my world of work and user experiences

May 31, 2023

Development training and guidance go hand in hand

Filed under: Adoption,SharePoint — frederique @ 22:59

Recently I again saw the importance of the integrated and user centric approach in the development of, in this case, a SharePoint site template for complex document management and collaboration. The consultants from the different disciplines need to work closely each other and with the key users from the business, to achieve the best template and its adoption by the users.

  • We have to learn what the users need to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and agreeably: what are they trying to achieve, who and what is involved, what are their processes now, and what is making their lives and their work difficult.
    So we learn from the key users before we start developing.
  • We are not custom developing a solution from scratch but creating a template that stays as close as possible to standard functionality and “approved” methods of customization. Therefore it is helpful if the key users understand how standard SharePoint and the solutions we developed at an early stage could meet many of their needs.
    So we provide training for new key users who want to learn about the relevant SharePoint functionality.
  • The key users test the first iteration of the template in a playground environment, then with more realistic content and – in a next iteration – in a real life pilot.
    So we guide the key users in how the template is supposed to work.
  • We need more input and feedback, in order to build a fully-fledged solution and set up an effective adoption programme.
    So the key users guide us, by finding out and explaining in more detail what they really need and what does and what does not work for them.
  • After a first prototype and a small pilot with the inner circle of the key users, we do a pilot of an improved and expanded version of the template with a larger group of users,. We generally start with knowledge workers, also called office workers; people who work with a computer most of their day. They can greatly benefit from the experience the key users built up earlier.
    So not only do we provide training to the larger group of knowledge workers, but most of all the key users guide their colleagues on how to use the new template in practice – their practice.
  • In most projects, we were very careful with the “outside workers”, like the service engineers providing maintenance in hospitals, for example. These service engineers did not want ot be bothered with IT stuff. They just wanted to fix the machinery they were supposed to fix, for instance. So we do not bother them until we are confident that the template works and will meet their needs and until we have ironed out all the kinks in the work processes and the adoptio approach.

April 27, 2023

Just send people to a standard SharePoint training?

Filed under: Adoption,SharePoint — frederique @ 00:37

Recently, I was asked with a colleague to just give a standard SharePoint training to a business unit. Ok, we understand that these people need to learn about SharePoint, but maybe we need to do more than just go there and deliver a standard training. Maybe even some simple things.

  • Before you send an invitation, make sure that the proposed participants understand the context, why this training would be useful for them, why now, what’s in it for them.
  • Tailor the training to their situation and needs. The first thing they want to know, is how they can use what they see here in their work. This was about SharePoint, so take into account what kinds of sites and site templates they use most of the time. For example, don’t just talk about spiffy Communication sites when all they know & use is complex Project sites.
  • It has to be very clear what the status is. Can they start using the new site and their new knowledge immediately? Or do they have to take it slow, because – for example – there are still some bugs in the system, the key content still has to be provided by someone else, the way or working has not been decided? It may be very useful to get people up to speed before everything is finalized, because then they can still give their own feedback and input. But you need to be absolutely transparent about the status.
  • In relation to the status, what do you expect or encourage the participants to do after the training? Get started with the new way of working? Start thinking about the way they would shape the new way of working? Start collecting and creating content?
  • Plan follow-up. Even just a simple follow-up mail, linking to the slidedeck and other useful resources, a feedback form asking their opinion on the training and their wishlist for gaining further knowledge, and the call to action.

February 28, 2023

But do people know about it?

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 19:55

Build it and they will come? Well, that depends. Do the prospective users actually know what you built, where they can find it and what it is good for? Seems obvious, but I have noticed that it is not.

An example: they had developed a training module, where people could easily register for a very useful training. But nobody turned up. What happened?

An example: they had developed a training module, where people could easily register for a very useful training. But nobody turned up. What happened?

  • It has not been communicated widely.
    We need to communicate what we build, to the right audiences via the right channels with the right message and often enough.
  • It is not easy to find.
    We need to connect it with clear links to the places where people are looking for it. In the case of the training module, to the learning portal. And to the information portal about the topic that is only one click away from the intranet homepage.

January 31, 2023

User manual: instruction pages in a SharePoint help site

Filed under: Adoption,SharePoint — frederique @ 20:56

Many employees who need to change the way they work and adopt new tooling, like to get a user manual. Clear instructions on how to do things, that are easy to find and check when they are unsure. So in a project, the client requests that user manual. What they often see in their mind’s eye, is a PDF file or even a printed booklet. But we prefer to offer something different. A SharePoint site with instruction pages.

Clients who were quite sure they wanted a document, changed their minds when they saw how much nicer the help site was.

