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.

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.

Hyperfish – Thoughts on Collecting Expertise

In the announcement of the Hyperfish Integration Framework are three items that can now be collected:

Customers can now use Hyperfish to collect information that has been time consuming or difficult to get collect in the past, such as employee skills and expertise, asset registration, and personal information.

Two are similar, one is very different. The two similar items – asset registration and personal information – extend Hyperfish’s current approach of asking for information that has a demonstrably correct value. What is your first name? What is your last name? What is your phone number? What is the serial number of your laptop, tablet, or smartphone? In what city were you born? What school did you attend when you were 14 years old? Each question has a correct answer for which easy proof can be found (as well, of course, as a set of incorrect answers).

Employee skills and expertise, however, is a very different beast, even though the fields supplied in the Office 365 profile treat it as the same. Collecting, gathering, and discerning expertise for a profile is a complex can of worms; consider:

  • Expertise refers to the ability to perform at an expert level in a particular subject or topic area. Some expertise is explicit (can be documented) and some is tacit (hard to express in words).
  • Declared expertise – where an individual says what they are good at – has a low level of reliability. The individual will be too modest, too extreme, or just plain wrong. One study suggests that any expertise declarative by an individual about themselves should have the status of undefined (unverified).
  • Other people experience the expertise delivered by an individual, and thus are more reliable at stating what someone is good at. The same study above says the individual’s manager is the most reliable rater, and that the ratings from 7-10 additional colleagues are required to match the manager’s rating.
  • Private ratings of other people are more accurate than attributable ratings. “When raters think their ratings will be or could be revealed, 67% of ratings increase significantly and become less correlated to performance.
  • There are many content systems in an enterprise through which expertise can be demonstrated: documents written, blogs posted, discussion comments (“best answer!”) given, and emails sent. There are attempts being made to mine this growing collection of content to map expertise.

In light of the above, if Hyperfish is serious about collecting expertise in a way that’s helpful to an organisation, the approach will need to include the ability to (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Ask multiple people about the expertise they receive from a given individual, and then summarise / rank / rate / scale the result set to give an overall assessment.
  • Be able to integrate with systems that can look through documents and other written forms of expressing and delivering expertise in order reason out key themes and areas of expertise. If an organisation is using such a system, the Hyperfish Integration Framework should allow the creation of mapping and sync rules.
  • Have the ability to automatically populate and control some values in the single expertise field, while allowing the individual to manually edit other values.

Profiling expertise is a fascinating (and highly complex) area. While Hyperfish’s framework will give the technical ability to collect expertise and skills, more will be required to gather correct / accurate / helpful / validated answers.

Hyperfish – Beyond Active Directory

Yesterday I outlined the original idea of Hyperfish: ensuring that directory and profile information is up-to-date and complete in Active Directory (including on-premises and Azure AD, and a hybrid of both). Hyperfish works by asking people directly for their up-to-date information, and connecting to authoritative systems. The observation that Active Directory was almost always a mess led to the creation of Hyperfish.

With the release of the Hyperfish Integration Framework in late September, my guess is that Hyperfish came face-to-face with the deeper reality of corporate IT systems: the “authoritative systems” that should hold the right data all the time are also out-of-date, inaccurate, incomplete, and therefore not very authoritative. It’s not a just an Active Directory problem; it’s an all-of-IT problem. And if you are trying to solve the problem in Active Directory, you either wait for someone else to solve the other-IT problem, you give up, or you do it yourself.

Enter do it yourself.

The new Integration Framework extends the original idea of Hyperfish from Active Directory only to other structured data sources:

The Hyperfish Integration Framework enables Hyperfish customers and partners to extend the service to non-directory systems such as HRIS and other structured data sources. Using the Hyperfish Integration Framework, organizations can analyze, collect, and update missing profile information across almost any structured data source, automating the process of keeping profile information fresh and up-to-date. Customers can now use Hyperfish to collect information that has been time consuming or difficult to get collect in the past, such as employee skills and expertise, asset registration, and personal information.

Since it is now the authoritative data sources that are being updated, Hyperfish is relying on its “ask the person” pathway for collecting the data required, using an email alert or a chatbot request. But the core idea is to get the right data into the right system, and then set up mapping and connection rules to link newly right data with all the other structured data sources (including Active Directory) that rely on them.

As an Active Directory-only play, Hyperfish offered a compelling proposition to Microsoft customers. As a wider play for using its technology chops beyond Active Directory, it is becoming compulsory.

Hyperfish – Introduction

Two things stand out to me about Hyperfish: first, they take meeting productivity seriously, and second, they offer an incredible tool for directory accuracy and profile information. On meeting productivity, they don’t allow the use of technology for distraction, which means:

At Hyperfish, we only allow meeting organizers to have laptops in meetings. This really prevents people not paying attention in meetings.

On the tool side, its namesake offering ensures that directory and profile information is up-to-date and complete, and works with Active Directory on-premises, with Azure AD in Office 365, and supports hybrid environments too.

Here’s the back story as I heard it from an early employee. Nintex, a workflow automation tool for SharePoint, relies on Active Directory for name lookup, manager lookup, and the lookup of other relationships between people in order to do its routing and escalations properly. However, very few organisations have a “perfect” Active Directory; more likely, the quality ranking is at the other end of the scale, the result of inattention, complexity, frequent changes of role and location, mergers and acquisitions, and all sorts of other directory atrophy. In other words, the lack of good directory information compromises the ability of workflow tools to work properly. That’s an opportunity. So one of the co-founders of Nintex teams up with some ex-Microsoft contacts and goes to work on how to solve this problem – creating a new product and revenue stream in its own right, but more strategically laying the foundation for greater usage and adoption of Nintex (and other workflow tools too).

