Office 365

Get the best value from your Office 365 licensing

Microsoft offer a wide range Office 365 plans to meet the needs of every organisation regardless of size, type and location. Whether you’re already a user or are thinking about using Office 365, understanding the subscription model will help ensure you make the right plan choices to get the best value over time.

Office 365 subscriptions link a user to an organisations Office 365 Tenant. If a user leaves the organisation there license can be reallocated to a new person. You can also add or remove additional add-on subscriptions and reallocated different subscription types between users e.g. change a user from an Office 365 E1 plan to E3 plan if you have a license available.

Common Enterprise Plans

Enterprise plans (E plans) are suitable for organisations with 1 or more users (no upper limit). Organisations can choose a mix of plans for example E5 Plans for Leadership and Finance teams, E3 for back office and mobile sales team and E1 for front of house team members within the same tenant.

E1 Plan core features include Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Web Applications, OneDrive for Business, Yammer, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Flow and Microsoft PowerApps.  This plan is for online only users and is great for front line workers who don’t need full desktop applications. Users can access the mobile apps for iOS and Android devices e.g. Word for iPad.

E3 Plans include everything in the E1 Plan plus Desktop versions of your favourite Microsoft Office applications Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote and Outlook. Users always have access to the latest versions of the Office desktop applications. This option is great for those users who need full desktop applications.

If you have additional requirements around security look at the E5 Plans which includes both advanced security features and PowerBI Pro.

Office 365 Enterprise plans

Common Small Business Plans

Office 365 Business Plans (B plans) are suitable for organisations up to 300 users. B Plans have a lower monthly subscription than the E Plans above but have less functionality. Small business plans don’t include Yammer and have a 50GB mailbox limit per user.

Like the Enterprise Plans, you have a choice of online only or full desktop subscriptions.

Office 365 Business Essentials is an online only version including Exchange Online and SharePoint Online and web-based office applications.

Office 365 Business Premium includes all of the features of Office 365 Business Essentials with the addition of desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, OneNote and Outlook.

If you out grow the small business plans, you can upgrade to Enterprise.

Office 365 small business plans

Popular Add-ons

Office 365 also includes a variety of subscriptions which can be assigned to a user either stand-alone (they use only that service) or as an add-on to existing subscriptions e.g. Office 365 E3 plus PowerBI.

Here is an incomplete list of the options:

  • Advanced Security
  • Dynamics 365 Plans
  • Exchange Online Plans (email only users)
  • Flow Plans (additional per month allocations)
  • PowerApps
  • PowerBI (free)
  • PowerBI Pro
  • Project Online
  • SharePoint Online Plans (SharePoint Only)

Five ways to save money!

There are substantial savings to be made if you mix and match your Office 365 subscriptions based on user needs rather than having a single standard. E1 plans are roughly a third of the subscription cost of E3 per month.

Look closely at the features provided in B Plans vs E Plans. If you are a smaller business unlikely to reach 300 users, the B Plans will give you considerable savings over time.

Do all your users need all features? If you have email only users consider Exchange Online only plans. Also look at the differences between PowerBI Pro and PowerBI free plans.

You can also look at monthly vs annual subscriptions. Monthly subscriptions cost more but can be cancelled with 1 months’ notice. If you have a seasonal work force this is worth considering.

Keep track of your subscriptions. Make sure when users leave your organisation the subscription is taken off their account. This makes it available for a new person joining, saving you from purchasing licenses you don’t need.

Microsoft also has special pricing and plans for non-profit and education sectors.

Next steps

Make time to plan your Office 365 project including an analysis of the different types of users and their requirements. Evaluate the cost per user over time to get an understanding of your long-term budget commitment.

 

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Comparing Word Document Versions

The versioning capabilities in SharePoint document libraries are great for managing document approvals and if disaster strikes, rolling back to a known good version.

Microsoft Word’s Document Comparison feature takes this capability to the next level, allowing a visual comparison between two versions of the same document. This has many use cases. I’ve used this recently to compare versions of a contract document to identify changes may by another editor.

Here’s a short demo of document comparison and SharePoint versioning.

I’ve demonstrated this capability to a variety of people in legal, policies and management roles recently. It’s another good reason to work with documents in SharePoint.

You can also access the feature directly from Microsoft Word via the Compare button in the Review tab of the Ribbon.

How to compare documents

 

SharePoint Migration Tool

Microsoft has made Migrating to SharePoint Online a little bit easier by releasing the SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT). At the time of blogging the current release was version 0.2.75.1, the leading zero is a good clue that it’s definitely still in development and may be missing some of the things you really need. Having said that, it does solve some common migration issues and it does it for free!

