my world of work and user experiences

January 31, 2017

5 more lessons learned about User Adoption

Filed under: Adoption,Office365 — frederique @ 20:01

Last month I already posted some lessons learned about user adoption. Now I have bumped into a few more things that I want to take into account next time. Some things that worked nicely and that we should repeat and some that offer definite room for improvement….

See the previous post for the other lessons I learned, and here’s the next batch:

1.Get a sense of the users and their needs

Who are the people who are supposed to be using the tools you are trying to get adopted? What do they need? What’s in it for them? Before the tool is bought in the first place, the decision makers should know what it is for. But this information should be known to all stakeholders, in sufficient detail to make it work.

We held intake discussions with all department heads at HQ before we scheduled training sessions with their departments. This worked well: it helped us to determine what these users need and how the tools could help them.

However, what was less clear was how the broader employee groups would be involved: would the logistics people also have access to the tools? The people working in the shops? Or only their managers? Are the tools only for the information workers at headquarters? Or are they for everyone at a later stage? Not only did we not involve those groups, but also we could not answer the questions of the training participants who collaborate, for example, with the people in the shops. And that was a pity.

2.Determine what you want to achieve and make it measurable

Before you start organizing training sessions and other adoption activities, determine what you are trying to achieve: when will the adoption program have been successful? When are the decision makers, the people who pay for the program, happy with the result?

In our program, we kept track of the number of training sessions and the number of people who participated. And we asked the participants to fill in a survey with questions like “Are you going to apply what you learned in your work?” and “Does this training help you to collaborate in a more clever way?” to tell us how they felt about the training sessions and the tools.

However, we did not get enough information to allow the decision makers to decide what should be the next step. And they are still not sure what they want to know before they can make that decision. But is clear that we are not measuring if and to what degree the users are actually benefiting from the new tools, nor what they would need to go to the next level. How about the Office 365 Adoption Pack in Power BI for example (which should become available by the end of March, to see how much the tools are actually used and there is an increase?

3.Organize sessions per team

Sessions per team can work well, because they allow the teams to discuss what would work best for them. One size does not fit all teams, because they do not have the same jobs and they do not have the same needs.

We organized a session per team and we had an intake meeting with the team lead beforehand, to discuss the team’s needs and the most relevant agenda for the session. Then we saw in the sessions that the participants started to brainstorm how they could use the new tools as a team. For example, do their team meeting as a Skype meeting. Put their meeting notes in a OneNote notebook within their joint team site. Some teams loved Skype’s chat functionality, while other loathed it and decided on the spot that they would not use it for now. Fair enough, whatever works for them.

It can be tricky if the team members who share a training sessions have very different levels of Office 365 savviness. We explained the possible tension with the team leaders and they all decided that the team should still all join the sessions, even if some people already knew a lot. The more savvy team members were able to help their colleagues and bring up ideas on how to use the tools. And we had an assistant trainer, who helped out the less savvy team members who got stuck on something that was uninteresting for the others. We were quite happy with the way that worked.

4.Don’t overdose

A training session of 3 hours in which you try to explain everything to users who don’t know anything about the tools yet is not effective. They simply won’t be able to absorb everything… Two sessions of an hour and a half would work better.

We got feedback from the participants that the 3 hour sessions were rather overwhelming. Especially the less savvy team members were struggling to keep up. However, the planners made it clear that it was not possible to plan two short sessions instead of one long session for each team.

So what we tried to do is at least give the participants a sense in what way they could collaborate more effectively and easily using the new tools. And reassure them that nobody expected them to remember everything… If they want to retrieve details that they had missed or forgotten, they can check the help pages and videos we created or ask a colleague. And yes, we got quite a few questions ourselves, via mail, Skype or encounters in the cafeteria.

5.An adoption program is not a one-off activity

A good adoption program is not just one series of training sessions, or one communication campaign. In some cases that might be enough, but don’t count on it.

As I just mentioned, we had planned one series of training sessions.. But quite a few people contacted us afterwards with questions. Some people asked us to explain something again. But most asked for follow-up, now that they had played with the tools in real life. That is when you find out if you have really understood what’s going on: when you try to apply it yourself.

