blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

October 28, 2017

Who is in my Microsoft Team?

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 17:19

In the beginning, Microsoft Teams had a limited scope: a team was always private and limited to colleagues within the same organization. Now, your team can also include people outside your organization. And all team mates, including the external guests, can easily see who else is on the team.

I’ve discussed in a previous blog post on what’s with Teams: what does this chat-based collaboration app in Office 365 offer us and why we use it. It is a hub for teamwork. Now let us look closer who can be part of such a Team.

Inviting team mates

Colleagues as team members

A Team Owner can add new members from inside the organization via the famous ellipsis (dot dot dot…), selecting Add Members. You can only do this at the level of the Team, not at the level of a Channel: the permissions apply to the Team as a whole.

The Team Owner can add Members to the Team via the ellipsis.

The Team Owner can add Members to the Team via the ellipsis.

Once you have added a colleague as a Member, you can upgrade them to become a co-Owner.

Switch role to Owner

The Team Owner can upgrade Members to the Owner role.

 

Externals als team guests

The Team Owner can also invite guests from outside the organization. At the moment, you can only invite people who have a Azure Active Directory account, such as everyone who uses Office 365. Later on, you should be able to invite anyone with a Microsoft account, like in SharePoint Team Sites.

The Team Owners can invite guests via their email addresses

The Team Owners can invite guests via their email addresses

Note that when you participate in Teams in more than one organization and more than one tenant, you have to switch between them in the app.

Switch tenants

Megan works for Contoso and has some Teams there. She can switch to the Teams at Macaw where she is a Guest.

Joining a public Team?

When you create a Tean, you can select the option to make it a public team, that anyone in your organization can join.

Option for Public Team

The can select to create a Public team

However, in none of my tenants I have seen the opportunity to join such a Public Team. I suppose it will become available later…

Checking who is in my Microsoft Team

All Team participants, even the external Guests, can check who is part of that Team via the ellipsis (the dot dot dot…), selecting Manage Team. Yes, it is strange that this option is labeled Manage Team rather than View Team, because viewing is the only thing non-owners can do. Or you navigate to the root of the Team, where you will find the Members page. The Members page displays all participants: Members as well as Owners and Guests.

View Team

All team mates can view who is in the Team, via the option Manage Team. Even guests.

Want to know more about a team member? You can check their place in the organization. This only works for colleagues; external guest cannot see your org chart.

You can get there by hovering over the photo – or photo placeholder – of the colleague you are interested in. In the people pop-up that appears, select the View organization icon.

People pop-up View organization option

Hover over the photo or placeholder to get the people pop-up with the option to view their place in the organization.

When you are chatting with a colleague, you can also reach the org chart via the tab Organization.

People org chart

In the context of a chat with a team mate, view his or her place in the org chart.

So all in all, I am quite pleased with the options we have to collaborate with different team mates in our Teams and to see who is in the Team. Even if not every option is available yet, it works nicely. In particular, external guests have a better collaboration experience in Microsoft Teams than in Office Groups.

September 30, 2017

What’s with Microsoft Teams?

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 19:55

Microsoft Teams is a hub for teamwork, allowing teams to collaborate in a chat-based app. It is part of Office 365 and ties into the existing features, supplemented with new functionality.

You can use a Microsoft Team as the one place where you collaborate with a particular team, with everything you need at your fingertips, anytime, anywhere. You take part in one or more Teams, in the web browser or the client version. Like with Office Groups, collaboration in Teams can be quite informal: anyone who can create a Group can also create a Team.

Why Teams?

Office 365 offers different collaboration tools, because not everybody works the same way. Microsoft Teams is ideal for people who prefer to collaborate in a chat-based environment.

The key novelty of Microsoft Teams is its persistent chat functionality. We already had persistent email conversations in Groups and conversations in Yammer. But the chat functionality we have in Skype for Business right now is more volatile. Yes, you see the conversation history, but only for the conversations you were personally involved in. And when you invite other people into your conversation, they do not see what was discussed before they joined the conversation.

In Microsoft Teams, you can see all chat conversations conducted in your Team, including what has been said in the past and what is said by team mates who have not invited you explicitly to join that conversation. And it is not just about talking: in Microsoft Teams you have serious collaboration functionality, for sharing documents for example.

What makes Teams powerful to me, is that it combines chat conversations with tools to collaborate on documents and share information, in an interface that connects it all up.

What do I get in a Team?

The functionality you get with Microsoft Teams is helps you to collaborate closely with your team mates: colleagues, but also guests from other organizations, who usually work in other Office 365 tenants.

Advanced team chat

The chat functionality at the heart of Teams is more advanced than the chat in Skype for Business.

  • As I just mentioned, it is persistent: it stays there when you close your Teams app, for everyone who is or who will be part of the Team. So it is very fortunate that you can edit your message…
  • The participants can start multiple conversation threads, which are kept together. In addition to messages sent by the participants, other activities are displayed among the conversation threads, such as new members added to the Team.
  • You can make a message pop out to somebody, by mentioning him or her. And make your posts and replies stand out visually, by including not only smileys but also animated gifs and stickers.
Teams chat

In the chat, you make your message stand out by mentioning people and by including visuals.

  • The main idea is to have a conversation with the entire team. But you can also have a private chat one specific person or a limited group of people: an ad hoc team. The difference with a Skype for Business chat is that this private chat in Teams remains available, just like the conversations with the entire team.
Teams private chat

Start a private chat with one or more people via the pencil icon next to the Search box.

Channels with tabs

Within the Team, the conversations are structured in channels. For example, in a Team about Office 365, the conversation about the different ingredients of the toolkit could take place in different channels. The same group of people can then follow all of these conversations, but it is easier to find something about a specific topic by using these channels.

For each channel, you not only have conversations, but also other information tabs. By default, you have a Files tab and a Wiki tab. You can add other tabs to your Team, like a specific PowerPoint presentation stored in the Files section. Or external sources, like YouTube or SurveyMoney.

Add a Tab to a Channel

Add a tab to a Teams channel, like a PowerPoint presentation or a YouTube video.

YouTube Tab in Team channel

Tab in a Teams channel displaying a YouTube video

Integration with other Office 365 tools

When you create a new Team, you also get a new Office 365 Group, its SharePoint site, plan in Planner and everything.  For example, the files displayed in the Team live in the SharePoint site, as does the OneNote notebook that you can add as a tab.

OneNote tab in Team

You can add a OneNote Notebook to a tab. This Notebook is stored in the SharePoint site associated to this Team, via its Group.

If you already have an older Office 365 Group and you want to add the new Teams functionality to it, you can do that, provided you are  the Owner of that Group. The dialog for creating a new Team has a section titled ‘Add Microsoft Teams to an existing Office 365 group?’; then select the existing Group that you want to connect to.

Add Team ot an eisting Group

Adding Teams functionality to an existing Office 365 Group

In your Team, for example, you can collaborate on a presentation in an integrated fashion. When you upload a draft into the Files section, you can start a conversation about it. You see the chat conversation right next to the presentation when you view it or edit it within the Team. By the way, I have not seen this nice integration when I add the file directly in a conversation. Not yet anyway.

Collaborate on presentation

Have a conversation about a presentation while you edit it inside the Team

 

For Team Meetings, we have integration with Outlook. When I schedule a meeting from Microsoft Teams, all team members also get an invitation in their Outlook agenda and they can open the meeting from that invitation. The meeting then takes place in Microsoft Teams, just like Skype meetings take place in Skype for Business.

