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Metalogix Review from the Field – Flexibility, Scalability and Monitoring

Will Holland is a Senior Software Engineer at ThreeWill. Will has proven to be adept at understanding a client’s needs and matching them with the appropriate solution. Recently he’s developed a passion for working with .NET, MVC, and cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

This month, I’m continuing the trend of reviewing some of the migration tools that I’ve used of the course of the past few years. Up this time is Metalogix’s migration tool – Content Matrix. This was actually the first tool I ever actually got to lay hands on. It’s a tool that gets included in any discussion regarding SharePoint migrations and for some good reasons. Today, I’m going to share some of my likes, dislikes, and other insights I’ve gathered from my experiences using this tool to migrate my client’s data to SharePoint online.

The Good

Metalogix has a lot to offer, but here are the top three things I like about Metalogix.

Flexibility

Most every tool out there allows you some amount of flexibility while migrating content. You can migrate entire Site Collections, or get down to just a single list item, for example. In my experience, though, nothing I’ve used compares to Metalogix when it comes down to just the sheer number of options you’re given. You can migrate documents by content type, lists by a particular template, sites that match a particular pattern, content created by a particular user or modified after a certain date…this list goes on.

There’s also the proverbial ton of options related to site configuration options, such as content type mapping, versioning, ghosted files, gallery content, term store migrations, audit settings, navigation…again, the list goes on.

Scalability

Most migrations that I’ve been a part of have been for fairly small farms, ranging from 100 to 300 GBs of data. For those sorts of migrations, having a single “migration node” – a server where your migration tool is working – is typical. However, when you’re dealing with terabytes of data, attempting to run things from a single node quickly becomes a limiting factor.

In the largest migration that I have personally taken part in, we installed Metalogix on 8 different Azure-based servers and, with some serious scripting, fully automated the entire thing. Two things made this possible.

First, Metalogix licensing allows you to install their software on as many of your servers as you want. More importantly, though, is that their PowerShell cmdlets are extremely robust. If you can do it through their UI, you can do it in PowerShell as well.

One other thing that I’ll add is that Metalogix has the option, at least when you’re dealing with a source environment that’s On-Prem, to migrate straight from a content database without SharePoint being installed. That means that you could make a backup of your production content database, move it into a SQL Server instance that is not a part of any SharePoint farm, and migrate things just the same. That allows you to run migrations 24/7 without fear of impacting production availability.

Monitoring

Regardless of how many nodes you’re running, so long as all instances of Metalogix are configured to use the same database, Metalogix does a great job at allowing you to see – in real time – exactly what it’s working on. As a migration engineer, that is an extremely powerful capability, as it equips me with the ability to see exactly what is happening, respond to any issues quickly, and communicate the current migration status to my client at a moment’s notice.

It seems like such a small thing, but it’s truly a touch that I greatly appreciate.

Suggested Improvements

Content Matrix, like Sharegate, isn’t perfect. Here are three things that I wish were better.

User Friendliness

To paraphrase Peter Parker – “With great power, comes huge amounts of documentation that you need to read”. That’s always the downside to having a lot of choices, isn’t it?

Metalogix has, as I stated earlier, a lot of options. And to somewhat complicate matters, some of the options available are a little vague or confusing as to why they’re even an option.

There’s not really anything in the tool itself to explain what those options do and reading the documentation doesn’t do much to explain exactly what they do or what happens if you elect to not use those options.

Towards the end of every migration project, I’m usually asked to train a user or two on how to use the tool they’ve purchased. Explaining how to use Metalogix to someone who has never used it takes roughly 4 hours, and that’s the abbreviated version.

Licensing Model

While Metalogix’s licensing model does allow you to install the tool on as many servers as you need, they do not allow you to migrate as much data as you want. Instead, their licensing model requires that you purchase blocks of data, and their tool keeps track of how much data you’ve migrated using it.

That becomes a bit of a challenge when you want to do a test migration, or something goes awry, and you end up needing to re-migrate a 100GB site collection. I’ve seen them work with one of our clients to “forgive” test migrations, but that was on the largest migration I’ve ever done, and that client is a Fortune 500 company. For some of the smaller companies, which is more typical, they required us to purchase additional blocks of data. It gets a bit frustrating.

Combine that with the fact that, early on in migrations, you’re going to be doing a lot of iterating. There are so many options in Metalogix, you’ll spend a great deal of time, in the beginning, trying different permutations and test/UAT migrations, it’s very difficult to gauge just how much data you’ll actually need.

Support

When dealing with someone else’s product, especially for a migration tool, support is important. Unfortunately, I feel like Metalogix’s support team really falls short.

I’ve had to deal with them on numerous occasions, for issues big and small. In each circumstance, I’m convinced that the person who initially gets assigned to my case isn’t familiar with the tool and is just looking to set up a WebEx and then can close the ticket as soon as I get too busy to respond to their last email.

 

I’ve had a few success stories when dealing with their support, so it’s not always that bad. You just have to get past their initial line of defense, which doesn’t leave you feeling very supported.

Other Considerations

One other thing that I’ll add, Metalogix is the “big dog” when it comes to migration tools and, as such, they appear to have some influence with the SharePoint team. That’s something that can come in handy if you have some “special circumstances” …and enough clout yourself.

Final Verdict

Metalogix is, in my experience, one of the most powerful tools out there for dealing with migrations. If you’ve got an extremely large amount of content that needs to be moved ASAP, and you have access to people with experience using the tool (or a great partner), Metalogix is a great place to start the conversation. Be sure to sign up for a free trial and experience it for yourself.

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William HollandMetalogix Review from the Field – Flexibility, Scalability and Monitoring
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ShareGate Review from the Field – User Friendly, Reports Galore and Precise Error Messages

Will Holland is a Senior Software Engineer at ThreeWill. Will has proven to be adept at understanding a client’s needs and matching them with the appropriate solution. Recently he’s developed a passion for working with .NET, MVC, and cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

I’ve been involved in several migrations over the past few years. During that time I’ve evaluated and used a number of different tools and methods. Most recently, my migration projects have targeted SharePoint Online and using a third-party tool that is practically mandatory. I’ve written a lot about migrations in the past, but I’ve never really discussed the tools I use. Today, I am correcting that by providing an honest review of a tool I’ve really enjoyed using lately – ShareGate.

The Good

First, let’s talk about the top 3 things I think are great about ShareGate.

User-Friendly

ShareGate is extremely user-friendly. I’ve spent hours attempting to train clients and coworkers on how to use some of the other migration tools I’ve used. ShareGate’s UI is fairly intuitive, setting up a migration takes minutes, and the options you’re presented with are greatly simplified. All in all, I could explain how to use this tool for a migration, to a client, in about 15 minutes.

Reports Galore

ShareGate comes with around 20 built-in reports that it can generate and offers the ability to create your own custom report, although I’ve never needed to create my own. The “OOB” reports, which include a Site Collection Report, Unused Site Report, and Checked Out Documents report have all been extremely useful for my projects.

The Site Collection Report details each site collection in your farm with additional data such as size, number of sites, last modified dates, etc. It’s not as detailed as the report generated by the SMAT tool offered by Microsoft, but it’s right there at your fingertips and gets you a great overview of your farm.

Error Messaging

One of the best things about the ShareGate tool, at least for someone like me, is how precise the error messages usually are. I don’t like seeing errors, obviously, but they happen. ShareGate does a great job at stating what the error is, and even provides a link to a help article to troubleshoot the issue. Most of the other tools I’ve used have had such vague and generic error messages that not even their own support team could tell me what they meant.

Suggested Improvements

ShareGate isn’t a perfect tool (is there such a thing?) . Here are three things that I wish were better.

Monitoring

While in the middle of a migration, you have access to a “progress” window of sorts. It shows the activities that ShareGate is currently working on, tasks it’s completed, etc.

One problem I have with it is that it requires me to manually refresh the screen anytime something new gets added. It becomes tedious, and I don’t understand why the log doesn’t display things in real time.

Another issue I have is that the statuses it assigns some tasks don’t always make sense to me. It will sometimes show an item that it successfully migrated as an error or warning because the tool, basically, had to retry. It makes tracking down errors I care about a little noisier.

Multi-Tasking

Up until a recent update, the only way that you could have two migrations going at the same time, on the same machine, as if you were using the PowerShell cmdlets that came with ShareGate. Fortunately, you can now have multiple migrations running in parallel using the same instance of ShareGate, which certainly makes my life easier.

Still, and perhaps this is more of a “monitoring” issue, I can view the status of all my migration tasks (again, requiring me to manually refresh), or I can view the details of a specific migration, but I can’t do both at the same time. I would definitely appreciate the ability to monitor the details of some migrations while seeing the “big picture” of all ongoing migrations at the same time.

Limited Flexibility

The flipside of the simplified options is that you lose some flexibility. If you want to run an incremental migration on an entire site collection, but you want to exclude certain lists? Unfortunately, no way to do that except by doing list level migrations. Want to do that incremental only on list items that have been modified since a certain date, like the last time you did a migration? Unfortunately, ShareGate is going to compare every list item on your source to the target.

Other Considerations

Overall, ShareGate is a great tool and has become my default recommendation for straight-forward migrations, though it certainly has room for improvement. It’s extremely well priced, and their licensing plan is “per user” as opposed to licensing a certain amount of data to be migrated. That’s perfect for me, as it allows me to test out migrations to throwaway destinations without incurring additional costs.

The ShareGate support team also deserves a gold star. Anytime I’ve had the need to reach out to them, they are extremely quick to respond and have, so far, helped me sort out whatever issue I was having.

One thing I have yet to test out was their PowerShell capabilities. With other tools, I’ve built extremely complicated automated migration scripts. I’ve yet to have a need for it, but I did take a look at the ShareGate PowerShell cmdlets and thought that they might be a little restrictive for how I might want to use them.

Final Verdict

ShareGate is a powerful, easy to use migration tool that is extremely affordable. If you’re looking at migration tools, be sure that you grab a free trial from ShareGate and give it a test drive.

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William HollandShareGate Review from the Field – User Friendly, Reports Galore and Precise Error Messages
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New SharePoint “Intranet-in-a-Box” Report for 2018

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Sam Marshall

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast. This is one of the Bald Brothers, Danny. Tommy is fortunately taking the day off today so he won’t be on this podcast, but I am catching up with Sam Marshall from ClearBox. Sam, how are you doing?

 

Sam:Hi there, Danny. I’m very well, thank you, and it’s great to be back on the podcast. Thanks.

 

Danny:Excellent, excellent. You’re the first person for us to do two podcast episodes with.

 

Sam:Oh, I’m honored.

 

Danny:Your career is full right now. You can retire now.

 

Sam:Yeah, that’s it. It don’t get any better than this.

 

Danny:I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I just wanted to start off with a follow-up. The first time we talked, you guys put out a great report that I know a lot of our customers are interested in, and it’s about the whole intranet-in-a-box market. You recently did an update to that report and added some new folks to it and catching up with some trends, and just give me an overview of what’s new in this report that you’ve just put out. You put it out in December, is that correct?

 

Sam:That’s right, yeah, so just at the end of last year. It’s a complete rewrite, so every single word is new in this report. It’s 430 pages, so it’s almost doubled in size. I think you’ve seen a photograph of a spiral-bound paper copy, and yeah, you really could use it in self-defense classes as well as as a reference.

 

Danny:It does wonderful for keeping doors open as well.

 

Sam:That’ll be its purpose next year when we release the 2019 edition, yeah. Maybe I should explain, so intranet-in-a-box, what we’re looking at is products that take the base SharePoint On-Prem or SharePoint Online that you get with Office 365 and add on a whole bunch of functionality that most folks look for when they turn it into an intranet, so things like news publishing, and a lot more control over the [inaudible 00:02:10] market area that we noticed back in 2015, and it’s interesting.

 

I was growing, because at first I had six products. Last year I had 26 products. This year, over 50 companies asked us to include them, and we ended up doing detailed hands-on reviews of 34 of those. Then there’s another eight that were kind of new and upcoming and we thought, “Well, they’re interesting and we want to acknowledge them, but we don’t really want to spend a huge amount of time,” so we list them as a two- to three-page summary with some screenshots and so on, but we don’t actually score and rate them like we do with the other 34.

 

Danny:You have 10 people who work on this, and it’s over 700 hours? This is a pretty fair-sized project.

 

Sam:It really is, yeah. I guess this is how schoolteachers feel when they do the annual prom. You know, it just kind of consumes all your time as you get towards the deadline. We have six reviewers, so everybody who does a review has been an intranet manager, they know SharePoint really well, but I think what’s really important that they also get the mindset of an intranet manager and what businesses are looking for out of these products, rather than just having a checklist of features and functionality, which tends to be the bread and butter of SharePoint conversations. This is much more about, “Okay, so as an organization, we want a community where people are sharing knowledge. How would your tool support that?” Then we have the designers and project managers and all the coordinators going on as well to pull it all together.

 

Danny:Excellent.

 

Sam:Yeah. It’s quite a big undertaking.

 

Danny:With this brand-new version that you worked on this past year, what were some of the market trends that you saw happening this year or things for us to expect to see in this upcoming year?

 

Sam:One of the things that really struck me is we asked, “Who’s your biggest client,” in terms of employee numbers, and that shot up. A couple years ago when we were talking to big organizations of maybe 30,000, 40,000 employees, they were saying, “Well, we wish we could use one of these products, but it’s not for us, it’s just for the little companies. We’re too big and our needs are too unique.” Now, more than half of the vendors have got client reference case studies of companies with 30,000 employees or more, and some of them are over 100,000 employees, so I think that’s a really encouraging sign of maturity of these products, that they can cope with the demands of a big company.

 

It’s great for the big company because now I think they can move forward with confidence and explore this with a good choice of options as well. The challenges for big companies, it’s things like the ability to cope with multiple site collections. You often need to deal with multiple brands, so one of the evaluation criteria is to say, “Well, how would you cope with this scenario,” say the Sony brand, but within that you’ve got PlayStation which is also quite a distinctive brand, so you might have an area of the intranet that looked more PlayStation than Sony. They’re all products, but some of them have encountered that before and said, “Yeah, yeah, we can do that.”

 

Dealing with multiple languages, of course, because most multinationals will work in eight and sometimes 30 or more different languages. What you need is something that, for example, says, “Here’s a news story,” in 12 different languages, and recognizes that it’s the same story rather than 12 unique articles. That’s been one thing I think is really interesting and really good.

 

At the more fun end, we have one of the scenarios is called wild card, so what we do is we test every product against eight different scenarios so that we compare them equally, but the last one is wild card where we say, “Show us something that we didn’t ask to see so far that we think is a real strength for your product,” and I guess about a dozen vendors said, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got a bot. Let us show you our chatbot.” Some of them are cute rather than useful, I would say, but there are a number of companies who have I think had the real insight to say, “Well, what we’ve been doing with SharePoint in a box, in terms of making it a lot easier to build an intranet on top of SharePoint, we can also do with this chatbot concept to make it a lot easier to build chatbots on top of the Microsoft stack as well.”

 

They tend to use the Microsoft bot framework and then make it really easy for you to put your own personality and your own content mapping into that. Habanero Go, for example, a Canadian-based firm, they’ve got a nice chatbot called Pepper. I think you’re meant to think of Pepper as in “Iron Man” and that’s really cool, rather than Peppa Pig, but the pig is what first came to my mind.

 

Danny:I have small kids, so I absolutely know who Peppa Pig is.

 

Sam:Mesh, so Mesh have MeshBOT. I think what’s great about them was they said, “Well, the problem with a lot of bots is that they don’t do much,” and so you link them up to another system like a workday or your room booking system. There’s always that bit of custom integration which kind of takes away from the in-a-box scene. What they’ve actually done is said, “Well, why don’t we have a bot that helps with Office 365 adoption,” so you can say to the bot, “What is Stream,” or “How do I get a Teams site,” and it will give you an answer within the chat interface as a kind of more friendly and approachable way of doing on-demand training for people.

 

Danny:One of the things I like about the report is you talk through the whole build versus buy, there’s pros and cons of each. I feel like I’ve had this discussion for most of my career, and most of the time I’m trying to convince people to buy if it’s available out there. That’s typically the better solution, but there are times in which building … and we like to build, because typically when it means build, we’re involved in the building of that process, but I thought it was really … you’re driving it off of what we do, which is what are your requirements. Let’s not just go look at what’s bright and shiny and what are the features that are listed, but really build it off the requirements of the organization.

