SPCNA – 5 Reasons to BE THERE!

Have you heard about the SharePoint North American Conference that is happening in Vegas on May 21-23?  What?!  You HAVEN’T?  Well now is the time to check it out and get yourself registered!  This conference isn’t your typical technical conference – there are many reasons for that and in this blog post I am going to cover just 5 reasons that I think everyone should BE THERE!



Reason 1: Content for YOU

One of the best things about SPCNA is that there is content for everyone!  No matter what role you play in your team – there will be specific content just for you. No matter if you are running servers on-prem, developing custom solutions, managing search or simply building out commuinication and collaboration sites – there is content just for you!  Even if you have no hands on responsibilities and instead manage things from a  strategic business level – there is still content specific to you and your role!  And because of the breadth of conent provided, even those that wear multiple hats will be able to find a perfect conference schedule that speaks to thier role within the team.  This is truly something that makes this conference different than any other conference this year.

Don’t belive me?  I bet you in less than 5 minutes you can search through the current session list and find no less than 5 sessions that are on your MUST SEE list!  Below is just a quick list of my MUST SEE sessions:

Those are just a few of the many sessions I will be attending at the conference.  I challenge you to take a few minutes and map out your conference schedule. You can even share it with your manager and use that as a way to help show the value of the conference!

Reason 2: Product Team Interaction

Being able to directly talk to and influence the team that creates SharePoint is by far something that sets this conference apart.  Did you know that at this conference if you have an issue with SharePoint that you could meet with and talk with the teams that build specific SharePoint features?  You can directly share your input and requests.  Not only will they listen, but they will ask you questions and really try to understand how it impacts your team and how you work.

Many different members of the Product Team will be attending the conference and even speaking in sessions.  This is really the best opportunity to hear directly from them and to give feedback directly to them.  They want to know how we are using SharePoint and they want to understand what new features we need.  They are all about connecting with community and they are using this event as a platform to do just that.

Reason 3: Community Involvement

I couldn’t have a top 5 list without mentioning community!  The SharePoint Community is certainly something that will set this conference apart.  From sessions delivered by MVPS, happy hours hosted by Vendors and general conversations in passing – this a conference that is full of community.  Everywhere you go, it will be about networking, learning from others and sharing your experiences.  Because Microsoft has such a strong sense of community, the relationships built at this conference will keep going beyond the conference through tools like Twitter, User Groups and the Tech Community.

Reason 4: Learning Beyond My Team

One of the best experiences I have had a conference is being able to get a good understanding of what others on my team are doing.  Because of the depth of sessions, this conference allows me to step in the shoes of others and experience some of the things that are important to them.  While my primary focus is on business aspects of SharePoint – it is good for me to understand how development and administration can impact the business aspect.  This conference gives me a great opportunity to do that – to attend sessions that provide overviews and map out roadmaps.  Knowing this information strengthens my team and allows us to work together easily.  Even better is when my entire team can attend and spread out across all the sessions and then come together to review what we learned.  Some of the best strategies and plans have been made by teams attending a conference like this and putting what they learn into immediate action.

Reason 5: Support, Empowerment & Personal Growth

The final in my list of top 5 reasons is very personal to me.  Attending conferences like this in the past have empowered me to be a better person.  I have no doubt that this conference will be any different.  From attending and leading Women in Tech sessions to joining together in Social causes or simply being inspired to try to new things in my career – I always seem to be empowered to grow from these events.  The SharePoint community is a strong group of folks, that care about each other, the community and the world – they are constantly looking to leave things better than they found them and looking to build people up. Anytime a large group of them meets, there is sure to be an impact.

Well there you have it – my top 5 reasons that this conference is one of the must attend events of the year.  I will BE THERE….will YOU?




Ignite Keynote Takeaways

I always leave the Ignite Keynotes inspired and thinking about the Microsoft mission:

Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

I always loves the great things we get to see and I love the passion that Satya Nadella has for the world.  I truly believe that he is driving technology to make the world a better place.  Yes…Microsoft is a software company, but the software they create and build is meant to empower those that are on the front lines.  The more they can build and change, the more people can creatively solve problems that have never been addressed before.

While much the keynote went over my head (hello quantum computing), much of the other things discussed highlighted some of the big things that I think we will see in the future.  Technology for things like Ford making design decisions using the hololens and farmers using big data to plan for crops and harvest are the future of things.