Teams Meeting

The invitation to a Microsoft Teams meeting appears in Outlook and you can enter the meeting from that Outlook invitation

You can also start from Outlook 2016 using the ‘New Team Meeting’, to invite the team to a meeting. At the moment, that does not seem to work  as smoothly as starting from Teams. In Outlook, you have a button to schedule a New Teams Meeting (next to the button to schedule a New Skype Meeting), but then you cannot select the Team you want to invite. You can use the channel’s mail address to get the meeting into the channel, but the team members do not receive a personal invitation. Not yet anyway.

Teams Meeting invite from Outlook-ann

Scheduling a new Teams meeting from Outlook, by sending the invitation to the Team channel’s mail address.

How serious should we take Teams?

Very. At Ignite 2017, Microsoft Teams featured prominently. It was stated that Microsoft Teams is central, as communication is at the heart of team work, and Teams will evolve to be the core communication client. The Teams app will be the hero experience for voice and meetings and it will replace the Skype for Business client. And it is positioned as the tool par excellence for high-velocity projects. To hear it from their own lips, see the on-demand sessions.

There are dozens of Ignite sessions about Teams in particular and Teams as part of the Microsoft 365 landscape. These are Day 1 overviews where Teams are included as part of the toolkit:

July 31, 2016

Life imitating art? Recognizing my work in holiday sightseeing

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 22:58

I have just spent my holidays touring France. No, I did not think about work, Office 365, SharePoint, user adoption, governance or anything like that. But now that I am back, I do notice that often the principles that governed what we saw and did during our holidays are quite similar to the ones that govern my work.

Take advantage of what is availble, with tweaks where needed

In the Dordogne, people have been living under stone shelters since prehistoric times: natural rock overhangs, which protect you from the rain (if did still work for us, on our walk). The Cro-Magnon lived there, and may already made them more comfortable and practical by . Later, people built houses under such shelters, which already had a back wall and part of a roof.

Abri de Cro-Magnon in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, with recontructed "tent walls"

Prehistoric abri de Cro-Magnon in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, with recontructed “tent walls”

Modern house built under the shelter near the Grotte de Combarelles

Modern house built under the shelter near the Grotte de Combarelles

On the SharePoint platform and in Office 365 we do the same thing: we take advantage of what Microsoft (instead of mother nature) has already created for us, and we tweak a bit or develop more extensively to make it fit our needs better. We actually do that more and more. While a decade ago we started by building a new house from scratch, now we immediately head for the nearest standard feature and use that with as little customization as possible.

The environment changes and we have to go with the flow

As we went to the south of France, we assumed that the weather would be quite nice and that we would be just fine camping in our little tent. Well, not everywhere and not every day. It seems like that the climate change is acting up: there had been torrential rains, flooding many rivers and swamping the countryside in many areas.  And there were frequent thunderstorms, with hail.

So we chose carefully where to pitch our tent and where to go hiking. We changed our plans to steer clear of the worst inundations. And when the weather forecast threatened with a hailstorm, we took shelter in a hotel room.

Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : better be careful where you walk

Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : better be careful where you walk

But the local wildlife, in particular the water birds and waders, where quite happy that there was water everywhere…

Ducks taking advantage of the rains in the Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : this was supposed to be dry land.

Ducks taking advantage of the rains in the Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : this was supposed to be dry land.

In Office 365 cloud burst are usually less destructive. But the environment does change all the time. As users and administrators, we have to go with the flow. Change our plans if they don’t mesh with the evolution of the environment, and take advantage of the new opportunities.

Old and broken? It is still useful for somebody

The statues outside the cathedral of Sens have all been broken: their heads were cut off during the revolution. But the statues (and art lovers’) loss is the birds (and nature lovers’) gain. A lot of swallows built their nests amongst the statues.

Swallows nesting in the west portal

Swallows nesting in the west portal

In Sarlat-la-Canéda it weren’t the birds but people who recycled an old church; now they use it as a covered market.

Sarlat-la-Canéda: The second life of the church of Sainte-Marie

Sarlat-la-Canéda: The second life of the church of Sainte-Marie

I recently saw the same thing with an old SharePoint environment. People had circumvented the old, dilapidated templates to create very useful solutions. Don’t underestimate the creativity of your fellow man – or bird – in reusing old sites.

You don’t always need an expensive, high tech solution

In the city centre of Cahors, the inhabitants of one of the main pedestrian streets wanted to have some flowers to go with the official garden festival. They did not have gardens, space or money. But they had some basic materials and a good idea. So they created some very funny and colourful flower pots from old plastic soap bottles and hung them on the drain pipes.

Flower pots made from old soap bottles in Cahors

Flower pots made from old soap bottles in Cahors

This is often my approach in projects, especially small-scale projects for teams that don’t have much money. Do they really need some expensive product, or can we just tweak some standard stuff to meet their needs?

Blocking the main entry with fun stuff: Check the priorities and navigation

There is a main road running through Saint-Gilles (Gard). But not on the day of their festival. On that they, that main route is blocked, so you cannot enter the town or go through it to other villages and towns connected by that road. Fortunately, we were on the right side of the barriers, staying at the town camp site and enjoying the festivities.
For that day, the priorities of the people of Saint-Gilles were clearly with their fête. They did provide some sign posts to guide people around the town centre, but these did not suffice: we saw plenty of drivers who got stuck and lost. Maybe they tried regardless of the signs, but the barriers were quite solid…

Saint-Gilles, Fête de la Musique. The barriers went up plenty of time before the festival started.

Saint-Gilles, Fête de la Musique. The barriers went up plenty of time before the festival started.

I sometimes see something similar happen on the homepage of an intranet: the entire page or at least the visible part of the page, is taken over by ‘fun stuff’: a campaign, something interesting that Communication wants to tell the world. But what about the users who are looking for their tools, their collaboration sites, support, or other useful things? You have to be pretty sure that all of these users share your priorities and want to see your ‘fun stuff’, or you have to offer them sufficiently clear pointers to the place where they do want to go.

 

So no, I am not a workaholic: while I was on holiday, I did not think about work. But now that I am back at the office and looking at my holiday pictures over the weekend, I do see similarities. Maybe I am just trying to find my holiday in my work….

November 30, 2015

Skype for Business – I cannot work without it

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 23:26

I work on different locations, with colleagues and clients who are not always at the location as I am. When I want to discuss something with them, I use Skype for Business. Recently, we got an error message instead of the conversation we wanted. That made me realize just how much I depend on this tool in my daily work. Let me explain what I like about it and how I use it.

In a previous post, I discussed some tools Office 365 offers for collaboration. Tools like Office 365 Groups, SharePoint Online and Yammer allow us to write things down and share them with a group of people, who can read them and contribute to them. But sometimes you just need to talk to somebody about the problem at hand.

But isn’t that what telephones are for? Yes, but I prefer Skype for Business, which is also part of Office 365, as a tool to talk with colleagues and clients. Why?

Chat: direct but not necessarily immediate

First of all, when my phone rings, I have to pay attention to it RIGHT NOW. Yes, the all caps shouting is intentional, because that’s what a phone call feels like to me: somebody shouting at me that I have to drop everything and listen to them at that very moment. I can either pick up the phone or ignore it, no middle ground.

But if somebody uses the chat functionality of Skype for Business, I can finish my sentence, save my work, grab the cup of coffee I have been aching for and then pick up the conversation. Those 5 minutes are almost always perfectly acceptable.

Of course this advantage does not apply when people immediately use the call functionality in Skype for Business. But if you want to talk to me, I highly recommend that you send a chat message first, to check if this is a convenient time to talk :-)

Presence status tells me if you are available

Skype for Business does not just give a busy signal like a phone when you are already on it. If you want to talk to someone, the presence status in Skype for Business tells you if that person is already in a call, or in a meeting according to his or her Outlook calendar. If they have stepped away from their computer (and for how long) or if they have left their digital workplace altogether (i.e. if they are offline). If they are busy or do not want to be disturbed.