 

Sam:Yeah. Yeah, definitely. The trend we see is that companies are trying to buy now whenever they can, because particularly if they’ve been with SharePoint a while, and SharePoint 2010 was all about, “Oh, yeah, customize it as much as you like and make it your own, it’s a platform,” and then they really got burned when they had to migrate to SharePoint 2013. That’s I think why companies like the idea of offloading that risk of maintaining the code and all the customizations that come with the in-a-box tool kit onto a vendor, where the vendor in turn is spreading that risk and that workload across all the client base.

 

Everybody benefits, we can all win, but the downside is that, yeah, it really is a product, so you’re locked in a lot more, and that’s why clarity on requirements becomes super-important because once you’ve made that choice, it’s got to be a good match for what you’re looking for. You can’t say, “We’ll buy it and then we’ll go in and change everything anyway.” That’s the worst of both worlds.

 

Danny:Yep. What’s interesting as well is … and you covered this in the intro as well … which is what Microsoft is coming down the pike with, and communication sites and the stuff with … Teams really came on strong this past year. One of the things you probably saw in the blog post that I wrote up on this is there’s … a lot of the features, we’re working with a lot of customers who are coming from Jive, and for folks who don’t know what Jive is, it’s a software company that right now is focusing in on their intranet product, and there’s a lot of companies who have both Jive and Office 365, and those folks are looking to consolidate where they’re moving stuff out of Jive and into Office 365.

 

We’re seeing some of the features that are coming down the pike are ones that companies want to take advantage of, and now you’ve got the confusion of I’ve got things coming from Microsoft and then I’ve got things coming from this product company, and is one going to outpace the other or how are the two going to work together? I’m sure this comes up a lot when you’re just talking through do you want to go with the buy.

 

Sam:Oh, it really does, and it comes in two ways. One is the, “Oh, is Microsoft going to fix everything in the next six months so we don’t need to buy this product at all?”

 

Danny:I can tell you unequivocally no, they won’t.

 

Sam:Maybe we should be so bold and say, “You can tell me that.”

 

Danny:I can tell you no. I love Microsoft, but the answer is no.

 

Sam:Microsoft’s track record is that they are very good at ticking the boxes, and they tend to go broad with their functionality rather than deep. We saw this when the whole social, Web 2.0 stuff came in and SharePoint 2013 got communities and a little bit of commenting, but it wasn’t really as robust or well thought through as indeed Jive and a lot of other products were, and that’s ended up in a bit of a side thing. I think communication sites are a much better sort through. The user experience with them is fantastic, but they really are like microsites. You know, they’re great for producing a one-topic set of pages where you pull together photos and do things in quite a visual way, but they’re a long way from what people are actually looking for in terms of a typical corporate intranet, where you’re trying to build a much more coherent and cross-organizational experience.

 

That’s one way in which people worry about the change that Microsoft are making. The other one is indeed, what’s going to happen if I install this product and then Microsoft releases a new piece of functionality that I really like? Am I locking the house, and nine times out of ten the answer’s no. You find most of these in-a-box products are basically customized styling, then a set of web parts that will sit alongside Microsoft’s own web parts so you can mix and match, you might say. For example, one of the vendors have their own [inaudible 00:13:27] board, and you might say, “Actually, I think Microsoft’s Planner through an Office 365 does the same kind of thing, and we’d like to switch to that now,” and it’s no problem swapping those things out.

 

Danny:Tommy hates when I do this, but I have to ask a question that I gave you no heads-up on, but I have to do it. You’re bracing yourself, right, right now? It seems like sometimes in this situation, like with Yammer, that Microsoft ends up buying one of these companies and incorporating it into their product suite, I would love to … you know, it’s just you and I talking here and the rest of the people who are listening to this, but I wonder … and I’ll say more of my thoughts in this, and you can just say, “That’s very nice, Danny,” but I wonder if, looking ahead to things, whether one of these products is something that Microsoft would buy.

 

Then I want to know in the end … you know, we’re going out and meeting with customers where they are, and you mentioned earlier 50 different options. You want to know what’s going to be around, and these are long-term decisions. I mean, this is four to five-plus years that you’re betting on something. I just wonder at some certain point in time is Microsoft going to just say, “Okay, this is what we’re going to go with,” like they did with Yammer or like they did with something else. You can say nothing at all if you want to. You can say, “That’s nice, Danny.”

 

Sam:Great question, Danny, thank you. Tommy, I think, sent me some other questions that were a lot … no.

 

Danny:Sorry.

 

Sam:I have no information at all, and even if I did, I’d say I’ve got no information. I’d be very surprised if Microsoft did, simply because none of these vendors are really working at the kind of scale of companies that Microsoft normally buys. You know, Yammer had millions of customers. The origins of most of the in-a-box vendors is that they’ve been agencies serving normally quite a limited geographic base, and they’ve taken that code, packaged it up in something which is more productized, and rolled out to the local geography. This year, one of the new things we add is what we call the intranet choice selections.

 

Danny:I really like that.

 

Sam:Ones that scored really well across the board, we said, “Why don’t we just flag these as ones that we think you should consider for your short list,” because there’s no real avoiding the fact that we’re doing a comparative assessment and we’re giving scores for these things, so it’s easy enough to look at a tale and say, “Hey, these guys look pretty good.”

 

One of the intranet choice awards was for multinational companies, and there weren’t actually that many vendors where you could say, “These guys could take a support call from anywhere around the world and actually have a local partner that might come and help you if you’ve got issues with it.” Most of them, they’re either strong in the U.S. or they’re strong in Europe, but not many are at the kind of size that say Yammer was when Microsoft bought them. If we do the same podcast this time next year after Microsoft’s bought one of the young companies, I’ll backpedal rapidly and explain why, why what I just said still makes sense.

 

Danny:Nice. We’re talking with Owen Allen from [Inaudible 00:16:57] in one of the upcoming podcasts. He’s a great guy. We’ve known him since he was at Microsoft in the group, in the SharePoint product group, but man, this is a very fast-moving market, so it’s just interesting to see how this is going to play out.

 

Now, just describing this process of trying to decide who to go with, I think what you did with the awards, it definitely helps people with making sure that their short list at least has some of the ones that are obvious ones, and then I guess people also look and say, “Is there someone in my region, or some someone maybe focused?” Have any of these verticalized, or are they pretty much all for … you look and see who’s in the region or what sort of features you’re looking for?

 

Sam:I think it is primarily about understanding your requirements and then matching to features. That’s half of the equation. We did wrestle a bit about whether we should do the intranet choice, because I’ve always been emphatic that the best product for you is the one that matched what you want, without buying loads of redundant features that you’re paying extra bucks for and are never going to use. That’s why we don’t have an overall winner, because there’s no overall best product, but there are some that are worth shortlisting. Once you’ve got your short list, then the other side of the equation is about your relationship with the vendor, because that still also really matters.

 

We’ve worked with a few big clients in Europe now where some of the North American offerings would be really good, except that when you factor in that you’re talking about a seven-hour time difference, there’s a practicality there about getting support and getting things up and running, plus the cost sometimes of flying bodies over the Atlantic that saying, “Yeah, maybe we do go with someone who’s more local, whose product isn’t quite as good,” but then there’s always that scope for a bit of customization on top.

 

The other big trend that we’ve seen over the course of the last 12 months is many more of the vendors setting up partnerships, and that’s great because that allows them to operate in multiple markets and cover more of those time zones.

 

Danny:That’s great to hear. This whole selection process, this is something that you can help clients out with? Is this a project type for you? Is that what I understand?

 

Sam:Thank you for asking. Yes, it is indeed.

 

Danny:Yeah, some of your services then. Come on, come on. I’m feeding you here. It’s a softball.

 

Sam:I revel at sales, but we are finally really a consultancy, and most of the time when people come to us, it’s because they’ve got an intranet and they’re saying, “Yeah, no, it’s just not doing what we hoped it would do, it’s been neglected, people hate it, they can’t find stuff,” and there’s been some trigger to refresh it all. It might be that they’re moving to a new technology or it might be they’ve acquired another company or they’re going through a restructuring, any of these kind of technical, strategic, business strategic drivers for it.

 

We help them think through what their intranet and digital upgrade strategy should be, and then within that of course at a certain point you say, “What’s the technology stack that’s going to help us deliver this?” As can you see, I’m still kind of angling for the requirements first, clarity on strategy first, and then you come onto the product piece.

 

Increasingly, what’s been helping people choose ClearBox as the consultants of choice is that we understand the in-a-box market really well. If they’ve already decided that, say, Office 365 is the technology for them … and that’s pretty common these days … then what we want to help with is saying, “Yeah, what should be on our short list, and what do we need to make clear to the vendors so that they can respond to an RFP?”

 

One of the things we really beefed up in the report this year is the non-functional requirements side. We asked a lot more questions about the deployment process for the tool and where the data lives, so even if our own organization might be happy about data in the cloud, it might have to be that it’s local to them. EU legislation says your data needs to be stored in the European Union, so that would rule out some of the Azure-based solutions that we see.

 

That said, you know, we also have clients who come to us saying … what normally happens is IT have decided that SharePoint’s the answer, and internal comms have said, “Over my dead body,” and they come to us as like the marriage guidance counselor saying, “Can you talk sense into those other people in my organization?”

 

We act as the neutral party. Whatever decision is made, it’s all good for us in terms of saying, “Yeah, what are the pros and cons of SharePoint,” versus maybe one of the more dedicated intranet platforms like Salt Farmer or Interact or Oak or Justly. You know, there’s loads of other good non-Microsoft technology solutions out there which I still think can be a very good fit for some organizations, depending on the resource level they have and how much they’re in the collaboration piece versus the communication piece.

 

You guys, I’m really interested in the amount of activity around Jive. You had an interesting podcast link just before Christmas talking about one of your big projects, migrating from Jive onto Office 365. What is it that people look for, that you see in Office 365 that’s great in Jive but maybe not so strong from Microsoft?

 

Danny:Hey, I ask the questions around here, buddy.

 

Sam:I’m not clear on the interview format, am I? Sorry.

 

Danny:No, it is a two-way conversation. I’m sorry, Sam, I just had to.

 

Sam:Tommy, where are you?

 

Danny:He’s somewhere. He’s somewhere in the middle of some field. Part of just back to what you were saying a little bit earlier with the whole IT versus corporate comms, we’re brought in on this, and it is often … my first conversations with these folks are around, “What’s your vision for doing this? Let’s get into talking through why you’re do this in the first place,” and that helps to uncover some things. There’s the obvious. The business case that usually people are putting around this is the obvious consolidation one, where people have the perception of what we’re doing in Jive, we can do all of this over in Office 365.

 

The issue that I run into … and you saw this in the blog post as well, which is … and this sometimes comes with working with some of the Microsoft account teams … is the expectation that you can just take Jive and move the content over into Office 365 and that’s an equivalent. The answer is no, and I usually have to start setting expectations about that. Then that’s where I get into typically talking about two different work streams. One is retaining that corporate IP that’s in Jive and getting it over into the appropriate place inside of Office 365, and then the second part is around really the requirements, the user experience, are you going to build versus buy, and having those conversations and making sure that if they haven’t started thinking about it, that they are thinking about it.

 

This is usually typically … you know, you see me pull you into these conversations, which is, “Have you looked at what’s available in the marketplace? If you haven’t gotten the report, you need to get the report,” and that’s usually where I’m making a connection to you, and then I try to … because some people come in and they want to say, “Okay, we’re using Jive right now. Which product is the best one?” I have to come back to them and say, “What are your requirements? What do you want to do?” Because not everybody uses Jive the same way either, and some people rely on certain things more than others. They may or may not use blog posts. Different aspects of Jive can be used as well. It’s more of a product than a platform, but it’s still … it’s multifaceted and has its own add-in modules and those types of things.

 

For us, what we’re seeing is one is to make sure that everybody is on the same page initially, that you just can’t pour it from one to another, that there is going to be work involved whether you build versus buy. We often will recommend the evaluation of what’s out there in the marketplace. Some of our angst about buying something is the fact that a lot of these products have come from agencies, and so how long are they going to be around? For me, I don’t want to recommend that they go with something. I know what happens. We’ve brought products to market. I mentioned one of them, and there’s a couple of them I’ve had to bring out back and put down. It’s not fun, but it happens. I don’t want to recommend to a client something that, three years from now, the company decided to go into a different direction.

 

As you know, there’s a big difference between services and product companies, and so that’s where I want to make sure that they’re making a good decision and are doing the due diligence, and are downloading the reports and making sure they’re aware of what’s available out there. For the Jive, it really is … there’s a couple … it’s looking also as far as are they looking for more of a turnkey solution, so something that just sort of does what it does, and we’re getting the stuff over and it is more Jivelike, where you can only do it this one way and it does it that way well, and it’s got a nice … it has some other features that are very Jivelike, versus are they looking for more of a platform that they want to build on and extend, more of a product that provides more of a layer and something that can be built upon? We’re often having those types of conversations as well.

 

You know, there’s been certain companies that I think have capitalized on the whole I’ll call it exodus from Jive, so we’ve done more work with other product companies, versus certain product companies seem to be able to capitalize on the whole opportunity that’s at hand there. It’s just interesting to see, because we don’t … what’s nice is you’re saying you’re staying vendor-neutral. We’re staying … we didn’t create a product that we brought to the market, so we’re not trying to sell our own stuff, and I’m not trying to sell … I try to … you’d be amazed how many projects I go back to them and I say, “Listen, we can’t … we’re not going to build out Jive on Office 365 for you, because it’s not the right thing to do. It’s too expensive to do it,” and we’re talking ourselves out of projects, but it’s just going to be the right thing for people to do. It’s evolving.

 

I think with what we’re seeing with what Microsoft is putting out, I think there might be a point at which people say, “Well, I just need this, this and this,” and Office 365 will become more of a compelling … well, you just need Office 365, but right now I just … most of the … and we’re focusing more on companies that are 10,000 users or greater, so we’re typically trying to find the larger implementations. For those companies, I really think they need to look at what’s out in the market. That was a long answer, and I don’t even think I answered your original question. How about that? Did I answer your … I don’t even know if I did.

 

Sam:You gave it consultant answer, which is, “Well, it depends.”

 

Danny:It depends, and if you want the answer, it’s really expensive.

 

Sam:The thought you were going to say is that Jive is really strong on communities and there’s no direct equivalent within Office 365. My impression is that Yammer groups are not really as fully-featured as Jive communication. Jive Spaces, is that right?

 

Danny:Yeah, Jive Spaces are where the … they have Jive Space and Groups, and Spaces is more for like communication at the department level, versus Groups is more team-based.

 

Sam:Okay, so the groups.

 

Danny:When I look at … we do want to educate people on what they’re moving over into. Part of what we need to do is show them what is in Office 365, because we are typically coming in like with you, where the business is upset because somebody’s about to move things. The thing that I’m fascinated by is some of the companies not deciding to move their content, which that just … I’m like, “How are you expecting to be … ” I can understand there’s … I mean, over time we’ve been able to identify that yes, there’s some very transient content like the stuff that typically happens, the Yammer-based, I just need to know it for a short period of time, but in Jive you have a lot of document-based content.

 

You have a lot of … you know, people are describing their internal processes. There’s some very important line-of-business applications, and for those I’m like, “You need to have this content move forward.” Sometimes I’m trying to convince people, saying, “You don’t want to leave that,” because why would someone ever take the time to produce the content in the new system if you just threw it away in the old system? That doesn’t make sense.

 

All right, we have talked for a little over 30 minutes. I think we could talk for another 30 minutes, especially if Tommy was here. We could probably have some very good questions, but yeah. I think wrapping it up with the Jive thing, there’s typically lots of conversations around what goes into Yammer. The whole content type discussion typically comes up for us.

 

Sam:Maybe briefly I can comment on that concern about if the vendor’s going to stick around.

 

Danny:Sure, please.

 

Sam:One of the things we do in the report is ask about the scale of the client base and how long the company’s been established. We decline now to review products that have been out for less than a year, because we have done that in the past. We’ve reviewed a product and then they pulled it from the market. I think the flip side is in the past, if you did build your own with an agency, in effect the agency’s built your product and then they’ve walked away with no obligation to sustain it either. The fallback is always that your content is still there on SharePoint or on Office 365, and if you use the same product for years, that’s pretty much the life cycle of how your intranet use will be anyway. You might not get all the benefits, but it’s not quite as risky as, say, buying into Jive and the whole company folding.

