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Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Teams & Azure Upcoming Changes

Microsoft recently held their annual tech and development conference at Orlando Florida and there are a lot of exciting changes coming to the Microsoft platforms. We’ve summarised a few of the key developments in our blog post and what we’re most excited about.

SharePoint Online

Intranet

There are a huge number of features coming to the platform these range from functionality, branding and mobile improvements. A few of the upcoming changes can be found below.

  • Branding – Improvements to the layout options including the ability to add a header, footer and mega menu.
  • Personalised Web Parts – That will show information tailored to that user rather than generic information for the whole company.
  • New Web Parts – Countdown Timer, Events Roll Up
  • Improved Mobile Capabilities – Accessing Documents, News and Information from the SharePoint application

OneDrive Mac

Microsoft’s fantastic OneDrive on Demand tool allowing for users to sync live copies of SharePoint Document libraries to their PC without consuming storage (effectively replacing file shares) is now available in Beta for the Mac platform. This has been one of the most requested features for Macs for Office 365 and will be a huge step forward for Microsoft and Macs.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft are investing heavily into their Microsoft Teams platform. Here at Valto we’re huge fans of Microsoft Teams and have been deploying this for many organisations and applying our best practices and governance. A few of the key announcements can be found below.

Background Blur

This fantastic feature will make remote and home working much easier and potentially less embarrassing! Microsoft have released a video demonstrating the capabilities of this below.

Teams & SharePoint Integration

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are already integrated allowing for Teams to display SharePoint sites within the app and visa versa.

 

The new changes will bring much deeper integrations allowing for Lists, Libraries and Web Parts to be displayed within Microsoft Teams directly. More bots and connectors are being worked on to allow for News to automatically be displayed within Channels and Teams. More details from Microsoft on the SharePoint Blog.

Recording Meetings & Stream

Another brilliant feature we’ve been making extensive use of at Valto is the ability to record meetings and have the videos automatically sent to the attendees at the end of the meeting. 

This will be extended further in the future to use Artificial Intelligence to automatically detect actions and create meeting minutes that can be used following the meetings.

Replacing Skype for Business

New tenants will no longer include Skype for Business and will be given Microsoft Teams by default. On top of that, new tools have been created to migrate existing tenants to a Teams Only environment.

Microsoft Azure

Windows 10 Desktop in the Cloud

One of the most exciting announcements for Microsoft Azure and the Modern Workplace is the new capabilities of being able to launch a Windows 10 Desktop in the cloud. In other blog posts predicting the future of the Cloud and Microsoft we talked about the ability to use a mobile device to replace your PC with a dock and monitor. Having the ability to spin up a Windows 10 Desktop in the cloud brings this further to reality.

There are a lot of organisations out there that use thin clients and don’t have a requirements for running a desktop 24/7 this new functionality could potentially save enterprises a lot of money.

Office 365

Artificial Intelligence

This is a big focus for Microsoft at the moment as gleamed from the Microsoft Inspire and Ignite Conferences. There is a huge focus on delivering AI that will improve the modern workplace. A lot of the current announcements are about building the platform for this including,

Office 2019

With Office 365 you always get the latest version of Office features as they are rolled out. Microsoft have released the latest on-premise version of Office to the general public which contains a lot of the improvements of the Office 365 version.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Office365

When speaking with new clients, we often find that although they are paying for Office365 for some or all their employees yet not taking full advantage of everything Office365 has to offer. On average most businesses are only benefiting from around 40% of what the Office365 suite of products has to offer.

This article aims to give you top tips for getting the most value from your Office365 subscription and outline some key functionality you may not be aware of.

1.   Compliance – GDPR Policies

25th of May 2018 is the official date when all businesses must be GDPR complaint. This is proving troublesome for organisations as they must completely re-think how to categorise their data in accordance to the rules and regulations to ensure their business is complaint.

What you may not be aware of is the Security and Compliance features that Office365 has built into it to assist you in categorising and applying automated rules to data you have stored inside of Office365 to ease this process.

A great example of this is “Labelling” data and then applying automated actions based on that label. It is possible to create multiple Label types and in our example below we have created a “Personal Data” label that we wish to apply to specific documents within SharePoint Online.

First, we create our label within the Office365 Admin Centre and document what the label shall be used for.

GDPR

We can then configure the settings to carry out automatic actions dependant on specific logic. This may be to ensure that certain documents are retain for a specific amount of time. If this was customer information we may need to delete the data after a specific time.

Personal Data

Once we have created our labels we can then start applying them to our document libraries within SharePoint. We can either bulk apply a label to every document or specifically choose a label for individual documents.

