?
  • What are some of the surprises you've seen from your analytics?
  • What are some of the upcoming Yammer features you're excited about?
  • Much more ...

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 a founder of OrigamiConnect, rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get the intranet that's 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

Top Collab Related Trends to Observe at MSIgnite 2017

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With MSIgnite confirmed for next week, there's going to be a lot of news and announcements coming out; 26K people are coming this year and right next door to Ignite conference center, Envision is happening with another 4K attendees. With all this excitement, there are few specific things we're going to be paying close attention to as those are major areas of focus according to many analysts and experts.

Here are the top questions we're aiming to get expert and insider answers to.

Microsoft Teams and Collaboration

  • With quite a few sessions covering customer deployments of MS Teams, we want to know how those organizations came to realizing the value of teams. Is it another tool or is the gap filled
  • For those who deployed Teams, what are their thoughts on Yammer. Do they see an overlap?
  • How were MS Teams "sold" to executives in an organization?
  • Interesting or surprising metrics they found from their Teams experience? Adoption metrics?
  • Does Teams require governance planning and if so, what are the key things to watch out for?
  • Deployment gotchyas and lessons learned?
  • Did Teams require culture change in the organization?

Yammer Adoption

Next up, Yammer, as it got a lot of attention this year with many more customer presentations. Naturally, we're curious about the adoption and some of the details around success factors. Here are some of our top questions to get answers to.

  • Apart from employee engagement, what are other practical uses for Yammer? Knowledge Management?
  • What are the types of organizations where Yammer is an easy and natural fit?
  • Can Yammer "fly" on autopilot once launched or does it require someone to "watch it"?
  • Does Yammer require governance planning and if so, what are the key things to watch out for?
  • Measuring Yammer adoption? Are there tools or methods you'd suggest to an organization?
  • How will Yammer evolve and what are some of the natural evolution directions?

Office 365 Adoption Survival Guide

  • With new feature releases how does one do adoption?
  • What are some of the key adoption strategies with Office 365 and rapid release cycle? Are there techniques and tools to be aware of?

Cybersecurity

  • Did cybersecurity get more attention these days in light of recent breaches and how are organizations reacting?
  • What are some of the most common challenges you face when trying to "sell" security to a business and what do you respond with?
  • Many think that going to the cloud will solve a lot of infrastructure management and security problems, what are some of the gotchyas?
  • What are some of the most common shortcuts organizations take that result in undesirable consequences?

Knowledge Management

  • Knowledge management has always been a popular buzzword, less so now, what's changed?

  • How do you "sell" knowledge management to an executive?
  • What are the challenges with adoption of knowledge management solution?
  • Is knowledge management always unique to an organization or are there prescriptive patterns, or a bit of both?

Search and AI

  • Is search evolving and how?
  • With AI getting a lot of attention does it mean the search is falling into the background?
  • AI and it's potential impact on day-to-day workplace?

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 a founder of OrigamiConnect, rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get the intranet that's 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

Microsoft Teams reportedly to swallow up Skype ... related predictions on Delve, Yammer, and PowerApps

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However your weekend went, it's probably not as bad as folk's who leaked the "announcement" about Skype becoming part of Microsoft Teams ahead of a big show in just few weeks. But, is that news surprising? Hardly, if you take a closer look at how Teams evolved, which in one way or another, relates to Slack. So, what else is cooking?

First, Microsoft Teams

Since the day Teams were introduced, the app was widely recognized as Microsoft's answer to Slack, which slowly but surely, over years, started to dominate the collaboration market.

One of the key features of Slack, apart from it's intuitive and natural chat workspace, is the ability to make phone calls to anyone you're chatting with. As Microsoft added this feature to Teams, it started not only to duplicate Skype but also make Skype appear as a redundant and out-of-date application (not even an app in a modern sense). Chat conversations in Teams are persisted and you can always go back to them or anything else that was shared during the chat.

Skype on the other hand, largely stayed the same, despite going through numerous name changes.

So here we are. We're expecting to hear a lot more from Microsoft in coming week(s) to clarify their messaging and announce more complete transition roadmap.

What we believe is going to happen, is that Skype to remain (re-branded or not) as-is for on-prem customers. This will eliminate any complex change management for large customers. It will also, and yet again, position Office 365 as more obvious vNext for many customers currently still on-prem.

