What is the Microsoft Graph and how can it help you?

The Microsoft Graph offers up exciting possibilities to develop Office 365 functionality and related integrations in ways that can really help your business and engage your users. Here at Content Formula weve been busy leveraging the Graphs features and versatility to create some great solutions for our clients based on Teams, SharePoint Online and other elements of the Office 365 suite.


What is the Microsoft Graph?

The Microsoft Graph is essentially a unified API that connects into the whole of the Office 365 landscape and even beyond into Windows 10, Azure and enterprise mobility and security services. Microsoft itself defines the Graph as the gateway to data and intelligence in Microsoft 365 and a unified programmability model.

The Graph was first released in 2015, but its functionality and features have been continually expanded. Just as Microsoft continues to invest in Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, it has continued to invest in Graph. This is opening up new possibilities every week.


Why is the Graph so exciting?

There are a number of reasons why the Microsoft Graph API is exciting.

It has such wide scope

Because the Graph connects into the whole of the Office 365 suite and beyond, there is a very wide scope that offers up many opportunities to present relevant data and content. For example, the Graph understands the profile of an individual and knows where a person is located, which division they might sit in, their preferred language, who their manager is and so on. It also has product-centric information such as the latest files an individual has uploaded to OneDrive, the Microsoft Teams spaces a person belongs to and so on. Because the Graph links an individuals profile to their contributions to different parts of Office 365, this data can then be served up in ways which are highly relevant to the individual user.

Its much easier for developers

One of the things that is truly beautiful about Graph is that it is just one endpoint. Previously youd have had to query the SharePoint User Profile Service, then query something else for another application and then again for another. Graph is just one API and makes development much easier, particularly for less confident developers.

Theres also additional features such as the Graph Explorer that really help with your development. Here you can query the Microsoft Graph through a straightforward interface to test out what works. Its a powerful tool that can really help you develop compelling experiences for users.

You can reuse components across the whole of Office 365

One of the great things about Graph is that you can query it in the same way across the whole of the Office 365 suite. This means you can create a component in one tool such as Microsoft Teams and then use pretty much the same code within a SharePoint page. Reusing components allows for  continuity in the user experience and easy integration across Office 365.

Theres loads and loads of extras

Weve only scratched the surface here with what the Microsoft Graph can do. From integrating features of Excel, to working with multiple calendars to converting various documents in different formats to PDFs, the list of capabilities continues to expand.


What can you use the Graph to do?

Graph opens up dozens of possibilities for developers within organisations to improve processes, add value to existing applications, create a more integrated user experience and add value to Office 365.

Create and improve custom business apps

Office 365 already provides lots of functionality to create your own business apps and the Graph extends that capability to make your apps even better, for example utilising real-time information to surface the latest documents or to find relevant people. Its also possible to create apps outside of Office 365 using and still use the power of Graph, although you will need to set up Azure Active Directory (AD) and related authentication to do this.

Integrate the Office 365 experience

As we already said, one of the strengths of Graph is that you can reuse components across the whole of the Office 365 suite allowing for a continuity in the user experience and reducing some of the inherent silos between products. It can also make Office 365 more relevant and personalised. For example, querying the Graph works really well for personalised intranets based on SharePoint Online where you want to embed Yammer feeds, or allow people to see a list of all the Teams spaces they are a member of and view a related activity feed.

In some of our own projects weve used the Graph to create solutions that can be accessed both within a SharePoint-based intranet or within separate Teams spaces.

Improve personalised search experiences

Graph takes a different approach to search from traditional Microsoft search capabilities as it is completely personalised. This means you can create bespoke, highly targeted search experiences for different needs. For example, you could specifically create a search which picked up documents from both OneDrive, Teams and a centrally-controlled SharePoint library.  Microsoft are currently busy working on full Graph integration with search, and the results are hotly anticipated.


Leveraging two-way notifications

Graph also has notification capability so for example, you can receive push notifications from Graph, which are then consistent across wherever they need to appear for example via email, within an intranet or within Teams. Graph also supports two-way notifications so if a user responds to the original notification with an action then a new status could be updated right across different tools within Office 365 that are querying the Graph. This is particularly useful for managing things such as approvals where different users might want multiple views across an intranet, an app on their mobile device and within a Teams space.


The Graph is your friend

We really like the Microsoft Graph both from a geeky development standpoint, but also because it means we can create fantastic solutions for our clients. If youd like to discuss how you can leverage the power of the Graph in your organisation and how we could possibly help you then dont hesitate to get in touch!


Introducing full Workspaces functionality and collaboration governance for SharePoints modern experiences

We live in a time of opportunities!

And this reflects in the digital landscape were facing. For collaboration purposes alone, Office 365 and SharePoint offer a wide range of tools including modern team and collaboration sites, classic publishing sites, Yammer, and Teams.

Knowing which tool to use for which collaboration purpose can be confusing for users. Also, without appropriate guiding, the creation of new collaboration spaces can easily grow out of control.

Wizdom Workspaces module is a tool to manage and collaborate on projects or areas of interests from the intranet. But the module is more than that.

The Workspaces module in Wizdom provides an engine for collaboration governance that enables intranet admins to set up fixed standards for the creation of new collaboration spaces. Intuitively guiding users to choose the proper type of tool for a new collaboration project and maintaining the overview of all collaboration spaces created.

Today, were thrilled to introduce the full functionality of the Workspaces module to SharePoints modern experiences!


Overview of workspaces

The Workspaces modules overview web part enables you to list, and get an overview of, all workspaces created in one workspace instance. From the web part, users can create new workspaces that will automatically be connected to the same instance.

