Webinar Video – Driving business productivity with PowerApps, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

Microsoft Teams has become very popular with our customers and there is a lot of interest in getting the greatest possible value out of it. As companies begin to get to grips with the basic features, a natural next step is to integrate Teams with SharePoint and other systems and provide a seamless digital employee experience the kind that really drives adoption.

Teams is well positioned to take advantage of integrations because it has a tabs area that can be used to embed other apps. There are apps for all of the Office 365 features like Stream and Power BI, but also popular non Microsoft products like Confluence and Asana.

Where there is no off-the-shelf solution, you can create bespoke apps using PowerApps and embed them within Teams. This could be something as simple as collecting information using a form, or a sophisticated piece of software.

In this webinar we covered:

  • How to add apps to Teams
  • Some examples of PowerApps embedded in Teams that drive business process
  • Answer your questions about how Teams can be extended with apps

SharePoint Modern vs Classic infographic

Recently, more and more of our customers are facing the SharePoint Modern dilemma: Should they adopt SharePoint Online’s new modern user interface and sacrifice control over the branding? Is Modern a mature enough product to roll out to thousands of employees across the globe? To help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, we created this infographic.

SharePoint Modern vs Classic infographic
SharePoint Modern vs Classic infographic

If you would like more info, read the eight things we love about SharePoint Modern pages.


Microsoft unveils whole host of Office 365, SharePoint and OneDrive updates at #MSIgnite

Ignite 2017, Microsofts annual conference where anything and everything new coming out of Redmon is discussed, is well underway and as expected, the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 is going to see a lot of improvements within Office 365, and in particular SharePoint and OneDrive.

Jeff Teper announced Tuesday that there is going to be a new SharePoint 2019 (part of a whole Office 2019 package) server release that is expected to be in preview from the middle of 2018, however as yet there is no other information around that. He also went on to discuss a range of other services and features that we will start to see on First Release (or rather, Targeted Release as Microsoft now plans to call it) over the coming 6 months.

Here is what we know so far…

New SharePoint Hub Sites

Hub Sites are going to be the latest addition to the recently created Modern Sites that Microsoft have been rolling out. The Hub sites interface will allow users to bring together related sites to roll up news and activity, to simplify search, and to create cohesion with shared navigation and look-and-feel.

SharePoint New Hub Sites

It seems that Hub Sites arent going to replace Publishing Sites, particularly if organisations are using customised WebParts and extensions. However, Microsoft does see them as being primarily used for knowledge sharing in contrast to a Communication Site which will be used to tell your story, share your work and showcase your product across the organization.

A Whole New SharePoint Admin Centre

Bill Baer, Senior Product Manager (SharePoint) announced a whole new SharePoint Admin Centre interface that is designed to surface the most important information and quickly help you discover some of the most important information about the service, both its health, and how your organization is using SharePoint Online.

SharePoint New Admin Centre

It will also improve upon Site Management and Device Access something that has had a complete overhaul in recent months to include features such as conditional access policies across user, location, and device pivots to help you secure access to your information.

Improvements to Communication Sites

Microsoft has announced that a whole range of new and improved WebParts are going to be released before the end of the year within Communication sites. These include things for Planner, Microsoft Forms, Group Calendar, File Viewer, Spacer and Divider, Twitter, and Connectors (to add third-party services). Microsoft also plans to improve the Yammer WebPart for Communications Sites so that it displays well within mobile apps, among other WebPart improvements.

New Microsoft Teams Features

Microsoft Teams also has some improvements in the pipeline. Soon, users will be able to display dynamic, data-driven pages and news articles, not just documents stored in SharePoint libraries within a tab in your Team.
Microsoft Teams Modern Pages

It has also been announced that, in the not too distant future, Skype for Business will be replaced by Microsoft Teams.

Teams, which is still less than a year old, already contains features like instant messaging and file sharing with Skype, but will now integrate other capabilities like connectivity to phone networks, bringing features like voicemail, conference calls and call transfers. This will be based on the Skype infrastructure, which already powers audio and video communications in the application.

Microsoft have not provided a timeline for this transition, and judging by analysts commentary this isnt expected to be any time before mid-2019.