But those are the big things – the things that will frame the future, and I live my day to day in the small things.  And while much wasn’t said about the day to day we all experience, Satya said one thing that really hit home.  The idea of changing the culture in order to work differently.  The idea that we cant let the way we have always done things inhibit our creative ability to solve problems.  But this doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes a true culture change.  A change from doing what we have always done….to doing things differently and being creative with the tools we have.  Working differently and thinking differently.  The tools available to us are new and empowering us to work differently and now is the time to help change the cultures around us and embrace these new ideas.  Helping people to step out of the routine and rethink how they work is my encouragement from the keynote today.


Where to find me at Ignite!

It is that time of year again – when we are all getting ready to head to Orlando to learn about all things Microsoft.  I am excited about next week and hoping to make the most of things while in Orlando!  I’ve listed all the details for my sessions below and I would love to meet more of the community, so if you want to sync up, leave a comment or find me on twitter (@jennifermason) and we can set up a time to meet in the community lounges.


Here is a quick list of the sessions I will be presenting and where you can find me next week:

Pre-Day (Sunday) : The SharePoint mobile and intelligent intranet: Empowering you, your teams, and your organization

Join the SharePoint product group and top MVPs for a deep dive into best practices for building an intranet with SharePoint that empowers you, your teams and your organization. Understand how team sites, communication sites, personalized experiences and mobile apps can be used to support collaboration, communication and engagement. We cover the “big picture” so you can make informed decisions about how to best drive digital transformation with SharePoint and related technologies including OneDrive, Office Delve, Microsoft PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, Yammer, Power BI, Outlook Groups and Microsoft Teams.

Wednesday 12:45 pm W205: Understanding your collaboration options in Office 365

Have you noticed that you now have multiple ways to connect and collaborate in Office 365? Teams, Groups, SharePoint, Yammer, email – how do you provide guidance to your users so that they can make good choices? Too much choice can lead to chaos, while not enough choice can create too much friction for effective collaboration to happen. This session provides guidance and a framework to help you make the right choices for your organization to help your users get real work done in a hyper-connected world. We look at some of the metrics that matter, aspects of your culture to evaluate, and how to manage the type of content each method of collaboration supports.

Thursday 10:20 am – Expo Theater 1 : Building a unified experience across Office 365

This session explores creating a unified collaboration experience using Microsoft Teams, Groups and Sites. There are so many different ways that a team can collaborate and work together. With so many options, how do you know what to use, and when? Sometimes the greatest results can be found when you use the best of all of them. We cover:

  • Using a Group Calendar to track major milestones and deadlines
  • Using Planner to manage large team projects and efforts
  • Using Teams for persistent, searchable team conversations and discussion
  • Using Modern Document Libraries to organize and structure reusable templates
  • Using Teams to jump into additional products (Planner, Power BI, SharePoint Libraries)


I hope to see you there!

Groups Calendar Web Part Now Available

This post is about another feature that I have been waiting to hit Office 365.  With this new Groups Calendar Web Part you can simply display the calendar events from the Groups location on your SharePoint site.  This is a great addition because many teams I know are using a combination of the features within Groups and Modern SharePoint sites.  So if your team is using a Group calendar vs a SharePoint Events list – this web part will help you display the relevant content anywhere within your team site.

It is pretty straightforward – you simply add the Groups Calendar Web Part on your modern team site:



By default it will connect and configure to the group associated with your site and display several events in a list form.


You can currently only configure two options at this point  – the associated group and the number of items you want to display by default (max 10).


This is a good step in helping us use whatever tool makes the most sense, while still allowing us to view the data from anywhere.  This may be a small web part, but it will have big impact for those that are using Group calendars.

Update to Quick Links

If you have been following my blogs through the years, you know that the things that excite me the most are typically the small things.  When the new communication sites rolled out to first release, it also included an update to the Quick Links Web Part.  This update is one of the small changes that makes me very happy!

I love Quick Links because they provide a way to easily direct people to content they need to access from your site.  In previous versions of SharePoint, we could do this with a promoted links list or with a regular links list.  Both approaches worked, but they were a bit clunky and hard to make look nice.  With Quick Links things got a bit easier and with the new updates they got even better.

On any modern page you can add the Quick Links Web Part.


Once the Web Part is added to the page, you will see some samples in a list.  From here you can add the links you want, as well as change the layout.  The two options for layout include Compact and Filmstrip.



