my world of work and user experiences

October 31, 2018

3 simple things that help user adoption

Filed under: Adoption,Office365 — frederique @ 22:58

Setting up effective tools and processes to achieve user adoption often turns out to be difficult. No time, no money, no resources. You should still make that time, find the money, and locate the resources, because why roll out something like Office 365 if users do not adopt it? Nevertheless, let us take a look at some things you can start doing right now that require only a little attention.

Set an example

Office 365 is a great toolkit for communication, collaboration and sharing knowledge. So let’s use it to support the roll-out of Office 365. Eat your own dog food!

Use Office to collaborate in your IT / information management / roll-out team. That allows you to check if everything is working properly, and it offers an example of the practical application of the tools that you can show to others.

And use Office 365 to share with the stakeholders outside your team. For instance, when you organize something like workshops or training sessions:

  • Do not send any materials as e-mail attachments, but share them on a SharePoint site.
  • Offer a Skype meeting or Teams meeting to allow people to join you online if they cannot join in real life.
  • Take notes of these sessions in OneNote and share them.

Also, encourage managers and other influencers to use the new tools when they become available. For instance, post announcements on the SharePoint. And if they want to send a newsletter or other e-mail for higher visibility, only include summaries in the mail text, with links to the full story.

Offer help content to answer frequently asked questions

User will ask how things work. At least, I get quite a few emails and calls with such questions and I know many my colleagues get them as well. Instead of detailing the same answer to each user, put these answers in a central location and point to those instructions and explanations to help them out.

  • A basic user manual,
  • A help page,
  • A list with clear tips or frequently asked questions.
  • A demo site with the SharePoint site template you have found or developed. Add some content to show what you can do in such a site.
  • A Short video, if you have more time or if you find it easier to show something in a quick recording than writing it down.

Anything, as long as it explains what is what, how to use it and what’s in it for them.

Do you have an information portal or help center? Great, use it!
If you don’t have anything elaborate (yet), just put something in a public team site. Even if you cannot broadcast the information yet, at least the information is available. Just send a link to anyone who asks a question.

Inspire people who show an interest

It takes a lot of time and effort to get everyone onboard on the Office 365 train. But in every organization, there are at least some enthusiasts who like to experiment and get started with new tools. They may contact you to learn more.

Inspire them with tips and tricks of what is already possible and sneak peaks of what will become available soon. Then they can inspire their colleagues. But be honest about the limitations and the reasons why some things are not available yet – these early adopters may want to move faster than you call roll out Office 365 in a controlled manner.

Try to find out what they really need, in their situation. Standard Office 365 features can be amazing discoveries if you were unaware of them and they turn out to meet your needs. Examples of things that made some people quite happy recently:

  • For a colleague the idea of sharing notes in the team site notebook was an eye opener. After all, that is included in every SharePoint site but he was not aware of that, so he was taking notes in a notebook in his OneDrive. Quite a few people were awed by the functionality offered by OneNote, which they found a lot more practical than notes on paper or on Word.
  • For a team that is discussing a draft versions of deliverable documents, Microsoft Teams was just what they needed: persistent chat threads in the context of the document under discussion.
  • A colleague had heard about Teams and thought that they would help him. But after some brainstorming, it turned out he wanted to manage an overview of information that was perfectly suited to list in SharePoint with some fields for status, owner and hyperlinks to other sources.


These are some things you can do to take a few steps towards some user adoption. But don’t stop there. In most organizations, you need to do a lot more to achieve real user adoption. See for example these earlier blog posts: 5 lessons learned about user adoption programmes,  5 more lessons learned about User Adoption and the DIWUG eMagazine article: How do we get users to adopt Office 365?

September 30, 2018

New meeting tools in Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:36

Almost two years ago, I go my first glimpse of Microsoft Teams. For me, it was a big surprise, but it was not the hub for teamwork that it was supposed to be. At Ignite 2017, Teams got serious. And recently at Ignite 2018, Teams really took off.

Microsoft Teams is replacing Skype for Business as the preferred tool for online meetings. We knew that was going to happen, and now we heard the exhortations to move our users from Skype to Teams. And it’s not just a question of replacement: Teams now offer options that extend beyond what we ever had in Skype for Business…

This post summarizes the announcements: What’s new in Teams – Ignite Edition. And I’ve taken a quick look at the current Teams Meeting myself.

Scheduling a meeting starting from a compleet overview

I can schedule a Teams meeting from Outlook. And I can schedule one from within Teams, where I am already working. This is not brand new, but it is practical.

In the meeting section of Teams, I get an overview of my meetings today. Teams is integrated with Outlook: I also see the appointments created in Outlook that don’t have anything to do with Teams meetings. When scheduling a meeting, I can invite guest who are outside our organization.

Meetings in Teams, including an overview of my meetings today, including appointments set up only in Outlook. And the details of a Teams meeting.

