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July 23

My Blog has MOVED!

I have recently moved my blog to a new home!  I hope you will head over to the new site and check things out!  All of my previous posts have been migrated and can be found on the new site:

May 28

Social Tools in the Workplace – The Voice of the Users #WWWCooler

"Social" is the latest buzz word that has the world talking. What does it mean, what does it matter, how do we do it, how do we do it right? Following the conversation has been fun and along that way I have learned so many things and gotten to see things from a realm much greater than my own experience. There are so many perspectives – all of which have valid points. Like most things, you have to pick through them all and draw your own conclusions. Today, Microsoft has released some really exciting information that is based on a survey they have had conducted recently. The results of the survey were informative and it would be a mistake to not take them and consider how they might apply to your organization.

Adam Pisoni, the General Manager of Yammer at Microsoft has this to say about social-

"Everyone in an organization—from the CEO's office to the mail room—has valuable information. The challenge companies face is how to tap that knowledge across geographies, departments and pay grades. While the nature of work evolves and becomes increasingly global, daily interactions typically involve the same faces, and information remains locked in different corners of an organization."

This quote is one of my favorites when it comes to thinking about Social and the tools that users need and want as a part of their day to day interactions. The truth is that Social is just part of what we do every day. I had a great opportunity to discuss the survey results with Brian Murray, Director of Enterprise Strategy at Yammer last week and the findings of the Survey, clearly outline the reasons that the acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft makes so much sense.

The Workplace is Changing

One of the first points that Brian made in my discussions with him is that workplace is changing. He noted that according to research conducted by Constellation Research, "IT spending is down 5% but Technology Spending is up 18-20%". This highlights the fact that many organizations are looking outside of the traditional IT model of asking IT for technical solutions, but instead moving forward with their own budgets to adopt and implement technical solutions. Decisions are becoming more decentralized, and users are taking a more proactive approach in acquiring and using the tools they feel are beneficial to them. As a consultant I have seen this first hand, many times I am approached by smaller groups within a larger organization that are looking to do things differently, or looking to utilize tools in a way that is specific to their smaller group.

Change Brings Tension

With most major changes, comes a tension of how things have always been done. IT groups with organizations are now looking at ways to meet the ever changing needs of the organization while still maintaining high levels of supportability and control. Combine this will the ability for smaller groups to consume services and free solutions and you should see how quickly this can become a decentralized environment. The most successful companies that will emerge from this tension will be the ones that can successfully find the balance between the two. Organizations need to move quickly and freely between the tools they need, while at the same time maintaining the control, governance and structure that is required within the organization. Finding the balance between the two seems to be the current struggle of many organizations.

An Ever Evolving Journey

The beauty of this is that this journey is just at the beginning, and this journey is the type that is ever evolving, but never completing. As wescreenshot_05esCampaign_Page.jpg engage more, we will learn more and as we learn more about who we are and how we work, we can become better and different. It's a constant path leading to an ever evolving, changing workplace. The real question then becomes how do we get started, and how do we align with the natural progression of the industry? When discussing the "how" part of the equation with Brian, it was clear that Microsoft is leading the charge in how they are guiding organizations in the process by providing tools and guidance to assist organizations. Most of the materials available, guide you in a way that allows you to take the general information and make it specific to your organization. In most cases the steps seem so simple, but sometimes the most value is found when we step back to the simple. 


In closing, I want to leave you with a final quote from Adam, with a reminder that no matter the tools your organization uses, the success of any organization depends greatly on its ability to connect and share information.

"Done right, enterprise social can drive significant business value by improving how employees connect, share information and work across teams and geographies, and beyond the firewall to customers, vendors and other key relationships."

On the flip side, what happens if we do nothing?  How long will things carry on as they are and what will be the long term impact of waiting to see what happens?  What can you be doing, internal to your own organization, to help drive the type of behavior you want to see? The conversation is happening all around you, and now is the time to jump in and impact the conversation where you are at. Be that voice internal to your organization that can lead and drive the change you desire.


