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

May 31, 2020

Developments I like in Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace — Tags: , — frederique @ 10:54

Microsoft is accelerating the development of Teams, to cater for our needs in remote meetings and conversations. Teams was already the go-to tool for online collaboration for the enthusiasts. But now that so many of us are working from home, it has become indispensable for a lot of people. So it is absolutely necessary that the tool works easily, seamlessly and robustly. After all, there are so many new users who are not particularly computer savvy and who just want to get their jobs done in these difficult circumstances. Well, Microsoft is working on it! There are quite a few new and newish developments. Let us discuss a few.

In Team meetings

1.Raise your hand

Large online meetings get very messy if everyone just activates their microphone and jumps in. What you need is a moderator who can give people the floor – or rather: the microphone – one by one, when they want to ask a question or contribute something.

Fortunately, we now have the option to raise our hand digitally: you use the hand icon and the label explictly says this is to raise your hand. Very classroom isn’t it? I would not be surprised if this option was asked for by the educational community. But it is also handy (sorry…) to be able to raise your hand in an enterprise meeting. I recently attended a Teams meeting where I did not have permission to use the chat, as I was not a member of the Team where the meeting was organised, but I was still able to ask my question by raising my hand and activating my microphone when the speaker addressed me.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

2.Up to 9 video feeds in the main screen

When I am conducting a meeting, I often share my screen to allow the participants to see my presentation or my demo. But we also have “talk meetings”, where we just have a conversation without any slides or demo or anything. For example, the virtual coffee breaks that we are having regularly these days…

In Microsoft Teams, you could see up to four video feeds of participants, in a 2×2 format. Since two weeks, we get see up to nine video feeds in the main screen of the meeting: 3×3. And if there are less people, the video tiles are distributed neatly. Ok, if you have more people in your meeting than nine, the participants who do not talk are still only displayed as thumbnails at the bottom. But still, nine is better than four, and it is just matter of time before we get more…

3.Choose your own background in your video feed

I am working from home these days, and conducting my meetings online. I often switch on the camera, so that I can look my colleagues in the eye. After all, this is the only way we can see each other. But that does not mean that I want to show them my messy home office. Or the living room where I’ve also put my laundry out to dry.

Fortunately, showing my face does not imply I have to show my room. Earlier this year, we got the option to blur the background of our video feed. And a month or so ago Microsoft added the option to select a background image, to make your video feed more attractive.

So far, however, there is no button to upload your image, to make your video feed not only more attractive but also more personal. But you can “hack” the image collection and add your own photos via Windows Explorer: just put your pictures on your computer in C:\Users\[you]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads (please note, most people don’t see the Appdata folder, so go there by entering %AppData% in the address bar. I have resized and cropped my photos to the same size as the Microsoft images: 1920×1080 pixels, because otherwise the horizon was in the wrong place.

Teams-Meeting-MyBackground-app

Click the ellipsis (the …) to get the option to use background effects. There you can select an image.

Update June 2020: And now we also have a button to add our new photos from the Teams-meeting.

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

In the chat

4.Read receipts in the chat

I sometimes check if my colleague has read my chat message yet. Since January this year, I get a checkbox icon if the message has been delivered and an eye icon if my colleague has seen my message. Of course seeing does not automatically imply understanding or taking action or anything, but it is a first step towards confirmation.

Note: Only the latest message that has been seen gets an icon, to avoid clutter in your conversation.

Teams-Chat-ReadReceipt-ann

When your colleague has seen the message, you get the eye icon. If he or she has not seen it yet but the message has been sent, you get the check icon.

Also note: You only get these read receipts in the Chat section of Microsoft Teams. Not in a Team channel, where the posts are open to all team members. In a group chat with more than one colleague in the chat section, it looks like the message only counts as read if all participants have seen it.

Teams-ChatGroup-ReadReceipt-add

In a group chat with more than one person, everyone needs to see the message before it is labeled as ‘Seen’.

