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.

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.

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 https://aka.ms/MSLists. 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.

Staying on top of Microsoft 365 changes (an organizational perspective)

Organizations implementing Microsoft 365 need to prepare for a long-term investment that includes weekly or monthly deep-dives into new features and communication models for sharing updates with their employees.

Bottom line: Your M365 governance plans must include an ongoing investment of time and resources to:

  1. Determine how feature changes impact your users and the governance of your tenant
  2. Define effective methods for sharing M365 changes with your employees
  3. Continuously update and evolve your communications strategy to ensure your messages are being seen & heard

Microsoft gives you a variety of resources for staying on top of feature changes, including the Microsoft 365 Roadmap and the Message Center (with a new Planner integration feature). In this episode of the M365 Voice, we share organization-level tips and tricks for staying on top of these changes and sharing them with your employees.

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


Immediate steps to take if you experience a Microsoft 365 data breach

In this critical episode of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we discuss the steps you need to take if you suspect you’ve had a M365 security breach:

Step 1 – Don’t panic!

Step 2 – Stop the bleeding. Take immediate steps to triage and determine at what level the security breach occurred.

Step 3 – Take corrective action.

Step 4 – Inform key partners, leaders, stakeholders, etc.

Step 5  – Protect yourself in the future.

Don’t miss the end of the episode, where we discuss pivotal steps you should take to prepare for a data breach before one occurs. Whether you’re part of an extensive M365 administrative team or a one-person department, there are steps you should take now to give yourself a playbook for handling any future security breaches.

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


Helping your users understand Microsoft 365 terminology

As Microsoft 365 practitioners, it’s our job to help information workers and end-users understand how to work with Microsoft Teams, Planner, SharePoint, OneDrive, etc. Having a common set of defined terms helps your users stay on top of M365 feature changes and capabilities. If your organization hasn’t done so already, I recommend coming up with a M365 “style guide.” The style guide should define the way in which you refer to M365 products and features. For example:

  • How will you refer to a Microsoft Teams team? And how will you distinguish that team from the Teams product or from a SharePoint team site?
  • Will you double-up on descriptive terms like “Planner plan” and “Teams team” when you refer to specific M365 groups?
  • Will you use capitalization alone to denote an individual plan from the Planner product?

In this episode of M365 Voice, we discuss the challenge of building our enterprise Microsoft vocabulary. Listen in for ideas on how you can consistently refer to your M365 features and products. Enjoy!

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


Which Microsoft 365 mobile applications do you use most? And which apps are your favorite?

We went mobile for this episode of the Microsoft 365 Voice, discussing which mobile apps we use most and why. Our top 10 list of apps include:

  • Outlook
  • Microsoft Teams
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote
  • Microsoft 365 Admin
  • Power Automate
  • SharePoint
  • Office
  • Power Apps
  • To-Do

We discussed trends we’ve seen in organizational adoption of the M365 mobile apps, along with differences in our work vs. personal use. (Hint: The OneDrive and OneNote mobile apps win for most-used personal apps…)


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