Category Archives: SharePoint News

SharePoint news from Tony Phillips

Office 365 User Adoption Series: Learning From Experience with Gareth Rose (Episode 2).

We understand that seamless user adoption of Office 365 and SharePoint can prove tricky, with many hurdles to jump before your whole organisation is fully on board.

That’s why we’re creating a series of podcasts focusing on real-life user adoption stories, with schools, academies and businesses just like yours.

The second episode features Tony Phillips, Cloud Design Box Founder, and Gareth Rose, Assistant Headteacher at Notley High School & Braintree Sixth Form.

Gareth’s experience with user adoption in schools is unique as he has already been through the process of rolling out Office 365, Teams, SharePoint and Class Notebook at his former workplace, Dagenham Park Church of England School.

We spoke with Gareth to find out what tools and techniques he is going to reuse when introducing the Microsoft suite to the staff and pupils at Notley High School.



Create champions.

“My first piece of advice is to get people to become champions of the product. Get the RE teacher to understand the value in putting all their class resources online and show the Music teacher how pupils can annotate in OneNote,” Gareth enthuses.

Starting out with small, basic tasks, Gareth got to know the main pain points of departments and the word spread from there.

“You can see the spark in their eyes when you’ve saved them 20 minutes of time using a basic feature of Office 365.”

Give them no choice.

“A very quick win is changing everyone’s home page to the staff or pupil SharePoint. This gets people familiar with the technology and helps them to become comfortable with using it in the future,” Gareth continues.

“Make it so it’s the only way to access some resources, such as the lunchtime duty rota. When people start to see how beneficial it is to have one calendar that is regularly updated, rather than multiple emails with multiple versions, they begin to gain confidence in the system.”

From here, Gareth explains, the word ‘SharePoint’ was being banded around the staffroom and uttered in staff meetings. By getting people to engage with the platform, you can raise their confidence when it comes to moving more activities across to Office 365.

Have an open-door policy.

“Of course, giving people only one choice when accessing certain documents is risky. But, explain to people, if they have any issues, they can come and see you,” he points out.

“At Dagenham Park, I would sit in with teachers on the first few lessons to get them and their pupils properly set up. In a couple of sessions, teachers and students were writing digital notes and recording their voices in French – incredible to see.”

Working with members of staff and pupils in this way also allows you to understand the many ways in which Office 365 and SharePoint can help enhance the teaching and learning experience.

“After this, it’s kind of like a rolling stone,” Gareth highlights.

“I can see a time in the future where all pupils have iPads. We’ve seen schools hand out devices to their students, but without an ecosystem in which they can actually use them in. What we’re building here is an environment where everyone is on board and using the features of Office 365 to their full potential.”

Final, takeaway points from Gareth:

  • Create and identify champions of Office 365 and SharePoint.
  • Get to know ways in which individuals and departments could benefit from using the suite.
  • Change the homepage and make some resources available only on SharePoint.
  • Be prepared to offer support and answer any questions people have.
  • Design an ecosystem in which people can use Office 365.

If you have any questions about user adoption, or how Office 365 and SharePoint could transform your workspace, school or academy, please get in touch with Cloud Design Box today.

Google Search Box Web Part

At Cloud Design Box, we have created a free Google search box SPFx web part. It’s a very simple web part to add a Google search box to a modern SharePoint page which then opens up the results in a new tab. Maybe a nice web part for an intranet homepage?

Google Search SharePoint Web Part

You can download it here or even submit code to the project!

A big thanks to Lloyd for writing most of the code to get this to work and for sharing on GitHub! I’m sure we can develop this over time to make it even more useful.

There are web part properties to change the search results url, you can use your local Google search page. In addition to this you can change the default search text and search button text! Enjoy!

Office 365 User Adoption Series: Thomas Deacon Education Trust

Smooth, frictionless user adoption can be tricky.

You’ve decided that Office 365 and SharePoint is right for you. But, there’s the small matter of convincing the rest of your team and getting everyone in your organisation on board.

We’re creating a series of podcasts focusing on real-life user adoption stories, with schools, academies and businesses just like yours.



Our aim is to share and encourage a community resource that will help others who may be struggling with user adoption.

