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 “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)
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.
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.
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:
Add example files (minimum of 5)
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)
Create and train extractors
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.
SharePoint home sites provide a landing page and a Microsoft 365 “home” for your organization. An effective home site brings together personalized organizational news for your employees along with events, conversations, videos, and content.
Your home site will be your Microsoft 365 home base. Your tenant admin can configure your Microsoft 365 navigation bar so users are taken to your home site when they click on your company logo. And when mobile users click on the “home” icon in their SharePoint mobile app, they’ll be taken to your home site.
As the new Microsoft 365 landing site for your organization, your home site needs to engage users, reflect your brand identity, and highlight key organizational news and messaging. And if you incorporate SharePoint shy headers and megamenu navigation, your home site can connect your employees with key SharePoint sites and hubs across your tenant. When home sites are paired with company branding, hub sites, and effective site designs, they support your organization’s intelligent intranet.
You can only have one home site in your tenant, and the home site must be a SharePoint Communications site. Your home site can also be a hub site.
A natural progression Many organizations already have a de-facto home site within their tenant. The site may serve as their launchpad for Microsoft 365, providing getting-started information for their users. Building a de-facto home site can be a great stepping stone on the path to implementing the intelligent intranet at your organization. Making your de-facto home site a SharePoint Communications site will ensure the site can be promoted to an official home site when you are ready.
Enabling a home site
Your administrator will need to use PowerShell to elevate your SharePoint Communications into a home site. When you designate a home site for your tenant, the site receives several key feature enhancements:
Its search scope is automatically reset to be tenant-wide
It is linked to from the home button on your SharePoint mobile app (enabling 1-click access)
It is connected to your SharePoint start page
Want to see sites in action?
Check out the SharePoint look book (http://aka.ms/SharePointLookBook) to see some beautifully-built example sites. Microsoft even enables you to provision the sites in your tenant!
Hubs bring families of SharePoint sites together with shared branding, a unified navigation experience, and news and event content roll-ups. Hubs are dynamic and can grow and change with your organization. As departments re-organize, you can change your hub site associations and sites will automatically update to reflect the branding of their newly-assigned hubs.
But what happens when you remove a hub site association? Let’s say you’ve designed a beautifully themed SharePoint Online site. You’ve spent hours perfecting the site, and it looks phenomenal! You decide to associate your site to the Human Resources hub so it can be tied into your company’s information architecture. You open your site, go to Settings > Site Information and select the Human Resources (HR) Hub from the Hub site association dropdown field. Within seconds, your site is joined to the HR hub and has assumed its branded look and feel.
Now let’s say you’ve had a change of heart and want to remove your site from the HR hub. You go back to Settings > Site Information and set the Hub site association dropdown to “None.” Your site will be removed from the hub, but the hub’s branded look and feel will “stick.” You will be able to update your site’s branding now that it is no longer associated with a hub, but you cannot revert back to the branding your site had before it was associated to a hub.
Implications for your SharePoint site owners The implications of this “sticky” hub site branding are significant. Let’s say, for example, that your site owners don’t understand what the Hub site association dropdown in the Site Information panel means. They choose to associate their site to a hub without understanding the implications, and suddenly their site has updated branding. While site owners can go in and remove the hub site association, there is no “undo” function that will allow them to revert back to their site’s previous branding. That branding is forever lost once they associate to a hub.
So what can you do to prepare?
Here are a few options for navigating sticky hub branding:
Educate your site owners about what hubs are and what the Hub site association dropdown field does. Make sure they’re aware that hub site branding is sticky.
Consider adding hub site approval flows. These automated Power Automate flows force all hub site join requests to go through a required approval process. This is a great opportunity for hub site owners to identify sites that should not be associated with their hubs.
Restrict who can see and join hubs. You can define specific users or mail-enabled security groups that can “see” your hub in the Hub site association dropdown field. By limiting which hubs are visible, you can control which hubs your site owners can associate to.
Build a “staging” hub that resets sites to your corporate brand standard. Build your staging hub with a standard company brand look and feel. When you have a SharePoint site that needs a reset of its branding and theme, simply associate the site to your staging hub. You can remove the hub site association once the site re-brand is complete.
Sticky hub branding examples Image 1: A SharePoint site with branded look and feel. This site has not yet been associated with a hub.
