Product Announcement: Content Panda – New Free resource to integrated SharePoint and Office 365 training

My friends at Content Panda have put together an amazing resource for your SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 environment.  They’ve done some really clever things and they’re giving away a perpetual free version.  There are paid options so you can add your own content and do additional branding and premium content, but there’s a lot of expert content in the free that’s already available and integrated.  If you want the panda to be a clippy or the wizard, you could do it.  So if you don’t love pandas, don’t let that stop you.

Let me start with more of what Content Panda is and why I think it’s a pretty cool idea.

“52% of organization users are introduced to SharePoint/Office365 with no training…” quote from “The Road to Awesome SharePoint Adoption in your Organization”

I bet the 52% surveyed organizations includes administrator and developer training.  In my experience the total percentage of users that are trained or have access to training inside the organization is less than 10%.  Seriously it’s sad how much SharePoint gets pushed at employees and they’re told to go figure it out or search google or youtube.  I’ve been there.

What is is?
Content panda is Inline, In-Context Help for SharePoint.  The help content is articles, videos, blogs, and rich content to help your users better understand how to be effective with using SharePoint.  The ultimate goal is to help train your users on the technology and increase adoption by increasing user satisfaction.   Content Panda embeds the most relevant videos for you to play along as you solve problems or get that little reminder of how to complete a task.  Users no longer spend hours on YouTube searching for the “right” video.(You don’t need to track down the Office/SharePoint question mark that often isn’t contextual or that helpful.)

What does it do?

Delivers the most relevant and curated help content available in the world exactly when and where you need it .  With Content Panda you now have your own personal search engine inside of Office 365 connected directly to Microsoft Bing web services.  We have hand-curated the most optimal keyword search terms so you never have to leave the software to find an answer to your questions.

Did you say Free?

The free version of Content Panda is available for anyone using Microsoft Office 365 – SharePoint Online or SharePoint 2013. Content Panda is an easy app to install and is activated with one click. It is immediately helpful and opens the door to thousands of the right answers you need on-demand, real time on a daily basis.  You will start to want some panda in every software program you use.

Figure 1: Content Panda in action…

Turned On

Once enabled any menu item now has more information and context.  Simply clicking on the plus will provide answers on what the feature does.  It’s a SP 2013 App, so it meets all your 2013 customization goals as well.

Find more about the new Content Panda SharePoint and Office 365 app at  They give free demos and would be happy to chat with you.  Heather Newman and Simeon Cathy are both super nice and happy to chat with you about your training and adoption strategies.

Search-First Approach to SharePoint 2013/2016 Migration Infographic

I’m working on a strategy paper on the Search-First approach to migrating or upgrading SharePoint.  I see three big phases to this approach.  The first is building out the brand new ultimate farm, the SharePoint farm that provides enterprise search.  Many may decide that this first state should also provides profiles and also may provide the new OneDrive to also get people started with SharePoint.  Those who previously deployed my sites, may wait for phase 2 for that.  I’ll be providing more detail in the paper on these phases and a few recommendations on the strategy.  Love to get feedback from those who have approached the upgrade and migration in this manner.

Those that are planning an upgrade SharePoint on prem should consider a search-first migration.  The Search-First approach to migration assumes you want to get started, and you are willing to invest in separate infrastructure for SharePoint 2013 Search and leave your existing farm alone for some period of time with the idea of indexing that content with the new farm.  This approach allows organizations to benefit from the improved functionality and user experience while requiring relatively low effort. Microsoft has dramatically improved search in SharePoint 2013 in three key areas: User Experience, Relevancy Tuning and Infrastructure. I’m working on a paper that will highlight these enhancements while illustrating the benefits of a search-first approach. In our experience, a good deployment of search can help with adoption of other structured and unstructured collaborative or portal based workloads by providing discovery, findability and refinement for content most important to the enterprise. This article begins with an introduction to the new features and improved look and feel along with other search relevance, and infrastructure flexibility enhancements that demonstrate the support for Search-First approach to migration.

Organizations that are overwhelmed by the thought of migrating the substantial content they house in SharePoint 2016, 2013, 2010 or SharePoint 2007 farms will be encouraged by a Search-First approach. This strategy does not require any changes to the existing infrastructure and provides a mechanism for content to remain in current repository while the technology and search engine for the enterprise takes a leap forward. After understanding the improvements in UI and UX, relevancy and infrastructure it’s easy to see why customers would be looking to implement a Search-First approach to deploying or migrating to SharePoint 2013.

