SharePoint Online… the Journey I haven’t taken (yet). Have you?

Still haven’t made the move to SharePoint Online? Neither have I… but as each year passes the amount of available features continues to grow at exponential speed. And the number of services that you can integrate is staggering. I’m attending SharePoint Fest again this year in Seattle and I found that if I only attended sessions that were dedicated to SharePoint on-premise then there would be several lulls in my schedule. I’ve had short previews of SharePoint Online (SPO) and even read some detailed descriptions of new features on Microsoft’s website. But until today I haven’t had much urge to attend SPO sessions at the conference knowing that the company I work for won’t buy into it (yet). But today I decided to fill some of my schedule lulls with some sessions dedicated to SPO.

One session in particular got me super jazzed and now I want more! It was titled “Get Inspired and Discover the Modern Experiences You Can Build with SharePoint in O365“. Many of the speakers in the sessions at this conference are vendor sales engineers or consultants. However, this session had two speakers from the Microsoft SharePoint team and in the room sitting in the audience with us were three other team members including a couple of the SharePoint Program Managers. This session was very little PowerPoint and almost all live demo. (yay!) They started out by opening up the Microsoft SharePoint Look Book and then introduced us to the SharePoint Provisioning Service.

They demoed how quickly you can spin up a new site filled with sample content using the provisioning service. I was itching to see what features they were going to dive into once the site was provisioned. I think it was my lucky day because they dove into one of the features that I’ve been longing to get my hands on. NEWS. This feature is fairly new in SPO and I believe has been released to SharePoint Server 2019 on-premise already (if not soon). When you create a modern site it comes with the News feature by default. On the modern home page, you can quickly add a new News Post or News Link. In the News Post there are several web parts available to help make your news article stand out.

  • Header – this has several different style options, one being color block which when used in conjunction with a black and white photo, creates a pop to pull in your readers.
  • Countdown Timer – Have an important date coming up that coincides with the news post? Use the timer to show a countdown in real time. You can even add text below the timer to describe what its purpose is and an image in the background to make it pop.
  • Button – Want to put a button on your post that will lead your readers to even more great content? Add a button web part and title it Learn More.
  • Call to Action – this web part has a block that you can add a background image, text and a button.
  • Other features (not web parts) – drag and drop photos straight from your computer into the news post; Organization Assets (publish images, logos, files that are relevant to your entire org for reuse on any site); save post as a template (this will make it easier to post news quickly in the future and keep a consistent look on all your posts).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. SPO has a ton of new features. There are many articles out there explaining them such as this New and Improved Features in SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Roadmap Pitstop-February 2019, so I won’t go into all the details but it’s worth investigating if you’ve been holding out on looking at SPO. And, in addition to SPO features, you can integrate directly with services like Teams, Flow, PowerBI, Tableau, Salesforce, Dynamics, Pipedrive, Facebook, Sage, OpenText, Citrix, Box, and Trello… just to name a few. 😉

So, what do you do if you’re like me and all you have at work is SharePoint on-premise but you want to evaluate those features. Well you have two free options; sign up for an Office 365 Business Premium trial which I think gives you 30 days. Or sign up for an Office 365 Developer Subscription which gives you access in 90 day chunks up to a year (and maybe more).

Start playing around in it. Get your feet wet. See what’s out there. Let a little of those online services into your bubble.

Start playing around in it. Get your feet wet. See what’s out there. Let a little of those online services into your bubble. 

~ Girl Gone Geek

Special Note: There are so many people that inspire me in SharePoint land but this season, I especially want to thank the following SharePoint Fest session speakers for inspiring me to step outside the bubbled walls of the company that I work for and follow my instincts. And for showing me some pretty wicked SPO/O365 stuff: Debjani Mitra, Michelle Koike, Benjamin Niaulin, Daniel Glenn and Drew Madelung. Oh and to my co-workers who continue to encourage my enthusiasm!

6 Tips for Keeping Motivated in Your Tech Career

This post was originally published on the Amoeba Networks, Amoeblog.

If you’ve been working in tech for over a decade, there’s a slight chance you could be getting a little burnt out. Or maybe even bored. Don’t let that overarching urge to jump ship get the best of you. There are ways you can combat and conquer. And don’t get me wrong, I am undoubtedly certain that this feeling of stress, doubt or boredom can be a problem in any industry but as a technology professional I see it happening around me every day.

