Setting up Team Sites and Publishing Sites.

When I’m approached and asked to just “spin up a site” I stop and ask my end users a few questions. Many users may find themselves confused about what they are looking for. I find it difficult to also shut down someone’s enthusiasm to use SharePoint.  It takes some time to work through your end users wishes. I’ll include in my post these questions I like to ask, which I will follow with my rational for asking.


What do you envision on your new site?
Starting out with this question is going to quickly knock off people actually looking for a library. If they respond with “See we’ve noticed that we have X items, and they no longer fit in Y library.” They need a new library. If people are finding there area such as OneDrive or a library becoming cluttered with similar documents… they probably need a library.
Now when your approached with a rational… If they respond with “Well have decided that our three programs have become very large, and we’d like to see them in specialized areas so they can have calendars, contact lists, and placed to put X,Y,Z documents so it is organized to meet ABC organization’s reporting needs.”  You may need to investigate this need even deeper. A new sub site could be in their future depending on planning.

How do you see permissions on your new site? Who needs access to this information?
Understanding the rational behind permission an individual is looking to find may be a great way to direct them to look at one drive. If someone starts talking about “Well, I share this document with Joe, and only Joe needs it.”  This may be a great bridge to asking “Is this document important to the organization as a whole, if you and Joe were no longer with us?”
Depending on how the answer this second question… it could be this item is just something Joe and this person works on to add (copy/paste) to another report. At this point I’d advise Joe and company to consider keeping this one off on the One Drive for Business.  Now, if his answer is different and he starts explain the use, and who receives it, and who accomplishes what with this information we may need to look into a document library or a workflow possibility.

After receiving this bit of information I ask the requestor to grant me the time to assess the needs to see if we are looking at a bigger information architecture or business process issue. This time could include taking the liberty to ask other departments about their current interaction with this information. Taking time to investigate needs will lead towards a better information architecture.

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Mi-GMIS Conference Review

Monday, September 14th 2015 kicked off the 35th Michigan Government Management Information Systems conference. Information provided included topics such e-government, hardware set-ups -switches, physical security, telephony, etc.

MiGMIS does a very nice job of bringing in relevant information for government employees within technology at a very affordable price. I believe the registration is only $100 per government employee. Notable sessions included the following information:


 

Transforming abandoned big box store into a functioning dynamic city hall – utilizing only 4 staff members to operate an eco-friendly upcycle of an old Circuit City.

Experiences of building websites for citizens to find information about government, submit information, and more.

Cyber security within local government. Looking at how to access and address issues in government information security.

Overall it is a very informative conference for local Michigan Government needs, it has been enlightening to see how various state governments utilize technology. Boyne Mountain has been a great host, definitely a beautiful venue. Thumbs Up MiGMIS!

Site Master Page Settings – A quick change to keep your sub-sites following your prescribe theme

Keeping your sub-sites congruent to the prescribed theme is an important way for your end users to keep track of where they at. Aesthetically, end users will begin to associate certain colors and themes with the work area they are visiting.

This change is easy to accomplish and can be done in a matter of a few clicks.


 1. Browse to site your wishing to edit.

2. Copy and paste the following: _layouts/15/ChangeSiteMasterPage.aspx” to the end of your SharePoint Page.
So your page should look something like this “https://yourcompany.sharepoint.com/testsite/
_layouts/15/ChangeSiteMasterPage.aspx

3. You’ll want to inherit from the parent page.

The following is an example of how you’ll inherit from the parent site page. It’s as easy as selecting the following three options.

Screenshot of how to complete this task.

Screenshot of how to complete this task.

Inheriting the theme is important to remember, otherwise your site will inherit the feature but will not have the same stylistic feel as the site your inheriting from.

4. Click “OK”
Your changes may take a few seconds to load. Your new page should have that same look and feel as your parent site.

Planning for next year’s project? Listen to your end users.

It’s that time of the year again, strategic planning.

Personally, I enjoy this time of the year. The organization as a whole gets to join together and talk through goals, needs, and pain points. Hopefully this isn’t the moment when you are beginning to gather your project ideas. If it is, that’s okay just get caught up, you don’t want your budget needs to be overlooked. In this article I’m going to outline some tips for picking up on your end users needs throughout the year, and during your strategic planning as well.


Spend Time In Various Departments

I am guilty just as much as the next person. It’s human nature to be attracted to departments that make you laugh, has great discussions, or just provides the most snacks. Other departments may be the quiet few that slip from your radar, these departments still have great input into your enterprise system development.

Grant yourself time every quarter to make house-calls. Larger organization may have many branches or buildings, go visit your colleagues. This time doesn’t need to be spent on technology projects, but just a visit. There is no need to for you to schedule a meeting, or find a room. Just stop into their space, watch how they are working, and ask questions. Here’s a couple great questions to get the conversation going?

  • How do you like working in your team site?
  • Is there anything your having trouble finding?
  • Is there any information you’d like to see added?
    • Leave this one open ended.. it could be metadata, libraries, custom lists, who knows…

Attend outside of work organization functions

Networking with your colleagues and peers outside of work is a great opportunity for them to begin opening up to you about their dreams of an ideal workplace. I’m not saying go out and become friends with your entire organization, but make an effort to step out of the office to do networking during off hours. Individuals that may be afraid of voicing opinions around management staff could lend great ideas to an organizational wide project. Remember, knowledge workers that are on the front line are going to use SharePoint much more than senior level staff.

