SharePoint Online branding: A Microsoft 365 Voice discussion

Episode 43 of the Microsoft 365 Voice podcast features a modern branding discussion with SharePoint developer and Microsoft MVP Thomas Daly. Topics covered during this session include:

  • Navigation is still key. Branding capabilities in SharePoint have evolved significantly in recent years, but navigation is still a critical design component. Effective use of SharePoint hub sites, an organizational Home site, and the soon-to-be-released Global Navigation component in the SharePoint App Bar will ensure your users can effectively find what they need.
  • Stay within your “zones.” Thomas recommends keeping custom development inside the existing boxes (or zones) of your SharePoint Online site pages. Reaching outside these standard zones and manipulating modern pages can cause major difficulties (particularly as Microsoft releases cloud changes). And remember – any custom development you inject is yours to support.
  • Think about the page scrolling impact of a customized SharePoint header and footer. The more you put into your custom header and footer, the more “squeezed” your SharePoint page becomes. Before you develop elaborate headers and footers, consider how the changes will impact your users. You don’t want to require extensive scrolling for them to see the main content on each of your SharePoint pages.
  • Create a SharePoint theme for your site (and don’t alter the default SharePoint themes). You can generate a new theme on your SharePoint site. Thomas recommends focusing the theme on one of your company’s key colors. SharePoint page elements and web parts tie into the SharePoint theme, but it is difficult to have multiple custom colors featured equally.
  • Don’t try and upload your own custom company font. This may seem like an elegant marketing choice, but trying to override the default Microsoft SharePoint fonts can cause significant page rendering issues. If you absolutely need to customize fonts, focus on web part titles and not the body font for your SharePoint pages.
  • Be consistent. Thomas recommends using site templates and site scripts to drive consistency. You can also use SharePoint hub sites to push a consistent branded look and feel experience to associated sites.
  • Check out the SharePoint Lookbook for site design ideas. See stunning visuals of example SharePoint sites and add the example sites to your tenant!

A huge thank you to Thomas Daly for joining us! Hope you enjoy the episode.

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

Our favorite Microsoft 365 moments in 2020

It’s time for the M365 Voice end-of-year episode! Mike Maadarani, Antonio Maio, and I have recorded and released 31 episodes since April 2020! In each episode, we pick a listener question at random and spend 20-30 minutes answering it. We’ve also hosted special guests Mark Kashman, DC Padur, Laurie Pottmeyer, Heather Newman, and Bill Baer. Our shows have focused on topics across the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, from Microsoft Information Protection to Project Cortex, SharePoint Syntex, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Stream, Microsoft Search, SharePoint home sites & hubs, mobility, user adoption, security, and compliance. Click here to check out our full list of episodes.

In our final podcast episode of the year, we highlighted our favorite Microsoft 365 things from 2020. Tune in to hear about our favorite features, roadmap updates, product releases, virtual conferences, community moments, and much more. Here’s a sneak peak at a few of our favorite things:

  • Ability to attend new virtual events like SPS Omaha and M365 Saskatchewan
  • Seeing how quickly Microsoft went to a full remote workforce during COVID
  • Launch of new collaboration features (e.g. integration of Yammer communities in Microsoft Teams, launch of products like Microsoft Lists, etc.)
  • Capabilities like Project Nucleus, which provide the ability to work with your data offline (this is particularly important in geographic areas with unreliable internet coverage)
  • Security updates to M365 (e.g. ability to assign Microsoft Information Protection sensitivity labels to Teams, SharePoint sites, and M365 groups)

We’ll be back in 2021 with more episodes. If you’d like to have your Microsoft 365 question featured on an upcoming episode, submit it online.

A Microsoft Teams discussion with Laurie Pottmeyer

We’re thrilled to welcome Laurie Pottmeyer, Senior Program Manager for Microsoft Teams, to episode 40 of the Microsoft 365 Voice podcast. We had the chance to ask Laurie all kinds of questions about Microsoft Teams, including:

  • What are your top 5 favorite Microsoft Teams features?
  • Which Microsoft Teams features are you surprised that people don’t talk about much?
  • Microsoft Teams daily active users jumped more than 50% since COVID-19 began, with more than 115 million users working in Microsoft Teams daily. How has the Microsoft engineering team kept up with this growth?
  • How is Microsoft innovating and adding new features to Microsoft Teams while ensuring the product stays secure and performs well?
  • What does a ‘day in the life’ look like for someone on the Microsoft Teams product team?
  • What suggestions and resources do you recommend for companies implementing Microsoft Teams?
  • What upcoming features are you looking forward to most in Microsoft Teams?
  • What trends do you see in how companies roll out Microsoft Teams (e.g. rolling out chat first, then online meetings, collaboration features, etc.)?

Learn more
Laurie recommended several online resources during the episode, including:

Did you know?
This is Laurie’s second appearance on the Microsoft 365 Voice. Mike Maadarani and Antonio Maio interviewed Laurie for episode 2 of the podcast when they were in Orlando for Microsoft Ignite 2019. Laurie is the only guest to appear in multiple Microsoft 365 episodes!

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

How do you know how many labels to use when implementing Microsoft Information Protection (MIP)?

Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) helps your organization discover, classify, and protect your sensitive information. You can use MIP to tag sensitive content and apply information protection policies (e.g. encryption, digital rights management, etc.) to secure content wherever it resides.

One of the many considerations when implementing MIP is determining which sensitivity labels you will use to classify your content. A sensitivity label is a tag (or identifier) that denotes how sensitive the content in the email or document is (e.g. whether it contains public information, company confidential information, personal information, etc.). Sensitivity labels can be applied manually by your employees or via automated policies. You can set up protections for sensitivity types (e.g. auto-encryption of all content containing personal information).

While your organization has a wide array of vital information, Microsoft recommends limiting the number of sensitivity labels you use in your MIP implementation. But how do you decide which sensitivity labels to use? And should you select one of those labels as a default that is auto-set for all content?

Episode 39 of the Microsoft 365 Voice podcast covers this topic in detail. Antonio, Mike, and I all advocate for limiting yourself to 3 or 4 sensitivity labels if possible (5 labels at the most). Here’s a few of the reasons we advocate for such a short list:

  • Fewer labels are easier to remember and use. Your MIP implementation will only be successful if your employees understand when & how to apply a label. Your employees aren’t all information tagging experts, so don’t make them have to know the Dewey Decimal System to tag a document or an email. Keep it simple.
  • Fewer labels makes it easier to determine which label to use when. Keeping to a smaller set of sensitivity labels makes it easier for your users to differentiate between data types. You want users to know when to use a confidential label and when to use a personal information label.
  • Fewer labels make for fewer errors. To maximize the effectiveness of your MIP implementation, you need to ensure a high percentage of your content is labeled correctly. Research shows that end-user sensitivity tagging has a misclassification rate of 30%. (This means that 30% of your content is not tagged with the appropriate label.) Having a small number of well-defined sensitivity labels will help you reduce this misclassification percentage.

You will also need to determine if you want a default sensitivity label (e.g. a label that is automatically applied to all new documents and emails). A default sensitivity label ensures all your content is tagged, but you’ll still need to educate users so they know why and when to use a label other than the default.

Additional tip:
User adoption and education are a vital part of your MIP strategy. To help you get started, Microsoft recently released a user adoption pack for MIP. The pack includes example email communications, PowerPoint training slides, etc. Check it out!

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

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.