Meetings in Teams, including an overview of my meetings today, including appointments set up only in Outlook. And the details of a Teams meeting.

Blurring the background in video calls

When I give an important presentation using video, I am always careful to sit in front of a neutral background. Now Teams has a new option to avoid distractions: background blurring. It does give me a weird aura, but it also reduces the mess in the background.

A video call without and with background blurring.

A video call without and with background blurring.

Sharing notes and other options

Personally, I don’t use the video option much. In presentations, I do a bit of video so that people know who I am, But then I start showing the real thing: presentation materials and demos. The options to do that look a bit different from the buttons in Skype.

Like in Skype we can have a chat-conversation. In addition, we can also take notes right in the context of the meeting.

Sharing and other options in my Teams Meeting.

Sharing and other options in my Teams Meeting.

You can have a meeting in Teams with a guest outside your own organization. But that guest does not have access to the notes.

The external guests can join the meeting, but they cannot see the notes.

The external guests can join the meeting, but they cannot see the notes.

Recording a session and viewing it in Stream

In Skype for Business, we had an option to record a session. We don’t record regular meetings, but we do record presentations, like knowledge sharing sessions. The option is available in Skype, but publishing a recording is a bit messy: you have to find the file on your computer and then upload it into Stream yourself.

In a Teams meeting, the recording is automatically uploaded into Stream. And a link to that video is posted in the chat conversation. You can open the recording from that conversation as well as from Stream itself.

The recording is posted to the chat conversation of the meeting,

The recording is posted to the chat conversation of the meeting,

Open the recording directly from the chat

Open the recording directly from the chat

It looks like it’s time to transform my recurring Skype mMetings into Team Meetings…

August 31, 2018

Some gotchas and glitches in Microsoft Stream

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 23:50

We are using Office 365 and investigating Stream as the video tool for a communication solution. Stream is interesting, but we hit some stumbling blocks. Let me share some of the lessons we learned setting up a channel, allowing the right people to upload videos into it and trying to achieve a smooth end-user experience.

We are working on a communication solution to share safety information with the entire organization. In addition to pages about safety rules et cetera, the team is making videos to explain safety measures and inviting vloggers to create videos about their safety experiences on the job. Because it is very important that the information follows the official safety rules, the content is curated assiduously.

In this organization we are rolling out Office 365, so we got started with a Communication Site in SharePoint Online and Stream for the videos. We were guided by Microsoft’s Overview of Groups and Channels, which was helpful but not enough to pull us through.

Set-up a channel where the right people can upload videos

Permissions are not set on Channels but on Groups

In the old Video portal in Office 365, you set permissions on the channel. In the new Stream, permissions are not managed on the channel, but directly on the video or on Groups. The channels are only meant to structure the collection of videos that the Group is publishing. In our situation, a small group of editors should upload the videos and everyone in the organization should be able to view them. So following Microsoft’s Group & channel examples, we set up:

  • A Public Group in Stream, where we Allow all members to contribute: everyone can see the content of this Group, but only the Group can contribute.

    Screenshot: Create a public group

    Create a Public Group, so that everyone can view the content and the users add to the group can contribute

  • In that Group, we created a Group channel. The Owners can change the settings of the Group and the channel, and the people they add as Members can upload and manage the videos in the channel.

    Screenshot: create group channel

    Create a group channel, so that the group can upload videos

In the Group and the Channel,

  • Owners can change the settings of the group the channel, add members and other owners, upload and manage videos
  • Members can also manage the group and channel settings like the title, and they can upload and manage videos. But they cannot add other members.
  • Everyone in the organization (because it is a public group) can view the content, but not contribute.
ScreenshotL add member

The Group Owners can add members and other owners, in the tab Membership of the Group.

Even Group owners cannot upload videos if video uploads are restricted centrally

Even the Owners of Stream Groups cannot upload videos, if video uploading is restricted in the central settings. We hit this problem. In our case, some owners could upload videos and others could not, and it took us a while to find out why. You will find this option in Stream itself (not in the central Office 365 Admin portal), in the menu under the gear icon: Admin settings.

Screenshot: link to Admin settings.

Link to the Admin settings in Stream.

The check the settings under Content Creation. You are fine if the option to Restrict video uploads = Off.

Screenshot: Restrict video uploads is Off.

Content creation settings in Stream: Restrict video uploads is Off.

If video uploads are restricted, you have to make sure that the people who are supposed to upload videos in your channel are added to the ‘whitelist’.

Screenshot: Restrict video uploads is On

Content creation settings in Stream: Restrict video uploads is On.

So if the editors cannot upload videos check this setting. And ask the governance board for your Office 365 environment if they can please relax this setting and stop the restriction on video uploads, because managing this ‘whitelist’ of unrestricted users will be a nightmare.