The Search-First Approach to SharePoint 2013 Migration and Upgrade Infographic

Search First Approacht o SharePoint Migration and Upgrade


Feel free to share this SharePoint Search First strategy to upgrade infographic in your blogs or in social media.

More to come later!



Additional Reading and References on Search and Search-First:

Search-first migration from FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint Server 2013

TechNet: What’s New in SharePoint 2013 Search

TechNet: Administer Search in SharePoint 2013 What’s New in SharePoint 2013 User Experience?

What’s New in Search in SharePoint 2013?

Essential Guide to Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2013


Visual Best Bet SharePoint

SharePoint Search: Creating Visual Best Bets and Recommended Results for SharePoint 2013 Walkthrough Steps

Between SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013, one of the biggest things that changed was Search.  The idea of a best bet changed quite a bit, and where they stuck the UI for creating the new objects has gotten more complicated than it needs to be.  I think fundamentally the product team on search assumed that the average person responsible for search is more technical than I think they really are.

Essentially the UI around really doing the basics of managing search requires some education.  In this article I plan to give you some steps for how to create visual best bets and recommended results that should really simplify the process.  I’m going to focus on keeping these instructions as simple as possible while encouraging you to invest in the area of enterprise search one of the biggest investments of the product.  These steps may take you 5-15 minutes the first time, but with practice you can easily add these recommended results in less than 1 minute, and once you get this down, you can setup a form to gather suggestions from users of your site or use the search reports to get this populated.  I recommend at least a few hundred of these for enriching the search experience.

<update> After finishing this post Webucator asked if they could turn these steps into a video.  They’ve produced a number of other educational SharePoint videos as well.  Here is the youtube video: Creating Best Bets for SharePoint 2013 Walkthrough </update>



Creating a Recommended Result in less than 1 minute.

1. Get the URL of the link you want to promote.  Create the document or page if it doesn’t exist.

2. Site Settings –> Under Search –> Query Rules


3. For what context do you want to configure rules? Choose “Local SharePoint Results (System)” and leave the other two as All User Segments and All topics.  When you’ve configured user segments you can get more complex with your ability to target recommended results to different “audiences” or user segments as they now call them.

4. Click New Query Rule


5. Give the Query rule a name such as “Holiday Schedule”

6. Ensure the query conditions is “Query matches Keyword Exactly” then specify your terms and phrases such as “holiday;holiday schedule;time off;vacation;OOF;company calendar;calendar;holiday calendar”

add as many keyword synonyms as you’d like separated by semicolons.

7. Next under promoted results click “Add Promoted Result”


8. Provide a title: such as “Holiday Schedule”  (This will only be used for display in the configuration)

9. Specify the URL link to the page or document from step 1.  If it is a word document you may want to specify the Office Web Apps view of the document rather than having it open directly in word such as “/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx?sourcedoc={2EF6C061-5640-4351-98B1-E63A5769CC8B}&file=2015%20Holiday%20Schedule.docx”  Note this document could be inside or outside of your company.

Do NOT check the Render the URL as a banner.  We’ll do this in the section on the Visual best bet.

10. Provide a Description: This is displayed on the search result.  So you will want to specify a nice well written but simple and short description of the authoritative link such as “Official Company 2015 Holiday schedule.”   Note any dates may go out of fashion if the document is updated.  If there’s one document per year then having the date will help distinguish between 2014 company calendar and the 2015 calendar.  Then click save and click save again.


If you did it right you should get a nice recommended result right on top of your search results with a check box next to it.  If you’re not seeing anything, make sure your search is for the same keyword as specified in step 6.


Create a Visual Best Bet

Now let’s create a visual best bet.  These are the nice visuals in search results.  I have learned a few things about this type of best bet and find that these don’t work exactly like I’d expect them to.  If you specify a URL it brings back the result as an iframe, so I recommend that instead, you use pictures to enhance your existing best bets that are hyperlinks.


1. Follow all the steps specified above, but when you get to step 9 you’ll specify the link to the image.  I recommend that the image be in the same site as your search center or same site as your search results page and ensure that everyone that will be searching has permissions to get to this result.

2. For title specific the title such as “Holiday banner” or “Holiday Pic” so you can distinguish this from the hyperlinks.