Filter and search let users quickly find relevant workspaces.

You can configure the overview web part to display only the workspaces favorited by the user. In this way, the web part can be set up to feature most relevant workspaces for each user. Behaving as Wizdoms Favorites web part for SharePoints classic experiences.


Guiding users to create collaboration spaces within company standards

Admins can define a fixed set of workspace types with distinct abilities, metadata information, and roles. This enables users to choose from a selection of workspace types, that all meet company standards, when theyre creating a new collaboration space.

The intranet admin can describe every workspace type with image, headline, and subheading making it simple for users to choose the right tool for a given collaboration project.


Aligned workspace information

From each workspace created, users can see information on the specific collaboration project like project team, phase, and status. Project managers can edit workspace information directly from the workspace in question.


The original article was published here


Why Intranets need Top-down and Bottom-up Support

How do you launch an intranet and then continue to successfully drive adoption? Its an issue many intranet teams tackle and remains a focus for their efforts. Unfortunately, theres no one simple solution or single ingredient X that delivers good adoption. Instead it requires a range of different tactics and approaches over a sustained period to make an intranet a true success and get everybody using it in ways which drive value.

Part of the effort to drive adoption needs to be change management, often reflected in communications promoting the intranet across different channels. Communicating about the intranet creates awareness but also drives employee buy-in. To drive adoption, employees dont just need to know a new intranet is there, but they also need to understand the why what are the benefits for using it?

Most of our clients have found in that promoting the intranet it is critical to take a top-down approach, highlighting senior management support, but also adopt a bottom-up approach involving endorsement from peers and colleagues. There are many reasons why this dual approach works best, including:

  • The use of social tools and intranets is rarely mandatory, and therefore you need to work on influencing the hearts and minds of employees to get them to use the intranet taking a dual approach maximises your chances of doing this.
  • Organisations are inherently complex and sometimes highly decentralised, and there can be more allegiance to local divisions or departments than the centre, so endorsement needs to come from central and local sources to be convincing.
  • Workforces are very diverse and to make the most sense, communication about the use of the intranet needs to be set in the framework of specific local, functional or team needs.

Lets explore some of these themes in more detail.


Why top-down approaches are critical

Involving senior leaders in your intranet launch and ongoing adoption plan is a must. Having them involved will help you increase intranet awareness as more employees will take notice of a message from your CEO rather than somebody less senior.

Top-down communication also gives the intranet a legitimacy and sets the strategic context for its use. Ideally your CEO is painting the bigger picture by explaining that the intranet is important and showing how it fits into wider organisational goals and strategy. This helps users to understand why the intranet is a must-use channel.

More specifically, communication and endorsement from senior management can also influence the actions of other managers who are tasked to deliver central communications to their teams and beyond. There can be a cascade or trickle-down effect with endorsement of the new intranet. This has most impact if senior leaders lead by example and continue to use the intranet in a highly visible way. Other senior managers, then middle managers and then their teams may follow suit in using the intranet and its constituent tools.


How to deliver top-down communications

Our clients and other organisations have used different tactics to show their leaders support and endorse the new intranet. For example:

  • Featuring senior leaders in a high-profile launch video promoting the intranet
  • Putting a senior leader behind some more traditional messaging, such as all company email or an announcement on the new intranet itself
  • Identifying a member of the C-suite as the owner or the champion of the new intranet
  • Getting senior management to announce a new intranet at a town hall or internal conference
  • Getting senior leaders to continue to use social tools such as blogs, communities or commenting on content, so they have a visible presence
  • Getting the CEO to encourage other senior leaders to also champion the intranet


Why bottom-up communication is also critical

Sometimes endorsement from senior management isnt enough to drive adoption, and a tandem bottom-up approach reflected in peer-to-peer recommendations of intranet use and more local promotion is required.

In larger global companies, in organisations built by acquisition or where processes tend to be decentralised and individual parts of the company operate with some autonomy, there can be some mild resistance to and skepticism about centrally-driven messages and initiatives. This does have the ability to negatively impact adoption for intranets.

There can also be some general skepticism about intranets, for example from employees who experienced a poor intranet at a former place they worked. If youve experienced an intranet which was only used for corporate messaging or was riddled with technical problems, then you may have low expectations and be less than excited about what an intranet can do for you.

Having local endorsement of the intranet from peers can override this. It can dispel any notion that the intranet is not a useful work tool. However, perhaps the most important factor is that when a peer recommends the intranet to a colleague they usually describe it in a way which references local roles, priorities and cultural sensitivities. They also may use the primary language of a local office which means messaging can be more direct and impactful.

While central messaging is important, local or peer recommendation helps employees understand whats in it for them and how the intranet can help them in their everyday role. It also potentially drives additional trust in the relevance of the intranet to them.


How to support bottom-up communications

Weve seen several ways that organisations help support bottom-up communication for intranets, including:

  • Organising a champions or advocate network to promote the intranet through different divisions, locations and departments
  • Providing resources for local champions to adapt to their own needs to promote the intranet to their peers
  • Running train the trainer programmes to help local champions teach others about the intranet
  • Focusing on local use cases and communities which will make sense to different parts of the organisation and show a relevant example of good use
  • Working together with local management and promoters to co-promote the intranet


Taking the dual approach

There are different ways to launch and promote an intranet, as well as keep up the efforts to drive adoption. And some tactics will work better for some organisations than others.

Whatever you try and do, you need both top-down and bottom-up approaches to do this effectively. The combined forces of leadership endorsement and peer recommendation creates awareness and the right context for its successful use. Then the maximum number of people possible can start to benefit from using your intranet.


The original article was published here


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