Friday 9/29 – We’re doing it all wrong, I’m pretty sure

Blake’s Takes…

This is the capstone entry for the extravaganza that was Microsoft Ignite 2017. First, top five observations…

  1. GRE should have had about a dozen people here. I realize that such mass attendance is not realistic, but the information that I was able to absorb myself (approximately 0.09% of all the information presented at this conference) pertains to every group in IT. The exception being the telecom folks and the possibly the PMs. 
  2. Microsoft blew me away! I’ve likely been to 20+ conferences in my 22-year IT career–this one was in a league of its own. 
  3. Microsoft is rolling out new features based on community feedback at a rate no other technology company is going to be able to match. At their current pace, Microsoft will put all of the vendors on the Expo floor out of business within five years by incorporating and improving the services they are currently hawking into the Microsoft 365 platform.
  4. Nearly every aspect of this event was done with a level of thoughtful professionalism that I couldn’t help admire, envy really. There is a chasm between Oracle and Microsoft in terms of forethought, strategy, and ability to execute.
  5. And most importantly, we’re doing it wrong.

What Did We Do?

It is understandable that when we set out to move from one ECM platform to another, we used history as our guide.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
–George Santayana

Sure, but…

I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.
–Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

And so we set out to build a an information taxonomy in SharePoint based on the GRE org chart; just like we’ve always done; just like in OCS. Except, if we use past adoption/use/success of OCS/CTD/ETC as a gauge, it would appear we are again striving for mediocrity by taking the approach everyone is expecting.

This is illustrated by my presentation to senior staff last year. I showed them the Transmission Contracts migration in SharePoint and the chief “innovation” I touted was better search capabilities. In essence, we copied what we had in OCS (down to the metadata fields), moved it to SP, and announced that the search would be better.

Honestly, if we did deliver a better search experience, it would be a welcomed “innovation” from the user community, and we all would have marked this as “mission accomplished”.

Well, it turns out MS365 is so much more than enhanced search, so, much, more. And it’s possible that we will not achieve MS365 greatness at GRE to the same extent other companies will/have. But if we roll out what we piloted for transmission contracts, we’re not even trying. And that’s not just my humble opinion, it’s a lead pipe cinch.

What Should We Do?

Gang, I’m here to tell you that the world of Microsoft Three Six Five, the one that Most closely aligns with where Microsoft will drive future vision, strategy, and enhancements, starts with the Groups tile. This was the clearest message throughout the conference. It perfectly aligns with my idea of a personal dashboard approach (as opposed to a corporate taxonomy/portal) I have been pitching since the release of the new UI Collaboration and Communication sites, but it’s more centralized (in a decentralized way) than that.

Conventional wisdom dictates that IT knows best when it comes to technology. But when it comes to this idea of enterprise collaboration…

  • content management
  • digital asset management
  • portals
  • search
  • chat
  • wikis
  • blogs
  • social
…users already know more than IT. 
The consumer web experience…
  • Dropbox
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Spotify
  • Instagram/Snapchat
  • Pintrest
  • Yelp
  • eBay/Amazon
  • TripAdviser
  • OpenTable
  • AirBnB
  • Uber/Lyft
  • Goodreads
  • the list goes on forever
…is light years ahead of the corporate web experience. And it has been that way for a while now. In fact when users come into work each day, it’s not unlike stepping back in time, like a “Back to the 50’s” weekend when it comes to technology.
And that’s understandable to a certain extent. As much as I advocate for anarchy in my personal life, as a member of the IT staff, it’s not that appealing in a corporate setting with technology and data and all. And that is where this whole idea of MS365 comes in–that is what the entire Microsoft cloud experience will be branded as in the forthcoming weeks.
So the idea behind MS365 is that (nearly) every conceivable tool required for a knowledge worker to do the vast majority of his/her job is available on one platform. And from what I’ve seen all week, this is not a clever marketing campaign, a cool theory, or vaporware.
The starting point for any knowledge worker using the MS365 platform is the Teams tile. Why? Because as it turns out, people mainly work in teams–structured and unstructured–shocking, I know!!! I’d like to think that whatever Randy Carlson, Sloan Carlson, Natasha Peterson, or Lauri Petersen is doing is very fascinating and of much interest to me. In reality, I’m mainly interested in what Joe’l and Tammy are doing. That is my structured “team”. They are the ones with whom I exchange the vast majority of information (80%) required for me to do my job. The other 20%, I’ll find via search on the various other team collab sites.
Now I am on other teams to be sure. I’m interested in what the Adept folks are doing. It would be great if we had a team that functioned as an Adept COE. I’d totally join that team! I’d share procedures, tips and tricks, and whatever else made sense with that team. But I’d likely visit it on an as-needed basis as opposed to a day-to-day basis. It would be informational rather than operational.
When it’s all said and done, I may end up a member of a dozen or so teams. And that would serve me for the vast majority of information I need to do my job. My personal dashboard would show those teams as well as the associated collaboration/communication group sites and salient content. The entire experience would be built around the individual; it would start there; it should start there.
I truly believe that this is the future of content management and collaboration in the corporate setting, mainly because this future is now in the consumer setting. And we can surely continue to follow the age-old, highly-structured, taxonomy-driven approach. But if statistics are any indication–Google Analytics specifically–that approach only drives users to find other more flexible and functional options for content management and collaboration. And if Microsoft is to be believed, we’d be doing it wrong…again.