3. Then check the box to “Render the URL as a banner instead of as a hyperlink.”  Any URLs that are not images will be displayed in an ugly iframe.  Your images should be approximately “Width of 500 and Height of 150.” SharePoint will trim any extra height and shrink your image if it’s too wide.  Some might consider using image renditions in the publishing features, but this is not required if you simply link to an image that is already approximately those dimensions.

4. Adding a description is optional as it will not be used, but can be specified.

5. Click “Save”


6. You can now order your results.  I recommended putting the visual best bet or banner result as the top result by choosing 1.  Feel free to add additional hyperlink based best bets or recommended results then click “save”

You’re done!


Note if the image is on another site collection from search it may not render properly if: User doesn’t have permission to the image, if it’s on another protocol, if it’s on another site collection.  This really is finicky so you’ll need to play with your configuration if it doesn’t display.  You will simply see a white box where the result should be if it doesn’t work.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this walk through.  Now you just need to rinse and repeat for the other hundred or so best bets right?  Well there are powershell scripts you can use to automate this, but you needed to walk through this once.

Additional Resources:

Enterprise Search

What’s New in SharePoint 2013 Search User Experience: Understanding SharePoint Search Terminology

In SharePoint 2013, one of the biggest investments was in Search.  There is a lot there.  Lots of changes and much to get use to in promoting enterprise search as the killer app.  I’m disappointed by how frequently I see search overlooked and underutilized.  This really is where all those investments in gathering and organizing your data come together.  Why did you move to SharePoint in the first place?  Search was the killer app that was going to make life easier and increase findability and discoverability.  It’s time to invest and ramp up on the coolest part of SharePoint 2013.


Hover Panel – The hover panel provides a larger viewing space for a search result.  The hover panel look and feel and result can be modifying the display template.  You can also add or modify actions.  There is a lot of power in the UI for this panel.  What you see in the hover panel is supposed to be an example of what you can do.   You can even play videos and view images right from the hoover panel.  The

Document Previews – Allows you to see common Office file types, images and videos in a little display window to the right when hovering over a search result. The preview capability is provided by Office Web Applications with read access or when licensed the ability to edit the office files. The read only preview requires an Administrator to set up the Web Application clients.  It is important to understand that the default configuration of seeing document previews in the Hover panel only works properly when both using Office Web Apps and when it is indexing Office documents on SharePoint 2013.  If the server is SharePoint 2010, File Share or other environment the document preview will not be available without a third party tool.

Note: There are a variety of third party tools like BA Insight that can provide previews for the older binary formats and many other formats like PDF and other non Microsoft formats.  They provide previews for files indexed from file shares, SharePoint 2007, 2010, as well as picking up the old binary formats and when combined with connectors a

Hit highlighting – While we have previously seen hit highlighting where the terms you search for are highlighted in results, you can now see the highlighted terms in the hover panel which allow you to jump to those results within the document.  Notice the “look inside” section.

Result Blocks – SharePoint 2013 has ever more functionality for controlling the look of the results that come when searching for a result.  The result block allows you to share a set of results clustered in a visual way. A block of results can be set apart with a display template, but by default they are simply included within visual braces.  An example would be when searching for ppt the results for presentations would be returned in a block.  Result blocks can be promoted.  There are a few built in result blocks for terms like video, ppt, xls, doc, and other file types.

Query Suggestions – Search helps users quickly return to important sites and documents by remembering what they have previously searched and clicked. The results of previously searched and clicked items are displayed as query suggestions at the top of the results page.

Query Rules – Those in charge of results can try to anticipate what people are looking for and get around out of the box ranking algorithms.  If people are asking for videos the search search system can check against a set of terms that are setup with rules and corresponding conditions and actions.  A search for sales forecast could return a set of results in a content block specifically from the sales department site.  These query rules are not restricted to IT Admins and are available to site administrators and managers.

Result Types – The quickest filter in SharePoint is to leverage the result types.  Synonymous with file types, the result type allows you to restrict the search results to a specific type of file. The result type can also be modified to display the results in different ways.  For example documents may have thumbnails to the right, while people results may display the person’s face to the left.

Display Templates – Site collection administrators and site owners can use display templates to customize the appearance of search results.  These can be customized with HTML or JavaScript. Display templates are assigned to result types for their appearance.  Out of the box the people, sites, pictures, videos and office documents each have different display templates.  These display templates don’t only have to be used in the results page, they can now be used on any page for displaying content that’s driven by search and provide for a much richer search driven set of applications.

