Still Using Excel Spreadsheets for Project Management?

BrightWork Collaborative Project Management Framework Overview

By Joel Oleson

Executive Overview

I have the privilege of seeing so many great projects and solutions. BrightWork Collaborative Project Management Framework and software are no exception. I first was introduced by BrightWork by Éamonn McGuinness, who has the vision of making successful project and portfolio management possible and easy for every organization. BrightWork has been providing project management solutions with SharePoint since SharePoint 2001. I learned more about BrightWork through the free downloadable Collaborative Project Management Handbook. Immediately I found some very useful insights including an open process for managing post mortems. I’ve been in some companies who fear failure and met many in those companies who would never willingly admit their mistakes. In one company we had regular post mortems whenever there were outages, but also a moment after every project where we took time to reflect on the project and talked about highlights and low lights. Let me tell you just how different the experience is when you’re on a team where collaborative project management processes are implemented. Everyone has a voice. Failure is not an ultimate risk that plagues someone never to be trusted every again. All members of the team can provide leadership through collaborative mechanisms and have their voices heard. Instead mistakes will happen, and as a result we’ll all learn from those and find growth through making changes and recognizing ways to improve and evolve through processes for collaborating on what went well and not so well. BrightWork provides a safe environment for company and individual growth through a collaborative project management framework with three guiding principles, as well as free templates for SharePoint that make doing project management straightforward, consistent, easy, and possible.

Overview of BrightWork Collaborative Project Management Framework

First let me introduce you to the framework’s “Three Guiding Principles,” 1) Collaborate to Innovate – Projects deliver the innovations groups need to progress and projects are best delivered in a collaborative fashion with the entire team. 2) Lead to Succeed – The most successful projects get real leadership from both the project manager and all of the team members. 3) Evolve to Grow – Successful collaborative project management is not a capability acquired in a day; it evolves and develops in time.

The Three Guiding Principles and Stages of the Collaborative Project Management Framework

Learn Collaborative Project Management

It’s amazing to me just how many companies are simply using Microsoft Excel for managing projects. I understand it is the most common project manage tool on the planet by far. Beyond that it’s amazing to me how unstructured nearly all companies are in their approaches to project and portfolio management. While it’s not always possible to have a clear scope of work and clearly defined roles and responsibilities at the beginning of each project, there are some simple guidelines that can be followed to ensure everyone on the team is on the same page with milestones and the approach. Without an agreed upon approach to project management, chaos ensues as deliverables are not met, timelines continuously slip, and budgets are quickly overrun. That being said, I’ve seen many companies attempt to swing the pendulum to the other side to not only add structure, but add competency to their project managers and exist perpetually in analysis paralyses where speed and agility was the desire. You can’t snap your fingers and everyone is performing project management. It requires an agreed upon approach.

The Collaborative Project Management Handbook outlines the practices, stages, and leadership needed to deliver collaborative projects successfully. Each chapter includes practical exercises and tips to help you get started.

The Framework is built on a foundation of collaboration and leadership with an emphasis on evolution at the speed of the organization.

  • Collaborate to Innovate
  • Lead to Succeed
  • Evolve to Grow

Business Value

  • Organizational alignment across projects and project managers
  • Get started quick on projects and save time over time saved on simple status reports
  • Consistent reporting through rollup of dashboards
  • Customization of templates for flexibility in adding additional tracking for less on lite and more on larger projects
  • Portfolio rollup across department alignment with corporate strategic vision and plan
  • Intuitive Insights and reports can tell at any moment where a project is in progress
  • Visibility and control including transparent point of reference across the organization
  • Start where you are and evolve
  • Take advantage of your Office 365/SharePoint investment for Project Managers
  • Templatized approach to deliver project, portfolio and work management

What people are saying… “BrightWork has given us the opportunity to maximize how efficiently and effectively we manage a vast array of projects across our geographically dispersed organization.”

The current situation across the industries is the demands on teams for producing more with less has increased. In fact, according to a recent Microsoft study, the average employee works on 2x more teams than they did 5 years ago. Essentially our ability to deliver has not gone up, but the need to deliver has. How do you keep track of what you’re getting from these teams, document, excel, maybe a task list? What dates are they due? Keeping this in a spreadsheet? How do you provide status reports? How is this tracked at a team, group, department and/or for organizational reporting? You’re starting to see what happens when hundreds of employees are trying to keep track of all these tasks on their own, in dozens or hundreds of different ways. You can also see how collaboration and transparency are so important in providing the ability to share simple reporting interfaces with technology the organization already owns.

BrightWork has focused on this area of building a framework that is easy to learn, understand, and use as a mechanism. There are templates provided both for free and enhanced reporting that you can get started with today. These SharePoint based templates for collaborative project management will run on Office 365 and all recent versions of SharePoint 2016, 2013, and 2010.

SharePoint Templates for Project and Portfolio Management

I remember a time when templates were the rage in SharePoint. Instead of creating a blank site, you’d get further with a team template that already had a number of lists ready to go. The same with the document center, set with version control, and designed with metadata search in mind. BrightWork takes the SharePoint template model and extends it past the old project template SharePoint delivers, including solving some typical SharePoint problems!

Dashboard Focused Project Templates

BrightWork provides enterprise-ready project management application that leverages your investment in Microsoft SharePoint. There are a set of best-practice templates for project, portfolio and work management that help you to focus on the right things as you learn about the things that are most important in successful projects.