 

Danny:Yep. Yeah, it’s interesting you mention that too, because one of our services that we have is a service called sustainment, which is what we leave. You know, when we’re building out what we build out, we want to make sure … and this is driven primarily by clients, but we typically put a year to three-year contracts in place so that … you know, typically we’re creating a product, so we want to maintain that over time, and that needs to happen. Some people don’t … they’re so focused in on the building part of things, they forget about the sustainment part of things.

 

Okay, I will put … for folks who are looking at this or reading this through blog post, I will put a link at the bottom to the report, definitely. I can’t say enough good things about the report. Go download it. Yeah, I don’t get paid to refer it. You’re nice enough to let me read it, but I think it’s just … I want all of our clients to be well educated, and I appreciate the time and the effort that you put towards putting this together. Definitely go and download the report. I’ll put a discount code in as well, so that Sam can say, “Oh, these Ryan boys, they’re just great. They’re good folks.”

 

Sam:Yeah. We already say that.

 

Danny:Sam, thank you so much for what you do and for taking the time to do this, and maybe we’ll check in midway through this year or later on this year when you’ve got a new totally rewritten report.

 

Sam:That will be toward the end of this year.

 

Danny:You’re going to the same thing every year? That’s kind of cruel to yourself. You don’t just reuse what you have?

 

Sam:I think, you know, this last report is probably as big as it’s going to get. Now that we know the products that are really interesting, we’ll try and go deeper onto your products, is the way forward. It’s really hard to turn vendors away because they come along, and actually there are so many vendors doing great things. We don’t want to like exclude all the Australians just because they’re a different market, so we do want to be the definitive report in this space. I’m very happy that we are able to cover as much ground as we do. Yeah, Danny, really good to talk to you. Thank you ever so much for having me back on the podcast.

 

Danny:Absolutely, absolutely. What’s your Twitter handle, in case folks want to follow you?

 

Sam:@SamMarshall.

 

Danny:Excellent, excellent. Well, thank you for taking the time do this, and have a wonderful weekend, and thank you everyone for listening. Thank you. Bye-bye.

 

Sam:Thanks.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

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empty.authorNew SharePoint “Intranet-in-a-Box” Report for 2018
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SharePoint Intranet-in-a-Box Report from ClearBox

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

Every time I talk to a new client wanted to move from Jive to Office 365 I have to point this out – Office 365 (out of the box) is not a replacement for Jive.

Yes, there is plenty of overlap between the two products. And, yes, with recent updates from Office 365/SharePoint online like Teams (much like Groups in Jive) and SharePoint Communication Sites (much like Spaces in Jive) the overlap grows with each day.

But, as it stands today, you need to either:

  1. Build a bespoke/custom Office 365 Intranet or
  2. Buy/configure an “Intranet in a Box.”

I typically point this out to clients by describing two workloads when moving from Jive to Office 365:

Workstream 1 – Jive Content Migration to Office 365

  • Purpose is to retain corporate IP locked up in Jive and into appropriate location in Office 365
  • Proof of Concept (migrate a few places) and Pilot (pick key department to migrate)
  • Production – typically done in waves and time for user acceptance and triaging/remediation of issues

Workstream 2 – Customization and User Experience

  • Decisions about making experience more Jive-like (Build vs Buy “Intranet in a Box”)
  • Implementation of either Build on Office 365 or Buy and Configure “Intranet in a Box”

Enter ClearBox’s Intranet-in-a-Box Report

When prospects understand Workstream 2 they naturally ask for our recommendation for which product to buy (if they do want to buy). This is typically when I introduce them to Sam Marshall and his Intranet-in-a-Box report (use “twobb10” for 10% off).

With 34 products (and 8 “short listings”) in the latest version of the report, the first goal is to begin to shortlist which products to evaluate. This report is an essential resource to do this. Sam also describes the process of selecting a product (and as it should, it begins with your requirements as the focus and not the features of a product).

Sam and his team also added a section on which options stood out for different regions (Europe, North America, Multi-National) and different reasons (Value, User Experience). These “Intranet Choice” awards help make sure the products that should be on your short list are not overlooked.

My favorite section of the report is where Sam and his team point out the benefits of using in-a-box products vs. building on top of Office 365. The table on page 11 of the report is very insightful and helpful for you and your team to make the decision about build vs buy.

On to the Product Evaluations

ClearBox focuses on these scenarios in the report: News publishing, User experience, Social and knowledge management, Search, Analytics, Employee services, Integration, and Wildcard. They provide screenshots for each of the products (typically with laptop and mobile views) for visual folks like me. They provide “price brands” for various numbers of users (500, 5,000, and 50,000).

Next, they cover details on the company and product, deployment, and support. This helps you find a fit to your company by answering questions like the location of the company and the typical client size for the product. For most of the products, you can also get a select list of customers.

The deployment section covers the versions of SharePoint / Office 365 supported by the product and options for how the product is deployed. They also cover how product updates occur, mobile support, accessibility compliance and the set-up process for new clients.

Finally, in each of the product evaluations, they cover technical support, user community, and partners/resellers. This section was invaluable to me – as a service provider some of the companies work through a partner model and some companies go direct (and provide product and services).

Next, we get product highlights with plenty of visuals and insights from the ClearBox team. This includes suggested areas to improve and considerations. To wrap up the review, they share what’s next up on the roadmap for the product.

And then on to the next 33 products. Which is why this report is over 400 pages long.

The last section covers some new products for “newer and niche offerings.”

Some Personal Thoughts

Many of these offerings are from services companies like ThreeWill that decided to build a product.  We’ve decided to focus on Workload 1 and partner with companies – here’s an example.  We learned the lesson years ago that you need to focus on one or the other. If I have any advice from my experience, it is…make sure the company is committed to the product and will be investing in the product in upcoming years. There’s nothing worse than owning a product that is no longer supported and/or doesn’t have a roadmap because the company has reverted back to services.  This happens.  Trust me (I’ve had to “put down” several products because I ran out of runway).

Summary

I recommend purchasing this report for clients for the following reasons:

  1. You want to understand the current market ecosystem for “Intranet-in-a-Box” products for SharePoint and Office 365.
  2. You are trying to decide whether to build vs buy.
  3. You need to do “due-diligence” around what products are in the market since this decision is one you will live with for years (chatting with Sam I found out that it took a team of 10 people over 700 hours of work to produce and that it saves buyers over 15 working days of effort to select a product…paying for itself in no time).
  4. You are a partner like ThreeWill and want to understand the opportunity in this market.

* We don’t make anything off of this – it just lets Sam know we referred you and how awesome we are as a partner.

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Danny RyanSharePoint Intranet-in-a-Box Report from ClearBox
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Ditching Wunderlist for a Brand-New App was a Mistake

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

When Cortes burned his ships upon arriving at the new world, he forced his men to either succeed or die (actually, he scuttled his ships – and this can be an effective tactic). Microsoft took the approach of discontinuing support for Wunderlist and create a brand-new app called Microsoft To-Do. In this article, I’d like to explain why I believe this was a mistake (and what it will take to turn the ship around if Microsoft stays the course).

Editors Note – This reflects the opinion of one person at ThreeWill.  As you will read, he’s quite passionate about this topic.  But still, it’s just one person’s opinion.  Please leave your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Microsoft acquires Wunderlist in June 2015

I was really excited in 2015 when Microsoft announced the acquisition of Wunderlist. I wrote a blog post to give my reasons why:

  1. I was hoping that the user experience of using Wunderlist would influence the future of Office 365. As I mentioned in the post, they (Wunderlist) focus on the “quality of the features, not the number.”
  2. You can use Wunderlist everywhere (your email, your web browser, your iPhone, you Galaxy Tab, your Surface, your Windows 10 desktop, your Apple Watch, etc.).
  3. The killer feature for Wunderlist for me was the ability to work in teams. You can assign tasks with due dates, notes/file attachments and carry on a conversation by making comments.

So, you could say I’m a big fan of Wunderlist (along with Satya Nadella). It’s simple without being simplistic. The experience of using it is gratifying and it is elegantly designed.

Introducing Microsoft To-Do in April 2017

So, with the introduction of ToDo, I was at first excited (hearing the Wunderlist team was involved) and then became disappointed after a month of using the new app. And, yes, I know it is in “Preview.” But, you can just use the excuse of Preview for so long. From a user’s standpoint, the experience has been frustrating.

Here’s my review after using To-Do for a while:

I’m not alone and things are not getting better. Here are the most recent reviews (these make my two stars look generous):

It’s Never All Bad

The one promising point about Microsoft To-Do is I love the idea of one place for my tasks so finding out To-Do works with Outlook/Exchange tasks sounded great. Again, as I suggest in my review, I would just like this all done in Outlook (Two screen setup – Outlook on one and Chrome on another). From reading reviews, it sounds like using the My Day feature is something people are interested in – but I’ve just starred tasks to signal tasks that I’m focusing on that day. It may feel good to include artificial intelligence features as part of the new program – but this is not something that the original Wunderlist team would do. They would nail the basics – after all, we’re talking about a task list here.

I am sure the team at Microsoft has plenty of engineering/technical reasons why starting a new makes sense.

But they didn’t do this with Outlook for iOS (or Yammer), so there is a precedent.

When Microsoft bought Yammer, I thought it was more about Yammer’s approach to software than the software itself – from https://threewill.com/a-partners-perspective-on-the-microsoft-acquisition-of-linkedin/ :

“My take with what happened with Yammer is more of, I think, they took Yammer’s approach to developing software and applied it to all of Office 365. They took the rapid release, the AB testing, and instead of really focusing in on the Yammer product, they said, “How can we take what Yammer does and apply it to the whole Office 365 suite?”

Microsoft Planner

Microsoft has also introduced an app for teams to manage tasks called Planner. The reason why I mention this is many of the features that you get from Wunderlist when sharing a task list are available from Planner (assign tasks, sub tasks, attach files, comments). Unfortunately, there is no integration with To-Do so no consolidated view of your personal and team tasks.

I could discuss my experience with Planner for a couple more paragraphs – but I’ll just summarize with this…

Planner just adds to my confusion about where to manage tasks.

What Has Happened and Where from Here

For me, I tried using Microsoft To-Do up through last month (August 2017) and gave up and switched back to Wunderlist. My task list impacts my daily workflow. I can’t have lists in multiple places (Wunderlist, To-Do and Planner).

I am and will continue to Wunderlist.

My core productivity apps will be Contacts in Outlook (who),Tasks in Wunderlist (what), Calendar in Outlook (when) and Notes in OneNote (why/how). 

I will switch over to Microsoft To-Do when there is feature parity with Wunderlist – that’s a fair expectation as an end-user. If this doesn’t happen, I will look at other options like ToDoist. To be clear, here’s my list of features that need to be there as a product.

FeaturePrimary BenefitCurrent State (9/8/17)
Share lists and assign tasksWork with others on tasksN – To-Do, Y – Planner
Sub tasksBreak tasks down into smaller tasksN – To-Do, Y – Planner
Commenting on tasksDiscuss questions and collaborate on tasksN – To-Do, Y – Planner
Support for iPhone, iPad (full screen), Android, Mac, Apple Watch, Windows and WebUse app anywherePartial support – To-Do – no Mac or Apple Watch support
FoldersOrganize your listsN – To-Do and Planner
Set Priority (like Stars)Prioritize your tasksN – To-Do uses “My Day”
Mail to To-Do (email to list)Workflow for Outlook and managing emailN
To-Do Browser Extension (single click add for Chrome, Firefox and Safari)Easily add new tasks from web browsingN
Hashtag SupportSearch for common topicsN
Attach filesAdd additional task details for file contentN – To-Do, Y – Planner
IFTTT and Zapier SupportIntegration with other SAAS servicesN
Single Integrated AppUse one app (or have data sharing) for both my personal and team tasksN, as you see above, some of the requirements are met by Planner, but with Wunderlist I have one place to go to manage all my tasks.
What did I miss?Leave a comment below

 

I’ll do a follow-up post to check these requirements occasionally. Subscribe to our newsletter if you’d like to be notified when I do these updates.

It’s not too late – Microsoft, please take the same approach that you did with Acompli and stop the angst that you are putting users through with the most important app in an individual’s productivity suite. Mistakes are a part of learning (and I’ve made my share). If you look at the list of feature suggestions on Uservoice for To-Do they are overwhelmingly features that Wunderlist currently has.

Reality Check

I have been amazed by the innovation from Microsoft – It’s tough to keep up with all the new features being released with Office 365 (this has pros/cons – a subject for another blog post). But, here’s a snap of the latest updates for the iOS app:

 

Does this look like we are converging to feature parity with Wunderlist? I’d use an analogy about rearranging chairs on a ship deck, but I’ve used up my allowance for ship-based analogies for the day.

Here are the choices…

  1. Cancel plans to replace Wunderlist with To-Do – the ships aren’t burnt yet and I would really appreciate my sanity coming back. Like Outlook for iOS, stick a new icon (and please keep it consistent with other Office 365 apps like Outlook, OneNote, Word, etc.) and start adding value to the existing code base (and retain your fan base).
  2. If not #1, give us a date (range) where we will see feature parity with Wunderlist so we can plan for this. Update the roadmap to show when we should expect Wunderlist existing features to be implemented. Please pick a conservative date and overachieve on expectations. This would help us make plans for when to make the switch.
  3. Ignore #1 and #2. Keep stringing us along with comments about big things coming and that our favorite app will be going away some day.

Please, oh please…let it be #1 or #2… or if it is #3, I would love to get a surprise update that includes what we have in our beloved Wunderlist today.

Please leave comments and agree or disagree below…

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Danny RyanDitching Wunderlist for a Brand-New App was a Mistake
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The SharePoint Intranet-in-a-Box Market – Interview with Sam Marshall

Danny Ryan

Co-Host – Danny Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Sam Marshall

Guest – Sam Marshall

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Tommy Ryan

Co-Host – Tommy Ryan

Bio – LinkedIn – Twitter

Danny:Hello. This is Danny Ryan and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone Podcast. I’m here with Tommy Ryan. How are you doing Tommy?

 

Tommy:I’m doing great Danny. Looking forward to today. Talking about SharePoint intranet-in-a-box.

 

Danny:Awesome. Yes, yes and interview number two. Today we have Sam Marshall from ClearBox from over in the UK. How are you doing Sam?

 

Sam:Hi there. I’m very well thank you. I’m looking forward to it, too.

 

Danny:Awesome, awesome. Today we’ve got a great conversation that a lot of people are talking about. I know it’s come up for us quite a bit. I wanted to talk about … with Sam, he’s got a company that really focuses in on the decision process around what you should be using for your digital workplace. Sam, you’re gonna correct me if I say anything wrong here, right?

 

Sam:Oh for sure. Yeah.

 

Danny:Good. So Sam has a lot of options as far as workshops that he runs. Also, at the end of the podcast, we’ll go through a report that he has available for people who are interested in the products that are out there. I’ve given sort of a high level for you there Sam, but just tell me a little bit more about what your company does.

 

Sam:Yeah, thank you Danny. We’re based in the UK. This year’s our 10 year anniversary. We focus on digital workplace, strategy, things like intranet adoption, intranet governance, getting the right team in place. Basically, we do everything about intranet apart from the actual technology. So, we don’t sell any products, we don’t build things on top of share points, we’re really focused on the needs of the business user and the analogy I make is … it’s a bit like once a company’s installed a load of gym equipment, you then need to say, “Well okay, what’s the training program for our team? What is it we’re going to do with this equipment to achieve our goals?” and that’s quite a nuanced thing to help people think through because you carry on with the analogy, if you’ve got a bunch of marathon runners, they’re going to use the gym equipment in a certain way and do certain routines, but if you got a bunch of Olympic power lifters, then they’re probably completely different equipment and follow an entire different program.

 

We come across this a lot with Office 365, but you get so much stuff just with that license. The trick that we try and help companies think through is, what do we need out of this goodie bag that would work for us and what can we safely ignore?

 

Myself, I-

 

Danny:What’s your-

 

Sam:Yeah, go on.

