New Simple Approval Flows In SharePoint Libraries

Microsoft announced today the newest improvement in workflow for the SharePoint platform – easy-to-use approval workflows built-in that will enable you to route a document for approval and give you the ability to give a custom message.

In my workflow presentations, I talk about having a simple approval workflow being a great first step but we need a better user experience than what we have been given out-of-the-box with SharePoint in the past. We need the user to be able to approve/deny directly within their email client, without having to go to a SharePoint page, edit the task, complete the task, and then save it. Too many steps!!

New: Simple Approval Flows

With this new functionality using Microsoft Flow, we will now be able to ad-hoc route documents for approval and approval participant will have a one-step action link in their email.

New built-in approval flows

Make sure you check out the new Microsoft Mechanics video “Zero code business process apps in SharePoint with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow” showing this and other improvements to the SharePoint experience.

Using PowerApps to Build SharePoint List Forms

Today Microsoft announced the next step for PowerApps integration with SharePoint – using PowerApps forms within the context of a SharePoint list or library.

This is another way PowerApps is becoming a strong successor to InfoPath forms and will give your users a rich viewing, creating, and editing experience right within their SharePoint library or list.

Using a PowerApps Form to View, Create, and Edit SharePoint List Items

This feature will be coming to SharePoint Online & Office 365 this Summer and I expect we will immediately start using the functionality within my client organizations to improve the user experience.

I highly recommend watching the new Microsoft Mechanics video “Zero code business process apps in SharePoint with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow” to get an idea on how the forms will be created and used.

Postpone the SharePoint Online Public Site Deadline

In October 2012, Microsoft released a feature called SharePoint Online Public Sites, which allowed the creation of a public-facing, anonymous ‘SharePoint-ish’ site. It wasn’t a full-featured SharePoint site – public sites had limited features, including static pages and generic theme capabilities – enough to make it useful for small companies with no web development resources. Microsoft targeted small and medium-sized business with this feature and it promised an easy to use method for generating content and modifying the web pages.

Sample SharePoint Online Public Site

However, the feature wasn’t used by a majority of Office 365 customers and caused an abnormal amount of customer tickets. So in early 2015, Microsoft announced that the SharePoint Online public website feature would be discontinued as of March 9th, 2015. Office 365 customers that already used the feature at that time would be able to continue using the public website feature for 2 years after the March 9th date. The change is outlined in the KB Article 3027254.

The message has been consistent from Microsoft since the first announcement – move away from the public website feature because it will be turned off. Period. Almost two years have passed – the deadline is fast approaching and we are now hearing more customers looking for alternative web platforms. On December 9th 2016, Microsoft put out a message via the Office 365 portal to remind customers of the upcoming deadline.

Reminder: SharePoint Online Public Websites are going away

However, this time the message had a new detail that other communications did not, an olive branch of sorts.

In January 2017, we will have a process in place allowing you to postpone the removal of your SharePoint Online public website.

That is good news for anyone who has yet to move their site to a different host. While we don’t know what the process will be or how long customers will be able to postpone the removal of their public sites (more information will be announced in January 2017), it is good that Microsoft listened to their customers and is giving them some extra time to make plans – if two years wasn’t enough 🙂

SharePoint Saturday Nashville 2016

I will be presenting at #SPSNashville on May 14th on the topic Business Intelligence with SharePoint & Power BI. I will show how to create BI solutions using SharePoint, Excel, Power BI, and a new Microsoft tool Flow.

Join us! SPSNashville.org

[UPDATE]
I had a great time presenting at SharePoint Saturday Nashville. I had a great group of attendees and we discussed SharePoint list interaction with Excel, Power BI, and Microsoft Flow. I am not posting my slides because I didn’t really show content on slides – I used demonstrations the majority of the time to show the power of the tools.


We walked through creating a BI solution that included a SharePoint helpdesk site – one solution used Excel and Power Pivot to build dashboards, the second used Power BI to display and manipulate the helpdesk data, and lastly we used Microsoft Flow to improve the functionality of the solution by pulling in even more content.


The rest of the day was fun and filled with some awesome content from other speakers, delicious hot lunch from Just Love Coffee, and snacks with the sponsors.

SPSNashville 2016 Attendees
SPSNashville 2016 Attendees

The last session of the day was a question and answer time with Microsoft CVP Jeff Teper.

There were a lot of great questions and Jeff was genuinely excited to see all the SharePoint professionals giving up their Saturday to learn and build community. A few bits of information I noted that Jeff shared:

  • There will not be another SharePoint-branded conference put on by Microsoft anytime soon. Microsoft’s Ignite conference will be the focus and they are attempting to put more focus on SharePoint at the conference.
  • Approximately 300,000 Android users start using OneDrive every day
  • Jeff acknowledged some missteps and wants to fix them – the first being that navigation will be coming back to the new document library look in SharePoint
  • Microsoft knows it did not handle correctly the delivery of the message around how the newly announced SharePoint Framework effects existing developed add-ins. This will be fixed in the weeks ahead.
SPSNashville 2016 Jeff Teper
SPSNashville 2016 Jeff Teper

The day ended with a lot of giveaways – we counted over 20! We also announced that attendance was up 79% over last year!

The Future of SharePoint Captured

Yesterday, May 4th 2016, Microsoft hosted “The Future of SharePoint” event in San Fransisco, USA. The host was Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for OneDrive and SharePoint, and along with other Microsoft presenters, Teper showcased the road-map for the SharePoint platform – both on-prem and in the cloud.