My job is boring…”

Hopefully you don’t think your job is boring! End users have a tendency of down talking what it is they do on a daily basis. End users that are either afraid of change or hating talking will tell you “My job is boring…” or “I don’t really do anything that important…” peers like these will typically be your technology fence sitters. Getting to know these end users better may produce large quantities of processes that are currently inefficient, making their lives easier may free them up to learn other job roles that they may not consider to be so booorrring.

End Users may throw the line out that their job is boring, or that they don't do anything important..

End Users may throw the line out that their job is boring, or that they don’t do anything important..

Planning season should be fun, entertain others ideas because you never know where your next innovative solution to human issues may come from. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, I’d love to hear about it! Till next time… Happy SharePointing!

Two Words: Requirements. Gathering.

Want to clear a room out fast?
Mention free pizza.

Want to clear a room out fast, and not have a single person come back?
Mention requirements gathering.

This trend is ongoing and it really doesn’t matter what field of work you find yourself in. Requirements gathering is the necessary evil that exists for Business Analysts, SharePoint Architects, and end users alike. We all go into the room unaware of how a meeting will turn out, just like the first day of school.

Taking the bully approach of “give me everything you know about your job” has a tendency to leave end users not engaged, and at times… well bullied. Not everyone in the room is brave enough to share their ideas.

Here’s a few tricks that I’ve been using the past couple weeks to help facilitate productive meetings that have end users feeling engaged, heard, and appreciated for all the work they contribute to our organization and this project:

  • Keep Meeting Invites to a Minimum – A personal number that I shoot for is 10 people or less included in meetings. Naturally, people will feel more obligated to participate in the main conversation if there is a smaller group. The more people you bring in the chances of people starting side conversations or completing work in the meeting will go up dramatically. Utilizing smaller groups actually helps you, as a facilitator, better direct the attention of the room as well as keep a running tab of who your largest/smallest contributors are.
  • Get to Know Everyone in the Room – Working at a small organization is a wonderful opportunity. We get to share in the exciting news of our coworkers, see our peers grow in their jobs, and participate in employee gatherings where we know everyone’s name. It is still important have introductions at meetings, people want to share something about themselves. I like to change up my introduction slide whenever I’m getting ready to start a new project, conduct a training, or am working with external groups. Using fun questions give people an opportunity to share about themselves and learn more about their peers. This also give you, the facilitator, an opportunity to take notes on individuals you work with you may not see everyday, so later you can continue to build trust by remembering what is important to your peers.  On an intro slide ask people to provide the following:
    • Name
    • Quick Description of Position w/in Organization
    • Silly Question: What is your favorite vacation spot? What is something that should be on your resume but isn’t? Who’s your superhero/band/musician? If you could be an animal which one would you be and why?
  • Gamification –  Sitting for two hours straight can be a huge drag on end users. Especially to your introvert users, for some talking can be a huge undertaking. There are several companies out there providing valuable insight into how people want to share information. I’ve personally become interested in Innovation Games. After playing a few of these games with my end users I’ve found myself with more information than I have time to process. Turn your requirements gathering into a game of writing down what is important to end users. During a session we had sticky notes flying and staff having fun working together through how they do their jobs.

    After 20 minutes we have found all this information!!!

    After 20 minutes we have found all this information!!!

  • Assign a Scribe – When facilitating it is essential to have someone recording the meeting. Taking notes on body language, who said what, and all those little nuances that are happening around the room, who’s on their phone, drawing, working, or almost sleeping! Always make sure your scribe is someone you know has the ability to take detailed notes. Those notes will play a key role when it’s time to begin writing implementation plans.
  • Follow-up Emails –  Let end users, stakeholders, and anyone else you’ve schedule your meetings with know that your appreciate their time and input in your project. As mentioned earlier people want to know that you appreciate their support. Sending a quick email is a reminder that you are looking to build a working relationship on the foundation of trust. Becoming a strong contact point for your platform and department will lend others to reach out for help in the future for development as well as end user adoption since they know you are there to help out.

Remember, when your out working with end users have fun and try to keep the tech talk to a minimum. End users are not going to be excited hearing about libraries, custom lists, and the term store.  Nerding out is best done with your Information Technology department.

 

Please let me know what you’d like to see next, I’m open to topic suggestions.

Hello, World!

Hello! My name is Ashley. After spending many years working around various careers I’ve stumbled upon a great topic (SharePoint) that I can get excited about to teach people about, and find myself spending countless hours trying to learn more about.

In the spring of 2015 I was invited to begin attending meetings with my current employer. During this time we covered topics that were very vague for the SharePoint Strategy team. Assisting the team grasp these concepts using insights I’ve gain through my Master’s of Public Administration program I began assisting our consultants in the process of clearing out the fog of uncertainty. We worked for many weeks answering tough questions, building sustainable policies, and creating a strong structure for our SharePoint platform moving forward.

Currently as an organization we are setting forth to build out the road-map that had been charted earlier this year. As this process continues, I have found many treasures of knowledge that I would like to share with other small companies (250 – 500 employees) using the SharePoint platform. Since I wear many hats on a daily basis you can expect to see topics such as SharePoint 2013, Project Management, SharePoint Administration, Requirements Gathering, Building a Users Group, SharePoint Policy, Data Migration, Workflows, Taxonomy, O365, K2, and more.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or topics you’d like to see posted.