This allows you to either pick the colleague who you can ask your question now, or to pick your moment to contact a particular colleague.

Switching from written chat to a voice call

All this typing chat messages is well and good, but sometimes it is easier to just speak with someone, and listen to what they have to say. That is the call functionality of Skype for Business. This is a bit like a phone, but in a Skype for Business call I can invite additional participants as we speak (literally…)

Share your screen

While you are talking via Skype for Business, you can also show what you are talking about. This is the killer functionality for me… I work in a digital workplace, so a lot of what I want to discuss is on my screen or on your screen: functionality on Office 365 that we are discussing, a list of open issues, examples in a presentation…

I have been in telephone conversations where it turned out that we were not talking about the same thing at all, because it was so hard to describe verbally what we each saw on our separate screens. I want you to point out what you see and what you significantly do not see. I want to see it for myself.

This is what recently broke down for me. We wanted to discuss some functionality in Office 365, and the Skype for Business meeting on my interlocutor’s computer would not go beyond the message that she had to connect a microphone – this was not a laptop with a built-in microphone. Even though we talked over a phone line and only wanted to use Skype for Business for screen sharing. Aaarrghh! It was so frustrating not to be able to look at the same screen. Fortunately then someone found a microphone at her office. She plugged it in and, even though we did not use it, she could finally get the Skype for Business meeting to share the screen.

I can’t live without Skype for Business? That is an exaggeration. But I can’t work without it. It is a great tool that helps me collaborate effectively and efficiently.

October 31, 2015

Office 365 tools: What should I use for collaboration?

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:27

Office 365 provides us with a very extensive toolkit, which we can use to collaborate with colleagues and with external partners. However, which tool should we use for what purpose from that toolkit? Recently, I talked to a client who got confused. They have SharePoint, Groups, OneDrive for Business, Yammer. Now what? What do we advise our users?

Their first idea was to start promoting OneDrive for Business and Yammer only, because they feared that SharePoint would scare the users, and they were not sure what Groups would do. But what I fear is that, if you start promoting OneDrive for Business without SharePoint or Groups, people will start using OneDrive for Business the wrong way and then everybody will regret it.

So let’s take a look at the collaboration tools in our Office 365 toolkit. What are their strong points, what are their restrictions, and what is the best area to use them in.

The advantages of any of the tools in Office 365

But before I start comparing them, they are all better than storing your information on your local computer.
Why? If you store information in Office 365 instead of on your c-drive for example:

  • You won’t lose everything when your computer crashes. My computer froze just before the meeting with this client, and there was no way to get it back in business. So I swapped computers. And I savoured the fact that all of my materials were in Office 365, so I could do my presentation, my demo, everything I needed.
  • You can access the information easily from different devices via the internet.

And all of the options are also better than storing your documents in some free cloud service.
Why? If you store your information in Office 365 instead of some free version of Dropbox, Google Docs or something like that:

  • You are safe within the Office 365 environment of your organization Microsoft stakes it reputation on the security of Office 365. Free services could have or get some hidden agenda or some footnote in their agreement stating that they can access your documents.
  • It is easier to share safely with a colleague In Office 365, you pick the colleague from a directory. You don’t have to enter their mail address or risk sharing your document with an outsider accidentally.

OneDrive for Business: my digital desk drawer, my USB-stick in the cloud

Let me start with OneDrive for Business, because I have heard several organizations who wanted to start with OneDrive for Business. Storing documents in my OneDrive for Business is like storing them in a digital drawer of my desk.

OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business

Advantages

  • Easy to store, view and edit your documents in Office, both in the browser and in the client on your computer
  • Easy to access your document both online and offline, if you synchronise your OneDrive for Business library to your computer using the OneDrive for Business synchronisation mechanism.
  • Easy to share both with colleagues and with outsiders, if you wish to do so.
  • Integrated with the rest of Office 365. Because OneDrive for Business is integrated with the rest of Office 365, you can for example find documents stored in OneDrive for Business using the Office 365 search and using Delve.

Disadvantages / restrictions

  • You are the only owner of your own OneDrive for Business and the documents stored in it. So if you leave the company, your documents are no longer managed and may even be deleted.
  • If you share individual documents with other people, you won’t see at a glance with whom you have shared them. You can only see in an icon that you have shared a document, as opposed to a document that only you can see. So you need to be particularly careful with document that you have shared with outsiders, for example putting them all in a folder called ‘Shared externally’.
  • Confusing label: OneDrive for Business is not the same as OneDrive. I have seen users accidentally saving documents from MS Word to their private OneDrive when they meant to save them to their OneDrive for Business. Make sure you pick the one called ‘OneDrive – [Your organisation]’, and make sure to tell everyone about this…
  • This problem may be solved soon, but today it is still a problem: You can only synchronise your OneDrive for Business library as a whole to your computer. Not selected folders within that library. Microsoft is working on this one, see The OneDrive Blog: I sync therefore I am…
  • There are restrictions as to what you can upload and synchronise to your computer using the OneDrive for Business synchronisation mechanism. See Restrictions and limitations when you sync SharePoint libraries to your computer through OneDrive for Business. For example:
    • Folder plus filename can’t be more than 250 characters,
    • Some characters are forbidden (less than there used to be! \ / : * ? ” < > | # %)
    • Some folder names are forbidden, e.g. Forms.

So use it for:

  • Storing documents that are relevant only for you, not for the team or the organisation. For example, notes about your personal development, a list of your travels for which you still need to submit an expense report.
  • Sharing a document in an ad hoc fashion If you have found something interesting that does not have anything to do with the team and you want to share it with someone, you can use your OneDrive for Business.

Don’t use it for:

  • Systematic collaboration Because you are the only owner, if you leave the organisation, your colleagues are stuck.
    See also Should I save my documents to OneDrive for Business or a team site?
  • 1-on-1 upload of all of the documents that you have stored in the My Documents on your computer over the years. It may seem like a good idea, but you should look before you upload, because:
    • Many of these documents may pertain to a team effort, so they don’t belong in your personal OneDrive for Business library.
    • You OneDrive for Business and/or computer may crash if you try a mega-upload. It seems that they synchronisation mechanism is getting better, but I have heard to many horror stories about crashes caused by bulk uploads to dare do such a thing…

Please note:

  • We are talking about OneDrive for Business here, not about the private offering called OneDrive, which is a different tool.
  • The name OneDrive for Business includes three things:
    • My personal document library, for storing documents
    • A synchronisation mechanism for synchronising OneDrive for Business and SharePoint libraries to your computer.
    • An entry point for all documents created by me or shared with me anywhere OneDrive for Business or SharePoint.

Office Groups: “we” instead of “me”

Groups are a new tool for collaboration in the Office 365 toolkit. They are one step more “serious” when it comes to collaboration than OneDrive for Business. A Groups is not as full-blown a tool as a SharePoint site.

Office Group and its options available under the ellipsis (...)

Office Group and its options available under the ellipsis (…)

Advantages

  • Start collaborating quickly and easily
  • Different ingredients that you can use if you like: conversations, calendar, files, OneNote notebook.
    See also What are Groups for Office 365.
  • Easy integration in Outlook, with e-mail. You start to attach a file to a message, the system guides to you store it in the Group.
  • Easy to manage. It does not depend on one person: you can make other people group admin.
  • Easy to store, view and edit shared documents in Office, both in the browser and in the client on your computer
  • Easy to access the document both online and offline, if you synchronise the document library associated to the Group to your computer using the OneDrive for Business synchronisation mechanism.