Finding the options

Keep titles short: Channels titles cannot be more than 30 characters

When you create a channel, This title only just fit in ‘’Test video companywide channel’, even though the title field looks much bigger. And even so, under 20 characters are displayed in the channel over view cards.

Partial screenshot: channels tab

In the Group, the tab Channels displays the channels of this group, but only short version of the channel titles

Editing the Group properties

Owners and (if members are allowed to contribute) can change the settings of the group and its channels. The entry point to the edit-options are somewhat hidden: follow the dot dot dots…you see in the group itself and in the overviews.

Screenshots: entry points to edit tgroup and channel settings

Click on the ellipsis next to the title in the group or channel, or in the overviews.

You cannot change the Group picture in Stream

You can edit the title, description and access options. But you cannot change the picture here.

Screenshot of the group edit options.

Editing the Group properties.

You have to go to the Group settings elsewhere in Office 365. After all, the Group we use in Stream is a regular Office 365 Group.

To change the picture, go to the settings in Office 3656 Group.

To change the picture, go to the settings in Office 3656 Group.

Stream on a SharePoint page does not work properly

Stream web part is in Preview and slows Internet Explorer 9 terribly

We have a Communication Site in SharePoint Online for the non-video content. In that Modern template, there is a web part (app part, whatever it’s called nowadays), to display a Stream video or channel on the page. But that is a Preview.

Putting the Stream preview on the page is a performance killer in Internet Explorer 9. This old Internet Explorer does not work well with the Modern interface.

Preview Stream webpart on a Communication Site

Preview Stream webpart on a Communication Site

Videos don’t play on iPhones

Because the Stream web part does not work properly on the laptops, we embedded key videos directly on the page. On the laptop that works.

However, in the SharePoint App on the iPhone, that does not work. On the iPhone, you get a message to log on. And that does not work…

On an iPhone, you do not get the video, but a log on message. Which does not work.

On an iPhone, you do not get the video, but a log on message. Which does not work.

Unfortunately, this is a show stopper for us: most users will probably use their iPhone to view the information, including the videos. Hm. So we have to keep looking…

July 31, 2018

Some notes on the migration of SharePoint sites

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:11

Currently, I am involved in a project to move a large organization into the cloud of Office 365. That includes the transition from SharePoint 2007, 2010 and 2013 to SharePoint Online. Very useful, but quite challenging, because of the number of sites, unclear ownership and the complexity of the original environment. So let me give some tips, based on our experiences.

Only migrate what is still relevant

To save migration effort and to prevent the innocent user from getting swamped in obsolete information, you should try to exclude information that is no longer relevant.

This is tricky, because most content owners have a knee-jerk reaction when you ask them what can be  deleted: “nothing can be left behind”. But you may still get rid of some things. This is most important when it comes to items that are hard to migrate: it is really worth the effort to do this?

Determine which sites we can ignore

In this organization, we have not been able to pinpoint any “real” sites that we can just leave behind. They have many long running projects, most of the old information needs to be stored at least ten years and usually longer, and they don’t like to delete anything. However, we also have sites are not “real”.

So, we can still ignore quite a few test sites, demo sites and training sites that showcase the old functionality but won’t mean anything after the migration to SharePoint Online.

Determine which lists and libraries we can ignore

Within the team sites, there are some lists that we can ignore. For example, as they now manage the contacts in CRM, the contact information stored in the SharePoint sites is obsolete.

So the technical guys doing the migration, excluded these lists from the migration scripts. And they were happy to do so, because these lists had some weird customizations that them caused problems.

Determine which fields can we can ignore

The libraries had some fields with very strange content, like ID-codes that do not make any sense to ordinary users. As it turned out, some those were left-overs from the previous migration, from Lotus Notes to SharePoint 2007. Other fields we encountered were part of a very old version of the site template and no longer used by anyone.

So we left these obsolete fields out of the new templates and out of the property mappings.

Archive what you can, only migrate as ‘active’ what you must

We have to keep a lot of information from projects that have already finished. The **

Determine which sites are still active and which are inactive

We based our status labels on existing lists of project (for example in CRM), last modified dates and information from the business. We have some humongous Excel sheets to gather, enrich an manage all of this information. Over the course of our long term project, we have to update this list.

Create a simple archive template

The goal of these archive sites is to allow users to find old information. This implies these sites don’t need to have advanced functionality. No smart lookups, workflows, beautiful image carousels or anything like that.

So we created a very empty site template: a container into which we could migrate the old lists and libraries. The tech guys included in the migration script steps to make sure that no fields are required anymore. And complex lookup fields that have a lot of customization are mapped to basic text only fields. After all, all we want to do is preserve the content, present it in views that help them make sense of that content and allow for searching.

