Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Driving sustainable user adoption for SharePoint and Yammer – Part I

A while ago I did a presentation at the Future of Business is sharing event on user adoption of collaboration technologies within companies. A good user adoption strategy – this is not the same as change management – is key in getting a collaborative environment accepted within a company.

Although SharePoint has been hugely successful in the past few years – there is still a gap in satisfaction between IT pros and business managers – SharePoint met the expectations of  73% of the former, and of 62% of the latter (Source: Microsoft SharePoint faces tough future, Forrester says). In my opinion, this is because in most organizations, user adoption is just an afterthought. People often confuse user adoption with training, so a typical reaction is – “let’s send our end users to some training” – probably a technical training about site collections, versioning, web parts, etc… and what happens 5 weeks after the training they fall back in the old way of working.  Training is important, it allows people to make the first jump, but it has to be contextual, if you have build a solution around managing projects with SharePoint, make a specific training on the benefits that people will get when using SharePoint.

But user adoption really is about people getting to know your solution, understand it and use it in a correct manner. In the end the success of a deployment such as Office 365/Yammer or SharePoint Online is measured by sustained user adoption. Why the emphasis on “sustained”?  A study by the Altimeter Group about usage of social computing tools found that after an initial spike in enthusiasm and usage, you typically see a gradual decline in usage until only limited groups within your company are you using the solution. [Altimeter Group– making the business case for Enterprise Social Networks] – this applies to collaboration tools in general.

Getting beyond the early adopters of a technology solution, is not easy and in a perfect world – with only IT consultants (just kidding :-)) - everything would work magically. In a real world “Build and they will come” simply does not work. one of the main reasons is that people are fundamentally resistant to change, so you will need to put some effort in it to explain them why they need to change. If a new idea or way of work is initiated and self-sustaining, it will only survive if it gets adopted by a critical mass of users (typically you will need to at least >50% adoption)

The two most important things to focus on are Why and What?  Why do you need SharePoint (or Yammer, Yambla,…) – and what are the business problems you are going to solve or mitigate.  People know about file shares and they work with on a daily basis and then comes along this  this new product – SharePoint – but untill you can explain them how they need to use in their daily work and routines, they will not adopt it. Social, Yammer – why? What is the added value of using the SharePoint newsfeed or Yammer groups to someone in accounting – don’t push a certain feature if you can’t answer why people would need it and how they can use it.

It is interesting to see that even after you have deployed a file sharing and collaboration solution, people still send out e-mails with attachments instead of a link to the file. There are two killer applications in an enterprise, Excel and e-mail. And even with companies advocating zero-email (but struggling to actually make it happen), I don’t see e-mail disappearing anytime soon. So instead of banning it, embrace it and integrate it into your solution and use it in the more efficient way.
In a next post I will talk about how to leverage a user adoption team to make your collaboration platform deployment a success.
“Success starts with deployment, it does not end with deployment” – a it is necessary but not sufficient.

Future of business is sharing - IMEC Share, innovate, collaborate and excel

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ten indispensable tools for SharePoint 2013 developers

  1. CamlDesigner 2013 – provides you with a graphical inferface which allows you to   build CAML queries for single lists as well as queries that can be executed with SPSiteDataQuery. You can also get code snippets for the server-side object model, the .NET client-side object model, the JavaScript client-side object model and REST. This tool has been developed by Karine Bosch and Andy Van Steenbergen – two of the board members of BIWUG (Belgian SharePoint User group) 
  2. SharePoint Manager 2013 – is a SharePoint object model explorer. It enables you to browse every site on the local farm and view every property.
  3. ULSViewer  - there are other tools out there – check out SharePoint ULS log viewer tool comparison and verdict
  4. SharePoint 2013 Client Browser – requires no installation –simply unzip the exe – allows you to explore the SharePoint object hierarchy.
  5. Fiddler – is a web debugging tool which allows you to investigate all HTTP traffic (REST calls and XML or JSON responses). It also has some built in features to profile app performance and spot bottlenecks – also check out Fiddler PowerToy – Part 2 : HTTP performance
  6. SharePoint 2013 Search Query Tool v2  - can be used to query, test and debug search queries – for both SharePoint 2013 on-premise and SharePoint online search queries. I also use it for examing and tuning ranking of search results. See understanding item ranking in SharePoint 2013 search for more details
  7. SPCop Community Edition – this is a Visual Studio extesion which analyzes your SharePoint code which was created by Matthias Einig and which is based on the SharePoint Code Analysis Framework
  8. SPFastDeploy – Visual Studio extension which allows to push individual files for deployment in SharePoint apps without requiring you to do a full re-deploy every time there is a change. It makes developers a lot more productive using the SharePoint 2013 hosted app model. Excellent tool built by Steve Curran.
  9. SharePoint Color Palette Tool – the new SharePoint 2013 theme model (also called composable looks) allows you to brand your SharePoint 2013 environment in a new way. One of the key components of a composable look is a .spcolor file which defines the color elements. The color palette tool is  a free utility that enables you to develop spcolor files interactively
  10. REST client plugin for Google Chrome – Excellent tool for creating REST requests – some developers might however favour the REST Postman plugin for Google Chrome.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Understanding item ranking in SharePoint 2013 search

SharePoint 2013 allows you to view the result of the ranking model by retrieving the rankdetail managed property. The rankdetail property will only be returned when there are less than 100 results in the returned search result set.