Image 2: The site has been associated to the Human Resources hub and has inherited the hub’s look and feel.
Image 3: The site has been removed from the Human Resources hub, but has retained the hub’s sticky branding:
If you’re on SharePoint Online and haven’t started exploring the use of hubs yet, it’s time to invest. SharePoint hubs are a key component of your intelligent intranet strategy, alongside home sites, branding, navigation, and site scripts.
Hubs provide a familial, logical tie between your SharePoint sites. Hubs unify site branding, provide a common hub navigation experience, roll up news and events, and provide a way for your users to find interrelated content quickly and easily. Hubs also support the dynamic nature of your organization. As departments re-org and your company structure changes, simply associate your SharePoint sites to new hubs and your branding will update automatically.
Hubs will require a re-examination of your information architecture and SharePoint site planning strategies. To help you with the transition, check out my list of getting-started hub tips.
1. Embrace the new “flat” world of SharePoint. To embrace SharePoint hubs, you need to let go of the old hierarchical model for organizing sites in nested site collections. Modern SharePoint sites are flat, existing in their own individual site collections. SharePoint hubs allow you to assemble these flat sites logically into families and make use of hub branding, unified navigation, and content roll-ups. And best of all, hubs prevent the age-old struggle of migrating SharePoint sites between physical site collections.
Hubs also change the longstanding trend of using departmental site collections as a quick and easy method for organizing SharePoint sites. The dynamic nature of hubs (and the quickness and ease with which you can change hub site associations) gives you the flexibility to organize your SharePoint sites more creatively.
2. Let your users chart your course. I recommend analyzing your users and their content needs before you start mapping out the structure of your hubs. Consider how your users will draw connections between your content, how they’ll approach finding the content they need, and why they care. Key questions to ask:
How do your users classify content? If one of your employees changes their name, where would they go to find information on submitting a name change? Would they start by searching HR policies? Looking for tax forms? Or contacting the Legal department? Learning how your users think about content will help you determine its best logical “fit.”
If you had the ability to target content to key employees, how would you do it? Hubs are being enriched with great audience targeting features that enable you to dynamically target content for key users. As you design your hub strategy, keep your audience targeting needs in mind. A simple way to define key audiences is to lay out your content, associated hub, and the audience the content will be targeted to (as shown below).
Branding & common navigation. Hubs provided a unified look and feel and a common hub navigation bar. Simply put, which sites do you want to have joined with a common brand and navigation bar? And which sites will your users want to see together? Breaking down your hub site associations to this level will help you differentiate your site and hub alignment.
3. Learn how mind-mapping can help you map your sites to hubs. Hubs require us to build logical links between our SharePoint sites based on the subject matter and audience. Tying sites together by department or organizational division is no longer enough. We must account for how users will think about the content stored on our sites and how they’ll connect content from different sites.
Mind-maps are a great tool for drawing and designing your hub site relationships. Mind-mapping is the visual representation of thoughts, discussions, and ideas. While strategists and information architecture practitioners have advocated using mind-maps for years to capture group conversations and decision-making processes, the new flat architecture model for SharePoint makes mind-maps a perfect methodology for outlining the logical ties between your SharePoint sites.
4. Consider a naming convention for your hubs. If you’ll be using hubs throughout your organization, you may want to consider a naming convention that clearly identifies each hub as a hub. Let’s say, for example, you have a hub for Legal, another for HR, and a third hub for Marketing. How do you want to refer to each hub? Examples may include:
Using a common term for each hub (e.g. spot, inside, or about) enables you to clearly differentiate hubs from your other SharePoint sites. I recommend finding a term that fits the culture, style, and brand identity of your organization. You’ll want to educate your users and SharePoint site owners about your new naming convention so they recognize your hub sites.
5. Consider how you’ll govern the use of hubs in your organization. Hubs can only be created by Office 365 global administrators or SharePoint administrators. Since hub creation is centrally controlled, you’ll need to consider how your new hubs will be created. Will site owners request hubs via a centralized form or via email? Will there be an approval or review process to ensure new hubs are appropriately scoped and named?
There are many additional governance questions to consider for your hubs:
How will you ensure duplicate hubs aren’t created?
How will you manage your number of hubs?