Delve, SharePoint Newsfeed and Yammer

Next item we see for potential amalgamation/deprecation is SharePoint Newsfeed. Here's why?

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  • There were some updates to SharePoint Newsfeed but features seems to largely overlap with Delve.
  • Delve is integrated with Yammer even tighter as you can see in the image here where you can comment in Yammer right from Delve home.
  • Yammer is now a full citizen of SharePoint Online with way more features than Newsfeed.
  • Delve API has been recently redesigned to allow for more holistic integration.
  • Microsoft is dedicating a lot of content this year about Yammer at Ignite (over 50 sessions) and much of it showcasing the value of Yammer. This can't be said about other native social features in SharePoint.

The biggest issue of course, and the most obvious one, is on-prem deployments. We suspect that Newsfeed will be left to fizzle out with minimal maintenance. With that we recommend our customers to keep integration and customization with SP Newsfeed limited or none.

Microsoft Forms and PowerApps

This is still an early proposition but we believe that these two may merge within the next 2 years. Why 2 years? Microsoft Forms has been launched a year ago and more widely launched just few months ago. From the feature comparison, the functionality is very similar to Google Forms.

One of the biggest advantages is that the Forms app is web based and this is more attractive to many users. The problem is that things you can do with the resulting forms are still incredibly basic. There is no real comparison between forms and PowerApps. Here are some pro's and con's to illustrate the point.

Microsoft Forms - pros

  • Web based form authoring and filling
  • Final forms are very close to how they looked in InfoPath so naturally more atractive to existing users, functionality notwithstanding
  • Will work for mobile and desktop scenarios
  • Some Flow integration available

PowerApps - pros

  • Supports mobile native device features
  • Advanced Flow and API integration available
  • More controls to build more complex forms
  • Offline support to save data entered while device is not connected to the internet

With that we believe that Microsoft will wait around for another year before making any decisions. Of course, both products could stay separate to fill their own particular market niche, which brings us to the next point ...

Other apps in Office 365 ecosystem

Looking at some of the other apps in Office 365 ecosystem you may assume that perhaps Outlook Tasks and Project To-Do's are also up for merger. What about Planner and Project Online? Sway and PowerPoint Online?

It's hard not to get carried away thinking about some potential takeovers and changes but here are two guiding principles:

  • Just because there are similarities in two Microsoft products, it doesn't mean one of them will take over the other. Look at Microsoft Forms again, clear competitor of Google Forms, it's an app that was created for a particular segment to start with, an education sector. Over time Forms were introduced to the rest of the ecosystem with hopes of wider adoption. It's not up to the ecosystem to react. Microsoft may hope for particular reactions but not know for sure until the product is out in the wild.
  • Design your solutions to solve users' needs and not to introduce a cool new feature.
Focus on service design and not feature design (aka design by features)

There is a lot more I can say here about design thinking since it's a significant area of my work. In summary, the key is to always build according to roadmap of what users need. With that mindset, the right solution will emerge both as a clear and viable option as opposed to myriad of options available in the ecosystem, each with their own risks.
I'll be sure to post more on the service design and how to realize it in practice.

More announcements at MSIgnite

Microsoft Ignite will most certainly hold a lot more announcements in store, although some of those have been spoiled, rest assured, there is still more to come.

Just as last year, I've got an agenda packed with meetings and interviews with experts and customer champions. Can't wait to share their reflective stories in a series of interviews coming up soon. Stay tuned for upcoming videos and posts!

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ypentsarskyy_2016_small.jpg

Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is a founder of OrigamiConnect, rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get the intranet that's 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

Future of Forms in SharePoint: Latest trends and what most decision makers say

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It's been almost 4 years since Microsoft announced InfoPath to reach end of life by 2023 (Updated: 2026 as pointed out by one of the readers). What we're seeing though, that most customers, 38% surveyed last week, still use InfoPath and planning to do so until viable alternative comes from Microsoft. The next runner up are custom forms with 24% of respondents as a preferred choice. So what's happening here?

Why are people still on InfoPath?

Let's look at some of the reasons we're hearing and what you might be hearing in your organization:

  • "If it ain't broken, don't fix it". If you're already using InfoPath in your business, unless you have digital transformation project underway - what's the point of replatforming.
  • "2026 is a long time from now". True; many businesses these days refresh their systems once every 3-5 years and that's plenty of time to let InfoPath sit for a little bit longer.
  • "People here like it". If you've got InfoPath - you've got someone to support it. If you're not experiencing any pain from maintaining InfoPath form it's probably because you've got a unsung hero who maintains it.