Unfortunately, nothing has been planned officially. We tried to help the users unofficially. But it was frustrating that we were just supposed to provide training, as opposed to help them to adopt the tools to boost their collaboration.


So to a program to increase adoption of Office 365 is helpful. We got enough positive feedback from users to make that clear. However, we can improve on the program and make it even more helpful next time.

October 31, 2016

Office 365 groups now have real SharePoint site

Filed under: Office365,SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:55

An Office 365 Group or a SharePoint Team Site? Now we mostly get an Office 365 AND a SharePoint Team Site: the integration between Groups and SharePoint gives us a full SharePoint Site when we create Group. At a later stage, we will also get a Group when we create a site from SharePoint.

When I talked about Office 365 Groups a year ago, I was not particularly pleased with them. They had potential, but also a lot of drawbacks. But these Groups are really getting somewhere now. Earlier this year I felt that these Groups were making serious progress. Then I enthused about external access. Now the integration with SharePoint sites is starting to make me a happy Groupie…

A SharePoint site for my Groups…

It took a while for the integration between Groups and SharePoint arrived at my Dutch first release tenants, but now all of my Office 365 Groups have a SharePoint site associated to it. Not just newly created Groups, also existing Groups.

When I am in the Conversations section of the Group, I even see an explicit link to the Site.

Link to the SharePoint site from the Conversations section of the Group

Link to the SharePoint site from the Conversations section of the Group

Clicking on that link opens the homepage of the SharePoint site associated to this Group. On the left hand side, we get the Quick Launch menu which we recognize from SharePoint.

The homepage is less recognizable, because it is the homepage of a Modern Team site, which looks quite different from an old-fashioned Team Site. This is actually the first Modern Team Site that I can play with, but that is a different story.

My Group has a full blow Modern Team Site, with a site home page.

My Group now has a full blow Modern Team Site, with a site home page.

I am very happy that I have a SharePoint site with my Group, because now I can:

  • Add lists for anything from the who-brings-what for the team barbecue to inventories of special solutions with their owners and statuses.
  • Use a page where I can bring information together. Not just the home page; I can create new pages if I want

… But I do not see a full SharePoint site

When I dug a little deeper in the site settng of my new “Group Site”, I saw that some options are missing:

  • Users and Permissions, with the site permissions
  • Look & feel: Title, description and logo, plus the Top Link Bar
  • Site actions: Save the site as template, and Delete this site
  • Most of the Web Designer Galleries
  • Site administration: Site closure and deletion, popularity trends
  • Site collection administration: Enterprise Content Management tools like audit log reports, content type policy templates and site policies,. Also popularity and search reports. And the sharepoint designer settings
Site settings in a site associated with  Group versus the settings of a native SharePoint site

The settings of a native SharePoint site versus the settings in a site associated with Group versus

So did these settings drop out of the site? No. According to Mark Kashman in the Q&A of his keynote at the Collab365 Global Conference, nothing has been taken out of the sites. However, some things have been hidden…

The options that are hidden in a site associated with a Group are the options that you are supposed to manage in the Group (in Outlook) instead of in the site, like its membership. You are also not supposed the delete the site but the Group as a whole. And he said that they had hidden the options that would confuse non-SharePoint experts, so that may be why we don’t get the policy stuff.


When I need full blown Enterprise Content Management functionality in a site, with Audit log reports and policies, I still create a native SharePoint site. But for “normal” collaboration, Office 365 are becoming the go-to option…

September 30, 2016

External access to Office 365 Groups

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 19:31

This is what I have been waiting for: External access to Groups. I can now invite people from outside our organization to join me in Office 365 Groups. This is great, because I do not only collaborate with my colleagues, but also with my clients.

Recently, I started to work on a small project with my client. We used Skype for Business to talk and show each other what we were working on, and that was just fine. But then they wanted to give me some input documents. And I wanted to share some drafts with them. We did not have a shared team site, so these documents were sent back and forth by e-mail as classic attachments. Really annoying, because:

  • it was hard to get an overview of what we had shared,
  • a new version had to be sent again, which clutters our inboxes
  • and are we sure we have the latest version before us?