The first episode of this podcast features Tony Phillips, Cloud Design Box Founder, Darren Hemming, our Operations Manager, and Martin Byford-Rew who is the Head of ICT Services at Thomas Deacon Education Trust.

Martin outlines the key challenges he faced when starting to move across to Office 365 and SharePoint, as well as giving some excellent actionable tips on how to roll out the suite across a school, academy or business.

“Our overall vision has been the same throughout the whole process – to move over to the cloud and get everyone to see the value in Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin tells us.

“However, achieving this has been challenging and we’re still not 100% of the way there. I hope that my experience will help others avoid some of the pitfalls we have fallen down.”

Based in the East Midlands, Thomas Deacon Education Trust is a small but growing organisation with five schools and around 4,000 students. With experience using an on-premise SharePoint solution for several years in one of these schools, Martin has now begun gradually moving everyone over to the cloud. Here’s how he is achieving this:

1. Start at the top.

“We started user adoption from the very top – the board. This involved a very short, concise training session with board members to show them the basic building blocks of Office 365 and SharePoint,” Martin explains.

From there, the ICT team worked their way down the school structure, introducing the technology to each level of the school.

2. Take small, simple steps.

“It’s all about small, quick wins. Teach the ‘ABC’ steps of Office 365 and what you can do with it, instead of overwhelming people with the vast number of features that may not even be useful for them,” he continues.

Martin accomplished this by organising short, 10-minute sessions where he encouraged staff to log in, create and save a file and then share it with a colleague.

“When people see that they can create a document and not physically press save to save a file to OneDrive, they are willing to learn more. Everyone has a memory of the time when they forgot to press save on a document they’ve been working on.”

3. Know your audience.

“There’s no point in presenting a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Get to know how your staff work, get to know what their pain points are and offer a resolution from there,” Martin highlights.

“No matter how much training you give someone, if they don’t need to use a feature, they won’t use it.”

By tailoring your training to individuals or small groups of people with a similar job role, you can really get them to understand how the product can help them save time.

Finally, Martin gives some real-life examples of where he has rolled out Office 365 and SharePoint.

1. Parents evening feedback.

Previously, parents would fill out a paper slip, which would then have to be processed and sorted by admin staff. It was a slow process and many parents would forget to complete the forms.

Now, teachers approach parents with an iPad that has four or five questions on. It’s instant feedback and doesn’t require as much time from the admin team.

2. Friday quizzes.

A similar example of how Office 365 and SharePoint has transformed pupils’ learning experiences is with end-of-the-week quizzes.

Again, this was once a paper-based exercise that was time-consuming and unengaging.

Students now answer questions on an iPad or other device and can see their results straight away, as well as compare their progress to their fellow classmates. It gives them an opportunity to take control of their own learning, as well as providing the teacher with insight into how well their class understood the lesson.

Final, takeaway points from Martin on user adoption:

  • Keep training short and concise.
  • Leadership first and work down.
  • Start simple.
  • Solve problems.
  • Tailor for audience.
  • Transformation takes time.

What users want from SharePoint news articles

Releasing organisational and team communication via SharePoint news articles is a powerful way to connect with colleagues. News articles in SharePoint appear aggregated on the SharePoint home page and get pushed out to the mobile app via notification. They render great in both experiences.

I’ve had several users ask for enhancements for SharePoint news, we always try to direct people to the SharePoint user voice page so they can share their thoughts with the community and Microsoft. The most popular requests I have had are:

  • Target news stories at groups of people
  • Add news from external sources
  • Option to unpublish and delete news stories

Some good news below, some of these are resolved now or in the new year. Unpublish and delete news stories is still not available (from an intuitive interface – you can go to site pages via site contents). You can vote for it here

Many users have reported that they are happy with the editing interface. Using the same intuitive page editing experience as standard SharePoint pages, news articles are easy to adopt in any organisation.

SharePoint News Story

In addition to creating news pages, users can now share links to external news stories. SharePoint intelligently extracts images and text from the external source, all the end user needs to do is provide a link to the external article.

SharePoint news options

Sharing external news will make users aware of an external article without the creator having to manually recreate or copy and paste the story.

News Link

Did you know that you can now save news articles to read later? I’ve not had this request from any end-users but seems useful if you find an article that is interesting, but you are in a rush. This can be done via the mobile app by clicking the bookmark icon or from the SharePoint home page.

Save SharePoint News Articles

There are some exciting updates coming to SharePoint news in 2019. When I speak to people, I often get asked about targeting news stories to groups of people. My response is that the news article should be added to a SharePoint site which only the correct users have access to. This is a bit of a workaround but not for long! Audience targeting based on groups or individuals is coming early next year to make news even more powerful. It will help owners target news while having a central repository for news.

News comments have not been particularly useful as users often don’t return to see new comments. This is set to improve too over the coming months. Users will be able to use @ to mention other people in the organisation. With intelligent auto-complete, it will really be easy to mention other people and get them involved in the conversation. Mentions will automatically trigger notifications or reminder emails, meaning that comments are not missed again.

We will provide some video tutorials as soon as the new functionality is available!

If you have your own ideas to improve SharePoint news, we would like to hear from you. Comment below and add your ideas to the SharePoint user voice page. With your feedback, Microsoft can see what end-users really want.

ESPC: SharePoint Team Sites and Microsoft Teams Working Together

The future role of SharePoint with the advent of Teams has been on my mind for over a year now. Teams is built on top of SharePoint but is an application rather than a website. Teams has chat and collaboration, but SharePoint has news and is interconnected with related sites through Hub sites in sometimes a more intuitive interface. Teams is gaining more user adoption with its modern way of creating an efficient workplace. The governance and admin controls are on their way for Teams too. Which should you use? Do you have to make a choice?

As a SharePoint and Teams provider, it has been hard to determine if Teams was there to replace SharePoint or that it would work side-by-side with SharePoint. My initial thoughts were that SharePoint would be the organisation intranet (communication sites), a place to go for company-wide communication and resources. Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Team sites were great for small-medium team collaboration.

At the European SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure conference 2018 in Copenhagen, Jeff Teper (Corporate Vice President – Office 365) explained the vision for SharePoint and Teams.

Jeff Teper Corporate Vice President - Office 365

The vision Microsoft have is that SharePoint Team sites and MS Teams live side-by-side. In fact, they should be the same collaboration areas but accessed through different mediums. Eventually everything in SharePoint should be surfaced in Teams. Recently Microsoft have released an option to create a Microsoft Team from a SharePoint Team site, this even adds a cool link to open the Team.

The release of SharePoint Framework (SPFx) web parts for Teams supports moving towards this goal, surfacing the same functionality for both platforms (just in a different shell). It also works the other way around, Microsoft Team SharePoint Team sites (the site behind the Team!), can be added to SharePoint Hub sites just like any other SharePoint site so news and events can be aggregated. When planning site architecture, we can now imagine that whatever site or team is planned in either SharePoint or Teams, both could be accessed with either application.

There are still going to be instances where one is preferred over the other. In some scenarios, Office 365 groups with owners and members might not be the preferred access model for SharePoint intranet sites but there is a valid option for these sites – modern communication sites. Microsoft mentioned that they will be closing the gap on differences between communication and team sites and that one day you should be able to convert one to another. This again would help organisations on a long journey moving to a modern team-based flat structure.

More exciting updates to come….

Bulk tagging in SharePoint Online

Tagging resources with metadata can provide a range of advantages when it comes to sorting, grouping and searching.

You might decide to create a custom view to group items outside of any folder structure. This would be particularly useful if you had a complex folder structure but wanted to group all the documents of a particular topic together (outside of the folder structure).

Bulk Tagging

Tagging in SharePoint Online is really easy and you can even do this in bulk.

Let’s take this folder as an example. I have a “Topic” managed metadata column which I want to update for all the documents in this folder.

Metadata view

Select the documents which require tagging (click the checkbox to the left of the document). Use the checkbox at the top if you want to select all the documents.

Document selection

Open the information panel by selecting the “i” symbol shown below.

SharePoint information panel

You can now bulk tag documents. You will only change the columns in which you enter a value (you won’t wipe the other choices).

Edit columns

Press Save. They are all instantly tagged!

Tagged documents in SharePoint

Now that the documents are tagged, they will appear in search results for the tag, any views containing this column and any grouped views.

For more SharePoint news:

Sign up for our Education tips, guides and product news or Business tips, guides and product news.

Find out more about SharePoint in education, Teams and Class Notebook by attending a webinar.

