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.

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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

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.

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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.

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.
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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, 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

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:

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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
impact_vs_usability.png

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

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

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

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 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