Author: Sarah Haase

Librarian living in a SharePoint world

SharePoint universal truths

I’ve worked with end users in many organizations. While companies (and their employees) vary wildly, there are underlying similarities in how they all work. I call these similarities universal truths. Understanding these truths can help you relate to your users, drive effective change management and (ultimately) increase SharePoint’s business value. So here is the starter pack of SharePoint universal truths:

1. Businesses shouldn’t be run via spreadsheets stored on shared drives. What would happen to your company’s bottom line if Microsoft Excel went off the grid tomorrow? Most employees would be at a complete loss. They use spreadsheets and e-mail every day to manage their work and move data around. Unfortunately, the labor costs of these “poor man’s workflow” solutions is high. The time spent creating, maintaining, organizing, and copying data between spreadsheets and e-mails is time lost.

If you are implementing SharePoint as a workflow automation tool, you can’t ignore the opportunity spreadsheets provide. Focus on converting large, unwieldy spreadsheets into structured SharePoint lists that include query-based list views and out-of-the-box or custom SharePoint Designer workflows and you’ll improve the lives of your end-users.

2. My job isn’t about giving users what they want. It’s about giving users what they really need. They may want massive Excel spreadsheets stored in a Documents library with unlimited versioning. But they may need a granular SharePoint list with workflows and automated email notifications. In the end, our challenge (and our journey) is to identify the “true business need” and raise awareness about SharePoint solutions that can change the way our business users work.

3. Users will be interested in functionality that can improve their lives. But most of the time they don’t have the time to investigate this functionality on their own. They need information architects and designers to paint the vision. Often I throw out 15 ideas for each individual idea my business users choose to implement. There’s nothing wrong with a 15:1 ratio. The key is to keep offering ideas. Even if they don’t implement your ideas right away, they will likely circle back to consider some of the ideas again later.

4. If information architecture is optional, most users will opt out. Many users are unfamiliar with information architects, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need them. The right information architect will take the time to understand the underlying business value SharePoint can provide. They’ll understand your content and use SharePoint’s feature set to build solutions that make a quantifiable difference in your organization. The trick is enticing, encouraging and (ultimately) requiring your users to engage in the information architecture process. If you can offer SharePoint planning services free of charge and leverage a solid reputation in your organization for delivering top-notch solutions, you’ll have the “carrot” you need to get people to buy into information architecture. If that’s not an option at your organization, you’ll need to identify other methodologies for engaging users in the information architecture process.

5. SharePoint markets itself…once you deliver your first couple of wins. I’ve managed several corporate knowledge bases, and they all have one thing in common. Regardless of the technology they’re built on, the amount we invested in them or the number of cool features they had, all these knowledge bases were giant, sucking holes of need. No matter how long I evangelized their use or offered incentives for people to submit content, they would never spawn a cult following. They would always require care, feeding, and emotional propping. SharePoint is just the opposite. If you build SharePoint solutions that automate business processes and save your end-users time and frustration, people will come—in droves.

6. Your SharePoint solution isn’t complete until you’ve measured its effectiveness. This is an astonishingly common “miss.” People build great SharePoint solutions—solutions that save their companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per year—and fail to quantify their success. Your job does not end when a new SharePoint site is launched. Your job ends when you have measured the site’s effectiveness.

These universal truths aren’t complex. They merely reflect the basic instincts of most business users. But understanding these universal truths gives you an edge—an edge your counterparts don’t have. These truths are the keys for obtaining buy-in, effecting real change management, and learning how to quantify your results. By incorporating these truths into your business process strategy, you will fundamentally shift how your business users view their tools.

Help Typhoon #Haiyan Victims and #SharePoint MVPs & Experts Will Help You #rescueph

A great way to help people that desperately need it. Please consider donating today…


On Nov 8, 2013 , the deadliest typhoon ever recorded in history devastated the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan was stronger than hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined. Countless lives have been lost and a lot of help is needed. It is estimated at least 10,000 people have perished.

Help Typhoon #Haiyan Victims and We’ll Help You!

Between now and December 31, 2013. Anyone who donates $99 USD or more to a charity of your choice that will benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan and emails me  a proof of your donation, can secure a FREE one hour remote SharePoint consulting session ($99 = 1 hour session, $198 = two 1 hour sessions, etc) with any  of these global SharePoint MVPs & leading experts:

Name Expertise
Marc D Anderson Client-side development
Paul Papanek Stork Architecture, Administration, Development
Tom Resing Architecture, Development, Infrastructure
Vlad Catrinescu Infrastructure, PowerShell
Veronique Palmer SharePoint…

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Having trouble lining up your SharePoint 2013 app parts on your wiki pages?

If you’ve built any new wiki pages in SharePoint 2013, you may have experienced some issues getting your web parts to line up nicely–particularly if you’ve modified the text layout of your wiki page to have multiple side-by-side columns. The columns make it easy to line up multiple app parts side by side, but the wiki pages’ tendency to add in extra paragraph spacing above some of your app parts can make it hard to line up all your app parts on the same vertical axis point. Here’s an example of a page that is suffering from some extra paragraph spacing:


As you can see in the shaded yellow box, I’m getting an extra paragraph of space above my app part in the left-most column of my page. These extra spaces seem to occur on wiki pages specifically, and usually in the left-most column of my page.

I could solve this problem by creating a Web Part Page instead of a Wiki Page (since web part pages don’t throw in these extra spaces), but I still wanted to figure out how to troubleshoot this type of issue on a wiki page.

Here are the steps I followed to create the wiki page shown above:

  1. Go to Gear > Add a page
  2. Type in a name for your page. (I named mine Queue.) At this point a new wiki page is created and saved in the Site Pages library of your site.
  3. Set the text layout for the page. Go to your Format Text ribbon, click on Text Layout and select Three columns with header
  4. Now you’re ready to insert your web parts. Place your cursor in your header zone, click on the Insert ribbon and select Web Part.
  5. We’re going to insert an image here, so click on the Media and Content web part category and then select Image Viewer and click on Add.
  6. I’ll add in my image by clicking on the open the tool pane hyperlink in my new Image Viewer web part. Here’s our finished image:
  7. Now we’re ready to add some app parts to the page to render our list data. I’m going to add 3 app parts to the page–one in each of my page’s 3 columns. Here are the steps I followed to add each app part:
    1. Click into a column.
    2. Click on the Insert ribbon and select App Part.
    3. Choose the list or library you want to use and select Add.

Once I finish adding my 3 identical app parts to my page, this is what I see:


I tried simply placing my cursor in the extra space and hitting delete, but that deletes my app part entirely. The best way to remove this extraneous spacing is to edit the source of the page and remove the offending HTML paragraph tags. Here are the steps to perform this cleanup:

  1. Place your cursor in the extra paragraph space you want to get rid of.
  2. Click on the Format Text ribbon and select Edit Source.
  3. Notice the spare paragraph tag located at the top of your HTML Source. (Shown highlighted in yellow below).
  4. Highlight all the text on line 1 of your HTML Source and press your Delete key to remove it.
  5. Press OK to save your changes.

The trouble with filtering on workflow status columns…

Have you ever tried to filter a SharePoint list or document library view using a workflow status column? It’s harder than you’d think…

Workflow status columns report the current status of a workflow. A unique workflow status column is created in your list (or document library) automatically when you create a new out-of-the-box or SharePoint Designer custom workflow. Conveniently, SharePoint uses the name of your workflow as the name of your workflow status column. An example workflow status column is shown below (in yellow). This Email-notification column reports on the status of the Email-notification workflow.


Being a savvy SharePoint user, you’d think you could use the workflow status verbiage as a filter for your list or document library view. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. You cannot filter your list or library records using the displayed verbiage in your workflow status column(s).

Let’s take a look at an example:

I have a Team assignments list (shown below). It’s a very simple list that allows people to sign up for product areas they want to support. When a new item is created, a custom SharePoint Designer workflow runs and sends some automated notification emails. I can keep tabs on my workflows using the Email-notification workflow status column. As you can see, I currently have items in several different workflow statuses–2 of my list items are in Completed status while another 2 are in In Progress status.


Now let’s say I wanted to create a new list view that only shows me list items that are in Completed status. I go to the List tab, click on Create View and set up my view filter to display only the items where Email-notification is equal to Completed. Sounds perfect, right?wf-filtering-02

Unfortunately, this view shows zero results–despite the fact that I know I have items whose workflow is in Completed status. Why does this happen? Because Microsoft actually uses numerical status codes to demarcate workflow states. While SharePoint displays “friendly” descriptors for their workflow states (e.g. In Progress or Completed), you need the numerical status codes to be able to filter against the workflow state. The difficult part is finding the correct numeral for the workflow state you want to filter against.

After doing some searching online, I found that the numeral 5 denotes a Completed workflow. When I update my view to filter and display only the items where Email-notification is equal to 5, my list returns the Completed workflow items I was looking for. Here’s a picture of my working filter:


The trick, of course, is figuring out what numerals are used for the other possible workflow states. Here’s a quick list of the workflow states I typically filter against:

  • In Progress = 2
  • Approved = 16
  • Error Occurred = 3
  • Not Started = 0

For a more exhaustive list of workflow status codes, visit

Keynote video: Understanding metadata

This is the 2nd in a series of blog posts dedicated to sharing favorite speeches from previous conferences/events. This week I’m sharing Ruven Gotz’s session Understanding Metadata – Working with stakeholders to build the taxonomy. Ruven delivered this session at the 2011 SHARE conference in Sydney, Australia. It explains what metadata is, why it’s important and how you can explain it to your stakeholders. Consider it your metadata 101 course that covers everything from hamsters to soup cans.

The formal session abstract and speaker bio are included at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

[vimeo w=500&h=280]


Session abstract:

When it comes to defining the site columns and content types for a project, the first step is to help your stakeholders understand the ‘what and the why’ of metadata so that they can picture how they are going to organise the documents.

Once this is accomplished, you can start to inventory the types of documents that are going to live in SharePoint and then explain the function of content types and site columns.

This presentation will explore some methods that have proven to be successful for explaining these concepts and then organising the taxonomy.

See how to use tools that help users to inventory their documents and capture the metadata (and how to identify the right metadata). You will see how to conduct workshops that help you and your clients to organise this information and then document the taxonomy in a form that can be shared, reviewed and easily modified.

At the final stages, you will see how the required document libraries begin to emerge as part of this process.

Ruven’s speaker bio:

With over 20 years of IT industry experience, Ruven has spent the past seven years delivering award-winning SharePoint solutions for a wide range of clients. As a Business Analyst and Information Architect, Ruven is able to apply his education and experience in Psychology, Computer Science, Economics, Software Development and Training to solve complex problems. He has become a leader in the use of visual tools to help his clients and team members achieve shared understanding of problems and goals and shared commitment towards implementing a successful solution.

Keynote video: Earning the right to seek executive SharePoint support

I’m starting a new blog post series to share some of my favorite keynote speeches from past conferences/events. First on the list is Michael Sampson’s session Success with SharePoint: Earning the right to seek executive support, which was presented at the 2012 SHARE conference held in Atlanta. Michael did a fantastic job on this presentation–he explains why pleas for executive SharePoint support fail and provides guidance on how to change your approach. Some of my favorite one-liners from the session are:

  • “Success is 90% people, 10% technology.”
  • You have to build credibility with your executives. Stop being the excited teenager.
  • You have to earn the right to talk to your executives about SharePoint.

The formal session abstract and speaker bio are included at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

[vimeo w=500&h=280]

Here’s the abstract for this session:

Many IT departments have installed SharePoint and are now wondering how to make the technology deliver business value. A quick answer is often to seek executive support, but before rushing to do so, there are a number of critical disciplines that need to be put in place to earn the right for making this approach.

The keynote will present the roadmap to success with SharePoint, and the role of executive support in transforming SharePoint into a place where great business gets done.

Lessons: – Having the technology available is a common place to start, but you can’t stay there forever – Success with SharePoint involves following a roadmap to success, including vision, governance, engagement, and user adoption – Executives have a role to play in the roadmap to success, but you have to earn the right to seek their support

And here is Michael’s speaker bio:

Michael Sampson is a collaboration strategist. His passion is helping organizations to make collaboration work, when their employees have to work together effectively and efficiency while separated by distance and time. Michael advises end-user organizations in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and Europe.  He holds an MCom with first class honors in telecommunications-based IT, from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  Michael is the author of four books on collaboration strategy—Collaboration Roadmap, User Adoption Strategies, SharePoint Roadmap for Collaboration, and Seamless Teamwork.  His blog can be found at and you can follow him on Twitter: @collabguy

Insert yourself here: How to find your (SharePoint) niche

Every day my high school English teacher danced into the classroom (yes, she actually danced) and with all the theatrics of Shakespeare declared “I can’t believe they pay me to teach the classics!” I thought she was plum crazy. Even as a high school senior I knew you worked to live. You did not live for the opportunity to work.

After 15+ years in the job market, I’ve softened my world view. If I won the lottery next week, I truly believe you’d still find me out here talking about SharePoint. Yes, I’d probably be talking about it part-time and on my terms. But things that interest me today–things that drive my passion, my curiosity and provide that feeling of accomplishment–will still be relevant and necessary, even if the monetary driver behind them ceases to exist.

How can I be so sure? Because SharePoint provides a perfect intersect for me. It is the point at which my abilities, my interest and my agenda (or mission) converge. It serves as the hub or epicenter of my time, energy and focus. If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself working at such an intersection, you’ll find that you’re happier, more fulfilled and more productive.

How do I know that SharePoint is a perfect intersect for me? Because I’m good at it, I love doing it and my organization needs it. It’s that simple.


A few years ago I went through a team-building seminar. There was a bevy of small-group activities, feel-good moments, etc. One element that stuck with me, though, was the Venn diagram the facilitator drew on the board. She challenged all of us to hone in on a part of our jobs that we loved, that was critically important to the well-being of the company and that we were naturally skilled at. The message was clear: if you can find such an intersect, you should devote ALL your time, attention and energy to it. This is your perfect sweet spot. It is the area that provides you the most fulfillment and the company the most benefit.

Here’s why SharePoint bubbled up as my intersect point:

  1. I am good at calculating SharePoint’s value or Return On Investment (ROI). I have a proven methodology for quantitatively and qualitatively capturing this data and telling the “value story.”
  2. I love learning how to build solutions that reduce or eliminate the “soul-crushing, spirit destroying” work that people hate.
  3. Companies/organizations need these solutions. It improves their speed-to-market, reduces their overhead and helps them engage their employees at a higher level.

The bottom line

We need a litmus test for jobs. It doesn’t need to be complex, but it needs to measure 3 critical elements: skill set, enthusiasm for the work and the driving business need it fulfills. The work should add direct value and positively impact the organization’s bottom line or strategic focus. But it should also hit a high note on your own personal “happy meter.” Think about it–how many jobs are essential to the business but fail to ignite someone’s passion? And how many people have things they’re passionate about doing, but fail to find an organization that views that work as essential?

If you’re not in a job that’s nested within this intersect point, it’s time to do some soul searching. Can you make a business case for building your perfect role? Or is it time to move on?

This week’s SharePoint learnings: Usability, surfing and stupidity

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” (Albert Einstein)

I’ve run across several interesting webinars, articles, etc. the past few weeks. There’s no underlying theme or “take over the world” vision here–just random SharePoint deep thoughts. Enjoy!

2010 vs. 2013 Usability Showdown

Depositphotos_6409100_mHigh Monkey Consulting recently released the findings of their heuristic usability tests for SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. They asked a small group of testers (all of which had no prior SharePoint experience) to perform a series of end-user, power user and site administration functions on SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. The goal was to see which SharePoint version offered the easiest-to-use OOTB (Out Of The Box) end-user experience.

While this was a small (and unscientific) study, it provided some interesting results. I recommend checking out High Monkey’s blog to learn about the results.

Surf’s Up: Your Governance Visualized

WaveAnt Clay published a new SharePoint governance article on this week. If you haven’t read my blog post “The celery effect” and other lessons learned from The SharePoint Governance Manifesto and checked out Ant Clay’s work on disruptive thinking about SharePoint problems, I highly recommend taking a look. This latest article (aptly titled Surf’s Up: Your Governance Visualized) offers a visual methodology for outlining your wicked SharePoint governance problems. Very interesting.

Your SharePoint User Is Not Stupid

Depositphotos_2399547_mIn her recent blog post Your SharePoint User Is Not Stupid, Tamara Bredemus reminds us to meet our end-users where they live. And since most of our end-users are not riding on (nor have ever visited) the SharePoint bandwagon, it’s time for us to hop off the bus. Remember: your SharePoint end-users were not hired for their SharePoint expertise. So give ’em a break!

Richard Harbridge presents: Why use SharePoint workflow?

I love SharePoint workflows. I believe they’re an essential building block in the routing and tracking of your business data. But understanding where (and how) to use workflows is a challenge–particularly when you’re new to SharePoint.

Richard Harbridge (SharePoint thought leader and speaker) recently published a conceptual guide to SharePoint workflows. Here’s an excerpt of his post:

SharePoint Workflow: What Should We Use It For? What Are Other People Using It For?
We all know that we should always aim to automate and improve our business processes more. Many organizations reap enormous benefits from improving the way they work alone or with other people through enabling technologies like SharePoint. The big question is how do we start? Or perhaps which processes or workflows should we automate and improve first? This article dives into this issue and offers advice and recommendations based on successful experiences with many customers.

The post goes on to 1) describe the initial scenarios and conversations many SharePoint users have about workflows, 2) define the types of workflows that can be  used and 3) explain the rules under which the workflows should be used to automate business processes. If you are new to SharePoint (or are a SharePoint advocate that wants to understand how workflows can benefit your organization), check out Richard’s post. You won’t be disappointed.

How SharePoint Chose Me!

I’m thrilled to welcome (and introduce) a new SharePoint business blogger–Edith Young. Congrats on the new blog, Edith!

Edith Young

I recently read a great blog post by a fellow SharePoint enthusiast titled “How Did SharePoint Choose You?”. Here’s a link to that post:

Because I found it so intriguing, I thought hey, that is a good topic to blog about! So here is what I have to say…

SharePoint does have a way of pulling you in… it’s like a gravitational force that can’t be reckoned with or even stopped. I myself started working with SharePoint in 2007. My initial experience was using it as a document repository, moving files from a shared network drive into a document library. I then moved into how to use metadata effectively… creating columns with the information about what kinds of documents were being housed in the library… then there were views, what if a Project Manager only wanted to see project management documents or a Business Analyst only wanted BA docs…

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