3rd party tools?

Nintex forms, K2 forms, and many more smaller form solutions all compete in forms for SharePoint business. So why aren't people flocking to those? In fact 24% of our respondents said they already Use Nintex alone. Here is what we hear:

  • "Why would I pay for something that's already free in SharePoint" - it's true, having InfoPath, in most cases, free for a long time sets a bias that form solutions should not cost and should be out-of-the-box. We hear this over and over. There is also fed by a hope that Microsoft also recognizes this and is just about to release full next gen form solution. We'll get to that a bit further.
  • "Cost of migrations" - ok so you've decided to invest in Nintex for example. Now you've got to find Nintex resource/developer to migrate all of your forms. It's expensive just like any other transformation project.
  • "Not sure how viable is [3rd party product] roadmap and support". People are worried that smaller vendors just don't have far enough vision, roadmap and support standard. Many customers worry that if Microsoft dropped their form solution, so can any small vendor and then they're stuck with unsupported already invested costs on migration.

What about PowerApps?

About a year ago PowerApps went into preview and became generally available October last year. Yet, only the smallest percentage of people, 14% of those surveyed, are using PowerApps today. Why is that?
Here is what we hear:

  • "PowerApps are just not powerful enough". Many still believe that things you can do with PowerApps are far from what they consider production solution to replace InfoPath or their custom forms.
  • "They seem to be only focused on mobile". At the time when InfoPath was announced to be phased out, mobile was a key priority for Microsoft and PowerApps played that role too. That's just obvious from reading a first paragraph of statement from Microsoft. Forms created with PowerApps look amazing on the phone and I can still hardly believe you can make them available on a mobile so quickly, but how they look on a desktop is far from credible.
  • "We're not in Office 365 to be able to use them". PowerApps do support gateway to extract data from on-prem lists and libraries but you need Office 365 to be able to build and deploy PowerApps even if you're not storing data in Office 365 (Update: as long as you can authenticate to O365, as pointed out by the reader). This is a major turn off for organizations not currently in the cloud because all of the sudden form migration turns into a cloud migration.

Custom forms anyone?

  • "Cost of development". With great power of building anything you want, comes a lot of responsibility. Business requirements, build, and deployment. Unless your organization has accessible development team (contract or your own resources) you're not likely to go into custom development of forms. However, if you're re-building core business solution and require custom form logic already, in house forms are not such a big of a barrier.
  • "users need to be able to maintain those forms on our own" - power users believe they should be able to build simple forms just as easily as they build Excel spreadsheets rather than reaching out to developers and that's fair and valid point. Although this can be achieved with custom solution, it's a bit more effort and cost of implementation may be less desirable.

So, what should you do?

Here is what we hear these day from many decision makers:

  • "We're waiting till PowerApps mature, until then we're on InfoPath"
  • "We're building custom forms to better fit what we're trying to do"
  • "We're in a middle of migrating key forms to Nintex"
  • "[Vendors] should have migration tools to migrate our existing InfoPath forms"

What experts say

Here is our guidance. Start small with a pilot project first before settling on any specific direction.

Just like riding a train, it's not about where everyone else is going, it's where do you want to go to.

If you're on InfoPath already, and there isn't major transformation initiative in planning, wait a couple of years. Microsoft has recently switched their top focus away from mobile and this is likely to reflect on the direction PowerApps is taking. This means forms might be easier to deal with on a full fidelity device.

If you're planning any kind of IT transformation project try to bundle and migrate your InfoPath forms with it - either use Nintex or build custom forms. If can't fulfill requirements by using Nintex, build custom solution since customizing 3rd party can be more challenging than building form from the scratch. Also consider whether your forms need to be built by Power users in large quantities, if the answer is yes, you might want to consider 3rd party solution which supports templating etc.

What are your thoughts and what do you think is Microsoft missing from their forms strategy today?

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Yaroslav Pentsarskyy has been a Microsoft MVP for 8 years and speaker at many local and worldwide tech events. Several of Yaroslav's books include: Rapid SharePoint 2013 development, Top 60 custom solutions built on SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2010 branding in practice, and SharePoint and PowerShell Expert Cookbook.