Office 365 Security & Compliance

Security and Compliance has seen a lot of improvement over the past year and Microsoft are planning to continue this work by adding Multi-Geo Capabilities in Office 365 essentially allowing organisations to choose which regions are used for storing, as well as search indexing of their data.

In addition to this, Microsoft have also announced that device access policies for content stored and consumed within SharePoint and OneDrive can be specified at site collection level, allowing organisations to limit access from these devices on a site by site basis, based on the classification of the content.

Wizdom Conference 2017

wizdom intranet in a box conference

If you’re considering Wizdom for your turnkey intranet for SharePoint and you want to find out what existing Wizdom customers think about it you should just ask them! Come to the Wizdom Conference on 15th and 16th March 2017 which will be attended by 150-200 delegates many of whom will be Wizdom customers.

Leading intranet consultant and author of the SharePoint intranet-in-a-box buyers guide, Sam Marshall from Clearbox consulting will be presenting. Our own Dan Hawtrey will also be speaking about intranet adoption and John Scott will be running a workshop on creating winning user experiences. You’ll also get a chance to meet the makers of Wizdom. The conference is known for being relaxed and fun. There’s even a planned nature walk with a local naturalist.

Wizdom Conference 2017 will be held in the scenic town of Nyborg on the island of Funen. It’s off the beaten track but nonetheless very accessible for Brits. Flights to Copenhagen are quick and cheap less than £60 and then it’s a two hour train journey on Denmark’s slick train network. There’s a preferential hotel rate for conference delegates and the conference itself is just £300 for two days which includes food.

Visit www.wizdomkonference.dk to find out more.






Microsoft Stream vs Office 365 Video

With the release of Stream, organisations need to consider their use of Microsofts incumbent video platform, Office 365 Video. Take a look at my tour of Stream, and read my observations below. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more.

Im talking about the use of video, for engagement and comms, at the IntraTeam Event Copenhagen in March details at the bottom.

Microsoft introduced Office 365 Video in late 2014; its a much better solution than merely uploading video files to SharePoint libraries, because SharePoint isnt designed to stream video. Office 365 Video allows employees to upload a video and have it converted to the right format automatically. The video can be streamed without needing video player software. Different video channels can be used to host different content, and people can search for videos by using keywords found in the titles, or descriptions of the video, and so on. All very much like an internal YouTube.

This wasnt new technology, as many third party video services were already available that could do these things and more but, importantly, Office 365 Video was a native app and included with the Office 365 Enterprise plans.

Unfortunately, Microsoft were a little slow in rolling out some must have features such as the ability to embed O365 videos in SharePoint pages, or view video from mobile devices. But, those features are now included and its a useful app.

Introducing Microsoft Stream

So, with Office 365 video seemingly reaching a point where it was arguably a mature product, Microsoft then surprised everyone by announcing their new video baby Microsoft Stream.

Stream looks a lot like O365 video and Microsoft says that its based on the learnings from O365 video, but its a completely separate product and currently available to try as a preview version.

I notice there are a few things missing though:

No external sharing. Stream doesnt yet have the capability to share your internal videos with external partners. So only people in your organisation will be able to see the content. External sharing is apparently on the road map.

No speech transcription, yet. Now this is also something that the Stream product team are working on. Using speech recognition, Stream will allow you to search for key words that are mentioned in the audio of the video, even if those words arent in the video meta data like the title or description etc.

No editing tools. Trimming, cutting bits out, and adding chapter points is something you should do before upload.

No live streaming. Wouldnt it be great if you could live stream your town hall meeting to colleagues in other countries? Well you cant. At least not yet.

No advanced analytics. You can get some basic stats, like how many times a video has been viewed, but you cant get more detailed information like the percentage of users who watched all the way to the end, and which specific users watched a video.

No approval workflows. Ideally, it would be possible to subject videos to the same publishing processes as policies and SharePoint pages where a person or group of people get to review a draft version of a video before hitting the publish button. Unfortunately, thats not available yet and there is no word on when such a feature might be included.
IntraTeam Event Copenhagen

Into the future…

Microsoft is keen to re-assure existing Office 365 customers that Office 365 Video and Stream will eventually merge and become the same thing probably keeping the features that currently exist in each product. But, should organisations use one, or both platforms right now?