I was on the brink of requesting an official project site, when external access to Office 365 Groups was announced. It was not available immediately in our tenant, but after a few days of increasingly eager attempts, it suddenly was there! The option to invite people from outside our organisations.

As an Owner of an Office 365 Group, I can now invite people by entering their mail address.

Add a guest to the Office 365 Group. The Group does warn you that this is an external user: a guest.

Add a guest to the Office 365 Group. The Group does warn you that this is an external user: a guest.

The guest (in this case, Garth) then gets an invitation e-mail, from which he can start an e-mail conversation and open the shared files.

Invitation to join a Group as a guest.

Invitation to join a Group as a guest.

And to open the shared files, his e-mail address does have to be connected to a Microsoft account. If it isn’t, the recipient of the invitation is prompted to create a Microsoft account and connect it to this mail address. My guests (now Garth,  in real life my clients) fortunately have a Microsoft account associated to their mail address. But they do have to sign in.

The guest needs to sign in to get the files shared in the Group.

The guest needs to sign in to get the files shared in the Group.


What the guest can do in the Group is limited:

  • He cannot view the Conversations in the context of the Group. Only in Outlook.
  • He cannot see the Calendar in the Group.
  • He cannot use the Planner.
  • He does not see the “external group” listed with the groups of his own organization.
    So he needs to keep the e-mail with the link at hand or bookmark the external group in his browser.
  • He does not get the full list of all members and cannot see the details of the people.
    This is undoubtedly a security / privacy feature: it is none of Garth’s business who we report to and what else we do.

    People details visible for colleagues

    People details visible for colleagues

    People details hidden from guests.

    People details hidden from guests.

But for my purpose, it was sufficient, because the guest can collaborate on documents and notes:

  • He can read, edit and upload documents.
  • He can use the OneNote notebook.
Sharing files with guests.

Sharing files with guests.


So I am definitely a happy camper, or rather: a happy collaborator.  I was able to share files and share notes with my clients in a quick & easy way, and that is exactly what we wanted…

April 30, 2016

Office 365 Groups – They make serious progress

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 20:32

Six months ago, I looked at Office 365 groups in my discussion of the collaboration tools of Office 365 and what to use when. At that time, I was disappointed with the Groups. Since then, Groups have improved a lot. They still leave a lot to be desired. But I am optimistic, because of the speedy progress that Microsoft has made. So what do I think is new & hot since my previous blog post?

Configuration of the library in Files

For me, the biggest improvement at this time is in Files. Maybe I am too much of a SharePoint addict or a control freak, but I love the fact that the Library Settings are back in the Files section. For some reason it used to be impossible to change or even see the library settings. Maybe to make sure the Group Owner does not have to do any advanced SharePoint stuff? Well, you don’t have to change the library settings, but at least now you are able to do so, if you want. For example, now you can add helpful views based on your own metadata. And you can invite Visitors to read your files.

Office 365 Group: Manage views in the Document Library of the Files section.

Office 365 Group: Manage views in the Document Library of the Files section.

Note that the interface for the Document Library is the new one, which has also appeared in OneDrive for Business and for which you can switch on a preview in SharePoint Team Sites (at least, if you are on an early bird tenant). In that new interface we’ve lost the good old ribbon with the Library tab; you’ll find the Library Settings under the gear icon. I still have some doubts about the usability of this new interface, but that may also be a work in progress.

Also, I am happy that the Files section of the Group no longer advertises itself als OneDrive: in the suite bar you now see the label Sites. That makes sense, because the address bar indicates that we are in sites as well. The OneDrive label was just confusing.


Another big improvement is not full available yet: the addition of a tool to manage your team’s tasks. The new Office 365 Planner is available in preview. For each group, there is a Plan in that Planner, which allows you to assign tasks, track their status and organize them into buckets. You can reach the rest of the Group from there. Unfortunately, you cannot access the plan from the rest of the Group yet. When that becomes available for all Group users, we’ll have a way to manage our tasks processes and be able to do basic project management in our Office 365 Group.