  • Projects and Work Tracker
  • Never lost, easy to use navigation with simple Site Map
  • Metric Tiles preconfigured out of the box and easy to configure
  • Score Card Dashboard
  • The 3-minute Status Report
  • Project Scheduling Dashboard
  • Wizard based Project Creation
  • Project Request Manager
  • Built in Side Bar Help

A few of the key features demonstrated to me include the 3-minute status report, which is designed as a quick report that requires little time to produce and yet powerfully answers the key questions stake holders have in any status call or portfolio review. Think about that. How can it get easier than that? Boom! Answer the 3 key foundational questions and your report lights up. The tile based scorecards make reporting simple and focused on the key metrics in a project and can easily be configured to display what the stakeholders are asking for.

First imagine a lightning fast simple task of bringing in all of the status spreadsheets from each of your project managers to then simply use quick edit in a very similar excel like interface. This quickly gets the data where it can be reported on and tracked. All parties will quickly see the value.

Once the data is aggregated and reported on for each of the projects. The Project Tracker can now do its job of rolling up the data with the simple red yellow green on the most important KPIs “Is it healthy? on time? on budget?” in a simple red yellow green with a simple Gantt view. Seriously powerful.

Many companies struggle to get out of seeing SharePoint beyond a next generation file sharing platform, but these templates do an incredible job tying together the data it gathers from the projects into a robust reporting dashboard. Not only does it keep the project managers honest about their work, but also provides transparency to the stakeholders and allows resources to log their own status and provide milestones.

The range of BrightWork templates enable organizations to start fast with an amount of project management appropriate to the level of project management maturity and project complexity that exists in the organization.

The project reporting built into BrightWork gives senior executives and program managers the visibility and control they need to deliver project success across the organization and ensure happy customers.

The easy customizability of the templates enables organizations to easily evolve organizational project management to their desired level of maturity. Project and portfolio report as complex or as simple as you want to be.

The approach of BrightWork is really in the approach of start simple, and evolve as you gain experience and maturity in the process.

BrightWork Templates Spectrum: Project based Site Templates requirements of time and complexity

Portfolio Management Templates – The BrightWork templates for portfolio management give senior executives high-level visibility into the status and health of multiple projects across the organization, resource allocation and new project requests.

Project Management Templates – Site templates for SharePoint allow project managers to deliver successful projects with simple and collaborative project management templates with streamlined reporting.

Advanced Reporting Dashboards – Project and Portfolio templates provide powerful project and portfolio management reporting dashboards so you have the visibility to keep projects on track. They take the guesswork out of putting together powerful dashboards.

Smart Project Management – In the templates are several enhanced features for Smart Project Management, all designed to make project and portfolio management on SharePoint as easy as possible.

Template Management – You can customize BrightWork templates, just like a SharePoint site and can pull that changes into sites created from that template.

What are their customers saying?

“Deploying BrightWork has exceeded expectations from a consistency and accountability perspective; both the number of project requests and active projects have more than doubled since deployment and we have eliminated approximately 40% of work that was historically being done off to the side.”

– PMO Managers at Ascend Performance Materials

“BrightWork provided us with an economical, scalable solution for managing our project portfolio. We now have better standards for collecting project data and an intuitive tool that makes the work visible and accessible.”

– Senior PMO Director at GroupHealth

“Using the BrightWork templates, we now have a much better understanding of all projects underway, as well as a system to review and manage new project requests. We have greater visibility into what is on track and what is falling behind.”

– Head of SharePoint Team at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics

The list of customers go on, but AmSurg used the BrightWork Collaborative Project Management Framework to standardize their processes with the SharePoint templates.

The key things many customers are doing is looking to standardize project management with templates, leveraging SharePoint to manage processes, organization wide portfolio management, establishing a framework for reporting.


Very happy with what I found from BrightWork. Incredibly helpful team with a simple way to get started. I recommend a project manager struggling on a team read the Collaborative Project Management Handbook. It’s helpful not only for project managers, but also team members that are trying to collaborate. I found it helpful for having a common vernacular to collaborate with the team. The book is free and the tips are perfect for a team that hasn’t adopted a structured project management methodology or framework. Even an agile team needs a tool to share their status, reporting, and project based portfolio rollups. Personally I think there’s a lot of reasons to look at these templates and read the about the framework. Who couldn’t use better collaboration? Who couldn’t use better reporting and transparency. I highly recommend you check out the links for getting started.

Getting Started with Collaborative Project Management Framework

Looking for more? There are a few resources that will help you get started.

Upgrade SharePoint 2016

Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to SharePoint 2016 Infographic

“The most reliable, scalable, secure and high-performing SharePoint Server release ever”

The Future of SharePoint got everyone’s heads spinning, but I’ve seen tons of new energy in the community. Companies everywhere are looking for ways to help justify upgrade or migration to the new platform that is poised to be the platform that nails it. (At least it may be time to give it another shot, right?) Microsoft calls SharePoint 2016 release “the most reliable, scalable, secure and high-performing SharePoint Server release ever”

Is that enough?  There’s more. I think many businesses want the details in an easy to consume easy to share format that makes it easy for management to make a clear decision on a winning platform designed for the future. Following the Future of SharePoint event, I gathered my list of reasons to upgrade and updated it with a few of the new additional reasons to upgrade and I think we have something that is worth sharing.

You have unlimited permission to share this with infographic with your management, share it on your blog, share it in your social media circles. We want to get the community up on SharePoint 2016 and I think this list of reasons will help!