Will you require a minimum number of associated sites for each hub?
Will you set up permission guidelines for associated sites?
Will you define roles & responsibilities for your hub site owners? Will hub owners require anything of their associated site owners?
Will you audit your hubs on an annual or semi-annual basis?
I recommend a practical governance model that takes into account the key use cases for hubs in your organization. If you’re working in a large enterprise, for example, you may need to put governance precepts in place to ensure you stay below the 2,000 hubs per tenant limit that Microsoft has in place. If you’re working in a small to medium-sized organization, a 2,000 hub site limit may be a non-issue and require no governance oversight.
6. Determine whether you’ll incorporate a home site as part of your intelligent intranet. Home sites serve as the landing site for your organization, bringing together personalized and organizational news, events, conversations, content, and video on a single SharePoint Communications site. Incorporating a home site along with your hubs will require additional information architecture planning. Check out Microsoft’s home site planning recommendations to get started.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of mind-mapping lately. And the more I mind-map, the more I love it.
What is mind-mapping?
Mind-mapping is the visual representation of thoughts, discussions, and ideas. Mind-maps radiate out from a central idea, theme, or question, and include concepts and ideas, labeled connection lines, and even pictures/diagrams. You can think of mind-maps as a type of cognitive diagram.
The example mind-map below shows how ideas and data points can be connected to a central idea/theme in a visual way.
Example mind-map. Illustration credit: Meagan Haase
There are many benefits to mind-mapping the books you’re reading, the meetings you’re attending, and the conference sessions you’re listening to:
It promotes “meaningful learning.” When you learn something meaningfully, you’ve taken in the new information and tied it to things you already know. Meaningful learning is the process of converting new information into knowledge you can use.
It helps you “connect the dots.” Mind maps lay out conversations and discussions by radiating concepts from a core question or theme. The act of drawing connections between these new concepts and labeling the connection lines helps you see and remember how ideas connect.
It’s a visual learning device. The art of visualizing new concepts can help us imprint them on our minds in new and different ways. And if you’re an artist or a visual learner, mind-maps can help you translate words into visuals that are easier to remember!
It makes complex ideas easier to understand. Drawing out complex ideas is just…different. And sometimes a different frame of reference is all you need.
It promotes active listening. If I’m just sitting and listening to content, it’s hard not to get distracted with email, Twitter, or other things going on around me. Mind-mapping content while I’m listening to ithelps me engage on a whole new level. I’m not distracted; I’m actively engaged in what I’m hearing.
A few things to keep in mind when you start mind-mapping:
You’re not working in permanent ink. Scratch things out if you’re working on paper. If you’re using mind-mapping software, figure out how the “undo” and “delete” actions work.
Don’t fret about those things you call “mistakes.” Our brains are not perfect, and it usually takes us awhile to learn new things. Don’t expect your mind-maps to be succinct. Our mind-maps should reflect the same circuitous path we take to learn and build shared understanding.
Never mind the artistry. I’m not an artist, and I heartily join in when others make fun of my sorrowful-looking stick people. Here’s the great thing–no one is going to judge your mind-map for appropriate use of color, visuals, and artistic decor. It’s a mind-map, not an art exhibit!
Practice makes you faster (and more accurate). When I began creating mind-maps, it felt like I was working a long-dormant group of visual muscles. That’s OK. Practice helps.
You’re working off a blank slate, so build to suit. If you’re a word-based thinker, focus on building mind-maps that are entirely word-based. If pictures, icons, and drawings help you learn, try incorporating a variety of visuals into your mind-map. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
My mind-map journey Historically, I’ve built most of my mind-maps on whiteboards during work meetings. But this week, I’ve been focused on building electronic mind-maps using Coggle.it To get better (and faster) at building electronic maps, I’ve been mind-mapping Microsoft Ignite 2019 session recordings. The mind-maps capture the most meaningful words from each session, along with a contextual visual representation of how I connected all the ideas. Here are a couple of examples:
In May 2019, Microsoft announced SharePoint home sites, the new landing site for your intelligent intranet. Home sites are designed to bring together personalized and organizational news, events, conversations, content, and video on a single SharePoint communications site.