@spentsarsky

Mobile Trends at Work: Mobile Sites or Mobile Apps

Whether your business has a formal mobile strategy or more of a mobile direction, what often is a tough choice is whether you should invest in mobile app or mobile site.

Image source: http://www.nydailynews.com

Image source: http://www.nydailynews.com

To keep things clear, let's focus on mobile use by business internally, not a public consumer scenario.

So, which one will it be Mobile App or Mobile Site? and what's a Pseudo-Mobile App?

Here is how the Internet feels in a short poll hosted just few days ago:

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In early days of mobile, "mobile" sites dominated the web, both within organizations and consumer facing. Main reason: too many types of mobile devices to cover all the bases, plus websites were the most organic, easy, and thus first option. With arrival of iPhone, the pendulum swang the other direction - everyone went the apps route.

Where are we now

We are in a pretty stable spot right now, we have clear leaders in mobile platform space with iPhone and Android dominating the market. Relative maturity of those platforms allows for stable and cheaper development and improvement of tools to build apps. This means we can make a conscious choice which direction to chose when it comes to the mobile strategy.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each as they relate to an enterprise business scenario:

Mobile App - Pros

-Push notifications to users (blinking light and stacked messages)
-Offline mode (get some part of work done with or without internet)
-Device storage (save and process data before uploading to the server)
-Faster performance (take advantage of phone hardware)
-Faster graphical interaction (user perceived performance)
-Quick access to the app (login info stored, launch app quickly)
-Native device feature (GPS, Camera, touch etc)
-Better AI integration (less data entry may be required since device knows more: ex.: location)

Mobile App - Cons

-Requires dedicated development team
-Requires testing on multiple platforms
-Native functions are harder to troubleshoot ('works for me' scenario)
-Upgrades and patches are highly visible

Mobile Site - Pros

-Shared use of code base (no new skills required)
-Pretty easy to adapt to any screen size
-Upgrades and patches are easy and instant

Mobile Site - Cons

-Slower performance
-Slower graphical interaction (user perceived performance)
-No quick access (can bookmark the site but that's about it)
-No access to native features (GPS, storage etc)
-Rudimentary offline experience (limited to filling in forms)

Pseudo-Mobile Apps

This is a new category of apps emerging, example of which is Microsoft's PowerApps. It has some characteristics of a mobile app but at the same time breaking the rules of a typical mobile app.

For example, you can run the app offline on the device but you can't store local data (apart from the form data). Strict limit to what native features you can use (camera and touch screen).

Of course, these come at a significant advantage of:
-Being easy to build (in fact, PowerApps require no code knowledge at all)
-Upgrades are fairly automatic
-No need for public app store

The Verdict

You have pros and cons, so what's missing - well, where do you want to be?

Whichever is your choice, mobile is a strategy. Determine your users' true needs to do their jobs, the bottlenecks they face, and convert that data into desired features which fall under home-runs, nice-to-have's or side-dish.

Mobile app clearly is far more usable; However, unless you're planning to take advantage of the features such as mobile hardware, offline access, push notifications, storage, there is no point in investing in a dedicated team to build and continuously maintain the mobile app.

Pseudo-mobile apps are too new and the development tools are still too much in flux to recommend them as successful strategy at this time. Time and market will tell whether pseudo-mobile will be a new trend or just turn into just mobile.

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments!

Yaroslav Pentsarskyy has been a Microsoft MVP for 8 years and speaker at many local and worldwide tech events. Several of Yaroslav's books include: Rapid SharePoint 2013 development, Top 60 custom solutions built on SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2010 branding in practice, and SharePoint and PowerShell Expert Cookbook.

@spentsarsky

PowerUp your intranet with IoT BTTN and Microsoft Flow

In this video we'll check out how to get started with bt.tn and getting it wired to Microsoft Flow to create IoT integrations in an instant.

This is great for: integrating automating helpdesk and service requests, automating staff meeting rooms etc.

Enjoy and I'd love to hear what you'd automate!

Yaroslav Pentsarskyy has been a Microsoft MVP for 8 years and speaker at many local and worldwide tech events. Several of Yaroslav's books include: Rapid SharePoint 2013 development, Top 60 custom solutions built on SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2010 branding in practice, and SharePoint and PowerShell Expert Cookbook.

@spentsarsky