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Posts Tagged ‘Office 365’

PowerShell Deployment to SharePoint Online

In my last blog post about DevOps for SharePoint Online the process I presented relied a lot upon scripted deployment to SharePoint Online (O365). I wanted to expand upon that a little and explain in a little more detail about how Perficient is using PowerShell to manage our deployments for our Development, QA and Production environments.

Automating any task which is repeated can be a productivity benefit providing the time invested in developing the automation takes less time than repeating the task itself. Automation also significantly reduces chance of ‘human error’.

Automating deployments is of little benefit to light users of SharePoint who do minimal customization of SharePoint in a single O365 tenant. However, as you begin to customize more and introduce the need for testing cycles then automation starts to become valuable. When you add multiple tenants into your DevOps and add multiple developers or administrators then automated deployment can really pay huge dividends.

I think it is fair to say we are in a period of emerging standards for deployment of customizations to SharePoint Online. When we worked on-premises with SharePoint the WSP provided great deployment options especially when you consider Feature stapling. This is basically off the table with O365 and we’re looking for new best practice.

I think that the combination of PowerShell and the SharePoint Server 2013 Client Components SDK is a strong candidate for best practice automation of deployment to SharePoint Online. PowerShell gives us the lightweight scripting we need in order to move rapidly through automated builds and deployments. The Client Components SDK gives us the full Client Object Model on the administrator’s desktop allowing them to execute on a huge variety of scripted tasks. Here are a couple of useful resources on this topic, one from my colleague Roydon Gyles-Bedford whom I credit with a lot of Perficient’s thought leadership in this area:

https://github.com/rgylesbedford
http://soerennielsen.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/use-csom-from-powershell

At Perficient we have invested in PowerShell Modules which use XML configuration to drive deployment of items such as:

  • Master Pages
  • Page Layouts
  • Content Types
  • Display Templates
  • Term Store Terms

The XML configuration files are pseudo-CAML (Collaborative Application Markup Language!) which is wrapped in our own markup to help the Modules know what to do with it. The nice thing about CAML is that it is already defined and baked into SharePoint. We will often use the Client Browser Tool http://spcb.codeplex.com to browse existing artifacts like Content Types to understand how to define Content Types from scratch. E.g.

ContentType

Aside from configuration defined in XML we also simply drive configuration through PowerShell modules using the Client Object Model directly. Here is an example function for adding a Web:

AddWebFunction

At this point in time the Client Object Model does lack functionality when compared to its server-side counterpart. However, this is improving all the time with new methods being added in every release.

In some cases it is possible inspect the server-side object model using a tool like IL Spy http://ilspy.net and find (unsupported) ways to get the job done. For example we found a way to add links to the Search Center Navigation via this technique. I must stress that using an unsupported method should be for convenience only and you should have a backup plan should it fail. We normally write this backup plan into our deployment documentation and it’s usually just a manual way to achieve the same thing albeit more slowly.

I am now also seeing lots of discussion and examples around HTTP Remote operations to help fill the gaps in the Client Object Model. This is of course also unsupported but can be effective as a convenience and time-saver. We’ve used this effectively to map Search Crawled Properties to the Refinable Managed Properties in SharePoint Online. This is not supported by the Client Object Model and can take a huge amount of time so is ripe for automating. Here is a snippet showing how we call a function to update RefinableString00 with Crawled Properties:

UpdatingRefinableManagedProperties2

In conclusion, automation using scripted deployment can be an extremely versatile and effective way to support your DevOps for SharePoint Online. At Perficient, SCRUM has proven to be a very effective methodology for SharePoint Online projects. Typically we are making the scripted deployment of any new feature part of the ‘Done Criteria’ for any development work. Scripting the deployment then very much becomes part of feature development and will be effectively tested in development environments before progressing to QA and Production.

Could Yammer Supplant Your Intranet?

We see a lot of scenarios where clients are moving their intranets successfully to the Office 365 cloud with SharePoint Online.  This is the easiest, smoothest path to an social intranet on the Microsoft platform, due largely to the ever-closer relationship between Yammer and the rest of the services in Office 365.

That said,there are still plenty of enterprises out there who prefer to either keep their intranet on-premises, or not upgrade / migrate just yet.  Many of those organizations would still like to get their bang for the buck with Yammer, however, and need to figure out a solution for integrating those social features into their on-premises solution.

By far the most common way to accomplish this right now is through the use of the Yammer Embed functionality (or specifically for SharePoint, the Yammer app for SharePoint) to embed specific news feeds on specific sites.  This is easily the most obvious way to “socialize” an on-premises SharePoint intranet with Yammer.

That works, sure.  But it’s not all that elegant.  Too, if you’re using the Yammer app for SharePoint, this approach forces you to go in and update every Yammer feed when they update the app (which is a pain).