You can download the Infographic as a sharable PDF document or as a PNG image.

Download, Share and View

branding office 365

5 Ways of Branding Office 365 without Modifying the Master Page

We’ve been schooled on customizing our Office 365 sites too much and I’ve seen it clarified a couple of times recently that you should avoid modifying your Master Page. So what can you do? Here are 5 ways you can build brand and look and feel without modifying the master page.

We’re going to start with position that you shouldn’t modify the master page. I know the recommendation that frustrates many, but over the last 3 years I’ve learned to appreciate this guidance in Office 365. For SharePoint on premises, I take this a very different way for Intranets, Portals, and CMS. There are a lot of resources for developers and designers at the Office 365 Patterns and Practices site on

“Use SharePoint as an out-of-box application whenever possible – We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it which could add complexity, performance and upgradeability and to focus your energy on working with users and groups to understand how to use SharePoint to improve productivity and collaboration and identifying and promoting best practices in your organization.”

Starting from 1 easiest to 5 hardest (requires dev skills)

1) Office 365 (Personal and Tenant Wide) Themes – You should start here.

Office 365 themes

Believe me when I say that the themes are a good attempt, but don’t go far enough? You can see here we are on the new Office 365 compliance center part of Despite the fact I’ve chosen nice robot theme, the blue left nav is persistent despite the choice, and the green banner doesn’t seem to want to fit either theme. This page should be excused since it’s admin UI, but I have seen big UI/UX inconsistencies simply navigating from mail (responsive collapsible frame like mobile messaging) to SharePoint (pinch and zoom or limited mobile UI) to Delve (responsive and card based). There are a few battles for consistency. The announcement of the updated document libraries brings consistency across documents from OneDrive for Business to SharePoint 2016 to Office 365 document libraries. This is a good start.

That being said I do recommend investing in corporate Office 365 themes. This will nearly guarantee a branded experience. For some reason I still inconsistently see my custom theme being applied, but am anxious for Microsoft to address bugs preventing my corporate experience from flowing across my apps and add-ins.

Customize the Office 365 theme for your organization

After you’ve created your theme

  • Custom logo optionally clickable: Select the image and upload your own JPG, PNG, or GIF with a resolution of 200 x 50 pixels, no larger than 10 KB. This appears in the top navigation bar on every page.
  • Top Nav Background image: Your own JPG, PNG, or GIF, no larger than 15 KB. The background image appears in the top navigation bar on every page.
  • Prevent users from overriding theme: Option to enforce theming at the user level so that everyone in the organization sees the theme you create. The exception to this is a high contrast theme used for accessibility purposes.
  • Accent color: Select a color to use for the app launcher icon, mouse over color, and other accents.
  • Nav bar background color: Select a color to use for the background of the navigation bar. Appears at the top on every page.
  • Text and icons: Color to use for the text and icons in the top navigation bar.
  • App menu icon: Color to use for the app launcher icon

You’ll see your new theme on the Office 365 admin center right away and after a short delay, you’ll see it throughout Office 365 including Outlook and SharePoint pages. You can remove your custom icon or custom colors at any time. Just return to the theme page and choose Remove custom theming or Remove custom colors.

IMPORTANT: In addition to customizing your theme, you can add custom tiles to the My Apps page and then add them to the app launcher or add them to the navigation bar.

Office 365 Branding goes beyond SharePoint

When considering any a custom UI for SharePoint, always consider other services such as One Drive, User Profiles, and Delve. Any CSS, JS, or master-page customization applied to SharePoint as these will not automatically propagate across these other workloads. The only shared tool at this point is the top suite bar. Fortunately, this for the most part is customized by using Office 365 themes. Themes are limited, but this is where you should start. Outlook does have some personal theming, but shouldn’t need much branding anyway. For email you could use add-ins, and recommend company signatures for consistency.

2) Office 365 site options: SharePoint Site Look and Feel branding “Change the Look”

Another good place to start with changing the look of your site while clearly staying way within boundaries is with the Look and Feel section of site settings.

Add a site title, pick a logo, add simple base colors. I would avoid doing too much here or your site will look like it came from FrontPage 98. The out of the box theming engine of composed looks are actually quite ugly in my opinion, but the ability to customize these is in the SharePoint UI and very easy to do. Site themes and composed looks are well covered on the web. The “Change the look option” site theme has skins and additional colors. Changing the navigation is simple and this also is benign and expected. If you want to explore more of what’s available right in the SharePoint UI visit Ben’s Sharegate blog on using the Color palate tool.

3) Provisioning template in PnP Partner Pack for responsive UI for Office 365 SharePoint Online

Alternative CSS is much more lightweight, but still will require testing and maintenance. Join the Office Dev PnP community where you can share code and best practices. First, use alternative CSS instead of adding references to files on your master pages. You can test in our browser by changing the browser size, but ultimately need to test. A good practice is having a couple of tenants… one in early adopter with a handful of test users and the other in the normal adoption rate.

4) Office UI Fabric

Office UI Fabric is a responsive, mobile-first, front-end framework for developers, designed to make it simple to quickly create web experiences using the Office Design Language. The framework is used internally on products within Office 365—such as our suite branding,,, Delve and the Video Portal. With Office UI Fabric you can apply simple CSS styles to make your web applications look and feel like the rest of Office. The styling takes into account typography, color, icons, animations, responsive grid layouts and localization.