Office 365 Planner: a plan in the context of its group.

Office 365 Planner: a plan in the context of its group.

Integration in Office 2016

I’ve received Outlook 2016 since my previous post. Outlook devotees, who prefer to do everything with Outlook, should have that version, because it works seamlessly with the Office 365 Groups. In Outlook 2016, you not only see the Outlook-parts of the Group (the Conversation and the Calendar), but you also have access to the Files, Notebook, option to create new Groups etc via the ribbon.

Office 365 Groups have a strong presence in Outlook 2015, where all Group options are available via the ribbon. Files and Notebook will open in the browser.

Office 365 Groups have a strong presence in Outlook 2015, where all Group options are available via the ribbon. Files and Notebook will open in the browser.

According to the Office 365 Roadmap, Microsoft is continuing to work hard on Office 365 Groups. For example, the roadmap says they are rolling out the ability to update the privacy type. That’s a relief, because I’ve seen users regret their choice for private or public, and seen groups evolve from private to should-be-public. Soon we will be able to change that setting. And Microsoft is developing functionality that allows for more serious governance, like policies, expiry for groups, the option to delete groups that were accidentally deleted.

So the Office 365 have improved a lot since they were launched as a rather Minimum Viable Product, and they are evolving into a Useful Product. And if Microsoft keeps up the good work, they may yet grow to be a Great Product.

March 31, 2016

Office 365 Video Portal – It is really getting there

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:51

The standard Video portal offered by Office 365 has grown a lot over the last year. It still has some limitations, but the worst problems have been solved. By now, I can recommend it for real.

A year ago, I discussed the Office 365 Video Portal in a previous blog post. At that time, I concluded that it was interesting and somewhat usable, but I could not really recommend it to innocent users yet. The Minimum Viable Product was too minimal for that. But now we are getting somewhere! See also What’s new – Office 365 video.

The Office 365 Video portal as it looks today.

The Office 365 Video portal as it looks today.

Easier to add videos as a contributor

Is was never difficult to upload a video, if you had permission. But now we can do a lot more than just upload a video.

  • Central upload button
    you no longer have to go to a specific channel first, before you can click Upload. You can use the central Upload button and then specify where the video should go.

    Click the central Upload button and then select the channel.

    Click the central Upload button and then select the channel.

  • Upload multiple videos and follow their progress
    When you drag & drop multiple videos into the upload area, the system give you a progress indicator per video. While you wait for the video files to be uploaded, you can add descriptions and edit the titles.

    Follow the progress of multiple video files that are uploaded, and tweak the titles and descriptions while you wait.

    Follow the progress of multiple video files that are uploaded, and tweak the titles and descriptions while you wait.

  • Select a custom thumbnail
    Progress in the domain of the thumbnail is huge for me. At first, the Lync/Skype for Business recordings I uploaded all had a blank screen as a thumbnail. Terrible. Then the tool automatically selected an image from further down the recording, so that I least we saw something. And now we can either choose form a set of proposed screen captures, or even upload our own image as a thumbnail.

    Choose a screen capture as a thumbnail or upload your own image.

    Choose a screen capture as a thumbnail or upload your own image.

  • Add closed captioning
    Ok, it is not easy to create closed captioning or subtitles for a video. But if you are an advanced video maker and you have created a .vtt file for that, it is easy to upload it with the video.

    Manage menu for a video, including the option to add subtitles

    Manage menu for a video, including the option to add subtitles

Easier to handle videos as a consumer

Of course it is still easy to watch a video. But now you can also tell your colleagues and discuss it directly from the video:

  • E-mail a link to a colleague.
    You could e-mail the link to anyone; you have to make sure yourself that the person to whom you are sending the e-mail can actually view the video.

    The e-mail generated from the E-mail button.

    The e-mail generated from the E-mail button.

