Notes from the Keynote at the SharePoint Conference 2018 - May 22, 2018

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The SharePoint Conference North America 2018 in Las Vegas is the place to be this week if SharePoint is critical to the collaboration strategy at your organisation. For those not able to attend in person, a complimentary webcast of the two-hour keynote was streamed live, but of course, you miss the hundreds of sessions on offer during the three days of the conference.

During the keynote, Jeff Teper and his team recounted recent updates to SharePoint Online, previewed coming changes, and made a splash with some new ideas.

Here’s the key five points I took away from the content-packed keynote:

  1. Microsoft continues to find cool ways to leverage the Microsoft Graph, a background service that analyses what people are doing and creates connections between people and content. The ultimate realisation of the Graph vision is when experiences in Office 365 – for example, search in SharePoint, inviting collaborators into a Microsoft Word document, or sharing a document in OneDrive with others – just always seems to put the right person or search result at the top of the list. If the Microsoft Graph seems to be reading your mind and inferring your intent, then it is working as designed.
  1. Microsoft continues to improve the “meat and potatoes” of SharePoint – document libraries and lists. One of the demos showed real-time updates to the items in a list, without having to refresh your screen. Another showed the coming addition of document library capabilities – such as group and conditional column formatting – to the document library web part. The first increases the here-and-now usability of SharePoint lists and libraries, because you never have to refresh the screen to see what’s new and changed. Changes by others are automagically displayed, for both existing and new items or documents. The second increases the consistency of the user experience across SharePoint; capabilities available to the user in the full document library experience will also be available through the associated web part.
  1. Microsoft Teams will be receiving more SharePoint goodness over coming months, including column formatting for lists and libraries and the ability to include SharePoint pages within a Teams workspace. The addition of SharePoint pages has been announced already, but it will remove a design annoyance currently in place of having to link to a SharePoint page as a bland web page, not as a full SharePoint experience. Once again, everything is trending towards greater consistency, similarity, and integration across the destination experiences in Office 365. What works in one place should work in all places.
  1. Microsoft previewed SharePoint spaces, a new mixed reality way of browsing and consuming content in a SharePoint site, with support for navigation using HoloLens and other headsets (see image above). SharePoint spaces are intended to be as easy to create as a PowerPoint slide deck – click new, select a template, and start adding content. New 3D-aware web parts are offered, to enable the design and navigation process to be as seamless as possible. For lists and libraries that are image heavy, or that make sense to be visualised rather than read, SharePoint spaces is a great innovation. While updates to lists and libraries address the common everyday tasks of using SharePoint, mixed reality options create a whole new plane of coolness to explore.
  1. People matter – and individuals count. There were quite a few years when the SharePoint dream started to fade and languish, and it seemed like it was the end of an era. And then Jeff Teper came back as the champion of the SharePoint dream at Microsoft. He and his team have charted a new and expanded course for SharePoint, and in light of the continued momentum and innovations, the dream and reality of SharePoint is again firmly established.

Microsoft Teams update: What’s new today?

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Microsoft Teams group chat software in Office 365 is being used by more and more companies around the word. Many competitors like Slack or the newest WhatsApp Business are always catching up in solutions and functionalities (for more information on this topic read the blogs: “Will WhatsApp Business threaten the supremacy of Microsoft Teams? “ and  “Is Microsoft Teams overcoming Slack?”). However, Teams is always getting better and better, also because it is continuously improving its functionalities in order to respond to the feedbacks and needs of customers. In 2018, the latest version had been released and it is plenty of new and exciting features.
So, if you don’t want to have a look and read the whole roadmap, then here you have a short and selective overview of what has been added and improved.

Control who can post in General

There are new settings for the General Channel in a Team. Doesn’t matter how big the team is, or how many active members it has. But being able to have the control as a team owner on who can post and who can not, is a useful function to better manage the dynamics in the team and in the channel. Indeed, the Team owner can decide who can post in the General Channel and can even give warnings when a post notifies everyone.

Keyboard Shortcuts

The developers added also new keyboard shortcuts. Using keyboard shortcuts is a fastest way to work in Teams. Do you remember the feeling when you first learned that instead of clicking right with the mouse and select “copy” and then clicking right again and select “paste” you could have just used the keyboard Ctrl-C and then Ctrl-V?  Well, if you felt excited a that time, then try out some keyboard shortcuts also when working in Teams. Once learned the combination, everything will much faster!