Thursday 9/28 – Accelerate productivity with search and discovery in SharePoint and Office 365

Official Description…

Effective search and discovery needs to know what information that is relevant to you, your colleagues, the work you do and your context right now. Find out how we have used insights across Microsoft 365 to create such a personalized search experience. A new search UX has been developed focusing on simplicity and performance enabling the user to quickly interact with a more personal and semantic organization of data. Find out how search now also supports multi-national corporations and all the improvements inside the Microsoft Graph. Also learn about the roadmap for enterprise search in SharePoint and Office 365 for new experiences, and the convergence of FAST and Bing search innovations.

Slides: <link>

Blake’s Takes…

The presenter is advocating for using the SharePoint tile as your starting point for all of MS365. Search is being engineered with a lot of AI to “learn” how you use it and customize and fine tune your experience.

Searching for people will soon bring back results based not only on their AD information, but on the activities they’ve being doing inside of MS365 (documents updated, groups accessed, etc.). The use case was that you heard a colleague was working on a travel document that you wanted to look at, but you don’t know the title other than it probably contains the word “travel”. They demonstrated how it would found faster by searching on the colleague’s name rather than a generic search for “travel”. It came up as the first result for that person under files.

The search preview has been further refined in that it does not leverage the native app to preview a document. Instead, it brings up a viewer with full application capabilities but no hassle of openeing the file in the native application…

So the Graph is the key to everything cool. It is heavily leveraged for search improvements…

The search they are designing is an enterprise search only if we are able to drive the users work tasks into MS365. Then, all of that becomes discoverable–the enterprise becomes discoverable.

The presenter is covering the difference between consumer search (Google, Yahoo, Bing) and enterprise search (where no one can find anything). So consumer search is all about popularity. Enterprise search may not be best if it’s based only on popularity, because corporate content isn’t exactly “popular”.

MS search is shifting from matching and popularity to \people and behavior. Also, scannability of search results is a focus. Other features being refined are search within and scoped (faceted) search.

Rich people driven search results are sourced from Delve profiles. The more of the profile that is filled in, the richer the results.

Visual Content Intelligence – indexing of special content (images specifically) by extracting text or context and making the data available via search. This will be an upcoming feature. This might be totally groovy for PDF drawings.

The example they gave was of a scanned receipt that had “Ribeye” on it. The presenter recalled having a really great ribeye steak, but couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant. She searched on “ribeye” and found the receipt, which had the restaurant listed.

Again, they are stressing the experience. The new search features are available there as well as in the O365.

Here is a cool MS Graph graphic…

Multi-GEO search is also a new feature that we’ll never use. It is important for companies that are global and have data residency regulations.

The much anticipated future of search slide:

But seriously, they are REALLY focusing on search. I still feel like search, especially enterprise search, is the killer app in this heaping pile of apps.

Thursday 9/28 – Learn best practices for SharePoint site owners

Official Description…

For SharePoint site owners provisioning a site is only the start.  Come learn all the best practices for managing your SharePoint team sites including how to get started, drive and measure engagement, and manage access.