Advantages of a help site over a document

  • The site can evolve with the evolving tooling it explains.
    When you provide a user manual as a document, the users tend to download it to their computer and maybe even print it. Then the tool changes and you update the user manual. However, all those users are still consulting the outdated copy. If they consult the site, they always see the latest version, with the latest information and the latest clarifications.
  • The site can be richer: video, contact cards, collapsible FAQ,…
    In the SharePoint site, we can and often do include instruction videos to really show how to a feature works. A picture is a thousand words, but a video is even more effective in explaining something complex, especially to an unsavvy user. Please note that we also provide text and screenshots, so that the more savvy user can see what’s what at a glance, without having to spend minutes in watching a video.
  • The information is a site is more accessible than in a document
    Yes, some users may be surprised to see a site instead of a document, especially conservative ones. They are more used to the document. However, the SharePoint pages are more easily readable on a mobile device. You can quickly lead users to specific a section of the manual by linking to a heading on a page.

How we set up the site

We set up a site with the following configuration:

  • SharePoint Communication Site.
  • Instruction pages about the different topics, based on a page template for a consistent structure.
  • The instructions are presented in text, mostly numbered step-by-step lists, with annotated screenshots. Plus short videos, stored in Stream or the Sharepoint site itself, if the organisation does not use Stream.
  • Quick links to the headings at the top of longer pages, as a “table of contents”, so that the readers quickly see what they can find on the page and immediately jump to that section.
  • Quick links leading to related information: “See also”.
  • Quick links leading to online versions of apps discussed on the page: “Open now”.
  • We often include a help & contact page with information and contact options in case the user has additional questions, requests or comments: people web parts with rich contact details, info about the helpdesk, sometimes a Yammer web part with a community about the digital workplace.

December 31, 2022

Best wishes for 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — frederique @ 14:35

I wish you all the best for a happy and healthy new year.

November 30, 2022

Adopting a new intranet

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: — frederique @ 21:10

When I started working for my current employer, back in the day, I was hired in the SharePoint Competence Centre. We built intranets, in SharePoint 2003. We saw that slowly, organisations widened their definition of an intranet. It became more than a portal to publish information: a digital workplace with SharePoint Team Sites for collaboration. Then of course the toolkit opened up, and we got Microsoft 365 and the rest of the cloud.

My involvement in intranet projects as a Change & Adoption consultant

These days, I am again involved in several projects to develop new intranets for organizations. Yes, old school communication intranets that are mostly geared to providing news and important information to the employees, like information about the different parts of the organization and what they do – very useful for new employees. And things like the rules and regulations, HR procedures, and hopefully also an entry point to actually request leave, for example. Very useful for all employees. The good old information intranet. With some modern aspects of course.

And nowadays, I am working as a Change & Adoption Consultant. My colleagues build the actual intranet, in SharePoint Online. What I am looking at is: how can we make sure the intranet becomes a great success, in the sense that the employees embrace the new intranet and get the benefits from it. Apart from building an intranet that looks great and functions brilliantly of course.

When we talk about adoption in the context of an intranet, we are not talking about training the users, even though training tends to be treated as synonymous with adoption efforts. What is an important part, is making not only the intranet structure, but also its content user-centric. For that, we need the content editors to adopt our toolkit and editorial approach. And yes, the editors may need training to learn how it all works.

Sounding board

We like to conduct workshops with a sounding board of representatives of the users: people in different roles, from different parts of the organisation. We don’t want to get only the points of view from the usual suspects in IT, Communications and other staff departments. And between and after the workshops, we keep in touch with them in a Microsoft Team.

We not only get the input and feedback from the sounding board about the functionality they want in the intranet, but also about adoption. For example: What are their preferred ways of receiving news about the intranet and the digital workplace? The people in the head office liked a webinar, plus news articles, whereas the representative of people working on ships (not every organisation has those…) said that posters in the mess hall would work best.

And – very important – what is inhibiting or even blocking them in the old intranet? Some had a terrible internet connection, and colleagues of theirs did not even have a device that would display the internet. And there were a lot of blockers when it came finding relevant content and understanding it…

Content for the end-users

The end-users want to be able to find relevant information quickly and easily. To achieve that, you not only need a great search engine and navigation structure, but also great content:

  • Content that answers the end-users’ questions. So the content providers need to think about what the users want to see, instead of what the owners want to push to the readers. This is quite tricky: in discussions about the intranet, we often see that, for example, staff departments want to promote their stuff, because they consider that to be important. But do the employees want to see it prominently on their home page?
  • Content that is up-to-date. So the content editors need to update the content when something changes, add new content quickly when it is needed, and make sure obsolete content is either invisible or at least not overwhelming the current content. This is something that our sounding boards were very emphatic about… they hate being drowned in irrelevant, obsolete content.
  • Content that is easy to digest. First of all, what is the language used on the intranet? We heard a lot of internationals complain about information published in Dutch, but also Dutch factory workers who were very unhappy with the choice of their multinational company to publish everything in English. Even in the right language, text is not always easy to read. Images may help, but the wrong image will only hinder.

