SharePoint

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SharePoint News Update

Matt Mulherin - Keller Schroeder Applications ConsultantMatt Mulherin  – [Applications Consultant]

Microsoft has been very busy developing new and exciting features for SharePoint.  Now that SharePoint is online as part of Office 365, it is continually being updated and improved.  Microsoft’s vision for SharePoint going forward encompasses four key areas: share with confidence, transform business processes, inform and engage employees, and harness collective knowledge.


Share with Confidence

Microsoft Teams SharePoint

One of the newest updates is the ability to add a SharePoint page to a Teams channel.  Teams is a social and chat application that encourages quick and immediate collaboration.  For example, if you have a team of employees and you communicate regularly in Microsoft Teams chatting, by sharing files, etc., you then realize that you have a SharePoint page that needs be referenced by the team.  Instead of adding a link to the team chat window for everyone to click, which directs them away from the Team channel, you can simply add the page for reference directly in Microsoft Teams.

SharePoint and OneDrive files on Demand is another new feature that allows you to easily access your personal and professional files from your favorite device.  The files are not downloaded on your device until you choose to work with them.  This new feature is a major development because as a collection of files and folders grows exponentially in our personal and professional lives, we need a better way to manage and keep visible all of this important information.  We also need quick and easy ways to share this information from our devices, which you now can do by dropping the file directly into instant messages on your iOS device, or by simply right clicking directly in Windows Explorer on your desktop.


Transform Business Process

Microsoft Power Apps Sharepoint

You can improve your business processes by using SharePoint hub sites.  Hub sites give structure and topology to your SharePoint sites, allowing users to quickly find and access sites within your organization.  You can create one or many hub sites and organize your sites by associating like sites under the same hub site.

Create custom SharePoint forms and digital experiences with Microsoft PowerApps that surface directly in the context of a list or library.  These new forms provide better context to the user and are much more engaging and interactive.  Any user can transform a team’s organizational processes because PowerApps provides the creation of customized forms without the need to write any code.

Microsoft announced major improvements to lists.  Some of these features are available today and some in late 2018.  Cognitive analysis on list data, column and row formatting, more easily create lists based on excel data and other lists, edit lists more quickly, and real-time list updates (no more refreshing pages) are some of the new list improvements announced.


Inform and Engage Employees

Microsoft Sharepoint Communication SiteCommunication sites are dynamic sites that provide the ability to reach a broad audience within an organization.  Think of a communication site as a way for the organization to share news, inform and engage employees, while fostering open communication.  These sites look great on the web, on a PC or Mac, on mobile browsers and in the SharePoint app.  Publish news content on your communications site and it will automatically surface on the SharePoint home page in Office 365.  Configuring the layout of the communication sites is very user friendly with new multi-column sections and drag-and-drop authoring.

SharePoint provides many new out-of-the-box web parts, but custom web-parts are still possible.  Microsoft has a new SharePoint Development Framework (SPFx) that gives developers a better way to develop web parts and extensions.  SPFX is available today with SharePoint Online and it will be possible to develop SPFx custom code on-premises after the release of Feature Pack 2 this fall.

Microsoft just announced an exciting new feature called SharePoint spaces that is currently in limited preview.  It is an immersive, mixed reality experience for users, which allows visualization and editing of content from any angle on any device.  Microsoft suggests using spaces for recruiting and onboarding, learning, and product development business cases.


Harness Collective Knowledge

Microsoft SharePoint Server 2019For SharePoint On-Premise deployments, Microsoft is committed to on-premises and hybrid customers.  SharePoint Server 2016 has several features that confirm this commitment.  One is the on-premises feature packs that can be installed, which include some of the previously released SharePoint online features.  In addition, Microsoft provides hybrid features that allow organizations to have both an on-premises and online SharePoint environments working together to offer users a single user experience, such as merging search indexes and allowing users to view search results from both on-premises and SharePoint online.  Essentially, users are simply given content based on their search criteria, regardless of where the content is stored.

Microsoft is planning to release to preview SharePoint Server 2019 any day now and to general availability in the second half of 2018.  More hybrid features, Next-Gen Sync Client support, Modern UX throughout, and more Flow/PowerApps integration will be included.  In addition, SharePoint 2010 workflows and InfoPath forms will continue to be supported in SharePoint Server 2019.


SharePoint continues to grow as a popular and widely used enterprise-wide collaboration platform and we do not anticipate the growth will diminish.  According to Microsoft’s Office 365 Roadmap, 62 updates are beginning to roll-out and 190 are currently in development.  We only touched on the surface of all of the new and exciting features coming to SharePoint.  Please contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager to learn how SharePoint can positively impact the performance, collaboration, and engagement within your organization.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

New Year’s Resolutions for Application Owners & Managers

Rob Wilson[Business Unit Director – Application Solutions]

2016 Goals

Just in case you were having a hard time coming up with your goals and objectives for 2016, we wanted to pitch in and help. We asked some of our application developers, architects, and owners to contribute New Year’s resolutions for software application professionals. If you are responsible for owning or supporting an application at your organization, this list is for you.