Sign up for and actually read tech-centric newsletters that truly interest you. If you’ve been with one company for several years, you most likely get a barrage of emails every day from random vendors. You end up deleting most of them but occasionally find a gem of an article in one of them. Make a point of either unsubscribing or creating a rule to move the mail. Decluttering is a no brainer but the other piece to this puzzle is subscribing to feeds and news articles that have great content that you look forward to reading. For instance, I remember the day that I subscribed to C.I. Security’s news blast by Mike Hamilton. His daily IT News Blasts are chock full of great headlines. He pulls together a list of ten or so of the latest IT Security news articles and gives you a short summary of each with a hyperlink if you want to read more.

Geek out with your coworkers. Read something cool in one of those newsletters? Discuss it with one of your coworkers or techie friends. Talking about your interests will make keeping abreast even more interesting. Have an idea for a fun tech project? Make it a team project or better yet, a competition.

Attend a conference. If your company can afford it, attend a conference that’s focused on your specialty. When I was a Sys Admin I attended Cisco Live, Microsoft Roadmap, and a few other technology specific conferences. As a SharePoint Admin I’ve attended SharePoint Fest. Often times the conference web page will have tips on how to convince your boss that it’s worth it to go. You never know unless you ask. And if they say no, that can’t spare any extra money, then see if your vendor will wrap a conference pass into your next maintenance package or look for free day conferences that are local. Learn what’s new, get some great tips and network with your peers. And make sure to hit up the workshops if they offer them!

Build something that you can hang your hat on. So your boss slams a new project on your desk and tells you that the CEO wants the new shiny (complex) application to be installed, configured, and thoroughly tested by the end of next month. Rather than reluctantly accept the project, take it as a challenge and an opportunity to remind them why it was a great decision to hire you. Carefully research and plan the product to find what challenges you may be presented with during installation and what features that it provides that the company may not have noticed before. If you can come out with a perfectly configured and efficient product with a couple of bells and whistles then you will feel proud to say you did it!

Own it! Instead of saying “I’m doing inventory for my boss” or “they’re making me create a database for them”. Say, I am improving my department’s efficiency by providing an accurate inventory of our equipment. Just because the company you work for doesn’t have a huge IT budget for fancy tools doesn’t mean that you can’t be proud of what you have. Make it work great with whatever resources you have.

Blog it! I started a technical blog a while ago when I realized that I might have some tips to offer my fellow techies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found better content in blogs vs. the vendor knowledge base for tutorials or fixes. I later found that blogging has also helped me to stay inspired and lends as a reminder to why I love working in this industry. If you are a guru for application XYZ, then share your tips and trials in a blog. Pay it forward!

My Favorite Subscriptions:
KnowBe4
C.I. Security
Solarwinds

If the above don’t fit your criteria, do a web search for “best tech newsletters”. I stumbled on this great article that highlights the writers favorites in 12 of the Best Tech Newsletters to Subscribe to in 2019. Or another great way to stay on top of things is to search Twitter for a specific technology, read tech professionals latest tweets and Follow those that post interesting news! Who doesn’t love tidbits of great info in under 140 words?

Pasting Text in SharePoint Leads to about:blank

I don’t think very many people out there would experience this but I’m posting this because I couldn’t find any blog posts or forum threads out there during my troubleshooting so maybe it will come in handy for someone someday.

It was brought to my attention yesterday by one of our end users that when you copy text from another application (ie notepad) and paste it into a new item on a list, after a second or two the page gets overwritten with an about:blank page. After some troubleshooting, I found this was only happening in our SharePoint 2016 environment and NOT in our SharePoint 2010 environment. After some more troubleshooting, we found that it was being caused by the Internet Explorer setting Enable 64-bit processes for Enhanced Protected Mode.

To resolve this do the following:

  1. In Internet Explorer, open Internet Options > Advanced, scroll down near the bottom of the list and uncheck Enable 64-bit processes for Enhanced Protected Mode.
  2. Close all Internet Explorer browser sessions. Next time you try pasting your SharePoint text fields, it should work!

