30 December 2015

2015 Challenges Successfully Passed!

Hands It is time to look back on yet another prosperous year. 2015 has given us many new subscribers, and new challenges have given us valuable opportunities to hone our skills.

We have been digging deeper into our core competence areas by enhancing our main Outlook and SharePoint products as well as releasing new ones. We also took on some new challenges by releasing a mobile app and successfully managing sponsored product development.

Study Manager
Study Manager for SharePoint logotypeIn March we released a new SharePoint solution for online training. Study Manager was a sponsored Solution, requested by teachers who wanted to add self-correcting exercises and tasks to SharePoint and supervise their students' work with them.

These teachers took a more active part in the testing than sponsors usually do. They were by no means SharePoint experts, so their participation in the development process made us catch several points where we had taken things for granted.

Even if this early user input took some extra time, I was convinced that it was beneficial and would make Study Manager easier to manage for teachers and students. Later this was confirmed in a testimonial: "Also those students who are not used to computers can work with the exercises, as Study Manager is so easy to use."

Templates Manager
Templates Manager logotypeEvery organization wants their documents to have a consistent look and content, and the best way to achieve this is of course to use templates for different kinds of documents.

However, Microsoft has not given a good solution for templates management in SharePoint. In the second half of 2015 the team did something about that: we released Templates Manager.

With Templates Manager administrators and other template creators can publish and update templates to the whole SharePoint farm or tenancy by just pressing a button. We have also made the template search quick and smooth, so that everyone can find the right template to use at each occasion.

TimeCard for SharePoint Mobile
TimeCard for SharePoint logotype In the beginning of the year we hired our own Mobile App Developer, Madhur Trivedi, and his first release was an app that takes the information from the TimeCard for SharePoint calendar and displays it in a mobile friendly user interface. That way, users can tag events with time reporting information in smart devices that synchronize with the TimeCard for SharePoint calendar.

Now Madhur is working on an app that connects to SharePoint tasks lists. The rest of the team is busy with enhancements of existing products, and next to be released are new Outlook versions for Kanban Task Manager and TimeCard.
Married couple at Indian wedding
Team efforts and celebrations
It is fascinating to work with talented colleagues who find solutions when many others would have given up. As our 2015 product challenges has been managed in triumph, it felt wonderful to finish the year with joyful celebrations at a big wedding partyin Indore.

I have written about the marriage between Monika and Vijayant Rimza earlier this month, so here I will just give you one of the official wedding photos.

Now we are looking forward to a new year, and I will soon come back with my thoughts on the future.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

28 December 2015

Use SharePoint Search To Navigate Between Site Collections

SharePoint iconIn a new SharePoint Online tutorial in the Tips section I show how you can use SharePoint Search to navigate among site collections.

Multiple site collections instead of big ones
I usually advise customers to create several site collections, for example one for each department, instead of having everything in the same site collection. It will be easier to manage, and you can set different permissions on each site collection.

But for this to work well it is important that the navigation between the site collections is quick and easy to understand.

Scalable navigation
When you start building a SharePoint tenancy you will only have a few site collections, and you might want to put links to them in the global or top navigation of each root site. This works in the beginning, but it is difficult to scale up such a navigation. That is one of the reasons I recommend the Search navigation instead.

Search vertical
People are used to searching, so if you add a search vertical for site collections to the Search Center, users will understand what to do with it. I wrote about search verticals in an earlier blog post, and the Tips section has several articles on search verticals. A Search link in the top navigation can open the Search Center with the site collection vertical active.
Customized Search Center

Promoted links or hotspots image
Direct links to the most important site collections in the Search Results web part are especially useful to new employees who don't know the organization so well and might not know what to search for. You can also add links in the form of promoted link tiles or a hotspots image.

I show more tips on how to enhance the Search navigation in the Tips articles, so welcome to have some inspiration!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

23 December 2015

Christmas With Hope Of Light

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year on the northern hemisphere, when the sun at noon is at its lowest altitude above the horizon. In Sweden this time is filled with festivities intended to ease the darkness and bring light into our lives despite the cold and long winter nights.

The country with the polar night
In the northern part of Sweden, above the polar circle, the sun does not raise above the horizon for several weeks in December and January, and also the rest of Sweden is very dark. The office is situated in the southern part of the country, and here we have more daylight. But as the globe angles away from the sun, the rays do not give any warmth and the light is weak.

Swedish snow landscape

Winter solstice celebrations
Nowadays the winter solstice occurs on December 21 or 22 each year, but with earlier calendars it has been on both 12 December and 24 December. These days have been celebrated in Sweden since ancient times.

Midwinter festival The holiday we now call Christmas has its origin in the Yule festival on the darkest day of the year and was celebrated long before the Nordic countries were Christianized. It was a festival intended to disperse darkness and evil forces and celebrate the light that was to come.