Your home site will be your Office 365 home base. Your tenant admin can configure your Office 365 navigation bar so users are taken to your home site when they click on your company logo. And when your mobile users click on the yet-to-be-released “home” button in their SharePoint mobile app, they’ll be taken to your home site.
As the new Office 365 landing site for your organization, home sites are designed to engage users and highlight your brand and organizational messaging. And with megamenu navigation, you can use your home site to link to your key internal SharePoint sites and hubs.
You’ll be limited to one home site per tenant. Your administrator will need to use PowerShell to elevate your SharePoint communications site of choice to be your home site. The PowerShell elevation command will:
Make the site an official organizational news site
Set the site search scope to be tenant-wide
Enable 1-click site access via the SharePoint mobile app home button
Connect the home site to your SharePoint start page
So what’s the difference between a home site and a hub?
Your SharePoint home site is your organization’s Office 365 “home.” By design, you’ll only be allowed one home site in your Office 365 tenant. And the home site must be a SharePoint communications site.
Hubs provide a familial, logical tie between SharePoint sites. With hubs, you can unify SharePoint site branding, provide a unified navigation experience, and roll up news and events in a centralized display. Hubs enhance content discovery by tying sites together and enabling browsing. Hubs are also flexible, easing the work involved in re-branding sites as org structures change and evolve. Simply assign your site to a new hub and your site’s branding is automatically updated.
While Microsoft has controlled the number of hubs that are allowed per Office 365 tenant, the limits continue to increase. When hubs were first released in May 2018, there was a limit of 50 hubs per Office 365 tenant. In August 2018, Microsoft increased the limit to 100 hubs per tenant. In May 2019, Microsoft announced another increase–this time to a maximum of 2,000 hubs per tenant! No release date has been provided for this 2,000 hub limit, so stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, we’re all living with the current 100 hub limit.
Hubs can be built on a variety of types of SharePoint sites, including communications sites, team sites, or classic sites.
Can a home site be a hub?
Yes. You can use a hub as your Office 365 home site, but only if the hub is a SharePoint communications site.
So where do you start?
Hubs are available in SharePoint Online today. Microsoft recommends we “hub before we sub” (use hubs to connect your modern SharePoint sites instead of building classic SharePoint sub-sites).
While home site functionality has been announced, no formal release date has been set. Your best approach in the near-term is to start designing and laying the framework for your organizational information architecture, including buildout of your hub framework. Once home sites are released, you’ll be able to synchronize your approach and designate your organizational home site.
There’s a tectonic shift taking place in the world of SharePoint information architecture. The deep nested webs of SharePoint 2007 and 2010 site collections are a thing of the past, as is the exhausting task of combatting site urban sprawl. We’re now being told to rest easy and create a multitude of modern SharePoint sites. And these modern SharePoint sites don’t exist in a hierarchy with many sub-sites. Since each modern site is its own site collection, all modern sites exist in a flat architecture. Managing hordes of these modern SharePoint sites is easier than ever, with stronger built-in management capabilities (e.g. retention policies and labels), meatier reporting, and an advanced Office 365 modern admin center. But why is a flat information architecture better? And how do we help our users connect the dots between our multitude of modern SharePoint sites?
Before we examine why flatter is better, I want to ensure we have a common definition of information architecture. I define SharePoint information architecture as the art and science of organizing, storing, and labeling content (e.g. documents, list data, Office 365 groups, SharePoint sites, etc.) to support content findability and usability. Information architecture helps your users find what they need and ensures your content is stored once and not multiple times.
Now let’s review why a flat SharePoint site architecture is advantageous:
Flat = modular. Flat SharePoint sites can be assembled in an endless array of logical families (as opposed to a physical hierarchical architecture of nested site collections). These logically-grouped SharePoint sites support quick navigation and contextual flow without requiring sites to move and data to be migrated anytime an information architecture change is required. Microsoft released SharePoint hub sites in March 2018 to help us manage families of SharePoint sites using these logical links. No physical relocation is required for hub sites–sites are linked together and links can be updated quickly and easily.
Adapts to ever-changing organization structures. A flat information architecture eliminates the need to migrate sub-sites to new site collections based on departmental reorganization. Re-orgs may require updates to the navigation links between your site collections (or updates to your hub site’s navigation bar), but it will not require a physical migration of your SharePoint site or result in a site URL change.
