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.


SharePoint page editing – Improving the experience for content publishers

SharePoint 2013 does not provide a great experience for content publishers out-of-the-box.

This is something that we need to address in nearly every intranet project we deliver.

There are two main approaches that can be taken:

  1. Add some custom editing elements that simplify the experience, but are hyper-focused on a few key editing tasks.
  2. Use a third party add-in to provide a better user experience across a broader set of features and content types.


Custom editing elements

Content publishers can click an onscreen element like this one.

The editor can then add information to the page by filling in a simple form.
This avoids any of the out-of-the-box SharePoint interfaces which can be confusing and overwhelming.

We have provided a demo video that shows an example page content editing task. See video below:

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Drastically improves the experience for content publishers
  • Reduces or completely removes the need for training
  • No on-going licence fees
  • Restricted to a small number of important areas (otherwise costs can quickly add up)
  • Requires additional budget to maintain and enhance these features over time


Third party add-ins


There are many options when it comes to third party add ins for SharePoint.

Some are aimed at enhancing every aspect of SharePoint like Wizdom intranet-in-a-box.

Others are aimed at enhancing things like page editing and design. A good example of this type of product is ShortPoint.

Products like these still require some training for content editors, but offer an improved experience and greater flexibility when maintaining intranet content.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Improves the experience for content publishers
  • Reduces the need for training
  • Has a wide ranging set of features (depending on the product)
  • On-going licence fees (often fairly significant ones)
  • You may be paying for features you dont need
  • Requires support from the product vendor or consultancy



Improving SharePoints content editing interfaces is not easy and comes at a cost regardless if you take the custom or prebuilt route.

Therefore, it is important to identify and prioritise the areas where you want to give a lot of control to content editors. Typically more options for ways and styles of publishing = greater cost.

By limiting the control given to content owners and making things as template driven as possible, you can keep costs more reasonable.

A positive side effect of a template driven approach is often a cleaner, more simplified experience for your intranets end users.

More recently, a significant way to improve the user and editor experience for SharePoint is to move to SharePoint Online as part of Office 365. SharePoint Online has a completely refreshed interface which makes things a lot easier for editors.

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.






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”

The Microsoft digital workplace new tools to get to grips with

The intranet is no longer one thing. While the intranet may be the foundation of the digital workplace, it is made up of several platforms and tools. If SharePoint has always been your focus, prepare for the new wave of Microsoft tools to enhance your ways of working. Continue reading “The Microsoft digital workplace new tools to get to grips with”

Top 10 Search Features in SharePoint 2013

As someone who has been focusing on Enterprise Search in SharePoint for years, I can say I now know it inside out. There are things I like a lot, there are others I dont like too much. In this blog post, I decided to collect 10 new or improved features that are my top favorites and that make SharePoint 2013 Search a real enterprise solution.

1 One, Integrated Enterprise Search Core

In SharePoint 2010, there was a Search Engine (a.k.a. SharePoint Search), but we also had the opportunity to install FAST Search for SharePoint (a.k.a. FS4SP) in order to get real, enterprise level features. FS4SP had to get licensed and installed as a separate product, as a separate farm, and then we could integrate it with SP2010.

In SharePoint 2013, the whole story is much easier: the big FAST Search engine got 100% integrated into SharePoint, therefore no separate installation and maintenance is needed. As soon as you install SharePoint 2013, you get the big engine instantly.

2 Content Processing, Entity Extraction

Content Processor is a component that sits in between the Crawler and the Indexer. It is responsible for processing the crawled content. It does all sorts of clever stuff including language detection, extracting security descriptions (to determine who in your organization is allowed to see the content), parsing, linguistic processing (to understand the real meaning of the content), entity and metadata extraction, etc.

SharePoint search - content processing and entity extraction

There are two things Id like to highlight here. First is the Web Service Callout step. This option is very useful if you need to perform custom operations on the crawled items before they are processed further.

The second step to highlight is the Custom Entity Extraction. Most organisations have specific terms (a.k.a entities) that are commonly used in everyday business. Its useful to tell the search engine to look out for some of these words because they carry particular significance for that company . For example, product names or regions where the company operates. The Custom Entity Extraction process extracts words (entities) from the content and use them as metadata in the index. This metadata can be used for filtering, ordering as well as facets on the Refinement Panel. The entities are pre-defined in a dictionary which is created by the organisation. See below an screengrab which shows how custom entities can be useful on the search results page to help the user zero in on what he is looking for.

SharePoint search - entity extraction and meta data

Both Web Service Callouts and Entity Extraction work on any type of Content Source, therefore can be used to unify and standardize the metadata in the index.

3 Continuous Crawl

Besides Full and Incremental Crawl, theres a new option in SharePoint 2013 called Continuous Crawl. This is a very dynamic and agile way of crawling that uses SharePoints change log to pick up the changes and enumerate the items which have to get crawled. One of its biggest benefits is in its flexibility and agility: the new and changed items can get indexed in minutes or even seconds, therefore we get a good basis for real, always up-to-date Search Based Applications.

Second, Continuous Crawl can rut at the same time as Full Crawl, therefore it can be used to keep the index refreshed or up-to-date, even if the Full Crawl takes a long time (days or weeks).

Continuous Crawl is available on SharePoint content sources only.

4 Search Administration on Multiple Levels

Due to the complexity of Search in SharePoint 2013, search administrators have complex tasks and responsibilities. Delegating some of these tasks might become essential.

In SharePoint 2013, search administration tasks can be delegated to Site Collection administrators and even to Site administrators.

5 Troubleshooting Enhancements

As Murphys Law says, If anything can go wrong, it will. Enterprise Search is really complex, and any of its components can go wrong. The better troubleshooting tools we have, the easier to fix these issues.