Migrate the archive site at your leisure

The good thing about archive sites, is that nobody adds or edits anything there. So you don’t need to worry about a content freeze for these sites, which makes our lives a lot simpler.


Think where you want to start. For us the key criteria when we plan which sites are moved first are:

  • In which SharePoint does the original site live?
  • How complicated is the target template and migration script for this type of sites?
  • Do we have owners or other stakeholders who we can contact about these sites?
  • Are the new sites needed for another project?

Get rid of SharePoint 2007 first

We want to move out of the severely prehistoric SharePoint 2007 first, before it crumbles completely. After all, SharePoint 2007 has been declared officially “dead” by Microsoft almost a year ago (SharePoint Server 2007 end of support roadmap) And we are experiencing difficulties with storage space on this server,

So we do our best to get as much as possible out of SharePoint 2007 as soon as possible, before we start on the “younger” SharePoint environments.

Start with the simple scenario’s

We did not want to get stuck figuring out all the complications in the beginning. Instead ,we got started with what we could do at that time. This way, we could iron out the kinks of our basic process and migration technology before we start pushing the envelope with the more complex stuff. And we can already lighten the load on the old servers and show the stakeholders some progress before things get more complex.

So we started with the migration of archive sites, rather than active sites. And we started with a set of sites that were relatively homogenous and relatively simple. We are still working up the courage to take on the “swamp” of other sites…

Start with sites that have clear ownership

Unfortunately, we have a lot of sites that have no clear content owner. The site owners in Sharepoint are IT people, not people in the business. Because we have over 8000 sites, we do not want to dive into each individual site, to check who has been active in there recently…

So we started with sites belonging to a business unit that has a mostly complete list of all project sites in CRM, stating the region it belongs to. The secretaries of those regions were able to take charge. They can tell us which sites are still active, which are important and need special attention, and how to deal with sites that turn out to be exceptions. And they could do some testing and give us sign-off on migrated sites.

Align with related project

We are not only transitioning to Office 365, but also to a new version of CRM in Dynamics 365. For one of our business units, CRM and SharePoint were always part of the same way of working. They work from CRM and the information is stored in SharePoint. The CRM project is moving faster than the SharePoint migration.

So we prioritized the migration of the SharePoint sites belonging to this business unit, allowing the Go Live date for the CRM project and the SharePoint project to coincide.


All in all, we are still working on the migration to SharePoint Online. But with these tricks, at least we are making progress and we’ll get there eventually.

June 28, 2018

Rock shelters: use what is available and go from there

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — frederique @ 15:27

The Dordogne in France has been a choice place to live for 400.000 years: people lived here already in prehistoric times as well as in the middle ages. And modern people still live there today. This is the place to be, because of the shape of the cliffs: there are many rock shelters. Many people over the ages have used these rock shelters as a place to live, adding to it in different ways.

Rock shelters

The limestone rocks in the valley of the Vallée de la Vézère have been shaped by the river, but also by ‘gélifraction’: repeated freezing and thawing of water seeped into the rock has crushed the softer layers. The result is like a long, shallow cave with a smooth floor, a ceiling and a back wall. A practical place to live.

Prehistoric times

We casually talk about ‘cave men’, but our ancestors in paleolithic times did not actually live in caves. They used caves, like Lascaux, as sanctuaries maybe, for paintings and engravings. But the people who adorned the Lascaux caves, lived in a rock shelter nearby. Such a rock shelter does not protect your entirely from the weather, but at least you have daylight, fresh air and floor space, which can be difficult in a cave.

Paleolitic men did not alter the shape of the mountain to create shelter. They took the rock as it was, though they may have added screening made from perishable materials like wood and animal skins.

The original Abri de Cro-Magnon: the place that gave the Cro-Magnon man his name, when the first remains of his kind were discovered 150 years ago: the earliest human that was anatomically modern. With a reconstruction of what might have been a tent-like additional protection.

The original Abri de Cro-Magnon: the place that gave the Cro-Magnon man his name, when the first remains of his kind were discovered 150 years ago: the earliest human that was anatomically modern. With a reconstruction of what might have been a tent-like additional protection.

Middle ages

Many of the rock shelters were used again and again by different people, in different times. All of them found it useful.

For example, the Abri de la Madeleine has been used since paleolitic times (it gave its name to the period called Magdalenian, about 17.000 -12.000 years ago). But people kept living here. In medieval times, they built a village and a castle in a higher layer. The advantage of the location is that is not only already supplies a smooth floor, a wall and a ceiling, but also that it is perched halfway a rock face and easy to defend – an important point in those quarrelsome times.

In these times, they did not take the rock as it was, but they modified it: they dug deeper niches, and they built additional walls.

Medieval troglodyte house in La Madeleine

In the medieval part of the Abri of La Madeleine, they dug bedsteads and added walls to close the space and to provide an oven for example.

