MVP Summit 2018

So here I am at the Microsoft MVP Summit, sitting in a room filled with faces I recognise from blogs I’ve read, Twitter accounts I follow and conference speaker lists I’ve browsed. It didn’t take long to realise I was in the right room, everyone as engaged in conversations around SharePoint and Microsoft Teams with the occasional Yammer or OneDrive mention. I was a little bit star struck at first!

While I can’t tell you anything about the things we are being shown due to NDA, I can tell you about the experience of being a first time MVP at the global MVP Summit. This is an opportunity for the product teams at Microsoft to engage with community to get feedback on ideas, gather suggestions and have an open and frank discussion.

As an MVP I have the opportunity to be the voice of my clients and local community. I can contribute to the ideas being discussed, give feedback and make suggestions to help Microsoft build a better Office 365 and SharePoint for everyone. It is good to hear others articulating their needs, issues and ideas. It’s also great to hear from the product teams themselves drilling into the suggestions to get further detail or clarify a point.

The Microsoft Campus

My excitement levels started rising as I caught the summit bus from a hotel in Bellevue. Fifteen minutes later I arrived at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond. This place is big (500 acres), buildings, a conference centre, visitors centre, football fields and trees. It reminded me of a University campus with better quality cars in the parks (spot the Tesla is very easy here).

It feels like a great place for techies to work and while you don’t see lots of geeks (takes one to know one) on experimental forms of transport, you do see a diverse workforce with the same goal, to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Microsoft really is a global company not only in terms of sales territories but also in the people it employees. Brilliant!

Microsoft Map.PNG

The Store

The company store is in Building 92, the same building I was in for SharePoint and Office 365 related sessions. I looked long and hard but couldn’t find a Clippy t-shirt, but they did sell a lot of clothing with Azure, Windows, X-Box and Microsoft Office branding. You can also buy lots of things like mugs, caps, notebooks (paper variety), Minecraft and a variety of hardware and software products.

Meeting me in the Trees

A few weeks before the Summit I joined a mentoring initiative organised by Microsoft. This lead to an invitation to a meeting at the Microsoft Treehouse, a meeting room in the trees. This venue has no power, no WiFi, no whiteboards and not heating (it was a little chilly), the perfect place to focus on a human to human conversation without distraction.

The meeting was a very small group, just 12 of us with Laura Hunter, Principal Programme Manager for Security CXP at Microsoft. The discussion was insightful and I came away with some new ideas and contacts. You can learn more about the day in this Microsoft Blog on International Women’s Day.

Microsoft Treehouse

The People

More than 2000 people from 80 countries are attending the MVP Summit. This brings real depth and different perspectives to the feedback sessions. The importance of remembering not everyone speaks English as a first language and how we need to consider this when delivering technology solutions. It’s also quite funny when as a Kiwi I had a language issue of my own trying to communicate with an American outside a homeless shelter in the old part of Seattle, we both spoke English but honestly had no idea what each of us was saying!

I’ve met MVP’s from all over the world. Pakistan, Singapore, UK, Netherlands, India, Brazil, China, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Belarus, Israel, German, Canada and of course the United States. These people are all passionate about both technology and community.

Last but definitely not least, the Microsofties . They are really easy to engage with, they take time to listen and you never feel like you’ve asked a dump question. During the networking events, I had the opportunity to have conversations directly with people from the Product Groups and the MVP community team. These girls and guys rock!


The toughest thing about this event is that you see a lot and then have to keep what you’ve seen to yourself. All I can really say is that I am excited about what I’ve seen and look forward to seeing some of these things being available over the next year. Microsoft really are listening to their users!

The Office 365 Roadmap site is a good place to learn about upcoming features not covered by NDA.

Thank you

Thank you Microsoft for inviting me to this amazing event. It really has been a great opportunity filled with inspiration, insightful talks and great networking opportunities. I feel inspired and we haven’t finished yet!

25 year MVP Party


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, 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


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:


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:


  • 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


  • 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!


PowerApps Job Tracker Demo

Microsoft PowerApps for Office 365 allows you to build your own apps without needing to be a developer. It is particularly useful for building solutions that use SharePoint as a backend. Mobile users can interact with and update information from SharePoint Lists via PowerApps.

PowerApps are cross platform working on Windows, iOS and Android devices, simply download the PowerApps App from the Apple AppStore or Google Play.

Here’s a short video I made that shows some of the basic features of PowerApps for SharePoint. In SharePoint I have created two lists, one for Clients and one for Jobs. The Jobs list has a looking on the Clients list, creating a one to many relationship between Clients and Jobs. This PowerApp allows users to search for clients and then select jobs related to the client with view and edit functionality.

The only trick part of the app was linking Galleries together so that clicking on a Client filters the Jobs list based on the SharePoint Lookup Column. SharePoint stores the ID of the list item from the Lookup list, so I needed to use this formula in PowerApps:


In the video, I show the functionality and how to link the various screens and galleries together.

I’m sure you can think of lots of ways to improve this basic PowerApp but hopefully this gives you a good idea of how easy it is to build your own applications.

Learn more about PowerApps

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.


  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.
  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

–          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.


  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.

SharePoint and SSRS: The given key was not present in the dictionary

Consider this scenario. You have SharePoint with SQL Reporting Services (SSRS) running in SharePoint Integrated mode. You want to use a SharePoint list as a data source for a report.

In the SSRS Data Connection you enter the URL and credentials for the SharePoint site but when you test the connection the following error appears:

The given key was not present in the dictionary

After a bit of trial and error I discovered that this error occurs if the URL entered isn’t the default URL for the web application.

To resolve the issue, go into Central Admin and check the Alternative Access mappings on the SharePoint site used in the data source. Check that you are using the default URL.

Similar but unrelated issue

Note that there is a similar issue that occurs when added managed accounts in Central Admin. These issues are not related. Further details of that issue can be found here:



Do we still need Structure in SharePoint?

I love Delve, it’s a great way of quickly accessing documents I’ve been working on recently and is particularly useful in when collaborating with people across our business. It is particularly useful when someone moves on and you need to find that document they were recently working on.

I’ve had conversations with a wide range of people over the past few days about the use of Delve and where you still need to structure content to find it in traditional ways. In my opinion structure is still very important for several reasons:

  1. Compliance – documents that must be keep for compliance reasons benefit from structured storage. It allows content to be easily identified, grouped and makes it easier to apply policies.
  2. Archive (High value) –  where you have high value content, the ability to classify the documents, track the approval history and ensure you know which version is authoritative can be important.
  3. Security – structure makes security easier to apply, maintain and audit.
  4. Third-party integration.

You may also have documents that don’t have these requirements. It is still important to think about the life-cycle, particularly what happens if the owner of the documents leaves the organisation and how do I find documents that have been cold for a longer time period but still have value.

Why don’t I just store everything in OneDrive for Business? For all the reason listed above and because we want to ensure the documents are retained over the long term.

Is traditional Site Structure and Search dead? Delve improves user experience and making content more discoverable but it doesn’t suit every use case. Delve also helps address issues such as content stored in Office 365 Groups, OneDrive for Business and other services that work with Office Graph.

What are your thoughts on Delve and SharePoint Structure?