Office 365 – Are You Distracted by Shiny Things!


Team CollaborationWithin the last six to eight months, Microsoft has made a tremendous push by adding more features to Office 365. As I am talking with my clients about these features, I am always asked “So now what are we going to do?” or “That new feature is really cool!”. Most organizations will look at these new features and say “We are going to restrict the use until we have time to figure out what this can do”!. They do not want to have the “Shiny Thing” issue that can happen when new features are implemented. Additionally, they never really get to it because IT is distracted by many other internal activities.

So what are some of the features we are talking about? They include:

  • Office 365 Groups
  • Delve
  • OneDrive for Business
  • Sway
  • Yammer
  • Video Portal
  • SharePoint Online (not new but still being improved upon all of the time)

Additionally Microsoft has promised more things will be added in the future such as Infopedia and Office Planner.

With that said, it is important to not be caught up in the “Shiny Thing” frenzy that sometimes happens within organizations. So what does an organization do? Really, nothing different than what you are currently doing. Make sure you are continually answer the following questions:

  • What type of content do we currently have?
  • How do we communicate and collaborate internally and externally of our company?
  • Where does our content live and how do we want it available?
  • What type of business processes are users interacting with daily, weekly, or monthly?

When you look at the “Day in the Life” of a user within a department, you will be able to answer these questions and then determine the eventual solution. I have found that not talking about the technology and focusing on what users are doing helps to create an safe meeting that participants give us useful information.

After the information has been gathered, then you need to look at all of the functionality that is available not only within the SharePoint online area but anything that Office 365 has available. This will mean diving in and understand what Office 365 features can do. As you determine the best solution for your business units, it is important to document the best practices to ensure end users know what is the overall solution for this type of business requirement.

Here are some examples of business requirements and possible solutions that involve Office 365. I purposely made these examples similar in nature so show how business requirements may change the end delivery.

Example 1

Business requirement: The sales department primarily collaborates using emails which typically contain document attachments of content they are working on. Additionally the email conversations can become very lengthy and rarely include everyone that needs to have a say. Additionally the sales manager would like to move this information out of Outlook and centralize document sharing because IT has a mailbox quota in place.

Possible solution: Combination of SharePoint Online team sites for centralized document collaboration, embedding Yammer group feed into the team site and using the Post to Yammer feature already integrated into the platform. Additionally, the organization should implement Identity Management components to enable seamless single-sign on between applications.

Example 2

Business requirement: The sales department primarily collaborates using emails which typically contain document attachments of content they are working on. Additionally the email conversations can become very lengthy and rarely include everyone that needs to have a say. Because they are Sales, they live and breathe through their Outlook client. Their focus is centralizing their content around the conversations they are having within Outlook.

Possible solution: It is highly recommended the Sales team uses Office 365 Groups and Outlook 2016. Office groups allow the department members to still utilize Outlook 2016 to connect with the group. The Office Group also has a OneDrive for Business area to allow the group to collaborate on content.

Example 3

Business requirement: Currently the Marketing department is utilizing DropBox to send files to external consultants. The Marketing director has had a hard time when someone leaves the company and they need to retain an of those files that were used in DropBox. The marketing director also wants to leverage Microsoft products because of their integration.

Possible solution: Implement OneDrive for Business (ODFB) for the Marketing group. This solution allows for files up to 10 GB to be added into their person ODFB, they are allowed to share externally to other users and information is retained using Active Directory security. Additionally Information Rights Management can be implemented to ensure that intellectual property is retained.If someone leaves, all files can be made available to the Marketing manager. Additionally, with ODFB desktop sync, it allows for files to be made available locally.

Example 4

Business requirement: Currently the Marketing department is utilizing DropBox to send files to external consultants. The Marketing director has had a hard time when someone leaves the company and they need to retain an of those files that were used in DropBox. The marketing director also wants to continue to leverage DropBox because of some of features.

Possible solution: Implement Azure AD Premium which allows the organization to have single sign-on functionality with DropBox. Once established, DropBox is integrated into Outlook Online as well as iPad/iPhone apps. This also allows IT and Marketing director the ability to have access to the content if someone leaves the company since it is controlled by Azure and the companies Active Directory.

When it comes down to it, business requirements will still need to be met no matter how “Shiny” the features are. If they do not provide a solution to an existing problem then hold off on implementing. Good luck and remember not to be distracted by the “Shiny Thing”!

</don>

 

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Advanced Dashboard Creation Using Excel, Excel Services, PerformancePoint and Apps for Office


Later on day 3 of the SPC12 conference I sat in a packed session with Kevin Donovan talking about some of the advances of SharePoint, Excel, and PerformancePoint. Kevin started by talking the different levels of Business Intelligence that are being move evident within today’s workplace. These include:

  • Personal Business Intelligence – using Excel and connecting to data (available On Premises and Cloud)
  • Self-Service Business Intelligence – create Excel and publish to SharePoint (available On Premises and limited Cloud)
  • Corporate Business Intelligence – authored using SharePoint, Excel Services, and PerformancePoint for the entire organization (available On Premises and very limited Cloud)

Kevin jumped into great advances within the Excel 2013 including:

  • Quick Analysis – right click on table to access and this gives you many tools to quickly analyze your information
  • Recommended Pivot Tables – when creating a Pivot Table this will bring in any other pieces of data, such as Power View and make them available
  • Timeline Slicer – similar to regular slicers except based on time
  • Power View – which is now included within Excel 2013 and not an add-in

Kevin continued to talked about some of the issues that arise when self-service Business Intelligence becomes more prevalent within organizations. People tend to start questioning the validity of the data and ask where it came from. Microsoft recently acquired an auditing product called Audit and Control Management server. This product will be able to audit changes make to spreadsheets, configure an custom alerts and even access historical information about the file. This will help with internal compliance and regulatory needs.

One of the newer tools that is available within SQL Server Data Tools (called BIDS previously) allows IT to bring in a PowerPivot set of data found within an Excel workbook and use within Analysis Services. This helps to move the presentation layer for the data from a Self-Service BI to Corporate BI mentality. Of course when the organization is ready to make the move.

From the Excel Services side for SharePoint 2013 there are a lot of new/improved features that have been plaguing this feature since SharePoint 2007. Field List/Field Well is the capability of tapping into data connection within the web browser to choose a dimension. This will negate the need to having to always open the client when working with your data. Another important feature is EffectiveUsername. This allows you to pass a username identity to Analysis Services which is set on the connection string. Ultimately it connects using the as the process identity for Excel Services and then uses the logged on user name to access the appropriate data.

Another thing that I always had a hard time with in SharePoint 2007 & 2010 was remembering what a named range/object was within the Excel spreadsheet. Now with Named Object View v2 we have the capability of choose these named ranged while in the browser and interacting with the information.

Kevin talked some about the new Microsoft App Store. This store is not just for Windows phone 8. Included in the App Store are applications that are created for use within SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 products. For example, he highlighted an election map for the just recent election that allows you to see over time what happened for electoral and popular vote for the presidency. The Add Apps for Office can be found in the Insert Page of an Office 2013 product.

AppsForOffice

 

The Apps for Office currently out there are taking free data sets and creating a dashboard to help developer understand what is possible. These Apps can be created internally of your organization allowing you to tie into existing data sources. Once these Apps have been created they can be published to File Shares, the Microsoft Marketplace, or Corporate Catalogs within SharePoint.

The presentation moved to talked about changes within the PerformancePoint environment. Kevin started out by outline big picture some of the changes within this SharePoint 2013 service.

  • Themes – any theme that is applied to a SharePoint site will be carried over into the dashboard.
  • Dashboard Designer can now be initiated from the SharePoint ribbon.
  • Filter Enhancements & Filter Search – this feature allows you to drill down into information quickly, search for a specific piece of information within the filter and then bolds the hierarchy so you know which nodes you selected.
  • EffectiveUsername – is the same feature as within Excel and Excel Services.
  • Server-Side Migration – allows a dashboard or individual components within a Dashboard to be exported from one location and imported into another SharePoint location. The export/import will also allow you to include data connections and Excel spreadsheets that are associated to your dashboard. This can also be scripted by using PowerShell from the SharePoint server.
  • Dashboard Designer Authentication allows organizations to not only use Windows Authentication but also Forms Based Authentication when creating dashboards.

Overall I found this session to be very informative when it comes to using out of the box features to help deliver Business Intelligence information to the users. In the scheme of things the Excel/Excel Services components would be considered Crawl and some Walking. The PerformancePoint would probably start within the Walk and move into the Run phases for organizations with BI needs.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Advanced Dashboard Creation Using Excel, Excel Services, PerformancePoint and Apps for Office


Later on day 3 of the SPC12 conference I sat in a packed session with Kevin Donovan talking about some of the advances of SharePoint, Excel, and PerformancePoint. Kevin started by talking the different levels of Business Intelligence that are being move evident within today’s workplace.

To read more of this blog post please click here.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Advanced Dashboard Creation Using Excel, Excel Services, PerformancePoint and Apps for Office


Later on day 3 of the SPC12 conference I sat in a packed session with Kevin Donovan talking about some of the advances of SharePoint, Excel, and PerformancePoint. Kevin started by talking the different levels of Business Intelligence that are being move evident within today’s workplace. These include:

  • Personal Business Intelligence – using Excel and connecting to data (available On Premises and Cloud)
  • Self-Service Business Intelligence – create Excel and publish to SharePoint (available On Premises and limited Cloud)
  • Corporate Business Intelligence – authored using SharePoint, Excel Services, and PerformancePoint for the entire organization (available On Premises and very limited Cloud)

Kevin jumped into great advances within the Excel 2013 including:

  • Quick Analysis – right click on table to access and this gives you many tools to quickly analyze your information
  • Recommended Pivot Tables – when creating a Pivot Table this will bring in any other pieces of data, such as Power View and make them available
  • Timeline Slicer – similar to regular slicers except based on time
  • Power View – which is now included within Excel 2013 and not an add-in

Kevin continued to talked about some of the issues that arise when self-service Business Intelligence becomes more prevalent within organizations. People tend to start questioning the validity of the data and ask where it came from. Microsoft recently acquired an auditing product called Audit and Control Management server. This product will be able to audit changes make to spreadsheets, configure an custom alerts and even access historical information about the file. This will help with internal compliance and regulatory needs.

One of the newer tools that is available within SQL Server Data Tools (called BIDS previously) allows IT to bring in a PowerPivot set of data found within an Excel workbook and use within Analysis Services. This helps to move the presentation layer for the data from a Self-Service BI to Corporate BI mentality. Of course when the organization is ready to make the move.

From the Excel Services side for SharePoint 2013 there are a lot of new/improved features that have been plaguing this feature since SharePoint 2007. Field List/Field Well is the capability of tapping into data connection within the web browser to choose a dimension. This will negate the need to having to always open the client when working with your data. Another i mportant features is EffectiveUsername. This allows you to pass a username identity to Analysis Services which is set on the connection string. Ultimately it connects using the as the process identity for Excel Services and then uses the logged on user name to access the appropriate data.

Another thing that I always had a hard time with in SharePoint 2007 & 2010 was remembering what a named range/object was within the Excel spreadsheet. Now with Named Object View v2 we have the capability of choose these named ranged while in the browser and interacting with the information.

Kevin talked some about the new Microsoft App Store. This store is not just for Windows phone 8. Included in the App Store are applications that are created for use within SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 products. For example, he highlighted an election map for the just recent election that allows you to see over time what happened for electoral and popular vote for the presidency. The Add Apps for Office can be found in the Insert Page of an Office 2013 product.

AppsForOffice

 

The Apps for Office currently out there are taking free data sets and creating a dashboard to help developer understand what is possible. These Apps can be created internally of your organization allowing you to tie into existing data sources. Once these Apps have been created they can be published to File Shares, the Microsoft Marketplace, or Corporate Catalogs within SharePoint.

The presentation moved to talked about changes within the PerformancePoint environment. Kevin started out by outline big picture some of the changes within this SharePoint 2013 service.

  • Themes – any theme that is applied to a SharePoint site will be carried over into the dashboard.
  • Dashboard Designer can now be initiated from the SharePoint ribbon.
  • Filter Enhancements & Filter Search – this feature allows you to drill down into information quickly, search for a specific piece of information within the filter and then bolds the hierarchy so you know which nodes you selected.
  • EffectiveUsername – is the same feature as within Excel and Excel Services.
  • Server-Side Migration – allows a dashboard or individual components within a Dashboard to be exported from one location and imported into another SharePoint location. The export/import will also allow you to include data connections and Excel spreadsheets that are associated to your dashboard. This can also be scripted by using PowerShell from the SharePoint server.
  • Dashboard Designer Authentication allows organizations to not only use Windows Authentication but also Forms Based Authentication when creating dashboards.

Overall I found this session to be very informative when it comes to using out of the box features to help deliver Business Intelligence information to the users. In the scheme of things the Excel/Excel Services components would be considered Crawl and some Walking. The PerformancePoint would probably start within the Walk and move into the Run phases for organizations with BI needs.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – SharePoint 2013 Upgrade Deep Dive


In the morning of SPC2012 day 3 I attended the SharePoint 2013 Upgrade Deep Dive by Sean Livingston. This was a part two by Sean who did an Overview on the first day of the conference. Sean started off by showing us a particularly interesting flowchart that depicted the Check Site Collection Health, Request Site Collection Upgrade, and Create Evaluation Site Collection components work.

 

Deferred Site Collect Upgrade Flowchart

 

Compatibility level is the successor to Visual Upgrade which was introduced in SharePoint 2010. Similar to what we saw in 2010, if a site is in SharePoint 2010 or 14 mode then it only has those SharePoint 2010 features. It is not until you upgrade to SharePoint 2013 or 15 mode you will be able to use the newer features. The compatibility level designation is only found on the site collection level and can be found within PowerShell at the following object level SPSite.CompatibilityLevel.

Because both exist it is possible to create both SharePoint 2010 and 2013 site collections. There are some exceptions to this because of deprecated features including:

  • Web Analytics
  • PowerPoint Broadcast
  • Work Group Templates

Also because of this split architecture it is important to note that when installing SharePoint Solutions you will also need to specify which environment this is deploying out to. Options for CompatibilityLevel include:

  • 14 – to install in the 14 directory
  • 15 – to install in the 15 directory
  • “14,15” – installs in both directories
  • “AllVersions” or “All” installs in both directories
  • “OldVersions” or “Old” installs in the 14 directory
  • “NewVersion” or “New” installs in the 15 directory

Another important component is wrapped around the ability for SharePoint 2013 for Site Collection Administrators to upgrade from SharePoint 2010 to 2013. To prevent all 30 Site Collection Administrators from upgrading all at once and taxing your memory and SQL IOPS there is a throttle in place. The upgrade queue will handle 10 upgrades per content database or 5 per web application. It is first come first server when it comes to upgrades. As the upgrades are processed there is a monitor that will allow you to check the progress: Queued, In Progress, Failed, or Success. This is accomplished by using the following command:

Get-SPSiteUpgradeSessionInfo -ContentDatabase -ShowProgress -ShowCompleted

It is possible to adjust the number of upgrades that the queue can handle, which is done at the web application level using the SPWebApplication.SiteUpgradeThrottleSettings.UsageStorageLimit or the SPWebApplication.SiteUpgradeThrottleSettings.SubwebCountLimit object model within PoSH. However a word of warning, only do this if you have an environment with hardware to handle the increase load. SharePoint PoSH also includes the capability of evicting an upgrade that is currently in queue. Also if you do not have Site Collection Administrators that will be doing the upgrade you can as a Farm Administrator run the Upgrade-SPSite for any of the site collections. This command will still honor the database throttling that has been established. The following command will add all site collections all at once:

Get-SPSite | upgrade-spsite -versionUpgrade –QueueOnly

Along with the upgrade throttling there is a Evaluation Site Collection throttling. As a reminder this is the capability of a SharePoint 2010 Site Collection to preview an upgrade to 2013. This create an “Evalulation” copy of the site collection. This process works with SQL server that supports Snapshots, otherwise it will use backup and restore. Besides the throttling, SharePoint 2013 also includes a timer job that will run to put up those in queue and process them. Because this is a copy of the site collection, it will take up more space in the database to ensure there is enough room to handle this overhead. There is also an expiration date of 30 days after creation. This can be changed using PoSH.

Another interesting component for SharePoint 2013 is that when create web applications, the default security is now going to be Claims. This was not true in SharePoint 2010. It is highly recommended that you use Claims since it is a more secure environment, but if you do not currently have Claims setup in your environment it is recommended that you upgrade to Claims prior to migration to SharePoint 2013.

All in all this was a very informative session on the inner workings of the SharePoint 2013 upgrade avenue. I know I will be using doing this more and more in the upcoming months.

</don>

SharePoint Conference 2012 – Search Driven Web Sites and Cross Site Publishing with SharePoint 2013


I was really looking forward to this presentation about Search driven web sites by Daniel Kogan primarily because of having multiple clients that we purposely had chosen an architecture that was a single site collection because of the need to display information quickly and without much development. I had also known that SharePoint 2013 had a new web part called the Content Search web part. Very practical applications!

Daniel started by talking why a search driven publishing model.

  • Primarily because of the site collection issue.
  • He also mentioned that the overall architecture does not really matter, for example SharePoint 2010 and 2013 have list thresholds. Now the content can be stretched across multiple lists and this should not matter.
  • This allows for more flexible and dynamic publishing
  • Separate storage and presentation which is something companies have been asking for
  • More efficient way of handling information

He went on to talk about some of the components of the new Search that help with this overall concept:

  • Content Search
  • Content Query
  • Term Content
  • Managed Navigation
  • Publishing Page

Along with these components the query can display basic information or a Query Rule can be applied. In a previous post I talked about Query Rules (a.k.a. Key Words) and how these can be connected to internal business rules. Query rules can also include related items and recommendations that can be displayed.

The building blocks of this solution include:

  • Content Search Web Parts
  • Display Templates
  • Query Builder
  • Query Rules
  • Content Catalogs
  • Managed Navigation

Catalogs is a new concept for SharePoint. More specifically it is found at the site or the library/list level. Once enabled this becomes the store for information and can be quickly displayed within the Content Search Web Parts.

Query within SharePoint 2013 has been created to help bring back many pieces of information or just 1 relevant piece of information (say a news article). This is what we call the Cross-Site Publishing component for SharePoint 2013.

Content Search Web Parts is the display component for the publishing information. This can use the Query Builder to whittle down the information needing to display. This Query Builder is a web based tool that makes it easy to create a Query string. SharePoint Farm administrators can also create queries and make them available. Once concern when using this web part is around how soon we will be able to see information once added into SharePoint. By using the continuous crawl information will be displayed relatively soon after adding into the environment.

Display templates utilize HTML and JavaScript to give different look and feels for the results. SharePoint 2013 already has multiple display templates already available. Organizations will need to understand HTML and JavaScript to be able to skin the results for their particular needs.

The SharePoint 2013 Term Store/Managed Metadata includes the capability of using information within the Navigation. The Term Store term set will need to be enabled to use with Managed Navigation. Once this has been enabled, the page hierarchy do not show up in the URL. These are replaced with the Term Store term hierarchy. For example you will not see Catalogs/Pages/Products/123xyz.aspx you could see category1/category2/123xyz.aspx. We could have used this for a couple of our SharePoint internet clients.

Because of the high use of Search within this scenario it will be quite important to make sure that search becomes a highly available service to build out the appropriate architecture. Happy searching!

</don>