Tag Archives: governance

PowerShell isn’t just for Developers, IT Pros can rock the awesomeness in Office 365

I had the pleasure to co-present PowerShell and Office 365: ITPro #Awesomesauce with my friend and colleague Mike Dixon at the Boston Office 365 User Group yesterday. It was a great session with a lot of good questions. It was recorded so I’ll share the link to the video once it’s available. Big thanks to Hitachi Consulting for the sponsorship too!

I really enjoyed this talk because it kind of went against my natural thread. I’m a developer at heart, been a developer since graduating high school in 1997. I went from IT role to IT role but stuck with development. I’m an architect now (I feel all grown up), and I help teams design some pretty amazing solutions spanning technologies. However I won’t let go of the code. I support my team by pushing the best code practices, code reviews and writing my fair share of code. I like to learn new code in my spare time. I just love it.

This session was targeted to IT Pros: the non-developer type, “those guys” that used to make us developers’ lives harder with their governance policies and limitations on servers (I’m dating back to 2000’s, no one does that now, right? :| ). Given the huge push to cloud: SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, etc. the IT Pro’s role has increased dramatically in my eyes. In a lot of cases, when we come into a company to help create a solution on Office 365, it’s usually been lumped on top of the IT team, who already have their full time job. Going to the cloud is sold as easy and cost effective, but it does take dedication and training to do it right. Generally, new solutions are spun up in the cloud, but the legacy systems remain intact, full production ready with the same SLA for months after they’ve moved to the cloud. It’s not fair to IT.

This session helps bridge the gap a little between developer and IT Pro by providing some real value to IT. PowerShell doesn’t have to be scary or looked as a developer “thing”. It’s awesome, and can do some amazing things that once was only for development teams. Any IT Pro (admin, grunt, wire jockey) can type in commands and build something beautiful. That’s what it is, just commands. This is why I enjoyed this talk, enabling the IT Pros to do more and hopefully bolster them up to do their jobs in Office 365 more effectively and less tediously.

By the way, here’s the deck!




My Users Don’t Like SharePoint Because They Can’t Do Anything!

This is Part 3 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

Again, let’s take the Ford Mustang metaphor from the opening post. I get my 2013 Mustang, and it’s shiny and beautiful.

Credit Ford.com

It’s new, shiny, has the new car smell, spotless. I make the decision that my kids are not allowed in it at all. Period. My wife is only allowed after she has brushed her shoes off. And then once she’s in, no drinks, no food. I don’t even bring coffee in it. Is it still a beautiful car? You better believe it is. Will anyone want to drive with me? Meh, maybe the first time, but it’ll quickly get old (make sure your feet are clean, sorry you have cat hair on you, you can’t ride in my car). No one will want to drive with me since there are so many limitations.

This is also a common scenario for SharePoint, but sometimes it is deployed and locked down so tight that everything of significance is filtered through IT. All lists have requests and approval workflows setup. No one is allowed to create new lists or sites. Since it’s all going through IT help desk, a request takes an annoyingly long time to complete and eventually users decide to not bother with it.

Or following the second post in this series, if you just spent all of this time and effort cleaning, scrubbing, and reorganizing SharePoint, you may lean towards locking it down so much that it can never happen again.

from PhotoBucket

Loosen up!

I know, I’m sending you mixed signals. Last post I said to apply governance and kick people out of doing things, tighten down the reigns, now I’m telling you to loosen up.

There’s a balance.

I’ve worked with enough IT departments to know what they think of their end users. I understand most users don’t know how to change their screen resolution or use the Windows key. I honestly had someone think the CD-ROM was a cup holder, and used it as such… I’ve had a VP complain his laptop stopped working after he spilled coffee on it… I’ve had someone report that their new hard drive wasn’t working properly, upon assessment it wasn’t plugged in, it was resting on the computer… I’ve had a tech support rep from a computer company tell me to reboot and give it 24 hours for the settings to sink in… I’ve told users to straighten out their keyboard wires or the letters will appear upside down… ID-10T… and there’s more. I’m sure you have a long list as well. I know the stories and the pain. I do, I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Since I know where you’re coming from, let me take a moment to vent… As the IT department, your job is to support and provide services to your users, assisting them in completing their jobs, not telling them how to do their jobs. Too many times the business is run by IT; IT is making business decisions (or forcing the business into choices) based on technology, instead of hearing and understanding what the business needs and then doing everything they can to make it work. Without the business, there’s no need for an IT department. IT departments can a note from consultants: do everything you can to make the customer happy. Just sayin… now back to SharePoint….