5.Pop-out a chat

I like multitasking while I am in an online meeting. I know, I have to pay attention to that meeting and I do! But it is efficient if I can ask another colleague for some details or prompt him to finish a related task in a 1-on-1 chat, while still having a full view of, for example, the shared screen in the Teams meeting. I usually have enough space on my monitor to do this. But up until now, the meeting was minimized when I opened a chat.

Fortunately, now I can pop out the chat window and position it next to my Teams window with the meeting. I had already read about it, but I literally saw it for the first time in my environment just now ;-) For now, we get this option in the desktop app; not in the online version or the mobile version of Teams yet. See also Microsoft’s support page Pop out a chat in Teams.

Teams-Chat-Popout-ann

Click the icon to pop out the chat in a separate window, that you can move and resize. If this functionality is available to you, you will see the icon at the top right of the conversation and in the overview when you hover your mouse over the item.

December 31, 2019

Best wishes for 2020

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 17:24

I wish you all the very best for the new year. Personal health and hapiness of course. But also all the best on your journey in the cloud and on your journey to help our innocent users improve their lives by adopting the new tools and taking advantage of the new possibilities.

The year 2020 is famous: many organisations had 20|20 visions and plans for this year. Then we were trying to see forward clearly. And we keep looking forward and moving forwards. With Microsoft’s continuing development of Microsoft 365 we are even accelerating. And at my client, we are also making progress with the adoption of the new toolkit by the users.

For example, we aim to achieve & explain:

  • A series of on-site training sessions for the local Office 365 champions.
  • The transition from Windows 10 to Windows 7. We already know that this will be quite a hassle, so I have high hopes for the new Edge browser, which could give our pour Windows 7 users a modern browser soon.
  • The transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. We are experiencing some hiccups in Teams: our videoconferencing tools don’t work with Teams yet, we need to configure the tenant properly and provide the required guidance. But in our experience, online meetings are more stable in Teams, so we will transition as soon as possible.
  • New templates in Modern SharePoint to facilitate formal projects. Standard Microsoft Teams is a nice application, but in these construction projects, we need sophisticated permissions, metadata and views, which requires a SharePoint template.

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2020

So we don’t have to get bored yet! On to the next year :-)

August 31, 2019

Careful with Modern SharePoint on old browsers and Windows

Filed under: Digital Workplace,SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:14

At the client where I am working at the moment, most users have Windows 7 and the standard browser still is Internet Explorer 11. We are starting with the Modern experience of SharePoint Online, And that is not a good combination.

The Modern experience of SharePoint is quite powerful. For example, our users are clamouring for the functionality to download multiple files in one go. In the Modern interface, the Download button does work like that; in the Classic experience it does not. But Modern SharePoint does not work smoothly in Windows 7 in any browser and works badly with Internet Explorer 11 (IE11).

So what can we do from IT?

Keep up to date

Of course the key thing is to provide users with a modern version of Windows, in this case replacing the antiquated Windows 7 with Windows 10. We all need to upgrade anyway, because Micosoft announced Windows 7 support will end on January 14, 2020.

This obviously is not easy in a large company with many legacy applications. But we can no longer get away with leaving a fossil Windows version on everyone’s computers…

Allow a browser that does work

Internet Explorer 11 is terrible with Modern SharePoint, as well as many modern websites You cannot get Edge on Windows 7. So you have to allow users to use another browser, like Chrome or Firefox.

Even if you insist that the official standard browser is the old school Internet Explorer 11, make sure you have a consistent story for the alternative: which browser should they use, in which situations. Especially if the company has doubts about the security of a browser like Chrome. Ok, then tell us what we should use.

Plan the roll-out of Modern SharePoint carefully

Don’t push the Modern experience of SharePoint while the users are still on Windows 7 and Internet Explorer if you don’t have to. If they are already using SharePoint in the classic mode, keep it until Windows 10 and a modern browser has been rolled out.

For example, we are currently updating a project site template for one of our units. Our key users were very clear on it: we keep it classic. They have many innocent users, who won’t be able to handle the bad experience with the Modern version on the old computers. We will transition to Modern some time next year, when everyone has Windows 10 and a reasonable browser…

What can the end-users do?

