Small businesses of less than 100 people often have the challenge of building the business, developing product, marketing and generating revenue to keep the business going. Often this does not leave much time to think about putting in place a technology infrastructure to support growth. The owner or CEO, probably does not have the expertise or money to create a technology infrastructure plan.
They get the basics done like email, a website and the office essentials like Microsoft office put in. They might use a small business accounting system like Quick Books to keep track of their financials. The rest is often whatever they can get by with. The major tools are Excel where they may track client information, Employee information, and other data. Even tasks and projects often are tracked in Excel. No one thinks to put together a document storage strategy, and many are kept on employee hard drives.
Many organizations have gone to Office 365 – most because they saw the strategic value of a Cloud Solution and other because, well, Microsoft made them a deal they couldn’t refuse.
The bottom line for all businesses is that it makes dollars and sense to transform from a Client-side model with expensive servers to a Cloud-based solution. They have effectively eliminated the need to manage and install countless updates on so many different Client versions of Office. These companies give their employees greater capabilities and accessibility across all devices….anywhere… anytime.
That is…if they use it. The fastest Ferrari in the world can’t do much if you don’t learn to drive stick shift. We are finding that while a lot of people have moved to Office 365, in reality, their users haven’t adopted and are using the crutches of Client-based programs.
So now, you are paying for the cloud and the clients!?! Why should you pay for something you are not even using?
Putting It All Together: The Components of an Operational Portal Structure at the Core of a Digital Workplace
In our last blog "Putting Office 365 to Work with an Operational Portal Structure," we introduced the concept of an Operational Portal Structure (OPS) and how it is the contextual core of a Digital Workplace. We explored the meaning of an OPS, its evolution, and how it can be realized through Office 365 and SharePoint Online.
In this blog, we will take a deeper look at the core components of an OPS, what is necessary for it to be part of an Office 365 Digital Workplace, and why.
Ignite 2018 Preview: Announcing MS Herds, a New Collaboration Platform that Joins the Office 365 Team Tools
Today, Microsoft previewed MS Herds, a fresh, new addition for teams that want to work together more effectively than ever before.
MS Herds joins the roundup of Outlook, SharePoint Team Sites, Yammer, Groups, and Teams as another collaboration platform to the Office 365 family. It is designed for those teams that want to collaborate with other teams yet still want to stay part of the greater whole.
“We are excited about our newest collaboration offering for multi-team work,” said Carla Chaos, VP of Collaboration Strategy at Microsoft. "When combined with all of our other collaboration offerings, we are now able to include every possible type of collaboration model."
Many organizations have teams that want to collaborate with other teams as part of a greater herd. Microsoft recognized the ebullient need for this situation and developed MS Herds. With MS Herds multiple teams can hold conversations, share documents, calendars, and more without allowing other teams who are not part of the herd to participate.
As more organizations come to understand the value and impact of an Office 365 Digital Workplace, it will be increasingly important for businesses to successfully bring together all the necessary components. By doing so, businesses will empower employees to be more productive and proactive in their jobs while making business easier and more efficient.
To address the needs and the core components of a Digital Workplace, a new concept is emerging called an Operational Portal Structure, and it is the logical next step for businesses to move forward. But what is an Operational Portal Structure? And, more importantly, what is the impact on your business now and going forward?
In the last few months Microsoft has rolled out its new Communications Site, and at Ignite 2017 announced Hub. We compliment the Microsoft SharePoint team on the work they have done and how great the sites look; it's a vast improvement over the old user interface.
The only issue is that many users now think that they can put in a Communications Site and like magic have an Intranet. The question remains:
Are these new sites really my free out-of-the-box Intranet for my organization? The answer is perhaps yes, but probably no.
If your Intranet requires a simple news and activities page that looks good and is easy to create, then yes. If your requirements go beyond this then get ready to roll up your sleeves and put in some time and skills.
With the base Communications Site, you will find that the content will soon become stale, and you have no options for content targeting or personalization. Additionally, there are no built-in processes for approval or other content related activities. All news consists of wiki pages that require the content manager to know SharePoint who must dive into Site Contents and the Site Pages Library to manage news items.
Events consist of SharePoint calendars not related to Office 365 calendars. Communication Sites can only be created in their own site collection, so you cannot mix them with your existing SharePoint team sites. This means that you will have to manage users, permissions, apps and much more for each site collection, which can become cumbersome and complex. There is actually a long list of shortcomings with the design that can eliminate it as the magic out-of-the-box Intranet solution for many organizations. See more in the Clearbox Consulting blog.
Microsoft Showcases No-Code Power Tools for Business Users
Unlike previous years, where much of the Microsoft Ignite Conference was oriented to developers and IT, this year the conference was well balanced, with a lot of great content for business power users. Someone must have informed Microsoft that not every customer has a team of developers sitting around or can afford to hire expensive consultants to implement business solutions.