GitHub Office UI Fabric

5) Use JavaScript Injection to embed custom scripts and/or third-party libraries into your sites

“You can use the Office 365 JavaScript UI controls to add an Office 365-style navigation bar to your app and also let users access data about people in Azure Active Directory (AAD). These JavaScript UI controls do not require server-side code, and can be integrated into a single-page application (SPA) with just a few lines of code.”

The Office 365 JavaScript UI controls are supported by the following web browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 10+
  • Chrome 43+
  • Firefox 39+

    Consider r
    emote provisioning pattern for ‘deploying’ components to your SharePoint sites (fields, content types, lists, pages or files)

Any Exceptions?

Did I mention changing the master page? In on premises SharePoint that’s been the practice, for Office 365 as a best practice and for long term supportability… No you should avoid it. It will break inheritance and force you to maintain it through updates. Still feel like you need to do it? There are exceptions, but with Javascript injection there are more flexible ways of changing what you need to.

Should you never ever customize the master page? I do think there are exceptions. Those that are building a CMS, publishing based Intranet are a good example of that. You can control the total look and feel of a site with the master page and publishing features.

Is that enough? Just because Microsoft says don’t customize or don’t really change the master page, won’t stop you from doing it if you want to. So, if you are making master page changes, it’s up to you to stay up to date with the ongoing product updates applied to SharePoint Online. Luckily, you can preview new changes within your tenant by going to the SharePoint Online admin center and enabling preview features. In addition you can create a dev tenant and put it on the early adopter to opt into quicker updates. This is great for a dev or test environment to first experience what may happen first so you can plan to deal with it. You can have as many site collections on either tenant to support QA and UAT. The preview features is also nice so you can slowly ease into the changes and be notified in the UI of changes and flip back if needed.

What about my sites or delve profiles? There are some options. Sonja covers the history and options of Office 365 branding of my sites.

Personally I expect the Delve background photo to be customizable in the near future. I hope to see more company branding options out of the box here as well.

Have other resources and Ideas?  Share them in the comments!

UPDATE: The new Modern Team sites and Communication sites in Office 365 are now responsive by default and the new Hub Sites have been announced to include Themes and look and feel that are inherited across the child based sites associated. This means design will be more fluid and easy to do in the future.  In addition SharePoint 2019 appears set to include much of this modern design work in Office 365.  More info to come!!


Lanteria HR Management Solutions on SharePoint and Office 365

Overview of Lanteria SharePoint Products for SharePoint

Every organization has a human resources department. Every company struggles with determining which software to use for acquiring, strengthening, and managing those valuable resources. From recruiting to learning management needs to core HR documents and forms around onboarding and succession planning, each one of these areas could be a different system for your Human Resource Management System (HRMS) needs. It’s not a challenge to realize that human resources is key to an organization; employees are the center of the organization and, in most cases, the most valuable assets. In this agile world we live in, it has become increasingly difficult to keep up with variety of different HR platforms including learning management systems (LMS), Recruiting, Performance Management, Employee Onboarding, Employee Portals, and so on… Many departments continue to keep their business policies, and teams manage their documents and resources in SharePoint sites. Many even keep key employee data in special HR sites. In the buy verses build choice we all face when considering any product, this solution comes a long way in providing common business processes that companies need for managing their HRMS, which can simplify the decision of a growing business. In this Product Overview you’ll see a variety of different modules and see a small piece of this large HR investment from Lanteria. If this is an area you are in need, I recommend spending time on their website and seeing a demo for yourself.

I recently spent time with the Lanteria team and was impressed by their great progress. I had a chance to review their solution a couple of years ago. It has come a long way with many new modules including reporting, finance, budgeting, training, and more.

One thing that is clear is the focus on the various roles needed for effective HR solutions. Effective interfaces for the employee, the manager(s), and the HR teams all providing insights that can provide for happy employees, more effective managers, and the reports the HR team needs to succeed in making the right choices at every step of the way, from recruiting to onboarding to learning and performance management to final succession planning.

Lanteria HR is a SharePoint based HR and Talent Management solution, which facilitates and automates a company’s entire HR management cycle. The modules organize centralized storage of all HR information, including training, performance, leave and so on for each employee and organization as a whole. The solution provides both employee self-service as well as comprehensive HR Management and reporting in one place.

Human Resources

Lanteria HR management system provides 7 modules for operating different HR processes:

  • Core HR
  • Time and Attendance
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Recruiting and Applicant tracking
  • Performance
  • Learning management
  • Talent and succession


  • Lanteria Budgeting

Some thoughts on Lanteria’s Approach

The Lanteria approach of “why not take advantage of your platform investment” is a breath of fresh air for many who have both become familiar with SharePoint capabilities. Adoption by the business of SharePoint continue to be a challenge, for others it’s integrating existing business process with the popular collaboration platform. When you’re using dozens of tools to get your work done, it’s a challenge to gain the necessary insights and analysis that is possible in simple out of the box reporting.

Figure 1: HR Performance Dashboard

Employee Tools

The Learning Management Catalog provides employee assessment in a company by planning and delivering targeted training programs. Adding your own videos, trainings, and documents is simple. Light weight workflows capture the essentials to see employee progress and capture feedback.

Figure 2: Lanteria Learning Management Solution – Learning Catalog

Core HR includes org charts to simplify employee lookup and employee information with only a few clicks. Both management and HR can see additional information that assists in the management of the entire company’s hierarchal structure, and allows one to define the relationships between the various departments, teams, employees, and their leaders within the organization.

Figure 3: Lanteria Core HR Org Chart – Employee Chart

Figure 4: Lanteria Core HR – Employee Details

Time and Attendance

The Time and Attendance module provides you with the proper tools that help set up the time available for employees, including holidays, sick time and vacation time. It also includes company’s absence policies, tracks employee leave records, and can include details such as time spent on various projects and activities.

Figure 5: Lanteria Time and Attendance – My Absenses

HR Management Solutions Examples

Performance Management

The Performance module streamlines the management of employee performance and appraisal processes, making it quicker and easier to track, quantify, and rate productivity for each employee.

Figure 6: Lanteria HR Performance – Performance Review Form

Goal Management

Employees and managers add goals and track progress providing transparency that makes review time much more effective and time well spent focused on the goals of the team and of the company. Reporting and analysis in this module, as well as many others, is rolled up for HR as you’ll see in the dashboards.

Figure 7: Performance: Goal Management DashboardFigure 8: Lanteria HR: Compensation Dashboard


The Recruiting module is an HR software that unifies and automates the entire recruitment process to ensure that you get the right people onboard. With Vacancy Tracker as part of the Recruiting module, managers can provide needs, and HR can more effectively staff and work with managers to find the resources with transparency with simple dates, roles, locations, and organizational information. This streamlines the hiring process.

Figure 9: Lanteria HR Recruiting: Staffing Vacancies

Once interviewed, all data can be collected in a single place for the most effective decision making and review cycle.

Figure 10: Lanteria HR Recruiting: Applicant Tracking

Supported Platforms:

The solution is available on SharePoint 2010-2013 as an install on your on premises farm as a solution with support for SharePoint 2016 coming soon. It also is available as a hosted SAAS solution and integration with Office 365.

No additional hardware is required. Licensing of Lanteria is based on the number of employees and the modules you are interested in purchasing.

Demo’s and free trials are available, as well as many more videos and screenshots on the Lanteria website.


Lanteria has done an effective job of focusing on three distinct audiences, the core HR function, the employee and the manager. This audience-based approach to usability including work streams, business processing, and reporting has really made the solution come together. Realistically I do see it as a great example of a solution. In the real world many will find they already have X Y or Z that’s part of this solution. Maybe you already have something for budgets, or something for performance management or LMS. The flexibility here of choosing the modules you need definitely makes that a better sale, but also in the extensibility and integration of what you get. The solution is designed to be the core solution or can be integrated with other information stores. As a modular solution where you can add what you need and only pay for what solutions you’re interested in, it provides purposeful solutions. The purpose is simply to work together as a solid team, increase performance and efficiency and achieve company goals.

I once worked at a company where employee profiles where in PeopleSoft and employee performance data and salary and compensation was in Oracle, but the users and HR documents and processes were in SharePoint. Having gone down the build vs. buy road on this one, we already had a lot of the platform decisions already made, but hand coding a single module from forms, workflows to lists and database integration in SharePoint was extremely timely and expensive and to say the least, the maintenance, upgrade and upkeep will plague them for many years. While it was great to show the solution as fully in SharePoint with backend Oracle and PeopleSoft integration, the resources we could have saved by using an off the shelf solution like Lanteria HR could have saved us a ton of time and money.

Managing employees can be one of the biggest tasks of a company, since they represent it and if they aren’t happy, clients will know it. Through an HRMS, the Human Resources department has a better view of the current heartbeat in the company, as well as being able to better connect with and reach out to employees with their needs over time, or as they evolve through their position in the company.

Interested in more?

Watch the overview of Lanteria video on demand or request a demo or trial

And visit their website at for the latest information on Lanteria HR.

This product overview was written by Joel Oleson for the benefit of both Lanteria and the SharePoint and Office 365 community to provide awareness and further information on products and solutions that help with adoption of Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies. Joel Oleson is a top SharePoint and Office365 influencer that enjoys seeing solutions that address technical product gaps and further address business problems and promote business productivity.

SharePoint 2016 Officially Launches – Plus A Few Thoughts

So great to see another SharePoint milestone as SharePoint Server 2016 reaches the release milestone. Read more on the Official SharePoint and OneDrive blog at SharePoint 2016 RTM and the future of SharePoint event. (Be sure to mark your calendars. It is important announcements. Really!) While it will be a while before we see a lot of SharePoint 2016 in production, I think there’s a lot of reason to celebrate. First this is the first release where the software is based on SharePoint online. That’s a big deal. It’s comforting to know that with this release coming from SharePoint Online, it will be easier to keep in sync with the cloud and have further consistencies and easier to build apps between the two. There’s a lot to be said about that from a dev and IT perspective. I do think there are a few distinct messages to the main audience of the product as you approach SharePoint.


The 2016 launch is a message of API consistency and another push out of SharePoint development as the core mechanism of building apps and solutions. While you own the servers in on prem and can essentially build whatever you want against it. You’ll find Microsoft more and more saying stay out of adding things directly into the SharePoint Server. SharePoint developers shouldn’t be developing in SharePoint, they should be developing in .NET, C#, and Java and so on. Use your language of choice in an app of your choice that’s in Azure that consumes SharePoint APIs. Use Javascript and other client side objects to build apps and interfaces. Wide variety of APIs that can be consumed from the cloud or on prem, but we should be feeling the pinch on SharePoint development as less about building features and server solutions in SharePoint.