Disadvantages / restrictions

  • No good overview in the user interface. To access the different components (conversations, calendar, files, OneNote, members) you need to click the infamous ellipsis (…). There is no ‘start page’ where it all comes together.
  • Confusing how you get to your groups Users are looking for Groups in the App Launcher, but there is no tile for Groups. You can access your Groups via Outlook (in the browser or in the client) or via OneDrive for Business in the browser.
  • No subtleties like
    • other lists, pages, the option to change the structure as the admin,
    • fine-grained permissions, auditing, restoring from the recyle bin, retention policies, etc for serious content management
  • Integration with the rest of Office 365 is not optimal (yet)
    • The conversations are not part of Yammer but Outlook messages
    • The files are stored in SharePoint, though the interface looks like OneDrive for Business. But you can’t use the other SharePoint options.
  • There are restrictions as to what you can upload and synchronise to your computer using the OneDrive for Business synchronisation mechanism. See Restrictions and limitations when you sync SharePoint libraries to your computer through OneDrive for Business.

So use it for:

  • Setting up temporary collaboration (e.g. the organisation of a team barbecue) Because you can create a group in one click of a button.
  • Collaboration with people who are devoted to Outlook Because the Groups are visible and usable in Outlook.
  • Basic collaboration in general Because if you don’t need the additional options that a SharePoint site offers, why not use a Group.

Don’t use it for:

  • Collaboration with a process that should be facilitated by workflows or (for now) task or issue lists Because currently Groups are not well suited to keep track of shared status information and to assigning items to individuals.
  • Publishing information to a large group (“intranet”) Because the information in a Group is not displayed in the most user-friendly way.

Please note:

SharePoint: the powertool for collaboration with a process

SharePoint is an old friend to some people (like me…). It has been developed and improved for over a decade. And over the years, some people got allergic to the term SharePoint, because they had bad experiences with one or more versions of SharePoint. For those people it may be helpful that they term ‘SharePoint’ is not very prominent in Office 365: you click on the label Sites, not SharePoint to get to your team sites… Because I don’t want to give up on SharePoint as yet. It is still a useful tool in our toolkit.

SharePoint team site

SharePoint team site

Advantages

  • Powerful tool
  • Easy to use for the site visitors and members, if the site owner has configured the site properly
  • Options like
    • list templates (e.g. issues, hyperlinks,…),
    • managing information together (e.g. updating status fields),
    • structuring information, by creating smart views based on metadata,
    • bringing together relevant information on a page,
    • fine-grained permissions, auditing, retention policies for serious content management,
    • workflows to facilitate processes.
  • Easy to store, view and edit your documents in Office, both in the browser and in the client on your computer
  • Easy to access the document both online and offline, if you synchronise the document library in your SharePoint site to your computer using the OneDrive for Business synchronisation mechanism.

Disadvantages / restrictions

So use it for:

  • Collaboration with a process (like requests)
    Because you can set up workflows in a SharePoint site.
  • Collaboration where colleagues have different roles, e.g. reader, contributor, owner etc.
    Because you can set up different permissions for the different roles
  • Making information available to large groups
    Because you can create pages that display views of the information that is most relevant at that point.

Don’t use it for:

  • Quick & dirty, temporary collaboration
    Because it takes more time to set up a SharePoint site than a Group. And if you don’t need the SharePoint functionality, a Group is more suited as a throwaway “digital meeting room”
  • Personal documents, that are only relevant for you
    Because those belong in your OneDrive for Business.

Please note:

  • Microsoft is moving collaboration focus from SharePoint to Groups. See also SharePoint Team Sites are dead!
  • Collaboration that requires a process, with a workflow, will not be moved to Groups but will stay In SharePoint, as far as we know.

Yammer: a discussion forum

And we have Yammer, the enterprise social technology that Microsoft bought in 2012 and added to the Office 365 toolkit in 2013. It can help you collaborate, although it is not a “serious” collaboration tool

A Yammer group

A Yammer group

Advantages:

  • Easy to post a question or idea, and invite people to participate
  • Easy to respond
  • You can post a document from SharePoint to Yammer in order to discuss it
  • You can invite people outside your organization to join the conversation (in an external network or even in your regular network, if you have not blocked external conversations)
  • Easy to manage. It does not depend on one person: you can make other people group admin

Disadvantages / restrictions:

  • You cannot format your post to make it more readable.
  • Yammer content is not integrated in the Office 365 search. The SharePoint search center only offers a link to search for the same term in Yammer.
  • Search in Yammer is not good at surfacing the most relevant items
  • No subtleties like
    • other lists, pages, the option to change the structure as the admin,
    • fine-grained permissions, auditing, restoring from the recyle bin, retention policies, etc for serious content management
    • document versioning

So use it for:

  • Discussing ideas, issues or anything you like
  • Asking question and giving answers
  • If you like working in Yammer: Light, ad hoc collaboration, if the result is captured elsewhere in Office 365 (e.g. work on a document and put it in SharePoint after it has been finished) or if the result does not have to be findable afterwards. See also Document collaboration in Yammer just got better with Office Online

Don’t use it for:

  • Serious collaboration, involving many documents, processes etc.
    See also Yammer Conversations vs. SharePoint Collaboration Sites
    Because the items are hard to find in Yammer and the “serious” features are missing
  • Posting long stories
    Because you cannot format the text, so they are hard to read. It works better if you post the long story elsewhere and point to it from Yammer for discussion.

Please note

  • Over the past years, some steps have been taken to integrate Yammer into Office 365. Maybe more will follow. For example, Delve should include links shared in Yammer and in the future Delve will allow you to have Yammer conversations directly from Delve items. See Office Delve—discover exactly what you need, when you need it
  • In the community, we are not sure that Yammer is still the way to go. In the recent Unity Connect conference, many people said that they would not start a Yammer project now, although you can keep using it if you already have it. See also Has Yammer played out its role?

 

So you can pick and choose the tool that best suits your purpose. And basically it boils down to this (Thank you Benjamin Niaulin):

  • Me = OneDrive for Business
  • We = Office 365 Groups
  • We + process = SharePoint site

 

 

May 31, 2015

Sightseeing Digital Workplaces

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 1:11

I love guided tours of digital workplaces. Usually they are hidden behind the walls of organisations. Firewalls that is. But sometimes we can visit and get a guided tour. A digital visit. This gives us an idea of what is happening in the domain of digital workplaces, what works for other organisations and what were their challenges.

Recently I attended part of Digital Workplace 24, DW24. There was no way I could attend the full 24-hour marathon, but I could catch some sessions. The reason is that the marathon itself was a digital event: I could enter the digital conference room from my digital workplace, whenever I had a moment. A good case of eating our own dogfood – or drinking our own champagne. I have watched earlier editions, and I will watch future editions whenever possible.

Some things that struck me in this online conference:

  • There are some great digital workplaces out there: the starting point is the intranet portal homepage, but employees – especially knowledge workers – can click from there to get their job done. Arup stated the following principles for their digital workplace, and these seem to apply to many others: “me-centric”, collaborative, findable, a single source of the truth, and mobile.
  • A lot of them are built with SharePoint. There were workplaces built with SharePoint 2010, 2013, Online, hybrids of on-premises and online… The hybrid scenario came up several times during the marathon. The main reason we see to put some things on premises is regulations and requirements from clients who want their data in their own country.
  • Non-knowledge workers are starting to be connected. The knowledge workers are still the main audience: employees who do their jobs using computers. Employees who work in the shops or factories or otherwise outside an office are usually not connected to the digital workplace. But many organisations start to involve these employees too. For example, Barclay offers their employees in the branches mobile access to the Knowledge Info Kit. And Ikea has an “extranet” so that factory employees can read news and find staff information from their personal devices at home. Coca Cola emphasized that all employees have access to their responsive iConnect, and they have iConnect Express for factory workers who have little time..
  • Less is more: Adidas told that they made a conscious effort to keep their digital workplace as clean as possible. They left out everything they do not really need. And they did not overload it with a big branding look & feel. The brand feel comes from the content. The result is an impressively effective and good-looking digital workplace.
  • My tools tiles are quite popular. Several homepages contained a set of tiles leading the users to their favorite apps, tools, solutions, whatever you call it. Users can modify their own ‘My tools’ set. American Express calls it the ‘toolbelt’ and offers it in a dropdown from the main menu.
  • Many digital workplaces are responsive and work on mobile devices. Or at least part of the digital workplace is: the portal, news, discussion forum, …
  • You need to know what your users need before you can build a digital workplace that meets those needs. The Mayo Clinic told us about their research into the work experience and needs of their nurses. They talked to nurses and followed them around in their jobs, and from that information they created personas for the different roles: “the tools of empathy”. And with these personas in hand, they came up with a digital workplace designed for the actual nurses instead of for “bosses”.