How to create a Microsoft Graph SharePoint Web Part to show recent OneDrive files

How exciting, SharePoint web parts can now talk to other parts of Office 365 rather than just SharePoint using the Microsoft Graph and third party APIs!

With the release of the SharePoint Framework version 1.4.1, we now have preview support of the Microsoft Graph API.

In this example, I’m going to create a SharePoint Framework web part to show my latest OneDrive files.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

I’m going to assume that you already know how to create SharePoint framework web parts, if you don’t, take a look at my previous blog posts:

I will begin with a new SharePoint framework project (no JavaScript framework) using the latest version 1.4.1 (see getting started).

In the new project, open the web part typescript file (src\ webparts\ webpartname\ webpartname.ts).

Import the MSGraphClient using the following code:

import { MSGraphClient } from '@microsoft/sp-client-preview';

Inside the render function in our default class, we are going to define a variable for the service scope.

const client: MSGraphClient = this.context.serviceScope.consume(MSGraphClient.serviceKey);

We can make it easier to catch errors when coding against the MS Graph by installing the typings. You can do this from the terminal in VSCode by running:

npm install @microsoft/microsoft-graph-types –save-dev

This then needs to be imported in the web part typescript file.

import * as MicrosoftGraph from '@microsoft/microsoft-graph-types';

Under the line defining the service scope, add the following code to get data from the graph API

    client
      .api('me/drive/recent')
      .get((error, files: MicrosoftGraph.DriveItem, rawResponse: any) => {
        // handle the response
        for (var _i = 0; _i < rawResponse.body.value.length; _i++) {
          htmlcode += `<a href="${rawResponse.body.value[_i].webUrl}">${rawResponse.body.value[_i].name}</a></br>`;

        }
      this.domElement.innerHTML = `
      <div class="${ styles.myOneDriveFiles }">
        ${htmlcode}
      </div>`;
    });

Configuring API permission requests

In the package-solution json file (in the config folder), we need to define which Graph permissions we will be using.
Under “skipFeatureDeployment”, add the following JSON.

"webApiPermissionRequests": [
      {
        "resource": "Microsoft Graph",
        "scope": "Files.Read"
      }
    ]

To determine the permission levels and which API to use, I used the following references:

Graph Explorer
Permission Scopes

So we can test this, we need to allow access for this API in the Office 365 admin centre. To do this we are going to build and package the solution and then add it to the app catalog.

To package the solution, run the following commands from the VSCode terminal:

gulp bundle –ship

gulp package-solution –ship

This will create a SPPKG file in the sharepoint\solution folder. This is the file you will need to drag and drop into the tenant App Catalog. Please note that the next steps can only be performed on a first release tenant (not just a first release user).

You will see the additional highlighted message below.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

Open the SharePoint Admin Centre of your tenant, and select to “Try the new SharePoint admin center”, in the upper right corner of the screen.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

Select “API management”

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

There seemed to be a bit of a bug on this page, I had to refresh a few times before it appeared and it appeared twice (maybe because i tried uploading to the app catalog twice).

Select the request and press Approve

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

Add the web part to a modern page. If you have a pop-up blocker enabled in chrome, you will be asked to disable this.

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

After reloading the page, wow we see Microsoft Graph data inside a SharePoint web part!!

SPFx Microsoft Graph Web Part

You can download the source code from my GitHub page

Creating a quiz using Microsoft Forms in OneNote

Microsoft Forms are a great way to quickly gather survey results or produce quizzes. It could be testing employees on health and safety in OneNote or it could be setting students a topic quiz in Class Notebook.

In this post, I’m going to go through the steps on how to add a quiz to OneNote.

First, create a new page and call it “Quiz”.

Class Notebook

Go to the insert tab in the ribbon and select “Forms”.

Microsoft Forms

Here you will see a list of any forms and quizzes that you previously created in addition to the new options.

List of forms

Click “New Quiz”.

Microsoft Forms will open in a new tab, give the quiz a title and description.

Click “Add question” and select “Choice”.

Enter a question and all the options, you can press “Add option” to add more answer options.

Next to each answer option, you can provide some feedback for users who select this option using the speech bubble icon (see highlighted below).

Mark the correct answer by selecting the tick icon (see highlighted below).

At the bottom of the question, you can assign points for the correct answer, allow multiple answers and make it a required question.

By pressing the menu (…), you can bring up more options such as shuffling the answers or writing math equations.

You can add more questions by clicking “Add question”. The form will save automatically as you edit it (no save button).

When you have finished creating your quiz, switch the browser tab back to the OneNote file, you will see that the quiz has now appeared in the “My forms” list.

Press the “Insert” button.

Our quiz is now embedded on the page!

When users complete the quiz, they will see their points after pressing submit (with feedback on each question).

The author of the quiz can go back into “Microsoft Forms” via the app launcher (see highlighted below).

They can then see a detailed breakdown of the results with the option to export to Excel.

Microsoft Forms can also be added to SharePoint pages, so you can enhance your intranet with surveys and quizzes!

Microsoft Forms is a great tool in the Office 365 package. By using this tool in your organisation, you could really improve engagement with users.

At Cloud Design Box, our solutions help schools and companies get the best out of SharePoint, Teams and OneNote.

More information on our education and business solutions can be found on our website.

Cloud Design Box Class Dashboard

The benefits of Office 365 and SharePoint in education

There’s no denying that Office 365 now provides a fantastic integrated suite of products. Why should schools and colleges look at moving to Office 365? Can it save time, money and improve student engagement? Let’s take a look in more detail.

Why is cloud storage important?

Office Integration
Office 365

One of the big benefits of using Office 365 (in general), is the close integration with Office Online. The days when students had to install Office on a PC or be restricted to an OS or desktop device are long gone. Office 365 brings Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Sway to all devices. Office 365 licencing also means that students can download the full version too.

Access on any device

Can your students access all the lesson resources, shared drives and personal drives on their mobile and tablet devices at home? Only Google and Microsoft provide realistic solutions. Both are free for schools, but both require some setup and modification to make them suitable for each individual school.

Students are far more likely to access resources on mobile or tablet devices. In fact, many will never want to own a laptop or desktop computer. In addition to this, teachers are more reliant on using personal tablets and phones to access resources. The OneDrive for Business app allows students to search and navigate through all the shared resources from their phone and tablet.

Document management
Office 365

Remember accidentally losing a file? It would involve a call to the IT department who would then be searching through backups trying to locate the correct file. OneDrive and SharePoint both have a recycle bin, so you can restore documents for 93 days after the original deletion date. If you delete it from the end-user recycle bin, your IT admins can get it back from the site collection recycle bin (within the 93 days). Even after the 93 days, you can call Microsoft who can sometimes help you get older files back.

What if someone saves over a document or a mistake is made? Every document has version history by default, so you can easily go back to a previous version of the document.

Live collaboration and co-authoring

One of the most impressive features of SharePoint to demonstrate is the ability for multiple users to work on the same document at the same time. It could be a lesson plan in a Word Document, a marksheet in excel or a presentation in PowerPoint. These products provide co-authoring in a slick and easy-to-use way. The paragraph, cell or slide will lock and all users will see the editing live (see below).

Remember when marksheet spreadsheets were locked for editing when trying to open on the school servers? You don’t have that problem in SharePoint, you can work quicker and more efficiently saving precious time that teachers don’t have enough of.
co-authoring
Co-authoring in Office 365

What about homework and electronic assignments?

SharePoint is a great document management system but what about assignments and grading work? For homework and assignments, Office 365 has a range of built-in and third-party products to provide assignment functionality.

Microsoft Teams is also free for education and comes with some built-in assignment tools. These are great basic assignment tools ideal for keeping track of homework. Teams integrates with SharePoint, so you can access all your class and shared resources.

Microsoft Teams
Assignments in Microsoft Teams

Class Notebook is a powerful learning tool with individual student sections, an immersive reader, and tools to distribute and collect work.

OneNote Class Notebook
OneNote Class Notebook

If you want some more in-depth assignment tools, third-party products such as teacher dashboard, firefly, show my homework and many more come with Office 365 single sign-on. Store your resources in SharePoint and use any other application for assignments. Please note that not all these third-party products will allow students an easy way to create and submit office documents.

At Cloud Design Box, we can help you implement Teams with MIS data, create SharePoint resource areas, apply custom branding, training, support, workflows and much more! Contact us via the website for more details.

SharePoint by Cloud Design Box
SharePoint Design by Cloud Design Box