Here’s a short list of things the SPMT will do for you:

·       Allows you to copy a folder on your file server to a library in SharePoint

·       If the source folder contains sub-folders it copies them too

·       Retains created and modified dates

·       Retains names of the creator and last modified

·       Does incremental copies

·       Allows setup of multiple source and destinations in a single job

·       Source can be a file server (or local disk) or SharePoint on-premises

SPMT

There are a few short comings to be aware of in the release above:

·       You cannot copy photos on your source server to an image library in SharePoint Online

·       You cannot name a migration job which makes finding the job to rerun later can be hard

·       You cannot schedule a migration job

·       If you close out, you need to run the tool and log in to Office 365 again

I’m sure many of these things will be sorted out soon. Even with these limitations the SPMT is still a very useful tool and will help with some of the basic problems with dragging and dropping files to SharePoint.

Download the SharePoint Migration Tool here:

http://spmtreleasescus.blob.core.windows.net/install/default.htm

 

Office 365 Productivity

I’ve had many conversations over the years about improving productivity with technology. One that sticks in my mind was a sales person at a company I once worked for telling a client “you’ll get better productivity if you upgrade from Office 2007 to Office 2010”. I thought to myself, do you? Really? I mean really?

25 years ago, I watched a sales manager using a calculator to add up a column of numbers before typing the result into the total field. I showed him the SUM formula in Lotus 123. Later he told me this saved him several hours per month. If only he had been trained earlier!

People still do this today. Businesses are littered with people creating ‘systems’  with Microsoft Office (and other products) without fully understanding the capabilities of the tools they use. This is where the opportunity to get a productivity improvement really exists and with Office 365, the opportunity is greater still for those who are currently using file server based document storage.

So how do you improve productivity? Change the way you work!

Poor Productivity

Poor productivity can have many causes. Some of the common issues I see are:

  • Not using document templates
  • Using document templates, that aren’t well designed
  • Manual document styling
  • Collating document changes (because sharing was done via email attachment)
  • Shared Spreadsheets using a file share (no co-authoring)
  • Using the wrong tool e.g. Word tables rather than Excel spreadsheet
  • Not being able to find a document
  • Having a complicated remote access solution that is only available to a few people
  • Saving to the desktop and then filing later (if you remember)

I could go on…

Better Productivity

First things first, it shouldn’t be the IT Departments role to tell people how to work. IT should understand the requirements of the users and the organisation, then provide the tools to meet those needs.

Identify document centric processes and write them down where everyone can see them. Ask questions to identify areas for improvement

  • Does the process use paper forms or document templates that could be improved?
  • Is information being manually entered multiple times?
  • Would the process workflow benefit from automation?
  • Would co-authoring reduce the number of uncontrolled copies?
  • Would co-authoring save time on document collation?
  • Is there a drafting process with approval for published documents?
  • Does the final version of the document need to reside elsewhere?

Make sure you focus on processes where the effort is worthwhile. A few minutes saved on a process that is carried out many times a day can be a big saving over time.

Implementing a solution

Office 365 comes with the applications you know (and love) with the added benefit of online document management and collaboration (SharePoint), workflow (Flow), forms and mobile apps (PowerApps) and a range of tools for communicating, organising and collaborating inside and outside the organisation.

Don’t forget to take a second look inside the box and make time to understand the tools you have. Take advantage of the new capabilities to get a real productivity benefit.

 

 

SharePoint News from Ignite 2017

The Future of SharePoint, 2017 Edition

This year’s Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando Florida, was the place to be for anyone interested in SharePoint and Office 365. An enormous number of announcements were made covering almost every aspect of the Office and Office Servers.

Microsoft continued the 3 year release cycle for SharePoint, announcing SharePoint 2019 will be released mid-2018. That’s right, a new server release of SharePoint for On-premises users. Microsoft Exchange 2019 server was also announced, which is good news for those businesses who prefer to say on-premises.

Office 365 had more news than it is humanly possible to keep up with. Here are some of the big items to look forward to:

SharePoint

  • News sites – mobile notifications, save for later, news digests, publish to Teams
  • Hub sites – global activity rollups, global search scopes and more
  • Communication sites – custom layouts and Yammer integration
  • Web-parts – lots of new web-parts for Modern sites including Forms and PowerApps!
  • LinkedIn integration – better profiles and expert search
  • Dynamic Record identification and management
  • Better photo and image search – indexing written content in images
  • Multi-geo support – one tenant across multiple geographic locations
  • Improved mobile experiences
  • Conditional formatting of lists
  • New Admin console
  • SharePoint 2019 Server for on-premises users

PowerApps and Flow

  • Did I mention PowerApps web-parts for SharePoint?
  • A clear announcement that PowerApps will replace InfoPath
  • Document Approval for SharePoint and OneDrive for Business
  • PowerApps web-parts for SharePoint

OneDrive for Business

  • One place to see all your files – OneDrive, SharePoint and Groups!
  • Multi-geo support – one tenant across multiple geographic locations
  • OneDrive Client for Mac
  • End user file restore (30 day backup)
  • External Sharing without needing a Microsoft Account with one time use codes
  • Files on-demand

Teams

  • Add SharePoint pages to Teams
  • Push news from SharePoint to Teams
  • Connect Office Groups to Teams
  • Link existing SharePoint Team sites to Teams!

Security and Compliance

  • Site level conditional access policies
  • Service level encryption where the user (tenant owner) has the keys
  • End-user mass content restore – great if you need to bulk recover documents

There have been a huge number of announcements and chances are I have missed a few. It’s a really exciting time for us SharePoint and Office 365 people!

 

Upgrading to SharePoint 2016 : 101

How do we upgrade to SharePoint 2016? This is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately.

Before I answer the question, I usually start by asking one of my own. Have you considered moving to SharePoint Online? Some people have a very good reason for choosing to stay on-premises but many don’t. Let’s consider both scenarios.

Scenario 1: Staying on-premises

The simplest option is a Content Database migration. This is the same tried and tested method used to upgrade from older versions of SharePoint e.g. SP2010 to SP2013. If you are moving from SP2010, you will need to do an interim upgrade to SP2013 first, just for the content database upgrades.

Steps:

  1. Install a new SharePoint 2016 Farm. If you need high-availability or want to take advantage of mini-roles to reduce downtime during patching, you’ll need a minimum of 4 SharePoint servers. If that isn’t needed then a single server farm is possible, but do your homework before going down this path.
  2. You may also need to upgrade your SQL Server depending on the version.
  3. Once installed, create a new Web Application
  4. Restore the Content Database(s) from the SP2013 farm to the new SQL Server
  5. Install any third-party solutions. Mega Menus, Workflow tools, Custom web parts etc
  6. In Central Admin, attach the new database to your new SP2016 web application. SharePoint will automatically upgrade the database schema during this process, which can take time, especially if the database is big.
  7. IISRESET
  8. Test everything

You may decide that an in-place upgrade isn’t practical or possible. In this case, you can setup a new farm and then use a migration tool (DocAve, MetaLogix, ShareGate etc) to move the content across. This can be a time consuming process but is worth consideration if you need to restructure content or if you have a lot of customisation that you don’t want to bring across as part of the upgrade.

Scenario 2: Moving to SharePoint Online

Moving to SharePoint Online often requires more planning upfront. There are some things you can do in SharePoint server, that can’t be done online or require a rethink. Here’s a short list of common differences, but there are others that may apply too:

–          Server side solutions cannot be deployed to the cloud

–          Site Collections can’t use explicit paths (URL’s to sites may change)

–          You cannot change the URL from https://mytenantname.sharepoint.com

–          User Profile Sync back to Active Directory is not supported

–          SQL Server Reporting Services integration is not supported

–          Email enabled document libraries are not supported

–          Many third-party mega menus aren’t supported (yet)

–          Integration with other systems may need to be updated

This is by no-means a full list, but it does give you an idea of where pain could start.

You will need to develop a strategy for migrating content across.

–          What content are you migrating?

–          How much content is there?

–          What tool are you going to use?

I highly recommend using a migration tool such as Metalogix, ShareGate or DocAve. Unless you have a trivial amount of content, these tools will save you time. They can map metadata from your old site to the new one or copy entire sites and site collections across. All of these tools handle version history and system metadata such as created date and created by.

Steps:

  1. Identify what you will be migrating and determine if it includes features that may not be supported. Workarounds or alternative solutions may be needed to address those issues.
  2. Ensure Azure AD Connect is setup and syncing users and groups
  3. I recommend that you move Exchange across before SharePoint if possible. There are some things in the Delve profiles which work better
  4. Setup you SharePoint Online tenant
  5. Create site collections
  6. Use a migration tool to copy over the sites, lists and libraries from on-premises.
  7. Setup navigation
  8. Check site security

You can do this process in stages e.g. pre-copy the bulk of the content and then migrate over the changes before you ‘go live’.

I should stress that in many cases you will have other challenges to address as you migrate sites across. Give yourself time to test and find solutions for those things that don’t migrate nicely.

Moving to SharePoint Online will give you many advantages over the long term and reduce the amount of infrastructure needed for your SharePoint farm. For many of us the chances are you will move to the cloud eventually anyway, so why delay?

If you have any good tips, please share in the comments below.

Intro to PowerApps and Flow

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak at the Digital Workplace Conference 2017 in Auckland on the topic of PowerApps and Flow.

The Digital Workplace Conference covers a full range of topics related to Office 365 and still has a strong emphasis on SharePoint. Topics cover a good mix of technical, thought leadership and customer case studies. I highly recommend this conference for anyone in the intranet, knowledge management, collaboration and SharePoint space.

Microsoft are supporting InfoPath and SharePoint Designer through to 2026, but aren’t adding new features to these tools. The future isn’t a like for like replacement, so it is important to pay attention to what is happening with the new tools.

Here a simple example using a SharePoint list as the starting point to build a basic PowerApp.

Presentation Agenda:

  • Overview of Flow
  • Security and Policies
  • Flow Demo
  • Overview of PowerApps
  • PowerApps Demo
  • Advanced features
  • Coming soon

The demo covered a number of simple but useful scenarios for using Flow and PowerApps and covered off some of the challenges and limitations. Both services are developing rapidly, so keep an eye on the roadmap.

Download Presentation

Thank you to everyone who attended my talk.