Great tours, interesting discussion. And we could join in from our own desk / armchair / couch / wherever. For free too. So I definitely plan to join again next year…

April 30, 2015

What have the Romans ever done for us? Some lessons learned in Pamphilia

Filed under: Digital Workplace — Tags: — frederique @ 23:56

I’ve recently given a talk at our Macaw conference, which was held in Side. Nowadays Side is on the south-west coast of Turkey. But in antiquity, Side was founded by the Greeks, thoroughly Hellenised by Alexander the Great, and then absorbed into the Roman empire. And that is still very visible. Side and the other cities in the region of Pamphylia are full of Greek and especially Roman ruins. So I thought I should take a look at what the Romans have done for us and what we can learn from them in our current work with SharePoint and the digital workplace.

Side was very clearly a part of the Roman empire: a lot of the buildings and stuctures are typically Roman, as the Romans were very good at standardisation. But were Side and the other cities of Pamphylia just copies of all the other Roman towns? No. Let’s see some examples and the lessons we can learn from them.

Learn from others

The temples in Side, for example, look a lot like the Roman temples elsewhere in the Mediterranean area and in Western Europe. But they also look a lot like the Greek temples. And that makes perfect sense: The Romans took over a lot from the Greeks, including many elements of their temples.

 

The Roman temple of Apollo in Side. Roman temples look rather like Greek temples, and Apollo himself was also taken over from the Greeks.

The Roman temple of Apollo in Side. Roman temples look rather like Greek temples, and Apollo himself was also taken over from the Greeks.

A Greek temple of Zeus, chief god of the Greek pantheon and god of thunder. (In Cyrene, Lybia)

A Greek temple of Zeus, chief god of the Greek pantheon and god of thunder. Built in the 6th century BC (and restored) in Cyrene, Lybia.

And they also took over the gods living in those temples. The Greeks for example had the god Apollo and the Romans have exactly the same Apollo. And while the Greeks had Zeus as their main god, the god of thunder. the Roman had Jupiter: exactly the same guy, with just a different name. And why not? If it suits you, why invent something else if you can re-use what somebody else invented. The Romans did not have to worry about copyright infringement…

So: Learn from others. Get inspired by and re-use their patterns and practices if they suit you.

In my work, I alway love sightseeing other intranets and digital workplaces, for example in the NN/g intranet annual and the Digital Workplace 24 session. To get inspired by other people’s great solutions. Especially when I learn what really works in real life, at least for their users.

Re-use great solutions, patterns and practices

The Romans built aqueducts all over their empire. There is an interesting aqueduct at Aspendos in Pamphylia, but you also see them in France. For example, the Pont du Gard.

The aqueduct in Aspendos

The aqueduct in Aspendos

An aqueduct is a great way to bring water from the mountains, for example, into a populous city. Drinking water, but also water for the Baths. Romans loved their baths. Not just for getting clean, but also for socializing. We have Facebook, they had their communal bath complexes.

Again, we find those baths all over the Roman empire, and they all have basically the same structure. They include cold baths, warm baths and hot baths, and associated rooms like a changing room. To get the required heat in especially the hot baths, a system of floor heating was used: a hypocaustum. The floor was raised on stacks of brick tiles, so that hot air could circulate under the floor from a nearby oven. During the conference we saw the impressive ruins of a bath complex in Perge, but I have seen exactly the same system in North-England for example. And why not? If it works, just use the solution wherever it is applicable.

The raised floor in the warm baths allow hot air to circulate. The floor is held up by stacks of brick tiles. (South baths, Perge)

The raised floor in the warm baths allow hot air to circulate. The floor is held up by stacks of brick tiles. (South baths, Perge)

Floor heating is especially handy in cold places like the north of England, at Hadrian's wall.

Floor heating is especially handy in cold places like the north of England, at Hadrian’s wall (Chesters). The same hypocaust system is used here.

So: re-use great solutions, patterns and practices.

In my work, I sometimes re-use the same app for clients that have the same needs. Within the same organisation, we create site templates for teams that have similar needs, like project teams or a departments. And often, I create a solution that is inspired by another one, but implemented differently. For example, I have several clients who have confidential dossiers that need to go through a process. So in both cases we have set up SharePoint Document Sets that will get a workflow and item level security. Re-using what works.

Standardise structures to allow the users to recognize easily where they are

The street plan of a Roman city is a grid: there is a straight main street running north-south (the cardo), another straight main street running east-west (the decumanus) and the other streets nearly fill out the grid pattern. And the main buildings can be found in the city center where the main streets cross each other. By the way, the Romans also took over this street plan from the Greeks: the father of urban planning was Hippodamus of Miletus (which is also located on the coast of present-day Turkey).

I have never been to the city of Timgad, in Algeria. But I immediately recognize the standard Roman street plan.

I have never been to the city of Timgad, in Algeria. But you immediately recognize the standard Roman street plan. (from InStoria)

The map of a standardised Roman military camp

The map of a standardised Roman military camp (from CPAT)

The Romans then put the idea of this street plan into practice, because it was handy. Not only in cities, but also and especially in military camps. The soldiers in the Roman army came from all over the empire. For example, in the north of England, at Hadrian’s wall, we saw that a regiment of Syrian archers had been based there. Those guys were far from home, but they could easily find their barracks right from the start, because the layout of the camps was completely standard.

So: help the people know where they are and find what they are looking for by adhering to the standards in your structures.

In my work, I often create sites where the users do not want to be surprised but they want to get to business quickly and easily. Then it helps to put the main navigation at the top, the navigation in the context of the team site on the left, the main content in the center, and the ‘see also’ links on the right-hand side. That is what the people are used to, so they don’t have to spend any energy in trying to figure out what is where.

Adapt to the situation

Even though the Romans followed standard patterns, they did not push everything into a standard mould. For example, a typical Roman city has a straight street grid. But in the city of Perge in Pamphilia, the cardo, the main street running north-south, is not straight at all; it has a bend. We see such bends occur in streets where the terrain does not allow the street to run straight. In Perge there is no cliff  in the way, so my hypothesis is that the Romans adopted an existing street that already had a bend, as Perge existed already in Greek times, and the Romans did not try to straighten it out.

In Timgad, the Streets are perfectly straight.

In Timgad, the Streets are perfectly straight. This is exactly by the book.

In Perge, the cardo has a bend, instead of running perfectly straight

In Perge, the cardo has a bend, instead of running perfectly straight. (from waterhistory)

Another example is the floor-heating hypocaust in the baths. Normally the floor is raised on stack of brick tiles. But in Perge there is a hot bath where the floor is raised on arches. Perge is in an earth quake area, and arches are a lot stronger than mere stacks…

The raised floor in the warm baths allow hot air to circulate. The floor is held up by stacks of brick tiles. (South baths, Perge)

Normally, the floor in a hypocaust is held up by stacks of brick tiles.
(Tepidarium, South baths, Perge)

The floor in the hots baths in Perge is not raised on stacks of brick tiles, but arches.