There is however an interesting tool hidden inside SharePoint which outlines the rankdetails calculation which I found in Explain rank in SharePoint 2013 search. SharePoint 2013 contains a built-in  application page called /_layouts/15/explainrank.aspx which accepts two mandatory parameters:
  • q – which contains the query
  • d – which specifies the path of the item for which you want to see the rankdetail
You can download a specific Explainrank search display template which will incorporate a link to the explainrank.aspx page with the required parameters. An alternative for this which will also work on Office 365/SharePoint Online is the Mavention Search Ranking app. My current favorite for the moment is the SharePoint 2013 Search Query Tool which also allows you to show rankdetails and rank calculation.

For a deep dive explanation of all the fine details of search ranking you should definitely take a look at customizing ranking models to improve search relevance in SharePoint 2013. On a very high level relevance is determined by two different types of parameters:
  • Dynamic ranking: ranking parameters linked to the search term which is being used
  • Static ranking: ranking parameters which are being applied independent of the search query which is being used. When you look at the standard ranking algorithm being used when doing a content search – the following static parameters are taken into account:
    • Clickdistance : number of clicks between an authoritative page and items in the index.
    • QueryLogClicks, QueryLogSkips and LastClicks : use click through behavior to see if results are considered relevant by users
    • EventRate : activity tracking of usage events (clicks or view) – items with high usage activity get a higher activity rank score than less popular items. This is activity on items in SharePoint outside of the search pages.
    • URLDepth : documents which have a longer URL are considered to be less relevant
    • InternalFileType – SharePoint 2013 prioritizes some files differently based on the file type – this is the current ranking (PPT,DOC,HTML,ListItem,Image,Message, XLS,TXT,XML). The most signifcant difference with 2010 is the fact that PowerPoint get a relatively higher weight in 2013 and Excel lower.
    • Language – some languages seem to be favoured – I’m still looking into the details of this
One of the surprises with SharePoint 2013 search is that it does not take into account the freshness of results – Mikael Svenson wrote an interesting post about this in  Adding freshness boost to SharePoint Online and this functionality is now also available in the SharePoint 2013 Search Query Tool


The end of SharePoint autohosted apps

Up until a couple of weeks ago you basically had 3 options to develop a SharePoint app as shown in the figure below – one of the options – Autohosted apps was however available in preview mode and therefore not recommended for production use. Mid May Microsoft pulled the plug out of this one – see Update on Autohosted Apps Preview Program

As outlined by Andrew - Update on Autohosted Apps Preview Program – this is probably a good thing because although the deployment model was quite flexible you were never sure what were the actual limitations with regards to allocated CPU time,data out,storage and memory usage. So for now, we have to wait and see what enhancements become available for provider hosted SharePoint apps to make it as flexible in deployment as autohosted apps but while still providing you with sufficient control and troubleshooting capabilities.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

K2 FastFWD Event in Gent on May 21st


I will be speaking at the K2 FastFWD event in Gent on May 21th. Don’t forget to register on K2 FastFwd Global Roadshow (Gent, Belgium).

Join K2 for our exclusive K2 for SharePoint launch event at the prestigious Ghen t Marriot Hotel in Belgium. Earlier this year K2 released K2 for SharePoint 2013, allowing users to build and run business applications within SharePoint - using forms, workflow, data and reports. This announcement was made in conjunction with the K2 Appit launch at the K2 User Conference in Las Vegas. With this successful launch, we are now bringing Vegas to you!

We have an exciting agenda planned, and are delighted to announce that Principal Consultant from RealDolmen, Joris Poelmans, will be giving insight into how companies are using SharePoint today.

Learn how to start solving your business challenges by delivering meaningful business applications with K2 Forms, Workflows and Data. Fast.


Gain thought leadership perspectives from respected FWD thinker and Principal Consultant at RealDolmen, Joris Poelmans, about the future of business process applications.
11:00 - 11:15 - BREAK

Protect your investment in SharePoint and other systems by connecting them through a no-code, cloud-based platform, creating workflow and forms apps that seamlessly integrate with SharePoint online, on-premises or both..

12:15 - 12:45 - WHATS NEW IN K2?
Get a first-hand preview of the latest K2 releases:

  • Appit
  • Mobile
  • Office 365
  • SharePoint online
  • Social
  • InfoPath alternatives - K2 smartforms

12:45 - 13:00 - Q&A PANEL

13:00 - 15:00 - NETWORKING & LUNCH

K2 for SharePoint 2013 allows users to:

  • create workflows that span lists and libraries in different SharePoint sites
  • build web and mobile apps that use SharePoint data; and
  • build components, like forms and workflows once and reuse them across all your applications – in and out of SharePoint.

This launch event allows you to network and hear from leaders in organisations with similar challenges to yours. K2 customers now have the ability to create scalable and secure no-code apps that span on-premises, cloud and hybrid.