Enter Hyperfish. The basic goal is to ensure directory details and contact information for everyone are up-to-date. There are two basic pathways for getting there: ask the person, and connect with other authoritative systems:

Approach 1. Ask the Person
Each individual in an organisation should know their work phone number, email address, mobile number, current job role, office location, etc. By asking each person when directory information is missing, Hyperfish can populate the directory with validated data. Hyperfish can use an email alert or a chatbot interaction to prompt the individual for whatever information is required.

Here’s the flow as Hyperfish illustrates it:

With Microsoft announcing Microsoft Teams as the strategic universal client for real-time communications (not Skype for Business), we can expect to see Hyperfish creating a bot that works in that environment.

Approach 2. Connect with Other Authoritative Systems
In my Office 365 book I say “don’t ask for dumb data” (page 105):

Employees should not have to fill in “dumb data,” which is data that is already authoritatively stored and known from other systems. First name, last name, email address, phone numbers, office location, manager, assistant, and similar data should not be requested from employees when filling in their profile; those details are well-known and should be auto- populated. In some cases an employee will need to correct the data (which should be done in the kingpin system and then flow through), or an employee may not want particular data broadcast across the entire firm. In the latter case, having the ability to add security permissions to data elements is a useful system capability.

Hyperfish does this in spades (yay!), allowing the creating of mapping and update rules between authoritative systems holding directory and profile information and Active Directory. Here’s the example Hyperfish provides:

In the above case, rules have been created to pull specific information from Workday and SAP into the directory, precluding the need to ask an individual for those details. And since the rules can be scheduled, when the data changes in the authoritative system, it will be reflected promptly (not immediately; depends on the schedule frequency) in Active Directory too. Talk about directory goodness!

There are lots of other cool things (read: important functional capabilities that address valid business needs) in Hyperfish too, such as attribute approval, profile picture validation (no cat pictures), attribute presentation rules, and directory scoping (for a phased implementation).

I like what I see.

A Workshop – One Day? Two Days? Longer?

Agnes outlines her thinking on workshop length:

The most common question I get about my upcoming workshop, SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 Search in Practice, is why I’ve decided to choose a two-day format.

I know it could be one day. Also, it could be three days, or even up to five.

I do have ten years of experience teaching and doing workshops around the globe. I’ve tried several formats. Some worked, some didn’t. What I’ve found is that I don’t like frontal teaching. It’s not my style. And I know, it can be exhausting as an attendee, too.

In her post, Agnes talks about:
– 3 teaching / learning approaches used in workshops, and
– the five reasons she has embraced the two-day design.

This is a question I have wrestled with many times too. It’s good to see someone else’s thinking … and decision rationale.

And if search in SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 is important in your work, you should sign up to attend.

SharePoint Intranets-in-a-Box v2 – from Clearbox

Sam and his team at Clearbox Consulting have published another great report: the 2016 update of their SharePoint Intranets-in-a-Box report:

Our comprehensive guide to turn-key SharePoint solutions will accelerate your purchasing decision and ensure you make the right choice. It is full of practical advice on the tools that can give you a quick-start to an intranet. Is Unily better than Rise? Is LiveTiles right for you? What are Wizdom’s strengths and weaknesses?


We review 26 of the solutions on offer, using eight common scenarios based on our years of experience in SharePoint consulting. Because we focus on the business side of SharePoint and don’t sell any products, we are able to give you a genuinely independent evaluation.


The report contains over 250 pages, including screenshots, scenario-based evaluations, and our honest opinion. You won’t get this kind of information just from vendor websites or anywhere else. To top it off, we have comparison tables across the board to help you identify options to match your requirements, budget and location.

Available immediately for purchase from Clearbox.

See also:
– Martin White, “The definitive guide

Your Future with SharePoint? Answer the 5 W’s

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Earlier in this series:
1 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Back
2 – Your Future with SharePoint? Looking Forward

Answer the 5 W’s
Microsoft’s future with SharePoint offers increased simplicity (e.g., new modern libraries and lists), mobile interaction (e.g., the new SharePoint app for mobile phones), and efforts to make SharePoint core to the Office 365 platform – not a shrinking shadow of yesteryear. In the first post, I explored Microsoft’s journey with SharePoint over recent years.

In the second post, I took a wide view and reported on some of the principles and frameworks that can be used to inform an organisational journey with SharePoint. That was an exercise in listing numerous principles and frameworks to build an evidence set, not the work of synthesis across the frameworks to look for patterns, similarities, and common items.

My sense in looking at the principles and frameworks in the second post, is that organisations need to answer five questions in planning their future with SharePoint; and the questions are all of the W words:

  • Why? … the question of vision. In light of the business outcomes being pursued by an organisation, why is SharePoint the right answer?
  • Where? … the question of governance. With all that’s on offer in SharePoint, where does it make sense to use SharePoint, what internal guidance is needed to ensure alignment with business priorities, and what rails need to be laid to decrease the likelihood of everything turning to custard (e.g., proliferation of low-value and out-of-date sites)?
  • Who? … the question of people. Who are the key influencers in your organisation that need to be engaged to create context for the successful use of SharePoint? There are certain categories of these people – and their involvement needs to be shaped appropriately.
  • What? … the question of engagement. Everyone across your organisation has current ways of working; what aspects of their work should be transitioned to SharePoint?
  • When? … the question of adoption. Adoption of new ways of working doesn’t work without intentional activity. What strategies will be used to encourage adoption and drive effective use?

In future posts, I’ll look in more detail at each of these W’s.