This hypocaust floor in the hot baths is not raised on stacks but on arches
(Caldarium, South baths, Perge).

So: adapt your standard solution to the specific situation

In my work, I often help clients put together a SharePoint site, using standard SharePoint only and based on a standard site template. But we always check what this particular team needs in their situation and tweak accordingly: change a view to display the data differently, add a web part / app part to the homepage to make what is important to them more prominent. Tweak the standard solution to make it fit the users’ needs instead of pushing the users to fit into the standard solution. Especially when standard SharePoint allows you to implement these tweaks by configuring the front-end. No need for a developer in these cases.

Allow for the local language

What struck me in Pamphylia (but also in Jordan and Syria the eastern part of the Mediterranean), is that so many inscriptions are in Greek. Not in Latin, the standard language of the Romans. For example, a lot of statues in Perge were dedicated to Plancia Magna, a priestess and important benefactress of the city.  These statues had an inscription explaining who she was and what she did. And none of the inscriptions I saw was just in Latin. They were in Greek or bilingual Greek and Latin. And this makes sense, because culturally the people in these regions still felt Greek, even though they were Roman politically and economically. That was good enough for the Romans.

Priestess and benefactress Plancia Magna from Perge

Priestess and benefactress Plancia Magna from Perge (more about her). The statue now lives in the Antalya museum.

This statue base for Plancia Magna  is inscribed both in Greek and Latin

This statue base for Plancia Magna is inscribed both in Greek and Latin

So: allow for the local language.

In my work, I often see corporate intranets of big international organisations with language issues. The organisation states that the corporate language is English (that is what it usually is in practice) and that the intranet should be in English. And then employees in The Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Poland etc etc are very unhappy that they have to try to understand all that English, and they feel unconfortable participating in a language they do not quite master. It helps if at the very least the local content and the local discussions are in the local language. Yammer has a ‘Translate’ link that should help users deal with international conversations in their own language. In any case, we cannot ignore the language issue.

Allow for local style

Columns are a normal sight in the Greek and Roman world, like the columns lining the collonaded streets. But in Perge, they put pictures on some columns lining the cardo. I have never seen this anywhere else. This is a Perge idioynchrasy. And this was not a problem at all for the Romans.

The cardo in Perge is a collonaded street. Perfectly normal for a Roman city.

The cardo in Perge is a collonaded street. Perfectly normal for a Roman city.

On this column in the cardo in Perge, we see a picture. I have only seen this in Perge. This picture is Artemis Pergaia.

On this column in the cardo in Perge, we see a picture. I have only seen this in Perge. This picture is Artemis Pergaia.

So: allow for local style.

In my work, I often see that teams want some specific styling elements in their team sites. For example, a dfferent logo or image. Or select their colour scheme from a set of three different colour schemes. They want to make the site their own in a visual way, and we should allow them to do so. Within limits, because we generally prefer the sites to feel like they are part of the same digital workplace of the organiation (to avoid users feeling lost…) and usually there is also a corporate communication department that wants to make sure that all sites still conform to the corporate branding style.

Respect the local convictions

The question of local style is not just selecting about your own colour or putting a picture on a column.It goes deeper. For example, a picture on a column in Perge depicts Artemis. The Perge version of Artemis Pergaia, which looks quite different from the standard Greek Artemis or the Roman equivalent called Diana: the godess of the hunt. And the Artemis as she was worshipped in Ephese (also in preseent-day Turkey) looks even more different from the original one. The Artemis of Ephese is a fertility godess who shares a name and a connection with animals with the original Artemis, but little else.

The classical Artemis is the godess of the hunt (Museum of Messene, Greece)

The classical Artemis is the godess of the hunt (Museum of Messene, Greece)

Artemis of Ephese is a fertility godess (Museum Tripoli, Libya)

Artemis of Ephese is a fertility godess (Museum Tripoli, Libya)

But as far as the Romans were concerned, everybody could worship their own gods, worship their own versions of the Greco-Roman gods, or whatever they liked. As long as they respected the Romans’ power and the Romans’ gods (including the emperors) and did not try to wiggle out of the Romans political and economic grasp.

So what I like to take over from the Romans is the idea that we don’t want an ad hoc mess, but we also don’t want a restrictive straightjacket, but we want a systematic solution that meets the people’s needs.

March 28, 2015

Office 365 Video Portal – It is a start

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 21:32

The Office 365 offering now includes a standard Video Portal. So how does it work for us? We can use it to share videos with our colleagues in an easy way. However, it has a lot of limitations at this point. The bottomline is that we can use it, but I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly yet.

Video is often talked about in the context of Corporate Communications, as it can be a great medium to convey corporate messages in a lively, appealing way. For me, video is a great medium to share knowledge, and offer ‘how to’ instructions, for example. Show, don’t tell how things work. In a video you can also capture a real-life presentation and demonstration for the people who were not able to attend it in person, like the knowledge sharing lunch sessions that I talked about in a previous post.

So the new Office 365 Video Portal could be very useful. Only it is not as useful as I had hoped. Not yet at least. I am looking forward to the improvements that will make it shine.

Video portal in the Office 365 menu

Video portal in the Office 365 menu

I have put the recordings of our knowledge sharing lunch sessions in the Video Portal, but a lot of basic functionality that I want to use is just not available yet. I found a lot of information about what the Video Portal does and does not do in this review and this ‘how to’. Below, I list the things I like and do not like in the Video Portal as I am setting up a video channel for our lunch session recordings. I am not trying to do anything fancy, just want share these knowledge videos in an easy way.

What I like about the Video Portal

It is easy to create a video channel

I was able to create a video channel for the lunch session within minutes, with the button New channel.

Create a new video channel

Create a new video channel

It is easy to upload a video

To add a video, just click Upload videos and then drag & drop one or more videos into the channel.

Upload a video

Upload videos…

... by dragging and dropping

… by dragging and dropping

Please be patient: It takes some time to process the video. My 47 seconds of test video of almost 20 MB took about 5 minutes.

Processing takes quite some time

Processing takes quite some time

It is easy to play a video

When I click on the thumbnail, the video starts to play. Then I can do the usual: play it full screen, pause it, rewind, jump to a later section, change the volume, and play it again.

Play the video, with the usual options to view full screen, pause etc.

Play the video, with the usual options to view full screen, pause etc.

What I miss in the current Video Portal

I cannot select my own thumbnail

The thumbnail image of the video helps users to decide if the video interests them, and it makes the video portal look more appealing.

The problem is that the system creates the thumbnail for me automatically based on the first seconds of the video. And my Lync recording all turn out with blank thumbnails. So the video thumbnails just look stupid right now… I can’t select my favourite moment and take a snapshot in the Video Portal. I can’t create my own picture manually and add that as my thumbnail. This surprised me, because I can do that in the SharePoint Media Web Part and I expected a thumbnail option here as well.

I cannot change the thumbnails, and the thumbnails of my recordings are blank.

The thumbnails of my recordings are blank and I cannot change the thumbnails .

So, for now I need to edit my video before I upload it, so that the system (Azure Media Services) picks a more interesting snapshot.

I cannot add metadata except a title and description

I created a channel for Lunch sessions where I hoped all my colleagues who organize or give these sessions could upload their recordings. And I counted on metadata to structure the – hopefully – big collection of videos, by tagging the videos with the lunch session series that they belong to, the subject, the type of session, etc. That is how we organize our files and our data, right? By enriching them with metadata and offering different views and refinement options?

The problem is that currently the only metadata I can add are the title and a description; the system adds the duration (0:47 in my test video). If I want the owner of the video to be included in the metadata, I will have to ask that person to upload the video himself or herself. And even then, the owner’s name is only displayed when you click the ellips (the … dots) from the thumbnail. This surprised me, because SharePoint is  good at metadata and I expected the same functionality here.