In this blog update from August, Microsoft provided some details on the thinking behind launching a new video platform, and what it means for the future of Office 365 Video. One thing that was mentioned is that Office 365 Video will still see new features arriving in the next few months e.g. being able to tag people in videos. And, importantly, they are committed to automating the migration of existing videos and meta data into the new Stream service.

The main motivation for launching a new product is a desire to offer video services to customers who are not using Office 365. So expect to see Stream as a standalone service as well as integrated in Office 365.

The point of video

Has video changed the enterprise or had any affect upon the intranet and digital comms?

Im talking about the use of video to inform, engage, and entertain on the 1st of March at the IntraTeam Event Copenhagen (surely one the largest digital workplace conferences in Europe).

Ill tackle the technical difficulties, and just what makes a good video.

Check the three-day programme; its well worth a flight.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter I like talking about SharePoint, intranets, and video.

SharePoint Saturday and the future of Office 365 Groups

It was an awesome day!

The SharePoint Saturday event (London, 9th July) [hashtag] was really informative, it helped me learn about a lot of unknown stuff regarding SharePoint Online. There were multiple sessions through the day; I mostly chose sessions on future enhancements to SharePoint Online.

My first session was by Hugh Wood; he definitely had a wonderful knowledge of client-side programming. Hugh explained about JavaScript performance improvement and some good practices, especially around improving JavaScript performance for huge numbers of transitions.

Chris O’Brien was brilliant in explaining upcoming SharePoint Online features, there will be some huge features coming our way.

Something I was so happy to hear!

SharePoint App parts are no longer loaded in iframes – its the most awesome news for developers and designers. So App parts render directly in to the SharePoint page; its a change that was released as a new framework called SharePoint framework. Because of these changes, responsive design issues wont happen – wow thats great news isnt it? Were adopting this framework in our intranet development.

New features

Office 365 Groups are the upcoming revolutionary feature in Office 365. Because this group feature is well integrated, ultimately all Office 365 features will be connected through the Office 365 Group feature.


We know the Office 365 suite of applications, like SharePoint, Yammer, Skype for Business, calendar, mail, Planner and more, but these are all independent; there is no connection between each application. With this improvement, setting up an Office 365 Group automatically creates a shared inbox, calendar, OneNote notebook, and file library.

The benefit is that we can find a team members complete work and progress in one place. Progress monitoring is powered by the Office Graph, and displayed in easy-to-understand graphs. The final output is astoundingly good.


In the Group home page, we have a feature called Office 365 Connectors, which offer a great way to get useful information and content into your Office 365 Group. There are over 100 Connectors available, spanning popular applications across productivity, news sources, HR systems, sales, project management, marketing automation, entertainment, eLearning, developer tools, and many more.

Whether you are tracking a Twitter feed, managing a project with Trello, or watching the latest news headlines with Bing, Office 365 Connectors surfaces all the information you care about in the Office 365 Groups shared inbox, so you can easily collaborate with others and interact with the updates as they happen. Powering all this is just a PDL (Public Distribution List) in Azure AD.

So not only do we have much to look forward to for SharePoint, I look forward to the next SharePoint Saturday. You should see where your local event is held.

If you thought the hamburger was bad, the waffle icon in Office 365 is worse

Building a usable intranet on SharePoint is easier than ever before owing to Office 365 in the cloud. Microsofts cloud subscription model has made the power of SharePoint available to organisations that previously would not have had the IT support necessary to deploy such enterprise level software.

But organisations of every size have to consider the user experience that out-of-the box SharePoint offers, and theres a problem: people cant get home.

Hamburger menu iconHow do you feel about the hamburger icon that you might notice when using a mobile site? When I first started seeing this web furniture I was happy to touch it to explore, and not unexpectedly, there was a menu. These days, Im happy to see the hamburger menu, and ignore it, until I want to explore the site. Do you feel the same?

But if youre keeping up with design trends and user research, you might know that the hamburger menu does not appear inviting to everyone. Many people do not notice the icon, cannot interpret the three horizontal lines, and do not ever touch it.

