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SharePoint 2013 Tips – Part 4 New Collaboration

Over the last few weeks, I’ve offered my advice for SharePoint 2013 collaboration discussing:

Today I’m discussing new collaboration.

New Collaboration

In 2003, working on documents in SharePoint was centered on the idea of “single occupancy vehicles”.  Much of the functionality was based on this sort of editing process:

  1. Original author writes a document
  2. Document version 1 uploaded to SharePoint
  3. First author sends an email to reviewers asking for updates
    1. First reviewer “checks out” the document
    2. Other people wait until the document “becomes available”
    3. First reviewer makes further edits
    4. Document checked back in (version 1.1)
    5. Edits are reviewed and approved
    6. Second reviewer checks out document, edits, checks in version 1.2)
    7. Process continues until document version 2.0 is published and updates are seen by :everyone”
    8. Additional document updates continue by returning to Step 3.

Chris McNulty Awarded Microsoft MVP Award for Second Year

Headshot of Chris McNulty, HiSoftware CTOIt is with great pleasure that I congratulate our CTO, Chris McNulty (@cmcnulty2000), for once again being awarded the Microsoft® MVP Award. Chris was first awarded the prestigious accolade in 2013 and has once again received it for 2014.

The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award is Microsoft’s way of saying thank you to exceptional, independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others. It is part of Microsoft’s commitment to supporting and enriching technical communities. Even before the rises of the Internet and social media, people have come together to willingly offer their ideas and best practices in technical communities.

SharePoint’s Most Wanted Governance Offenders

Earlier this year, we asked you to tell us about the biggest offenders in SharePoint who are constantly putting their organizations at risk, bypassing governance and training, and whose bad habits are frustrating their co-workers. Meet the 5 Most Wanted characters we uncovered in our new infographic, and learn a few helpful tips to stop them in their tracks.

Infographic image of Most Wanted Offenders

Download a copy of the SharePoint’s Most Wanted Governance Offenders Infographic.


SharePoint 2013 Tips – Part 3 Branding SharePoint & ILM

To date in my SharePoint 2013 tips series I’ve discussed information architecture at scale, site sprawl and version control in part one and sharing and sending documents as well as storage in part two. Today’s third part of my series I’m discussing branding SharePoint and Information Lifecycle Management.

Decorating SharePoint

No more blue boxes. Literally.  SharePoint “branding” used to be a more esoteric science of hand tooled features and CSS files.  SharePoint 2010 introduced the seldom-used ability to define custom site themes by using PowerPoint.  That was an interesting step (no one ever used it), but now you can make key changes directly from the browser using Composed Looks.

With Composed Looks, a site owner can restyle a site with custom layouts, fonts, colors and background images.  Here’s the editing screen – you get here from the Site Settings menu option.  Or just pick “Change the look” from the setting “gear” icon in the top right of the screen.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Compliance

decorative images of fireworksAs we head into this Fourth of July weekend in the US, I started thinking about the Declaration of Independence and the well-known phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

This got me thinking about the industries we support and the many regulations our customers must comply with in order to keep their customers and employees personal information safe. These compliance regulations are designed to help to support the idea that you will be free to pursue your life in an information-driven, digital world —  without jeopardizing your privacy.

CalOPPA, Do Not Track and Website Privacy Statements

Decorative image of the word privacyOn January 1, an amendment to California’s Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) went into effect.  In a nutshell, the biggest impact on organizations is that they have to disclose their policies on Do Not Track (DNT) signals from a user’s browser.

Unfortunately, this all gets complicated fast for a couple of reasons.  First, DNT isn’t a completed standard, so even a diligent Web operator can’t know exactly what counts as a DNT signal.  Second, the California Attorney General has been issuing guidance on the contents of privacy policies for DNT—and, while they are designed to promote transparency, they only seem to obfuscate tracking practices.   Fortunately, this guidance is not mandatory.  Third, the CalOPPA Amendment fits in a bigger structure set forth in CalOPPA.  Setting forth all of the details of CalOPPA is well beyond the scope of this short “heads up” blog post.

SharePoint 2013 Tips – Part 2 Sharing, Sending and Storage

Last week I published part one in my series on SharePoint 2013 collaboration focused on information architecture at scale, site sprawl and version control. Today I’m discussing sharing and sending documents as well as storage.

Sharing and sending

Redundant content proliferates when copying files is simpler than moving them.   As a result, in 2003 when users had documents to share with a broader audience, they would copy them to places those users had access, leaving behind older versions each time.

In 2013, there’s a better way.  When you save a document – to your Personal Site or a team site, you now have a simple way to share it with everyone – a Share menu item.   Share allows users to keep one version of the document, bringing new, selected users to it instead of shipping the document to the users.  And if users don’t have authorization to change permissions, Share requests are routed to administrators for approval. 

Ontario’s AODA Web Accessibility Audits: B2B Companies Take Note!

Decorative image of access key on keyboardAlmost a year ago, I blogged about new legislation in Canada affecting Web accessibility and mentioned that Ontario was leading the way in requiring government and businesses to make their Web content accessible under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  Now, the Canadian press is reporting that non-compliant B2B companies are receiving enforcement letters that require these companies to file a compliance report or potentially face civil penalties. Additionally, the government plans to conduct 1,700 compliance audits in 2014 to see if the AODA-mandated policies are being implemented across organizations in Ontario.

Having worked in disability rights for over 20 years now, I can’t tell you how promising this is for the disability community.  In the United States, advocates have been targeting key B2C companies that provide essential goods and services to the public.  They’ve had a few successes (e.g. Target Corporation) and a few failures (e.g. Southwest Airlines) but the overall effect is that corporate America is slowly waking up to the idea that Web accessibility is something that should be included in their business plans. 