Videos don't have custom metadata or even categories.

Videos don’t have custom metadata or even categories.

The only metadata shown with the thumbnail are the title and the duration. When I click the ellips (...) I also see the description and the owner.

The only metadata shown with the thumbnail are the title and the duration. When I click the ellips (…) I also see the description and the owner.

So for now, we use channels to provide the main structure and make the title of the video as informative as possible. In the lunch session channel, we use the following naming convention: [series] – [title of the session] – [name of the speaker] – [date of the session].

I cannot give people Contribute permissions

I want my colleagues to upload their own videos. But I am the owner of the channel, and I do not want just anybody to change the settings of my video channel.

The problem is that permissions in the video channels are all or nothing: either people can only view videos, or they can not only add and manage videos but also manage the channel itself. This also surprised me, because SharePoint has known the Contributor role since at least 2003. Obviously my SharePoint-based expectations are quite wrong for the video portal.

Permission options in the video channel

Permission options in the video channel

So for now I have given all my colleagues ‘channel admin’ rights in my video channel and I trust them not to break it.

The spotlights are static

I want to be able to highlight the videos that will be of special interest to many viewers, so that these interesting videos do not get swamped by the rest. This is especially important if the other ways of structuring the video collection are not optimal. In the new Video Portal I can put videos in the spotlight. Via cogwheel > Video channel settings > Spotlight.

Videos in the spotlight. It is a pity the thumbnails are blank..

Videos in the spotlight. A pity some thumbnails are blank..

The problem is that the spotlights are static: I have to indicate which video belongs in which spotlight tile. The spotlight tiles do not get filled automatically based on a ‘spotlight’ tag, so that we always see the latest spotlight videos. I cannot drag them from one time to another.

Spotlight settings: click on a tile to select the video that should be displayed there.

Spotlight settings: click on a tile to select the video that should be displayed there.

So for now, I have to manually go to the spotlight settings and change them regularly, to keep the start page fresh and to make sure the recent videos of special interest also get a chance.

 

Bottomline is that I find the Video Portal interesting, especially if Office 365 and the underlying Azure Media Services can handle big video files smoothly, and if we can play the movies on different devices in a size and format that fits the device. But as yet, we have only the bare bones of the Video Portal of our dreams.

February 28, 2015

Share knowledge? Let’s do lunch

Filed under: Digital Workplace,New world of work — frederique @ 20:23

My colleagues and I are consultants, who usually work in different locations. But we need to share knowledge, as in our domain things change a lot and best practices are not necessarily clear cut. So we organise biweekly lunch sessions, where we get together online and offline, to share our questions and answers, tips and tricks, thoughts and results.

Of course we also use digital means to share knowledge, like Yammer groups for discussion, team sites to share more structured information, Lync for meetings and conversations when we have urgent questions. But we like to get together in an informal setting, to discuss interesting projects, new features that we are finding out about, spiffy solutions to problems that others may also be experiencing, and anything else that is on our mind.

In our department, Macaw Workplace Solutions, we have been organizing biweekly lunch sessions for several years now. Other departments are also starting lunch sessions, and the new organisers asked me for some tips. So let me share my tips and lessons learned concerning knowledge sharing lunch sessions.

Locate offline and online, live and recorded

  • Meeting room for people in the office: We prefer to meet in person, to be able to look each other in the eye as we discuss our knowledge. So we book a meeting room in our headquarters that is large enough to accommodate the people who can make it there.
    • Practical tip: Book the meeting room in advance, even when you don’t know yet who the speaker will be.
  • Lync for people who are elsewhere: When we are at a client’s office, for example, we can join online, via Lync. We are in the New World of Work after all…
    • Practical tip: In the Lync meeting, you can switch off audio for the participants, if there are too many of them and the session becomes messy. I usually ask the participants to mute themselves while they eat (it is a lunch session after all…), and unmute themselves to join the discussion when they have a question or a contribution.

      Invitation to a lunch sessions, including a Lync Meeting. Set the options in the Lync meeting according to your needs.

      Invitation to a lunch sessions, including a Lync Meeting. Set the options in the Lync meeting according to your needs.

    • Practical tip: Try to get a meeting room with a RoundTable videoconferencing device or something similar. We hardly ever use the video part of it, as we look at the presenter’s shared desktop, to see his or her demo or presentation. But we do use the audio part: the participants online can hear everything that is discussed in the meeting room and join in. If audio only comes from the microphone in the speaker’s laptop, the online participants can’t hear the offline participants’ questions and remarks.
  • Lync recording: For people who can’t make it at all, we make a recording of the entire session. These recordings are then shared in our digital workplace environment.
    Start recording in your Lync meeting

    Start recording in your Lync meeting

    • Practical tip: record the session from a computer that is firmly connected to the network and to a power source, to avoid hiccups. I’ve ended up with a disappointing recording when I tried to record the session from a wobbly outside network and I won’t try that again…

Time during our lunch break, biweekly

  • Biweekly: We organise a session every other week. This is a rhythm we can sustain, without taking too much time from the volunteers who present their work and ideas or from the participants.
    • Practical tip: Don’t aim for a frequency that you cannot sustain. Once you have to start canceling sessions because you can’t find enough speakers, your series may fall apart.
  • Fixed day and time: We have a regular schedule, so that people can predict when the next lunch session will take place, even if it has not been announced yet. That makes it easier to join. We alternate between Wednesdays and Thursdays, because there was no single day when every colleague could attend. If we would always pick, for example, Wednesdays, we would exclude some colleagues. Now we know that everybody can at least attend some sessions.
    • Practical tip: Ask your colleagues which days they would prefer (in a survey for example). Consider alternating between two days, especially if you know that colleagues would be unable to attend at all during the single day you pick, because it is their part-time day or because they are working at a client’s office without an opportunity to dial in via Lync.
    • Practical tip: Book the meeting room and the speaker for 30 minutes before the session is scheduled to start, so that you have time to set things up. Then you can fight with uncooperative devices without annoying a dozen or more colleagues who don’t want to sacrifice their lunchtime for delays.
  • Lunchtime works well: Years ago, we organised knowledge sessions in the evenings. But then the group of colleagues grew older, started families, and it became more difficult to claim the evenings for work-related knowledge sharing. If we organise these sessions during working hours, most colleagues could not attend due to project-related commitments. So the lunch break is a nice compromise.
    • Practical tip: Start a bit later than lunch hour. The participants usually want to go to the cafeteria to grab a take-away lunch first (no, we don’t have funding to actually offer the participants lunch during our lunch sessions…). When we started at 12:00 sharp; many participants were still in the queue at the cafeteria and arrived late….

Invite speakers who have done an interesting project

  • Don’t wait for volunteers, but ask: My colleagues don’t often come up to me and proactively tell me they want to present their work at a lunch session. But when I ask them, they are ready enough to volunteer their time and share their knowledge.
    • Practical tip: Try to get backing from your management, so that you can spend official time on this. It does take time to organise these meetings and prepare a presentation (especially for novice presenters), and if it is all your own time, the series may fail.
  • Put out feelers and ask for ideas: I try to keep an eye on the discussions in Yammer and other channels. And I spar with a colleague who has a better overview than I have of the projects that we do and the challenges that we run into. That gives us ideas that we can discuss with potential speakers.
    • Pratical tip: Put ideas in a shared list. If they don’t work out now, they may result in a lunch session later.

