Changing up my personal web presence

I spent the better part of my adult working life with the job title of technical writer (or some variation). I spent much of that time as a freelancer and contractor. To keep pace with technology, I became an inveterate tinkerer,, so I kept a large web presence beyond my LinkedIn profile and website.

It’s finally time for me to change up my personal web presence:

Continue reading “Changing up my personal web presence”

Microsoft Teams: Group chat or a solution to SharePoint collaboration UX?


I’ve been refreshing myself on the Microsoft collaboration stack for some upcoming work projects. While at first, I didn’t find much original in Microsoft Teams in group chat world dominated by Slack, I find myself changing my mind about it and here’s why.

Microsoft Teams could be the new collaboration layer

Mention SharePoint in any mixed tech and business company, and you’re bound to hear a litany of complaints ranging from poor user experience, to performance, to poor search tools. Now with Microsoft Teams you can add tabs that enable access to SharePoint data directly from the app. As if it can’t get any better, you can add tabs to access Microsoft Office file types, Microsoft Planner, and even a range of third-party tools such as Wrike, Smartsheet, and even GitHub. Giving knowledge workers access to multiple tools from such a clean UI can make users forget about their previous problems with SharePoint and other platforms

Wiki

I wasn’t a fan with the wiki in SharePoint 2013. It was slow and hard to use for the average user. The wiki in Microsoft Teams is clean and easy to use. While it’s not exactly Atlassian Confluence, it’s good enough for team to use it to centralize light content development such as capturing decisions. It certainly is a way better option than emailing Word documents around.

Bots

Microsoft Teams includes T-Bot, an AI bot that helps you learn more about how your team can use Microsoft Teams to your full advantage. You can also create bots for Microsoft Teams using the Microsoft Bot Framework. If your company runs off the Office 365 stack, the ability to develop bots can be another tool to help turn user attitudes around about SharePoint and collaboration if done right.

Conversations around Work

Creating conversation around work has been a promise I’ve been hearing for years. Microsoft Teams and the Office 365 stack do a commendable job of giving users the tools to create online conversations around documents and data residing in Office 365. With so many enterprises dependent on email, such a feature may seem appealing to those in management but ultimately it means culture change.

Files Access

Out of the box, Microsoft Teams enables users to access files across Office 365 whether it’s on SharePoint or OneDrive. You can also add access to the following:

  • Dropbox
  • Box
  • Sharefile
  • Google Drive

Skype for Business in going away

While the Microsoft acquisition of Skype made sense, the application hasn’t exactly flourished as part of the Office 365 platform. Skype as a group chat solution has always felt like it was more of a “me too” versus anything new and dynamic. Making video calls directly from Microsoft Teams isn’t anything new. It does keep Microsoft Teams competitive in the market though.

Final thoughts

I’m not about to compare Microsoft Teams to Slack because I think that’s not the right thing to do because to me Teams is more about Microsoft Office 365 not just Group chat. Being able to access files and data across Office 365 and other third-party cloud platforms is testimony to the changing Microsoft.

Are we at peak SharePoint mobility, yet?

Image by Wynand van Poortvliet via Unsplash.com

I’ve been following the news leading up to the recent release of SharePoint 2016 with keen interest. As a technical writer working with corporate and government client, I follow SharePoint and other collaboration developments religiously. Furthermore, I’ve long been a proponent of SharePoint and in turn Office 365 for the mobile workforce. With SharePoint 2016, Microsoft finally delivers on their SharePoint mobile app.

Haley Frank writes in Sharepoint’s going mobile with a new app on PCWorld.com:

The SharePoint Mobile app is aimed at helping people get quick access to four types of information from SharePoint: news from across the company, the sites that people use the most, quick links to important pages and a list of their coworkers. It will work both with SharePoint Online and some on-premises versions of SharePoint Server.

Being a veteran of a few SharePoint deployments, turnarounds, documentation, and training engagements in business and government myself, I latched onto the potential of enterprise mobility and SharePoint early on. When I was freelancing for CNET TechRepublic, I covered early innovators in the mobility and SharePoint space in particular harmon.ie and Colligo. The iPhone and iPad user experience (UX) just plain trump what I was seeing done with SharePoint UX out in the real world so I saw the potential of these apps to open up SharePoint sites and the documents they hold to a class of less technical knowledge workers and business users.

Then came the rise of Office 365, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and mobile-first strategies. Harmon.ie and Colligo were right there with their mobile apps. Yaacov Cohen, CEO of harmon.ie and Barry Jinks, president of Colligo are also true thought leaders in the areas of SharePoint/Office 365, enterprise mobility, and mobile collaboration.

Microsoft has had an opportunity to study and learn from harmon.ie and Colligo when it comes to SharePoint and mobile apps. I always questioned Microsoft’s hands off approach to mobilizing SharePoint and leaving it in the hands of partners. Although after Satya Nadella had become CEO, and early rumors about SharePoint 2016 began to trickle out, I thought that either company might become an acquisition target for technology and talent.

Huddle is another collaboration platform I’ve written about in the past. One of their strongest selling points until this news was that they own their cloud platform and impressive mobile client app. Alastair Mitchell, their co-founder is another one of the great thought leaders around mobility and cloud collaboration.

I hope with the launch of SharePoint 2016 and the SharePoint mobile app mark a new chapter in mobile collaboration where enterprises gain another tool to help them crack the mobile collaboration code. There could be a unique technology push and pull being set up between the Microsoft SharePoint 2016 team and early innovators like harmon.ie, Colligo, and competitor Huddle. These companies have an early edge in terms of innovation but for how long? As Microsoft’s entry into enterprise mobility management (EMM) with Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) shows, they are very adept at studying new markets, and none of us should dismiss their enterprise mobility expertise too quickly even with their previous mobile product launch issues.