Slidedeck Yammer Social Data Mining (SharePoint Saturday Belgium 2014)

The slidedeck from my session on SharePoint Saturday Belgium 2014 is now available on slideshare.

BIWUG on authenticating SharePoint apps and supporting SharePoint in the Cloud

On the 20th of May BIWUG is organizing the final session before summer holidays – don’t forget to register for BIWUG2005 because there are some great sessions planned.

Authenticating client-side applications in cross-domains & hybrid environments (Speaker: Stephane Eyskens, SharePoint Technical Architect - )

SharePoint 2013 comes with many new challenges among which the rising of client side technologies. In this session, I will not talk about Knockout, AngularJS whose everybody is talking about, I'm rather going to talk about diffent techniques to tackle client side related challenges, particularly regarding cross-domain & authentication by leveraging HTML5, CORS, infrastructure workarounds and SharePoint built-in APIs. I'll be talking about two different real world implementations (1 project 100% on-prem and 1 onprem+azure) and two different ways of solving these issues. After this session, developers should have a better understanding of the tools & techniques available to handle those complex problems.

Supporting SharePoint in the Cloud: insights, figures, challenges,… (Speaker: Pascal Benois, EMEA Technical Support Lead Office 365 at Microsoft)

What does it take to support Office 365 for 2.500.000 customers in EMEA ? What are the biggest challenges, most common issues, …?  With the success of O365, the IT Pro and Dev landscapes are evolving and raising new challenges. One thing is for sure, there will be no way back. During this session, I will expose what the current situation is and what it is expected to be in the near future, how Microsoft address the partners and “broad commercial” ecosystems in terms of support and delivery. Also expect some insights about upcoming features and roadmap.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Event Future of Business is Sharing

On  May 16th RealDolmen and Kluwer are organizing the “Future of Business is Sharing” event with a number of interesting sessions.

Kennis is macht, kennis delen is machtiger. Samenwerken bepaalt het succes van mensen en bedrijven. Het stelt hen in staat die extra stap vooruit te zetten die het verschil kan maken. In ons persoonlijk leven doen we niets anders: denk aan het succes van YouTube, Naai- en Repair Cafés waarop informatie wordt gedeeld en tips & tricks worden uitgewisseld.

Maar vertaalt dit zich ook in onze professionele wereld? Het lijkt alsof bedrijven achterblijven. Medewerkers zitten vaak vast in de kokers van hun jobgrenzen, informatie in hoofden van individuen. Disciplines staan al te vaak naast elkaar en mensen gevangen in één specifieke rol.

Tijdens dit event slaan we met een aantal betrokken partijen de handen in elkaar. We staan met u stil bij het belang van kennis delen en samenwerken over domein- en  bedrijfsgrenzen heen. 

  • Samen voor ons eigen (Speaker: Dirk Draulans) - De transformatie was een sluipend proces, waarbij samenwerking over de groepsgrenzen heen getild werd. Vanuit een evolutionair perspectief is onze aanleg tot samenwerking echter niet vanzelfsprekend en lijkt het regelrecht in te gaan tegen de natuurlijke selectietheorie van Charles Darwin…
  • Social learning: voorbij de hype (Speaker: Isabel De Clercq) - Over “the rise and fall” van sociale netwerken in organisaties. Over de onzin maar vooral de zin van social learning. Over het stimuleren van krachtige kennisdeling in uw organisatie. Dit is een weg-van-de-hype-sessie: verwacht u aan eerlijke verhalen en bruikbare tips & tricks. 
  • imec Share: Innovate, collaborate and excel (Speakers: Francis Bruynseels & Joris Poelmans) -  Imec verricht onderzoek dat tot de wereldtop behoort in het domein van nano-elektronica. Tijdens deze sessie staan we stil bij de visie van imec rond samenwerking - zowel binnen de organisatie als met externe partners wereldwijd -, de uitdagingen en de transitie die de organisatie doormaakt.
    Een concreet praktijkverhaal waarin visie, change en technologie aan bod komen.
  • Paradigm shift: niet meer en vooral niets minder (Speaker: Hugo Der Kinderen) -Samenwerken over alle grenzen heen en kennisdelen. Het klinkt als muziek in de oren. Maar zal het ook lukken in uw organisatie? Intense kennisdeling lukt enkel in bepaalde organisatiemodellen. Hoe ga je van een werkplek waar 'geld in ruil voor arbeid' centraal staat, naar een plek waar 'ontwikkeling, kennisdeling en synergie' overheersen.

To register or for more information check out 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Power BI, Power View, Power Query and PowerPivot – interesting links


Solving invalid pointer array error message in Power View for Excel 2013

Last week my Power View reports suddenly gave an error “We couldn’t get data from the Data Model. Here’s the error message we got: Invalid pointer array”

Luckily a colleague pointed to the correct solution on the forums – KB2752087 breaks PowerView in Microsoft Excel 2013. Apparently this was caused by the automatic update KB2752087 – so uninstalling this update would solve the above error but since it is pushed out by Windows Update that will not help a lot. The solution for this seems to be installing hotfix KB 2837666