SharePoint 2013 Tips – Part 1 Scale, Sprawl and Control

Over the next five week’s I’ll offer advice and tips on SharePoint 2013 collaboration. Today’s blog focuses on information architecture at scale, site sprawl and version control.

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra

In many ways, that’s become SharePoint’s problem in its second decade.  We take it for granted.

Now, don’t feel bad for Microsoft.  SharePoint has an enviable track record of sustained double digit growth, with hundreds of millions of users on premises and in the cloud.  Now on its fifth major release, SharePoint 2013, SharePoint offers peerless document-centric storage and collaboration on a platform most enterprises already own.

It hasn’t been a seamless rise, though. The first version of SharePoint Portal Server 2001 offered web-based document storage, but it was primitive and low capacity.  It wasn’t until SharePoint 2003 that enterprises began moving substantial content from legacy file shares into SharePoint.

Screen shot of SharePoint Portal 2003SharePoint 2003, from

However, while the platform has continued to grow and evolve over the past decade, many business user expectations haven’t moved on from the days when Kid Rock ruled the music charts:

  • All documents on a site had the same permissions
  • One library per site
  • A different site for each kind of content
  • Documents described with naming and titles, not metadata
  • Maximum of 2 million documents

But that’s not SharePoint today.  Let’s look at some of the tools and tips that make it a far more powerful tool for collaboration.   Pretend that the last ten years never happened, and SharePoint 2013 is the first version of the platform you’ve used.  Where to start?  What have you missed in the last ten years?

Let’s get caught up.  We’ll start by looking at baseline changes in architecture, permissions, communications and versioning.  Then we’ll look at how you can add color to your documents with user interface design and metadata.  Finally, we’ll conclude with a review of SharePoint’s new collaboration features, like co-authoring.

SharePoint’s collaboration foundation

Information architecture at scale

Ten years ago, most SharePoint farms were organized as hierarchies, limited to Active Directory logins.   You had a corporate home page, a few departmental sites, and most “Team Sites” were temporary collaborative spaces, set up as children of a parent department.

  • Home Page (One big site collection)
    • US
      • HR
      • IT
        • Project1
    • Marketing
    • Department1
    • Department2
      • Team2
      • Project3
        • Project3 Archive
      • ProjectX
  • Europe
    • Etc.


SharePoint 2013, on the other hand, has the capacity to handle vastly increased amounts of content, and to have multiple libraries on the same site – with granular permissions possible for each document.   In addition, multiple hybrid authentication schemes leveraging “claims” make it possible to unify internal AD users and external stakeholders on the same sites.   These collaboration areas are likely to be independent site collections[1], so sharing there doesn’t require giving permission to child or parent sites.  It also allows for a “flatter” information architecture.

Getting rid of site sprawl

SharePoint ‘adoption’, at one point, was mostly about pointing people to the right subsection of the site.  And if there was another team that needed similar information, people copied those files to the other site.  In the example above, if the IT department was supporting ProjectX, it was likely that some of the ProjectX documents were added to the IT site to make them “easier to find”.  Many enterprises kept all their sites in one massive site collection – leading to great security complexity.  Also, because of authentication complexity, internal and external stakeholder seldom shared the same sites.

As a result, you’re more likely to see site structures like this:

  • Internal Home page
    • Divisions
      • US
      • EMEA
  • Departments
    • HR
    • IT
    • Marketing
    • Department1
    • Department2
    • Documents
    • Collaboration Home page (Web Application)
      • Projects (Managed path)
        • Project1 (Site collection)
        • Project3
        • ProjectX
  • Teams
    • Team2

In this example, the division and department sites are, more than likely, publishing content to be used INSIDE the enterprise.

Finally, SharePoint 2010 and 2013 introduced a new site template – the Document Center. Document Centers are designed to be large scale, common document repositories for 250,000 documents or more.  Whereas SharePoint 2003 required a new site for each library, leading to LOTS of small libraries, you can store thousands of documents in the same place, and use security, dynamic access, and filters to generate focused views of the content.

One version of the truth

SharePoint 2013 is a high capacity platform.  Expansions in SQL and storage optimization, along with tools like Remote BLOB Storage create nearly limitless capacity for enterprise documents – up to 4TB under the right conditions.    But that’s no reason to allow SharePoint to proliferate with redundant or obsolete content.

Have you ever seen a file share, or even a library, with files named:

  • 2009 Proposal
  • 2009 Proposal_AKedits
  • 2009 Proposal_Final

If you add those files to SharePoint, all three can be edited independently.  It’s far better to keep all three “linked” as part of one logical document.  Versioning can be enabled for any library in SharePoint, allowing you to see who edited the file, what changed, and when.  Once enabled, the context menu […] can bring you to the version history inside the browser.

Screen shot of SharePoint Version History

And once enabled, the versions are also surfaced inside Office 2013’s ‘Backstage” controls (the colored leftmost tab in the UI.

Screenshot of Versions and Check Out

From Office or the browser, you can review, compare, or rollback older versions.  In more advanced use cases, you can also require documents have to be “checked out” before editing – ensuring only one person can make changes at a time.  You can still maintain a clean interface because you’re not showing redundant copies of the same thing – but they’re all still there, stacked “behind” the current file in Version History.

In part two, I’ll look at sharing and sending documents as well as storage.

[1] Or you could use Dynamic Access and use metadata classification to define security.

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