Resolve_paste_issue

 

Moving a Site Collection to a Different Database

It’s Thursday morning and you’re ready to get rolling on adding site collections to your new SharePoint farm. You take a sip of your cup o joe, crack your knuckles and log into Central Admin, navigate to the Application Management > Create site collections link and enter in the info for your new site collection. SharePoint happily displays the infamous “Working on it…” progress screen and voila! A shiny new site collection. AND THEN… you realize you meant to assign that site collection to a specific database in the web application. Doh!

If there is more than one content database assigned to a web application, then by default SharePoint assigns site collections to content databases in a round robin fashion. It will first assign the site collection to the database that has the least amount of site collections until they are all equal then it goes down the line assigning one site collection to each. Luckily, all I have to do is run a PowerShell script to move my new site collection to the correct database.

First, you need to make sure that the account you’re logged into Windows with has db_owner permissions on the databases you’re moving from and to. Then run this command:

Move-SPSite <http://ServerName/Sites/SiteName> -DestinationDatabase <DestinationContentDb>

Move-spsite

Then perform your iisreset and to verify, I just like to go into Central Administration > Application Management > View all site collections, select my site collection and verify that the correct Database Name is listed.

Lesson learned? I could have avoided the above and used PowerShell to create my site collection which allows me the flexibility to assign whatever database I want. Example:

New-SPSite -URL https://portal.domain.com/sites -Template STS#0 -ContentDatabase SHPT_Content_HR -Name "Human Resources" -OwnerAlias "domain\username"

References:

Microsoft’s Move site collections between databases in SharePoint Server

Summit 7’s SharePoint 2010 and 2013 Content Databases

SharePoint Designer 2013 Shenanigans

After my server team (yes, I have a server team, don’t laugh at me) stood up two brand new shiny VMs, and we installed SharePoint Server 2016 with a MinRole architecture (blog on that adventure coming soon), I was testing out various features to ensure that everything was working correctly.

I ran into two speed bumps with SharePoint Designer 2013 that I thought prudent to share. If anything, I can refer to this later if I run into the same problem again.

Problem #1

I haven’t connected my new farm to our Workflow Manager server yet, but I wanted to make sure that OOB SharePoint 2010 workflow works successfully. I launch SharePoint Designer 2013. I click on Workflows and because I previously enabled the Workflow feature in Site Collection Features I see the existing out of the box SharePoint workflows. I click List Workflow and select my document library. The wizard pops up to create  new workflow. I give it a name and click OK. No error pops up but nothing happens. It does not create the new workflow.

So, then I decide to see if I can edit an existing OOB workflow. I click on Workflows on the left menu and then click on Approval – SharePoint 2010. And I get this:

workflow_cant_display

I log onto my computer with a different account and launch SP Designer and I can edit a workflow with no problem. Ok so either my permissions are wacked or my profile is messed up. My account is a Site Collection Admin so I doubt that it’s a permissions problem. A quick search on the internet and after trying a few solutions that didn’t work I stumbled on this blog post by Bharath Kumar Arja.

I cleared my SP Designer cache following these instructions:

  1. Close SharePoint Designer 2013.
  2. Delete all the files from the following locations:
    • %APPDATA%\Local\Microsoft\WebsiteCache
    • %APPDATA%\Roaming\Microsoft\Web Server Extensions\Cache.
    • %APPDATA%\Roaming\Microsoft\SharePoint Designer\ProxyAssemblyCache.
  3. I then launched SP Designer again and when I clicked on the workflow I got the usual message that it’s downloading data from the server.
    • workflow_cant_display_fixed
  4. And the workflow opened! And I can create a new workflow! Yay!

Problem # 2

I logged onto my computer with a different account to test something in SharePoint Designer. I am logged on with a user that is a Site Collection Admin so I know that they have the permissions necessary to open a site. I launch SharePoint Designer 2013 and click Open Site. And boom! SharePoint Designer crashes. I try again and it crashes.

After  alittle research I found this blog by BrightWork that looks promising so I try their steps and it works! Here’s what you do:

  1. Open the registry (don’t try this at home kids if you don’t know what you’re doing).
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Common\OpenFind\Microsoft SharePoint Designer\Settings\OpenSite and note the value of ClientGUID.
  3. Now Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\OpenFind\Microsoft SharePoint Designer\Settings\OpenSite and look at the value of ClientGUID.
  4. Are the values the same? If yes, delete both ClientGUID entries and re-launch SharePoint Designer.
  5. Voila! Problem solved. You should now be able to open a site without SP Designer crashing.