May 16

The Power of SharePoint Training

One thing that I really encourage different companies to do is to take advantage of any and all of the training opportunities you can. No matter your skill level in SharePoint, there is something to learn from a week of onsite training. My training preference, of course would be for the classes we offer at Rackspace. Our team has worked to develop a 4 day training class for Business Users that will really get you to the next level when it comes to building business solutions. The class starts with an Introduction to SharePoint and then goes through several modules such as – Working with Lists & Libraries, Search, Social, Low-Code Solutions and Content Types (full agenda can be found here). The final module (my personal favorite) is one called "Putting it all to Good Use" where you will take everything you learned from the previous sessions and combine the techniques together to build out a business solution. There are many different reasons to attend training, this post contains a few of the ones that I feel are the most important / beneficial.

Opportunity to Learn in a Classroom Setting

I know all of us have different learning styles, but there really is something to be said about being able to learn in a classroom environment with other students and an instructor. The structure of our training allows for you to have full access to a site for testing and completing labs. This set up will allow you to follow along with the instructor as they are teaching or even allow you to create sample environments. And, the best part of all- you are away from your desk and not as easily distracted by the day to day tasks at hand. So yes, you will be away for 4 days, but imagine how much more productive you will be when you get back to the office after the training.

Opportunity to Network with Other Students

The next best thing about training is that you will get to learn from and network with other students, who likely have some of the some business needs and internal challenges that you are facing. There is no better way to learn how others do things than networking with them, learning how they have accomplished various tasks. There is a lot to be said for book knowledge and classroom training, but the equation isn't complete until you apply all that you have learned to real world scenarios. In an environment like this you will be able to meet with and learn from others.

Opportunity to Network with Instructor

The best part about our instructors is that…we AREN'T! J Don't get me wrong, we are all skilled at speaking in front of audiences and do teach classes on a regular basis, but we aren't full time teachers. This means that we spend the majority of our time working with clients and building out solutions and then we also teach. What this brings to the classroom is an instructor that has a wide range of real world experience. This allows for your training experience to really become more like a consulting experience, taking the training to the next level. If you are really looking to "jumpstart" your ability to build solutions for your organization then this training is just what you need to get started. You could even spend time thinking about the solutions you want to build internally and gathering ideas so that you could come to the class prepared to ask questions specific to what you have in mind.

Learn New Techniques

The last thing to highlight is the importance for everyone who uses SharePoint to learn exactly what SharePoint can do out of the box. If you really want to be the best Server Administrator or Developer, then you have to first understand what the tool can do on its own. This will help ensure that you are building solutions that complement the product and that you are configuring things in ways that will ensure the best experience for your users. SharePoint is all about end users having tools that empower them to work smarter and more efficient. If you role is to support these users, then you should be very familiar with the tools and what can be done out of the box. More than once I have run into a developer that has spent the time building a custom solution for something that could be done out of the box. The best way to prevent that is to learn all that you can and then develop things to complement and enhance what SharePoint already does. To get the most of the training you could even consider sending several team members that fill different roles, allowing them to learn side by side and have conversations about applying what they have learned internally.

Let's Sweeten the Deal!

To encourage you just a little more, I am going to make you a deal- for those that read this blog and sign up for our training course June 3-6, I will provide you with:

  • A signed copy of my new 2013 book: Beginning SharePoint 2013: Building Business Solutions with SharePoint
  • A 1hr session of "Office Hours". For those that don't know, Office Hours is something that I started last year at SPTechCon and it is basically a session with me where we can talk about anything SharePoint. We can cover solutions ideas that you have or even troubleshoot problems you are having as you are trying to build them. Or if you like we could pick a topic like Governance or Workflows and I could provide some quick training for you. Anything goes in Office Hours!

To get the perks you must reference my blog post in the comments when you register. I really hope you will take advantage of my special offer, I promise you won't regret it!

December 28

A Busy Start to 2013!