Supports new Office 365 capabilities. Functionality like Office 365 groups are heavily reliant on a modern information architecture. Office 365 groups serve as the security foundations for a wide array of functionality in Planner, Yammer, Exchange, and Microsoft Teams. New Office 365 groups cannot be nested–each exists at the same layer as all other groups. Quite simply, a hierarchical information architecture cannot be used easily alongside Office 365 group-enabled capabilities.
Enables sites to operate independently. As I mentioned previously, every SharePoint site in a flat architecture is its own site collection. This enables each site to operate independently, with custom permissions and unique governance settings. There’s no longer a need for all sub-sites in a site collection to be ruled by the governance requirements of one site. Each modern site has independent settings.
Mind-mapping our SharePoint sites
This new flat architecture requires us to change the way we conceptualize and present our SharePoint sites. Instead of building pyramid-style site hierarchies, we need to build a logical links and connection points based on subject matter, user base, etc. Tying sites together by department or organizational division is no longer enough. We must account for how users will think about the content stored on our sites and the connections they’ll make as they access SharePoint Online.
A good model for this new conceptual model is mind-mapping. Mind-mapping is the visual representation of thoughts, discussions, and ideas. It connects thoughts and ideas together in a documented, visual map (almost like a cognitive diagram). While many strategists and information architecture practitioners have advocated using mind-maps for years to capture group conversations and decision-making processes, the new flat architecture model for SharePoint now requires us to apply this same mind-map thinking to the logical ties between our multitude of modern sites.
The example mind-map below shows how ideas and data points can be connected to a central ideal/theme in a visual way. If we apply this mind-map idea to connecting our SharePoint sites or hub site families together, we’ll be in a better position to build navigation links and “connect” our flat SharePoint sites together in a usable way.
Example mind-map. Illustration credit: Meagan Haase
As SharePoint enthusiasts, we’ve eagerly anticipated the arrival of hub sites. Hubs provide a new means of logically grouping our SharePoint sites, changing the way many organizations will manage their intranet and information architecture. But the use and management of hub sites also brings up key questions. How should site owners determine when a hub site is necessary? And what processes should organizations put in place to manage the provisioning and use of hub sites? This blog post provides an introduction to hubs and explores key criteria for the evaluation of hub sites.
What are hub sites?
Hub sites enable logical grouping of SharePoint Online sites with a common navigation and branding experience. In a March 2018 Tech Community article, Mark Kashman calls out 4 key elements of hub sites:
Cross-site navigation (navigation that spans multiple sites without requiring manual creation for each site)
Content rollup (automated aggregation and display of news content from multiple sites)
Consistent look and feel (common site theme and branding that drives familiarity and make sites feel connected)
Scoped search (ability to search all sites in a hub quickly and easily)
While there is no limit to the number of sites you can associate with a hub site, you cannot associate a single site with more than one hub. (In other words, there is no opportunity to “parent” a site under two different hubs.)
Enterprise governance of hubs
If you work in a large enterprise, be prepared to govern your use of hub sites. While Microsoft hasn’t provided much guidance on what should constitute a hub site, they initially capped the usage of hub sites to 50 per tenant. In August 2018, Microsoft announced they were doubling hub site capacity, enabling a maximum of 100 hubs per tenant. In May 2019, Microsoft announced another increase–this time to a maximum of 2,000 hub sites per tenant. No release date has been provided for this 2,000 hub site limit, so stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, we’re all living with the current 100 hub site limit.
In order to ensure your hub sites are being leveraged appropriately, I recommend putting key questions and criteria in place to govern what constitutes a hub site. Since sites are elevated to hub site status via Powershell, tenant admins can establish governing principles and/or processes to manage the creation of hub sites. If you are a SharePoint administrator, you will need to determine how hub site promotions will take place. Will you require your site owners to submit request forms for new hub sites? How should they justify whether the hub site is needed? And how much rigor will your enterprise team go through in validating these hub site requests?
To get you started, here are a few hub site questions. The questions are intended to guide site owners through the process of justifying the need for elevating a site to a hub site. You’ll want to modify these questions to suit the specific needs of your organization.
Do you need to centrally control the branding theme for multiple SharePoint sites?
Do you need to relate multiple disparate sites together with a similar branded look and feel?