Shortcuts Keyboard

Hide Chats

Another novelty for 2018 is the possibility to hide chats. If you have a lot of chats and maybe some of them are no more active or just useless or maybe old, but you still do not want to delete them, then now you can just hide them tide up your chatbar. Just click on the 3 dots next to the chat and select “Hide”.

Hide chat Teams

Meeting Improvements

They also added a few new features to Meetings. For example, you can now mute your colleagues: just click on them and select Mute Participant, but remember that they can unmute themselves if needed.
Moreover, now you can easily make calls and video calls between Teams and Skype for Business. If you were used to make online meetings with Skype for Business and you particularly liked the functionality of sharing your screen with other participants, from now on you can also share your screen while in a video call in Teams. So, no need to shift to Skype.

The new Who bot

Who is a brilliant feature for learning more about your colleagues. You can ask Who many questions to find quickly information about who to contact, who is working on a project specifically, find the right expertise about a topic, find people you need to contact and many other things. All you have to do is just ask Who. Go to the Teams Store, search for Who and install.

Who bot Teams

Stay tuned for future updates on Microsoft Teams!

Drag and drop in Outlook! The simplest trick that will make your work much easier

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Think of how many tasks you get every day at work… How many new contacts do you make? How many expected and unexpected meetings appear in your calendar?
In old days people used their note books and sticky notes to plan their days until they got lost… now, those days are gone and seems like we all are stuck in a completely different loop: the variety of apps and technologies. Different platforms, software including Microsoft provide us plenty of possibilities to plan our day efficiently and to make our work life easier. The problem appears in the variety of apps and their functionalities that are sometimes overlapping and this creates even a bigger confusion. From a user’s point of view many functionalities can give more questions than answers… with the biggest one: WHEN TO USE WHAT? I believe this is the point in which users loose their motivation to use new apps and try out new functionalities.

Microsoft Outlook isn’t just an email app, it is a personal information manager. Having everything in one place has its advantages, but there are still ways to use all these features more effectively.

So let’s start simple with an effective trick about how to make things easier using Microsoft Outlook.

How to organise my emails by putting them in the right category:

Open your Outlook and find the row on the bottom left side of icons: email, calendar, contacts, tasks. Drag the line to the right side to see all possible icons.

Silverside

Did you receive a new email with some tasks for you?
Just drag and drop the email to a New Task folder and create a task for yourself with a start and due date. Set your status and reminder if its necessary. All information for an email is visible in the task you created.

Outlook

The email you received needs more discussion? Create the meeting about this topic by dragging and dropping the email to a Meeting folder. Set the date and time. Invite people by clicking ‘Appointment’ at the navigation row on top and selecting ‘Invite Attendees”.

Outlook

 

Drag and drop an email to a Contacts category and make a new contact on your Outlook by filling all details you need of the person that sent an email.

Simple, right? Save your time !

Microsoft StaffHub for Frontline Workers

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Microsoft has made significant strides in recent years addressing the needs of workers who don’t work on a computer throughout the day. Some people don’t touch a computer at work at all, and yet they still require company news, communications, and access to company resources. I have seen estimates of 500 million to 2 billion people who fit into this category – that of frontline workers (although Microsoft uses the term “firstline”). Microsoft offers a plethora of Office 365 apps for mobile devices: Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote), Delve, SharePoint, OneDrive, and more. These apps are mobile-optimised versions of the larger application.

Microsoft is also investing in apps that are mobile-first, meaning they are first-and-foremost designed for people who use a mobile device as their primary (and perhaps only) device, not their secondary one. Microsoft StaffHub is an example of this workstream (released in January 2017). The StaffHub service offers a way for team leaders to create and share work schedules, tasks, and documents or links of relevance to their team. Schedules must be created and assigned using a web browser (therefore the team leader needs a computer, or at least access to one), but team members use the mobile app – available for iOS and Android – to view their schedules, request a schedule swap with another team member, create and work on tasks, hold discussions, and access the files and links their team leader has made available.