Example of how the wooden beams were fitted into the rock face. You see these holes everywhere, here at La Madeleine the have reconstructed to wood to show how it works.

Example of how the wooden beams were fitted into the rock face. You see these holes everywhere, here at La Madeleine the have reconstructed to wood to show how it works.


Nowadays, people still use the shelter provided by such abris. Why build an entire house, when you can use the existing rock shelter and only add a few walls and a partial roof? And why put up a roof to protect your car from the sun and the rain, when you can park it right under the abri?

This house built under the Abri Pataud is now the museum for this Abri.

This house built under the Abri Pataud is now the museum for this Abri.

The museum guard parks his car in the Abri, nice and sheltered.

The museum guard parks his car in the Abri, nice and sheltered.

This rings a bell…

Ok, this was on holiday and I was too busy sightseeing and enjoying myself to think about it. But now that I am back, this reminds me of the way we use Office 365 and SharePoint Online: we take the basics, which in our case are provided by Microsoft instead of Mother Nature. And we use them as a starting point. Sometimes this gives us enough shelter or functionality to get by. And sometimes we add to it, to make it more comfortable, secure or user-friendly.

May 31, 2018

Yammer does not work – Are you sure you should blame the tool?

Filed under: Adoption,Office365 — Tags: , — frederique @ 23:52

Yammer has been around for a decade already, as an enterprise social networking service. It has been incorporated in the Office 365 toolkit. And it can be very effective. However, now I am hearing from my client that Yammer does not work for them and they want some other tool. Is Yammer really that bad, or is there I some other reason why they say Yammer does not meet their needs?

Currently I am working for a construction company. They want a platform to communicate about safety and to interact with the employees about that topic. This is a construction company, so safety is a big issue. For all of the employees.

How about Microsoft Teams?

They asked me for a demo of Microsoft Teams, because they thought that this would be a great tool to use for their safety communication and interaction. Microsoft Teams is newer, and that it why they think it is hotter I fear….

Don’t get me wrong, I Microsoft Teams is great. But not for this purpose.

  • The maximum number of members in a Team is 2.500 which is not nearly enough.
  • A Team does not have visitors, but only members and owners. That is great for conversations, but these members can also edit other information in the Team. And the client wants to offer “official” information as well. SharePoint is better for that purpose, though you can of course connect a SharePoint site to a Team.
  • A Team does look quite complex and ‘geeky’ with all those channels and tabs and everything. You don’t have a simple starting point like a homepage. A Communication site does that better.
  • Teams is for teams, that is why it is called Teams… As Microsoft puts it: Teams are for the inner loop, the inner circle with whom you are collaborating closely.

How about Yammer?

A Communication site is great for the “official stuff”: well thought-out pages about the topic, guidelines and instructions, overviews of contacts, events etc. But for interaction with the people, Yammer is more suited. We can bring the two together, by adding a Yammer app (web part, app part, whatever you call it) to the homepage of the site.

However, when I mentioned Yammer, they all pulled faces and grumbled that they had tried Yammer and that it did not work for them at all. Hmmmm…

I admit, Yammer is definitely not perfect:

  • The search is terrible… I find it difficult to find what I am looking for via the search box in Yammer.
  • The Yammer app (web part, app part, whatever you call it) you can add to a homepage of your Communication site is very, very basic: pictures are not displayed, you only see the last comment.
  • Links to SharePoint pages are not displayed nearly as nicely as links to internet pages.

But I like Yammer and use it a lot in our company:

  • An informal forum to ask questions, share lessons learned and post new tidbits
  • Clear structure via groups and threads, with an overview on the ‘start page’ and per group a view of the new conversations so that you know when you are up-to-date.
  • Rich conversations using tags (to help you find them and collect the conversations on a topic), mentions (to engage specific colleagues), attached images as slide shows, links to for example Stream videos and websites with a visual preview…

Why is Yammer working for us and maybe not for my client?

  • Many of my colleagues (including me…) often are working elsewhere. We only meet online.
    If everyone is in the same office most of the time, they can easy discuss questions and ideas in the coffee corner. Then they don’t really need Yammer, so they won’t use Yammer as much. So if the same organisation starts using Yammer to share with people who are not in the same office, it may be used more.
  • I use Yammer, instead of another tool, because that is where the action is: questions posed in Yammer are answered, ideas get commented upon, tidbits get liked etc.
    If Yammer is not being used in a community, it is not worth going there and posting something. But if nobody posts anything or nobody reacts, nobody will start use it. In our organisation the vicious circle was broken early, because we are an IT company with people who like this stuff, and because it meets our needs.
  • We know where to find Yammer. In the early days, we had a Yammer feed web part right in the middle of the homepage of our intranet (now Yammer is more prominent than that homepage…).
    In my client’s organisation, I Yammer is hardly connected to anything else. There is a link to Yammer on the homepage, but that is a static link buried among other links.
  • In our organisation, Yammer is the dominant tool for spreading news: management posts updates, HR uses Yammer to tell us about people who join or leave us, sales tells about new clients…
    In my client’s organisation, I get a lot of this information via email. The disadvantage of email for such communication, is that it does not allow you to start a conversation: ask questions, say hello / goodbye to the new / old colleagues, give kudos for achievements.
  • We grumbled a bit about unpractical features in Yammer but we could get passed them and now we can take advantage of the continuous improvements, like the ability to edit a post (not all that recent, but a huge relief when that became possible,,,) .
    I wonder if my client had their experience with Yammer a long time ago; they may not have noticed that some of their obstables have been removed.