The way that the content is displayed will depend on the layout of the page.  For instance, if you have a single column page, the filmstrip will display all the items in one row.



If your page is setup to have multi-columns, then the Quick Links web part will adjust to display in a way that fits within your column.


The compact view of the Quick Links will follow the same format and adjust to the space available.  The compact view is my personal favorite, it places a small image next to each item and even gives you the option to just have a list with no images.




Adding and formatting the links is a very intuitive process, making this solution much better than previous solutions.  You simply put the page in edit mode, click on the +Add and then configure your link.  You will be promoted to add a link from 4 areas:

  1. Recent Files
  2. OneDrive
  3. Current Site
  4. Upload
  5. Link



Once the link has been added, you will be able to configure the display, which includes a friendly title and an associated image.  When selecting the image you are able to select from the same sources you have available when adding the link.  This makes things very simple and easy.



Hopefully this blog post gives you a good idea of what is possible with the Quick Links Web Part.  It is quickly becoming one of my favorites!


SharePoint Virtual Summit


Today was a great time for those in SharePoint!  We got to learn directly from the source about all of the great things they have in the works.  This is the second of what I hope will become an annual event where the team presents to us accomplishments they have made and tells us a bit about the future.  It is a mix of things that are coming soon and things that will appear by the end of the year.  The entire community joined in and tweeted up a storm -so much so that we were even trending on Twitter.

IMG_6090[1]If you had to ask me about the event I would give it two thumbs up!  We got to watch this year from one of my favorite local places (Big D BBQ) with a group of about 16 folks in the local area.  We decided that since these events are typically on the North end of town, that we would go for a smaller event closer to home.  The turnout was great and best of all – we got to eat BBQ!  While there were many different things that were discussed at the event, there are two big ones that really grabbed my attention and the attention of those in the group.  We had a few audible “oh”s and even a loud “yes!” at one point.  In this post, I am going to talk briefly about the two areas that stood out the most to our group.

PowerApps & Flow Improvements

This one was really big with our group.  For many of us we have been very intrigued by PowerApps and want to use them internally, but struggle to find use cases that really work like we have come to expect from InfoPath.  In today’s demo, we were shown how easy it will be to integrate a PowerApps form with a SharePoint list in a way that will be totally seamless to the user.  This is a huge win in this space and opens up many more use cases!


Combine the beautiful forms with the built-in power of Flow and approvals and we are starting to see ways to build out a complete business solution.  In the Executive Q&A, James Phillips said it best when he described how it should be irrelevant what tool you are working from – you should always be able to get the best of all applications.  From Dynamics CRM and Power BI to PowerApps and Flow – we are starting to see the reality in this.  I have been telling people for awhile that this is the area we should be watching closely because good things are coming!  Today we got to see them deliver a bit more towards this promise and I can’t wait to see what they have coming next!


If you want to dig a bit more into this topic – I suggest you watch the following Mechanics video: Zero code business process apps in SharePoint with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow – https://youtu.be/B2PhzzVwRM4

Communications Sites

Communication Sites were the other announcement that blew away our viewing party today.  The ability to create beautiful, responsive Intranet sites without having to do much code or configuration is a huge win!  Jeff Teper talked today a bit about how for most people SharePoint can be a career and they need tools that can make them proud of their work.  Communication sites are a huge win in this area!  Now someone who is responsible for the Intranet can make tremendous progress without needing to work with a developer. They can build and design a great looking site using simple and easy templates provided out of the box.  These should be coming soon and I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on them!



If you want to dig a bit more into this topic – I suggest you watch the following Mechanics video: An overview of SharePoint communication sites –  https://youtu.be/WEnQKzzbvfo


There were other things mentioned as well at today’s summit, but I wanted this blog post to focus on two areas that really blew our group away.  Before we watched the summit, we talked a bit about some of our pain points and goals we had this year with Office 365.  I am happy to report that several people left very happy, knowing that they were going to have an easier time of things with these new releases.  I am so proud of the team up in Redmond and all they have accomplished this year.  I know that we have more to accomplish – but what is technology without changes and growth!  I look forward to the next big set of announcements coming at MS Ignite.  They have set the bar high and keep raising it with every event.  Good thing I think this team can keep working to reach it and raise it higher!  I would love to hear your feedback on the announcements today and what your favorites were.  Feel free to leave me some comments and we can discuss!

On a parting note, I will leave this oldie but a goodie here for you!  It was true last year and is even more true this year!