Check your logs

Make it a goal to monitor your application logs proactively. It could be that errors are occurring behind the scenes that do not surface on the display. Proactively monitoring your application logs may help you identify smaller issues before they become large ones.

Upgrade your solution

Are you at the current release in your packaged software? Do you have a custom written app that was developed for an older version of .NET, Java, or another platform? If so, you may be missing out on some of the latest features or making yourself vulnerable to security risks that have been addressed in future releases. Make it a goal to get your packages and platforms up to date.

Archive and purge old data

If you have data that is old and irrelevant to your existing applications, it may be taking up needed space and causing performance degradation on your servers. Resolve to archive and purge that data in 2016 and maybe you will get a performance boost in your data intensive applications.

Give some needed attention to your mission critical applications

Have you developed mission critical applications in Access, Excel, or another platform that they have outgrown? Bite the bullet in 2016 and rewrite those applications on a more robust, multiuser platform such as .NET, Java, or SharePoint. The advantages will be immediately recognizable.

Make your web site mobile friendly

If you did not get the message in 2015 that Google will not include non-mobile sites in its mobile index, then you need to get motivated right away. Mobile devices are prominent. Google has said that more searches are performed now from mobile devices than from desktops in some regions. If the Google threat alone does not motivate you, focus on the improved user experience you will be providing to your employees, customers, and prospects.

Get a handle on your source code

Is the latest source code for all of your custom applications checked in to a central repository? Is it backed up regularly? If one-off applications do not make it into the repository, or if developers do not check in their latest revisions at the appropriate times, then you may put yourself in a precarious situation if those developers are unavailable or their workstations are compromised. Make 2016 the year you get a handle on the source code situation.

Have a security assessment performed

Do you have sensitive information in a database? Do you integrate with Active Directory or another directory service every place that you should? For every high profile data breach that hit the news in 2015, there were more data breaches that went unreported and possibly undetected.  Learn from the mistakes of others and have a security assessment performed by an experienced, quality partner.

Learn something new

There are plenty of free online resources that you can use to keep your skills relevant and up to date.  Try GitHub (https://github.com/vhf/free-programming-books), YouTube (https://www.youtube.com), or the free Pluralsight (https://www.pluralsight.com) subscription that comes with a MSDN license.  Spend a few hours to make sure your next project takes advantage of the latest software tools and runs as efficiently as possible.

If you need assistance accomplishing any of your Applications New Year’s Resolutions, contact your Keller Schroeder Account Team. We are here to help!

 

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

My Top 5 SharePoint 2016 Features

Matt Mulherin – Applications Consultant

Sharepoint Roll-over

 

SharePoint 2016 is scheduled to be released in the second quarter of 2016 with many new features for both cloud and on-premises (on-prem) deployments.  Of the 26 new SharePoint 2016 features listed on Microsoft’s TechNet site, I will highlight my favorite five.  The big focus with SharePoint 2016 seems to be helping organizations to bridge the gap between their on-prem SharePoint data with their Office 365 data, which Microsoft refers to as Hybrid.  Many organizations still choose to use the on-prem SharePoint product and do not want to fully commit to the cloud (SharePoint Online via Office 365).  Some organizations may choose to invest in some of the Office 365 offerings such as email, Office web applications, and OneDrive.  I understand the hesitation of some organizations to fully commit to the cloud, and based on the SharePoint 2016 features, it appears Microsoft also understands this.

Here are my five favorite features:

  1. New Hybrid in SharePoint 2016
  2. Sharing Improvements
  3. File Size and Name Limits Improved
  4. Mobile Touch Friendly Interface
  5. Protect the Organization’s Sensitive Data

 

New Hybrid Support

Is there confusion around your organization’s strategy regarding where to store documents?  Some organizations have two OneDrive deployments, one on-prem and one in Office 365.  If so, SharePoint 2016 can remedy this by redirecting the on-prem OneDrive to the Office 365 OneDrive.

Does your organization have sites on-prem and in Office 365?  If so, you can help your users by allowing them to “pin” a site, which will add the site to a combined list of sites that can reside on-prem and in Office 365.

Do your users complain they can’t find information because some of it is on-prem and some in the cloud?  One of the most highly anticipated hybrid features allows users to search both on-prem and Office 365 content in one place.

 

Sharing Improvements

Collaboration and the sharing of information between your employees is key to the success of any company.  SharePoint 2016 boasts some new and improved sharing features.  Users will be able to do the following:

  • Create and share folders
  • View sharing hints
  • Quickly see who the folder is shared with currently
  • Share with other members
  • Take advantage of improved invitation email
  • Approve or deny a request for access with one click

 

File Size and Name Limits Improved

SharePoint has historically blocked files larger than 2GB and files with certain characters in the name.  In SharePoint 2016 users can upload files up to 10GB in size and the names of the files can contain special characters like &, ~, {}, leading dots, and the name can be longer than 128 characters.

 

Mobile Touch Friendly Interface

People are increasingly accessing the internet through mobile devices.  With SharePoint 2016, users can utilize their mobile devices to interact with SharePoint using a newly designed touch enabled interface.  Here is a screen shot of what it looks like in the Preview version of SharePoint 2016.

sharepoint-2016-collaboration-experience

 

 

Protect the Organization’s Sensitive Data

Responsible organizations today use a variety of controls and policies to keep their data safe and secure.  Sometimes users will unknowingly upload documents into SharePoint with private information in them (e.g. Social Security Numbers, Credit Card Numbers, etc…).  SharePoint 2016 has a way to help find this sensitive data and assist in the process of removing it.  SharePoint Administrators can run reports that find sensitive data residing in SharePoint and OneDrive documents.  The exportable reports identify offending documents so the document owners can properly protect this sensitive data.

 

More to Come

As we think about the next version of SharePoint, it appears Microsoft is focused on delivering value to customers as part of their on-prem deployments, while at the same time making it easier to take advantage of cloud innovation thru hybrid deployments of SharePoint.  New features are being developed and we know they be will categorized as improved user experiences, cloud-inspired infrastructure, and compliance and reporting.  Keller Schroeder is committed to our clients utilizing SharePoint and we plan to publish more insights about the exciting new features of SharePoint 2016 in the future.  Stay tuned!

 

SharePoint-Server-2016-Update-1

 

Courtesy of the Microsoft SharePoint Team
by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Measuring Adoption

Rob Wilson, Business Unit Director – Application Solutions

Tape measure 2We all know it is important to measure return on investment (ROI) when implementing a new solution. Solution ‘x’ saved ‘y’ dollars by requiring ‘z’ fewer hours from employees ‘a’ and ‘b.’ But what about those projects where the cost savings are less quantifiable? How do you measure the success of a project, for example, whose sole purpose is to streamline communication? Or what about a project aimed at improving customer satisfaction? When there is not a direct impact on the bottom line, how will you know if your project succeeded? You measure the outcomes.

Before you can measure the outcomes, you need to identify them, and determine the appropriate metrics to measure. A recent software adoption course I attended suggested using a format such as this to position your initiatives:

Business Scenario: Flexible Payment Options

Use case:

As a…

I want to…

So that…

That means I need…

Associated Business Value:

Ability to pay online

Business Owner

Provide a way for my customers to pay their bills online

My customers experience the convenience of conducting business with us

To provide a secure payment page

– Customer satisfaction

– Improved cash flow

– Fewer delinquent payments

While I appreciate the spirit of this exercise, it would be better if it were more objective. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, suggests an approach that is based more on the scientific method. According to sciencebuddies.org, the steps of the scientific method are:

  • Ask a question
  • Do background research
  • Construct a hypothesis
  • Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment
  • Analyze your data and draw a conclusion
  • Communicate your results

A simpler, more scientific way of articulating your objectives and measuring their adoption may go like this:

We believe that our customers would appreciate a more convenient way to pay their bills.
We will test this by creating an online form for customers to pay their bills on our web site.
We will know we have succeeded if 25% or more of our customers have paid 3 bills online within a year of launching the feature.

How you come up with that final statement is a topic for another day. You will get better at analytics with experience. I will say that measuring adoption over time is key, so do not get too disappointed if early adoption is slow, or too elated if your early numbers are through the roof. Your metrics should have some factor of time involved when measuring adoption. This brings me to the next point: how do you present your findings? You should not need a degree in reading log files to measure adoption. A better approach would be to build your objectives and outcomes right into the application itself, and display them on an administrative dashboard. In this case, a chart showing the trending in online payments – particularly by repeat customers – would be most effective.

Let us consider another example. Suppose your objective is to improve communication of your company policies with your employees. Emailing a policy to your staff would be difficult to track. Emailing a link to a policy on your intranet would be a step up – if you do not mind parsing log files. Ideally, however, you would email a link to your policy where it sits on SharePoint or some other platform, and with a little custom code, SharePoint can log a list of everyone who has read each policy (even a particular version of a policy). Creating some quick views would allow you to view metrics and provide the tools you need to nudge holdouts on key policies.

Policy-Example

In summary, if you want to measure the success of a software initiative, you should determine the desired outcome, decide how you will measure it, and agree upon which results will show you have succeeded. Restate your value hypothesis on a scorecard on an admin dashboard, and track the results over time. I trust you will find that a focus on adoption such as this will greatly improve your decision-making over time – including knowing what features are important to your audience and justifying what projects should be implemented. If you would like help getting started, contact us for a consultation on software adoption strategies.

Contact your Account Manager at Keller Schroeder for more information about our Applications Solutions Group  and how it might benefit your organization.

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