 

Danny:Yeah. What’s your background … I was just inter … just going to ask you probably what you were just going to say, but tell me more about your background?

 

Sam:You’re going to cue me up perfectly, and I interrupted you by segueing in to it myself.

 

I’ll give you the funny answer. I studied baboon behavior as a psychology graduate, and then I specialized in Artificial Intelligence, building like a robot. If that isn’t the perfect background for intranet, I don’t know what is.

 

It turns out that the baboons are like robot’s pays as well, as getting involved in things like SharePoints. A man’s got to eat, you know.

 

In between that, the serious answer is I did a lot around knowledge management and working with internal communicators. That’s what got me into intranet and things like SharePoint cause I think the technology to me isn’t that interesting, but the things that people do with it and how it affects the digital workplace, that’s fascinating.

 

Tommy:In saying that, if you honed in on SharePoint and Office 365 as that platform, or are there other platforms outside of that? I know you advise people on Intranets and the box that interacts with SharePoint, but are there other platforms that you get involved with?

 

Sam:Yes. We’ve always made a point of saying “We are technology neutral,” because we don’t see that as the biggest challenge. We have worked with clients who are using open source systems like, Drupal, and also some of the ready-made non-SharePoint platforms like, Interact, which is a big player in the UK and I think also getting more visibility in the US. But, in fact it’s probably 80% of our clients have already made the decision that the answer is Office 365 and they come to us saying, “Now Sam, can you tell us what the question should have been so that we can justify the answer, Office 365.” We run with that. We have no problem with the technology choices that we make.

 

Tommy:Okay.

 

Danny:Awesome. What … just sort of getting into our conversation here, which is … and it has to do with really the build versus buy decision, what’s been happening over the last couple of years with regards to, in particular with SharePoint online, but also some of the other products that have been coming around. What and … How did you get into this whole idea of doing this, the SharePoint in a box report? Give me a little bit more background, was it just a lot of people were asking you for what the options were out there? Tell me a little bit more about that.

 

Sam:Yeah, yeah, in part. So maybe we should explain a little bit what this intranet in a box is and what report is that we’ve done. So intranet in a box products are things that you install on top of SharePoint, or alongside SharePoint, or within your Office 365 environment, and they kind of take the bare bones of SharePoint and give you a lot more of what you would normally expect to see in an Intranet. So, for example, that hero image, the news publishing, maybe a much nicer looking feel. So recently, something that worked well on mobile, that wasn’t available from SharePoint 2013. We saw a big growth in companies who have maybe been doing this for years as an agency, taking a whole bunch of requirements, and responding to an RFQ, and then building it again and again for different clients.

 

And I suppose each one of these companies said, “Do you know what? Why are we building yet another Carousel web-part from scratch when 90% of the requests ask for the same thing. Why don’t we turn that into some kind of product so people can buy it and take an accelerated approach to getting the intranet that they want. And as ClearBox, we noticed this was happening, and thought well, we’re in a pretty good position to be the neutral guide for people on this because we’re never gonna sell any of these products, but we do have a really good understanding of what it is that companies are looking for. We’ve worked with everything from small charities of a couple hundred employees, all the way up to the Unilevers of this world that have 50 or even 100,000 employees, so we see the range of requirements.

 

A couple of years ago, we’re talking end of 2015, we took a look at the market and said “Let’s do a free download where we look at six of these products, and we’ll do like a buyers guide. We’ll do a star rating of the strengths and weaknesses and have a look, at least let people who are interested in sourcing one of these understand what’s available.” So we did that, and we got a really good response, and we got lots of indignant vendors knocking at our door saying “How come you picked them, and you didn’t pick us. We’re really great as well. When’s the next faction of the report going out?” So we thought, yeah okay, that’s a fair question, let’s do this again. So we put out an appeal for participation, and we had 26 vendors respond. And I’m starting to think “Okay, so this is something we should really take seriously.”

 

So we produced a paid-for research report, it’s like 250 pages. Every product, we put them through like eight different common scenarios, so things like publishing news, supporting communities, two-way conversations, analytics, and we evaluated them consistently across each one of these and said to the vendors, “Show us how your product would fulfill this scenario.” So it was a little bit like a mock RFP, where you might come up with some use cases and ask for a demo of those use cases.

 

Since we did that, we find yet more indignant vendors knocking on the door, who yet again felt excluded by this, but also some really good feedback from the vendors who had taken part, saying “Yeah, we’ve got lots of new things to show, we’d like you to do an update of the report.” So we’re just oiling the wheels to start again for this year and, so far, we’ve had, I think, 48 companies that want to be listed.

 

Danny:My goodness.

 

Sam:So this is a very, very active market area. And I think really interesting because what’s driving it from a company point of view, a lot of our clients say we’ve got this steer from CIO, we want to buy, not build everything in IT. Wherever we can, we want software as a service, or we want it to be cloud based, because we’ve been so often in the past with SharePoint, where we invested hundreds, if not millions of dollars in this custom solution. Microsoft broke it all and it cost us hundreds, if not millions, of dollars more to fix it. Can we push that headache onto an external company who will not just keep in-step with Microsoft plans for us, but in-step with maybe a whole cohort of customers, and therefore spread the cost.

 

I think not only is there a boom from the supply side, but there’s also a real boom from the customer interest happening as well.

 

Danny:Looking at that report Sam, it’s incredible. So detailed and it’s something that I think a lot of people like to see and kind of compare it as rating it as a Consumer Reports-type of view, where you’re comparing some of the same parameters.

 

Sam:Thank you, a lot of ibuprofen went into that report, I can tell you.

 

Danny:Yeah. You can tell there’s someone that has attention to detail or obsessive-compulsive maybe behavior there.

 

Sam:It wasn’t just me, I had a team of eight obsessive-compulsive working for me as well.

 

Danny:Okay, nice. Yeah. And I can see … it’s interesting to see the amount of folks that are in this space. You probably don’t know this, but you wonder what’s the market opportunity, you know, what does the space look like, and all these companies that are going into creating an intranet in a box, how are they rationalizing that. Are they product companies that go into it saying “We see this space, it’s got a market potential of this, and we’re going to go after that market and go after this niche in that market,” or is it consulting companies that built the same customizations over and over again and that productize that and try to spin off a product side. I assume you see a mix of those and do you have any comments on what makes a good intranet in a box company that can be successful endeavoring in this space?

 

Sam:It’s a really good question because it has a lot of signs of an immature market, and what I mean by that, is last year on the whole, pretty much everyone doing this is coming at it from the consulting side and moving into being a product company.

 

Danny:Interesting.

 

Sam:I don’t see many product companies who are saying “We want our product in this space, alongside all the other products that we’ve got.” And what that means is that there’s a really challenge for a consulting mindset company to change the way they work to support a product that might mean multiple releases and help desks and all the other things that you would expect when you buy a license that don’t fit that project mindset of doing consulting where there’s a clear endpoint, and anything you want after that is another contract or a kind of bespoke support engagement.

 

Danny:Right.

 

Sam:So to answer your question about what makes it good, in a box vendor, it’s the ones who’ve really, I think, segregated their business so they have a team that’s dedicated to look after the product and just thinking about the product roadmap, irrespective of there necessarily being a sale behind every feature that they add. So it’s not like they’re saying “Oh we’re going to do this because a big client has asked for it,” they’re doing it cause it’s the right thing to do and they’ve got that vision of where they want to set the product, as a way to generate the sales.

 

Tommy:What you see is a sampling of companies that haven’t made that segregation, is that maybe the guy that developed a feature that you’ve raised a ticket on cause it’s not working right, is pulled off from a client project for the next three months, and that poor guy’s going to have a real tension in terms of how does he allocate his time to looking after the conflicting needs.

 

Danny:Interesting.

 

Sam:If I can share a little secret on the podcast, and everybody listening has got to promise not to repeat it. I’m joking. There are a few companies that got in touch saying “Please can we be in your report,” and they couldn’t even provide a website link cause they hadn’t got the website live, you know, the product was that fresh. We’ve had a little chat with them, said “Come back next year when there’s more to show,” because I think part of what people investigating this area need to be aware of, is some of these products, I don’t think, will last, and that’s part of what we’re trying to help do, is understand how robust is this offering. Cause if you back a product where the vendor walks away from the market in 18 months, then you’re no better off than if you built it in house, you got that same headache, in terms of upgrade groups.

 

Danny:Yeah, that’s an interesting thing, and as I was looking through the report, I see when the company was founded, it’s so and so IT consultancy. Is there any measures around, say, maturity and, let’s say, process product capabilities that can give a client a certain sense of assurance that they’re going to be around two years from now versus they’re just kind of dipping their toe in the water. How do companies sort that out and do you help them with that?

 

Sam:We do and there’s a couple of checkpoints within that. So one is how committed is this company to the product roots, and the other one is how stable is the company itself. So, you know, the company might live on, but they might say “Yeah, we’re walking away from looking at this product anymore,” and you’re still high and dry.

 

Danny:Right.

 

Sam:In terms of the company stability, I always say to clients, just make sure your procurement is doing it’s due diligence in terms of looking at the vendor financials, the Number of employees they’ve got, and the track record of companies of a similar scale to yourself. The usual revenue credit check-type stuff you do.

 

Danny:Right, right.

 

Sam:In terms of the product maturity, in the report we list when the first release of the product was, we list how often they release it. In the new version, we’ve asked what’s the typical customer size, and also what’s your largest customer size, and most of them have also given us the names of reference companies. And all of those are good reflections of a healthy product, I think.

 

Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s good. It’s interesting your answer to the profile of a company that it’s, you know, primarily consultancies, you wonder is there the market there for it where product companies maybe do a market-level research versus saying “Oh we’ve got code for this,” it’s more of is there a market established that we know we can invest so many dollars in product to convert so much business. Do you think … do you have a sense of why traditional product companies are not entering this market?

 

Sam:Well, it’s a busy market, isn’t it.

 

Danny:Yeah, yeah, maybe they see it’s too packed.

 

Sam:Not necessarily, the SharePoint space has traditionally been dominated by the partner model, and there aren’t so many companies that have got established SharePoint products who, perhaps, understand the intranet world, you know, that whole publishing model. They’re much more on things like the transactional BI or the back [inaudible 00:17:31] tools.

 

Danny:Right.

 

Sam:You know, you think about metalogix or K2 on Intact, I don’t think any of those have anything else that’s similar to what an intranet would do. I mean what are your guys’ thoughts on this cause you’ve, I know, have been exploring this space as well.

 

Danny:I can maybe say a little bit about that Tommy and I are very interested to learn sort of about … and this is probably because we’ve been in business for quite a while and have tried launching a couple products of our own, we’re not planning on launching nay intranets in a box or anything along that/ those lines. I think one of the things that Tommy and I have recognized that it is truly a different type of business, and in order to be successful, we’re at the point where we say it’s got to be a separate company doing a product, it can’t be us. So we’ve recognized that and so we’ve been very cautious about entering into any sort of product type of business. In fact, I’ve got up on our website, we’ve recently … we did some integration products with Salesforce, and we’ve recently retired those because it’s just … we just don’t … we can’t … it’s not the right business for us.

 

What I’m interested … if I can … I’m interested right now because of traditionally the … number one the SIs, how would they handle … cause typically with these different intranet and box products, they’re selling both the product and the services along with it, what are … cause we’re an SI that doesn’t have this, are they typically just building? Are you seeing them build on top of SharePoint or are they … and we’ve partnered with … there’s been some companies that we’ve worked with that, in particular, where they’re moving from Jive, which is a social platform, to Office 365, we have some expertise where we’ve been pulled in to do the migration where we’ve got some expertise in several of these products.

 

But how are SIs … what are they … are they deciding I’m just gonna build on or how are they handling this whole situation?

 

Sam:I see a big growth in the more established in a box products, setting up partner and resell and networks. So I’m guessing these guys are aligning themselves to specialize in one or two in a box products and saying “Yeah, we can meet 80% of a client’s requirements by adopting this product,” and then we’ll fulfill the other 20% as bespoke. But it allows them to deliver a solution way quicker than they could have done before. So some of the in a box vendors, in particular Powell 365 and Kamina, are really geared up to deliver through SIs, rather than you would go directly to them for the solution.

 

Danny:Gotcha, gotcha.

 

Sam:And again, I see that as an encouraging sign of maturity, that the product is something they can build out a partner network through. The less mature ones, you could argue it’s not really a product because it’s actually a set of code libraries and you always need the in-house consults and the expertise to turn it into a delivered intranet solution.

 

Danny:Yup. Tommy, were you gonna say something? I think I cut you off a little earlier, I’m sorry.

 

Tommy:I want to say Sam was asking what do we see as that marketplace and why are there intranet in the box solutions out there. We started in the SharePoint space back in 2006/2007, and it’s when Microsoft really touted SharePoint as a platform, a customizable platform, and gave a lot of knobs to turn as developers, and as SharePoint is maturing, and as Microsoft is going to the cloud, you can see SharePoint becoming more commoditized and going into the cloud, being in a multi-tenant environment, it’s really not suited well for some of the customizations you would do in the past. So you have organizations that want those better look than feels and they can’t work within the constraints of what Office 365 puts in place, so they want to extend that capability and have more control, and that’s working with these companies that are providing more the functionality that might not ever get there in Office 365 or maybe doesn’t get there soon enough, where they’d rather get there sooner by buying it than building it, knowing that things might change underneath them with Office 365.

 

And I think also, it’s been the space around Microsoft where Microsoft kinda put out share point and said “It’s here, it’s got some core capabilities, do with it what you want and think about the possibilities of what you can do with the intranet.” That can be paralyzing to a lot of organizations, and buying something out of the box, like what we experienced with people buying Jive, is it’s a polished product versus a platform play, and a lot of organizations kind of like that and went in that direction. I think these intranet in a box companies are seeing that people want the reliability of having SharePoint storing the data, being that backend, and then have the nice shiny upfront with something that Microsoft is not necessarily known for, but getting better at. You’re seeing things that are coming out that make you about Microsoft. It’s becoming “more modern” in their UIs, but with a company that size, they’re always going to be probably a step or step and a half behind what these smaller companies are able to do with web technologies.

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Tommy:And that’s just my kind of high-level view of, you know, why is this space being created, and it’s not totally surprising that it’s coming primarily from SIs doing this. But it is, I think, a sign of, like you said Sam, maturity, the market, where it is coming from, shared code libraries, that are coming from projects, from SIs versus you have a product company saying “There’s an addressable market, there’s a gap here, we want to address it and we feel confident that people are going to spend the money here.” We’re surprised … it might because we’re doing a lot of Jive to Sharepoint point migrations, but we’re surprised in the number of companies that are choosing the intranet in a box option, because it will put your data inside other CMS systems. We’ve seen with some of these systems, they’re not just storing everything in SharePoint, they have to have their own CMS to give the kind of capabilities that they add on top of SharePoint, then maybe they just store the file in SharePoint but the blogs are sitting in their own CMS system inside of SharePoint.

 

Sam:I mean I absolutely agree with your analysis, Tommy, but that point about where your data sits … there’s only three or four where it resides in a separate CMS. So we’re working with a client at the moment where it’s an absolute prerequisite that the data stays entirely within the Office 365 tenant.

 

Tommy:Right.

 

Sam:There’s about 20 options where that’s definitely the case, they … some of them it’s really just web parts and styling that they’re adding, they’re not taking the data outside of your own client at all.

 

Tommy:Yeah. That’s what I would want as a customer, but also some of the sexier ones are not necessarily using SharePoint as a store cause it complicates things. A blog in SharePoint, that data structure’s totally different than what you would want to do from scratch to create a blog interface.

 

Sam:Yeah. It’s understandable cause often the brief from the client is can you make SharePoint look not like SharePoint?

 

Tommy:Right.

 

Sam:So what you’ve do is get another CMS and patch it in the [inaudible 00:26:20]. When you do that-

 

Danny:Sometimes-

 

Sam:The big trade off is that it becomes an uncomfortable hop back into anything Office 365. So if you look at something like flow and say “Ah it’s great, can’t we use flow as part of what we’re doing with this separate CMS?” The answer’s always gonna be no because the CMS won’t have that level of integration.