So to adopt and take advantage of Yammer:

  • Determine to what problem it is the solution: conversations about special topics between people who are not sharing the same office.
  • Actively seed and drive the conversation when that does happen organically: have editors / moderators post tips and news, answers questions or redirect them to someone who can (using the mention-option). Make sure these posts are interesting to the users: relevant, useable and/or great fun :-)
  • Make sure it is easy to find Yammer: embed Yammer feeds in SharePoint sites, invite colleagues to join groups that are of special interest to them.
  • In help & training, tell users about Yammer and how it can be useful, show it to them in a moderated Yammer group sharing Office 365 expertise for instance. Share success stories (for example gathered as #YamWins)
  • Introduce Yammer to anyone who does organisation-wide or department-wide communication. If they welcome response, explain that Yammer is a better medium than email.
  • Check what are the blocking issues for this organisation and try again when they have been solved in the Office 365 evolution.

If a tool in the toolkit is not used, the question always is: is the tool inadequate or are there another reasons why the users did not adopt it? Like they don’t know about the tool or they don’t understand how to use the tool effectively. If the problem lies in the adoption, there is no guarantee that replacing the tool will be helpful at all. Then there will just be another tool that users don’t know about and don’t understand…




April 30, 2018

Do not forget to follow up

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 20:51

Recently, I encountered an example of the need to follow up on a series of webinars. It sounds obvious. But when people are busy, the follow-up ball gets dropped too often. You need to plan ahead, who should do what, where and how to follow up on the sessions, to make sure everyone gets what they need.

IT organized a series of webinars on Office 365. These webinars were quite well attended, by over a hundred participants, which was great. And even greater: many of these participants joined in seriously, rather than just listing half-heartedly. They were very active in the chat window, asking questions and adding comments.

Because there were so many questions and because some of the questions were so complex, the presenter and the moderator were unable to address of all them during the session. That was not a problem, because they promised to get back on these questions in the Yammer group they had created for ongoing knowledge sharing, before the webinar series started. Also, in every session, at least one of the participant asked if we would share the recording and the slides materials with them. No surprise there, I always get these questions in every training I give. And yes, they promised to share these materials afterwards.

And that is where it got difficult.

After the sessions, the promised follow-up did not appear, because the one IT-guy was out of office for two weeks, the other IT-guy was too busy, and the project manager had not planned for it. The webinars had been planned up to the point of the actual session, but nothing afterwards.

What you want to plan for, in addition to the webinars themselves:

  • Capture the questions and comments.
    Fortunately we did copy the chat conversation from each session and pasted it into our OneNote notebook. So at least we know what we have to get back on. Not just questions in need of answers, but also interesting ideas mentioned by the participants that we may will want to take up in our programme.
  • Quickly send a thank-you message with links
    Send the links to the recording and the slides immediately after the session. Then the participants can quickly check they are not sure about. And if you don’t send these links soon, people will start harassing you to hurry up…
  • Plan resources to answer the questions soon
    In the hours and days after the sessions, somebody knowledgeble should formulate answers to the questions that have not been answered yet. In our case, these answers were to be posted in the Yammer group, mentioning the person who asked the question to draw their attention to it. One caveat with respect to Yammer: in our case, some participants could not access our Yammer group, because they were stuck in an old Yammer network. They had told us in the chat of the webinar. So these people should also get their answers via another channel, like email.
  • Ask for feedback
    Immediately after each session or at the end of the whole series, ask the participants for their opinions. Not only on how they liked these webinars, but also in what they want or need to learn next: More details on the same subjects? Other perspective on the same tools, like how to use them in different situations? Introductions on other tools in Office 365? There are plenty of ways to ask for feedback, like a poll in the Yammer group, a Form, a survey in a SharePoint site…
  • Keep at it
    When people start using the new tools, they will have more questions and need more information. So after the sessions, keep sharing tips and answering subsequent questions. Actually, start a tip campaign before the series of webinars starts, so that you can give tips beforehand that help them make the most of the webinars. For example, how to check their audio, get a headphone, find the chat-pane.