A more forward-thinking, less common but emerging approach to a social intranet is to actually use Yammer as the intranet home.

This is an example of truly embracing enterprise social and may require a complete rethink from a lot of organizations as to how they approach an intranet, but it’s the direction things seem to be going.  You make the social network your home, and instead of augmenting informational sites with social feeds, you augment social groups with links to informational sites using Pins and the Info window’s rich text / HTML editor feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think about it.  Here at Perficient, we’re in the midst of rolling out a new platform for time tracking, financials, and other fun line-of-business activity and reporting.  We have both a Yammer group stood up to support that rollout, and a more traditional SharePoint intranet site.

What we’ve found in this scenario is that the Yammer feed has actually supplanted the informational site because it’s a much faster and more responsive way for people to get answers and collaborate.  Links embedded in the Yammer page direct users back to SharePoint for the informational / non-collaborative content they need, but the social discussion and interaction is now the focus.

Of course, Yammer in general resists (i.e., doesn’t allow) any but the most basic customization.  Fonts, styles, navigation etc., are all locked in “as is”.  The only thing you can really change in Yammer is the header atop your page.  That means we lose some control over branding, but gain quite a bit in interaction and employee engagement.  For this use case, it’s a smashing success.

The question then becomes, “Can this approach work for an entire intranet, and not just one use case?”

To some extent, that depends on the users.  At the end of the day, it all depends on where they go when they log on in the morning.  Email?  The intranet?  Or their social network?  Get the ball rolling with enterprise social and people will start skipping over the intranet– it’s almost a given.  Use social to surface intranet content and the line starts to blur… which is a lot closer to where things are going in the cloud than it is to a hodgepodge of on-prem intranet sites with embedded social feeds.

Everything You Need to Know About Delve & Office Graph

Ok, I’ve got to admit I really meant to say “Almost everything you need to know in first Release.”

The more you share, the more you get. Believe in that? Office 365 community does and as a result , this week Microsoft hosted “Delve Yamjam” to coincide with the launch of the new Office 365 product called “Delve”. (If you are new to I highly recommend reading earlier articles here and here to get to know your new friend Delve). Look at a screenshot of Delve from my demo tenant, looks pretty cool, huh?

Delve Img1

Some great questions asked some great thoughts shared. I summarize here for the larger community. Microsoft responses were from Christophe Fiessinger, Kady Dundas, Josh Stickler, Mark Kashman, Cem Aykan and on the phone Ashok Kuppusamy, Stefan Debald, Fredrik Holm, John Toews, and Robin Miller.