5 Reasons to Not Miss the SharePoint Virtual Summit on May 16th

I have been talking to quite a few people in the last few weeks about Office 365 and new features that are on the roadmap.  Once we start diving into things it always seems to turn in a conversation about “you know – I wish it did this!” or “I wish I knew what was coming next”.  It never fails that the conversation always leads back to the event that is happening on May 16th– where Microsoft is going to be sharing with us the plans they have for the next year in SharePoint.  This is the second event of its kind and one that you really won’t want to miss!

Here are my top 5 reasons for attending the event –

1 – Microsoft has something to say!

If you attend any of the big Microsoft conferences, you know that the keynotes are full of big moments that are meant to really excite and inspire the audience.  With the merging of the SharePoint Conference into TechEd (now Ignite) it is hard to get big spotlight moments dedicated to one product.  While it is great to see the overall Microsoft picture, it leaves a bit lacking if you want to deep dive into a specific set of products.  With this event being specific to SharePoint, it is a guarantee that you will get very specific content and information that drills deep and explains what the next year might look like.

The event will be led by Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper and he will be joined by James Phillips & Chuck Friedman.  They will be discussing how Office 365, Windows and Azure can reinvent what productivity means for you teams.

2 – Real World Examples & Case Studies

Built into the agenda, Microsoft has dedicated time to for customers to showcase their achievements with SharePoint.  These are typically case studies that show off the impact that the new advancements in SharePoint have had within a business.  They are really meant as an example of creative and innovative ways that you can use SharePoint internally.

3 – All the Cool Kids are Doing it!

With this being the SharePoint event of the year, it is guaranteed that Twitter and Social Media will be full of community folks who are ready to share information about the news that is being released and provide their thoughts and opinions on it.  I am sure there will be a very active #hashtag going on with lots of interesting discussions and commentary.  Besides the activity on twitter there will sure to be many different blog posts and articles released post event that help you drill down deeper in to the new content they discuss at the event.

4 – Technology changes more than my kids can remember to change their socks!

So this one may or may not be true!  If you look at the last several years, the rate at which new features, tools and applications within Office 365 change is quite astounding.  There seems to always be something new to be following and looking into. Part of the reason events like this are great is because they help give you insight into what the next months will look like.  They give you a foundation and roadmap for what we can expect to see.  Specific to SharePoint they tend to make major announcements at events like this and during larger events like Microsoft Ignite.  By attending these events you can at least hear directly from the source what is coming and what new things are on the horizon.

5 – Open Q&A with Microsoft

The agenda has some time specifically dedicated for open Q&A with Microsoft.  Not sure exactly how they will be accepting questions, but I do know that this will be a great time to get candid answers directly from the source.  These are some of the best sessions because they are often very focused on everyday, real world questions.

So these are my top reasons, I would love to hear from you why you are planning on attending the event and what you hope to learn from it!

Quick Links – A Quick Overview

Those of us that have been doing SharePoint for a while have a whole slew of tricks we use to add some emphasis to our sites and help users navigate the site easily.  With the whole modernization of SharePoint we are starting to see some simple improvements that can make our job much easier.  In this quick blog post I am going to walk you through the new Quick Links modern web part.  This is a direct replacement for the Promoted Links list and working with it couldn’t be easier.

From the home page, click edit.


Once you are in edit mode, select the (+) in the location you want to add the web part and select the Quick Links Option.


 Once the web part is on the page, you just click the (+) to add new items to the web part.


 For each link you want to include in the web part you simply add the URL and Title.  By default an image will be displayed with your link, but you can easily update and change the image to one that makes the most sense for you link.


 Once the link has been added to the list you can easily manage the links directly from the items.


This web part is persistent through the site, so if you add the same web part to another page the links will be included.  This allows for you to easily create and manage a common set of links for your users.  If you count the number of clicks it takes to do this in Classic SharePoint you will quickly realize that this approach is a real time save!  It hasn’t gotten too much love yet because it is one of the small things that has been added to the modern experiences.  But if you know me you know that I love the small things because when it comes to SharePoint they really can make the biggest difference.