Do you need a common visual experience for 2 or more sites so users view them as “belonging together”?
Do you need to apply the same navigation settings to many different sites?
Do you need to update your navigation settings in one location and have it automatically applied to many other sites?
Do you need to aggregate news from multiple SharePoint sites into a single aggregate feed for a specific audience of users?
Do you need a targeted search function that searches across multiple disparate SharePoint sites quickly and easily?
Do you have multiple sites that fall under a logical business area (e.g. Human Resources, Legal, Corporate Communications)?
Do you have a functional business reason to link your sites together into a hub site?
What value will a hub site provide to your site users?
What value will a hub site provide you as a site owner? (In other words, do you have a clear business objective for your hub site?)
You should also consider what operational standards are required for the management of your hub sites. With only 100 hubs to work with, you should consider:
Who can approve use of a hub site?
Will hub sites be reviewed or audited to ensure they’re still being used? At what interval will auditing take place (e.g. 6 months, annually)?
Will you set up thresholds for hub site management (e.g. when you reach a total of 30 hub sites in use, will additional reviews be required?)
Will certain key business units (e.g. Corporate Communications, Information Security, etc.) be provided a hub site right away?
Should hub sites be “public” by default (e.g. be viewable by all employees)? If not, why not?
Will you set up a required minimum number of modern sites that will be joined via a hub? (e.g. you must have a minimum of 5 modern sites to qualify for use of a hub site)
Enterprise governance of hub sites is in its infancy. Most of us are just scratching the surface, trying to determine how much (or how little) governance will actually be required. If you plan to use hub sites, start having open dialogue about hub management now. As you continue learning more about how your site owners (and your organization) engage with hubs, you can build in appropriate governance processes and checkpoints to ensure effective management.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Erica Toelle, Product Evangelist for RecordPoint, about how Office 365 is changing the landscape of information architecture. We discussed how the launch of Microsoft Teams, the ramp-up in usage of OneNote and the shift away from formal site hierarchies and metadata structures in SharePoint is driving new business data management needs. This change requires librarians and information managers to shift their focus. Instead of leading card-sorting exercises to build out formal taxonomies and data models, we need to build strategies for user engagement and technology adoption. The goal is to help our users make sense of the data that is being surfaced to them every day while adapting to new methods of working and collaborating.
This shouldn’t be a difficult transition. Librarians and information managers evaluate information architecture needs for unique audiences every day. The evolutionary step is applying this knowledge to constructing user-centric adoption and education campaigns that reflect company cultures and user behaviors while also accounting for appropriate governance controls. If librarians and information managers can make the leap, they’ll drive user engagement and pioneer new information architecture methodologies that support Office 365’s growth.
Erica Toelle: Hi, I’m Erica Toelle, Product Evangelist for RecordPoint.
Hi, I’m Sarah Haase, Information Architect and Corporate Librarian.
Perfect. You have traditionally been in the information architect space being a librarian.
I think as we were just talking about before we started recording, we’re going through this shift now, where in the old SharePoint world we’d think of things in terms of hierarchies and-
… really over-designed information architectures, but in the modern SharePoint world, where we’re focused on contacts and experiences, it’s a little bit different.
So, with your perspective, how are you thinking about approaching these new spaces?
Right. I think it is really key, if I could even back up one second from there, I think librarians in general are something where we have had to make a big tangential shift over the last 10 or 15 years. From thinking about things in a library, in an electronic database, or in a file stack, and Dewey decimal system and all those perspectives into thinking about things from a data classification perspective in SharePoint, right? That’s where we built those information architectures that were detailed, hierarchical, they were taxonomies, right?
We had content-type hubs, and we had managed meta-data, and we were trying to control all of our term stores and really trying to manage that and now, it’s all shifted. It’s all experiences, so it’s much more about where does my content naturally belong for different types of users and different user groups? For one user group, that might be an instant message experience or a Skype experience embedded in Teams and for another group it might be a OneNote experience and for another group, it really might be a SharePoint team site or a SharePoint community site experience.
It’s really transitioning from those hierarchical methodologies to having more of an experience and it’s more of a where than a how. The how being that hierarchical data set. It’s an important switch for us to make as information architects and librarians because we have to continue to evolve our way of thinking.