Slides: <link>

Blake’s Takes…
This was a full on demo walking us through the steps of creating a modern UI SP collaboration site. The focus was on document libraries and lists.
On document libraries…
  • Pin most important document, so that those documents appear at the top of the list.
  • Pinned documents can be unpinned if they are no longer “important”
  • Quick view allows mass metadata updates
  • Create views for quicker access to focused content
  • Making site columns/metadata required prevents users from adding content w/o filling out metadata
  • There is a view called “Files That Need Attention” that brings up files with missing required metadata
Site Contents > Site Usage – gives you analytics for the specific site.
So in an effort to test this outside of the GRE VPN network, I have learned that you need to be connected to VPN to access SharePoint, as this URL is hit during thet login process: Obviously, w/o being VPN connected, that fails…
This is sort of an issue for our claim of “access anywhere”, right?

Thursday 9/28 – Manage Office 365 more effectively: What’s new in Office 365 administration

Official Description…

The last year has been an exciting year for Office 365 admins. Office 365 administration has been evolving at a rapid pace, making more features and functionality available to admins on an almost daily basis. Attend this demo-heavy session to learn about improved capabilities that make it easier, and more efficient for you to manage Office 365.

Slides: <link>

Blake’s Takes…

So a REALLY long analogy is being unrolled between the Nokia 6021 and O365 administration. And the punch line was predictable: phones evolved, O365 administration tools evolve. Like we’re seven minute into this, and the presenter is still working the phone analogy.

There is a feature to “offboard” a user with one click. This effectively blocks access to all O365 assets (Outlook, OneDrive, etc.). In addition, the blocked user’s O365 assets can be partitioned out to other users for clean-up, content recovery, or whatever.

Just out of curiosity, I wonder how this will be handled at GRE? Who? It gets into the realm of everything in O365. When we move Outlook to the cloud, this will have to be addressed.

“Metadata is super valuable” – why? The degree of random hyperbole at this conference is spectacular.

According to Microsoft’s research, forcing users to change passwords every 90 days actually reduces security. When users have to come up with new passwords on a regular basis, they make poor choices for passwords, because they choose something easy to remember. When users don’t have to change their passwords, they choose better (and harder to hack) passwords. Interesting…

They are continuing to hammer home the idea that the entire MS 365 experience should start in Teams. They just added Teams stats into the site usage reports. THey will be available to everyone in about two weeks.

The site usage stats can be anonymized, so that stats do not list users by name, They are again touting the “Report Reader” role to give access to the site usage reports in the admin center w/o being granted the admin role.

The new Office 365 Usage Analytics functionality is coming in Q1 of 2018. It is considerably more robust than what is available today. Instead of just surfacing statistics, it surfaces concepts like adoption, popularity, activities. It looks pretty fantastic and useful for all the analytics we’d ever need.

There is also an API for MS Graph data if we wanted to create custom analytics.

There is a health notification email service being launched. We can opt in now if we want.

They are also revamping their release updates in the admin message center. “Major” updates will be called out in large boxes at the top of the list of updates.

So they have a thing called the Office 365 Training Center. It looks rather promising as a training resource for our users.

They also just launched the Microsoft Virtual Academy. It contains free training for the geekier folks.

They both look quite useful, I have to admit.

The all-important roadmap…

Wednesday 9/27 – Create beautiful, fast, interactive pages in SharePoint: Deep dive with the product team

Official Description…

Learn how Modern Pages are reinventing what you can do with SharePoint. Pages in SharePoint have long been a powerful and essential tool for businesses, but now we’ve added an exceptional level of usability, simplicity, and speed to that experience. See the new Pages technology in action as we show you how it powers experiences across your enterprise in Modern Team Sites and Communication Sites. We will address a broad spectrum of scenarios and dive deep into improvements we have made to the Modern Page authoring and consumption experiences. We’ll also walk through a demo of Modern Pages authoring to show you how easy it is to create beautiful, interactive, fast, and responsive pages in SharePoint.

Slides: <link>

Blake’s Takes…

This was a rather extensive demo of building a modern UI collaboration site and a modern UI communications site. It was cool to see, but pointless to explain.

There was nothing compelling worth reporting other than the last slide…the roadmap for modern UI pages…

Wednesday 9/27 – Tackling Adoption Like A Service With Office 365

Official Description…

Office 365 provides an incredible amount of value to individual employees, teams, departments, and organizations. Much of this value is not realized immediately upon purchase or deployment of Office 365. The value is realized as more and more users understand, adopt, and embrace the technology. So how do we drive faster, sustainable and effective adoption? Perhaps more importantly, how do we ensure our adoption approach scales and can keep up with the innovation the Office 365 service provides?