In SharePoint 2013, we have enhanced logs and reports on the server-side that can be used to debug and identify the causes of issue. The enhanced Developer Dashboard can be also used for debugging, and despite its name, its not for developers only.

SharePoint search - developer dashboard troubleshooting

6 PowerShell

PowerShell is Microsofts scripting technology that has modules for SharePoint administration and automation, too. A huge improvement in SharePoint 2013 is that we have more than 150 commands for Enterprise Search management, including setup and deployment, topology management, crawling, query processing, metadata, etc.

7 UI Enhancements

One of the most important UI enhancements is the new Hover Panel, where the search results metadata and related actions can be displayed, as well as its outline and preview if the result is a document. Besides the Hover Panel, I also like how easy it is to customize the way search results are displayed: Display Templates are responsible for the display of the results, the Hover Panel and the refiners. Display Templates are simple HTML and JavaScript files, with structures that are easy to understand. Customization is easier than ever.

SharePoint search - display templates and UI enhancements

8 Result Sources

Result Sources are used to define the index to be used in our queries (is it a local SharePoint index or a remote one from a separate content source such as Lotus Notes?). They also describe the subset of results to retrieve (these were called search scopes in SharePoint 2010). Results Sources can be very useful to define verticals for our Search and ultimately help the user focus her search.

9 Query Rules

Query Rules help us to define rules that are based on the users intent when searching. For example if I search for Harrods department store there is a high likelihood that I want to know the location or see a map; view opening and closing times; or to get a link to their online store. Technically speaking, Query Rules contain conditions and actions. A condition can be based on the query itself (contains one or more specific keywords, matches terms defined in a Managed Metadata Term Set, etc.) or on the user (for example the department he or she works, job title, location, etc.). Of course, these conditions can be combined.

Actions are all about promoting the right results to the user – displaying specific Result Blocks or modifying the current query.

Some examples:

  • If the user is based in Europe (condition), display a Result Block that highlights the latest documents related to the European market (action).
  • If the query contains the keyword define (condition), display the results (definitions) from the Company Knowledge Base (action).

10 Search Query Builder

Last but not least, Id like to highlight the wizard that is used in every Search Web Part in SharePoint 2013. This is the Search Query Builder that helps not only in building the query to be used, but also in choosing the result source as well as filters, ranking models, etc. It also gives us the opportunity to test the results of the current settings before saving anything. This can speed up the configuration of search dramatically.

SharePoint search - custom query builder


As you can see, Search in SharePoint 2013 has a lot of components that can be and have to be used in order to get a real, enterprise-level Search Application. In this blog post I highlighted what I consider as the top 10, but of course, there are many more, and the beauty of Enterprise Search is always in the details!

Agnes Molnar is the founder of Search Explained, a Content Formula partner.

[email protected]

SharePoint migration paths

Unlike auto-updates on your smartphone, SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 upgrades take considerable labour. SharePoint migration takes a concerted effort; the whole organisation needs to be involved, with business functions following the lead from the portal / intranet manager and IT architects.

Update SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010

A path through the jungleThere is no direct upgrade path from SharePoint 2007 to 2013; everything is just too different.

You can perform a series of database-attach upgrades to step to SharePoint 2010.

  • Are you prepared to pay for 2010 just so you can get to SharePoint 2013? Its possible that your Microsoft rep will be able to help you with costs, but of course its all about the business case.
  • Are you prepared to do a clean install of SharePoint 2013 and then migrate all your data and content by hand, or with a third party migration tool?

On the one hand, an upgrade path of any kind might please your colleagues, while putting most of the stress onto the IT department.

On the other, a fresh start after five or six years might just be the boost your intranet and people need, but few people will be thrilled to lift n shift their content. Frankly, a lot of content will be defunct and misleading, so a serious content audit is necessary whenever you need your content, navigation, and search results to be current and relevant.

Update SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013

The upgrade path from SharePoint 2010 to 2013 is direct, and the IT team (with the right information) can follow the process easily enough, assuming that any third-party customisations cause no bother.

If youre the intranet manager, or a site manager within the enterprise intranet, then youll want to be prepared to upgrade your sites after the site administrator / IT team has upgraded the Site Collection.

My Sites often need to be upgraded by individuals, but the server farm administrator can force the upgrade, so seek clarification about this step.

One assumption to check, is that your 2010 design, skin, theme, branding (whatever you like to call the look of your SharePoint intranet) will work perfectly with SharePoint 2013. Although we might say that HTML and CSS themes are easy to implement, we also have to be aware that the behaviour and configuration of web parts (those widgets we all love) can be complex.

N.B. Upgrading to the latest version of SharePoint does not solve problems that already exist in your environment. While at home, many of us love to upgrade our software in the hope that the bugs will be fixed, with SharePoint its more about the tech architecture.

So, optimise your SharePoint 2010 installation before you begin the upgrade process.

While optimizing SharePoint is a very technical matter, theres also the opportunity and need to review your governance.

Governance should touch on technology, but its mostly about making decisions and getting things done, and so its about people.

Its not all about IT

SharePoint 2013 rollout will fail if people from across the business are not involved from the start. The more decentralised your governance, the more effort will be required to engage site owners, content owners, and stakeholders. The upgrade might be a success, technically, but if people fail to adopt the new features, or revert to their favourite systems (Google services, email) then the value and impact of your efforts will be eroded.

Good governance helps people across the organisation set the agenda, so that the intranet supports real needs and objectives.

Governance covers the processes and politics of managing and improving the intranet,
to ensure it supports business goals.
~ Wedge Black

Both the people side and the tech side of things are crucial to running your SharePoint upgrade to reduce the risk of a stalled migration, and increase the value of your intranet.

Photo credit: McKay Savage

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