So: organizing webinars is great, but do not forget to follow up on them

March 31, 2018

The user properties need to be correct in Office 365

Filed under: Adoption,Office365 — frederique @ 22:31

In Office 365, things like the job titles, departments and offices of our users are very visible. And we use those properties heavily in the search options. So we are in trouble if these properties are incorrect.

At the moment, we are rolling out Office 365 in a large company. Users are invited to join SharePoint Online sites and Yammer groups. They get Outlook Online. So they are looking around in Office 365 and noticing the properties that are displayed. A well-meaning IT guys pointed out the people search. But now the users are starting to notice that these properties are sorely out of date… And they are not happy about that…

  • “I’ve uploaded my photo in my profile, but that profile says that I am a secretary and I have changed jobs years ago. So how can I change that?”
  • “I’ve followed the wizard to set up Multi-Factor Authentication, like you told me, and I ended up on a page that displays as my office the location where I worked over 3 years ago. I have tried to get that changed time and time again, but it is still wrong”.
  • “This people search result that you pointing out does not make any sense. When I filter by my department, I get the wrong people.”
  • “That search result gives me several people who have left the company years ago.”

The functionality does not work properly, so we don’t get the benefits. And the users get annoyed, so we are actually worse off…

In her Office 365 profile, Megan can change her add her own mobile number and change her birthday. But she cannot edit her job title or department.

In her Office 365 profile, Megan can change her add her own mobile number and change her birthday. But she cannot edit her job title or department.


  • Try to clean up your Active Directory before you roll out Office 365. And implement a solid procedure to keep it up-to-date when people join, move or leave the company or change anything else.
  • If you cannot trust your Active Directory data, do not synchronise too many data into Office 365. Let the users enter their contact details manually. Not the optimal solution, but better than incorrect personal data.
  • And until you have arranged something appropriate, do not promote the functionality….



January 31, 2018

Office 365 rollout: 5 basics easier said than done

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:42

Currently I am involved in the roll-out of Office 365 at a large construction company. Several thousands of users move over to new tools and a lot of content is migrated. Of course we try to disrupt these users as little as possible, because their business is construction and not IT. But it is not that easy. These are 5 basics that should be taken care of, which sound obvious but turn out to be quite challenging real life.

1.Decide early on how you deal with the different brands in the organization

Not all organizations are homogeneous. In this organization, we have different companies, with different brands, within the same Group. And they are all part of the same Office 365 tenant, facilitated by the Group. Say, the Contoso Construction Group has operating companies and business units like ‘Contoso Buildings South’, but also a unit specializing in hospital support called ‘Helping Health’. So now what?

  • Should everyone get an SMTP address (for e-mail), SIP address (for Skype for Business) and UPN (to log on) that is unified on
  • Or is it important in their market that the people working for the separate brands keep their special e-mail addresses and Skype addresses so that their clients recognize them? So do they keep for these people, in addition to the that others have?
  • Or do they have an e-mail address that clients understand, while they log on with the Group UPN This can get confusing for these users, because instructions often say that you have to log on with your email address. Not in this case.

You can keep the separate addresses, but then you need to connect those to your tenant. And for that, you need to decide what you want to do. Preferably with plenty of time before the technical guys need to make it happen and the communication and adoption people need to explain everything.

2a.Make sure you have reliable information on your users

Many things in the Office 365 roll-out are about individual users. Yes, creating a SharePoint portal and templates for collaboration sites is about communities. But licenses, mailboxes and Office 2016 installations for example are about individuals. Which means that you need correct data on those individuals. This sounds obvious, but we have been tearing our hair out over incomplete and incorrect data for a while now…

  • Who is working in the organization? So who needs a license? Whose mailboxes need to be migrated? We have seen a lot of prehistoric mailboxes and accounts that have not been used since 2015. And on the other hand we are not sure we are not missing people.
  • What type of employee are they? Who has a full laptop and who only has a smartphone? Who works in an office and who works at a construction site? As an Information Worker or a construction worker? So what license do they need? What should they install and what kind of support will they need for that? And what would be helpful in their jobs, so what should we promote to them? We have users with special Toughbooks for which the installation process is different and we still don’t know exactly who has such a machine.
  • And who is part of which operating company, business unit, team when you migrate in batches? We try to address colleagues as a group, and to get managers to encourage their own people to take action of they have not done so yet. But there are always people on the wrong list.
  • Where are they based? For example, are they in or near the Amsterdam office or the Rotterdam office? This is particularly relevant if you offer support on location. Too often we have invited people for the wrong sessions.