IT Professionals

Stability, availability, reliability, performance. Sure there’s a lot of infrastructure changes in the profile, min roles, compliance, reporting, analytics, hybrid, and so on, but nearly 80% of the backend is about hybrid and integration with Office 365. Most of the changes should streamline your role. You’re now running your own private cloud. Once configured a SharePoint 2016 farm should be more rock solid than ever… Disaster recovery, and business continuance planning and governance, then start your upgrade. Post upgrade, an administrator should find ways of adding value by digging into the services stack. Dig into mobility, search, identity, Azure, and powershell scripting. Your farm should be deployable via a script and replacing any given server should be elastic… fluid.

Business Users

There should be less to complain about. It should feel more and more intuitive with less to complain about. Drag and drop should just work. Sync should just work (still getting there). The multi and mixed file upload experience should be much improved with much improved performance and handling. Cross site navigation, cross The UI for working with lists should work better. Mobile is somewhat better (still not where it should be, definitely add the Responsive UI pack, but you don’t have to wait long for even more improvements), and integration with the mobile apps is more intuitive and easy. For the most part the average user won’t even notice the servers have been upgraded. They will simply start to have improved navigation and integration with cloud services. Hybrid will start to light up for things as they are or if they are configured. Shouldn’t require much training at all. A good 30 minute video could introduce your users to the new features and get them excited.


Catch up on the new features and announcements:

Reviewer’s Guide for SharePoint 2016

Download SharePoint 2016 then get language packs

TechNet Details for SharePoint 2016 including planning, installing and exploring the features and deprecated features

Top 10 Features for Business Users in SharePoint 2016

More links and resources on the SharePoint blog

SharePoint Releases 2016 bits – Redmond Magazine

Microsoft Announces SharePoint 2016 Release to Manufacturing – eWeek

SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 Predictions!

One year later and it’s time to review past predictions and set out the new ones. It was exactly 1 year ago that I wrote up my predictions for 2015. I’ll let you determine how I did, but I wrote up some of my thoughts. I’m not looking at those as I write my new predictions.


10 Predictions for SharePoint in 2016

Office 365 Maturity

SharePoint will be seen as the lynchpin in an Office 365 deployment. Microsoft will consider Office 365 tenant not fully utlized until SharePoint is in real use.

Mobile will become more important in SharePoint world

Mobile in 2016 is really important. We’ll hear fabulous announcements and will finally start to see mobile as one of the major deployment considerations in SharePoint deployment. We’ll also look at things very different from how we do today after Jeff Teper’s vision gets realized. (Something he mentioned at the European SharePoint Conference)

SharePoint 2016 will launch to simple MS fanfare

SharePoint 2016 launch will go off with surprising not much fanfare. The community will celebrate it more than Microsoft. Sad to say this as a prediction. I do believe release 1 following SharePoint 2016 will be the more exciting thing. The real news of this launch is SharePoint 2016 is the first child of the cloud.


Ignite will be the big SharePoint moment when the thing that follows SharePoint 2016 gets revealed and the community goes wild. We’ll also use this event as a community revival that will get all of us re-engaged and super pumped up.

SharePoint gets cool again

This will happen at various events throughout the world as people say this feels like it used to. Some will say it’s been hard these past couple of years, but see a brighter future.

SharePoint for the Long Haul

Customers will start to understand it is ok to have Office 365 sites and internal deployments with simple integration we call hybrid. Long term strategies will start to come out that really make sense. This next wave will start to bring clarity to people as they say, it’s still got some confusion, but I see a long term strategy now.


Groups will be lauded as the next big thing, but most customers won’t get it this first time around. There will be campaigns by Microsoft to help people understand the value and adopt it, but adoption will be much lower than expected. Some people in our community will go crazy about groups and say it can eliminate your yammer and SharePoint team sites.


Sway will be confusing for the business for this next year, but the some consumers will go crazy for it. As gets legs and people realize this new set of services it will see some real advocates in the cloud community. It will fly under the radar for most of the year because Microsoft won’t give it enough Marketing dollars.

Business Critical

Office 365 will see an outage that isn’t their fault and this will get people screaming that Office 365 is business critical and Microsoft will take even more drastic measures to ensure they control things end to end.


The OneDrive team will push OneDrive as the killer app. It will be so seemless between home and work that businesses will be afraid of it. Some integration by the OneDrive team to other applications that are similar will really surprise us. OneDrive will be seen as the gateway drug for Office 365 to introduce SharePoint in the cloud.



Please refer to the 2015 post to see the comparison to 2014. Below are the original comments followed by my commentary.

“1. 2015-2016 is the year of Hybrid – The word hybrid will become ubiquitous with things that customers need to make Office 365 work.  More and more solutions will be built to integrate, manage, report, and bring governance, search, and unity across these environments.  Even things like OneDrive as the OneDrive for consumers and business will become known as a hybrid solution even though they are both cloud solutions.

2015-2016 is the year of Hybrid – Hybrid has been embraced by Microsoft and many of the adopters of Office 365. AzureAD is a huge example of a successful solution that’s purely designed for hybrid. The other thing we see released in 2015 was the Hybrid Cloud Crawler for SharePoint. I think while Hybrid was big for 2015, it will continue to be seriously important for 2016. The early push for hybrid came across as a temporary solution, now positioning is long term hybrid solutions with no end in sight. SharePoint had many 2016 hybrid announcements beyond even Identity and Search, including Delve and Office Graph, and a bunch of things in SharePoint 2016 like OneDrive, Sites, reporting and auditing, compliance center and mobile device management with InTune. 2016 will see many of these releases and many more announcements. We’re definitely not done with hybrid and my estimation last year was that it would continue into 2016. Today you’ll see me suggest it isn’t even close to being done. 2017-2018 and beyond we’ll still be talking about Hybrid.

“2. Fewer Paid but More Important SharePoint Conferences – Microsoft Build and Ignite are going to be a huge success.  The biggest party of the year!  I know this isn’t a stretch, but I think it’s important we all do our part to make this prediction come true. I want this to be a big reunion for all my SharePoint friends, so we can celebrate the new SharePoint vNext.  SharePoint Saturday will get rebranded or at least include Office 365 and Azure tracks in many markets.  Microsoft will continue with Office 365 conferences to try to unite communities.”

Not sure how noticeable it is to you, but I have seen a number of conferences have their last events. SharePoint Summit closed its doors last year. I haven’t seen an announcement for SharePoint Evolution which has been a regular event. We also didn’t see the annual Sweden SharePoint Exchange Forum, but that you could say was consolidated with European SharePoint Conference, which will be happening again next winter in Austria. SharePoint Connections more consolidated this year and rebooted as IT Unity Connections in Amsterdam, but SharePoint Fest, SPTechCon, and Share are going strong in the US. There are other notable events. In Australia and New Zealand the Australian SharePoint Conference is now “The Digital Workplace Conference” I’m looking forward to that one in April. So there’s movement and those that are happening with solid marketing will be great in 2016. It does speak to the consolidation of events. Note that Microsoft did some serious serious consolidation with Ignite this past year consolidating TechEd, IT Forum, Exchange Conference, SharePoint Conference, and more. So the prediction of Fewer, but more important stands from my perspective. Some of that info may have already been available in late 2014. The travelers going from one event to the next to the next still happens quite regularly. Follow Naomi, Ben, Dan, Marc, or Michael Noel and you’ll see there are a few of us who live out of our bags for more than a week at a time.

3. Wearables buzz combined with Cortana and Siri starts to buzz about coming to the enterprise – Microsoft Band, Apple Watch, pebble and more will be big in consumer and people will start to think about enterprise applicability. We’ll see this pop up at Ignite keynotes for example.

We did see Cortana in the Ignite keynote coming from Windows in the enterprise. Not exactly wearable, but 2 out of 3 is pretty good. Microsoft’s apps on the newly launched apple watch was a surprise to many. Seeing powerpoint, outlook, and onenote on my watch is still pretty wild. I think we’ll see a pause on Cortana being pushed for a year or two, but definitely expect to see more and more people talking to their phones and watches.

Integrated Cortana in Windows 10 was a big one, but I still think there’s more. Wearables may seem like they blew a lot of steam, but much of that was hype. Apple and Fitbit neck in neck led in 2015 as the most common wearables.

4. Office 365 brand continues to Over Shadow SharePoint brand – SharePoint is Dead will be said more and more as the Office 365 brand gets stronger.  Of course it’s not dead, but is the backseat driver with Cloud First.

Office 365 definitely was a strong brand in 2015. SharePoint is Dead was a mantra in early 2015 until Ignite and WPC especially. Once the bits became available people are starting to get excited again.

5. Search Driven Enterprise Apps – Successful consumer tools will be replicated in many enterprises with new products coming to market.  I’m still waiting for cool apps like Yelp, Amazon, and Cortana for the enterprise.  I want to see enterprise catalogs with serious integration… unlock the power!

Still waiting.

6. Confusion will continue – Despite the fact that consulting companies know where they make their money, customers will be confused about investments they should make and when to make bets.  Clearer strategies are needed and Ignite should help, but know there are at least 2 or 3 paths for customers this year.  More confusion in the short term, with less in the longer term.

I think Azure AD has helped to bring some clarity around building long term solutions in the cloud and hybrid solutions. We’ll see more clarity as time goes on, but the confusion is far from over.

7. They took our Jobs! – Many will find their skillsets are becoming out of date, and will scramble to learn Office 365 identity management, Office 365 provisioning, and API development and scripting (powershell).  Azure will be expected knowledge for IT Pros.  I worry about a wave of IT Pros that won’t retool fast enough and will wonder what they should be doing and what certifications they should get.  Take a look at the new SharePoint Certifications and look at what is required… Surprise it requires Office 365 Identity and that’s step 1!  Even step 2 doesn’t feel like SharePoint.  Prerequiste to SharePoint Solutions Expert is MCSA Office 365 certification.  Don’t wait around… you need to retool!  IT Pros I worry about the most, but Devs totally got to learn a lot to stay relevant in this mobile first cloud first world.

The Certification program has been a mess. I feel bad for new hires. I expect to see more churn on certs. We still don’t have the MCSE equivalent. Those that have invested in Azure and Angular have been seeing payoff.

8.  ISVs that were SharePoint exclusive will branch out.  Our little ecosystem of SharePoint only ISVs will branch outside of just Office 365 and SharePoint…

This is definitely happening. Many are now building services in the cloud that can be consumed stand alone. It hasn’t happened as much as I’d expect, but in fact what I’m seeing more is ISVs outside of SharePoint coming to the Office 365 SharePoint world to plug in and hoping it will work. In reality the Office 365 ISV market is still a mess in my opinion. Still not as simple as it should be. Requires A LOT of marketing to get a little traction. The idea of the app store is great, but it’s very broken in an enterprise sense. Still not simple and definitely the reviews and ratings are broken… don’t work (most apps have very very few reviews).