The start of 2013 is turning out to be quite busy for me! I am going to take this post to let you know about some of the upcoming conferences. Two of them are international and I am looking forward to getting out and about to meet new folks!

First up, Virginia Beach SPS. This is my first time at this event and I am looking forward to attending, what I have heard referred to as one of the best SPS events! I will be doing an afternoon session on Visio Services and highlighting how easy and powerful it is for building solutions.


Next up, Southeast Asia SharePoint Conference - Jan 2013 (Singapore). This will be my first time headed to Singapore and to say I am excited would be an understatement! Just looking at the speakers and the agenda, it is easy to say that this event is a "can't miss" event for the area. I hope that if you are in the Asia area that you can make plans to attend!




Third, SPTechCon. I think it is safe to say that the team who puts on this conference likes me as much as I like them because they keep inviting me back J I am doing several sessions at this event, including a full day workshop and a session on what tools an Information Worker has available to them when they are working with SharePoint 2013.



Wrapping up the first of the year I will be heading to London to speak at the SharePoint Evolution Conference. This is my second time at this conference and to be honest I have been looking forward to this once since the minute the last one ended! I will be delivering some new content here that is focused on building complete solutions AND the workshop will work for both 2010 and 2013. So no matter the version of SharePoint there will be things for you in my session.

December 06

My Thoughts on #SPC12, Published at @CMSWire and @Rackspace

 This year I had the great opportunity to attend SPC12 and write about it for CMSWire and for Rackspace.


Each day I created 1-2 summary articles that highlighted my view of the conference. Overall, the conference was great and I learned many things, mostly around the future vision of SharePoint. Much of what I learned at SPC is going to help frame my path for the next year as I work with various clients and customers. I wanted to quickly put together a post on this blog that points you to the articles posted at CMSWire.


I would love to hear any feedback you have, so feel free to add comments below.




In early 2013 I will be starting a new series highlighting some of the new features in SharePoint 2013 that will make your like easier J

December 03

Sharing Content in SharePoint 2013

This blog post is about Sharing Content and how they work in SharePoint 2013. There are a few assumptions that you should note before you get started:

  1. The environment I am using is an on-premise installation (read this as NOT Office 365, this is important only because my blog does not include information about External Users, which is an Office 365 feature)
  2. Email has been configured for the Farm within Central Admin (this is important because if email has not been configured you will likely have some errors about permissions to do things and won't see the same menu options)

In most environments your system administrators will take care of the two assumptions that are listed above and you will only have to worry about the details below this note. I only includes the notes in case you run into issues following blog. You can use the notes to work with your admin to get your environment configured differently.

Goal: To allow Users without Admin Permissions to Share Content with Other Users

The goal of our configuration changes is to allow for users to be able to easily share their site content with other users. When a user who doesn't have the ability to manage permissions for a site shares the sites with another user, the request is first routed to the admin for approval. This allows us to empower our users to work naturally with their content, but still allows us to govern and control how the permissions are managed.

This approach allows the Non-Admin users to easily make access requests, without really having to understand how the process works. They are able to just use the Share options and simply share the content with the users that they want to work with. Training is simplified and ease of use is greatly enhanced.

Configuring Access Requests

First thing you want to do is to ensure that the site is configured to allow for Access Requests. From the Site Settings page, click on the option for Site permissions:

In the Ribbon, click the option for Access Request Settings:

On this page, ensure that the email loaded is the email that you want to use to manage Access Requests for the site. This is the email that will be used as a notification when a new request for sharing has been created.

Sharing Requests

The person who wants to share the data uses the "Share" option and enters in the information and message to the person they want to share the content with.

The Administrator (email address configured from above) gets an email letting them know a Sharing request has been made.

The admin can click the link in the email to access the page that lets them Approve or Reject the request. Once they act on the item, it will be stored in the history list so that it can be referenced later.

If the Admin Accepts the request, the user who shared the content is notified and the user that the content is shared with gets the original email that was created by the requestor.