The capabilities in StaffHub enable the following:
• Each person with rights to StaffHub can sign into the browser edition and create one or more teams.
• Each team can be divided into multiple groups, although only using one team and one group is entirely fine.
• The team leader can add people to their team. An invitation to join is sent out by email, which must be opened using a mobile device. A new team member can’t use the link to accept the invitation on a computer.
• The team leader can create a schedule for each person, add notes to the day for every team/group member to view, and can also add notes to a specific shift for a person. Shift notes allow a team leader to point out a specific task or focus area for a team member for that shift. Once the schedule is created for a week (or day or month), the team leader can share the new schedule with their team. Each team member’s mobile app is updated, and they will receive a change alert.
• Each team has a files area to which the team leader can contribute files (documents, images) and links (URL resources). Team leaders can add and modify these; team members can view them. Files and documents must be added directly into StaffHub from the team leader’s computer; a team leader can’t browse a SharePoint document library or OneDrive for Business location for a file to add.
• Each person can belong to more than one group within a team, and to more than one team. For people in multiple teams, both the browser and mobile app enable switching between teams. Note that StaffHub does not create an aggregated calendar for a person on multiple teams; the schedule for each team is treated standalone. Notifications, however, are unified across teams, meaning that a single notifications screen shows all the outstanding notifications across all of the teams the individual is a member of.
• If enabled, team members can use StaffHub to clock in and clock out of their shifts. These time reports can be exported to other systems for payroll processing. There is also a location detection option in StaffHub, meaning that a worker will need to be at or near a specific geographical location in order to clock in or out, thereby reducing fraudulent time cards.
• Team members can use the mobile app to request a shift swap with another team member. All requests have to be approved by the team leader.

Everyone using StaffHub needs an Office 365 account. Note, however, that rights to StaffHub are included in the Office 365 F1 (Firstline) plan, which is much less than an Enterprise E1 plan or above. F1 also includes rights to Outlook (with a 2GB mailbox), Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive for Business, and more.

Applying formal Project Governance to Teams

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Few would argue that using Teams for smaller, less formal projects is a breakthrough. But could we actually use Teams for very formal projects that require stricter governance and more control. This blog will walk you through what works and what doesn’t, using our PACE Project Governance principles as a guideline.

Ensuring the project is aligned to the organisations vision and strategy is an important role for the Project Leader and Project Sponsors. Capturing this and communicating it with the rest of the team is something a Teams Wiki can do really well. This applies to capturing project objectives and any other information that can be classed as long term (not likely to change much) – think of the scope of the project, business case or impact analysis.

Silverside
Personally I have yet to discover an easy way to create an org-chart of the members of the Project Team or a RACI chart. But a simple table with the names, roles and responsibilities may be sufficient. (If not creating a SharePoint list is certainly an option or even an Excel spreadsheet. Save the spreadsheet in the Team and publish a link in the Wiki.)

A great benefit of the wiki is to on-board new project members, simply send them a link to the wiki, they can read up on background of the project. Before catching up on specific conversations and action lists.

Communication is vital to any project and takes on different forms. Discussions, whatever you do don’t discuss project matters in emails. Use Teams conversations functionality to discuss all matters for the project. Short status updates can be made in the General tab and specific updates or discussions in channels if required. Meetings, periodic, spontaneous, virtual or around the boardroom table. Skype functionality built into Teams means the whole team, or parts thereof, can meet. Meetings can be recorded, action items captured in you Planner action list. And finally, documentation, the more formal and long term form of communication.

Saving all documentation in the Files library of the Team (channel) epitomises modern collaboration. One file saved online, where everyone can edit or comment on the file. Versions are automatically saved and can be reverted to if required. By default, the latest version is always opened. Connect a file to a specific task, hold discussions around a document. Regardless of the size or complexity of a project, this functionality solves a myriad of collaboration issues.

Should your team members still find it difficult to keep track of conversations? Using @mentions can help significantly.

Then, vital to any project, task management in Teams is basically what the name says, a way to manage tasks. A little limiting if you are used to managing your projects formally or have complex projects that require RAID or CARDI logs. But you can get creative using the buckets and labels to take task management up a step towards project management.