As you all know, we still need to get rid of darkness in many forms. Together with my colleagues in the team I wish all blog readers  light in all its senses and a happy Christmas time!

Kate Kalmström
CCO Business Solutions

21 December 2015

Show SharePoint Files From Multiple Site Collections

SharePoint iconEven if you have multiple site collections, each one with its own content, some files are important to many users. Those files should be possible to reach from within several site collections, so that users don't have to navigate to another site collection to read or edit them.

In a new tutorial in the Tips section I show two ways to display files from other site collections. I also discuss how these methods look for users who don't have access to certain files.

Keep files in one place
Common for both methods is that you should keep each document in only one library, even if you share it on many sites. That way you only have to edit in one place. Imagine how many versions there will be after a while, if you copy and paste documents between site collections!

Enterprise Keywords
It is always a good habit to tag files with metadata and keywords, and Enterprise Keywords are centrally stored and easy to add and use. I give a certain keyword to all documents that should be shared between site collections, to make them easy to find in a search – because search is what I recommend you to use when you share files between site collections.
Files in Content Search web part

Content Search
If you gather all documents that are tagged with a certain Enterprise Keyword in a Content Search web part, you can easily add more files to the page by just tagging them, no matter what site collections they are stored in. In the demo below I show how to add such a web part to a page.

Embed files
The tutorial about file sharing among SharePoint site collection has two more demos. In one of them I show how to embed a Word file. This looks good on the page for users who have access to the file, but it takes a lot of space and it only works for Word, PDF and PowerPoint files.

Embedded file in SharePoint

See what you are allowed to see
SharePoint always trim searches after permissions, so users only see what they are allowed to see. In my third demo about documents from multiple site collections I show how the two options, search and embed, look to a user who don't have access to the shared files.

The Content Search web part looks good, because where some users see links this user sees nothing at all. The embed option, on the other hand, looks bad, with a no access message occupying space on the page. Therefore you should only use the embed option for Word files that all users have permission to read.

This was the third blog post about my Search articles in the SharePoint Online from Scratch series, but there is a lot you can do with SharePoint Search so you can look forward to at least one more!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

17 December 2015

The Custom SharePoint Support

The basis of our company is of course the Outlook add-ins and SharePoint Solutions, but another part of the business is growing to become more important: our customized SharePoint Support. Custom Solutions
For several years already we have offered custom solutions and services to companies, and various organizations have taken advantage of it. We have for example created a SharePoint Quality Assurance Solution for an investment project where the quality control had to be rigorous and around 34 000 approvals had to be handled and documented in an efficient way.

This was a big project that spanned over long time, but we have also assisted with smaller tasks, down to only four hours of work. SharePoint icon The custom solutions are interesting to work with, as each one of them offers a special kind of challenge that is stimulating and expands our knowledge and experience.

SharePoint implementation support
This last year another part of the services has grown considerably: the SharePoint implementation support. Both big and small companies have requested our assistance when they want to begin using SharePoint. So far I have taken care of most of this support myself.

We can assist from start, from the first discussions on which SharePoint edition to use. I learn what the company needs and give advice on how to configure SharePoint to make it as useful and easy to manage as possible.

Support contracts
Subscription iconThese organizations often need ongoing support on their SharePoint expansion. Once you start getting into SharePoint you discover how much you can do with the platform!

To give best possible assistance, we therefore offer a support contract with a fixed number of hours per month. This way the support customers know that I will not walk out on them but be available when they need me. Furthermore the hourly fee for a contract is lower than my standard fee.

In the team we are always keen on taking on new challenges, and we have worked with SharePoint for many years and have a solid knowledge and experience. Welcome to contact us!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

15 December 2015

Create A Custom SharePoint Search Vertical

SharePoint iconMaybe they don't know what the term "search vertical" means, but most people know how to use one. In a new tutorial about SharePoint Search I show how to create your own search vertical in the SharePoint Search Center.

Filter search hits
SharePoint Online has four default search verticals, Everything, People, Conversations and Videos, but search verticals are not only used in SharePoint. They are common in all kinds of search engines, where they give users a possibility to only see hits of a specified type. Thus Google has five search verticals displayed and three more under 'More':
Google Search Verticals

Custom search vertical
You can add your own search vertical to a SharePoint Search Center, and in my Tips article I describe how to do it in step by step instructions and in two demos. The first demo just adds the new search vertical to the Search Center, and the results show up in the default Search Results Web Part.

Custom search results
Instead of using the Search Results Web Part in your search vertical you can replace the it with the Content Search web part, which has some interesting display templates you might find useful. I do that in my second demo about search verticals, and you can see the result in the image below.
SharePoint Search Vertical for Consultants

Search verticals can be used not only to find a certain kind of information. You can also use a search vertical to navigate among site collections, something I will come back to in a future blog post.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

11 December 2015

SharePoint Online Permissions - Default Or Custom?