Along with announcing the general availability for SharePoint 2016, Microsoft highlighted new SharePoint features and functionality. You can read all about the event and the announcements on the Microsoft Office Blogs post. I will in the days and weeks ahead, cover the new functionality with real-world examples.

Before the event, Microsoft used the Twitter hashtag #FutureOfSharePoint to promote the event. Whenever I attend events, I use Twitter as a way to interact with the speakers and other attendees. For this event, I followed the Twitter hashtag and setup a ‘column’ within Tweetdeck to show all tweets for the event. For this event though, I did something new to track the social interaction Microsoft Flowduring the event. Microsoft released Microsoft Flow, an online product that allows anyone to “create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services to get notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more.”

 

I setup a flow to capture all tweets containing the hashtag #FutureOfSharePoint and saved them to a list on my SharePoint Online site.

Flow to capture #FutureOfSharePoint tweets
Flow to capture #FutureOfSharePoint tweets

It worked really well and I started looking at the data to see if I could see any trends. The first thing I checked was who sent the most tweets during the event – this included tweets the users had written and RTs they posted. There was a clear winner:


Jennifer Mason posted a total of 103 tweets during the time I was capturing. Her explanation for sending so many:


Jennifer wasn’t alone, we were all really excited and it does show throughout all the tweets. The Twitter activity over the course of the event was great to see and I will keep looking into the data.


John White (@diverdown1964) shared a link to a Power BI report that he created, presumably with help from Jason Himmelstein (@sharepointlhorn) and Dave Feldman (@bostonmusicdave).

You can get access to the web report by clicking here. Make sure the FutureofSharePoint hashtag is selected at the top right of the report.

#FutureOfSharePoint Active Twitter Users
#FutureOfSharePoint Active Twitter Users

I am really excited for what SharePoint 2016 will bring & you can learn more at SharePoint Saturday Nashville on May 14th, 2016! It is the first chance after the Future Of SharePoint event that you will get to meet and speak with a large group of platform MVPs and industry experts at a local SPS event. Register now!

Building Business Intelligence Dashboards with SharePoint Data – December 1st 2015

I will be co-presenting at the Nashville Business Intelligence User Group meeting this month. We will be walking attendees through creating dashboards using Power BI and I will be focusing on using SharePoint data.

I will show how to use Excel to create dashboards within SharePoint web part pages – first with an export of a SharePoint list and then an import of a SharePoint list into Excel. We will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each method.

I will then show linking to the same SharePoint list data using the Power BI Desktop application and then publishing it to Power BI.

[UPDATE]
The meeting went really well – Tammy Clark started off showing how easily Power BI could connect to Facebook data.

I went second and used a SharePoint list I created with Helpdesk data to create dashboards using Excel and SharePoint web part pages. I then moved onto Power BI and ended with showing the cool iOS Power BI app (although it took some time to get it to project from my phone onto the screen).

Power BI iOS App
Helpdesk sample data within Power BI iOS app

Dan Evans then made a couple of announcements about Cortana and Power BI integration. Kerry Tyler finished off the night rocking our Power BI world with a demo that had us saying “wow!” 🙂

Nash BI December 2015 Meeting
Business Intelligence User Group Meeting Attendees

We finished the night at a new restaurant around the corner called Tupelo – fried green tomatoes, pork egg rolls (they were fantastic!!), and chicken and biscuits were enjoyed by all!

Tupelo Honey Cafe
SQLFamily Night at Tupelo Honey Cafe

Problems Creating List Workflows in SharePoint Designer 2010 for Office 365 Sites

On a SharePoint Online site, when attempting to edit a previously created list workflow using SharePoint Designer 2010, I received the following error in Designer:

(SharePoint Designer cannot display the item…Most likely causes: The file has been deleted from the site. The site is encountering problems.)

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I had never encountered this error before, so instead of editing the workflow, I tried to create a new list workflow. After entering the name of the new workflow and clicking OK in the window shown below, the window closes and nothing happens.

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I thought maybe it was an issue with Designer itself, so I closed the application and went to clear out all the related cache. I started in the SharePoint Designer folder located in the AppData directory. In the ProxyAssemblyCache folder, I noticed something very interesting – two folders with what looked like different version numbers as their names.

(c:\users\*username*\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\SharePoint Designer\ProxyAssemblyCache)

clip_image003

The 14.0.0.6120 version corresponds to the April 2012 CU for SharePoint 2010. The 15.0.0.4433 number corresponds to the ​December 2012 Hotfix for SharePoint 2013! I haven’t opened a SharePoint 2013 site from this computer, so I was perplexed why this version number was being used.

So, I went back into SharePoint Designer to see if I could find more information, and noticed that the SharePoint version was 4, BUT it was 4 (15.0.0.4433)! This is exactly how a site would report itself when it is hosted on a SharePoint 2013 server that is using the 2010 experience.

(SharePoint Designer site properties reporting version 4 (15.0.0.4433) )

clip_image004

So, without notifying anyone, it seems Microsoft has started to rollout SharePoint ‘Wave 15’ (2013) in SharePoint Online, but it is keeping these existing tenants on the 2010 experience. So, there is no way of knowing when you are converted over, unless you start having issues creating or editing list workflows in SharePoint Designer 2010 or you happen to look at your version number.

The “solution” is to install SharePoint Designer 2013 (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35491), remove the ProxyAssemblyCache folders, and clear out any files in the C:\Users\dglenn\AppData\Local\Microsoft\WebsiteCache\ directory.