That makes complete sense. If every group might be different, how do scale helping them figure that out in a larger organization?
That’s a really key question and it starts with education. It also starts with being able to partner strategically with different groups to figure out your personas and the types of experiences that they have. Right? There are only so many types of different personas that you’re going to run into so if you can figure out for these types of users with these types of business outcomes and needs, here are the three to five or three to seven most likely ways that they’re going to engage in content. Then you can start recommending in almost a matrix style, lining up the type of personas, the type of business teams that they are and the type of experiences that might be meaningful for them. That can give them a running headstart.
You, as a facilitator of outcome and information architecture and a technologist perspective might often be required to step in and help them on their journey to that, but at least it gives you some roadmaps and some guides so it’s not all just based on you or I going in and having that conversation with them one on one.
That makes complete sense. In, kind of, the old hierarchy world, we were building content-types for example, because we wanted standardized templates, workflows, policies, do we just have to give up on that in the modern experience or is there some … What do we do?
Right. Not entirely, luckily, because I still love a lot of those things, but I think it again, depends on the business needs, and what we’re doing. I think that we were really focused on those information management policies and the content types and where is the data and how is the data arranged in a hierarchical sense, and it has shifted somewhat, right? Because OneNote is one of the most compelling tools for my business users and not one of them wants my help categorizing their notebooks, and the sections of their notebooks. Why? Because they’ll do it however they want to and everybody just searches and it works.
The messaging is different and the need is different but there’s still a need for business automation. There’s still a need for those workflows or those flows and those power ops, it’s just that suddenly the mechanics and the tool sets behind it are shifting and we’ve got to be adaptable and flexible to that.
And rebuild our solutions?
And rebuild our solutions where necessary and hopefully redesign them and improve them as we go.
Got it. How about end user adoption. Have those techniques changed in the modern workplace?
User adoption is my favorite thing. I think absolutely they have changed, especially in the last couple of years. One of my favorite things to talk about is the difference between the traditional models for user adoption and the user centric models. Traditional models are the sending out mass communications, one flavor, one style of communications to everyone, and expecting that they’ll even consume it via email, much less that it’s effective for them. Right? Or, a train the trainer approach. Select one person from every department to go to training and then take back what they learned to teach everyone else. Or, even training on features and assuming that business users will make the connection between features and their business outcomes in a meaningful way.
Those are a lot of big assumptions and it doesn’t work anymore. Those types of models really separate IT from their business. I think a user-centric model is more about building strategic partnerships, being able to work with users, building those user personas that we talked about, engaging with key thought leaders and influencers who are also technology advocates and technology innovators in your organization. Partner with them, help them to build the knowledge that they have, set them loose, and have them help you pay it forward to the rest of the organization. It’s much more about how to build a movement in terms of excitement and enthusiasm rather than the traditional approach of trainer the trainer, features, and mass-market communications.
Sure. I know with an audience of record managers and librarians, we have to ask if we’re kind of opening up these user experiences, being more user-centric and experience and context-based, well, what about governance? Is there a place for governance anymore?
No, there absolutely isn’t. Every organization should be talking about governance, no matter where you are on that governance spectrum from the we’re going to be wide open with a lot of things and we’re going to have very few limits, to the kind of company that’s going to have to have some very specific models and fixtures around governance and how that works. I think governance is very important to think about but it’s also important to think about your company culture and how to represent that governance. I’ve worked with organizations before that have big pictures that tell the story or their governance and that’s really worked well for their company culture and for their users as a reminder of that governance. I’ve also worked for companies that had a 47-page manual that got updated frequently with a change log. It’s really about the company culture, the company industry, the type of governance that they need and you’ve got to make it fit the company as opposed to trying to make it fit a rubric or a standardized rule.
Makes complete sense. Any final words of wisdom for librarians or records managers as they make the transition from maybe this more hierarchical on-premise world to the modern workplace in Office 365?
I would say to be open, to be adaptable, and to say it’s okay if you’re not building out formal taxonomies, there’s new fun to be had. So, be open and adaptable to the new kinds of fun because your skill set and your experience are still highly relevant. You just have to be able to figure out how to talk to people about it every day in the new world.
Perfect. Well, thanks so much for joining us here at SharePoint Fest Chicago.
Have a great rest of the conference.