So if there is a way to clean up your HR-system and Active Directory before you roll out Office 365, do it! Not only for the roll-out, but also to offer the users up-to-date and correct profile information. The people pane and Delve and such are quite prominent in Office 365 and these don’t make any sense if they tie into outdated data…

2b.Set up a watertight process for joiners, movers and leavers

As a corollary to the previous point, getting correct user information should not be a one-time effort, but a process that keeps everything up-to-date. When people join the organization, they need a license. When they move to other units or other roles, their information should be updated. When they leave the organization, their license should be revoked and their content archived or disposed according to the rules and regulations. Even while you arrange to migrate, for example, the users mailboxes, the list changes, so prepare for the moving target.

3.Think about the right order and logical batches first

You cannot do everything in one day, especially if you have a large organization, with a large group of users. And there are dependencies. So what do you have to do first? And what do you have to keep together?

In our organization, it was decided that we were not allowed to store active mail and department information in the cloud (in Exchange Online resp. SharePoint Online sites) without Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). And Multi-Factor Authentication does not work with Outlook 2010.

So first we have to move everyone from Office 2010 to Office 2016. Then we can enable MFA. And then we can migrate to Exchange Online and get started with department sites in SharePoint Online. Not the other way around.

For the installation of Office 2016, we aim to roll out in batches to groups of colleagues who work on the same location. Then we can offer support on that location – users like face-to-face support more than remote support. And the colleagues can encourage each other and get triggered when they have been left out (because the list turned out to be incomplete again).

For the migration of the mailboxes and calendars from Exchange on-premises to Exchange Online, we try keep colleagues who collaborate a lot in the same batch. Especially managers and their management assistants. If one colleague is still on-prem and the other is already in the cloud, they cannot work in the same shared mailbox (they can read but not send on behalf) and they cannot consult and work in each other’s Outlook agenda. So we organize the batches by business unit.

And because we know we cannot trust batches to include all people who collaborate closely, we try to make the Exchange migration as compact as possible, to lose as little time as possible if somebody is migrated with the wrong batch. This implies that we do all the Office 2016 installations first, so that we have a clean run of Exchange migrations afterwards.

4.Don’t forget the details and the exceptions

The basic plan can be quite simple, but the devil is in the details. For example, the users need to install Office 2016 before Multi-Factor Authentication is switched on. Otherwise they can no longer use their Outlook. Ok, but what do we do with:

  • People who are on leave? Let them deal with it when they come back? Tell their boss?
  • People who don’t have the time for these things? Ask their boss to give this higher priority and stimulate them do the installation anyway?
  • Computers that do not have enough disk space for the installation? Give them a new computer or do some magic to make space anyway? How and who?
  • People who are very busy all day long at a construction site that has a very feeble internet connection? Can we ask them to do everything at home in their spare time or not?
  • Legacy applications that don’t work well with Office 2016? Is there a workaround like a remote desktop?
  • Training laptops managed by one person who does not have enough licenses to install Office 2016 on all of them?
  • People who don’t have a laptop or tablet but only a smartphone? An Office 365 license may be useful, but they don’t have to install Office 2016?
  • People who don’t have a company phone for the Multi-Factor Authentication messages? Ask them to use a private phone?
  • Non-personal accounts, like
  • …?

Users often grumble that headquarters (and IT departments in particular) try to steamroller all over them, regardless of the complexities of their everyday work. And they are right. So pay attention to these real-life exceptions.

5.Involve all of the stakeholders

You always have to involve all of the stakeholders, and this is definitely no exception. It takes quite some time, to involve everyone and even to make sure everybody is informed. But it is indispensable.

  • We have the directors and high level managers of the group and the operating companies as decision makers. And where they don’t have to make a decision, they still need to be the first to be informed, before the innocent employees.
  • The IT, communication and information management teams guide and carry out the rollout.
  • We have champions all over the organization who help their colleagues with information, support and encouragement. And don’t forget the secretaries of the different business units, who help us with practical things like locations for the floorwalkers and checks on our user lists. They get updates and knowledge sharing from us before we communicate to the end-users.
  • We communicate with the users who have to take action and/or be aware of something that is changing. They get messages and have the opportunity to respond and ask questions via email, a feedback form, a phone number, whatsapp and sometimes a floorwalker on location.
  • And we have contact with the bosses of the end-users if the end users don’t take action before the deadline: if they don’t listen to us, they may listen to their own boss…

So is this rocket science? No. is is surprising that you have to take care of these basics? No. But is it then easy to do in real life? No! It takes time and effort and smarts. But we will get it done anyway!

December 31, 2017

Article in DIWUG eMagazine – Let us work in Teams

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 17:46

DIWUG eMagazine is a free magazine published by and for the Dutch community of Information Worker solutions specialists. It has an on school printed paper version as well as a downloadable electronic version.

My article in this edition is about Microsoft Teams. This tool allows teams to collaborate in a chat-based app. It is a hub for teamwork in Office, that ties into existing features combined with new functionality. In this article, we look into the why, what, who and where of Teams.

You can find it here: Download DIWUG SharePoint eMagazine #20


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