Why the Future of SharePoint Matters to Me

I feel like I have been on a long journey of sorts with SharePoint. One filled with love and one sometimes filled with frustration (can anyone say SharePoint Designer?). With constant change and always moving forward, SharePoint has been a huge part of my career. While the product itself never really seemed to matter to me, since my focus for me has always been on building powerful business solutions – I was always excited when new methods, tools or product features were released that made my like easier. I remember waiting with such excitement for the new product to ship, ready to start a migration project so that we could take advantage of all the new things! When Office 365 came about, that all seemed to change – I was then excited about new features and waiting anxiously for them to show up in my First Release tenant. From the Video Portal to Groups, I was always excited to see what was coming next, in fact, I am still excited and follow it all pretty closely!

Things are a bit different now, with the release of SharePoint 2016. Instead of only looking at new features and configurations you have to ask yourself – what is available on-prem and what is limited to Office 365 and even still what can be done with a hybrid configuration. There are many more questions this time around and many more angles to consider. This is why the Future of SharePoint event on May 4th is so exciting to me – for the first time in a long time it seems we have an event that is just focused on SharePoint and the future of things. The event promises to provide a clear overview of the “new vision” for SharePoint across on-prem, Office 365 and Hybrid configurations. Instead of simply being focused on one or the other – this even promises to bring things together. The event is being broadcast live from San Francisco and will also include some on-demand sessions that will provide a deeper dive into new innovations.

When it comes to business tools in today’s market there seems to be so many different options and ways to do things – things are constantly changing and new tools are always being developed. Many times I have heard people comment that “SharePoint is dead” or that “new innovation has stopped”. I can’t disagree more! Microsoft has is a big player in this space, just take a look at some of the recent innovations such as Planner and now Microsoft Flow. The way Microsoft is deploying might have changed and the way we consume the tools might be different, but I really think that the best it still yet to come! I know the team at Microsoft has been working very hard and I believe they are going to show us some things later this week that we will look to each other and say “I had NO idea THAT was coming!”. I fully expect a few WOW moments and I expect to leave the event feeling like an old friend (SharePoint) is back in the center of the conversation again.

I hope that all of my readers have registered for the event already, but if you haven’t there is still time! Just head over to the registration page. I will be attending the event and filling Twitter up with my thoughts – so expect a noisy few hours from me! I think the future for SharePoint is bright and I can’t wait to hear what Jeff Teper is going to share with us this week! I promise you that this the not to miss event of the year for SharePoint – so do yourself a favor and register now!

Now in First Release – SharePoint Home Page Updates

Last week at the Future of SharePoint event we were promised that many of the new features they were showing would be hitting first release soon.  True to their promise, the update Sites page is now being rolled out to First Release customers.  This means that if you have signed up for FR, then over the next several weeks you will see the updated page within your tenant.  In this blog post I am going to be reviewing some of updates and sharing information so that you can be prepared for the changes when they appear for you.

What is Changing

The first thing to review is exactly what is changing so you can know what to expect.  Currently in the Office 365 App Launcher there is a tile called “Sites” that opens a directory page for your organization.  With these changes, the tile will be renamed to “SharePoint” and will redirect you to a new, modern landing page. For the most part, the content that is displayed in the new page is very similar to what is displayed on the old page.  The big differences are around how the content is displayed and where the content is generated from.

Promoted Links

One of the most notable changes in this new page is that the promoted corporate links are no longer displayed on the home page in graphical images.  They are now displayed on the bottom left in the quick launch area under a heading called Links.


These links can be easily edited from the SharePoint landing page (assuming you have access to edit them).  The idea is that each organization will put their common links here that they want everyone to have access to.  These typically include your Intranet site, your HR site and sometimes even Training sites.

Followed Sites

On the classic Sites Page, the sites that you are following are displayed on the left side of the page, immediately below the Promoted links.  On the new SharePoint page the are displayed on the left in the Quick Launch, immediately below the location to create new sites.


Recent Sites

On the new SharePoint page, the Recent Sites area is replaced with the Frequent Sites.


Recommended Sites

On the new SharePoint page, the Recommended Links on the Sites page have been replaced with Suggestions.  The updated suggestions are generated through the Office Graph and they are designed to suggest sites to you based on your common activities and content.


What do These Changes Mean?

These changes are our first taste into the some of the new UX changes that will be coming to Office 365.  They provide a crisp and clean way to view the data that is most relevant to us.  Because this page is populated from information in Office Graph, it provides us with the most relevant information based on who we are, our role in the organization and our common actions.  The site is designed to provide a quick insight into your most relevant data.  The changes will be rolling soon to everyone in First Release and similar to other new features, when they are first pushed to the environment they are presented with some contextual guidance to get your users started.