User research shows hiding menu items means they dont get used

Ive been conducting rough and ready user testing in recent weeks, looking into how people think and feel about their Office 365 intranet. One striking finding that I cant ignore is how difficult people find returning to the home page is.

Many people, it seems from my research, like to start a fresh task from the home page; but getting back to the home page from wherever they are within the Microsoft cloud is a challenge.

Microsofts cloud SharePoint offering expects everyone to think in an app way OneDrive is an app; Delve is an app; Word is now an app all accessible from the main waffle icon.

A 7-point framework for employee engagement in the digital workplace

Modern organisations are using a number of clever techniques to accelerate internal change and make it stick. This free e-book puts forward a simple and effective 7-point framework to use to deliver change campaigns and programmes.

How many homes are there?

Think about how people access the home page of the intranet. From log-in, a person might land on your intranet home page or, depending how they logged in, the Office Home page.

Office Portal home

From here, they have to click on SharePoint. This brings up SharePoint home. This is perfect if you want to dive into your teams collaboration site, but it isnt the intranet home page that comms people might expect.

SharePoint home

(SharePoint was named Sites up until June 2016.)

To reach the true intranet home page, the person has to click on a link or the tile / card called Intranet (highlighted above). Now they get to experience the company home page (but in a new tab)

Once deep within the intranet, people can click the company logo to get to the home page (if they know this trick) but what if they are in an app?

Imagine youve just performed a people search and have found Vikrams phone number and maybe office location. Now, you may well be inside Delve now looking at Vikrams Delve profile. Its likely that all the intranet-specific menu items are not shown, as this is just Delve. How do you return to the home page? The back button on your browser should work (unless you’re in a new tab), but do you really want to click that 12 times, each time checking to see where you are?

How do you quickly get from Delve to your intranets home page? Theres no logo to click.

Theres left-hand menu item that just says Home but this is Delves home. Take a look at some research results, below.

Delve heatmap

Half of my research was conducted during usability testing with me sat right there with the person, but the above heatmap shows online testing where the person worked alone.

Waffle iconYou can see that, when a person is in Delve and they need to return to the home page of the intranet, only 39% first think of clicking the waffle icon. The majority of people click the Home link and why not? It has a house icon and everything! But this is Delve home.

The answer is supposed to be the waffle icon click the waffle and the paddle menu offers you SharePoint. Youre supposed to know what this word means…

While every day users of the Office 365 environment may well become confident in getting around, those people new to the platform, or just those who only use the intranet every so often, do not find the basic navigation intuitive.

Office paddle menu - app launcher

The waffle icon offers a paddle menu of coloured square icons (the ‘app launcher’) including something called SharePoint, which takes you to to master index page that lists out all the intranet and project sites you personally have subscribed to or have access to. This is not an intuitive page (although its very useful); most people expect the real intranet to guide them around.

Next to the waffle icon is a big menu item that just says Office 365. If you click this, you land on a page that offers you the exact same coloured square icons that the waffle icon offers. Because this is the Office 365 home, not your intranet home.

Office Portal home

Click on SharePoint and you land on an index page, offering you all the sites you have access to. From here, youre supposed to know to click on Intranet or whatever your company has called the intranet. Only now do you reach the home page.

So from doing a people search (a very common task) it takes three clicks to get to the home page, rather than one. The hardest click is the first one; very few people Ive worked with ever explore the waffle icon. It does not indicate that its a button or that its hiding a menu.

This seems awkward, and the people Ive been working with felt that they were not experienced enough to understand the intranet. They graciously excused the intranet and said they needed more training. This is horrible, when the intranet has failed them, and made them feel lost and frustrated.

Help people get home with a custom icon

Custom app icon
You (your intranet administrator) can add a custom tile (app icon) to the paddle menu found within the waffle icon.

So you could add an icon for the home page of your intranet, reducing confusion and the number of clicks needed to get home when a person finds themselves in Delve or some other app.