  • Which Office 365 business plans includes Delve?
    • Delve is included in the Office 365 E1 – E4 subscription plans (and the corresponding A2 – A4 and G1 – G4 plans for Academic and Government customers respectively)
  • Can I protect data from ever being shown in others Delve results?
    • Yes, Delve only shows documents based on permissions set and inherit those from OneDrive and SharePoint online. Also each card will have a sharing control and “who can see this” option
    • If your folder and contents are not shared with anyone, they will not appear in Delve for anyone. It always respect the permissions set on the items.
  • Which kinds of data is considered “private data”?
    • There’s both the concept of private data (e.g. files that only you or you and a select few colleagues can see) and private signals (e.g. the fact that you have viewed a particular document, even if it’s public). Delve respects SharePoint and Search permissions, so only users who have access to read a document can see that document appear as a result in Delve. Furthermore, details like the documents you view or documents others view are private.
  • Any Android / iOS apps in the pipeline for Delve?
    • Yes but no timeline could be provided yet
  • Not all content (file types) is included in Delve. Any plans for extending the list of file types, and/or list of content sources?
    • PDF, excel, and word file types are included but there is absence of image files and Visio files.
    • Yep, we are planning to add more content sources and signals to the Office Graph on ongoing basis
    • We are working on increasing the content types supported by Delve. We started with an initial list of Office doc types, but we will expand this over time.
  • Delve site has default branding and does not incorporate our corporate branding that is available on Yammer, OneDrive and Sites menu options in top navigation bar?
    • The top Office 365 navigation is now theme able and your theme should be available in Delve as well. Broader theming is something we’ll be looking at in the future.
  • Delve was rolled out to our business tenant yesterday. So far it is showing us trending documents that our co-workers are viewing on SharePoint. Is there a way to block certain areas so we don’t see our co-workers trends in HR searches?
    • You can make those documents not shared using the SharePoint permissions UI, but right now, there’s no feature to exclude documents from Delve but still available to everyone.  read here for more details.
  • Will Outlook be leverage into Delve
    • Outlook as part of Office 365 is already leveraged in Delve.
    • We are considering adding email attachments to Delve.
    • Office Graph is driving scenario for OWA. So appointments and attendee information are only leveraged in delve if it’s in OWA. You can imagine Office Graph providing insights multiple scenarios in the future…if you haven’t already done so check the Office Graph on the blog post from Monday.
  • Does ‘signals from exchange’ refer to email relationships (i.e. who the recipients and senders are)?
    • Yes, and to elaborate, it analyzes the set of people with whom you correspond via email and use this data as a factor to weight your working relationships with your colleagues.
    • The org structure is another factor taken into consideration
  • The 5 people to the left – seems to be right for most people (in terms of the ones with most interactions), but I have seen colleagues, with strange people presented as top 5 people.
    • have a bug where it is showing groups/crawler accounts instead of just people
    • The people on the left aren’t related to them in any way. Known issues MSFT working with no ETA
  • Will Delve work in a hybrid scenario using my On-Premise systems?
    • This is place for partner opportunities! But MSFT is working on a solution to feed on-premises (like exchange on premise) content into Delve, but no timeline can be announced.
    • Plans to release hybrid connector capabilities so that the Office Graph can integrate signals and content from on prem.
  • Any federation plans across multiple tenants?
    • No plans today
  • Delve supports the most common screen readers, high-contrast mode etc aligned with Microsoft policies in this area.
  • Is there a way to limit #delve deployment to some user groups in the company? Just to help company to graduate deploy it
    • An individual user can turn off Delve. This will also control Office Graph as-well.
  • Are you adding Delve results to the search page, or can we see this as an UI opportunity
    • Not to SharePoint enterprise search center but we look at that as an opportunity
  • Item limit for Delve
    • Delve shows up to 36 items in a view. This is the same when you search in the search box.
  • Details to the API Roadmap?
    • Right now you can do graph queries through the SharePoint Search Rest API using “Graph Query Language” as described here: GQL
  • If a user has permission to access a document/list item but the library/list is excluded from search in list settings will the content still display in Delve?
    • Nope, Delve uses the same permissions for search..
  • Do you have plan to return Yammer conversations in any form as Delve results ?
    • It’s something MSFT is actively working on showing the Yammer conversations tied to documents in Delve.
  • Is Delve going to work with Office 365 Pro Plus client or only Office online, and the other question, is it only working based on files saved only in ODFB and SharePoint online?
    • Yes if the document is stored in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online then yes the Office Graph will index it
  • What is the best way to introduce Delve within an organization? Are there best practices and change management recommendations?
    • We are working on an email template that Office 365 admins can then send to their users that helps address exactly what you’re asking. It would have info about What, How, Why with links and first steps. This template will be made available to admins via the message center to raise awareness.
    • We, too, plan to incorporate Delve info and insight into the adoption website we currently maintain here: Discover SharePoint  (with near-term plans to focus on broader Office 365 scenarios).

Hope this provides some insights around how Office Graph captures and renders signals. Check back for more details as I dive more into Delve.

Office 365 pushes Microsoft atop Gartner’s Social Magic Quadrant

Microsoft position as a Leader in Gartner’s 2014 Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace has moved to the top. Read the rest of this post »

Webinar Recap: What to Know When Migrating to Microsoft Exchange

On Tuesday, we teamed up with Binary Tree, Microsoft’s 2014 Messaging Partner of the Year, for a webinar on Best Practices & Solutions For Migrating to Microsoft Exchange.

The session delved into Office 365, common challenges when migrating to Exchange, along with an example of a customer who recently migrated to Exchange Online with the help of Binary Tree’s solution, and then, how Binary Tree’s CMT Suite works with a demonstration of CMT for Coexistence and CMT for Exchange.

First, Perficient’s Rene Strawser, whose role as a lead technical consultant allows her to focus primarily on the deployment and migration of the Microsoft unified communications technologies of Exchange, gave attendees a bit of background on the trends surrounding the cloud, and specific features of cloud-based Exchange in Office 365.

Following this, James Tolentino, another lead technical consultant at Perficient, shared the common challenges he’s worked through when migrating customers to Exchange from legacy email platforms, and then walked through a situation where a customer recently moved from a legacy email platform to Exchange Online. He described the key features of the Binary Tree tools that were used as well as an overview of the migration process. This included the criticality of end user communication and the use of PowerShell commands and replica/staging.

For the second half of the webinar, Binary Tree solution architect Perry Hiltz went into further detail on Binary Trees’s award-winning SMART migration software solutions, CMT for Coexistence and CMT for Exchange, and then gave the audience a live demo of the tools in action.

You can view the entire replay here, including the demonstration. You can also catch up with the speakers on Twitter: @srstrawser and @PWHiltz.