SharePoint iconSharePoint permissions are very easy to use if you accept the default settings. That can work for a small team, but if you want to have more control over what users can see and do, SharePoint permissions get more complicated.

In two demos in a new article about SharePoint permissions in the Tips section, I explain how the permissions work by default and what you can do with them. I hope to warn for problems but also show the possibilities given by a good management of SharePoint permissions.

Permission levels
Microsoft has made it easier to set permissions by grouping connected permissions into permission levels. For example, if you want to give a user the right to view, add, update, and delete list items and documents, but nothing more, you don't have to give these four permissions separately. Instead you can set this user's permission to the pre-defined level 'Contribute'.

If none of the pre-defined levels fit, you can easily create your own permission level, and I show how to do that in one of the demos.

Default Edit permission
In SharePoint Online (and SharePoint 2013 on-premise), the default permission levels for all users is Edit. This means that users by default can not only view, add, update, and delete list items and documents but also add, edit, and delete lists and libraries as well as create, edit and delete columns and public views.

In my opinion this is a high level, but as long as you are aware of it there is no problem and you can decide if you should keep it or change it.
SharePoint hierarchy
Default Inheritance
Another default setting that can create problems is the inheritance. From the site collection and downwards SharePoint is organized in a hierarchy, and sites by default inherits the same permissions as the site collection, the list inherits the site permissions and the item inherits the list permissions.

This means that users who have Edit permission on a site by default also have Edit permission on all lists in that site, and they even have Edit permission on all items in each list.

But it is not difficult to break the inheritance. When you create a new site, you can just select another radio button than the default one in the settings and set new permission levels. Also for existing sites, pages and lists you can break the inheritance in the settings. This can be done down to file or item level.

Permission Groups
In the Tips article about SharePoint permissions I also explain how permission groups work. These groups of users who have the same permission level simplify the permission management a lot. A SharePoint team site has by default the groups Owners, Members and Visitors. You can add new users to these groups, but you can also create your own permission groups.

This Tips article is an introduction to SharePoint permissions that I hope will give SharePoint administrators who are new to the topic a better understanding of the problems and possibilities of SharePoint permissions. Refer to Microsoft for more detailed information on SharePoint permissions.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

09 December 2015

Indian Wedding Festivities

Vijayant at wedding procession Indian weddings not only tie a couple together in a relationship. It also establishes a bond between two families and connects relatives of both families. I have described some pre-wedding ceremonies in earlier blog posts about my current visit to Indore, and the main wedding day is also filled with rituals for Lead QA Vijayant Rimza and his bride, Monika. But first, here to the right, is a photo of the groom, at the wedding procession that took place last Friday.

Fun with garlands
Garlands are central in the Varmala ceremony. The wedding venue has a beautifully decorated platform for the bride and groom, and there they exchange garlands while other family members and friends throw flower petals on them.

This is a fun filled ritual, because when the bride tries to put her garland around the groom's neck, his friends often lift him up to make it more difficult for the bride. But he must be careful, so that she does not give the garland to someone else! team at wedding
In the image above the team has gathered around the bride and groom on the platform. As you see the atmosphere was friendly and full of laughter, but it became more solemn when it was time for the Seven Vows ritual.

Saat Phere
The Saat Phere, or Seven Vows, is the main wedding ceremony, and it is performed under the guidance of a priest. The priest and the couple sit around a holy fire while the priest chants Sanskrit hymns. After that the couple walk seven times around the holy fire. Each round has its own significant meaning for both. The Saat Phere ritual is described in more detail by Rituka Rimza, sister of the groom i this wedding, in a blog post about our Office Manager's marriage.

Monika at weddingThe groom and his family are my friends and I know them well, but this was the first time I met the enchanting bride, Monika. She has an M.B.A. with a dual specialization in Human Resource and Finance and works in her father's business, and her new sister-in-law, Rituka, has told me that Monika likes teaching and music and has a helpful nature.

I didn't get to talk much with Monika as the other thousand guests were waiting in line for her attention, but with her education and wits she will surely fit right in with the Rimza family.

It was not the first time I attended an Indian wedding, but it was still a magic experience. It felt wonderful to be at a party with more than 1000 beautiful people, and I really appreciated the absence of meat, alcohol and tobacco!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

07 December 2015

SharePoint Search With Authoritative Pages And Managed Properties

SharePoint iconUsed in the way it is intended, your SharePoint Online tenancy will eventually be filled with files and list items, and to find the information you need it is important to have good search tools. Each user's knowledge about search procedures is one such tool, and it is helpful that the SharePoint Search in general works as other known search engines, like Google.

