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.

Being a strong female technology leader

Women in technology face unique challenges. We’re often outnumbered by our male counterparts and occupy a lower percentage of highly-technical jobs. Silicon Valley reflects this disparity. According to the Huffington Post, women make up 30% of Google’s workforce, but only hold 17% of the technical jobs. Only 10% of tech jobs at Twitter are held by women.

I’m privileged to work with an incredible array of female technology leaders who bring creativity, critical-thinking skills, a diverse life perspective, strong technical & communication skills, an awareness of self, and a strong team-building focus to their jobs every day. But these female technology leaders are often judged differently than their male peers. They’re caught between a paradox of conflicting cultural norms and gender stereotypes commonly referred to as the double-bind dilemma. Leaders are expected to be direct, decisive, and tough. But gender stereotypes call for women to be kind, nurturing, and “nice.” How can a female technology leader be direct and decisive while also being a kind nurturer?

Last month I was part of a conversation on gender in the tech workplace. We had some incredible dialogue, with wide-ranging opinions on where we are and where we’d like to be. Some advocated for a future where we don’t “see” gender in the workplace. Others sought to recognize the unique skills and abilities everyone brings so we can celebrate our differences.

Bottom line: We need to encourage growth and talent across ALL our workforce. Whether you’re a female technology leader, an aspiring mentor, or an ally that wants to support growth and diversity in the tech space, you have valuable insights to share.

Want to know how you can help? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Build mentor relationships. Seek out (or become) a mentor. One of the most powerful mentor relationships I’ve had was with a senior leader who was 15+ years ahead of me in her career. She shared her journey and personal stories of obstacles she overcame and how people helped her career along the way. If you’re a male technologist, seek out a female mentor. Be inquisitive and ask questions about her experiences, background, and strengths.
  • Connect with interns. I’ve participated in high school and college-level internship programs that provide real-world job experience. These interns are just starting out in their careers, and it’s amazing the unique perspectives they bring. Have coffee with these students, ask questions, and see how they view your workplace. You’ll gain an amazing perspective.
  • Support and empower other women. I’ve joined women mentoring circles at several of the companies I’ve worked for, and they’ve provided an amazing opportunity to grow my network and broaden my perspective. Making time to connect with and listen to women’s experiences is incredibly rewarding…and the network connections made can help with future career opportunities.
  • Build alliances & invest in advocates. If you’re focused on advancing your career and getting that next promotion, start forging relationships to help you along the way. Build alliances with other leaders that see your potential and achievements. These leaders can serve as advocates for you in your career growth.
  • Create a strong personal brand. Your personal brand is the impression you leave behind and the reputation you have at work. That personal brand includes both your strengths/achievements and the things your peers say when you’re out of earshot. Gain a clear view of your personal brand by asking others for feedback. Then decide if your personal brand reflects who you want to be. If it doesn’t, you have an opportunity to evolve.
  • Seek opportunities. Take the leap and reach for that tough assignment. Lean into work opportunities that stretch you. Focus on creating value for your customers, and don’t be afraid to share your wins with your peers and leaders.
  • Believe you can do it. Speak up. Raise your hand. Be heard! If you suffer from meeting regret, it’s time to lean in and start sharing your thoughts. If you suffer from negative thoughts, script out positive messages for yourself and repeat them several times a day. Tackle the feelings of imposter syndrome and don’t stop to wonder if your work (or your ideas) have value.
  • Give (and seek) candid feedback. Have you ever received performance feedback that included comments on your strengths but gave you nothing to work on and improve? Many of us find it easy to give positive feedback but hard to give constructive feedback. Seek out peers who will tell you like it is. And give the gift of authenticity to others. We can’t change what we don’t see…and you need people in your life that will tell you the good (and the bad).
  • Call out poor behavior (and then let it go). Many of my fellow female technologists receive blatantly inappropriate feedback. We’re told our clothes were distracting and took away from our presentation. We’re told to stop posting selfies on Twitter because “no one wants to be distracted by that.” We’re given job feedback or speaker feedback that is focused on our looks instead of our content or achievements. And in many cases, we’re told to stop coming off as being “too intelligent.” If someone gives you this type of feedback (or you see it occurring in the wild), call it out. And then dump the feedback in the trash. Don’t let poor behavior go unchecked, but don’t take it on and carry it around with you.


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.