Language Preference – Users can specify their preference for search results.  Even if a site doesn’t provide additional language templates, a user can specify the

Query Suggestions – In SharePoint 2013, the users previous queries as well as other popular queries can be shared to provide suggestions for better results.  Type ahead and auto completion take advantage of the results you’ve clicked and then based on what others had clicked and found.

Search Results Web Part – Using query rules, you can change the behavior of the search depending on what user is accessing it. That is, you would also need good metadata to make this work, but having a complete user profile (including the job title, department, and interests) is a good start. Based on such user information, you can define how the search experience for that user will be.  This is really where planning becomes important.  Using profile data and building real context around the user your rules can get really powerful for creating a customized and even personalized results in the UI based on the attributes of the user.

Promoted results – Formerly called Best Bets, Promoted Results appear above ranked results. For example, for the query “menu,” a query rule could specify a particular Promoted Result, such as a link to the cafeteria menu for today. These items were previously referred to as Best Bets in SharePoint 2010.

Rank – Order in which items are displayed – SharePoint Server 2013 provides new ranking models for people search, intranet sites, and Internet sites. A ranking model determines recall (which items are displayed in the search results) and rank (the order in which search results are displayed).

Action Terms – Change ranked results, such as by modifying their relevance. For example, for a query that contains “download toolbox,” a query rule could recognize the word “download” as an action term and boost results from a particular download site on your intranet.  There are some possibilities to leverage previous keywords in the action terms, but it’s the power of combining these action terms with rules that allow them to be used like variables and scale much better for creating powerful search experiences.

Result Sources – In SharePoint Server 2013, site collection administrators, site owners, and site designers can also create and configure result sources to meet their specific requirements.

Search refiners – Search Refinement WebPart.  These refiners can be configured to work off of managed properties and crawl properties that are mapped. In your edit screen you can make managed properties “refinable” and yes – latent will allow you to pick it up later without doing a full crawl. By default, the Refinement Web Part is included on the search results page, but you will need to configure it if you want to use other options.



SharePoint Days Slovenia 2013 Recap and Download Slides

Just finished up my sessions at SharePoint Days Slovenia and had an incredible time here with the people of the Balkans.


Pictured Above: Zlatan, Joel (me) and Branka the conference organizer, at one of beautiful lakes of Slovenia.  


Above: Packed Keynote in Slovenia held in a resort area called Terme Olimia known for its hot springs and spas. 

This hot springs resort is essentially a group of hotels connected through underground tunnels to health spas and even an underground night club.  I’ve never been at a hot springs that had over a dozen different steam rooms, hot tubs, saunas, at different scents, temperatures, and cultural settings such as music, seating arrangements and wood to tile, to reclining and even stars on the ceiling.  Incredibly relaxing.  I definitely took advantage of getting to know some of the other speakers. This two day event was a great business retreat with a strong focus on SharePoint, Yammer, Office 365 and Azure.









Slovenian Speaker Dinner.  Speakers from Sweden, LA, Bosnia & Herz., Croatia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Slovenia and more…

I did a keynote session on Finding Business Value in Enterprise Social Networking.  Essentially I built a business case around engagement a concept built around an annual poll that on engagement that Gallup does.  They recently released their 2013 world wide report and found that only 13% of the world is engaged.  The numbers are higher in Slovenia, but still a long way… which means huge opportunity to transform the business. You can view or download my slides on “Business Value in Enterprise Social” from I had a break out session on The New Enhancements in SharePoint 2013 around Video and the Asset Library including the HTML5 player, the Silverlight streaming player, and many features including embedding video from youtube and embedding your SharePoint videos on other sites.  I think we had more than half of the session in demo.  Those slides on Video and SharePoint 2013 are here. With people from mostly from Slovenia, but also some surrounding area.  This area is well served with a rich community. I had incredible time in this most beautiful region of the world.  You really do get the best of the old world castles, churches and history and nature with lakes, mountains, falls, and caves.


Speakers gather for a final picture before the event closes down.

This cave system we toured with a few of the speakers.  It’s 25+ KM of caves, 2KM train ride plus 2KM walk.  It’s been visited by over 35 million visitors since it opened.  It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen in the 30 plus caves I’ve explored.
















If you missed the Slovenia event, it will be back next year, or in less than 2 weeks the SharePoint Adriatics event is happening in Zagreb, Croatia. I spoke at this amazing event last year. Downloads: Finding Business Value in Enterprise Social (Yammer) What’s New in SharePoint 2013 Video and Digital Enhancements and Asset Library