If the Admin denies the request, then the requestor is sent an email that lets them know that the request has been denied and invites them to try again.

By configuring Access Requests for your site, you open a whole new set of ways for users to easily work with content. In our day to day tasks it is natural to share content with others. With these new Sharing features this activity can happen naturally without having to understand how the permissions are configured for the site. We can Share and then rely on our admins to validate the requests. Since Admins can approve or deny requests we can easily rely on them to implement the required governance for the site. This feature allows us to have freedom to share content without the fear that we may do it wrong and mess up permissions for the site or item.

November 29

SharePoint 2013: Promoted Links

I wanted to do a quick post to answer a question that I have received a lot lately – "How do I create my own custom buttons like the one in the getting started web part?"

The steps to do this are actually pretty simple, and in this post I will outline them for you. Before you get started though, go ahead and get your images together and uploaded to your SharePoint site so that we can reference them in future steps in the example. Unfortunately this isn't a place where you can upload the image to the list at the same time you create the list item, so it must first be uploaded to the site.

Create a New Promoted Links Application

To get started, go to the site that you want to have the custom images and create a new application based on the Promoted Links App.

When prompted enter the information for your list and click save / ok. You will notice that the list loads and there are no items in the list. Use the Items Ribbon to create a new list item.

Enter the required information for the list and click save. The key fields you will want to fill in are the Background Image Location (should be a link to an image stored in a SharePoint site) & the Title. These will be the fields that are used in the Tiles view. An example of a completed list item is below:

Continue to add the remaining items that you want to have displayed as Tiles. Once you have added all the items you need, you will want to add the list web part to a page to display the tiles.

You should now see the tiles you configured on the page. Below is an example of a site that is using this approach. In my example I was using the promoted links as a way for them to quickly navigate to content that I wanted to highlight for them.

November 28

Today’s SharePoint 2013 Webcasts

Today I am giving two different SharePoint 2013 webcasts. This post is to provide links to the slides that will be used during the presentation. There is still time to register as well if you are interested in attending.

Wednesday, November 28th 2:00 p.m. CST
Sharing Content, Now Easier than Ever! – with Jennifer Mason, Racker and SharePoint MVP

Wednesday, November 28th 3:30 p.m. CST
Working with Documents in SharePoint 2013 – with Jennifer Mason, Racker and SharePoint MVP

August 27

Slides Posted from Today’s Webinar

Today I did a webcast on an Introduction to SharePoint 2013 for the Information Worker. We had only a brief 20 minutes, so we just covered some of the new "basics" and things you can expect to see when you log into a SharePoint 2013 site for the first time. As promised in the presentation, I wanted to get my slides uploaded to my blog so that you could reference them at a later point in time.

Also, once the link for the webcast is posted I will share that with you as well so you can watch it if you missed it the first time. That link should be available sometime later this week.


July 22

#SPTechCon Schedule for @JenniferMason & @WonderLaura

Below is the information on where you can find Laura (@wonderlaura) and I this week at SPTechCon. Stop by and see us!


Session / Event



Creating a Forms Portal


Monday 11:30

Creating Simple Dashboards


Monday 11:30

InfoPath and SPD Workflows


Mon 3:15

Intro to Visio Services


Tue 8:30

Beginning SharePoint Book

Jennifer / Laura

Tue 11:30 – Rackspace Booth

InfoPath Book


Tue 3:00 – Rackspace Booth

Answering Questions


Tue 3:00- 4:00 – Rackspace Booth

SP Real World Solutions Book


Tue – 3:15 O'Reilly Book

SP @ Work Book


Tue – 5:15 O'Reilly Booth

InfoPath Book


Wed – 11 am – O'Reilly Booth

Using Report Builder….


Wed 11:30

SP Real World Solutions Book


Wed – 1:00 Rackspace Booth

Answering Questions


Wed – 3:00 – 4:00 Rackspace Booth

InfoPath and SPD Workflows


Wed 1:45

Creating Simple Dashboards


Wed 3:30

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