Switch to a different browser when IE11 does not work

As long as you don’t need support from somebody who adheres to the official story of Internet Explorer as the standard browser, switch another browser (like Chrome of Firefox) for some tasks. In particular, editing site pages in a Communication site.

Switch to the classic view when the modern does not work

In document libraries and lists, you can switch back to the classic view if the modern gets stuck. The views tend to be “sticky” when you expand a group for example. This trick is useful for people who have worked with the classic SharePoint and who don’t mind experimenting with views. I know I use it from time to time..

Link to return to classic SharePoint from a modern library

Link to return to classic SharePoint from a modern library

Enter metadata via ’i’ > ‘Edit all’

In classic SharePoint, conscientious user uploading a document filled in their metadata in a dialog box presented automatically as step 2 of the upload. In modern SharePoint, the user no longer gets prompted to fill in the metadata in such a dialog screen. Even if some fields are required, the uploaded document just lands in the library, The fields that are required are marked with an orange ‘Required info’ label though.

You then need to select the document and click on the I-icon to set the metadata. In the pane that opens on the right hand side of the screen, you can enter the metadata directly. However, the fields in these panes are “sticky”. Sometimes, the value you enter does not get saved… If you want to enter several fields, it works more robustly if you click ‘Edit all’.

To enter metadata, select a document and click the i in the top right corner. To make sure the metadata are properly saved, click Edit all.

To enter metadata, select a document and click the i in the top right corner. To make sure the metadata are properly saved, click Edit all.

 

November 30, 2017

Where do I find my Teams?

Filed under: Digital Workplace,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 22:44

Ok, so Microsoft Teams is a helpful tool in the Office 365 toolkit for collaboration. But where can I find those Teams? Actually, in many places: in the Office 365 portal in the browser, in a desktop app and in a mobile app. You can structure your set of Teams to make your favorites more prominent, and ask for email notifications with shortcuts to recent activity.

In previous posts I discussed the questions what’s with Microsoft Teams and who is in my Team? Now let us dive into the question where you should look if you want to work in a Team.

On different devices, in the browser and apps

The best way to experience Microsoft Teams is in the desktop app.

The Microsoft Teams desktop app

The Microsoft Teams desktop app

But here is also a Teams app for iPhone, Android and even Windows Phone, so that you can find your Teams on the go.

A Microsoft Teams channel conversation in the Windows Phone App

A Microsoft Teams channel conversation in the Windows Phone App

In Office 365 in the web browser, there is an online version that offer almost all of the functionality included in the desktop app, except for calls with voice and video. Teams has its own tile in the App Launcher.

Teams has a tile in the App Launcher of Office 365.

Teams has a tile in the App Launcher of Office 365.

Structure your collection in the desktop app

Because you may soon be a member of many Teams, it is important to structure your Teams collection.

  • Collapse the Team headings when you don’t need to see the underlying channels, to get a better overview.
  • Select your favorite Teams and demote the rest: click on the ellipsis at the root of the Team and toggle to Favorite or Remove favorite.
  • Within the Favorites list, you can determine the sort order by dragging and dropping Teams up or down. Simple, but I like this a lot! In the overview of my Team Sites in SharePoint Online for example, I don’t have that level of control.
  • The Teams and channels marked in bold have something new.
  • Still can’t find a Team? Then use the search box.
You favorite Teams are displayed at the top of the list. Add a Team to your favorites via the ellipsis.

You favorite Teams are displayed at the top of the list. Add a Team to your favorites via the ellipsis.

The one thing to keep in mind when you organize your favorites, is that Teams in other tenants, where you are a guest (external member) are NOT listed in the same menu. You need to switch to see them.

Switch tenants

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

Email notifications to guide you in

It is helpful to receive an email notification when something happens in a Team, especially for people who do not live in Microsoft Teams all day.

You determine which notifications you want to receive and how often, via your Profile in the left bottom corner.

In the notification settings, you can ask for an e-mail, for example, when you are mentioned in a chat (Via Profile > Notifications)

In the notification settings, you can ask for an e-mail, for example, when you are mentioned in a chat (Via Profile > Notifications)

So yes, I find it quite easy to find my Teams.

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…

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