9. Mobile and SharePoint Online and On Premises will get much better –  I’m not just talking about apps here.  I think we’ll see some announcements related to the vNext release that will also pay off in Office 365 that are waiting to be announced.

The Office mobile apps have nailed it. They are some of the most popular downloads on Android and iOS. Still waiting for more of the SharePoint announcements, but the mobile apps are really awesome. Most of the community doesn’t know how good they are, but 200 million downloads later, I think many will figure out that the Office mobile apps rock!

10. Community Cross Polinization – We’ll see more of the Exchange folks popping up at the Office 365 events, and even on twitter the SharePoint, Exchange, and SQL experts will get a lot closer.  The Microsoft family will come closer as a result.  Walls will come down, and the cool kids at events will be a stronger mix of people.

I’ve seen this in Azure and Office 365 and some of the events that have gone with a Digital Workspace slant and Connections will help prove this out more over the next year. I have seen Azure and Office 365 pop up more and more in SharePoint Saturday events. Microsoft’s city based Office 365 events did help bring smaller communities together in a small way.

Bonus: A lot of companies that said they’d NEVER go to the cloud will start lining up, barriers will fall!

Deployment numbers are great. Fastest growing business in Microsoft history isn’t joking around. I’d love to see this more newsworthy to see real public case studies.




Not a sell out! It’s Matchmaking

I recently read a Facebook thread about a new MVP who was being approached by a vendor and asked if they’d do a review or join them on a webinar. The question they were asking their colleagues was if they were a sell out by participating in these activities. I was surprised by the first few responses suggesting that they NOT work with the vendor, then some more seasoned community folks joined in to explain that we all have to make decisions around who we work with and what is worth our time and where the line is in terms of endorsement deals.

Since IT and the technology industry isn’t fraught with Subway ads, or Nike shoe deals, many don’t understand how one can realistically partner up with a company or even try to take an unbiased approach to working with vendors on webinars and such.

As someone who gets at least weekly invitations to post something on my blog, or join a vendor in an expo hall, webinar, and so much more… I’ve personally asked myself this question over a hundred times and that line has shifted since the beginning. I’m sure there are haters out there that would say I’ve taken too many deals to call myself unbiased, but in the same vein, how can you call me biased if I simply work with nearly everyone or at least nearly a hundred vendors over time.

As a consultant I’ve frequently been in the position of recommending or suggesting vendors and partners to customers, so knowing what the best solutions are is extremely important. Awareness is the absolute biggest challenge in the vendor space. There are literally thousands of vendor solutions out there, and there is no perfect app store that lets the best solutions rise to the top. Instead it’s a game of what partners are willing to spend at an event. At a typical paid SharePoint Conference it’s not unusual to pay $15,000 for a booth and fly out the vendor team to talk to a hundred or so people that may happen to come by the booth. Believe me, I’ve spend a ton of time in vendor halls and the little candy bars and tchotchkes may have little return on investment, but spend more and the Xbox One, motorcycles and massive parties do provide names and hopefully more leads. Why couldn’t a small percentage of that vendor marketing spend be spent with the community influencers to delivering webinars and getting awareness of product through a broader variety of means such as product write-ups, analysis, overviews and such. I understand people may say a review can’t be unbiased if it is paid, but then again isn’t it better to have someone check it out and tell us how they think a product may be valuable even if they don’t rip it apart? Would you rather these vendors spend their money on google ads or share that money

I hope the solutions delivery companies today build alliances with their preferred vendors based on NOT on how much of a cut they get, but relationships are actually forged based on the products which sell the best due to the solution being the best for the customers along with customer service levels. The worst solutions and worst companies should weed themselves out as the solutions fail to sell and lack of deployments.

As someone who has now done hundreds of webinars, events, reviews and various activities with vendors I consider my knowledge of third party product as extremely valuable. It is an asset I bring with me as I work with a company. Understanding the rich ecosystem of products and the vast network of employees who participate in this space is of great value. I consider myself a matchmaker and I don’t need to apologize for participating in a webinar with a vendor. If we can focus on the challenge that customers have and see vendors as having solutions to those problems we’ll have a greater appreciation for the Microsoft ecosystem and sharing in the marketing budgets and giving back to the community in a share the wealth proposition we can travel further and strengthen our community and network. I’ll tell you that’s my strategy. Pretty much every dollar I make from a vendor goes back into the community by helping me subsidize my event travel, but I wouldn’t blame someone if they decided to put that dollar toward their kids school or paying your mortgage.

Love to hear your thoughts!

Vendors that are looking to get more involved with the community can reach out to me through twitter @joeloleson or linkedin or email at There are plenty of influencers, bloggers, speakers, and product companies to go around. Happy to help you gain awareness for your product or solution. There are other great examples in the community who have been able to turn their evangelism for good for sharing their talents to share their knowledge and educate.

(Curious about the photo? Yes, I’m the one in the plaid shirt next to the babushka who lives in Chernobyl. I was speaking in Ukraine at a paid event which helped to subsidize this trip where I was also able to travel to Azerbaijan and speak at a User Group that has never been previously reached by anyone in our global community. I couldn’t have done it without their assistance. To put this in context I do also put in a lot of my own money in my travels, but I appreciate being able to share the wealth.)