Instead, Microsoft focused considerable energy on the potential of empowering business users to create their own solutions using no-code tools. As a provider of no-code out-of-the-box solutions, we here at SP Marketplace applaud Microsoft for their work.
However, just providing the tools doesn't mean users will end up with a good solution; you still have to know what you are doing when designing the solution. Nevertheless, providing the tools does lay the groundwork for small to medium businesses that don't have large IT resources to benefit by transforming their business with a Digital Workplace.
Many businesses today are experiencing a common problem about how to increase workforce productivity and lower IT costs. The technology infrastructure of business applications driven by siloed departments has become a tangled web that employees find difficult, confusing, and chaotic to sift through, making it harder to do business inside than outside.
This complex infrastructure poses administrative challenges for IT because of separate log-in credentials, interfaces, training, support, and administration. Business applications necessary to automate processes were deployed by functional departments like Sales, HR, IT and others often independent of one another and with no prior planning. Documents and information is spread across departments while news and announcements are disseminated through endless emails that are difficult to find and organize.
For those of you using SharePoint Online on Office 365, you may have heard about the new SharePoint Modern User Interface (SPfx) that Microsoft is slowly rolling out.
Many of us in the SharePoint community are really excited to see the SharePoint look and feel brought up to date with responsive design, and a fresh new experience which aligns better with the rest of Office 365 services. It really is laying the groundwork for a Digital Workplace and an eventual seamless experience between SharePoint and other services like Groups, Planner, OneDrive and more.
However, when is the right time to move to this new Modern UI? When should you open it up to your user community in a production environment? The answer to that is not for a while, perhaps 12 – 18 months. Why? Well because the Modern UI is only about two-thirds of the way there.
If you have existing SharePoint sites, you will find that the Modern UI will only support some of your list types. It only supports custom lists and not Tasks, Calendars, Contacts etc. Those will still display in the Classic UI. So your end-users will see two different UIs depending on the type of list they are in. This will even change where and how navigation is shown. Now that will really mess them up! Feel free to peruse this article which dives deeper into Modern Vs. Classic Interfaces.
If you are taking advantage of Office 365 Groups and shared OneDrives, your user community is already exposed to some of the Modern UI, as that is the standard interface for OneDrive. Part of the new strategy is to make SharePoint Document libraries and OneDrive share the same type of user interface.
So if you do turn on the Modern look for your SharePoint Document Libraries, it will be more consistent with OneDrive. However, it will not look anything like the rest of your SharePoint site. Our friend Nathan Wells' blog illuminates the troublesome differences in the two looks. This puts it all in a no-win scenario. If you have SharePoint sites that are more than just document repositories, with lists, then use the Classic UI.
If the only reason you are using SharePoint is to share documents and you are rolling out Office 365 and OneDrive to your users, then the Modern UI might be OK. Once again it is all about consistency of user experience.
Finally, regarding converting your Home pages to the Modern UI, again that has a lot to do with being ready for production in things like new web parts, navigation handling and layout options. Like the rest of the roll-out of the Modern UI, site page building and editing is coming along but not quite there.
Traditional SharePoint Site Pages were built using standard webpart page layouts, CSS tricks and sometimes required changing the Master Page. Because of the short-comings, there were a wealth of web parts developed over the years to put whatever you needed on the page.
With the Modern UI, you no longer need to worry about all the complexities of the old Classic approach. Site pages are responsive out of the box, as are the web parts built specifically for SPfx. The long term vision is excellent, but the issue is when will there be enough function to support a production roll-out for end-users? Again, not for a while. Doing something like just providing a list of open tasks on a department home page is not possible because a Tasks list is not supported in the Modern UI. Page layouts (columns, etc) is very limited, and the availability of web parts in the early stages. Many of them are still somewhat buggy. So don’t get your users excited about the new UI just yet. You can read here one of the many siren songs wooing new users.
At SP Marketplace, we also are seeing Microsoft announce new site templates like the Communications site which is a precursor to a simple Intranet page. It also is in early stages but shows promise.
The good news is we are seeing site page capabilities growing quickly! For vendors of out-of-the box Intranet and Operational Portals, this investment by Microsoft allows us to eventually take our solutions to new levels of ease of use.
Today we are implementing SPfx on our existing products, and will be showing a prototype of our Intranet, Employee Self-Service and Department Portal at Microsoft's Ignite Exposition September 25-29 in Orlando, Florida.
We are also integrating Office 365 services like Planner, Groups and other seamlessly into our Portals, and the Modern UI will bring it together in a common user experience across SharePoint and Office 365.
All this leading to real-life delivery of a true Digital Workplace on Office 365 over the next 12 months, assuming SPfx is ready for Prime-time.
Intranet portal design has evolved considerably as a result of Office 365 and SharePoint. As more organizations come to understand and embrace the Digital Workplace, employees expect a centralized, seamless user interface that they can access anywhere, anytime.