6 Things Every Office365 Power User Should Be Doing Today
Power users commonly manage day to day Office 365 usage, administration, training, and more. There are powerful no-code, browser-based, or initiative-based tools at everyone’s fingertips just waiting to be tapped, launching Office 365 implementations and solutions that solve real-world organizational tasks and problems.
Office 365 upped the search game for SharePoint by providing a new search interface that includes predictive results, a new search-results interface for delivering better results that are natively responsive, and the ability to view traditional search results in the “classic” search results interface.
Access the new SharePoint search results by starting at your new SharePoint homepage. Once authenticated in Office 365 (portal.office.com), click the SharePoint tile in the app launcher, or even quicker, pin https://”yourtenant”.sharepoint.com/_layouts/15/sharepoint.aspx. Don’t forget to replace “yourtenant” with your actual tenant such as pixelmilldevelopment.sharepoint.com.
Once you have loaded your SharePoint home, you will find a search box in the upper left corner. As soon as you start a search phrase, predictive results will appear under the search box, driven by the Microsoft Graph and an index of your Office 365 tenant, based on what Office 365 understands of a given user’s activities. If you need more results, click on “See more results for…”, found at the bottom of the search results drop-down.
Once on the search results page, just as in classic SharePoint, you can filter the results—this time by clicking the “filter” icon found at the top right of the search results. You can also refine your results with pre-defined filters, such as only Sites, People, Files, or News. If you select a specific refiner, such as “Files,” you will find your available refiners will now include such options as, “refine by document type.”
As before, you can still use wildcard searches, which works like this, I can search for Pixe* and not only will it return all results containing PixelMill, it will also return results for PixelPets, PixelMan, and PixelMinions. If I did not include *, then search will require that the phase “Pixe” appears as its own word, limiting results.
Pro Tip: If you would like to filter your results by additional refiners, such as by author, or content type, say only pdf documents, all at once, use the classic search results. At the bottom of modern SharePoint Search is a link to “Go to classic results page,” which will redirect you to a classic results page, https://”yourtenant”.sharepoint.com/search/Pages/results.aspx.
Bonus Pro Tip: Modern SharePoint Search results is currently an interface that you are locked out from customizing. This means that if you would like to customize the default search results experience for your tenant, you will need to modify the classic search results. Classic search results uses the classic SharePoint editing environment that allows you to modify classic web parts and search components. This can all be completed using only the browser and will require administrative access.
Understanding permissions is essential to using Office 365 and SharePoint Online. The key thing to remember is that permissions are inherited. Simply put, a child object such as a folder or subsite maintains the same permission as its parent /owner. When you break inheritance (give a child object different permissions than its parent) that item will always maintain broken inheritance. When you add new users to the parent group, the items with broken inheritance will no longer inherit the new users.
Many clients come to us frustrated with SharePoint permissions, because they have 999 items with broken inheritance, so each item needs to be manually adjusted. It is best practice not to break permissions on an item level so that your permissions management retains some sanity.
On top of this, SharePoint Online offers an additional permission model provided by Office 365 Groups. Office 365 Groups are driven by Exchange but in the SharePoint world act similar to classic permissions. Office 365 groups also limit user classification to “owner” and “member” for modern team sites, or more broadly to “owners,” “editors,” and “readers.”
To make permissions even more interesting, specific pages, documents, and other SharePoint driven assets may be shared individually with internal and external members, if allowed.
Pro Tip: Your organization should be utilizing Office 365 groups to manage permissions. When granting permissions, you would give permission to the group itself. The management of the members of a group (and the people that have permissions through their membership) is more user-friendly.
Bonus Pro Tip: Take time planning your permissions strategy, paying particular attention to external users (users that are outside of your organization or tenant). External sharing must be enabled within your Office 365 tenant and set for a given site where you want to allow external sharing. Learn more about configuring external sharing in Office 365 at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/external-sharing-overview. Be aware that some settings will require tenant administrative access and may require assistance from your organization’s IT administrators.
Microsoft Flow (Flow) (flow.microsoft.com) was spun off from Microsoft PowerApps (more on that in a bit) in the 2016 timeframe (https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/welcome-to-microsoft-flow/), and since then we’ve seen its impressive growth as a powerhouse workflow engine.
If you have any need for workflows—certainly the fundamental, simple processes, up through complex logic applications—start with Flow. Common workflow examples delivered by Flow range from approval processes when new items are added to a list, to complex provisioning processes that provision a Microsoft Team, Channel, additional SharePoint site and pages, lists, libraries, and more when certain actions are triggered.
Flows are built in the browser in a no-code fashion. You add new steps, configure each step as needed, create decision trees, and connect to external services such as Azure, MailChimp, GitHub, and many others, all within the browser.
Flow may be found in the Office 365 App Launcher but is also readily available in modern SharePoint lists and libraries and it will soon be included directly in Office desktop applications such as Excel.
Pro tip: Get started with Microsoft Flow now (https://flow.microsoft.com). Start with one of Flow’s starter templates to get an idea of what’s possible and start accelerating existing processes today.
Powered Up PowerApps
Microsoft PowerApps (powerapps.microsoft.com), or more commonly referred to as just PowerApps are often related to Microsoft Flow. PowerApps originally included a Logic Flow component that was spun off as Microsoft Flow. Where Flow handles workflow processes, PowerApps is a power user tool to create mobile-ready forms and applications that interact with all kinds of data and services.
As an example, say you have a SharePoint list that stores the names of everyone that will attend a company picnic. You could always send users to the SharePoint list and ask them to add a new item to the list and fill out the SharePoint list item form. Or you could use PowerApps to build an independent form, detached from SharePoint, that is mobile ready, built in the browser in a no-code environment, and connects back to the SharePoint list. You can direct your team members to your beautiful company picnic PowerApp, have them fill out that dynamic form, and when they click “submit”, the data is then stored in SharePoint.
Pro tip: Visit https://powerapps.microsoft.com/ to learn more about PowerApps. See what is possible via Microsoft’s sample PowerApps solutions. PowerApps is included in Office 365 and can become your preferred forms solution.https://powerapps.microsoft.com/ to learn more about PowerApps. See what is possible via Microsoft’s sample PowerApps solutions. PowerApps is included in Office 365 and can become your preferred forms solution.
Power Testing (modern!)
We understand if your organization is not ready for Microsoft’s Office 365 modern tools and experiences and all they have to offer, but that shouldn’t mean that you’re not ready. There are a few ways to get started today in a testing or piloting manner. With permission from your SharePoint admin, you should be testing and getting familiar with modern SharePoint features. Some features such as modern lists and libraries are enabled by default, although that feature may be turned off.
There are also demo and development environments that Microsoft offers for free with limitations. First, these test/development tenants only last a year and may only be used for development and demonstrations. Even if you are not a developer, you may sign up for the Office 365 Developer program and receive a free developer subscription for a year. https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/office/dev-program. Using this tenant, you will be provided a tenant administrator account and you can begin to familiarize yourself with all the cool new features Microsoft continues to roll out.
Pro tip: The Office 365 developer program benefit is certainly useful, just remember it is only valid for a year. If your company is a Microsoft partner or you are a Microsoft MVP, you will have access to the demos Microsoft has made available at https://demos.microsoft.com/demos as well.
The most important activity every Office 365 Power User should be doing today is championing Office 365 productivity solutions within your organization. There are many digital tools available to help organizations deliver results to their clients, customers, or end users. There are few productivity tools more complex than the Office 365 suite of solutions. Stay on top of the game, watch how the services continue to evolve, and pilot those that may make sense in your organization.
Not every tool is for every organization and that’s ok. Start with defining how a tool’s purpose may fit into your organization and as a Power User, look to see what can be done with the embedded configuration options Microsoft makes available. Microsoft understands many of their tools require customization end-points, while they also want to ensure their tools empower power users to deliver as many solutions as possible without the need of one line of code.
Don’t forget to also join the conversations of like-minded Power Users! Microsoft maintains communities for PowerApps, Flow, Stream, and more. Your go-to resource is https://powerusers.microsoft.com/.
Need help championing Office 365 within your organization? Looking to roll out modern SharePoint experiences? Want to leverage PowerApps or Flow but need help with strategic planning? That is where PixelMill comes in. We help our clients utilize Office 365 to its fullest, delivering the right communication and collaboration solutions and portals for each of our clients. Contact us now and let us help you deliver success on your journey.