 

Tommy:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Danny:So I would be remiss if we didn’t talk about … sort of the hot topic and the elephant in the room, which is communication sites. Sam, I was fortunate enough to listen in on a webinar, and I think this is an interesting thing cause as a feature … sort of as maybe a feature set, this is one of the things that SharePoint and box companies were addressing, which was the modern experience working well on mobile devices, and we’ve seen this year, Microsoft release this. What … give me … what does that mean to folks, how does that … what’s your general take on what’s happening right now, in particular with communication sites?

 

Sam:Yeah, so communication site’s really interesting, really good to see because, I think, it reflects that Microsoft is definitely getting the UX message that it’s so important, and they frankly just haven’t got it right for many years. Communication sites are fantastic when you need to create something that’s attractive, around a single topic. But it is still a micro-site, in effect. So, right now, we shouldn’t pre-judge cause we know this is just like the first release, and there’s probably lot more to come from Microsoft.

 

Right now, it looks like an intranet homepage, but it really isn’t. And what I mean by that is that it has the hero images, but they’re just images with links behind them, it’s not actually you click on it and you’re taken into a news article unless you manually tie that hero image into a news article. There’s no cross-site publishing, so we find once you get up to 500 employees, or two or three countries, or two or three business sectors that your company operates in, it’s not enough to have separate sites for everything. You want to be able to create a news story and say “Here’s a news story, now zing it out so we can target it to everybody in Canada, but not in the U.S., or everybody who worked in sales, but not in marketing.” And for that, you still need the idea of a news center, a repository of news, and some kind of metadata and personalization, which then does a search, call and pulls them back to show people.

 

That’s not something that I can see coming in comp sites anytime soon. In terms of the in a box marketplace though, Microsoft is definitely gonna make the sales guys work harder cause comp sites look great. Getting from ResX saying “We really need an intranet in a box,” when they can see a comp site becomes harder, it probably means that some of the in a box vendors who were targeting companies of 50 to 200 employees, somewhere like the small to medium enterprise business, they might pull out of this market in time, unless they are really focusing on doing non-communication stuff like transactions, which some of them do very well, indeed.

 

Danny:Interesting.

 

Sam:Yeah. I mean what your take? Do you see your clients excited by communication sites?

 

Danny:From my experience, Sam, I think it’s early on and they’re so buried in everything else that they haven’t fully explored that at this point.

 

Sam:So now it’s class, we’ve got actual lives and actual businesses rather-

 

Danny:Yeah. Definitely. It’s something that makes you pause to say “Okay how does that play into the equation?” The thing that I think Microsoft’s doing well with, but developers in the Microsoft ecosystem might get frustrated, is they’re trying to narrow down the lane a bit, and get more focused around areas in SharePoint to be very good at. I like the concept of segregating into teams and communication sites, and that I think is the 80/20 versus the traditional Microsoft is we’ll try to cover 100% of the space versus honing in and doing very well on the majority. They can go across platforms and devices to expose that in a polished way. I just love seeing teams and that visual overlay on top of a SharePoint team site or Office 365 group.

 

That’s exciting for us to really have a customer go a long way because they’ve gone deep on that topic of a team site versus before, in 2007 and 13, you had 20/ 30 different things to choose from as a starting template. I think that’s different for Microsoft, I think it is speaking to we’re all busy people and we need less choices. It’s interesting that you say there’s 50 intranet in a box selections. I think that’s good news for your company because that just makes that equation even more complicated of okay, am I picking the right one? I don’t have time to evaluate 50 different options. Then you feel at the mercy of which one has the best marketing program to touch me, is the one I’m gonna choose, and maybe that’s not the right selection criteria. I need to make sure I’m thorough and picking the company that best aligns with our needs and our direction.

 

Sam:Yeah. That is so important because once you’ve made that choice, once you’ve committed to it, you really have narrowed down the scope of what you can do. So these in a box products, they make things easier to use by, in effect, reducing some of the choices that you would have if you were On a bare bones SharePoint and could develop anything. I always say to people, “Don’t pick a product and think that you can just tweak this and tweak that,” because you won’t be able to if you want to stay faithful to the vendor’s own roadmap.

 

Danny:Yeah, definitely.

 

Sam:If they become tomorrow a formal requirements gathering exercise, and we’re helping quite a few clients through this at the moment, just to go through an RSP that gets you in the right place to come up with a short list and then choose between them.

 

Danny:Very good.

 

Tommy:Sam, I think we could talk to you for hours here, so I know you’ve got a hard stop. So before we wrap-up, if you don’t mind, I know you mentioned that you might have a discount code for listeners, can you give us a little bit more … some more details on that?

 

Sam:Yeah, sure. So if you head over to our website, which is clearbox.co.uk, I know I’ve got a funny accent, so let me spell that out, that’s c-l-e-a-r-b-o-x, opposite of black box, .co.uk. You will see, right there on our own hero image, a link to the SharePoint intranet in a box reports, and when you go to check out, use the code t-w-o-b-b 20, so that’s t-w-o-b-b, for bald brothers, and 20, cause. T-w-o-b-b 20, and you get 20% off, so the full price is $495 dollars, you’ll get $99 off, making it $398.

(Editor Note – new discount code is “twobb10”)

Danny:That’s awesome.

 

Tommy:Super.

 

Danny:That’s awesome.

 

Tommy:That’s great.

 

Sam:[crosstalk] Right until the end of August so if you’d like, on your summer holiday reading by the pool, the report will certainly help with your siestas. I mean it will certainly give you plenty to read.

 

Danny:That’s wonderful. And maybe, Sam, we can have you back after the next version is out. Tommy and I’d be interested to hear some of the details on that, so that’d be wonderful to have you back.

 

Sam:I’d love to. Once I’ve had a big lie down, I’d love to come back and talk to you more about this topic since you’re really into it.

 

Danny:Super. Well thank you, Sam, thank you Tommy, and thank you, everybody, for listening. Yeah, thanks so much.

 

Sam:Pleasure, thanks very much, guys, for inviting me on. It’s been great.

 

Danny:Alright, cheers.

 

Tommy:Absolutely, take care now.

 

Sam:Bye.

 

Tommy:Thank you, buh-bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

Remember to use discount code “twobb10” for 10% off!

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empty.authorThe SharePoint Intranet-in-a-Box Market – Interview with Sam Marshall
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Summary of Day 3 of #MSInspire 2017

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

  1. Today’s buzzword of the day (I should have done this for Day 1/2 as well) – Single Pane of Glass.  I think I heard it five times today.  BTW, you’re reading this blog post on a single pane of glass.   😆
  2. Yes, as suspected, the attendance at the Vision Keynote was down.  They closed off many sections of the Verizon Center.
  3. Keynote was covered by Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Counsel.   Strong emphasis on  European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will take effect May 2018 and “will significantly raise the bar for data privacy protection.”  More info – blog post and partner resources.
  4. Gavriella Schuster, CVP, Worldwide Channels and Programs, covered changes to the partner program – focus will be on growing partners for one role and role a for a person acting more as a “connector.”
  5. Discussion with Ian Bremmer about the current state of the world politics.  I’m a bit tired of politics so I would have preferred someone more inspirational (core message was basically that US is no longer leading the free world).  The conference is called Inspire – maybe next year they can book someone like Tony Robbins to get us all pumped up.
  6. Enjoyed meeting some folks from a partner from Portugal called BindTuning – UX for Office 365 that will definitely be a part of upcoming projects.
  7. Talked with Microsoft rep for the p-seller program – with all the talk about how the partner model is changing it sounds like things are status quo so not sure if it’s worth the investment of time.  Time will tell.
  8. I had two awesome sessions from Mike Gannotti – he had some killer takeaways (sorry, first two are for Windows only – a benefit of moving from Mac to a PC):
  9. Attended a session on the partnership with Adobe (integration with Dynamics and LinkedIn).  It’s a solution for larger companies (for now).  Keeping my eye on this since some companies have asked us about migrations from Salesforce to Dynamics.
  10. Great session from Dan Holme on SharePoint and what’s coming – can’t wait to use Communication Sites (still not available on our tenant) and new web parts (like the news web part).  Discussed difference between Yammer and Teams.  Yammer is a cross-company discussions (large groups) based on interest/topic and Teams are for, well, teams (smaller groups).  He confirmed the model is one Team per company/client that you work with (we came to the same conclusion).  Confirmed that they are building in many of the features that companies want in a modern Intranet – it just may take some time.  This puts “SharePoint in a Box” products in a foot-race to outpace Microsoft (maybe one of them will be bought by Microsoft – just guessing).  Talk of further integration with workflow (Flow) and building apps (PowerApps).
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Danny RyanSummary of Day 3 of #MSInspire 2017
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Summary of Day 2 of #MSInspire 2017

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

  1. Wish I had a dollar for each time this was covered today – four pillars of digital transformation that empower organizations to re-envision their business: engage customers, empower employees, optimize operations, and transform products.  Thinking about how this fits into how we categorize solutions (improve bottom line, drive efficiency, satisfy end users, and manage risks).
  2. The final mile in solutions – Industry focus.  Microsoft focusing on these industries: Financial Services, Manufacturing, Retail, Education, Health and Government.  Everyone in Microsoft organized into these verticals.  We actually cover more industries (from our menu, select SUCCESS -> FOR YOUR INDUSTRY lists them all).  Should we narrow ours down?  Just to Microsoft’s list to help us focus and partner better?
  3. Had a conversation with the leader of Go To Market Campaigns – they are going to need to catch up to this messaging and focus with the microsoft.com site.
  4. At FastTrack booth – we are on the same page with messaging (using FastTrack as a part of a migration, but we need to own the outcome relationship with the client).
  5. Attended a really great presentation by another partner about co-marketing/selling with Microsoft.  Key points – understand account team motivations and fears, bringing Microsoft into a large account helped them sell a solution for one department to other departments, ask for Account List and target only a handful of companies.
  6. Favorite session of the day was one that was scheduled last minute about transforming marketing by Chris Capossela (CMO of Microsoft).  Practical examples of how their marketing department is using the four pillars of digital transformation.  Was great to get the explanation behind the move to brand everything to Microsoft – example – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education  First time I saw this ad – so well done and just as good/better than Apple – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzMLA8YIgG0
  7. Fun times at night at the Metalogix party – any party with branded maracas is a party for me!  Great seeing the team from Metalogix…
  8. Lots of links to resources:
  9. Lines into Verizon Center were so much better today.  Crowd not as big (lots of folks sleeping in?).  My guess is this trend will continue tomorrow.
  10. Got some great socks for Tommy and me from FastTrack booth…I’m sure we’ll showcase this in the podcast.

Microsoft Socks

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Danny RyanSummary of Day 2 of #MSInspire 2017
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Summary of Day 1 of #MSInspire 2017

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

  1. Next year’s conference will be at Las Vegas – https://twitter.com/maryjofoley/status/884394386330718208. Loved bringing the family to this year’s conference – may just be my wife to next year’s conference because Vegas is not so family friendly.
  2. Office 365 + Windows + Enterprise Mobility and Security = Microsoft 365 – https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/10/15946450/microsoft-365-office-windows-ignite-launch We moved from SharePoint to Office 365 and now I’ll have to add a Microsoft 365 tag to our blog.
  3. Love that Ron Huddleston is the new Channel Chief – he’s the person behind the AppExchange – we’ve created apps for both the AppExchange and the Office Store and trust me when I say that he can make a huge impact.
  4. Out with PAM, in with Channel Manager.
  5. Great to see integration with LinkedIn happening – attended a couple of sessions and this will give Salesforce a run for their money…
  6. Four Solution Areas – Modern Workplace, Business Applications, Applications and Infrastructure, and Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  7. 4.5 Trillion Dollar Opportunity – favorite meme – https://twitter.com/meetdux/status/884406836287479809
  8. Mobile First, Cloud First now Intelligent Cloud, Intelligent Edge – https://twitter.com/Microsoft/status/884404594943590400
  9. Loved seeing women leading the demos – https://twitter.com/mrstotten/status/884419820233666560
  10. Feedback from the day – waited over an hour to get into Verizon Center (they weren’t letting people in until 9 am for some reason) – will be showing up early tomorrow to avoid the lines.

verizon center waiting

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Danny RyanSummary of Day 1 of #MSInspire 2017
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Find Anything in SharePoint with Amazon-Like Faceted Search Webinar

Bo is a Principal Consultant for ThreeWill. He has 18 years of full lifecycle software development experience.


 

Danny:

 

Hello everyone, and welcome to this webinar on finding anything in SharePoint with Amazon-Like faceted search, wow I got that out.

 

This is Danny Ryan, I’ll be your host for today, and I am the co-founder and VP of Business Development for ThreeWill. I have here with me a partner, Ross Leher, he’s the CEO and chairman of WAND INC. I’ve also included in on this conversation as well Bo George. Bo is a principal consultant for ThreeWill. He leads up our portals practice lead. I wanted him in on the conversation as well.

 

The way this is set up today is, it’s set up as a conversation. I wanted to have Bo just be able to chime in, maybe on some recent project experience, or some things that we’ve seen, and have him chime in that way, and look forward to showing this to you guys today.

 

Thank you everybody for joining. A couple of logistical things, before we jump into the content … we will be recording the webinar, so you can share it with colleagues. We’ll send a link out to it, so look for a followup next week, with the link. I think we might also be putting this on the podcast as well.

 

The deck for the webinar is available, it’s in the downloads panel … let’s make sure we’re all set there. You should be able to see … actually, it’s in the handouts. You can see in the handouts panel, you can download it from there, a PDF of the presentation.

 

If you’ve got any questions at all, I’ve got our producer here, Oliver is behind me. Today’s Oliver’s birthday, it’s his 21st birthday, happy birthday Oliver. He’ll be handling your questions, or if you have anything you’d like to chat about as well, he’ll keep an eye on that.

 

You’re not drinking yet, are you? You’re 21 years old … not til tonight. Okay, he’s going to wait til tonight.

 

So if you’ve got anything there, just let us know, and we’ll respond to the questions towards the end of the webinar. So that gets us kicked off with a little bit of logistics.

 

The agenda for today … what we wanted to start off with is our perspective and the backstory on this, which is why we wanted to share more information about what Ross and his company does, and why we think this is so important to our customers and to people in general who are using SharePoint and things. So I wanted to give a little bit of a backstory to get us started out with the webinar today. The next part, I’ll let Ross take over, and he’ll help define for us what the enterprise need is, around findability. I also want him to give a little bit of a background on sort of how WAND fits into the picture, what they do. And then, for some people this might be a new topic for them, as far as what taxonomy is, so I just want to give sort of an overview of what that is, and really just be able to make sure that we’re all using the same vocabulary when we’re talking. And then, sort of looking at what this overall webinar’s about, we’re looking at trying to create something, like Amazon-like faceted search.

 

We all know, the net time you go look for a new pair of shoes within Amazon, it’s amazing how quickly you can narrow it down to the correct ones. So we wanted to say, “How can we do something similar with the content that we have on our intranets, inside of SharePoint?” And then he’s going to go through and just share a little bit about the business functions in industries, the different taxonomies for those, and then I’ll ask him to do a demonstration of their taxonomy portal.

 

And then from there, sort of like, “How do you get started with all this stuff?” There’s a two-to-three week quick-start project, which we’ll talk a little bit about, and what does that look like, and how do you get this whole thing started out in the right way?

 

And then we’ve got a case study that we’d like to review about Goodwill industries, and review what some of the things were that we found out from that case study.

 

Then we’ll wrap it up with, I’ve just got some conclusions, just some things, what do I want everybody to walk away with from this webinar, and just some of the conclusions. At that point in time, we’ll go through and see if there’s any questions that folks have, and we’ll answer the questions at that time.

 

I’ve got it open right now. I like sort of conversational. I’ll hand it over, after I’m done with the backstory, over to Ross. But Ross or Bo, feel free to jump in, if there’s anything that you’d like to add to the conversation.

 

Hey Bo, how’s it going?

 

Bo:Good, good. How are you, Danny?

 

Danny:Good, good, good. And Ross, you’re there?

 

Ross:We are here in the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado. It’s a beautiful day.

 

Danny:It is? Okay, awesome. Great to have you guys here.

 

Let’s get started with the backstory. For folks who are on the line, I ended up inviting a lot of people to this who are current client, or folks that we have interacted with through the years. Most people know we’ve been working with clients on building intranets and extranets on SharePoint for a while now. It’s been a while.

 

One of the most common complaints that we hear from people is, “I can’t find anything in SharePoint.” Bo, you hear that quite a bit?

 

Bo:Yeah, for sure. I was thinking, as soon as you have two people working on a single document, you’re going to have the, “I can’t find anything in SharePoint.” That’s how simple it is, is two people working on something in SharePoint.

 

Danny:Never mind an organization with thousands or hundreds of thousands of people.

 

Bo:Right.

 

Danny:So the taxonomy is going to enable ways for us to present and find content. Bo, I know you wanted to specifically call out these things: search, navigation, automatic tagging, and document routing.

 

Bo:Yeah. When people talk about, “findability,” immediately you gravitate towards, “search,” and that’s kind of the most obvious thing … conversational search, your Amazon scenario, is clicking things and refining your results. So that one’s a huge one with taxonomy. The other thing that I think taxonomy enables in SharePoint that people don’t think about as much is navigation, which could be search, or it could be other things. And then automatic tagging, so where I put a document, it could be automatically tagged with terms and taxonomy stuff, which reduces the need for people to fill out metadata, because it’s done for them, auto-magically.

 

And even document routing features in SharePoint, which I think are awesome, like … I upload it, I tag it with something, and it puts it in specific places, so that it’s organized based on how I tag it.

 

So it’s not just search, but that’s a huge part, but it also enables all kinds of other features in SharePoint.

 

Danny:And all this is going to be missing if you don’t have a common taxonomy that’s been defined.

 

Bo:Exactly, yep.

 

Danny:You seem as though this is a daunting task, ’cause this is not typically something that we learned in school, or people taking this on. I just wanted to mention, I know a recent example where you were working with a client and asking for, “Give us your top 20 document types,” and even that was a difficult thing for them to go through.

 

Bo:Yeah, and it’s been my experience, not many of us have graduate school with a degree in Information Sciences, that talk about classification systems and things like that, that’s just not our day job. So when you say, “Give me your top 10 document types,” on the surface it sounds like an easy question, but it may not be.

 

Some customers will just punt on it and not do anything, which is maybe the worst thing to do. The other flip side is, I’ve worked with customers that, they’ve taken on that daunting task, and it’s taken them years, potentially, to define a taxonomy, because they started with a blank slate and di all that work.

 

So it can be daunting to the point where you just don’t do anything, or it just takes forever. I’ve seen both sides for sure.

 

Danny:And Ross, not everyone’s like you, where they eat taxonomy for breakfast.

 

Ross:Well, it’s not that difficult, but we’ll have some fun today. Look forward to it.

 

Danny:Awesome, appreciate it.

 

So starting with what we found, and this is a ley thing from meeting up with Ross, is really understanding … if we can start with a pre-defined taxonomy, a lot of … you just do this in general, consulting-wise, instead of starting with a blank slate, having something that is in initial skeleton for you to work with, or a straw-man that’s out there, it’s really a way to make this a reality.

 

This is why we wanted to … we didn’t have this webinar initially scheduled for this year, but as soon as Bo and I met up with Ross a couple times, I was like, “We’ve really got to share this with folks in the ThreeWill community.” That sort of brings us to where we are today, and why we wanted to share what Ross has for you.

 

Ross, I’m going to go ahead and switch over and make you the presenter. I’ll give you control, and if you want to turn on your webcam, that’s fine as well. It’s up to you.

 

Ross:Sounds good, I hope I’m not dominating the screen too much.

 

Danny:No, you look great.

 

Ross:Well, thank you.

 

Danny:You don’t look that great. Wait a minute.

 

Ross:Listen, first things first. I want to thank Danny and his team for organizing everything today. It’s terrific. Hopefully we’ll have a little bit of fun today.

 

The Enterprise Need – The Pain Point. What the heck are taxonomies, and what does it mean to all of us? The problem, I think as Danny just talked about, is search. We can’t find stuff. If we think about the physical assets of an enterprise, we have inventory control systems for all of our physical assets, we know where every component is, if we’ve got a manufacturing line … all of the physical assets, they’re on our ballot sheet, real estate, equipment, so on and so forth.

 

All the physical assets of an enterprise have been tagged and classified. Why? So we can find them. The macro-problem, 75% … and this is probably understated, 75% of information workers say that finding the right information, not the physical assets, but the intellectual, the information assets, is critical to the organization’s success. We would suggest taxonomies as one of the key success factors for effective search and findability.

 

What are the obstacles to finding our information, our intellectual assets well, everyone knows poor search functionality, inconsistency in how we tag content. Lack of adequate tags. We waste a lot of time when we can’t find the documents we’re looking for, and we get very, very frustrated. When we can’t find the documents that we’re looking for, we either do without them, or we try and recreate them. But in every case, it’s extraordinarily frustrating. So how do we solve this problem?

 

Little bit of background about our company first. WAND has been building taxonomies since 1983. We began to build taxonomies a long time ago, because we had large insurance companies here in the United States that we provided software programs to, that required taxonomies. Taxonomy libraries that we’re going to look at today, there’s 128,000 curated terms, address virtually every industry vertical and all of the operational areas of an organization. For some of our clients, we’re necessary. We provide taxonomy professional services. Our client base all over the world, taxonomies can be used in SharePoint, but they can be used in big data applications, eCommerce cataloging … search, as we’ve discuss, BI analytics, the list goes on and on and on.

 

Out of the box, the taxonomy term store in SharePoint is empty. There’s nothing in it. WAND provides taxonomies that are formatted for direct input into that empty term store. But the enterprise may have many, many applications into which taxonomies can be imported, BI analytics, big data, the list goes on and on and on. We format the taxonomies for direct import into those various applications.

 

Taxonomy is a mystery for most people. I think most of the folks on this call know what they are. I hope I do, but we all face the burden of explaining to people in our companies what the heck that word, “taxonomies,” means, and what difference it makes to what we’re doing.

 

Say, for the sake of argument, we’ve got a company that’s got 2,000 employees. I’m going to put those 2,000 employees into a room, and I’m going to ask them the question, “Everybody that knows what a taxonomy is, raise your hand.” Not too many hands go up.

 

Then I’m going to say to those folks, “Everybody that’s used Amazon.com, raise your hand.” Now everybody raises their hand.

 

I’m going to say to the people, “When you do a search for the word, ‘shoes,’ on Amazon, you’re going to get 550,000 results. On the left-hand side of the screen, are taxonomies. A taxonomy of size, I want a size 11. Taxonomy of colors, I choose black. Type of shoe, I select men’s dress shoe. Taxonomy of brands, I choose Allen Edmonds. 550,000 results, narrowed down to the five that are relevant to the user.”

 

I say to those 2,000 people, “As long as you’ve been using Amazon, you’ve been using taxonomy. You’ve just never put that word to it before. It didn’t matter whether you were searching for a pair of shoes, a computer, a television … the taxonomy’s always on the left-hand side of the screen, to enable you to find the results that are relevant for you.”

 

I’d say to the folks, “Think about the feeling of control we have over our search when we use Amazon. We know we’re going to find what we’re looking for, because those taxonomies are there to help us navigate the result sets. Imagine having the same feeling of control over the search for our enterprise documents.” This is what the WAND taxonomies, in conjunction with SharePoint, enable.

 

The analogy is a very good one, and if you think about the problem that Amazon had when they started, they had stacks of shoes, stacks of computers, libraries of televisions, so on and so forth, and they needed taxonomies to be able to tag those various libraries of merchandise to enable that taxonomy-driven search.

 

The enterprise has the same problem. Instead of libraries of shoes, computers, televisions, the enterprise has libraries of HR documents, accounting documents, IT documents. If you’re in the building and construction business, building and construction documents, so on and so forth. And WAND provides taxonomies to tag those various libraries of documents.

 

The analogy is another good one if we think about a content type. We might think that, “shoes,” is a content type. If we have a library of HR documents, let’s say they’re compensation documents. We may say, “HR compensation documents.” That’s a content type.

 

So, remember that analogy. It explains everything.

 

One slide we like to show folks, you can show this to the business side, the technical side, and people immediately get it. Everybody knows what the Amazon experience looks like. Do a search, you’ve got refiners … let’s see what this actually looks like.

 

In this case, Amazon decide they’re going to have a library of shoes. What we decided is, we’re going to have a library of HR documents. A library of documents, nothing confidential, just documents, insurance plans, company handbooks, time off forms, so on and so forth. And when we check documents into that library, we tag them with the appropriate taxonomy terms. The same terms that we use to tag the documents, navigation trees, in the search process.

 

When we do a search for the term, “HR,” in that library, you can imagine we’re going to get everything on the left-hand side of the screen, just like Amazon. There’s the refiners … and I need an expense form. Instead of calling my manager, instead of calling HR, I can now find all of the documents that are relevant, open-source documents for employees.

 

The reason we always like to start with a library like this is because it’s a success story, and it’s relevant to every individual in your company. We like to break taxonomies down even further to their absolute basic levels.

 

We would suggest taxonomies are the data model for unstructured text. Now I’m going to say to everyone, there’s no such thing as unstructured text. If I put a ThreeWill brochure on the table, if I put a Wall Street Journal article on the desk, everybody’s saying to me, “Ross, two perfect examples of unstructured text, what ar you talking about?”

 

And I’d say to everybody on the call, “Every one of us can read the ThreeWill brochure, we understand it perfectly. We can all read the Wall Street Journal article. It’s not unstructured text for the human brain.”

 

So make a small modification to this first statement. Taxonomies are the data model for unstructured text that we can use in computer programs like SharePoint, to tag documents in a structure that replicates how the human brain organizes the domain of information.

 

We would suggest implicit taxonomies are how the human brain organizes information. These implicit taxonomies have been developed ever since the day we were born.

 

I have a five year old granddaughter. The first terms she knew were the terms, “wet,” and “dry.” The terms, “hungry,” me stomach is full. She didn’t put words to those concepts, but from the day she was born, she started organizing her knowledge base.

 

She’s five years old. She knows there’s a top-level term of, “food,” a narrower term, “fruit … apples, oranges, bananas … ” Narrower term to food, “Baked goods, cookies, brownies.” She’s organized that domain of information, “food,” into logical, broader, narrower, narrower, narrower terms.

 

We do the same thing with geography. Continents, countries, states, cities, districts. And we do the same thing with all the enterprise domains of information. The explicit taxonomies that WAND has developed are simply representations of how the human brain and enterprises organize information. These explicit taxonomies are used with enterprise applications like SharePoint for tagging documents, for taxonomy-driven search and libraries, and of many, many other applications for text-to-knowledge purposes.

 

We want those 2,000 people to say to themselves, “Boy, four or five minutes ago, I had no idea what the heck a taxonomy was. But I’ve been using the all my life. Been using them when I use Amazon. Heck, I’m going to the grocery store after work tonight, there’s taxonomies everywhere … meat department, dairy department, milk, cheese … different types of cheese. There’s no mystery about that word, ‘taxonomies,’ except one … why have I never used it before, to describe how information’s organized?”

 

The reason I spend time on this, four or five minutes, is because we find, within our clients, when everybody understands, it eliminated the mystery of that word, they see, “Boy, we’re going to a great search, it’s going to be just like Amazon.” It creates a tremendous amount of momentum, and it makes your jobs a lot easier to implement a great search, and to implement these types of processes within SharePoint.

 

We take every document, we’ll say [inaudible 00:28:09] your telecommunications company. If we take every document in your telecommunications company, we say, “We’re going to put al those documents, we’re going to put them into one room, just like Amazon did. They decided, ‘We’re going to put those into stacks, we’re going to put them into libraries.’ We’re going to have libraries of accounting, environmental, HR, IT, libraries of documents, every organization has, WAND provides taxonomies that address all those libraries of documents.

 

Also going to have to have libraries of documents that address the business activities of your organization. Telecommunication documents, a lot of telecommunications companies have retail store, sell retail stores. Going to have real estate documents, going to have building and construction documents, every company build and constructs assembly lines, remodels, whatever it might be.

 

In a nutshell, WAND provides taxonomies that address all of the domains of knowledge for an organization.

 

With that, we’re going to go to a demonstration of our WAND Taxonomy Library Portal. What this provides is online access to all of our WAND taxonomies, our client can browse, download the taxonomies in formats that can be directly imported into SharePoint. We provide regular updates, release new taxonomies on an ongoing basis, and the library can be licensed for a single application, or it can be licensed for any, many applications that the enterprise might have.

 

I’m assuming that everyone on this call has an understanding of where taxonomies reside within SharePoint, and that’s the taxonomy term store. We’ll go to the taxonomy library. Each one of our clients gets a username and a passcode. This particular user, Ross Leher, is licensed to download taxonomies that can be imported into these various SharePoint applications. Just for context, we format the taxonomies for about 100 different enterprise applications, BI analytics, big data, the list goes on and on and on and on.

 

We partner with many of these application providers, probably our highest-profile partner, WAND provides taxonomies that can be imported into the [inaudible 00:30:34] engine applications.

 

Taxonomies improve the performance of many, many enterprise applications, and they’re a very, very necessary ingredient. What our users are able to do is, go to the taxonomy library and browse the various taxonomy titles.

 

Because there’s so many of them, we’ve grouped them into industry verticals. We’ll take financial banking organization, investment bank organization … we’ll say to them, “This is a list of all of the domains of knowledge within your organization. You’re going to have real estate documents, libraries of procurement documents, libraries of finance and investment banking documents, customer service … every organization provides health insurance, life insurance have to have casualty insurance, accounting documents, libraries or facilities management.”

 

These represent all of the libraries, all the domains of knowledge. And always start with IT for the demonstration. I’ll explain to you why in a moment.

 

User is able to click into any one of the taxonomy titles and explore the various taxonomy trees. Numbers of terms in a taxonomy hierarchy on the right hand side, in parentheses.

 

We’ll drill down on IT administration. Many of our clients are using the second and the third-level terms as a basis for setting up libraries. I want to set up a library for all of my IT policies, make sure we’ve got them all. When we set that library up, these are the terms that we’ll be able to tag documents with, when they’re checked in. And just like that HR search we were looking at, these are the terms that will be used as the refiners on the search process in SharePoint.

 

Some of our clients will come back and say, “Ross, we didn’t have a smartphone policy, we didn’t have some of the access control policies,” soon and so forth. We began to checklist, because in a lot of cases, they had a lot of these policies, but they were in this file share, they were over here, they were someplace else, or they hadn’t formalized them, or they hadn’t updated them. So a great byproduct, it became a wonderful checklist to make sure that they did have everything.

 

The reason I always start with IT, I make the argument, and every day when you read the newspapers, IT security, most important taxonomy for any organization. We don’t have documents, we don’t have workflows … if we don’t have expertise within the organization that we can tag with these terms, we may want to take a second look at our IT security policies.

 

What the user is able to do is explore the various taxonomy titles. We can then highlight at any level, and whatever we highlight, we can click on Download. Or, if I want to take all of IT administration at one time, I highlight that, click on Download … select the application into which it’s going to be imported. I confirm it.

 

Starting to add multiple languages select our language. Click on Continue To Download, and what’s taking place now, IT administration is being formatted for SharePoint. It takes three or four minutes for the formatting to take place. The user can continue browsing, or we can go to our delivery page.

 

We formatted this just yesterday, IT administration formatted for SharePoint. We can download the file directly to our desktop, and then proceed to import that term set directly into the taxonomy term store in SharePoint, and proceed to use it in our SharePoint implementation.

 

You kind of want to think about, the taxonomy portal represents like a grocery store. Everything’s there, you can pick and choose what you need, and if you want to think about … go back to that Amazon analogy, each one of these represents … shoes, computers and this and that, all the different domains of knowledge, and I may want to have a library for … just like we look at, employee benefits, and the library for company policies.

 

This is kind of our menu. What libraries do we want to set up? I want to set up an IT policy library, I want to set up a library for all of our IT infrastructure, all of the different components within that infrastructure, the documents, so on and so forth.

 

Danny:Ross, quick question as we’re looking at this. From your experience, is there a specific executive inside of larger companies that owns the overall taxonomy of the company? I know there’s certain departments, like an HR department where they can sort of define their own. Who’s the person responsible, overall in these large organizations, who’s responsible for defining the taxonomy? Is there typically an executive?

 

Ross:It’s not a matter of defining the taxonomy per se, but it’s a matter of realizing, recognizing, we have intellectual assets. We have knowledge within the organization. I don’t think it’s the IT department. What we’re seeing more and more, there’s an increasing … frankly, increasing sales, because there’s a recognition of, Chief Information Officer, we’re seeing new officers, Chief Knowledge Officers, Chief Innovation Officers … and they look at the requirement and say, “We’ve got all this information, and no one can find it.” It’s crazy.

 

Danny:And then they would work with the different departments, or they would work with their industry specialist to go out and define these taxonomies.

 

Ross:That’s it. What we’re seeing is … and we call these, “foundation taxonomies,” our clients tell us, it gets the 85%, 90% of the way there. Our client are telling us, it literally saves them months and month and months and months. They’re able to customize the HR taxonomy list in a day. Our clients tell us, “It gets us 85%, 90% of the way there.” Some of our clients tell us, “It’s got us 140% of the way there,” because there’s terms and phrases they would have never thought about, had they built it from scratch.

 

This is the key point: people are expert at what they do, not experts in taxonomy building, editing … the pre-built taxonomies provides an easy, contextual reference.

 

Danny:It’s almost like when you hear, “I know it when I’ll see it.” Like you have to see it first. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s commonly. From a consulting standpoint, “Never show up with a blank slate.” Show up with something that you can at last work with, and take apart and build up. This provides that to you.

 

Ross:I’m going to do, cause we’re in the finance area, “I need a taxonomy for risk.” Huh. Risk. Risk can have many, many meanings. The search result on the left-hand side of the screen, the terms and phrases. On the right-hand side of the screen, the taxonomy they’re located in, from a contextual point of view.

 

I don’t care about insurance, I can are about credit risk in context of banking. I click on that term, and it takes me directly to that term, “credit risk,” in the banking taxonomy.

 

Some probably need to have a library for risk management processes. And a library for internal process, and so on and so forth. A library for the various bank regulations, so we don’t have to go searching for them, so on and so forth. A library for the different bank products.

 

Remember, we can tag a document with more than one taxonomy term. We can have a mortgage product, and a brochure about that mortgage product.

 

I’m going to show you one other search. This is an example or a multi-faceted search. What we’ve one here is, we’ve indexed a number of SharePoint conferences. When we were looking at the HR library, we just had one refiner. Now, when we tagged the documents that went into this library, we tagged them with the type of document, the conference locations, and the event.

 

And now I want to find document, conferences in Chicago. I don’t care about SharePoint Fest, I care about Microsoft Ignite. And I don’t care about sponsor schedules, I need to get my registration form.

 

So if we think about this we have a mortgage product … and we have different types of mortgage products, credit cards, so on and so forth. We may want to tag the various products that we have, and because we’ve got a great sales and marketing team, but they can’t find stuff … when we check that document in, it’s about a mortgage, and the document could be a case study, it could be a data sheet, it could be a sales brochure, it could be a testimonial.

 

When a salesperson is looking, “I’m trying to sell this product to my client … ” Well, here’s the product, here’s all the documents for the product, and here’s the lead-behinds, and here’s the product data sheets, and so on and so forth. It could be the price list, the price list exist in here, so on and so forth.

 

And the marketing people … I’m focused on marketing mortgages in the Georgia area. I probably want to be able to find my research, demand forecasting. Or maybe I’ve got the international, I want to see demand forecasting for the UK marketing, so on and so forth.

 

You want to think about, “How do I organize information?” At the grocery store, how do they organize stuff? They’ve got meat in one area …

 

Think about your house. You’ve got a kitchen. We’ve got different things in the kitchen. We’ve got a place where we put our spices. We’ve got a place in SharePoint where we put our sales collateral documents. It’s the same kind of a concept.

 

It’s not difficult because we do it every day. We just have not thought about it, in these types of a context.

 

Danny:What if your house is not that organized? You see how you could benefit from it.

 

Ross:This is where you have to start. You’ve got to recognize … and I say this to people, if you’ve been living in your house for 20 years … and this is a great time for a migration strategy, and you’re moving. When you move from House A to House B, you make an evaluation on House A, “What don’t I want to move? What have I not used?” And then, “Where do I want to put it in House B?”

 

I want to be very straightforward. WAND is a company, we provide great taxonomies. But experts like ThreeWill, they provide the How. Our clients, they want to have great search? Why? “Because we’re wasting a lot of time, a lot of frustration.” But every environment is different, every organization is different.

 

I don’t know how many engagements, hundreds if not thousands of engagements ThreeWill has been involved in, they’ve done it a bunch of times. Hundreds of times, so this is the expertise, and this is how we integrate with folks like Danny and his team.

 

Danny:A couple of other things Ross. You just mentioned migrations, and that’s probably a good time … when I think about organizing. We’ve been doing the latest, everybody’s moving typically to SharePoint Online, so I think that’s a great time for you to … a lot of customers want to do cleanup at that time, probably reorganizing, and it’s probably really a good time for you to introduce that taxonomy to the company.

 

Ross:Absolutely. At the end of the day, we want to be able to find stuff.

 

Danny:The other thing is, I noticed … if you go back to that search page that you were on, is that Microsoft is starting to, based upon things like the document type and the author and created date, they’re trying to implicitly start to create some facets for you. If you look at the bottom of it, it’s almost like there’s certain things that Microsoft can do like the author and modified date. I think this is something relatively new to SharePoint Online.

 

There’s been some things that have been around for a while, but there are some new stuff. I find this incredibly helpful, to have that modified date, ’cause I’m looking for a document I know I worked on last week, and it’s not even fining things that other people have created, it’s my own stuff. It’s a huge help.

 

Ross:I think what you want to think about, when we think about metadata or taxonomy is, we could call this, “administrative metadata.” It tells us that it is an Excel document, it tells us who the author is, and it tells us when it was modified. But it doesn’t tell us what the document is about. This is what we would call, “descriptive metadata.”

 

When we go back to our slide on the shoes, this is the descriptive metadata. It tells us the size, the color. It tells us what’s in that box of shoes. This is telling us, what’s in that Excel document that Danny authored on June 26th. This describes what it is. Or if it’s a specification sheet on XYZ computer that I’m a salesman for. So this is the descriptive metadata versus the so-called administrative metadata.

 

Danny:And that administrative data, although helpful, it’s definitely helpful in that, along with sort of a free-text search is helpful … it just doesn’t get people to where they really need to be. It’s like one of those things, if you don’t take that last step, the experience is just … commonly what we’re running into, which is, there’s and time spent towards this, and they’re trying to use that administrative metadata, and they’re trying to use what’s inside the content of the document, but it just doesn’t get them to a place where they can easily find things.

 

Ross:Another aspect of search … and the guys at ThreeWill, they know I’m not a SharePoint specialist. That’s the first thing I tell people. But in the term store, we call these foundation taxonomies, and in your company, you may have a special location, Georgia, rule and regulations. So you can add terms, you can delete terms, so on and so forth.

 

Another important point is … we may think of the concept, “leave and time off.” Or, HR. I call it HR, Danny calls is Human Resources, Bo calls is Personnel. So, within SharePoint, we can add synonyms. Retirement plans, whatever the synonyms …

 

Danny:A real word, for reference, is we would call it, “People.” We sort of call our HR, “People.”

 

Ross:There you go. But this is where the customizations, the adding of additional terms, adding vocabulary that’s used within the organization. Call it Information Technology, call it IT, so on and so forth. You simply add synonyms.

 

Bo:Ross and Danny, I wanted to jump in on, when you guys were talking about the administrative taxonomy versus the descriptive taxonomy. Another thing that it made me think, where we help a lot is, taking WAND’s taxonomy and, like Ross said, you apply it to a company, and every company is different in terms of what they call stuff. But they’re also different in terms of their people and their people’s willingness to tag things with the descriptive metadata part.

 

Administrative metadata, I also, internally, call it the, “free metadata,” the stuff that it doesn’t require a used to anything other than upload it. One of those areas when I was talking earlier is, simply by virtue of where you put something, that could give you the ability for more free metadata, i.e., if you uploaded a document to an HR document library, we might automatically tag it with some level of that HR taxonomy, versus if you had uploaded it to an IT one. So your SharePoint site-structure, document libraries and so on can enable getting some free descriptive metadata, I think is what that kind of boils down to.

 

Ross:I think that’s a great point, Bo. If we think about our houses … again, I use this metaphor, the house. I use this analogy, here’s the spice rack, and in the garage we’ve got our tools. We’ve got wrenches, screwdrivers, so on. It’s a pain to tag things, it’s a real pain when I do some work in the basement on the water heater, to get all the tools back and put them back where they belong. It’s not a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, if I don’t put those tools where they belong, if my wife doesn’t put the spices where … we can’t find them.

 

When people realize, “This isn’t that difficult, and I’m going to be able to find my stuff, I’m going to be able to find document that Bo checked in, that Danny checked in, we’re all going to be able to find … we’re going to start to eliminate this frustration.” Then, there’s a lot momentum, because it dues alleviate a lot of frustration, and it enables us to do our work a lot better.

 

Overview For a Successful Managed Metadata Project. We always tell folks, “Get a quick win.” And what we want to be able to say to our organizations, “We’re not going to have deliverable results in two to three years, not two to three months … two to three weeks is what we’re looking for.”

 

Danny:Now you’re talking.

 

Ross:And our goal is findability. We want to tag our documents. Why? So we can quickly find them in search. How do we get that started?

 

And if we go back to this financial organization, the folks do a library on banking, the banking folks are going to be interested in that. The procurement people ae going to be interested in the procurement libraries, the accounting people the accounting libraries. So there’s going to be a limited group of people interested in these various libraries … with that one exception. Every employee at the bank, from the CEO to the latest new hire, wants to quickly be able to find their policy documents, benefit documents … again, nothing confidential.

 

So, that’s the group we start with. We download the HR taxonomy, get somebody from Human Resources to help customize it, generally that takes three to four hours. You’ve got a limited number of terms there. Takes 30 minutes to configure the SharePoint taxonomy columns and libraries, search refiners. Have that same person from HR assist in the tagging of the documents. Generally, there’s 250, 300 documents of that character, three or four hours to do that, maybe a little longer.

 

Then we announce to every employee in the company, “Library’s open.” And they see that search works, and they look at this and they say, “My goodness. If search can work for this library, why can’t they do that for my sales documents?” And the IT people the IT documents, and everybody starts to project what this is going to look like in their day-to-day world, within the organization.

 

It’s not an IT project anymore, it’s not a SharePoint project. It’s a project that everybody sees, “What’s in it for me?” It generates a huge amount of enterprise momentum … and then your problem is going to be, everybody’s going to be tugging on your shirt, prioritizing additional groups for implementation. Deliverable results, two to three weeks, and now we want to replicate it enterprise-wide.

 

Nice case study, and there’s a link to this … I’ll see if I can find it here. Nielsen Norman selected the 10 best intranets every year, and Goodwill Industries International was selected as one of those. In the real world, we all know this, we want to be able to find our stuff, we want to be able to find our documents, we want to be able to find the things we have in our houses. Search, findability, findability, search … it’s part of what living is all about, and SharePoint’s a great environment for that. We think we’ve got wonderful taxonomies. The folks that organized this, ThreeWill, Danny and his team, they’ve got the expertise to show you how to get it done.

 

Danny, I’m going to turn it back to you. I think I’ve talked enough.

 

Danny:That was great Ross, thank you so much. I’m sure everybody got … it’s such a great presentation that you do, and I really wanted to share that with everyone else.

 

Just to get us wrapped up here, we’ve got about 10 minutes left before the start of the hour. I wanted to just go through some of what I sort of took away as the conclusions, when listening to Ross and to Bo, and talking with Bo about this.

 

The key component to addressing a findability or search problem is to define a common taxonomy for organizing information inside your company. We have to do that. Taxonomy enables … and I pulled this from Bo, Bo ha pointed this put before the webinar, which was, it provides powerful ways to present and find content, including not just search, it’s also navigation, it’s also automatic tagging and the document routing.

 

Coming back to the overall webinar and what we were trying to present in this webinar, which was, how do you turn SharePoint and how this Amazon-like faceted search available to you? It’s there so that your users can find a document the same way they find their next pair of new shoes.

 

As part of that defining that custom taxonomy from scratch, we’ve just found, is a really daunting task for most companies. The companies who do go after it, as Bo mentioned earlier, they might spend a couple of years doing that. So it’s really a daunting task, and from a lot of what we’ve seen, it’s just commonly not done, and all they’re using is the administrative taxonomy.

 

Starting with a pre-built taxonomy, it’s an effective way to jumpstart this process, and to get to the point where, if you’ve got 75%, 80% of the way there and you’re going there, and you’re culling and you’re adding, and you’re just making it your own, is really the route that we would recommend doing.

 

Also, one of the things that’s sort of the last point here is, taxonomies do change over time, and one of the neat things that I saw about Ross’s product is, it will also, over time, as industries update and business changes come, you can keep those taxonomies up-to-date, which is really important, because the business changes.

 

Anything else to add to that, Ross or Bo?

 

Ross:I think the updates, we have six masters of library information science taxonomists that review each of the taxonomies on a quarterly or semi-annual basis, deepening on the volatility. If we just think about, 20 years ago, the vocabulary that we were using. We weren’t talking about, “online,” we weren’t talking about, “internet.” Al the vocabulary that didn’t exist. Today, machine learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things, so on and so forth, it’s just all new technologies that we keep an eye on, and we add them to our vocabulary sets.

 

As you can tell, I’m an older guy, and you can think about … when I was going to high school, they had computer card. You think about your kids, the technology you grew up with, and then think about the technology your kids are growing up with. It’s really remarkable, the changes that take pace. Sorry for pontificating. Back to you, Danny.

 

Danny:That’s great anything else that you’d add, Bo?

 

Bo:No, the only thing I was thinking is, for those who are on the fence about pursuing a taxonomy, I would say go for it. I think the worst thing you can do is be complacent and do nothing, and somewhere down the road have hundreds or tens of thousands of documents that aren’t tagged, and then you want to do the taxonomy, it’s probably harder. The sooner you start with something, the sooner you’ll get benefits from it.

 

Danny:One of the great points … in the chat window, I shared one of the neat things that Ross and his company does is, they do make available to everyone a general business taxonomy. It’s sort of a starting place that has general business terms, and a taxonomy for that. So if you wanted to download that there, as an example, I think that’s a great place for people to start as well.

 

Ross:If I can just expand on that a bit … Microsoft announced SharePoint 2010 in 2010. We developed the genesis of this general business taxonomy, it’s also available on three blog postings on the Microsoft site. We developed it in conjunction with Microsoft, as a partner. What they wanted to do is, they wanted to provide their client base something for their clients to download to put in that empty term tore for this new feature that they just developed. We’ve actually had about 8,500 downloads over the last five, six years. Danny, that’s a great idea. That gives you a start, give you a flavor of what you can do.

 

Danny:Awesome. Any questions that folks have? And if you’ve been waiting until now, feel free to ask them now. I don’t think … what do you have, Oliver?

 

Oliver:Can it help fine-tune an existing taxonomy?

 

Danny:Ross?

 

Bo:I was going to jump in and answer. I saw the question in the window, too. I don’t know if it would necessarily help you fine-tune an existing taxonomy. I think it might show you a general taxonomy for your particular needs and user input, but I think the tuning of your taxonomy is probably going to be more closely-aligned with your specific company and needs. But I don’t know what your thoughts are, Ross.

 

Ross:What I would say is, companies that have developed taxonomies, there’s not very many of them. They generally develop them based upon file plans, the terms that they use for file plans. If we think about a file plan, a file plan is an analog way or organizing information. So, while those exiting taxonomies can be interesting, the formal curated taxonomy that’s designed for digital tagging of documents is much more effective, but you can fold the terms in as synonyms, and that can be helpful in the transition.

 

Danny:Awesome. Anything else? I think that’s it. I appreciate the question, that was great. It looks like we are getting to the end of the hour here, so again, we’ll send this deck out next week. If you want more information, feel free to follow up with myself or Ross. Here’s our websites.

 

Ross, thank you so much. It was really informative. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

 

Ross:It’s a pleasure. Thank you, and thanks to all the people that have attended, and to Bo as well.

 

Danny:Absolutely. Thanks, Bo. Thank you everybody for attending, look for an email next week, and have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Take care.

 

Ross:Have a great Fourth of July. Bye bye now.