But SharePoint admins can also do a lot to make the search easier and the hits more exact. In the Tips series SharePoint Online from Scratch we have now begun publishing tutorials about the SharePoint Search feature, which is something really powerful.

Search in an index
You might have noticed that changes and new additions to a SharePoint site are not immediately shown in search results, and this is because the search user-interface does not loop through all the contents in SharePoint to find the matches.

Instead it goes through an index, just like in a book. A crawler in the background updates the index when you add/change or remove content from SharePoint, but that crawler takes time to do its work.

A search schema helps the crawler decide what content and metadata to pick up. In Office 365 SharePoint admins have only limited possibilities to control the crawler.

Manage Authoritative Pages
One easy thing that the SharePoint admin can do to tell SharePoint how to display search hits, is to order the site pages after search importance. This is done in the Admin center, under Manage Authoritative Pages, and I show how to make this setting it in the first SharePoint Search demo.

Managed Properties
The first article, that contains the demo above, is an introduction to SharePoint Search. Next tutorial contains no less than tree demos, and two of them deal with managed properties.

Managed properties help you define what users can search for and how. You can use managed properties to restrict search results, and later in this tutorial series I will show how to use them to create custom search verticals.

Until then, please study the first two articles, with step by step instructions and four video demonstrations!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

04 December 2015 CEO at Indian Tattoo Ceremony

Last week I wrote a blog post about our Lead QA's upcoming marriage and the first ceremonies before the wedding. At that time I was still in Sweden, but now I am on site in Indore.

Hands with TattoosThe Mehndi ceremony took place yesterday. Mehndi means henna tattoo, and a professional Mehndi artist decorates the bride from the top of the head to the toes with The Sixteen Adornments (Solah Shringar). They are related to the goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of beauty, fertility and prosperity.

The groom, Vijayant, and his relatives are also decorated with henna tattoos, but only on hands and feet.

The tattoos used at weddings, and also in other ceremonies, are symbolic representations of the outer and inner sun. The custom is described as long back as in the oldest scriptures of the Hinduism, the Vedas.

Meeting the team
It feels great to see the Indore team again. We meet each other online each day, but we are rather seldom face to face so those moments are precious. I always feel very welcome and privileged when I visit the office in India.
Hands with fitness trackers
In the image above some of the team members are showing off the fitness trackers I brought them. I use one myself and find that it helps me take care of my health, and of course I wish our valuable staff to do the same.

Today is is time for the Procession, Baraat, which is one of the most important and fun filled traditions. The groom,  dressed in traditional attire, rides to a place decided by the bride's family, to meet his bride there. He is attended by all his relatives and friends, who dance to the music of the band accompanying them.
Peter dancing
I will be there among the friends, just like the rest of the team. The office will close early on Friday afternoon, to give everyone the opportunity to join the procession.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

01 December 2015

Visualize Key Performance Indicators In SharePoint

SharePoint iconMost of us can grasp information easier  if it is visualized, and even if SharePoint is not primarily built for visualization it has some tools that can be used. You can  also add dynamic images created in other platforms, like Excel, to SharePoint.

Key indicators in list views
The easiest way to show key indicators is probably to base list views on them. If you for example want to see the average of hours worked on items in an Issue Tracking list, you can add such a calculation to the Hours Worked column.
Add list views for different issue categories or assignees, or just filter the items, and you will see the average for each category/assignee. This value is calculated automatically, and once you have created the column you can leave the rest to SharePoint.

Performance key indicators
To have a more visually interesting alert you can add icons. A green icon for a low number of hours worked, a yellow for normal and a red icon for a high number will draw more attention to the average hours worked figure.
SharePoint key performance indicator settings
Such indicators are a bit more complicated to create than views, but it can still be done in a few minutes. In a new article in the Tips section I describe in a demo and in a step by step instruction how to create a Status indicator for average of hours worked and add it to a landing page for an issue tracking list.

Each time you refresh the SharePoint page, the status indicator is  automatically updated to the correct color and value according to the calculation of average hours worked.
SharePoint key performance indicator icon

Auto-update Excel chart
In an earlier blog post I wrote about some Tips articles where I describe how to enhance a SharePoint Issue Tracking list in various ways, for example by adding an Excel chart based in list data to a landing page for the list.

An Excel chart can give more information than a status indicator, but you have to be aware of the update issue. If you create an Excel chart based on list data exported to Excel from SharePoint, the chart must be refreshed manually – or with a script.
SharePoint data in Excel chart
In another new Tips article I show how to make a script update the Excel chart automatically. This solution is the most good looking and therefore also the most impressive! I recommend you to try it, and if you feel uncertain you can always go back to earlier articles in my SharePoint Online series for more information.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions