Author: Sarah Haase

Corporate collaboration evangelist & librarian | Microsoft MVP | Office 365/SharePoint Enthusiast

Is ‘Inbox Zero’ achievable (or relevant) in a Microsoft Teams world?

In episode 38 of the Microsoft 365 Voice podcast, we tackle the philosophical debate on Inbox Zero (the goal of routinely clearing out your email inbox so it contains zero messages). Antonio, Mike, and I provide our personal views on whether Inbox zero is relevant, realistic, and desirable. We also debate the impact Microsoft Teams has had on our email inboxes and whether Teams has significantly reduced our daily volume of emails sent/received.

It’s interesting that Antonio, Mike, and I have very different comfort levels with managing (or not managing) our email inboxes. We also have very different operating styles when it comes to using (or disabling) notifications in Microsoft Teams.

Listen in and let us know if you are #TeamSarah, #TeamAntonio, or #TeamMike!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Battling fear and toxicity in the workplace

I’m thrilled & excited to welcome Heather Newman as our latest guest on the Microsoft 365 Voice podcast! Heather is an entrepreneur, thought leader, marketing executive, and Microsoft Power Platform Community Success Team Lead. She’s also a fantastic human that I’m proud to call friend.

Over the past several years, Heather has written a popular blog post series on Battling Fear and Toxicity in the Workplace. Heather brings life experiences as an entrepreneur, executive, theater major, empath, and mentor to the series. It’s raw, personal, insightful, and blunt.

The series has had a powerful impact on my personal development and career growth. Fear and toxicity in the workplace crosses all boundaries – gender, sexual orientation, industry/vertical, job grade, experience level, etc. And life is circular. Just when we think we’ve learned how to succeed and thrive in difficult work situations, we’re thrown into a new challenge and have to re-learn it all over again.

We cover a wide range of topics in this episode, including:

  • Why toxic people are dangerous (sashay away)
  • We have choices! We can follow the path of least resistance, the path of confrontation, or the path of ‘I’m done’
  • Know the importance of building allies and relationships at work
  • Learn when it’s time to leave a job or organization
  • Be a lifelong learner and achiever. Never stop working on your personal growth & evolution
  • Be curious. Ask questions. Be kind
  • Build high-trust work relationships with people that will give you the unvarnished truth

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Microsoft Search deep-dive

Today is all about Microsoft Search! We’re thrilled to have Bill Baer, Senior Product Manager from Microsoft, join us for a deep-dive Q&A session all the latest features of Microsoft Search.

We kicked off the session with a discussion about how Microsoft Search has become the digital watercooler that connects people in organizations (particularly important during the work from home challenges we’re facing in 2020). I’m fascinated by how Microsoft Search understands user intent (the content need behind the search interaction). Users often translate their search into terms they think will net them better results. This self-translation of terms can throw up barriers that make it more difficult to effectively return targeted results. Microsoft Search focuses on the user intent behind the search terminology to deliver results that meet the user’s needs.

We also discussed Bookmarks and Answers in Microsoft Search. Bill advises using Bookmarks when a user query is expressed as a set of keywords. A Q&A Answer is best-suited to queries that are submitted in a question format. Search is now a vital part of our productivity toolset and needs to evolve beyond providing a list of blue links…it needs to provide knowledge targeted to the user’s intent.

Listen in to learn how search can be integrated into PowerApps forms, how contextual search within Microsoft Teams powers information retrieval (including the ability to do a Ctrl+F to search within a Teams chat), and how search uses the Microsoft Graph for relevancy tuning and personalization. A huge thank you to Bill Baer for joining us!

What is Project Cortex? What is SharePoint Syntex?

Project Cortex is a Microsoft initiative focused on accessing, managing, and extracting the knowledge you have in your organization. Project Cortex extracts this knowledge from the data you store in your systems and then surfaces it in meaningful ways based on content models that you set up.

Microsoft SharePoint Syntex is the first product to be released from the Project Cortex initiative. Syntex enables you to build content models that review/understand documents or process forms. Models are built via machine-learning algorithms, and can be taught how to interpret (or make sense of) documents. Document understanding models help Syntex deliver knowledge to the right users at the right time.

Building a model is easier (and faster) than you’d think. I was impressed to learn you need a relatively small set of content to build and train your model. You can build a model with as few as 5 sample documents. And it’s brilliant that they require you to provide the model with both “good examples” and at least one “bad example.” If you’re trying to teach a model how to review organizational purchase orders, for example, you should upload one document that is clearly not a purchase order so it learns how to recognize anomalies.

SharePoint Syntex is an add-on to Microsoft 365. Listen in to learn more about Project Cortex and SharePoint Syntex, including ideas on how Syntex can enhance your business processes.

Want to learn more? Check out these #MSIgnite sessions:

Where do I share my files (OneDrive, SharePoint, or Microsoft Teams)?

We love all the collaboration options provided in Microsoft 365…but our end-users are still asking the same old question:

How do I know where to share?

The answer can be confusing (particularly for end-users that don’t live and breathe Microsoft 365 every day). They have Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and a multitude of SharePoint sites. How do they decide where to save their documents and where to share files with others? In Episode 34 of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we discuss a formula for knowing where to share.

Here’s our simple guidance

OneDrive is your personal collaboration space (used for drafts, early versions of documents, etc.). You can do light sharing from OneDrive with a small number of people, but when you’re ready to share more broadly you should move the file to SharePoint or Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint provide stronger file collaboration capabilities, including document metadata and the ability to have conversations on files.

As we discuss in the episode, we’re seeing organizations define Microsoft Teams as the “go-forward solution” for team collaboration and SharePoint as the location for organizational news and other intelligent intranet needs. This recommendation is very helpful for end users. It simplifies the story, making it easier for them to navigate when to use Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.

Pragmatic governance

I take a pragmatic approach to governance. A pragmatic approach is simple, practical, and easy to summarize. Your organizational governance strategy should answer the “Where to share” question for your end-users. Perhaps you create a SharePoint news article titled Where to share in Microsoft 365 and include high-level examples of when and where to store and share your work files. Incorporating visuals or video clips in this news article is a great idea; a picture is easy to remember and can help users decide whether to share a file in OneDrive or Microsoft Teams.

Bottom line: If you haven’t answered the “Where to share” question for your organization, you should. And you need to share the answer as simply as you can.

An ongoing challenge

One of the biggest misunderstandings we see is users mistakenly believing that Microsoft Teams stores documents. Microsoft Teams provides a collaboration experience, but documents uploaded or shared via Teams are actually stored in SharePoint or OneDrive. Listen to the full episode for a more detailed explanation of where your documents get stored.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

SharePoint Home site updates with DC Padur

We’re thrilled to welcome DC Padur, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft, to Episode 33 of the Microsoft 365 Voice! We asked DC questions about all the new Home site capabilities announced at Microsoft Ignite 2020.

This year’s #MSIgnite was full of amazing announcements for SharePoint news, Home sites, Hubs, and the world of the intelligent intranet. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the sessions yet, here’s a short list of sessions to get you started:

Home site news to love

Home site “superpowers” are growing! When you elevate a SharePoint Communications site to be your Home site, your site gets superpowers like tenant-wide search, integration with the home icon in the SharePoint mobile app, and designation as an organizational news site. But now your Home site will give you the ability to configure Global Navigation in the new SharePoint App Bar and enable the new Home site app in Microsoft Teams!

Global Navigation and the new SharePoint App Bar (coming Q4 2020)

The SharePoint App Bar is a built-in navigation and way-finding experience for all users in your organization. The app bar has 4 tiles: Global Navigation, Frequent & followed sites, Recommended news, and Recent files. The Global Navigation tile is configured by your Home site administrator and will support up to 3 levels of navigation links with audience targeting capabilities.

Ability to configure & enable the new Home site app in Microsoft Teams (coming Q1 2021)

The Home site app seamlessly integrates your SharePoint intranet with Microsoft Teams. The home site app provides Teams users with a full intranet experience, global navigation, tenant-wide search, a personalized news feed, and quick access to their recently-used sites.

So much more to learn

Our conversation with DC Padur dives into these announcements and other key Home site features in much more detail. Listen in to learn how Home sites are changing the information architecture possibilities for your organization.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Diving into Project Cortex and SharePoint Syntex

I went into Microsoft Ignite 2020 looking for information on Project Cortex. With a background in Library & Information Science and years of experience building knowledge bases and hierarchical taxonomies, I was fascinated to learn how Project Cortex is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to connect people, ideas, and topics. In this blog post, I’m sharing links to some of my favorite Ignite session videos and initial thoughts on Project Cortex.

#MS Ignite sessions

My thoughts…

Knowledge in your organization is like stars in the sky. I LOVED Naomi Moneypenny’s analogy that people, ideas, and resources in our organizations connect together like stars in constellations. Project Cortex helps draw lines and connect all the people and disparate knowledge in our organizations, exposing ideas, data, and content in new and interesting ways.

Microsoft SharePoint Syntex is the first product from Project Cortex. Syntex uses a SharePoint Content Center site to create, manage, and deploy understanding models. These models teach Microsoft’s AI how to review your content and make connections to build knowledge. You can teach the model to understand data the way you do. As different subject matter experts across your organization teach the model what they know, the model is able to look at data from multiple perspectives and deliver the right content to the right user.

Building a model is easier (and faster) than you’d think. I was impressed to learn you need a relatively small set of content to build and train your model. You can build a model with as few as 5 sample documents. And it’s brilliant that they require you to provide the model with both “good examples” and at least one “bad example.” If you’re trying to teach a model how to review organizational purchase orders, for example, you should upload one document that is clearly not a purchase order so it learns how to recognize anomalies.

Training your model is a straightforward 4-step process:

  1. Add example files (minimum of 5)
  2. Classify files & run training (label your positive and negative sample files & train the model on keywords and phrases that are important to you in each file)
  3. Create and train extractors
  4. Apply the new model to document library(s)

Information architecture is vital. Knowledge and information is meaningless without context. And a solid information architecture is a foundational part of having strong AI experiences. As Naomi Moneypenny shared in her session, “Any investment that you make in information architecture will pay dividends in AI, helping to give it structure, helping to give it seeding, and actually promoting a much better experience.”

If you’d like to hear more about Project Cortex and SharePoint Syntex, check out the REgarding 365 analysis Owen Allen, Simon Denton, and I recorded last week.

Are hubs the new SharePoint site collection?

I deliver presentations on SharePoint hubs frequently, and one of the questions I get asked in every session is:

Are hubs the new SharePoint site collections?

This question comes from SharePoint administrators, end-users, and site owners alike. Many of us have been working for more than a decade to build hierarchies of SharePoint sites. In the SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 days, we prided ourselves in building and effectively managing deep webs of sites to combat the urban sprawl of site collections.

Now the SharePoint world is flat and we build each of our modern SharePoint sites in their own site collections. This affords a multitude of benefits, including: configuring site collection settings to meet our site’s exact needs, keeping our site URLs short, and avoiding the constant struggle to migrate sites from one site collection to another based on organizational changes. But we still need to figure out how to connect our flat SharePoint sites together in a meaningful way. This is where SharePoint hubs come in.

Hubs provide a familial, logical tie between SharePoint sites. With hubs, you can unify SharePoint site branding, provide a common navigation experience, and roll up news and events in a centralized display. Hubs enhance content discovery by tying sites together for easy browsing. Hubs are also flexible and support your organization as it evolves. Simply assign your site to a new hub and your site’s branding is automatically updated.

But we still have a challenge. We need our end-users and SharePoint site owners to understand 2 key things:

  • Site collections no longer contain hierarchies of sites; they’re now “flat” and contain only one site.
  • SharePoint hubs are not a new type of site collection. Site collections were physical constructs that created hierarchical site structures (aka parent and child sites). Hubs provide a logical tie between SharePoint sites, but this logical tie has nothing to do with physical storage. Each flat site associated with a hub exists in its own independent site collection.

Episode 32 of the Microsoft 365 Voice dives deeper into this topic. We explore the definition of classic and modern SharePoint sites, share tips on how you can start transitioning your classic sites, and explain why hubs are not site collections. We hope you enjoy this episode!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

The sobering reality of ‘white glove service’

Everyone’s technology needs are important. My mission as a Microsoft 365 practitioner, product manager, and Innovation Games facilitator is driven by this belief. Microsoft’s mission statement reflects this truth as well: Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

We strive to make technology more accessible to all. We deliver content in a wide variety of formats, from podcasts to blog posts and online virtual conferences. But there is still a common thread in many of our organizations, a need for more hands-on, specialized help. The desire for dedicated resourcing and specialized support is natural. Who wouldn’t want to have a knowledgeable Microsoft 365 resource on-hand to answer questions, provide demos, and troubleshoot issues immediately? While this desire for ‘white-glove service’ is understandable (and sometimes required for pivotal business needs or users), it cannot scale for all users all the time.

Here’s the reality: if everyone is a special case that deserves white-glove service, then we have no ability to provide white-glove service to anyone. The very notion of white-glove relies on the service provided being unique and exemplary. If this becomes the norm, you’ve lost the ability to provide additional value.

If everyone is a special case that deserves white-glove service, then no one is a special case that gets white-glove service.

So how can we empower our users collectively and individually if we cannot simultaneously provide custom white-glove service to everyone? We must live out loud, providing content and experiences via a variety of mediums to accommodate a wide range of learning styles. And we need to build methodologies for prioritizing additional needs so we can provide white-glove service. We just have to determine when and where to give it.

As technology consumers, we can also do our part. We can leverage existing content to answer our questions. We can research and try and learn independently. And we can provide additional detail that justifies why we need our requests for white-glove service to be fulfilled. Because we all want and need white-glove service from time to time.

Microsoft Lists round-robin with Mark Kashman

We’re thrilled to welcome Mark Kashman, Senior Product Manager from Microsoft, to this episode of the Microsoft 365 Voice! Mark joined us for an extended question and answer session on Microsoft Lists.

Microsoft Lists is a new Microsoft 365 app that helps you track information (e.g. issues, inventory, assets, locations, ideas, etc.) with optimized and customized views, smart rules, and alerts. Microsoft Lists is integrated with other apps like Microsoft Teams, and will have its own mobile app later this year.

Antonio Maio, Mike Maadarani, and I had the opportunity to ask Mark Kashman a wide range of questions about Microsoft Lists, including:

  • What is the timeline for rollout of Microsoft Lists?
  • How do Microsoft Lists differ from SharePoint lists?
  • Where are Microsoft Lists stored?
  • How are Microsoft Lists integrated with Microsoft Teams?
  • What are personal lists? And how are personal lists stored and secured?
  • What is Mark Kashman’s favorite use for a personal list?
  • Will I be able to see my SharePoint lists in Microsoft Lists?
  • Can you transition a personal list to be viewable by others?
  • Does Microsoft Lists come with a wider array of templates than we get with SharePoint lists?
  • Can we create custom templates or organization-wide templates for Microsoft Lists?
  • Do Microsoft Lists support column and row formatting?
  • What types of capabilities will we have with the Microsoft Lists mobile app? And when will it release?
  • Will a Microsoft Lists API be available?

For more information, check out To see example lists, view the Lists Look Book.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.