In the example below these two documents have been labelled as “Personal Data” meaning the documents cannot be deleted for 7 years in accordance to the labels rules we have created.

SharePoint Library

2.   Security – Multi Factor Authentication

We have all heard horror stories about businesses being “hacked” or “Cyrptolocked” which is essentially when someone gains access to your IT infrastructure and maliciously damages your data or holds it to ransom.

Security

Unfortunately, this type of attach is becoming increasingly popular as the hacking software is now readily available to purchase to attack businesses. Often businesses only take the threat seriously once they have been attacked and forced to pay on average between £4,000 – £10,000 or lose all their data.

There are multiple things businesses can do to protect their server environments but often forget about securing Office365 from potential hack attacks.

The best way to prevent something terrible happening to your data in Office365 is to prevent the hacker ever being able to get into your system. To this you will need to enable “Multi Factor Authentication” for all your users.

This means whenever one of your users logs into Office365 they must also authenticate from another device such as their mobile phone. This can be achieved with:

  • A code texted to the user.
  • A phone call that requires the user to press a number.
  • An app on their phone that requires them to press “Approve” when prompted for authentication.

This ensures that a hacker cannot use an employee’s account to login unless they have that employees mobile phone which is highly unlikely.

Multi Factor Authentication can also consider where the user is logging in from. This means your users may only be required to Multi Factor Authenticate when logging in remotely which is anywhere other than the office, as hackers will be trying to login remotely.

3.   Collaborate on documents with real-time co-authoring

Gone are the days of waiting for a colleague to complete their section of a document your team I am collaborating on before you can work on the document. No more backwards and forward emails with different versions of the teams document. When you and your colleagues want to collaborate on a document, you can use real-time co-authoring to see everyone’s changes as they happen.

As you can see in the example below, you will be able to see who is editing the document and in real-time what they are typing into the document.

Co-Authoring

Co-Authoring Collaboration is a simple three step process:

  1. Upload the document you wish to collaborate on into a shared document area such as OneDrive or SharePoint Online, so others can work in it.
  2. You invite people to edit it with you, so they receive an email with a shortcut URL to access the document.
  3. When they open and work in the document in Word 2016, Word Online you will see each other’s changes as soon as there are typed into the document.

4.   Extranet – Free External Users

Business often need to collaborate and securely store documents with external parties such as suppliers, consultants or customers. Previously this would be a difficult process to manage which would often evolve third parties emailing copies of documents back and forward into shared mailboxes.

However, by enabling the external sharing features within SharePoint Online your company can quickly configure a SharePoint “Extranet” which is an online portal that third parties can log into and upload/download any documents that are required.

You do NOT have to pay for external user’s licenses. It is free for external third parties to access you Office365 tenant.

This could be used for a customer portal that allows your customers to download your latest product materials or even a supplier’s portal that allows third parties to upload documentation for a procurement process.

Extranet

5.   O365 Video – Microsoft’s Answer To YouTube

Office 365 Video is a great video streaming product within Office365. It offers a YouTube style portal where users in your organization can post and stream videos.

It’s an excellent place to share videos of company-wide communications or recordings of tutorials, meetings, inductions, or training sessions.

Office365 Video

Office 365 Video allows you to produce collections of videos which is useful if you are creating a training course. Video displays a thumbnail image of each video on the site. You just select a thumbnail to view a video or use the search functionality for relevant content.

6.   Do not attach files, link to them instead

If your usual way of sending a document to a colleague is by sending it as an attachment in an email this can lead to issues of document duplication and colleagues having different versions of the same document.

To eliminate this issue happening you can send a link to the file instead. This will appear to the end user just like an attached document. However, instead of them having a copy version they will have a link directly to the original document.

Outlook Link

When you use OWA to share files stored on OneDrive for Business, recipients in the To: and Cc: lines automatically are given permission to view and edit the file. But it’s also easy to change the permissions on the file directly from the email message.

Manage Permissions

7.   Office365 Form integration with SharePoint Online

Office365 Forms is a product you may already be aware of to create basic forms, surveys and questionnaires. However, it was noted by Microsoft that is don’t work very well being a standalone product. Taking that onboard Microsoft announced at the end of 2017 that they will be integrating Forms into SharePoint Online.

They will be making it easier to integrate Office365 products such as Forms, Power BI, PowerApps. This means instead of interacting with these products individually Microsoft will be rolling out new web parts for each product to create a seamless experience for end users within a SharePoint Online intranet.

Forms

8.   Flow “Send for review” in every SharePoint library

For those who have yet to use this product, Flow is Office365’s workflow designer which will eventually be the successor of SharePoint Designer.