  • Comment on the video in Yammer.
    The channel owner can specify the Yammer Group where the conversation will take place, if there is a one-on-one mapping between the channel and a Yammer Group. Or the channel owner can leave it up to the user to select the most appropriate Yammer Group. It is a pity you have to click to open the comments and you do not immediately see them below the video (like in YouTube), but it is nice to have the option to see and give comments anyway.

    Yammer comment on a video

    Yammer comment on a video

  • Download
    The channel owner can determine in the channel settings who can download the video: only owners, owners and editors, or viewers as well. Then you can download the video and watch it while you are on a train or a plane without an internet connection.

Easier to manage my video channel as an owner

I still do not have many options as an owner of a channel in the Video portal. But some crucial options have become available.

  • Permissions for contributors: Editors
    It came as a huge relief when I could give people permission to upload videos, without giving them permissions to change the entire channel as owners. We now have ‘Editors’.

    We can now distinguish between Owners, Editors and Viewers, seperately determining which of these groups can download a video.

    We can now distinguish between Owners, Editors and Viewers, seperately determining which of these groups can download a video.

  • Statistics
    Channel owners often ask us for statistics. But video contributors also ask sometimes if they can see how often their video has been viewed. And now they can! Everybody who can view a video can also see the statistics: the total number of views near the title, and below the description a graph of the daily number of views and visitors over the last 14 days and the monthly views and visitors over the last 36 months.
    The bar chart indicates how many people have watches the subsequent portions of the video. Typically, many people view the first part and then they stop watching so that less people view the later parts. Note: this chart only displays the views starting 19 February 2016, so it will not reflect reality for older videos.

    The number of views of the video daily and monthly, as well as an indication of which parts of the video were viewed.

    The number of views of the video daily and monthly, as well as an indication of which parts of the video were viewed.

Easier to add to your team site, as a site owner

You already could add thumbnails of videos stored in the Office 365 Video portal to your SharePoint Online team site in that environment. But now it has become even easier.

  • Button insert > Office 365 video
    There is an explicit button to upload an Office 365 video. This amounts to the same result as clicking Embed at the video, inserting a Script editor web parts on the page and then pasting the code as a snippet. But using the Office 365 video button, you can search for a relevant video directly from the page where you are working. In this way, you display one specific video on your team site page, where the users can play it.

    Insert an Office 365 video into your team site page.

    Insert an Office 365 video into your team site page.

  • Search-driven content
    You can also automatically display the latest videos from a specified channel, or display videos that meet any other search criteria, using Search-driven content web parts. The most obvious one is the one called Video.

It is not perfect yet

The Video Portal is still in development, and I hope that some things will be added and improved at a later stage.

For example, I still have to select each spotlighted video manually. It would be a lot easier if I could simply tag key videos as ‘spotlight’ and have the channel start page display the latest spotlights automatically.

In a broader sense, it is metadata that I am still missing. The only way to structure the collection of videos is by using channels. We only have the title and description to indicate what the video is about. The system also uses data that the contributor has no control over, like the publication date and the number of views, to bubble up the latest and trending videos. But not spotlighted videos, videos about a specific topic or of a specific type within a channel etc.

But even if the Video portal in Office 365 is not perfect, you can use it and get a lot of benefits from it in your digital workplace.


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


  • 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 (…)


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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



August 31, 2015

Office 365 help desk card in the question mark icon?

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 20:35

Sometimes little things can make a difference. Recently, I made a client happy when he saw that we could point users to the helpdesk of their organization by way of the question mark icon prominent on every Office 365 page.

Office 365, with SharePoint Online, is quite user friendly. Nevertheless, there are always users who have questions about it. And they should get answers quickly and easily. Some of their questions pertain to the functionality of Office 365 in general, but some questions are specific to your organization.

Office 365 has a question mark icon at the top right of each page. That is a likely entry point for a user who has a question. But that only leads to generic Microsoft information. Legal stuff? About privacy? Quite important of course, but not what the average, innocent end-user is looking for.

Office 365 question mark menu

The question mark icon in Office 365 offers links to Microsoft information


Fortunately, you can add contact details of your organization’s help desk or “helpful person” if you don’t have an official help desk: phone number, e-mail address and a link to the team site or website dedicated to that help desk.