Will we finally see the peak level of SharePoint mobility once Microsoft’s SharePoint Mobile app launches?


Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.

5 reasons to use personal spaces on wikis & collaboration platforms


I’ve been using Atlassian Confluence for about a month now as part of a new technical writing contract. While I’ve been a wiki and collaboration platform proponent forever, the move from work at home to client site based technical writer got me thinking about my attitudes and stances around wikis and collaboration again.

Personal spaces on collaboration platforms are such unrealized opportunities. For example, Atlassian Confluence includes Personal Spaces, and Microsoft SharePoint 2013 includes MySite. There’s so much that individual contributors and teams can do with these personal spaces including:

1. Share team only and non-project materials

If your wiki is organized around product or services workspaces, there are still going to be a few use cases that slip through that organizational schema. A personal workspace is where users can share content and items that would only be of interest to their co-worker and not applicable to the project as a whole.

For example, a technical writer might want to capture any research they’ve done on a technical writing best practice and place it in their personal space. Likewise, a personal workspace can be an ideal place to post any internal job aids for applications the team uses.

2. Capture and share notes and supplementary materials

I’m on record for being a fan of collaborative note taking versus sticking somebody (usually the person who was out sick the day before or the technical writer) with taking meeting notes. A personal workspace is ideal for sharing notes after a meeting or presentation.

A personal space is also useful to share any camera shots of the whiteboard and any meeting recordings as well.

3. Embrace the personal space as a social hub

SharePoint positions MySite as a social hub (amongst other things) and even if your enterprise hasn’t fully embraced enterprise social tools, personal spaces on a collaboration platform can make attractive social hubs with just making a few extra steps to setup and use the space on a regular basis.

4. Test out new features and page designs

If your wiki or collaboration platform is underutilized, a personal space can be a great way to test new features and page design before you unleash them on the rest of the unsuspecting collaborators in your organization. In more polite terms, start using new features in a personal space (if feasible) and introduce them to new users on a small scale.

5. Establish and communicate your expertise internally

Not every enterprise is rolling out an enterprise social network (ESN) or should they. The personal space on a wiki or other collaboration platform can enable users to share their business and technology knowledge with their co-workers.

A personal workspace is also where you can keep up to date personal brand information including:

  • Link to your LinkedIn Profile
  • Link to your GitHub presence
  • Downloadable resume (for proposals)
  • Downloadable bio (for marketing materials)
  • Long and short bios for marketing purposes

A personal space for you, a personal space for me

When project team members establish a personal space on a collaboration platform, it adds yet another channel for collaboration and communications, that the whole team can use.

This post was originally published on willkelly.org in January 2015.

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

Foster a culture of SharePoint champions

Image by Samuel Zeller via Unsplash.com

The forgotten player is the success of Microsoft SharePoint is the person on the project team who makes SharePoint work for the team. SharePoint may not even be part of their formal job description but from a combination of prior experience and knowing the potential in SharePoint to solve some existing project-level problem with project management, collaboration, or communications. I call this person a SharePoint champion.

Organizations who take a few simple steps to create a culture of SharePoint champions are going to reap the benefits in their business without a heavy financial outlay.

Here are some things organization can do to foster a culture of SharePoint champions:

Put SharePoint administrator control on the team level. When a SharePoint administrator is ensconced behind multiple monitors inside in an IT department with a hundred other more pressing responsibilities, a SharePoint site becomes an obstacle growing cobwebs. Project teams are either going to ignore or look to circumvent SharePoint sites if making site changes is a web of approvals, Remedy tickets, online forms, waiting and more waiting.

Embrace the SharePoint power user. SharePoint 2010 at Work by Mark Miller has a great write up about how you can work better with SharePoint power users and your user community as a whole. SharePoint power users spread across the project teams in your organization can be the shot in the arm an otherwise lukewarm reception to SharePoint and help dispel cynicism from previous subpar SharePoint experiences. The SharePoint Power User can be a SharePoint implementation team’s best friend or worst enemy as the case may be.

Develop, document, and communicate SharePoint governance policies. Along with putting SharePoint administrator control on the team level and showing the SharePoint power users in the organization some love is time to develop, document, and communicate SharePoint governance policies to the SharePoint user community. The policies aren’t meant to be a buzz kill but rather help set some site standards, support policies, and related policies to help ensure SharePoint meet is potential inside your organization. Lastly, there should be some training and/or communications about SharePoint government policies to empower the SharePoint champions studding out in the various project teams and departments in your organization.

Make SharePoint a central project management platform. Organizations can realize many benefits from centralizing their internal and client projects on SharePoint. Dux Raymond Sy in his book SharePoint 2010 for Project Management describes how to build a very useful (yet, code free) Project Management Information System using SharePoint 2010.

Look for the code free solutions your organization can create with SharePoint. With the right user roles, there are code-free solutions that organizations can create out of the box with SharePoint. With a book like, Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real World Projects and the right roles, there is a lot of non-coders given the right amount of time to use SharePoint out of the box to solve some of their project-level issues and improve productivity. Going the Code Free solution avenue is great for fostering a culture of SharePoint champions because some development direction and tools are in the hands of the people who want SharePoint to work the most.

How are you creating your own culture of SharePoint champions?


Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.


Originally published at willkelly.org.