SharePoint has always had “Out of the box” workflows and had the ability to create more complex workflows with SharePoint Designer.

Before Flow can truly take over from SharePoint based workflows it must re-create the “Out of the box” workflows that have previously be available for SharePoint lists and library’s.

It was announced at the end of 2017 that Microsoft intend on rolling out a basic “Send for approval” Flow.

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft are building a basic send for review flow into every SharePoint library, so you don’t have to custom build one.  Users can route a file to another user for feedback and review.  Built with Microsoft Flow and integrated with the Flow approval centre, signoff Flows are trackable in SharePoint as well as the Flow admin consoles.

9.   Flow Launch Panel – Manual Start Button

On the topic of Flow improving its functionality to include options that have been available through SharePoint Designer, it has been announced that a “Launch Panel” will be added to lists and library’s using Flows.

This means you will be able to start a flow manually through a button on the ribbon rather than using triggers such as “on item creation” or “item modified”, but these automatic triggers will still be possible.

It was also announced that a user can pass values from an item into the Flow before it is triggered.

Flow

In our example above, a “Request new equipment” flow might ask you to select a desktop, laptop, or a tablet, and send that selection to the team responsible for handling the request. You are prompted to enter information in a panel that opens directly inside a list or library.

10.   SharePoint List – Column Formatting

SharePoint lists can be tailored to support almost any content or business solutions need.  But until recently it has not been possible to format columns.

Microsoft have recently introduced new, low-code capabilities that open custom formatting. This can be used to show RAG Status, Conditional formatted colours or icons, KPI, and much more.

SharePoint List

 

Author

 Valto Dougie Wood

SharePoint Specialist

T: 03335 779 009
E: Dougie.wood@valto.co.uk
W: https://valto.co.uk
10 Watergate Row, Chester. CH1 2LD

Office & SharePoint 2019 – Whats coming next from Microsoft?

Office 2019

Office 2019 and SharePoint 2019 have been announced earlier this year at Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando as scheduled to be released the second half of 2018. It will include new versions of the Office apps (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook) and servers (including Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business).

Innovation powered by the cloud was a core theme at Ignite this year. However, moving to the cloud is a journey with many considerations along the way. Office 2019 will be a valuable upgrade for customers who feel that they need to keep some or all their apps and servers on-premises for the time being until they are ready to go fully into the cloud.

Share from Office

In addition to sharing straight from explorer, you can share your documents directly from whichever Office application you are using to create them (Word/PowerPoint/Excel etc).

OneDrive – New Features

We are all aware that SharePoint and OneDrive are based on the same technology. The main difference being OneDrive is used to store youronedrive for business own files and SharePoint being used to store files to collaborate on with your team. However, from recent updates we expect this hard boundary to slowly blur, as files and content are getting easier to share you no longer must open a browser or send an email to share your synced OneDrive and SharePoint files. Now you can simply right-click and select share, which will give you a secure URL to send to members of your organisation or even externally if this option is configured.

Save Space and Sync

Microsoft have recently released a “Files on demand” feature meaning you no longer must lose access to your files by choosing to selectively sync them. You will be able to simply right click your file and choose if you want a local copy or not.

Meaning you can retain your most important files for offline mode but also access all your files through explorer mode when connected to the internet. This will save your hard drive a lot of storage space. This will work for your personal OneDrive and SharePoint team sites.

Share to people without a “Microsoft Account”

With a new system that uses single-use security codes. You no longer need to ensure the person you are sharing with has a Office365, Live, Outlook, etc account. Now share your data with people using any kind of email service, give them edit or read access and even set expiry dates on how long they can access that file. Rest assured knowing that they can’t do or share anything you don’t want them to.

Short URLs

Microsoft are aware that the current URLs that are used for sharing files from SharePoint and OneDrive are rather long and ugly. They are working on a release to shorten and make the URLs look more pleasant when you share your files.

SharePoint Server 2019

Not much is known about the release of SharePoint 2019 yet, but we expect the look and feel to align even further to Office365’s SharePoint Online as Microsoft continue to encourage cloud hybrids making the user experience transition smoothly.

Most new changes and features are released to SharePoint Online first and they then work their way into the latest version of SharePoint server.

We know the Admin centre of SharePoint is being re-worked and being given a totally new look and feel like Office365 admin centre.

Notifications

The new admin centre will have graphs to show you your usage data, as well as messages that tell you which features have been added and removed from your specific tenant. This will enable you to be notified from both OneDrive and SharePoint of information related to sites about service health and activities.