What I also learned is that not all of your end users are mindless lemmings. There are always a select few who should be considered power users. Leverage them! SharePoint is best used when power users are granted permissions to create some customizations on their own. Your governance plan should identify this, clearly.

How do you identify your power users? They’re the ones who do some cool stuff without hassling IT. Or they do something so big, that they need IT to help fix it (this is good, they’re venturing on their own). They’re users who customize their Excel worksheets with cool functions and macros, or actually know how to use PowerPoint and maybe embed a video. Get to know them, and adopt them into your team, they don’t have to join IT, but they can be a go-to-person for their department. Provide them additional permission to create a list or library. Explain to them the importance of organization and your governance. There can be a healthy balance between the junk drawer affect and the strict IT department.

Train your users.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn” – Benjamin Franklin

This can take time and is costly. If you were deploying a new ERP, CMS or a highly customized solution, you would provide training, manuals, quick reference cards, and more. But nooooo…. SharePoint is Microsoft and should be easy. Well it isn’t.

Start with finding some resources you like (some awesome resources online on sites like www.nothingbutsharepoint.com and sp365.co.uk, videos from www.criticalpathtraining.com, and many books are available as well). Take what you like and paraphrase it, highlight what you think your users need to know, and reference these sources in your own manuals.

Take screen shots or small videos to help explain the steps. Check out a great free screen shot app and 5 min video recorder: Jing by  TechSmith.

Hold small training sessions, I find that SharePoint training can be intimidating to users and they tend to ask loads of questions; small groups make it more manageable for the trainer. Make sure to allow time for question and answers, SharePoint can do a lot, let your users play with it and explore and come back with questions later on. Consider bringing in a trainer or consulting firm that can help train and answer the questions effectively.

Once your larger user base knows what is possible, two things can happen:

1. They appreciate your SharePoint implementation, they understand what it’s for and what it can do for them. This will drive user adoption and improve your users’ point of view.

2. They come back with additional ideas and feature requests: “since it can do ABC, can we have it do XYZ?”. Nothing drives user adoption better than buy-in.

Give them some space.

To play that is. After you spent the time to train your users, or provided the ideal manuals and guides, give them their space. Turn on My Sites and let them bang on their own site collection. They are their own masters in their My Site. Set quotas so they can’t run wild on space. If they blow up their site, wipe it out and create them a fresh one. No harm no fowl. Letting them play will help get additional buy-in and improve user adoption.

Allow them to customize their own web part pages. With the Personal Permissions section enabled (enabled on the Contribute rights by default), users can customize their own web part pages. The page has a shared and a personal view, allowing users to add and remove web parts as they want. As an admin, you can lock down web parts so they cannot be removed, which is important to ensure the company message is still present. Also, with this permission set, users can create their own personal views on any lists they have permission to. This enables users to create their own views of the data without bugging admins. Train your users on how to use this and you’ll have a happier user base.

If you get enough [happy | satisfied | content] people behind your SharePoint, and key stakeholders get wind of it, you have a better chance of additional resources for improving SharePoint (increase budgets for training, software, hardware, consultants, etc.).

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

My Users Don’t Like SharePoint Because it’s a Complete Mess

This is Part 2 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…’

Let’s take the Ford Mustang metaphor from the opening post. I get my 2013 Mustang, and it’s shiny and beautiful.

Credit Ford.com

I then welcome my three children into it, and let them have their way. We go to McDonald’s, they get Happy Meals. I assume they know not to make a mess, so I leave them in my new car as I run into the store (no I don’t really, that’s not safe, but for the sake of the example). I come back a little later and much to my surprise, my car is a mess! French fries on the floor, wedged between the leather seats, ketchup smeared on the windows, salty finger prints on my dash and stereo, chocolate milk in the carpet, apple juice splashed on the ceiling… a complete mess.

Credit City-Data.com

I’m too busy to clean it out, I have other projects around the house I need to take care of. A week goes by, things really settle in, a nice odor forms and now no one wants to drive in my new Mustang, even the kids who made the mess! Should I call up Ford and scream at them, tweet hatred and complain about their sucky car?

If this rings a bell for you and your SharePoint implementation, there’s still hope. Depending on how long the milk was soaking in the carpet, you may have some heavy cleaning to do, but it’s possible! This by far is one of the most common issues I’ve come across.

Define a plan.

First thing you’ll want to do is reorganize things virtually, make a plan. Ignore what SharePoint is doing now and layout the perfect environment. Using Excel or your app of preference, layout the ideal topology: sites and sub sites, libraries, folders and files. Include metadata, if you’re using it, permission and navigation considerations. Define what the perfect world will look like. Who has access to what, where, and how much access should they have?

Here’s a basic example. Starting with something like this can help get the wheels spinning.

Once buckets are defined, people can select where things should go. You’ll see Secure sites in there. These are the private department specific work spaces and the goal there is to farm out what the secure site would look like to that department. Provide them this basic template and have them define what they want to see.


Governance, the art of governing what your users can do, might be a scary word, and is by far the largest challenge with information management (regardless of SharePoint, governance is an issue across the board, more on Joel Oleson’s blog), but it’s critical for a successful SharePoint deployment.

Taking the same document we had above, let’s add a few more columns to include basic governance. Who can access what bucket:

Pretty straight forward. There are many methods of defining governance and taxonomy, I find starting in Excel is fastest and easiest.

Microsoft’s site has a lot more on governance: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/ff800826.aspx. Go ahead and search for ‘sharepoint governance‘ and you’ll find some great articles by others.

Still not convinced governance is necessary? Check out my other post on governance.

It’s okay to have a growing document defining your governance. Clearly defining your buckets is a great first step, but applying permissions to each bucket and site will help keep sites clean. Once you have a clear, or clearer, plan on your permissions, execute it!

Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up!


Go-Slow-Horn-Caution-Sign-S-1962Pull in a few key players to assist. Giving them ownership of their own data will reduce your load as well as give more users buy-in (aka user adoption). Use the plan you defined and slowly begin to move data around, reformatting sites and libraries. SLOWLY.

Don’t spend a weekend and bust it all out. Monday will be chaotic as your users panic, scouring through your nice new layout cursing SharePoint.  Go slow, let everyone know what you’re doing. Get your users involved in cleaning up their sites and libraries. Assign owners to reorganizing their sites and libraries.

Consider a 3rd party tool like ControlPoint from Axceler (why?) . Their solution makes moving entire lists and libraries a snap. There are other solutions out there, I’ve only used (and subsequently fallen in love with) ControlPoint.

As you clean up, it is now:

Time to govern.

SharePoint is a large application, it can do a whole lot, real easy. As a result, some SharePoint implementations suffer from having too many people mucking around with too many features (remember letting my kids run wild in my Mustang? A complete mess.). I have seen implementations where whenever a user felt like it, a new list was born, a new library created, sub sites abound, pages were rearranged with new web parts and views on a whim. It can become a collective junk drawer. This drove the end users, the consumers of the information, NUTS. Everything is everywhere and is hard to find and manage.

In your document, you began to define groups and their level of permission to sites, libraries and lists. Begin to apply those changes as you’re building it out. For starters, change permissions on the HR site so all users have read only access. That will immediately stop a bulk of your users from messing with your changes as you go. When you create or manage libraries, update permissions accordingly.

Make sure to review the previously mentioned Microsoft site for more on governance. Do it right, the first time, it’s worth every little bit of effort.

You can always have some fun (the only way us IT people know how).

Clean out the site owners group and site collection administrators list, leaving yourself of course. See who screams “I can’t create another list!”. That’ll help you identify who’s making the mess and give you a start to discuss and help guide them in doing it right (per your governance).

If you hit a library that you’re unsure about, I’d bet that has become the junk drawer. See who cares it’s missing by removing all permissions (except your own of course). I’ve done this a few times, and those libraries will site dormant for 6-9 months until the customer says, “fine, we don’t need it, trash it”.

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

Initial Topology Planning: Site Collections vs Subsites

If you don’t know about SharePoint 365 yet, go check it out! It’s at www.sp365.co.uk. I occasionally write for that site, and that’s where this post will go. Check out my post Initial Topology Planning: Site Collections vs Subsites.



Managing SharePoint Sites Suck?

I’ve discovered that most complaints about SharePoint are from the self-imposed or top-down-imposed SharePoint administrators who are stuck with managing SharePoint sites. I do feel sorry for you guys, you didn’t ask for it, or even if you did you probably thought it was suppose to be easier. In most cases, SharePoint was slapped together at your organization and instantly became adapted as a new network drive, so now you have a site with a ton of data everywhere.

These scenarios can be hectic, chaotic, and down right annoying. The biggest issue in most cases is governance: the art of controlling and governing your data and information flow. Managing your SharePoint site should be an easy task, and should be minimal, without a doubt. Poor governance is one large factor which provides for a mind numbing experience. SharePoint should be easy once it’s been implemented correctly.

A quick story. I was assistant coach for my son’s little league team. It was his first year playing, and the team had all boys from ages 6 to 8. For a lot of them, this was their first time playing. The excitement and joy poured out of the kids and into hyper activity. It was a little crazy at our first practice: kids running around, swinging bats at each other, etc. It was crazy but really fun to watch and experience. I let my son go to town and run around like a maniac as well.

The coach instantly set some rules: no one holds a bat unless they’re up to bat. Boom, I felt safer and stopped flinching (and governance was applied). If you wanted to play, you had to pay attention and listen quietly (more governance); no climbing on the fences (more governance); no leaving the dugout during a game (more); no throwing dirt (more); no helmets on unless you’re batting (more) and so on. As the season progressed the governance rules were tweaked, some were eased up and others were tightened. All the meanwhile, the boys still had a blast and the coach and parents had fun too.

Much like playing baseball with 7 year olds, governance is also essential for a successful SharePoint site. Governance within SharePoint utilizes site topology, permissions, audiences, and data categorization. Control who has access to what, where and how much.

  • Site topology is the site map, it helps define where sites and libraries live in relation to each other. It’s like the lay of the land. No topology makes governance very difficult.
  • Permissions control who have actual permissions to what, for example who can update files, who are read-only, and who have no access at all. Permissions is the core of governance. Permission management is a whole other ball of wax and should be done right.
  • Audiences help manage what your users see, it doesn’t necessarily stop them from doing certain things, but helps them see what they should. They might still figure out how to get to something in the back end library, and if they’re not supposed to, use permissions to lock them out.
  • Data categorization is less involved within governance, if at all, but I think it’s important to note. Categorization is initially defined by site topology, HR docs will be in the HR site (a category of data). Additional data categorization can include meta data and meta tags. The additional information help control how data is found and navigated to.

The latter two items, audiences and data categorization, should be considered in your governance plan, though I’ve seen more often it’s not. Governance (controlling who has access to what) can easily use audiences and meta data to help control what people can see. Filtering views can help control who sees what, but still allows users to access more if they really want to dig in deeper.

If we didn’t apply governance to our little league team, I’d be saying “managing my little league team sucks” because it would. I’d be going to practice with a protective cup, other kids might have black eyes, a broken leg from falling off the fence, etc. it would be a terrible experience for all, much like poorly governed SharePoint sites.

As a side note, it appears governance is simply saying No, no hitting, no throwing dirt, no saving a file there, no editing a file here. That’s one way of looking at it. I prefer, being the eternal optimist that I am, to look at it like you’re allowed to edit this file, you’re allowed to save a file here, you’re allowed to play baseball, etc.

It’s not too late, if you’re in the muck and mire of a poorly governed SharePoint site you can still recover. Get with your governing bodies (managers, directors, etc) and figure out who should really have access to what. Start applying some governance in small doses. Use SharePoint’s web analytics to see what areas are the most popular, and apply it there. Don’t worry if you find it needing to change later, your governance (just like the US government) should be flexible, receive feedback and should react and grow with your business.