But, and its a big but, your new icon only shows up on the My apps page (where a person lands if they click View all my apps in the paddle menu) until each individual chooses to add it to the paddle menu by hand. In other words, every employee needs to visit the My apps page and select the new Intranet icon and use the Pin to app launcher function. Is this something everyone will do? No.

The take aways

  • Dont expect people know whats in the waffle icon, or even realise it is clickable.
  • Understand that home can mean different things to different people; Search has a home; Delve has a home; Office 365 has a home; SharePoint has a home.
  • Tell people that things often open in new tabs – help people be aware of what their browser does.
  • Introduce the waffle icon to people as part of your adoption and engagement activities. Highlight it in training. Explain how to reach the home page of the intranet, and how to reach other SharePoint sites.
  • Consider beatifying your intranet with a brand design that suits your company, and that adds rich navigation features (like better, more obvious menus). Such brand designs do not affect the SharePoint code and are easy to install.

Its this last item that needs careful consideration. While many smaller organisations are happy with the vanilla look of out-of-the-box SharePoint, medium and large companies almost always talk to us about a suitable design for their brand. Some people have concerns about customising SharePoint, but adding an attractive design isnt customisation, its merely design.

Joe explains how easy it is to brand SharePoint, even in the cloud take a look. A good brand design doesnt just make your intranet look more pleasing, it can help with the usability and UX adding much needed navigation aids and helping people do what the most want to do go home!

Is my data safe on SharePoint Online and Office 365?

There are plenty of reasons why organisations want to migrate their SharePoint intranet, Exchange, and other digital workplace tools to the cloud. But some people still view the move to the cloud as a big risk. Working at Content Formula, I find risk is the most common objection we come across from our clients when considering Office 365.

This is entirely rational. If you are responsible for your companys data and systems its your job to think about this and ask — wheres my data going to sit? How secure is it? What about compliance? Reliability?

Cloud securitySecurity

This infographic of the worlds biggest data breaches will send shivers down the spine of any CIO. It also illustrates the different ways that data can fall into the wrong hands. This means that any security measures need to be multi-layered. Office 365 security is made up of the following layers: physical security, logical security, data security, user controls and admin controls.

Physical security is all about ensuring the data centres themselves are safe and secure from threats such as intruders but also from ‘inside jobs’. Microsoft goes way beyond security guards and CCTV. They have biometrics palm readers, segregation of the data network from the external network, demagnetisation and destruction of faulty hard drives, and role separation of datacenter staff to name a few.

Logical security covers computer systems and the processes for managing them and keeping them secure. Microsoft has two teams in place called Red Team and Blue Team who try to uncover security holes in the Office 365 architecture. The red team attempts to penetrate the systems whilst the blue team attempts to detect and stop them. On top of this, Microsoft also hires independent auditors and penetration testing firms to make sure their systems are bullet-proof. Logical security doesnt just protect from external hackers but also from internal Microsoft access.

The data security layer ensures that data is adequately encrypted both when it is at rest – sitting in a data centre – and when it is in transit across the internet. This means that the only time it is not scrambled is when you are viewing it on your PC. On top of this there are all sorts of anti-spam, monitoring, and malware tools to make sure your data and staff are not falling prey to data thieves.

Giving customers and end users controls so that they can set their own security is a key concept in Office 365 security.

Data Loss Prevention, for example, allows you to restrict where content can be saved and shared, such as a USB stick, OneDrive, or SharePoint. Office 365 also enables end-users to send an encrypted message (even outside their own company) if they feel email is not secure enough.

Mobile Device Management allows IT admins to control how data is accessed on mobile devices and even wipe a device that has been lost or stolen. There are a bunch of other enterprise-level user controls on Office 365.

Data access and privacy

Entrusting a third party to hold and manage your data invariably means that you are giving them access to it. Or does it? Microsoft stresses that it doesnt mine data for advertising purposes but has further recognised customer concern around this and has found many ways to secure customer data from itself as much as possible. Further, Microsoft aims for transparency, disclosing all sorts of details around data location and data access.

The only times Microsoft will access your data is to fix service issues. Even in these instances, there are many restrictions. For instance, only specifically trained, authorised, and authenticated engineers access the data and this is always logged by the system and made available to the customer.