Recover Bin

Among the many anticipated features, a stand out is the “Recover Bin” feature. This will allow admins to easily administrate the deleted sites much easier than before.

SharePoint 2019 – New Features

  • Communication sites – These have already been rolled out, but Microsoft continually improving these making more web parts, more layouts, and providing easier ways to communicate news and information throughout your organisation or even externally to clients/partners.
  • News Pages – Offering an easy way to create news articles and display them on your intranet homepage.
  • Promote Button – easily share interesting pages.
  • Column formatting –making your list data colour coded based on value has not been an easy task in the past. With the release of this new feature you will not require custom coding to format your list columns.
  • HUB Sites –the new hub sites will replace the need for top sites containing many subsites. You can create a new hub site and then connect ANY of your other sites to that hub site with one setting. This will then roll up all of the key information from team and commutation sites into one place. For example you may have a “HR Department” hub site which rolls up content from the “Finance” and “Resourcing” team sites. Those sites will instantly inherit the navigation, look and feel, and the content and activity feeds will roll up into your hub site.

 SharePoint 2019 – New Web Parts

We expect many of the features available in SharePoint Online will become available in SharePoint 2019 including integration with those found below. A lot of these new features will require your SharePoint 2019 environment to become more integrated with online services especially Office365 and we expect hybrid to become a much bigger part of the deployment.

  • Microsoft Forms – place form and surveys directly on your pages. We expect Microsoft will also integrate better Flow connectors to create automated workflows from the creation of a form.
  • Planner – You will not have to go to a separate app or webpage to view your relevant planner items. This could really benefit SharePoint project sites.
  • Connector web part – Soon you will be able to connect to over 100 different data sources that can be displayed in your sites for example company twitter feeds.
  • Improved Yammer web part – Yammer is Microsoft corporate and social networking product. Microsoft continues to make improvements to help it fit in better with rest of their collaboration apps.
  • 3D file viewer web part – Interact with 3D models right on your pages. This will be incredibly useful to our customers working in the graphic and interior design markets.

SharePoint 2019 Modern Site

Security & Compliance

  • Modern Site Management – Recently trying to manage the new team and communication SharePoint Online sites in Office365 has proven very difficult without a proper SharePoint admin page that can control the new sites. However, this is about to change with a new site management upgrade you will finally be able to search and administrate including Groups/Teams/Communication sites and perform bulk actions such as grouping existing team sites.
  • Site-Level Conditional Access – giving admins the ability to control access to sites depending on which device the selected user is access SharePoint on.
  • Compliance – as the deadline for being GDPR compliant approaches a lot of our customers are wondering about steps they can actively take now to be prepared. As different countries have different governing laws on compliance this has raised many issues. However, with a new feature being rolled out you will be able to determine which users reside in certain geographical locations then apply policies depending on the location they are in. It will also allow you to determine what country your data is stored in.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

For many of our customers GDPR highlights daunting issues of compliance. Organisations that fail to comply with the regulation will face massive fines: up to £17 million or four percent of global revenue, whichever is higher.

The May 2018, deadline for GDPR compliance is drawing closer but many businesses are unsure where to begin. Businesses cannot afford to waste time in GDPR preparation and we are currently helping originations taking the first steps to becoming compliant.

SharePoint 2019 will bring a whole host of tools to assist with this including a “GDPR Activity Hub”. The goal of this hub is to give customers and partners a tool to use in order to keep track of all the fundamental events, requests, tasks and activities required to be compliant with the GDPR.

SharePoint 2019 GDPR Portal

This will give your organisation a greater understanding of what is involved with becoming GDPR compliant and may highlight some critical issues that will need to be resolved before the official regulation comes in.

Find out More

If you’re interested in hearing more about Office & SharePoint 2019 and would like to speak to one of our SharePoint Consultants then contact us or call on 03335 779 009 .

Author

 Valto Dougie Wood

SharePoint Specialist

T: 03335 779 009
E: Dougie.wood@valto.co.uk
W: https://valto.co.uk
10 Watergate Row, Chester. CH1 2LD

Selecting the right SharePoint Development Company

If SharePoint is a key part of your company’s IT Strategy, then finding the right SharePoint Development company is essential.  A bad choice can leave you with a project that’s overrunning, costing you more than you expected, and failing to deliver to your expectations.

On the surface, SharePoint can be quite easy to work with – if you have the correct environment, a senior member of your IT team should be able to deploy SharePoint.  The new App model for extensions means that functionality can be added in a straightforward way.  That having been said, very few businesses find that they can use SharePoint straight out of the box.  In most cases, some custom development is required.