For the owners & content editors

The change to the new way of managing the content on the new intranet is more explicit.

  • Awareness & desire: They need to be aware of what changes and they need to see what’s in it for them.
  • Knowledge: They need to know how to know how create and manage their content in the new way, both from the perspective of the tooling and from the perspective of editorial guidelines. So yes, we created a user manual for them, conducted training and Q&A sessions.
  • Ability: We need to make sure they have the ability to actually get their content in there and manage it in practice. This is not always easy in a project with a compressed timeline and an early Go Live date. At the Go Live date, all important content should be in the new intranet. So the content editors have to start putting content into the new intranet before development is finished. They hit snags that haven’t been smoothed away yet, so the project team absolutely needs to be available to help them out during this crunch time.
    Also, the editors need time to do this job, which means that their managers need to give them that time. By the way, lack of time was a major blocker emphasised by editors in the workshop.
  • Reinforcement: The editors need to keep adding to and updating the content after Go Live. It does not work if the editors are left to their own devices. So we set up an editors’ community and some ground rules. For example, if editors leave, they need to be replaced.  The editors are requested to regularly check their content: is it still up-to-date? For a lot of static content on the intranet, you don’t have to do that very often, but at least once a year. And we want to keep the sounding board, so that we can keep collecting feedback from the organisation.

October 31, 2022

Leaders need to pivot in the hybrid world: Microsoft research

Filed under: Adoption,New world of work — Tags: — frederique @ 18:56

Microsoft researched the question how hybrid is working for people and organization. They did a big survey and analysed the usage of Microsoft 365. Their key findings are that leaders need to send productivity paranoia, embrace the fact that people come in for each other and re-recruit their employees. For more details, see their Work Trend Index Special Report Hybrid Work is Just Work. Are we doing it wrong?

Microsoft sells tool to support both people working in an office and people working remotely, so that is not why they are looking into hybrid work. But they want to know what people need, so that they can gear their toolkit towards what would work best for us. After all, they sell licenses, so they want us to keep paying for these licenses and preferably buy more advanced ones…

Because we are working in a more hybrid way these days. I already did before covid, because I worked a lot at client locations and hardly ever visited the office of my own organisation. But since covid, hybrid work and remote work have become mainstream. A decade ago, we were talking about the New World of Work, in which we started to collaborate online. Well, we have ramped up the newness of our world of work!

End the productivity paranoia

Microsoft survey found that 85% of leaders are not sure that their people are productive, now that they are working in a hybrid way! That is a lot… At the same time 87% of the employees say that they are productive. Shouldn’t we believe them? Microsoft cannot measure what these people actually delivered, but they did measure that the number of meetings has soared – so at least these employees were not relaxing at the beach all week…

I have heard that in some organisations, employees need to be at the office most of the week. Not because management has determined that for their jobs that would be the most effective and efficient place to work, but because they want to see their employees work….

As if you can be sure that people are working productively when you see them burrowing into their computers, if that is your only criterium. They may be on Facebook or playing a game. If you don’t trust your people to do their jobs, why would the employees bother to do their creative and proactive best for such bosses? I know I would not keep working for an organisation that only values my presence, rather than my actual contribution…

Fortunately, in my organisation we can determine for ourselves, with our teams, what location makes most sense for which tasks. For example:

  • We prefer to brainstorm face to face, but we only do that at one of our offices, when it is an internal brainstorm. In projects, usually only one or a few of my direct colleagues participate in these brainstorms, with more participants from the client. So it is more efficient to go to their office.
  • When I have multiple meeting on that day, with multiple clients based in multiple locations, it makes more sense for me to work from home: at home I don’t bother anyone with my Teams calls and I get less background noise. We do have some small rooms at the office where you can isolate yourself, but why block that room for most of the day and waste travel time to boot?
  • When I need to write a plan or create materials, for example, or do some other task for which I should just sit down and focus, working from home works best for me. It saves travel time and focus energy.
  • But when we have something to celebrate, like a birthday or success in a project, we meet at the office. Digital cake and drinks don’t work as well ?

What we need, is clarity on what are trying to achieve in our project or department and what are the priorities. Then we, including our managers, can check if we actually do achieve these goals . That is a lot more useful than just being present, because this will give us a sense of accomplishment and the opportunity to tweak our way of working.

Embrace the fact that people come in for each other

I have a great ‘home office’ and going to the office takes quite a bit of time. I don’t have a car, because I do not want to waste time “steering” and I do not want to add to the traffic congestion we already have. I commute by train, so that I can do some work or read the people on the train ride, but recently, the railways have become more unreliable, more infrequent and more busy. So I only commute when it makes sense.

Commuting for face to face conversations and brainstorming does make sense. And that includes commuting to the office to meet with my colleagues, for smoother communication with more than faces on a screen and for serendipitous meetings at the coffee machine. But not when I have to focus on calls with clients or writing a plan, so that I do not have time to chat with anyone anyway…


So the hybrid world does gives us quite a few technical challenges, like how do we facilitate hybrid meetings in which everyone is heard, and what are the best tools to brainstorm remotely.

But a big part of the hybrid challenge is about people: for example, asking teams to determine what hybridisation would fit their needs best. And how can we help leaders and managers adapt to the employees hybrid way of working, instead the other way around, trying to squeeze the employees into an obsolete pattern that worked in the past or at least seemed to work in the past…

September 29, 2022

Ambassador network

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 12:38

We implement new technology and things like a new modern workplace. We try to help employees adopt it, to gain the benefits from it. But if we only address the users from a staff team at headquarters, the adoption will probably fail The new system needs to be embedded in the organization. And for that, we love an ambassador network.

The network may have different names and different nuances, but in essence I am talking about a network of people based in the various parts of the organisation who inspire and help their colleagues to work optimally with the system.

The key things we need from this networks:

  • Help their colleagues
  • Gather feedback from the colleagues and

Key responsibilities may be clustered in the same people or caried out by different roles:

  • Key users who have elevated permissions. They can help colleagues who need something set up of configured, for example.
  • Experts, who know the ins and out of the system. They can help colleagues who do not understand how to use the system.
  • Ambassadors, who are enthusiastic about the system and see how it can benefit their team . They can inspire their colleagues, and help them apply the system to their team specific needs optimally.
  • Business sponsors

August 31, 2022

Some notes on Miro boards

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: — frederique @ 21:38

Yes, pun intended: I would like to share some of my notes with you, about Miro whiteboards with digital sticky notes. We recently used a Miro board for brainstorming in a workshop with business representatives at a client. Bottomline is that it worked very nicely, but there were a few gotchas.

Share the board in a way that suits the needs

We shared the board in two different ways, with each their pros and cons and applicability. The following worked well for us.

Invite the workshop participants by their email addresses

When you invite people by name or email address, they enter the board logged in with their account.

  • Pro:
    • They can simply navigate to and see the board that they have been invited. This was very practical for us, as we held a hybrid meeting: we pasted a link in the chat of the Teams meeting for the online participants. The on-site participants simply opened their laptop and navigated to in their browser without needing to find a complex link.
    • Their name can be displayed in the sticky notes they add, so that you can see who said what and ask themfor clarification when needed.
  • Con:
    • The first time they get a Miro invitation, they need to create a Miro account. It is free, but clients may be uncomfortable it. So check with the client if they have policies or strong feelings about internet accounts.
      Of course the entire Miro board lives in a cloud outside of our regular Microsoft cloud, and they may find that scary. But Miro is a Microsoft partner and its whiteboard integrates with Microsoft Teams, so they are not really strangers.
    • You cannot simply forward the board to another colleague whose input may become relevant. That colleague then needs to be invited first.

The people you invite to a specific board can only see the boards to which they have been invited. They cannot see the names of the users in the Miro team that this board is a part of; for that you have to be added to the actual team.

As a member of the Miro team, you see the names and addresses of the people who have been invited to one or more of the boards specifically. Actually: you only see the name when that person has and accepted the invitation and created a Miro account wih their name. Until then, you see only the email address with the label ‘Invited user’ instead of the name.

Share the board with a wider group of interested colleagues via a guest link with a password

When inviting individual people by name is not an option or too much of an administrative hassle, you can share a guest link. Then you do not need to log on. It is possible to use an unprotected guest link, but if the information you gather and share in the board has any kind of sensitivity, please set a password.


  • No need to create an account
  • You can open up the brainstorm: you and the participants of the workshop can just give the link and the password to other colleagues who are not part of the core team.
    Don’t share such an anonymous guest link if the board contains sensitive information, as you have no way of knowing where that link and password end up. Fortunately, you can close it down: change the settings so that anyone with a link has no access, instead of Can view or Can edit.