 

Danny:Absolutely. Bye bye.

 

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Bo GeorgeFind Anything in SharePoint with Amazon-Like Faceted Search Webinar
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Topics Covered for Upcoming Podcast Interviews

Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.

Danny:Hello, and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. How’s that feel Tommy?

 

Tommy:Yeah. Here we go. Let’s do it.

 

Danny:Let’s rock this thing buddy. It’s June 29th.

 

Tommy:Okay

 

Danny:We’re reaching the end of the quarter and we wanted to talk in this podcast about, for the upcoming interviews that we have, what sort of questions do we want to go over? And where our overall theme for the podcast has been, you know, focusing in particularly on people at Three Will-

 

Tommy:Being bald.

 

Danny:Being bald, socks, those types of things. And I know in general, we play around with … What’s the word of what we do? And it keeps coming back to collaboration.

 

Tommy:Right.

 

Danny:And so I think that’s the overarching theme of the podcast, has been collaboration. What I’m excited about with the podcast is that we’re going to open it up, we’re going to interview some folks and we’re going to invite them in.

 

What I wanted to talk to you today about was some of the topics. What do we want to talk to folks about? And why are we going to talk to them about it? And just sort of what some of the goals are. I think as we branch out and give a new name and start meeting up with new folks. I’ve got a list, you know, we met up and talked through some of the things that we might want to cover as a list. And how do you like-

 

Tommy:It looks pretty fancy there!

 

Danny:I know.

 

Tommy:Holding your surface book.

 

Danny:I know, isn’t that nice?

 

Tommy:Tablet.

 

Danny:Detached

 

Tommy:Disconnected from your machine thing.

 

Danny:Call it the clipboard.

 

Tommy:The clipboard.

 

Danny:This is the clipboard. And this is OneNote. You’ve seen OneNote before.

 

Tommy:Yes.

 

Danny:Spent plenty of time in that.

 

Tommy:Way too much time.

 

Danny:So the first one, obviously I’ll get, we want to keep them to a length of 15 minutes, maybe, or so. Just something that’s edible. That’s not too long. That you can listen to between meetings.

 

Tommy:You can listen to three of these in general traffic in Atlanta.

 

Danny:Listen to four of ’em driving home. No, actually two of them, it’s not that bad. So I’ll get us kicked off. You and I will do a little intro to the person, and who they are and sort of, “Why do we have them on the podcast?” So maybe introduce them, and their title, and their company if they want to let us say what company they work for.

 

So really we’ll ask them about their role, back to, “What is it that you do? What’s your role within your organization? And how does collaboration fit into that role?” And so trying to find out from them, sort of where’s this whole theme of working with large groups of people, working together to accomplish goals.

 

Tommy:Right, because I think there’s different roles that play into collaboration in an organization. It’s not just the director of collaboration.

 

Danny:Yep.

 

Tommy:It would be good to get aspects from different points of view, that make it work.

 

Danny:Yep. It would be nice too, I think in general … We will have some clients that will come on. I also want to have some partners that we work with as well. We may go through this set of questions too. Maybe, just thinking of what folks would add some value to this conversation. And what people may have maybe a unique perspective on collaboration and working together. What works for collaboration inside your organization?

 

This will be interesting, just to see maybe the different types of companies that are out there, the different industries. You know, you have some folks you are really innovative and some industries who are a bit of a laggard. How do they deal with that when it comes to collaboration?

 

Tommy:Right, yeah. When are they ready for certain types of tools and certain types of approaches?

 

Danny:Absolutely. What’s the most difficult thing about collaboration? It would be great to hear some stories about maybe something they tried and it ended up not working. What did they learn from that? Hearing those stories, I think, those are incredibly valuable.

 

Tommy:Oh yeah, definitely.

 

Danny:To hear that sort of thing. What collaboration technologies, you and I are geeks, so every once in a while we have to talk about technology, so we might talk a little technology talk here.

 

Tommy:Of course.

 

Danny:Obviously this is more into-

 

Tommy:So when are we going to talk about process?

 

Danny:Oh geez.

 

Tommy:I don’t see that on the list!

 

Danny:We talk plenty about process on the podcast.

 

Tommy:Yes.

 

Danny:We have. We’ve lost a lot of listeners because of the talk. What technologies get the most traction within your organization? Obviously we’re working with customers and we’re very Microsoft-centric. We’ll probably end up, with some folks, geeking out a little bit about what works within Office 365 within organizations for collaboration. Like it or not, people process technology. So, you know, you’ve got the technology piece of this that I think we would like to understand from people. But, we don’t want to lose people either. We don’t want to get too much into the nuts and bolts.

 

What’s the best business advice someone has given you about collaboration or you have given? So let’s see if we can get any nuggets of wisdom from folks about collaboration. And what’s your favorite collaboration related book? And see if they’ve got one there. So maybe it’s something we can add to our list or maybe if they want to share a little bit about what they got out of that book.

 

And then just wrap up and thank you. So overarching theme for this is really is just something where you and I … Maybe from our unique backgrounds and wanting to learn more about collaboration, just having some people onto the podcast. Really I love the conversational format of things with the podcast. It would be great if some of the folks were able to come here in the office. That would be great. It would give our producer a new challenge to set it up for three people instead of two, which is always a good thing. But some of them will also be remote. We’ll setup either Skype or GoToMeeting or whatever ends up working out for us to interview folks.

 

Tommy:Yeah, it would be good to get different perspectives. I think you get, kind of, stuck in your own world of what you think is collaboration and what’s effective. It’s always good to get other people’s point of view. And you’ve done a great job at talking to people within Three Will. I think we’re ready, at this point, to start broadening that view to see what other people think about collaboration and what works.

 

Danny:Awesome. Anything else before we wrap up here?

 

Tommy:No, I think that’s it. Ready to do it! Let’s do it!

 

Danny:Alright, let’s do it. We’ll invite some people on. Look for upcoming podcasts where we have some interesting folks on. Where we can talk through the world of collaboration and look forward to learning with you guys. This will be a lot of fun.

 

Tommy:Definitely.

 

Danny:Thank you, buh-bye.

 

Tommy:Adios!

 

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Tommy RyanTopics Covered for Upcoming Podcast Interviews
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ThreeWill Named Finalist for 2017 Nintex Partner Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALPHARETTA, GA—June 28, 2017—ThreeWill announced it is a finalist in the 6th annual Nintex Partner Awards.

The 2017 awards recognize the valuable contributions channel partners like ThreeWill have made in helping organizations of all sizes, in every industry, improve the automation of business processes with Nintex technology.

“Nintex partners are instrumental to driving the rapid adoption of the Nintex Workflow platform across enterprise organizations,” said Nintex CEO John Burton. “We look forward to recognizing top Nintex partners for their workflow and content automation success during our Partner Appreciation Party on July 10 in Washington, D.C.”

“Partnerships are central to ThreeWill’s success,” said ThreeWill President Tommy Ryan. “We see Nintex as the key solution for customers looking for better workflow options in Office 365. We look forward to the party in Washington, D.C. and a great upcoming year of working with Nintex.”

Nintex will announce the winners of the 2017 Nintex Partner Awards on Thursday, July 6. The company will also celebrate the winning partners at the Nintex Partner Appreciation Party on Monday, July 10 in Washington, D.C.

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About ThreeWill

Ranked in the top five percent of Microsoft partners based on four independent surveys, ThreeWill helps teams work together better by building solutions on SharePoint using agile processes. Established in 2001 and based in Alpharetta, Ga., the company is a Microsoft Partner with Gold Application Development and Gold Collaboration & Content competencies. For more information, please visit www.threewill.com.

About Nintex

Nintex is the recognized global leader in workflow and content automation (WCA) with more than 7,000 enterprise clients and 1,700 partners in 90 countries who have built and published millions of workflow applications. With its unmatched breadth of capability and platform support delivered by unique architectural capabilities, Nintex empowers the line of business and IT departments to quickly automate hundreds of manual processes to progress on the journey to digital transformation. Nintex Workflow Cloud™, the company’s cloud platform, connects with all content repositories, systems of record, and people to consistently fuel successful business outcomes. Visit www.nintex.com to learn more.

Product or service names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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empty.authorThreeWill Named Finalist for 2017 Nintex Partner Award
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How to Assign ThreeWill as Your Office 365 Partner of Record

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

Over the last 15 years we’ve been fortunate to help hundreds of customers.  If you’re a customer of ThreeWill and you want to do us a huge favor, please assign us as your Partner of Record.  This enables us to keep our Gold Certification and to serve you better because we have more resources from Microsoft to help you on projects.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Add ThreeWill as Your Partner of Record

  1. Go to the Office Customer Portal at https://portal.office.com/adminportal/home#/homepage.
  2. Log into your account using your user name and password.
  3. In the left navigation pane, select Billing, then Subscriptions (screenshot).
  4. Select your subscription and click on More actions in the bottom right corner under the price per user/month.
  5. In the More actions drop down menu, click on Add Partner of Record. This is where you will attach their Partner of Record (screenshot)
  6. Enter 566560 for the Microsoft Partner ID.
  7. Click Check ID to verify ThreeWill and Click Add this partner to all of your subscriptions without an associated partner.
  8. Click Submit to complete assigning their Partner of Record (screenshot).
  9. After you customer assign us as your Partner of Record, we will receive an email notification that lets us know that we have been assigned as the Partner of Record.

To Change or Remove Your Partner of Record

  1. Follow steps 1 to 5 outlined above.
  2. In the More actions drop down menu, click on Edit Partner of Record.
  3. On the Partner information local pane, the Partner of Record ID assigned to the subscription will be shown. Click the “X” inside of the field to remove it.
  4. Click Submit. The Partner of Record has now been removed for this account and the subscription no longer has a Partner of Record.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a Partner of Record?

The Partner of Record for an Office 365, CRM Online, or Azure subscription is the partner who is helping the customer design, build, deploy or manage a solution that they’ve built on the service. It is not the partner who sold the subscription.

What are the benefits of specifying a Partner of Record?

Customers benefit because it provides the partner access to usage and consumption data, so they can provide better service and help customers optimize their usage for their desired business outcomes.

Who can attach a Digital Partner of Record?

The administrator role, also known as the owner, is the only role within the customer’s tenant or account that can attach a Digital Partner of Record. Service admins, co-admins, and partners designated as delegated admins do not have the ability to change the Partner of Record.

When should a Partner of Record be added to a for Office 365, CRM Online, or Azure subscription?

Microsoft recommends a Partner of Record be assigned to subscriptions right away. Partners of Record can also be assigned for Azure subscriptions in the admin portal for that service.

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Danny RyanHow to Assign ThreeWill as Your Office 365 Partner of Record
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How to Assign ThreeWill as Your Azure Partner of Record

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

Over the last 15 years we’ve been fortunate to help hundreds of customers.  If you’re a customer of ThreeWill and you want to do us a huge favor, please assign us as your Partner of Record.  This enables us to keep our Gold Certification and to serve you better because we have more resources from Microsoft to help you on projects.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Add ThreeWill as Your Partner of Record

  1. Go to the Microsoft Azure Portal at http://azure.microsoft.com/.
  2. Click on the My Account icon on the upper middle of the screen.
  3. Click on Usage and Billing.
  4. Log into your account using your user name and password.
  5. In the left navigation pane, select Subscriptions.
  6. On the Summary Subscription Page, click on Partner Information on the right navigation. This is where you will attach your Partner of Record.
  7. Enter 566560 for the Partner ID.
  8. Click Check ID to verify ThreeWill.
  9. Click Submit to complete assigning their Partner of Record.
  10. After you customer assign us as your Partner of Record, we will receive an email notification that lets us know that we have been assigned as the Partner of Record.

To Change or Remove Your Partner of Record

  1. Following the steps outlined above, log into the Microsoft Azure Portal.
  2. On the Summary Subscription Page, click on Partner Information on the right navigation.
  3. Highlight the Partner of Record field and delete the Partner of Record shown in that field.
  4. Click the check box. You have now removed the Partner of Record for this account and your subscription no longer has a Partner of Record.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a Partner of Record?

The Partner of Record for an Office 365, CRM Online, or Azure subscription is the partner who is helping the customer design, build, deploy or manage a solution that they’ve built on the service. It is not the partner who sold the subscription.

What are the benefits of specifying a Partner of Record?

Customers benefit because it provides the partner access to usage and consumption data, so they can provide better service and help customers optimize their usage for their desired business outcomes.

Who can attach a Digital Partner of Record?

The administrator role, also known as the owner, is the only role within the customer’s tenant or account that can attach a Partner of Record. Service admins, co-admins, and partners designated as delegated admins do not have the ability to change the Partner of Record.

When should a Partner of Record be added to a for Office 365, CRM Online, or Azure subscription?

Microsoft recommends a Partner of Record be assigned to subscriptions right away. Partners of Record can also be assigned for Office 365 subscriptions in the admin portal for that service.

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Danny RyanHow to Assign ThreeWill as Your Azure Partner of Record
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ThreeWill is a MetaFest Silver Sponsor at Microsoft Ignite

Danny serves as Vice President of Marketing at ThreeWill. His primary responsibilities are to make sure that we are building partnerships with the right clients and getting out the message about how we can help clients.

ThreeWill to Join with Metalogix as MetaFest and MetaHero Awards Silver Sponsor at Microsoft Ignite

Awards to Celebrate Innovative Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 Superstars

Alpharetta, Georgia – September 6, 2016 ThreeWill, a leading SharePoint partner, today announced that it will join together with Metalogix®, the premier provider of unified software to migrate, manage and secure content across enterprise collaboration platforms, to celebrate the superstars of the collaboration industry, as a Metalogix MetaFest and MetaHero Awards Silver sponsor during Microsoft Ignite.

The annual Metalogix MetaHero Awards recognizes the teams and individuals who stand as true leaders in innovative and effective Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 deployments. The MetaHero Awards winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 during Metalogix’s highly anticipated MetaFest 2016 bash, taking place at the Centennial Park District in Atlanta, GA from 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., featuring thirst-quenching beverages, lively games and a broad range of entertainers – like the Blackfoot Gypsies, The Yawpers, and Jared and the Mill (with more to be announced soon).

ThreeWill will also be an Exhibitor at the Ignite Conference (Booth #472). They will be located close o the Sweetwater Beer Garden and have a special gift for people dropping by the booth. “ThreeWill is excited to join with Metalogix at one of the industry’s premier events,” said Danny Ryan, VP Business Development and Co-Founder for ThreeWill. “It’s great that Metalogix is recognizing individuals in the community who are excelling at supporting SharePoint communities with the MetaHero Awards Ceremony.”

“We are delighted to welcome ThreeWill to our world-class roster of strategic partners joining us for MetaFest and the MetaHero Awards ceremony,” said Mike Lees, CMO, Metalogix. “Their sponsorship helps celebrate the amazing men and women working tirelessly to ensure that their collaboration environments meet today’s business requirement.”

Want to attend the hottest party at Ignite 2016? Request your MetaFest 2016 invitation here: http://www.metalogix.com/Events/ignite16/party.

Tweet this: [email protected]_Ignite News: @Metalogix welcomes ThreeWill as Silver Sponsor of MetaHero Awards – https://threewill.com/threewill-is-a-metafest-silver-sponsor-microsoft-ignite/

About Metalogix

Metalogix is the premier provider of unified management software to migrate, manage and secure content across enterprise collaboration platforms. Over 20,000 clients trust Metalogix to optimize the availability, performance, and security of their content across the collaboration lifecycle. For more information visit us at www.metalogix.com or call us at +1 202.609.9100.

About ThreeWill

We help companies craft modern digital workplaces on the Microsoft Cloud. We are ranked in the top 5% of Microsoft partners based on four independent surveys. For more information visit us at www.threewill.com or call us at +1 678.513.6930.

ThreeWill is a registered trademark of ThreeWill, LLC. Metalogix is a registered trademark of Metalogix, Inc. All other trademarks used are the property of the respective trademark owners.

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Media Contacts:

Danny Ryan
ThreeWill
[email protected]
(678) 513-6930

Sabrina Sanchez
The Ventana Group, for Metalogix
[email protected]
(925) 785-3014

Nicole Gorman
The Ventana Group, for Metalogix
[email protected]
(508) 397-0131

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Danny RyanThreeWill is a MetaFest Silver Sponsor at Microsoft Ignite