Blake’s Takes…

So this is yet another presentation on adoption, which appears to be a massive theme of this conference. The presenter is trying to educate us on the ways that we can drive adoption at an organizational level…

The last one, “A Digital Center of Excellence” is something we clearly lack at GRE. They suggest a central hub to build as a single source of training for users.

There is this very detailed adoption strategy that is apparently available and free at this website.

And here’s a kit for measuring adoption that is also available and free.

Here is how they see driving the adoption at the group level…

This entire presentation brings to light the lack of ownership we have with this whole effort. If that was not already obvious from the SPOC meetings. Not only is there an aspect of communications, but there is training, and measurement of adoption.

Honestly, I’m cool with taking the “build it and they will come” approach. Or the piecemeal approach, whereby we train folks on an as-needed basis, but there has been a heavy emphasis on warning against these approaches. Even the presentations that had training/adoption listed nowhere in the description, still made mention of it.

Anyway, preaching to the choir…

Wednesday 9/27 – Building a #1 Yammer Network

Official Description…

Hear the story of how Diageo became one of the most engaged enterprise networks in the world. From identifying obsolete stock opportunities to sharing stories about how Alia, an archivist at Diageo, uses Yammer to share powerful brand stories from the past to influence products today. Diageo and their Adoption Partner, WM, show us how they created, nurture and analyze this world-class Yammer network.

Slides: <link>

Blake’s Takes…

This was mostly the two presenters waxing nostalgic on their favorite Yammer campaigns. They did provide four really good slides on how to set yourself for success with Yammer.

Yammer, in the case of the two examples given, was used in a unique way to solve a business problem–how to sell surplus booze, in one example–w/o designing and building some complex solution. Yammer was leveraged to rapidly solve these problems. So Yammer is more than enterprise FaceBook.

Wednesday 9/27 – How to enable and configure Microsoft Teams for your users

Official Description…

In this session we talk through all the steps required to get started with Microsoft Teams – how to license and enable users and how to prepare your environment. We also address the different configuration options to ensure that you set up your tenant in a way which meets your needs.

Slides: <link>

Blake’s Take’s…

Sew after talking to the TCF folks, we should probably evaluate Teams as part of our overall collaboration strategy (even if only for ruling it out). They utilize Teams at TCF for many purposes that we currently leverage email. I feel like if you commit as an organization to the whole Microsoft 365 experience, Teams will be at the core of that (at least from Microsoft’s strategy perspective).

This presentation was all slide-driven and very bullet-point technical. Hence, here are the pertinent slides:

The slides contain the pertinent links to the PowerShell scripts to limit O365 group creation. That was alluded to in a previous session, but they were kind enough to link them here. The Teams experience is heavily reliant on Outlook in the cloud, so it would be impossible for us now. But it is yet another indication of how important Outlook in the cloud is to a successful MS 365 experience. Without it, the experience is very “choppy”: some things work, some things don’t. Rather than using MS 365 as a singular collaboration platform, we’ll be using it for point solutions for collaboration.

Just my $0.02

Tuesday 9/26 – Can I get a side of OneDrive for Business with my SharePoint?

Official Description…

When working with Microsoft collaboration tools there is always a lot of conversation about what to use when. SharePoint and OneDrive for Business are best served together in Office 365. In this session, we walk through OneDrive for Business and the capabilities for collaboration and how they relate to your overall SharePoint solution.

Slides: <link>

Blake’s Takes…

Another pre-happy hour show in the big Expo center…

Why does every AV expert at these things have a goatee and man bun?

OneDrive = my files
SharePoint = our files

Most users start creating content in OneDrive. Users control all of their OneDrive content. All of the content lifecycle happens within OneDrive, controlled by the OneDrive user. Content created in OneDrive will remain in OneDrive by default.

SharePoint content is under control of all members of the SharePoint group. The site admin is ultimately in control of the content lifecycle.

Use OneDrive for:

  • Private files
  • Limited access (share with only individuals)
  • No other place to put it (no logical SP location)

Rule of thumb: start in OneDrive.

Sync Client – syncs files from both OneDrive and SP.

Moving files between OneDrive and SP is not a feature yet, you have to use Copy. 500MB is the file size limit within the browser. is the direct URL to out OneDrive.

Tuesday 9/26 – Beverage Service

One-word review: adequate.

There is plenty of marginal English Breakfast tea packets to be had. Sadly, there is no viable alternative to half and half being offered, so I’ve probably drunk a quart of it by now via the countless tiny single-serving thingys I’ve used to spike my marginal tea.