Silverside
This is definitely a point where good planning will be worth the time you invest. If you rely heavily on dependencies, timelines and milestones consider opening the Team in SharePoint and adding a Task list. The list is highly customisable and users can link the tasks to their Outlook Tasks if they already work in Outlook. The downside is, there is currently no easy way to add this list to Teams. Your team would have to go to the SharePoint site to see the list. You can however build a mobile app for this list using PowerApps, which would make it very simple for users to add new tasks.

In conclusion, Teams, combined with Planner (or SharePoint depending on the complexity of your task management requirements), is a great solution for projects. Applying good project governance principles is possible in this modern collaboration tool.

Changes Afoot for Microsoft OneNote

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One of my friends once covered himself in Post-It Notes and walked into his local Microsoft office. He was hoping to become the product manager for Microsoft OneNote – hence the attention-grabbing way of presenting himself – but his approach was stymied because the receptionist didn’t even know what OneNote was.

That lack of knowledge still seems to be a challenge for Microsoft – people are either ardent fans or barely know the product exists. Although OneNote has been offered as part of Office since Office 2003 and is now included as part of Windows 10, it remains under-used for what it has to offer. Perhaps Microsoft’s work with tuning it for the education market with OneNote for Classrooms will seed the market with a whole new love for the program in about a decade’s time, but that’s a long-term play we will need to watch.

OneNote on Windows comes in two editions: a full-client edition in Office 2016, and the Windows 10 app edition installed as part of Windows 10 and updated from the Microsoft Store. The Office edition of OneNote has always been more fully-featured than the app edition, and while a OneNote notebook can be opened in both, having two editions has been confusing. And unnecessary. But that confusion is about to disappear.

Microsoft recently showed its hand on the future of OneNote for Windows users: the full-client version is going away, and the app version will become the primary offering (see The best version of OneNote on Windows). Frequent users of OneNote will have noticed that while the app edition has been updated relentlessly over the past couple of years, the OneNote 2016 edition has barely been touched. Past momentum has now been formalised into a statement of direction and future intent, even though the app edition does not yet support all the capabilities of the full-client edition.

The OneNote app edition does offer several features not available in the full-client edition, and more feature goodness is on its way. Current differences include ink effects, better ink-to-text support, a faster and more reliable sync engine, Researcher (for finding source materials and content to cite on your topic; requires an Office 365 subscription), and a list of recently changed notes (all notes across notebooks that you have recently changed). New forthcoming features include tags and tag search (with tags that roam across devices), and live previews of Office documents within a OneNote page.

One capability that will not be included in the OneNote app edition, however, is support for offline-only notebooks. In the app edition, all notebooks are created in OneDrive (or a SharePoint team site) and then synchronised to a local device. In the OneNote full-client edition, on the other hand, it is possible to create an offline-only notebook. For people who don’t want to have their information in cloud storage at all – or are prohibited from doing so due to strict privacy laws – this gives the full-client edition a major edge over the app edition. Going forward, at this time, Microsoft’s statement is “if you don’t like it, find another product.” Fans of the full-client edition will be able to keep using OneNote 2016 when Office 2019 hits the market, but no new Office 2019 edition of OneNote is planned. On current intent, it is unlikely that Microsoft is going to add many capabilities to OneNote 2016 going forward, so it is essentially being run off the road.

Overall, there are many people very upset with this statement of direction from Microsoft – the UserVoice forum for OneNote includes angry and passionate words from many users to retain the OneNote desktop edition in Office 2019. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft makes a new decision based on this outpouring of support from its ardent fans.

At Silverside, we advocate the use of OneNote both personally for personal information management and as part of team and group work. A OneNote notebook can be added to a Microsoft Teams workspace, and used and shared across the team for capturing ideas, for example in a meeting. Please check out our Smarter Meetings Principles document, and the associated Workbook on Smarter Meetings with Microsoft Teams.

In summary, what should you do now:

• If you haven’t used OneNote yet and are considering doing so, start with the app edition. At this point, it’s the right direction for new users of an amazing product.
• If you rely on OneNote 2016 and the app edition will not meet your requirements, upvote the capabilities you need in the OneNote Uservoice forum. And consider adding your support to the call for a re-consideration of the strategic direction.
• At some point, if Microsoft continues down this pathway and the app edition doesn’t become sufficient for you (for example, with no support for offline-only notebooks), you will need to find an alternative offering.