SharePoint Fest 2018

So With my new role of SharePoint Administrator, I hope to do the following… inspire and empower my end users with SharePoint best practices and useful real-world tips that will help them harness their digital content, organize it in an easy to find and easy to use way. What better way to gather ideas for this journey than to go to a conference filled with subject matter experts conducting informative sessions and vendors with ground shaking apps? SharePoint Fest here I come!

The annual series SharePoint Fest is now in its 8th year running. There are three locations this year, Washington DC, Chicago and Seattle. I live in the beautiful Pacific NorthWest so Seattle will be the location that I attend. With hotel prices (even with conference pricing) starting at $289/night and a family at home, I decided to commute to it every day. Ugh. Yay! Ugh. Heh.

There are several different passes available. There are two days of just workshops followed by the three days of keynotes, sessions and vendor fair. You can choose to attend several combinations of days. I choose all five fun-filled days of SharePoint. Immersing my entire week in SharePoint goodness sounded like the best option being that it’s my first year as a full-time SharePoint Admin.

Workshops

It’s now Tuesday afternoon. I’ve completed my workshops. We’re they great? YES! Would I recommend them? If you have a primary role with SharePoint in your organization (Site collection admin, executive, IT manager, SharePoint Admin, Information architect, communications, project manager) then yes, absolutely, these workshops are for you! Especially if you haven’t attended SharePoint Fest before or if it’s been a few years. Workshops are either partial day or full day. I happen to choose full day for both Monday and Tuesday.

Day 1: Accelerate SharePoint Success: How to Best Plan, Manage and Control Migration Projects”. Speaker: Dux Raymond Sy. He says that technical white papers, blogs, tutorials, videos regarding the technical “how-to” do this and that in SharePoint are readily available so he wanted to provide us with something we can’t easily look up. So his approach? Provide you with useful tips, meaningful concepts and thought provoking ideas that will feed your SharePoint migration strategy.

Day 2: Information Architecture 101: How to Structure and Organize an Awesome Intranet with Amazing User Experiences. Speaker: Susan Hanley. If there were a SharePoint list with a column titled Talent, I would value Susan as Wizard of Information Architecture. She is Beyond Best Practice. She effortlessly performs her ALL DAY workshop with barely a break, sharing all of her secrets (at least as much as she can within a limited amount of time). Unfortunately I had to leave about 30 min early to catch a ferry but she was still going strong when I left so I wouldn’t doubt it if she went on past 5 o’clock.

I left both of these workshops with so much great content. I’m really looking forward to applying my newfound knowledge.

Side topic: Wildfires. I have to mention how the wildfires are affecting Washington right now. There are wildfires in various areas of the US right now. This is typical in the summertime lately. The smoke from British Columbia is traveling down the Puget Sound and taking over our airspace. Elderly and children are urged to stay inside and many people are walking around with masks. This makes the walking from the ferry to the WA State Convention Center a slightly smoky experience. Check out this image from my ferry ride. And this wasn’t even the worst day.

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And a few days later when the smoke finally lifted!

Seattle_FerrisWheel

The Conference

So today was day one of the main conference. I must confess I’m a little shocked at the low turnout. But then again I’m a tad spoiled. The last conference I attended was Cisco Live…. 30,000 attendees. I’m not sure what the attendee base is here today but I’m going to guess about a thousand. I counted roughly 800 seats in the Keynote this morning and there were many vacant seats. But not everyone goes to the Keynote so that’s why I guess a thousand. Update… looking back at this, I’m realizing why this isn’t a huge conference. It’s SharePoint, one product out of many that Microsoft produces. If I wanted a big conference like Cisco Live, then I would need to go to Microsoft Ignite which encompasses all Microsoft products. Now that I’ve reflected on this, the turnout is not that bad.

The food was pretty good I think. This morning I had Beecher’s cheese frittata, sausage and fruit. Accompanied by the darkest, richest, Starbucks suitable for a day filled with training sessions.

20180821_155153107_ios.jpg

Ok, now that that’s aside. How was today? Good. Not as impeccable as the workshop days. But such great content. The keynote was good. I expected some music, I guess because several conferences I’ve been to have motivating music pumping into the room as people fill the seats. But not SharePoint Fest. Do they think don’t care about music? Can they not afford the music? Or maybe there are statistics that show music throws people off track and makes them less productive. Or maybe it’s too tough to come up with a compromising genre. Anywho, doesn’t matter.