Where possible, only non-content such as IP address, email addresses, subject lines etc. are accessed to resolve issues. If an issue requires content access (as opposed to non-content) this is escalated first and further controls are invoked. There is now an optional yet built-in alert and permission system called Lockbox so that customers can explicitly bar access to data from authorised engineers.

In light of the Edward Snowden NSA revelations, Microsoft also is at pains to stress how seriously it controls customer data access by government agencies. It publishes details of law enforcement requests and fights requests in court if it believes them to be unjustified.


Microsoft has racked up an impressive list of certifications and standards when it comes to compliance around data protection. These include international, regional, and industry-specific standards. They are independently verified and audited on a continuous basis. In some cases, Microsoft works directly with data protection bodies to develop their services. In 2014, Microsoft received a letter of endorsement for Office 365 from a group consisting of all the data protection agencies in the European Union. Through the ‘EU Model Clauses’, Office 365 customers can now comply with the EUs stringent Data Protection Directive relating to cross-border transfers of personal data.

To help customers meet specific compliance requirements for their industries, and to enable demonstrable control to auditors and regulators, a whole slew of customer controls are in place. For example, customers can access the Office 365 service logs so that they can show how data has been processed and managed. eDiscovery tools allow customers to mine and analyse vast amounts of data for litigation and investigation purposes. Many other controls allow clients to customise for compliance purposes.


These days its fair to say that file management and email are mission critical. Service reliability is therefore a key risk when moving to the cloud. Again, Microsoft sees transparency as a key means of addressing doubts about reliability. It publishes uptime reports that show that the Office 365 service has never dropped below its 99.9% uptime guarantee, at least on a global level.

As a customer, you also have access to an Office 365 service health dashboard of impressively detailed and granular data and reports surrounding your own service.

O365 Service Health Dashboard

When it comes to my own experience with Office 365, Ive had a few minor glitches but nothing more. Ive worked in large organisations that manage their systems in-house; if you have too I am sure you too have seen these systems go down frequently, often for hours at a time.

And this final point brings me to my conclusion. Because surely any evaluation of a cloud service like Office 365 has to be done in comparison with the in-house alternative delivered using smaller resources, less expertise, and more rudimentary functions. Not moving to the cloud may represent the bigger risk for many organisations.

I hope I’ve provided an overview of how Microsoft addresses key risks; as a Tier 1 Microsoft cloud solution provider, we have the utmost confidence in Microsoft’s cloud security. For more detail go to the Office365 Trust Centre.

As a gold Microsoft Partner, we can help you with every aspect of SharePoint and Office 365. Take a look at our recent work.

How Microsoft is integrating Yammer into SharePoint 2013

===update 27th May 2016===

With the demise of Yammer Conversations what looked like quite a cool initiative to bring Yammer comments into Office Docs and vice versa you might be forgiven for thinking that there’s not been much progress in integrating Yammer into the wider Office 365 suite.

I just returned from a Future of SharePoint session held at Microsoft’s London office for SharePoint consultancies. The talk was hosted by Jeff Teper, VP of SharePoint and One Drive. He’s the man with the vision when it comes to SharePoint. In the last month we’ve seen some really quite exciting announcements about SharePoint – it seems Microsoft is starting to really invest in this tool. However, what was surprising about this talk is that there was zero mention of Yammer.  I went and spoke to the host at the end and asked him what are the plans for integrating SharePoint with Yammer.

First, I was assured by the SharePoint team that Microsoft is not going to kill Yammer and that they are actively investing in it. Before any serious out-of-the-box Yammer integration can go ahead the team are rebuilding the back end of the application. This is so that it can be hosted in Microsoft’s various Office 365 data centres around the world. Once this is done they are going to look at hooking the two tools together. For example, we can expect to see a ‘share on Yammer’ button next to files in SharePoint and OneDrive. In the meantime, we are going to have to continue working with custom integrations and the Yammer app all mentioned in our original post from August 2014 below.

Dan Hawtrey


Microsoft is working tirelessly to integrate Yammer with SharePoint 2013. We take a look at the features you can expect very soon that will make your intranet more social.

Continue reading “How Microsoft is integrating Yammer into SharePoint 2013”

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