  • You cannot see who has posted a note: they are labelled as Visitor. So if you want to know who added some idea, you need to ask them to type in their initials or something like that.
  • The link is ugly. No problem whatsoever when you can paste a link in the chat or some other message and people can click on it. But it is more difficult if people need to enter the link themselves

Make sure the board has at least one Co-Owner

In order to set a password on the guest link to a Miro board, you need to have Owner or Co-Owner permissions on that board.

At first, we only had the Owner. I had to disturb my colleague while he was very busy with something else entirely to get an upgrade to Co-Owner, so that I could set up that link. Next time, I will make sure to check there is at least one Co-Owner from the start

Strangely enough, I was able to change the settings to allow anyone with a link to edit the board without a password. That seems a lot more “dangerous” than setting a password for the link…. But this is what we experienced…

Lock the framework

If have structured your board with things like frames, title bars or shapes that should stay in place. Otherwise people will accidentally move them.

But when you have locked it, you cannot change the text in that title bar – for example. You do get a prompt to unlock, but that is not placed right next to your cursor, so you may miss it and wonder why you cannot edit the text.

Use the timer to timebox the brainstorm rounds

You can set a time, such as 15 minutes, by way of the timer icon in the top right toolbar. Then all of the participants can see how much time they have left, as the timer counts down.

When time’s up, Miro sounds a “digital gong”. However, we have switched off the moderators laptop speaker, because we used the sound system in the meeting room. So we did not hear that sound, and the timer just disappeared. It did not show the stopped time. Oh well, now we know that when we don’t see the timer anymore, time’s up.

July 31, 2022

Little things: Employee centric communication

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 19:48

When we introduce a new digital workplace or a new intranet, for example, we determine the approach to help the users adopt the new technology. Yes, the broad strokes. But we should also pay attention to the little things, like how we communicate with the representatives of the user groups.

Put yourself in their place. They are not as involved in the project to introduce the new technology as you are. They don’t know as well as you do what it is about, why it would be relevant for them, what is supposed to happen, how it will work. So if we want them to be engaged, to give us the input and feedback we need, we should not make them guess about these things. We have to be very clear and employee-friendly in our communication.

The representatives need to be volunteers: ask them, don’t send them

We need a sounding board, to get input and feedback from the organization. We need key users or ambassadors, or however we call them, to inspire and help their colleagues with the new technology. But it doesn’t work if management just tells some employees that they have to be ambassadors. It doesn’t work if these people do not want that role. So we need to approach this in an employee-centric way.

  • Ask people if they want to take part. Preferably, the person to ask them is someone they know, but some people may even volunteer if you post a call for ambassadors.
  • Clarify what that role entails, what you expect from them and what they get out of it.
  • Make sure their manager will allow them to play that role and appreciate them for it.

Send clear and timely invitations

When we invite anyone, especially representatives from the organization, to workshops or other sessions, we need to send them participant-centric invitations:

  • Send the invitation plenty of time in advance, at least a few weeks for sessions longer then an hour. People are busy, so you cannot expect them to have time for your meeting when you invite them late.
  • Invite them for a location that is practical for them. If they cannot travel to headquarters for a meeting on-site, consider conducting them session online. The key point is that the session should be optimal for them, to reach the goals that you all are trying to reach.
  • Clarify in your invitation what are the goals of the session, what you expect from them and if they should prepare anything.

Explain cancelations

If you cancel a session, explain why it is cancelled. Is the session no longer needed? Is there a change of plan? Will it be rescheduled? Is it caused by a technicality: someone else will send a replacement invitation?

I have seen quite a bit of unrest among ambassadors, when a meeting was cancelled. It had to be replaced by an invitation sent by a different organiser. However, that replacement was not send immediately afterwards, so the participants had plenty of time to wonder what was going on, if the programme was in trouble. Some of them started to accept other meetings for that timeslot. All of this could have been avoided if the meeting cancelation message had included an explanation.

Keep them informed

We’re in this together, the project team and the representatives from the organization. So don’t ask them to give you information in a workshop and them make them feel like their input disappeared into a black hole.

  • Tell them what came out of it, what you are doing with their input.
  • Keep them informed on important milestones.
  • If the next steps are delayed, tell them. Do not make them think you have forgotten all about them.
  • But do not spam them with more information than they need. For example, put the updates and announcements in a Microsoft Teams environment that you share with them, so that they can read what’s happening when they have time. Only draw their attention to posts when you need them to take action.

All of this is not rocket science. But I do see that the ball gets dropped sometimes, usually because the project team is too busy, when there are other issues taking up their time and energy. But the one thing we should not skip is involving our user groups. Just don’t forget these little things.

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