Getting the Most out of SharePoint

If you want SharePoint to do exactly what you want, you need to find a development partner who not only understands the platform itself, but also understands your goals from a commercial perspective.

Whether your need is a simple intranet, or a complex business management system that uses SharePoint to move data between multiple applications, there is a clear need that you need to meet.

When you speak to your development company, it’s important to discuss what the goal of the project is, and what the perceived benefits are.  If a company is simply focused on the project without understanding what your ultimate goal is, then the chances of them helping you to achieve it are very slim.

Choosing the right SharePoint Development Company

The key things that you need to look for in a SharePoint development company are as follows:

Experience with your particular version of SharePoint.  SP2016 and Online are the current versions, but not everyone has upgraded.  Some developers might not have worked with older versions for some time, or have familiarity with the specific extensions that you’re using.  Some complex deployments may require multiple teams to handle the process of adding functionality if the full skillset isn’t available in once place.

A good Development company will have access to skillsets beyond the ones in their direct team and handle communication.

Experience with the type of application that you have.  Some companies are specialists in intranets – rather than being specialists in SharePoint.  They may have lots of experience with your version of SharePoint, but if they don’t have experience working with the type of application that you have, then you may be storing up problems.

The right qualifications.  Microsoft offer professional certification that qualifies specialists in different areas.  Talk to prospective companies about what qualifications they have within their team and what knowledge you have access to.

The ability to support you.  If you have a business-critical application, it makes sense to work with a company who are going to be around for a long time.  A contractor may be able to deliver a project more cheaply, but if the code is eccentric or unusual, then it may cause issues if you need a different person to help in the future if something goes wrong later.  Choosing a company that has an in-house support function means that they will have access to the original development plans and be able to identify and resolve any issues more quickly.

If you’re currently planning a project around SharePoint, speak to a member of our team – we’ll be happy to provide you with advice and information about how we can help you achieve your gaols and support you in the long run.  Call us today on 03335 779 009 .

Reducing Problems with SharePoint

When it’s properly configured, SharePoint can make an enormous difference to your business.  It helps improve collaboration and teams can make better decisions as a result.  Sometimes though, things can go wrong, so having the ability to fix any problems with SharePoint is essential..

In organisations where SharePoint is core to productivity, fixing problems quickly is a priority.  Having access to experienced technical staff can help minimise the cause of problems and resolve them more quickly.

Why things go wrong in SharePoint

Most problems with SharePoint boil down to one of three areas, either incorrect configuration, insufficient server resource, or incompatible code in a 3rd party application or extension.  Diagnosing the cause of an issue quickly usually means faster resolution.

Most deployments of SharePoint are unique.  A company will usually need some functionality adding, or have special needs to fulfil certain requirements.  In most cases, the configuration is handled by the SharePoint consultants who conduct the initial development work.

In a lot of cases, shortcuts that were taken during the deployment lead to bigger issues later.  These might be workarounds that had to be put in place to futz a piece of functionality, or maybe some additional code that tied two systems together.

Compromise leads to compromise.  Often, when performing a project to fix earlier issues, it becomes apparent that changes were made mid deployment that led to configuration settings being changed.

Diagnosing this type of issue can be straightforward for an experience SharePoint support professional, however the resolution can be more difficult.  There will always be a way of fixing incompatibility between software, but beware of a change now that simply stores up a problem for the future.  It is sometimes better to consider what your long-term IT Strategy is and work towards that.

Hosting Problems with SharePoint

Far and away the most common root of problems with SharePoint such as the platform slowing down or not providing the expected level of performance is insufficiently powerful infrastructure.  A SharePoint farm uses multiple physical or virtual machines to power it.  Database, front end, and application servers coupled with a search engine mean that there are multiple points of failure.

In some cases, issues with hosting arise because of changes in scale of the application over time.  As more data is added and more users join the network, it will begin to creak.  A regular assessment of your cloud is useful.  If you’re hosting SharePoint virtually, then an Azure Consultant will be able to provide advice and support about whether you have the correct infrastructure to meet your needs and then provide guidance about the right steps to take.

Extensions causing problems?

Customisation is fundamental to ensuring that SharePoint does what your organisation needs it to.  Whether you have used off the shelf apps or bespoke development, there is a risk that two different extensions may conflict with each other.  This is particularly common when code changes due to updates.

Many organisations use a test environment for SharePoint to ensure that any problems can be ironed out before users experience them, but there is always the potential for something unforeseen to get through the net.

Summary

If you’re having problems with SharePoint, the chances are that a member of our team will be able to help you resolve the issue quickly and avoid major disruption.  Call us today on 03335 779 009 and we’ll get started right away.