Advertise to the core audience and all other colleagues

  • Put up a clear announcement: Tell the prospective audience what they can expect from the lunch session, so that they can decide if it is relevant for them:
    • Practical tip: Include:
      • the name of the speaker,
      • the title of the sessions,
      • an abstract,
      • the type of session (is it about a specific project we did for a client or about the technology or tools?),
      • the target audience (for example, is it a technical session for developers, or a business oriented session that is also interesting for sales people?),
      • the level (can anybody follow the session or is it for specialists only?)
  • Send Outlook invitation to the core audience: I send Outlook invitations to the colleagues in my department and to the colleagues in other departments for who this particular session could be particularly relevant. The Outlook invitation allows these core participants to put the lunch session in their calendar, including the link to start the session online in Lync.
    • Practical tip: Encourage everybody to forward the invitation to all colleagues that they know would be interested. I don’t know all of my 250 colleagues, so I am taking advantage of our people network …
  • Post it on the intranet and/or internal discussion forum: I put the full announcement, including the link to the Lync version of the meeting, in the Events list we see on the homepage of our intranet. In addition, I post the key information in our Yammer network, in the All Company group. This post links to the event page for further details and the Lync link.
    • Practical tip: Post the invitation about a week before the session, and add a reply on the morning before the session to pull it back up to the top of the page.

So let’s do lunch, in person or virtually, and share our knowledge!

January 31, 2015

OneNote – My notebook offline and shared in SharePoint

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 22:07

I have been working with OneNote for a while, and today it struck me again: this tool is really helping me a lot. To me, OneNote is a combined notebook and scrapbook: I can write down notes and paste interesting stuff that I found elsewhere. For myself, online and offline. But also shared with my colleagues. So let me tell you what I use and appreciate a lot.

Gathering information

  • Enter information like in Word, typing text and inserting things and structuring it with headings, lists etc. I can start typing anywhere on the page, just like I used to scribble additional notes on paper. OneNote has predefined tags for tasks, ideas et cetera, to help you visualize what is what.

    OneNote: Enter information

    Type information onto a page, insert images, structure it with headings and lists. And add tags to visualise tasks etc.

  • From Outlook: I often add important mails with my notes. In the olden days I used to gather all my paperwork in big physical dossiers. Now I send the mail to OneNote directly via the button in Outlook. You can select where you want to put the e-mail: as a separate page in a section of a notebook or on some existing page.
    Outlook: Send to OneNote

    Send information to OneNote from Outlook

    The entire e-mail message, with its header attachments and content, is put in your Notebook:

    Mail message sent to OneNote

    The mail message is included in the notebook, with its header, attachments and content

  • Screen clippings: I find a lot of information on the intranet or the internet, that I also want to include in my notebook. I can use any tool to grab a screenshot. But OneNote also has its own option for screenshots: Windows button + shift + S. The advantage of this option that it includes a reference to the page where I found it, so that I can click to the original page from your notebook.
    Note: In Windows 8.1 the key combination is Windows + shift + S. Earlier it was Windows + S. See this blog post and Microsoft’s page.

    OneNote screen clipping

    A screen clipping with a reference to the page where it was captured

Finding information

When I have gathered information, I want to be able to find it again quickly and easily. This can be challenging, as I work for a lot of clients, in a lot of projects and initiatives.

  • Browse: I browse through my notebooks by selecting a notebook, selecting a section tab and selecting a page. When I get busy on a subject that is hidden too far away, I drag that notebook, section tab or page and drop it at the front of the line. On a large screen, I pin the list of notebooks to the left hand side; on a smaller screen I unpin it to give me more space for taking notes.

    Browse my notebooks

    Browse my notebooks, the sections in the notebook and the pages in the section.

  • Search: By now I have many notebooks and some have many sections. So I am not always sure where the notes that I am looking for are stored and I cannot browse to every note easily. But I don’t have to: OneNote has a great search functionality.
    I enter the term in the search box and OneNote will search for it in all my notebooks – unless I specify that I only want to search this notebook or this page for example. And it will search for that term in the titles, anywhere on the page, and even in images like screen clippings! This makes OneNote far superior to my old paper notes…

    OneNote search

    Search anywhere in my collection of notebooks, including the text recorgnized within images

Working offline, storing online

I often commute to work by train, and most of those trains don’t have proper wifi. So I work offline on the train on either my own laptop or the laptop my client has provided me with. But I don’t want to lose my notes when the laptop dies – yes, that has happened to me once. And I do want to use my (non-confidential) notes on my other laptops as well.

  • Offline: OneNote is part of the office suite on my computer. The screenshots above were all grabbed from this OneNote on my computer. I can work offline with it. Just like I can work offline with Word, provided my Word file is available offline.

    OneNote is part of the Office suite installed on my computer.

    OneNote is part of the Office suite installed on my computer.

  • Online: I work offline on the notebook we’ve seen above. But it is actually stored online, in Office 365. So the information is not lost when an individual laptop breaks…
    I can also use the notebook in the online version of OneNote, within the context of the Office 365 site. Actually, I usually work in the OneNote on my computer, because it has more options than OneNote Online. That is why there is a button Open in OneNote in the online version.

    OneNote Online

    OneNote Online: the online version of my notebook, as I can use it in the browser.

    When I am connected to the network, it automatically synchronises the notebook on my computer with the online versio. For example when I have finished my train journey and arrive at the office. In case it doesn’t synchronise immediately, I can ask for it.

    Synchronise the version on this computer with the version stored online.

    Synchronise the version on this computer with the version stored online.

Sharing information

I almost always work with other people – colleagues, associates, friends. And I want them to see my notes too. And I want them to add their own contributions, so that I can see what they have thought of or jotted down. Fortunatey, I can share my notebook. I just have to make sure it is stored in a share location and not on my own c-drive.

  • Share the notebook: To share, click File. For the notebook you want to share click Invite people to this notebook, or Share on Web or network to move it from your c-drive to a shareable location first:
    OneNote share notebook

    Share a notebook by inviting other people to it. If the notebook is stored on your c-drive, share on web or network: put it online so that others can be invited to it.

    Then you can enter the people with whom you want to share, and select their permissions: can they edit or only view? You can see at the bottom of this page who already has what permission.

    Invite the people with whom you want to share the notebook.

    Invite the people with whom you want to share the notebook.

  • See what my colleagues did: If we are collaborating, I want to see what’s new since I last visited the notebook. OneNote marks the changed notebooks, sections and pages in bold. And on the page, the changed parts are highlighted.
    OneNote changed elements

    The notebooks, sections and pages that were changed since I last visited them, are marked in bold. The changed parts of the page are highlighed with a blue background.

    I can even see the older version of a page, via a rightclick on the page name. A rightclick on a version allows me to restore that old version, if the page was messed up.

    Versions of OneNote pages, accessible by a rightclick.

    Versions of OneNote pages, accessible by a rightclick.

  • Use the notebook that is included in standard SharePoint 2013 or Online teamsites. You can put a OneNote notebook on a SharePoint 2010 teamsite, by uploading the notebook file there directly or specifying that location when you share it. But when you use SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint Online, you automatically have a notebook for your team in that site. The members of the site are automatically members of the notebook as well.

    The standard Project Site already has a notebook

    The standard Project Site already has a notebook

  • E-mail a page to someone else: Sometimes I want to give specific notes to someone else, with whom I am not sharing the rest of the notebook.  I cannot give permission on a single page; only on an entire notebook. But I can send it by e-mail via the option Email page in the ribbon.

    E-mail this page of the notebook to someone else: the body of the page with all its content is put in the mailbody. The attachments are also attached to the mail.

    E-mail this page of the notebook to someone else: the body of the page with all its content is put in the mailbody. The attachments are also attached to the mail.

So OneNote helps me to work effectively and efficiently, both in solo efforts and in collaboration with others. It is not the only tool I use . For example, I love SharePoint lists for tracking things like tasks, because then you can slice and dice in different ways. But that is another story.

Today, I am savouring my favorite options of OneNote.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress