Who Switched the Drawers?

I have 21 drawers by my office desk. These hold stationery, paper, books to read, pens and pencils, pocket knifes, old thumbdrives, book manuscripts, keys, cables, in-progress projects, client-specific items, old journals I haven’t scanned yet, charging adapters, and much more. Each drawer has a particular focus, and over time and with repeated usage, I get pretty good at knowing where a given item is located. Repetition builds and extends recollection, so that I’m not usually rummaging through all 21 drawers to find a given object. For the drawers I use frequently, I know where to find what I’m looking for.

But the drawers are inter-changeable, so one can be withdrawn easily from one drawer unit and put into another one. So it’s entirely possible – and I’ve done this multiple times over the years – to re-allocate where each drawer is. Some items move to the top of the drawer stacks, others move towards the bottom.

And what chaos it creates. Now I’m usually rummaging. Now I’m opening each drawer in quick succession to find the object I’m looking for. Now I’m annoyed because something has moved, even though it was me who moved it – for a good reason. But once again, it’s a short-term pain and things settle into a new pattern; I know where to look, I can quickly locate each item, and I’m ready to work.
Making improvements to my drawer allocations has similar short term impacts when improving work through new tools like Office 365. While the baseline toolset is roughly the same – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook – achieving the impact and improvement requires changes in behaviour.

From hiding files on a personal drive to hosting them in SharePoint or OneDrive.

From controlling the world through Outlook to collaborating with the world through Teams, Yammer and Skype.

From relying on intentional search in SharePoint to resting with intent-aware serendipity via Delve and the Office Graph.

And then once you have developed a new rhythm, Microsoft changes things. Moves the drawers, as you will. A new feature here, a deprecated feature there, and a moved around feature over there … and the new way of working you were developing gets disrupted (slightly or more severely). But persevere. See the change, understand what it means for you, and keep going. Because truth be told (apologies in advance, I couldn’t resist saying it this way) – mark my word here – if you want to excel, you will need to change your outlook on toolset change and just flow with it individually and within your team.

The drawers might have been shifted. But you can still do your work with agility, flexibility and awesomeness. It will just take a few days to recapture your rhythm.

Backlash Against Group Chat

Group chat offers a particular approach to communication between people, characterised by rapid fire interaction, short sentences or thought fragments, and a fun and lively tone. This approach has several implications, such as:

  • The conversation space tends toward chaos, disjointedness, and dis-organisation. People weigh in on multiple, simultaneous and at times overlapping conversations within a given channel, and even across multiple channels. It is very easy to lose track of the essence of a conversation, and become caught in the vortex of apparent urgency. The nature of the medium calls for immediate feedback and interaction on new ideas, which results in an interrupt-driven always-connected work style. The focus on the hyper-short-term steals time and space from thinking on deeper issues and longer-term concerns for the team and its work.
  • The fast-paced interaction feeds the fear of missing out and contributes toward feelings of loss of control. Many Slack users, for example, find themselves impulsively and habitually checking their Slack channels to catchup on activity since they last checked in. Since topics are often discussed with too many words, over too long a time duration, and by people who are not even involved, responsible, nor accountable for decisions arising, active discussions become emotionally and cognitively overwhelming.
  • Short sentences and incomplete thoughts fired rapidly by multiple people into a conversation space undermines any semblance of a coherent line of argument. Such conversations are fragmented, shallow, and not good for depth of thought and insight. Some issues—many even—require a more thoughtful analysis and line of argument to be developed and written coherently in a longer document, whereas Group Chat merely has everyone endlessly chatting about it.
  • Social signals and team dynamics within a conversation space become confused in Group Chat. For example, is silence and non-participation in a topic an indicator of consensus, disagreement, or just that a team member isn’t currently available (and that the team should wait until they are available)? Conversations can quickly be commandeered by the noisy, quick-witted, and verbose members of the team, which when pushed to the extreme, can become workplace bullying and harassment.
  • A “discuss everything” principle can create the sense of always being in a meeting; or as one executive described it, “an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda.” Always waiting for someone else to respond to your one line comment gives a convenient excuse for not actually doing the work to fully form your own ideas. Another executive commented that “you are constantly tempted to converse on Slack instead of thinking or planning or doing other work.”

In summary, Group Chat can become a significant driver of the fear of missing out, frustrating conversation dynamics, continual interruptions, mental and cognitive fatigue, and the elimination of time to think. Recent research into the use of social media among young people and adults has highlighted the mental health problems that result from frequent use (see here and here); there are already signals that such dynamics apply equally to adults in the workplace due to Group Chat tools.

Over the past couple of years, we have seen the above (and more) charges levelled at Slack. How long until we see an equivalent stream of concern about the usage of Microsoft Teams?

Improving SharePoint Lists – Roadmap 2018

Microsoft used the recent SharePoint Conference to introduce numerous improvements to SharePoint lists scheduled for 2018. About one third of these are available now, with the reminder scheduled to be delivered by the end of December 2018.

Here’s the list of coming changes (with one adjustment from the Microsoft blog post to make it correct):

– Flow for Cognitive Analysis – Process any text for sentiment, key phrases, translation or moderation [Available Now]
– Row Formatting – Create immersive formatting for any list or library with scripting [Available later 2018]
– Image Analysis – Create immersive formatting for any list or library with scripting [Available now]
– AI for Images – Teach the cloud to recognize new objects for auto-tagging [Available Now]
– New ways to create lists – Create lists based on Excel, templates, or other lists [Available later 2018]
– Quicker list editing – Edit list content in place, and paste data from other sources [Available later 2018]
– Link list items – Connect list items to Planner, Outlook calendars, locations, and more [Available later 2018]
– Realtime list updates – See updates to lists and libraries instantly without refresh [Available later 2018]
– Analyze lists with Power BI – use Power BI to automatically mine list data for patterns and charts [Available later 2018]
– Build Microsoft Flow workflows with Visio – Model a new process in Visio and export it to Microsoft Flow to activate and run custom processes [Available July 2018].
– Add file upload to Microsoft Forms – Add a custom question to allow users to supply a file to upload to SharePoint

(I changed the description of the “Analyze lists with Power BI” one, since the original blog post incorrectly repeats the explanation from an earlier item on the list)

My Viewpoint
1. Lists and libraries are the fundamental building blocks of most SharePoint sites. Anything that improves these capabilities – makes them better, allows them to address new situations, enhances basic capabilities, and improves usability – is a good step forward. There’s a lot in the above list to like.

2. Realtime updates plus realtime triggers to Flow events will speed the pace of happenings within lists. No more refreshing the screen waiting for something new to arrive; now it will arrive and be displayed immediately, and if necessary (if it meets pre-set conditions), will cause an automated action to take place.

3. It is good to see the ability to create a new list based on an Excel spreadsheet. With Excel being the main competitor to SharePoint for list-based information, simplifying the transition from one to the other – and giving a faster pathway to gaining access to all the benefits of lists versus Excel – is a long overdue improvement.

4. Many of these changes will call for new education and training to help people take best advantage of them (to increase capability and competence). What should we now rely on a list for? What’s our unique value add? Where do we intervene and create a human moment, or apply human wisdom and intuition rather than relying on an AI curated answer.

5. We’ve come a long way since I wrote Seamless Teamwork in 2008 for Microsoft Press on SharePoint 2007.

Hyperfish Acquired by LiveTiles

Last year I wrote about Hyperfish a couple of times (Introduction, Beyond Active Directory, and Thoughts on Collecting Expertise).

I was interested to note that LiveTiles acquired Hyperfish late last week:

Headquartered in New York, LiveTiles is the market leader in intelligent workplace software empowering organizations across the world to reinvent how work is done. LiveTiles creates unforgettable user experiences that are further enhanced through artificial intelligence and advanced analytics capability.

The acquisition of Hyperfish by LiveTiles represents the merger of two of the fastest growing and most exciting companies in the Microsoft ecosystem. Their combined technologies will enable LiveTiles to deliver organizations the most compelling and advanced Intelligent Workplace platforms.

Stockhead has details on the financials of the deal.

Mmm, interesting times ahead. Either LiveTiles will constrain the Hyperfish technology to its own platform and offering, or bring scale and scope to the generalised nature of the Hyperfish value proposition to all Office 365 firms. I’m hoping for the latter.

Updates
1. Chris from Hyperfish says they will keep focusing on the bigger picture.
2. Jeremy Thake, who moved from Microsoft to Hyperfish to become VP Product Technology, is going back to Microsoft.

Notes from the Keynote at the SharePoint Conference 2018

On the Silverside blog, I share five key takeaways from the SharePoint Conference keynote earlier this week:

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:

Read more: Notes from the Keynote at the SharePoint Conference 2018

Thinking with SAMR – SharePoint News Changes

During the keynote from the SharePoint Conference 2018 in Las Vegas yesterday, Microsoft made several announcements of new goodness coming to SharePoint. One of those is the ability to create and publish organisational news, rather than just team news:

Deem specific sites as “organizational news sources” – as news rolls up to people across their SharePoint home in Office 365, or via the news tab in their SharePoint mobile [app], the news that comes from “organizational news source” sites will get special visual treatment bubbling up to the top of one’s view.

I said we could apply the SAMR model beyond educational technology. Let’s try this quickly with the announcement above from the SharePoint Conference:

– Substitution – this would look like a simple replacement of one form of distributing organisational news with another form but without any functional improvement, such as from email (a widely followed current practice) to online publishing (in SharePoint, as per the announcement). The new out-of-the-box page approval workflow probably sits here too, as it just replaces what happened previously with a new way that fits the change for news.

– Augmentation – something has to be added to the mix that wasn’t previously possible with the earlier form. Audience targeting based on metadata classifiers was also announced yesterday, and the use of this for organisational news would push the new feature up a level. Comments that have shared visibility, likes and sharing options that feed into the Microsoft Graph could be another example at this level.

What about modification and redefinition though? I’m not saying that Microsoft announced the capabilities that follow; I have tried to imagine what it could do with organisational news in order to transform the process (that is, do something at the modification or redefinition levels).

How about:

– There’s a lot of usually hidden chatter that goes on inside an organisation about current happenings, and whether these are good or bad for the organisation and its employees. It is hidden because it happens in non-public places, like email, instant messaging, and more. Based on real-time sentiment analysis of this hidden chatter – with suitable data protection to ensure only anonymised data is used – prompt the writers of organisational news with topics and specifics to write about … right here and now.

– Automatically generate an organisational news item to address any misconceptions that the sentiment analysis has identified. Do this without involving internal communications staff directly at all, but of course these would have to be based on authoritative news predicates.

What else could be a modification or redefinition, to use Ruben’s levels, in thinking about organisational news in SharePoint?

SharePoint Swoop – The Intranet Makeover Show

Microsoft published Season 1 of SharePoint Swoop: The Intranet Makeover Show, where three well-known MVPs swoop into an organisation for three days and make some SharePoint and Office 365 magic happen. This is Microsoft’s description:

SharePoint Swoop is not a typical reality show — this new, enterprise-focused, five-part web series from Microsoft is jam-packed with fun. Three MVP experts have just three days to help an international toy company modernize its overwhelmed intranet. Consultative makeovers of this kind normally take weeks. Can they do it?

Welcome to a world of enterprise reality TV. A world where the journey of a growing pop culture business intersects with three superhero Microsoft MVPs. Watch as it blends innovative technology and hands-on best practices for an intranet makeover you won’t want to miss. We caught it all on tape and are excited to share the learnings, best practices, and outcomes with you.

Some reflections after binge watching the 5 episodes:

1. This is a great initiative to show what’s possible when well-informed SharePoint and Office 365 experts are empowered to help. Sue I have met 3-4 times, Benjamin once, and I haven’t yet met Laura. They are good people in the community, and do great work.

2. While the show is positioned as helping the firm to “modernise its overwhelmed intranet” in three days, the reality of delivery is on a much smaller scale. One help site using a Hub site is built. One team site for The Shire is created. One PowerApp for tracking truck movements is built. Those are all great things to build within a three day period, but it isn’t the grandness of “modernising the intranet.” The CIO at the end of video 5 has the right expectation: this is a 1-2 year project / initiative.

3. The makeover shows what it should be like, in my view, when building and creating new ways of working for people and teams. Talk and listen. Explain and learn. Build and prototype. Improve and deliver iteratively. Get feedback and take the next step. In my book Collaboration Roadmap, I talk about the “Business Impact Group” that engages with business groups and teams to do this very thing. It is also the Facilitated Group Re-Imagining strategy in one of my other books – User Adoption Strategies. It’s great to see the idea come to life as a mini-series. It’s an informative way of showing the reality of an often hard-to-describe job description.

4. Office 365 and SharePoint Online enable (and demand) a new profile of the IT professional. The need for server administration, configuration, monitoring, upgrading, etc., is declining significantly. The need for bringing the innovation of what’s possible based on cloud-delivered services to people and teams is the new game. Sue, Benjamin and Laura demonstrate this new profile so well.

5. What. An. Amazing. Office.

I’m sure there’s more that could be said, but for today … awesome work to all involved.

Microsoft StaffHub for Frontline Workers

On the Silverside blog, I wrote about Microsoft StaffHub:

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).

Read more: Microsoft StaffHub for Frontline Workers

Changes Afoot for Microsoft OneNote

On the Silverside blog, I wrote about upcoming changes for Microsoft OneNote:

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.

Read more: Changes Afoot for Microsoft OneNote