Office 365 & SharePoint Online – Customize the Suite Bar

The Suite Bar is the thin blue bar that runs at the very top of your Office 365 window with your Outlook, Calendar, People, Yammer, OneDrive, and Sites links. Its your primary navigation to all the different services in your Office 365 Suite of products. Have you ever wished the bar wasn’t blue? Have you ever wanted to add your own logo? Well now you can!

nav-bar-1024x37

Microsoft has announced a new feature of Office 365 – Custom Themes. Go to your Office 365 Admin Dashboard, click your company hyperlink in the top right corner, then you’ll see options to change the following: Read the rest of this post »

SharePoint Online Retires Tags and Notes

As Microsoft continues to blend and expand Yammer capabilities across the platform, they have retired Tags and Notes in SharePoint Online.

Key factor to note is that users can no longer create create or access existing tags or notes. The only option is for SharePoint Online admins to export all existing tags and notes via an archived csv files, from the SharePoint admin center. Also, for those using this feature, the webparts will start showing up blank.

Tags-Notes

Tags and Note UX in SharePoint 2013

Below is the table of  how this will affect users :

Item
Change
Tags & Notes button on ribbonStill visible but disabled.
Note Board and Tag Cloud web parts in the web part galleryStill visible and enabled. The web parts will show up as blank when added to a page.
Note Board and Tag Cloud web parts embedded in a pagePage will display a blank space in the area previously occupied by the web parts. Edit the page to remove the web parts.
Social tagsSocial tags will no longer appear in the tags refiner. The refiner will still display hashtags.
Tags and notes listed on personal sitesThe area that previously listed tags and notes will be blank.

Delve Has Arrived

How long have you been patiently waiting for this amazing new search powered app called “Delve”? Days, weeks, months?
The wait is finally over with Microsoft announcing today that it is releasing Delve to office 365 subscribers!

What is Delve?
Delve is a new way to search and discover content with Office graph in the background doing all the heavy lifting.
I talk about it in detail here or Watch the video here.

Release ScheduleFinally Here
The Office blog says, “Delve will roll out to Office 365 customers in phases, first to customers that have elected to receive significant Office 365 service updates at first release, an opt-in program. Following that, Delve will roll out to all Office 365 customers over several months in standard release, the default option for Office 365 customers. We expect Delve to roll out to all eligible Office 365 customers by early 2015. For the Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, Small Business, Small Business Premium, and Midsize Business customers, first release rollout will begin in January 2015.”

Admin Get Started
If you are wondering how to avail this feature, check out the Delve for Admins here.

SharePoint Online (O365) adds security and compliance services

In the past month, Microsoft has added two key new service capabilities to SharePoint Online and Rights Management that provide a more robust secure computing experience.  The first is the introduction of data loss prevention and the second is the improvements in protecting content across all platforms including OS X Support.

Data Loss Prevention

DLPSharePoint Online now provides the ability to perform a legal audit to determine the amount of risk posed by data stored on SharePoint sites and OneDrive, commonly known as data loss prevention or DLP. This capability provides the ability to identifying 51 built-in sensitive information types such as credit cards, passport numbers, and Social Security numbers. Once discovered there is the ability to perform an audit and export a report with suspect content.

There is future capabilities for policy creation that automatically detects sensitive content and applies protection, such as deletion or quarantine for review.

For more information about Using DLP in SharePoint Online, review this TechNet article
For more information about the Using 51 DLP Information Types, review this TechNet article.

Read the rest of this post »

Webinar: Binary Tree & Perficient on Migrating to Exchange

It’s not uncommon for an organization to make some avoidable mistakes as they prepare for and then execute a migration from a legacy email platform to Microsoft Exchange (and that applies to Exchange 2013 on premises migrations  as well as those moving to Office 365 / Exchange Online).Binary Tree

If you are hoping to mitigate those migration risks, and ensure seamless coexistence between your current email platform and Exchange,  join Perficient and Binary Tree on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 1 p.m. CT for a webinar, Best Practices & Solutions for Migrating to Microsoft Exchange. During the session, you’ll learn how to dramatically reduce the costs, complexities and timeline of your migration, and hear why a move the cloud might be the right decision for you.

René Strawser and James Tolentino, both lead technical consultants in our Microsoft practice, will first take a look at common challenges surrounding migrations from legacy email platforms, details around making the move to Office 365, and will walk through a recent example of an organization that successfully migrated to Exchange Online with Binary Tree.

Binary Tree solution architect Perry Hiltz will then present a technical deep-dive of their award-winning SMART migration software solutions, CMT for Coexistence and CMT for Exchange software, which can be used on-premises or remotely. Binary Tree is the leading provider of messaging and collaboration transformation technology and solutions for the Microsoft platform in the cloud, on-premises, or hybrid environments. You can learn more about Binary Tree by visiting www.binarytree.com.

To register for the webinar, click here.
Best Practices and Solutions for Migrating to Microsoft Exchange
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
1:00 p.m. CT