Question mark menu with help desk card

Additional information about the organization’s help desk in the question mark menu


To set this up, you need Administrator permissions, but no coding skills whatsoever. You can set these data in Admin > Company Profile > Custom help desk. See also Microsoft’s help about this help desk card.
Please note: saving and refreshing the page is not enough to see the result. You need to sign out and sign back in to see your card.

Custom help desk settings

Set the help desk card in the Admin section > Company profile > custom help desk

July 31, 2015

Change the look of a SharePoint site back to the default

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 20:12

In SharePoint and now in Office 365, owners can change the look of their sites. You can make these changes easily, without any programming skills. This is great for organisations that want to customize their sites. But once you have done that, how can you get back to the default look, if you want to undo your design experiments?

Style your Office 365: Office 365 themes

Office 365 offers the opportunity to change the look & feel of your environment in an easy way. As an Administrator, you can set colours, a logo and a background image for the navigation bar at the top of each page. You will find the options in: Admin > Company Profile > Custom theming. (See also Microsoft’s support article)

O365 Custom theming

Office 365 custom theming in the Admin

This look applies to all elements of Office 365: the SharePoint Online sites, but also your OneDrive, Outlook Online etc. By the way, it does take a while before the changed look & feel trickles down to them all – more along the lines of half an hour than 5 minutes. And it does not appear everywhere at the same time. My OneDrive for Business was already updated, while Outlook and SharePoint Online were lagging behind. It helped to close and re-open the browser; that triggered the update of the new look in Outlook.

Undo the styling on your Office 365: back to the Microsoft default

If you regret your custom theming (like in my example screenshot, which is pretty awful…), you can simply get rid of it and go back to the original Microsoft look & feel. You do that on that same page in the Admin section: Admin > Company Profile > Custom theming and at the bottom click Remove custom theming.

Apply your Office 365 style to a deviant site: back to your default

Site owners can also change the look of their particular site in SharePoint Online, via Site settings > Look and feel: Change the look.

SharePoint -  Change the look

Change the look of a SharePoint Online site

Now if the site owner has changed the look of his or her site, then that site won’t pick up the new look that you have just set at the level of Office 365. This is what I encountered recently: a site owner had been experimenting with a site. But then we wanted to get rid of those experiments once we had set up the official style in Office 365.

This is how you do that for a site: you reset the look of a SharePoint Online site via the same Site settings > Look and feel: Change the look. The look that you have to select to get back to the default is called Office. At first, it seems you are getting the blue Microsoft default look.

SharePoint - Change the look to Office

Change the look of the SharePoint site to the one called Office

But when you try it out in a preview, it turns out to be the look that you have set up yourself as the default look for your Office 365 environment.

SharePoint - Preview of the look called Office

Preview of the look called Office: this is the Office 365 custom theming look.

So you can experiment with the look of your environment at your heart’s content, because you can always go back to the default look.

Personal favourite Office 35 theme

If you have set an Office 365 theme for your organisation’s environment, and you have brought back deviant SharePoint Online sites back into that look, you still need to take into account the users’ personal option to select a favourite theme.

By default, the user can select a theme like the ‘Super sparkle happy’ rainbow theme via the cogwheel > Office 365 settings > Theme.

Office 365 theme - personal favourite

Select your favourite theme for your personal Office 365 experience

If it is important in your organisation that users share in the official Office 365 theme experience, then you can deny them the “rainbows”. As an administrator, go to Admin > Company Profile > Custom theming and check the checkbox Prevent users from overriding custom theming with their own theme at the bottom of the page.

Then the users are still able to ignore your theme and select a basic, high-contrast theme that is optimized for accessibility: it is easier to read than my fancy custom theme. But that is still available to the users and they can switch back to the default theme.

Office 365 theme - High-contrast theme is still available

High-contrast theme available as the only alternative to the custom theme set in Office 365.

This setting stops users from selecting a “rainbow theme” as their personal Office 365 theme, but it does not stop SharePoint Online site owners from changing the look of their site.

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.

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