Dan Holme was great. He happened to lose all of the demo’s that he had been recording for the last several weeks but if he hadn’t told us this, we wouldn’t have known. His on the fly demo’s went without a hitch. He showed us how Teams is tightly integrated with SharePoint and that there are endless innovative ways you can collaborate with the two tools together. He also gave us a short demo of Microsoft Stream, which I hadn’t heard of until today. Stream is a video streaming platform that allows you to search within your video via it’s facial recognition and transcript features. Imagine you are watching an hour long video of a keynote and you want to find the spot in the video where Dan mentions Stream. Simply, search for the keyword Stream and it will give you a list of all the points in the video where he mentions Stream. Click on one to jump to that spot in the video. Sweet huh? Throughout his demo he explained how important employee engagement is and how it drives performance. Did you know that globally, employee engagement is 15%, but at the best performing companies 70% of employees are engaged and profits are 21% higher?

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Dan Holmes at the keynote enlightening us on how Teams and SharePoint are the perfect match.

Enabling even your first line workers is really important. When he was describing this, it reminded me of a book I recently read called The Ice Cream Maker. It’s an inspiring story about “making quality the key ingredient in everything you do”. This book goes on and on about employee engagement. Great short read. I highly recommend it if you need some encouragement and inspiring ideas to get things moving in your workplace.

Globally, employee engagement is 15%, but at the best performing companies 70% of employees are engaged and profits are 21% higher.

My focus today was Content Management. Columns, content types, managed metadata and a partridge in a pear tree. The following days were a mixture of data protection, search, user adoption, and data management. I’m not going to go into the details of my sessions because that would not be very helpful to you. But I would like to share some of the resources that I got out of this conference. Following are some links to blogs, white papers and tools that I collected from the sessions and vendors.

Oh wait, I forgot to mention the vendors! So as with any conference, there are vendors trying to sell you products. All SharePoint products are software-based. At first I was a little surprised that hardware vendors weren’t there trying to sell us servers and storage infrastructure to house our SharePoint servers but then I remembered… Microsoft is driving us towards an Online environment. Why would they invite hardware vendors? That would defeat their goal. Well thank you to the innovative software vendors that sponsored the event and made us realize that some of our dreams are achievable. In addition to all of the swag handed out during the Expo, after lunch on the last day the host drew names and handed out a bunch of prizes. Ranging from a 32-inch TV to fancy headphones to $100 gift cards and even a giant blow-up pretzel. I didn’t win anything but I got some flashlights and beach balls for my kids and a super soft (thank you Microsoft cloud) t-shirt for my husband. Oh and I got a super-soft SharePoint Fest t-shirt for myself for Tweeting about the event. Bonus! And props to the SPFest marketing team for getting the t-shirts right. As opposed to many of the giveaway t-shirts I’ve collected over the years that are stiff and tight necked.

Will I go next year? Most likely. I learned a lot. And I’m sure I’ll learn even more over the next several months as I migrate our company from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016 which will in turn provoke more questions that SPFest 2019 can answer for me.

Starting a New Chapter

Hello to My Blog Readers (if there are any out there),

I haven’t posted in some time… why? Life gets in the way sometimes so I guess I don’t really have a valid excuse. My husband and I have a toddler and a preschooler so life gets super busy with both of us working full time. But aside from that, I have a new job! I took off the many hats I wore as a Systems Administrator for 9 years but there’s one hat that remains. I am now exclusively, a SharePoint Administrator.

There was a time several years ago that I longed to be one. But the opportunities always seemed to be in the big city (I want to avoid a long commute so I can be with my family) and require developer experience (which I do not have).  A friend of mine called me one day. “Hey, do you have SharePoint experience?”… and next thing I know I’m sending him my resume so he can pass it along to the IT manager, getting a call for an interview and accepting the job. That was 10 months ago. Time passes way too quickly.

I wasn’t sure if I would like having the responsibility of pretty much just one product but I was ready for a change. I was ready for a challenge… this role requires organization and a lot of collaboration with end users to determine their needs and then figure out how to fulfill those needs.

So watch out, my blog is about to morph.

Sincerely,

Girl Gone Geek

 

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels