Where To Start with Internal Comms and Microsoft Teams

Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of having candid conversations with a wide range of organizations about the challenges they face with the rise of Microsoft Teams. Every one of them had a similar story, and whether they had 36,000 employees or 36, the pain points were the same. In this article, I’ll discuss the top challenges communicators face in Microsoft Teams and offer solutions to get you on a path forward.

Top Three Challenges Communicators face with Microsoft Teams

1. Fragmented Channels

Until recently, many organizations felt they had a decent enough handle on reaching everyone they needed to. There might have been some part of the company that they wished to engage with better (like field workers), but for the most part, their aging Intranet, internal communications app, and newsletter system were doing a satisfactory job. Then the world got turned upside down, and suddenly a significant portion of their users were living in Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams users then stopped using the Intranet as much, if at all, missing out on corporate communications that were strategically positioned on key pages to get their attention. What’s more, having convenient Chat and Voice/Video conferencing features, these users were becoming increasingly insulated from the emailed corporate newsletter as they went to their Outlook less and less. And Microsoft Teams mobile kept the user in its warm and inviting world, and away from corporate-branded communication apps.

The internal communications team, already taxed with the surge in demand for keeping the organization informed and unified, was left wondering how to reach these people.

2. No Built-in Communications Features

Some organizations bravely jumped in, posting links to Intranet articles into the Posts tabs (i.e. conversation stream) of various Teams, trying to get people’s attention and draw them back. Unfortunately, as soon as people started posting anything – from work-related questions, to even remarking on the article – the article got pushed off screen and lost to history. Anyone just joining in had no idea that there had been a post.

A few organizations created Teams tabs that pointed to SharePoint Intranet pages, but they looked unnatural given how Teams works and presents information, resulting in poor adoption.

Experts in the communications field have written many articles about where Teams’ out-of-the-box functionality doesn’t align with the needs of communicators. We, at Sparrow, have written a few ourselves (Let’s Talk about Microsoft TeamsTurn Microsoft Teams Into The Ultimate Communications Hub)

3. IT, the Intranet, and Budget Cuts

Communicators are great problem solvers and often take reaching their people personally. Internal communications is the lifeblood of the organization, keeping everyone informed of common purpose and making them feel knit together as a greater whole.

Some organizations had an aging SharePoint 2016 (On-Premise) Intranet and were using Microsoft Teams (part of Microsoft Office 365, cloud-based), leaving them feeling technologically fragmented. Many communication plans for revamping the Intranet and drawing everyone back for the great content were met with the stark reality of finances being already significantly strained. In a few cases, some costly communication channels that were up for renewal were going to need to be reconsidered. This was the last thing that communication teams needed.

3 Pieces to the Plan

At Sparrow, we have a very clear mission – to make the lives of professional communicators better. This brings with it several vital responsibilities; the greatest one is listening to what our customers are going through, not just how they are using technologies (ours included). From there, we’ve helped customers find a path forward. Here are the key things we’ve learned.

Accept the Disruption – This Isn’t the Old School Intranet

One of the most important things to recognize is that Microsoft Teams’ quick adoption will be very disruptive to the corporate Intranet. There are many responsibilities we’ve associated with Intranets for a long time, from being our communication hub, to the source of documents, policies, and procedures, to how to contact IT when we have a support need. With Microsoft Teams, a number of these responsibilities will naturally start to shift over, while others may be shared between SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. Also, recognize that whereas the classic Intranet has been a lot more authoritative in how it was managed, Teams is going to be a lot more user-empowered.

Revisit the Channels – Do I Still Need All This?

It’s important to step back and look at the proposed new world order for communications. By accepting Microsoft Teams into the fold, is there some other part that can be retired? This creates a shift rather than expansion. Particularly with a unified publishing platform that provides some newsletter capability, this can reduce complexity. There is also an opportunity to reduce the overall cost (and make you IT’s best friend).

Act Quickly – Don’t Go into A Planning Tail-spin

Rather than diving into a year of planning and continue to lose momentum as people adopt Microsoft Teams, it is better to get moving. There’s a lot of lessons that can be taken from the world of Agile Development. The idea to get moving and create a cycle of constant improvement is probably the single most important one.

The right type of solution should have the following traits:

  • Can be put in place within days, not weeks or months,
  • Provide you a single authoring experience to reach all of your users on the platforms that they are using
  • Provide the ability to segment and target users and enforcing communication security where needed to avoid any ‘accidental accessing content,’
  • Provide both information destinations (news to specific Teams) and active notification and subscription features to bring the right news to the individual.
  • And most importantly, is economical and gives you options as you restructure or grow.

Rate of Change

Someone asked me recently, “But what if in 6 months, something else comes along and disrupts everything?” As a solution architect of more than 20 years, this type of conceptual disruption doesn’t come along very often. If you look at Microsoft Teams, it’s the convergence of conversational systems like Slack + Collaboration elements that never quite took off in SharePoint + Skype/Zoom. All of those, fusing together into something that becomes a “killer app” is rare. That said, it will go through evolutionary change, but at the end of the day, there’s no reason to wait.

Another important factor to consider is that an organization that acts and brings corporate communications to where its people are, rather than trying to re-direct the traffic to somewhere they aren’t naturally going to, shows them both respect and value. “Your time is valuable, keep being awesome. And by the way, here are some great things we want you to know about.” It’s like slipping the piece of paper in the big meeting rather than calling them down to the principal’s office.

No Excuse, Get Started

Over the past few months, I’ve had the honor of going from discussing the pain with communicators to being able to put our platform in place to solve these issues by the end of that week. These issues are real, and they aren’t going away.

If ever there was a time for corporate communications to seize the day and bring in a unified publishing platform while giving IT some cost flexibility, it is now. Who can argue with driving up effectiveness without a dramatic increase in cost?

And lastly, here are a few other helpful articles on communication strategy:

Getting the CIO Onboard With Your Communication Strategy

Without the CIO and IT on your side, your internal communication strategy might be heading straight for the storm. 

There’s nothing worse than having an internal communication strategy approved, choosing a new tool to implement, and then run into IT manager who is standing in the way with crossed arms. Over the past few decades, I have worked as a technologist who has implemented many communications systems and designed an award-winning communications platform. In this article I share some key strategies for getting IT and your CIO onside. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to assume that your organization already understands the value of a well-executed internal communication strategy. 

The best plans can be quickly derailed by an uncooperative IT department, or worse yet, one that wants to cooperate but doesn’t understand what you are trying to accomplish. It’s no secret that IT and Internal Comms speak different languages and have different drivers.

The following probably sounds familiar. Not that long ago, I met with a client who had a solid, well-thought-out communication strategy however their IT department was against getting a new a mobile app for internal communications. They agreed that they had a highly mobile and remote workforce, but IT proposed using Microsoft Kaizala – a group chat application included with their Microsoft subscription – IT did not understand what Internal Comms was really after. Kaizala is great for what it does, but corporate communications isn’t a chat. Using it would have undermined the entire strategy. Without IT having an “I get it now” moment, the initiative was stuck. The situation could have been avoided by laying the groundwork for understanding.

Here are the top three things you need to do:

1. Understand the CIO’s Strategy

Schedule a one on one session with your CIO to understand, in detail, their strategy, technology stack, and priorities for the coming months. This will help you understand how IT is viewing the road ahead, what technologies may or may not be in alignment, and give you some of the critical language to communicate more effectively. This meeting should focus on:

  • Maturity: How mature is the IT function in your organization? From your point of view, maturity does not matter. You simply need to understand where your organization sits in the spectrum. This will help you make decisions down the road. Mature organizations will have a well laid out plan and will have a history of consistent execution. They will have a review and evaluation process that you may need to align with if you want to bring in new tools. Immature organizations may need more consultation of different parties, over a formal review process, and may require more vendor support and quick-and-simple configuration over enterprise deployments. 
  •  Build vs. Buy: You need to understand if your organization prefers to build in-house (or through an outsourcing partner) or prefers to buy COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) products. When deciding to pursue third-party communication products organizations with system integration capabilities will tend to gravitate towards products with extensive APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces, i.e. programming connectors). These can then be leveraged and used by their internal development teams.
  •  Cloud Strategy: Is your organization open to cloud solutions? Are there any regulatory constraints that you need to be aware of? Is there a preferred platform – Microsoft, Google, Amazon? This will narrow down your technology choices and make sure you align with your CIO strategy.

Understanding IT priorities is crucial – is there capacity for IT to take on more projects? If so, when? If there isn’t – does IT work with an outsourcing partner that can provide the additional capacity you might need for your plans? If not, would it be best for IT if you only considered SAAS (Software as a Service, i.e. an online subscription type of service) vendors? 

Your communication strategy will inevitably have a technology component. The sooner you understand the constraints and priorities of your CIO, the easier it will be for you to align your strategy with your corporate reality. 

2. Communicate Your Strategy and the Gaps

It’s important that the CIO and IT understand not only where you’re going, but also the value and effectiveness of what’s in place today. By understanding their strategy, and them understanding yours, it can potentially result in better solutions than you originally had in mind, and we’ve seen that. Sometimes it’s a matter of excellent timing that allows you to accelerate what you were hoping to deliver, and sometimes to allows IT additional cost savings that can cover some, if not all, of your initiative.

Some CIOs and IT leaders may not have a clear understanding of what’s happening with the wealth of tools and channels that they think are at Internal Comms’ disposal. Experience has taught the IT side that all because some area of the business wants something new, doesn’t mean it will solve the problems of old. Therefore, it’s critical to help them understand what channels are being used, how effective and efficient those channels and the tools are, and where the gaps are that you’re addressing with the new strategy.

You know that using one channel to communicate does not work for your entire audience, or that the channels in play may be missing a key type of person at the organization. Maybe it’s the factory floor worker or the salesperson on the go, that’s being left out. Perhaps there’s a group with high attrition whose consistent complaint is ‘I don’t feel connected to the organization.’ Perhaps that is costing the organization in recruiting and lost productivity. Having numbers available to you to support your arguments is very useful because it helps make the argument for you. 

The importance of making sure you have proper coverage between channels and your people is key, especially for companies with a multi-generational workforce. Some employees prefer email, others mobile apps, the Intranet or chat-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. IT may not fully understand who is left out, or what isn’t effective and why. You need to paint the big picture.

In communicating all of this, the CIO may see opportunities to retire existing, potentially costly, systems that they thought were helping and thereby have the funds to support accelerating your plans.

3. Establish Ownership and Support

This is a very important area to discuss upfront. IT is responsible for application support and your CIO will be rightfully concerned about how to handle new communication platforms and products. Even if the new tooling you want is an online service and therefore seem to be “of no concern to IT”, it is. Corporate usage and corporate data, understanding what needs are being met with what, are key areas of the CIO’s responsibility. 

Discuss with your CIO the technology stack (all Microsoft? all Google? Is there SalesForce?) that your organization has endorsed and the capability/capacity to support new communication products in that stack. It can be unnecessarily challenging to have picked a tool that would require a whole new skillset for IT in order to support. Understanding the tech stack will narrow down your choices, but it will bring IT to the table as a partner and with IT there, you may find that they are willing to make an exception because it is the right call.

Lastly, it’s important to communicate what your expectations of IT will be regarding anything new that’s being proposed as well as what their expectations are – from level of support, handling upgrades, dealing with user login issues, and the like.

Is this worth it?

Yes. Years ago, IT was fighting for the business as a whole to listen to them. It wasn’t uncommon for different business units or divisions to have completely different systems, sometimes having their own vendors of preference. The amount of inefficiency and overlap was painful, but nothing was more painful than IT then being told they had to support something they had no say in getting.

The CIO and IT understand that technology isn’t in place for technology’s sake, it’s in place to serve the good of the business, and that includes internal communication. Telling IT what you’re thinking and planning could give more weight to their plans, or support them switching up their priorities. Aligning upfront and discussing communication in a way your CIO understands will save you time, money, and headaches. Good luck!

Can Internal Communication be Agile?

Are there lessons learned from how IT has grown up over the years that could make Internal Communications nimbler?

Over the last several years, I have spent many hours talking to internal communication professionals worldwide. I have had the pleasure and privilege of learning from smart and driven individuals in the field. My background is in Information Systems (IS) and Information Technology (IT). I have worked as a consultant building corporate communication solutions for large and small organizations alike.

Agile Software Development changed IT, and I believe some of the fundamentals are adaptable to Internal Communications (IC) field. In my experience, Internal Communications in most organizations follow a two to three-year cycle:

  • A new IC director/manager or VP is hired. They spend time doing research – understanding the current communication channels, the type of content being produced, and by whom. They survey managers, leadership, and employees on the status of corporate communication. They create a baseline understanding of where the organization is and formulate a strategy for improving internal communications in the future. This research and strategy development usually takes between 6 and 12 months. 
  • In their second year, they shift to implementing the strategy. Vendors are contacted, IT/IS is brought into the conversation, solutions are chosen and implemented.
  • The third-year is spent measuring the results of the previous two years, analyzing the results. Then, based on the findings, the cycle repeats itself.

If you and your organization are not following this cycle, then congratulations. You are in the minority.

I could not help but notice that this is how Information Systems used to work years ago. We used to execute projects in what we called a Waterfall model. We had to understand and document detailed requirements, do an upfront design, estimate the project, and then implement it. It just did not work. Business users were disappointed by IT slow progress. There was wasted opportunity between the time in which a project was conceived and when it was finished. The company would often change dramatically between project concept and the eventual project completion, so much so that the anticipated benefits no longer aligned with what the company needed. This results in disappointment and frustration. Then it usually starts all over again with a new initiative.

That’s why a new model was created and adopted by most organizations – Agile Software Development. Agile is a term used to describe approaches to software development emphasizing incremental delivery, team collaboration, continual planning, and constant learning, instead of trying to deliver it all at once near the end.

How could Agile work for Internal Communications?

The main goal is to reduce the cycle time that I described above and deliver results to the organization sooner. As a CEO (and admittedly, an impatient one), I work with my teams to prioritize good over perfect and starting early over extensive planning and analysis. We experiment and adapt as we head towards our goal. We review what’s not working and incorporate it into our next iteration of improvement. 

How could we complete analysis and planning upfront if the world around us changes so much? This is not the same as not having a plan. We simply do not spend months, or years, putting together a plan that will likely be obsolete before it could be started, let alone finished.

Here is how Internal Communication can apply agile principles:

  • Define your true north. This is your ultimate goal – everything you do, including research, tools you purchase, implementation steps, etc. should align with this goal. The True North won’t change. The process by which you get there will inevitably change. For example, who could have predicted back in February that Microsoft Teams was going to be a dominant platform in the collaboration space. It has become an important communication channel (check out our post on Microsoft Teams and Internal Comms).
  • Research is continuous rather than a one-time effort. As a senior practitioner, you can use your experience from past organizations to make educated bets and experiments without having to wait a year. You can gauge those on a continuum of complexity and cost. Prioritize the ones that can give you the best results with minimum effort. For example, a full Intranet rewrite can be costly and complicated, versus an experiment with communications via a mobile app or MS Teams.
  • Create a backlog. This is a set of features and capabilities that you want to incorporate over time, and you draw from as you define each iteration of improvement. Here is a definition that you will need to adapt from software development to your field: 
  • Start executing on your backlog with a mix of big bets and small experiments, based on your priorities.
  • Once a month, review and groom the backlog to ensure that you and your team are still working on the highest priority items

Years ago, IT didn’t have a seat at the table. Now it’s hard to think about a company that doesn’t have a CIO. Internal Communications is in a similar position to what IT was years ago. One of the great challenges IT had, and Internal Communications often still has, is the classic “take a year to make a strategy which we won’t get to start executing until the middle or end of the following year.” I believe that taking an agile-style approach can help make a difference.

I would love to hear from you – would this work for you? Why and why not? If you are already executing in this manner and I’m sure some of you are, share your results, successes, and challenges. Contact me here.

Accomplish More with Your Remote Meetings – 5 Tips from Remote Meeting Experts

There are very few things we truly have control over, and a pandemic is not one of them.

In these past few months spent in isolation, our DevFacto UX team has reflected over the processes that made us successfully pivot into remote working – what works, what doesn’t, and why the mute button is so much more elusive whenever there’s more people in a meeting. Early on, we shifted all of our discovery workshops online and developed a formula for facilitating effective remote meetings via Microsoft Teams. Here, we share our top tips on how to make remote meetings work.

See, for us, UX professionals, being in the same room with our customer early in the project is incredibly beneficial to the final product. It is actually one of the reasons why we turn our software discovery sessions into collaborative ideation workshops.

Normally, we run these sessions in person, sometimes even in a specially designed room. During ideations, the group comprised of client stakeholders generates divergent ideas and converges on an action or decision to move forward. As a UX designer, this is usually the longest stretch I get to communicate with clients in person. It’s also my best shot at gaining a full understanding of the complex business problems they face. Being so, the workshop becomes a crucial step in establishing the necessary amount of trust to build software that humans love to use. Understandably, the stakes for our remote meetings are high because the success of the final product starts with expert meeting facilitation.

How do we understand a problem, gather requirements, and design a solution when we can’t meet our customers face to face? It starts by following these five tips during our Microsoft Teams meetings (but you use these with any remote meeting tool):

Tip 1: Turn on your camera

When we think about remote working, the most difficult barrier is the inescapable awkwardness of trying to collaborate while we are physically alone. Where the solution begins, is us – the facilitator of these sessions.

It was my eighth-grade teacher that told me, “trust takes years to build but just a moment to break”. I can’t imagine how long it would take to build trust trying to facilitate workshops remotely with your camera off.

Tip 2: Acknowledge that virtual meetings are awkward.

The first step in eliminating something is to acknowledge it. There is a spirit to human connection that a computer could never replicate. The subtleties in facial expressions. The cues we get from an intake of breath. Shifts in posture. The presence a person brings to a room.

What we found was the most pivotal in creating an engaging environment was to acknowledge firstly, that this can be awkward, probably will feel awkward, and it is not ideal. Then to establish a human connection, we start by turning our cameras on, looking into it when we speak, and making it apparent that we are not bots on the other side of the screen. We are humans enduring something that is completely out of our control and making the best of it.

Tip 3: Energize meeting participants

Another barrier we have come to identify is the lack of eagerness to asking questions.

Think about it in a typical workshop setting. Questions come up when a facilitator gives space for participants to feel comfortable asking them. We take these cues from a facilitator when that space has been created in the pauses in their speech and the open air, they let fill the room. When we find ourselves in remote settings, those kinds of cues are gone, resulting in fewer questions and less engagement.

Our solution is to start off with an ice breaker, aka energizer activity, at the beginning of these remote sessions. These serve to get everyone involved in a meeting, but they also come with another purpose – to create confidence through education. At DevFacto, we specifically choose exercises that can introduce concepts related to the workshop we are running to equip participants with the knowledge and confidence needed to share opinions.

This knowledge usually comes in the form of guidelines and terminology. We found that by doing so, participants felt more comfortable and assured in voicing their opinions and, at the same time, we were able to give them deeper insight on why we were making certain recommendations.

Tip 4: Plan silence

Another method we use at DevFacto is to frequently pause to ask for questions and have slides with questions to serve as a prompt to participants. My advice to remote meeting facilitators is to be comfortable facilitating to silence – it’s necessary for reflection.

Tip 5: Give your meeting participants a sense of control.

Our final barrier that we’ve identified is the distraction that comes from working in a home environment. Part of creating a space for collaboration is making sure the participants know what is expected of them in a meeting. Do not surprise your participants with tools they need to download and links they need to visit on the spot.

Give your participants a sense of control with a more transparent approach and send out a detailed agenda prior to a remote meeting. Include how long each activity will take, any links or tools they should have ready, and when the breaks are going to be scheduled.

For each break, encourage the participants to turn off their cameras, mute their mics, and stand up. Once everyone has settled back into the meeting, re-energize them again with a light-hearted activity.

Keep in mind to choose activities that require collaboration and interaction to keep your participants engaged. At DevFacto, we’ve adapted by introducing online collaboration tools like Mural into our workflow with features that allow participants to add, remove, and vote. Some of the best exercises to facilitate remotely are retrospectives, problem framing discussions, and journey mapping.

When we remember the human side of facilitation, doing it remotely doesn’t seem so overwhelming. The thing is a good facilitator is a good facilitator. Enter any space and make it safe to share ideas, offer yourself in an honest way, and recognized the value in the insights of your participants. Remote collaboration is a unique experience that requires an adaptable and flexible way of facilitation. Once you overcome the barrier that is your screen, you will see the amazing connections humans can build.

For consulting on getting the most out of your company’s new remote working landscape, contact us at https://www.devfacto.com/contact-us/.

DevFacto Recognized as a Top Nintex Partner for Customer Success

DevFacto is proud to announce that we have been shortlisted as a finalist for the 2020 Nintex Partner Awards in the category of Customer Success.

This nomination is a true reflection of the value that DecvFacto has been able to deliver to its clients across Canada and around the world. In partnership with Nintex, we look forward to continuing to help organizations of all sizes, in every industry, improve the automation of business processes.

Winners will be announced on July 14th, 2020.

Learn more about why we love working with Nintex.

About Nintex

Nintex is the global standard for process management and automation. Today more than 8,000 public and private sector clients across 90 countries turn to the Nintex Platform to accelerate progress on their digital transformation journeys by quickly and easily managing, automating and optimising business processes. Learn more by visiting www.nintex.com and experience how Nintex and its global partner network are shaping the future of Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)

Let’s Talk About Microsoft Teams and Your Internal Communications

Should we add Microsoft Teams as a channel to communicate with our employees? It is one of the most debated topics in corporate communications today.

It’s not an easy decision as we already have many channels, for example, email, Intranet, Newsletters, Mobile Apps, etc. Each channel has had varying levels of success when it comes to effectively communicating with your employees – and how do we, or can we, measure that effectiveness. For decades, we’ve been blindly publishing content and hoping for engagement or maybe using simplistic means for measuring it. So, given that state of affairs, would we really want to bring Microsoft Teams into the picture? Particularly with its challenges on certain fronts like authoritative communications.

Let’s quickly dissect each of the classic communications channels and then make a case for Microsoft Teams:

Intranets – they have been the standard of employee engagement and communication for years. I have worked with companies that have redesigned their Intranet in three-year cycles for the last 15 years with the hope that a new version of SharePoint or a new Intranet product will save the day. I have seen organizations track hits on their home page as a measure of adoption while forcing everyone’s browser to default to the Intranet’s home page – as the saying says – “There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn’t want to see.”

Intranets do have a place in the corporate communication ecosystem, but we have to acknowledge that they are time-consuming and costly to implement and support. A good Intranet needs to provide employees with reasons to return on a regular basis for it to be effective at corporate communication.

Despite the most valiant of efforts, Intranets have never become the holy grail of engagement and communications many had hoped they would become. We have gone through many revamps, each hoping to get it better, only for whatever initial success was found to often slip away. We are not advocating for an organization not to have an Intranet, yet. They do have shortcomings that we seem to be unable to escape. Shortcomings that a truly collaboration centric-platform like Microsoft Teams doesn’t have.

Newsletters – The first challenge with newsletters (both printed and digital) is around timeliness and immediacy of information. Newsletters are a good way to summarize what has happened during a time period (say a week or two). However, they are lacking when you have an important message that you need employees to see and act on immediately. They also tend to be one-way communication channels, and therefore difficult for the audience to engage. We become the classic professor in a lecture hall focused on saying content, rather than being the approachable leader who draws people in and discusses items of importance. During this pandemic, the latter has never been more critical.

Email – The most used medium of communication today and for the last few decades. While email does have the immediacy that you would need for important, timely messages, it is overused to the point where many of us tune out all but the most essential ones. DMR reports show that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day. That’s a lot of emails.

There is no effective way to distinguish between important corporate communication and other emails. There is too much noise on this channel, and it is challenging to have two-way conversations with your entire audience without overwhelming them with even more email. Also, engagement often becomes confused as people are responding to comments that are out of order.

Let’s talk about Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Team is a modern platform built around collaboration. Your employees can chat with each other, they can collaborate on files, projects, attend virtual meetings, and you can host virtual townhalls.

If you are like most organizations, you are realizing the following:

  • Your employees are spending less time in email and a lot more time in Microsoft Teams.
  • Your employees are spending even less time in the Intranet and a lot more time in Microsoft Teams.

COVID-19 and social distancing has expedited the adoption of Microsoft Teams and accelerated a digital transformation as we have never seen before. The usage stats are impressive, including over 75 million daily users, more than 2.7 billion daily meeting minutes, etc. More importantly, you can check your organization stats by running these Microsoft reports.

After you verify your stats, you will likely confirm that, yes, your employees are spending most of their day in Microsoft Teams – collaborating, attending meetings, chatting. Microsoft Teams does not have the lack of adoption that your Intranet suffers from.

Unlike newsletters, Microsoft Teams provides an excellent channel for important and immediate messages. You can reach your employees on the platform they are using several times a day. It is also a platform that provides an inherent segmentation mechanism by grouping employees into Teams and common interests; email doesn’t have a good way of accomplishing this.

To summarize: 
  • Unlike Intranets, Microsoft Teams does not suffer from poor adoption.
  • Unlike Intranets, Microsoft Teams, as a platform, is likely used by most of your employees several times a day.
  • Unlike email, Microsoft Teams provides a built-in segmentation mechanism.
  • Unlike Newsletters, Microsoft Teams provides a channel built for immediacy and important messages that need to be seen now.

Microsoft Teams has received some key criticisms, and on its own, they are entirely valid.

  • Critical communications and authoritative posts can get lost in the chatter.
  • No means to manage corporate communications and delegate publishing.

Sparrow for Teams is a product that fills those holes and completes the picture, allowing for Microsoft Teams to step up and be the hub of communication for the enterprise. We have detailed an article that goes into depth on this.

It’s far easier and more natural to bring the content to where the people are (in Microsoft Teams) than trying to haul the people out of their now natural work environment and get them to visit the Intranet or read a newsletter email. With a few days and Sparrow for Teams, your org could be good to go.

Book your Demo Sparrow for Microsoft Teams today to see this in action. Best of all, it is easy to install and configure that you can be communicating in Microsoft Teams by next Friday.

 

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5 Practical Power Automate Examples Your Business Will Love

Formerly known as Microsoft Flow, Power Automate is a web-based service that helps to create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services to synchronize files, get notifications, collect data and more. Power Automate is a part of the Office 365 suite and is available in most Office 365 subscriptions. While its new name does not roll off the tongue quite like the old one did, it certainly flows (pun intended) with the Power Platform.

For those that have a deep SharePoint Server background, you might think that Power Automate is a replacement for the SharePoint Designer workflow. For us SharePoint aficionados, that’s certainly a selling point. But while Power Automate does provide you with a rich UI tool to handle automated processes in SharePoint, it is really a universal automation tool that connects all kinds of applications by utilizing custom and standard connectors.

So, what exactly can you build in SharePoint by using Power Automate? In this blog post, I will demonstrate 5 practical Power Automate examples that maximize SharePoint functionality.

For these use cases, we will create a couple of solutions for DevFactonaut, a fictitious company, and discuss various automation scenarios that provide value to its specific departments.

1. Deploying Lists and Libraries with Power Automate

Deploying Lists and Libraries with Power Automate (1)

If you wanted to reproduce a site structure in multiple environments, Power Automate is great for deploying lists and libraries. For example, you might need to provision several lists and several libraries to promote a Site Lifecyle Management process through environments used for Development, User Acceptance Testing, and Production. Another use case scenario could be that as a consultant, you might want to build out a structure on your development tenant and deploy the structure to a client’s tenant using Power Automate (assuming the option is available for you).

You can also choose to complement the Power App you built that has a data connection to a SharePoint site containing lists and libraries. Power Automate would deploy the dependencies associated to the Power App. Typically, you would execute a PowerShell script but this is another option to consider when automating these site artifacts rather than performing the task of creating the lists and libraries manually.

  1. First, set the trigger for this flow to Manually trigger a flow.Manually Trigger a Flow
    I chose this as our trigger because we want to only run this flow manually to provision the dependencies to a targeted site.Manually Trigger a Flow - Add Input
  1. Next, hover your mouse on the arrow downward and click the (+) to add an action after the trigger.
    We will initialize a variable that would be used to define the targeted site.Variable - Target Site
    Optionally, you can opt out of this Initialize Variable action, and choose to create inputs on the trigger by clicking the + Add an input, see the Manually trigger a flow image above.
  2. Next, we will define the list or library you want to create. For this, we will use the Send an HTTP request to SharePoint (SharePoint) action ALOT.
    HTTP Request to SharePointThe following properties within this action are populated using the REST API,POST https://{site_url}/_api/web/listsdocumented here.Working with Lists using REST list
    Based on the example shown above, it would help us determine how to populate our Send an HTTP request to SharePoint (SharePoint) action.

    • Site Address – populated using our variable called varSitePrefix.
    • Method – set to POST as we will be using to create lists, and libraries.
    • Uri – set to this value: /_api/web/lists to create the list or library.
    • Headers – contains information regarding the connection of the HTTP request such as the connection type, authentication token, proxies, etc.
    • Body – specifies the data related to the POST request.

    Sent HTTP request to SharePoint
    The Base Template of 100 is the Template ID and it would be using the Custom List template. For your reference, below is a table outlining the corresponding Template ID to a few List Templates.

    NameTemplate IDDescription
    Announcements104A list of news items, statuses and other short bits of information.
    Calendar106A calendar of upcoming meetings, deadlines or other events. Calendar information can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook or other compatible programs.
    Contacts105A list of people your team works with, like customers or partners. Contacts lists can synchronize with Microsoft Outlook or other compatible programs.
    Custom List100Using a list gives you the power to share information the way you want with your team members. Create your own list from scratch, add any other columns you need, and add items individually, or bulk edit data with Quick Edit.
    Document Library101Use a document library to store, organize, sync, and share documents with people. You can use co-authoring, versioning, and check out to work on documents together. With your documents in one place, everybody can get the latest versions whenever they need them. You can also sync your documents to your local computer for offline access.
    Form Library115A place to manage business forms like status reports or purchase orders. Form libraries require a compatible XML editor, such as Microsoft InfoPath
    Issue Tracking1100A list of issues or problems associated with a project or item. You can assign, prioritize and track issue status.
    Links103A list of web pages or other resources.
    Picture Library109A place to upload and share pictures.
    Survey102A list of questions which you would like to have people answer. Surveys allow you to quickly create questions and view graphical summaries of the responses.
    Tasks171A place for team or personal tasks.
    Wiki Page Library119An interconnected set of easily editable web pages, which can contain text, images and web parts.
  3. Next, we will continue to use the Send an HTTP request to SharePoint (SharePoint) action to create columns for the list. This time the properties for this action will contain the following:
    • Site Address – populate using our variable varSitePrefix
    • Method – set it to POST as we will be using to create the columns
    • Uri – set to: _api/lists/getbytitle(‘<Site Title>’)/fields to create a custom field to a list or library
    • Headers – should contain information regarding the connection of the HTTP request such as the connection type, authentication token, proxies, etc.
    • Body – should specify the data related to the POST request

    Refer to the FieldType Reference link listed at the end of this blog post to identify the FieldType Number to the Field . Now, let’s create a Status field with a datatype of Choice that contains choices of In Progress, Approved, and Rejected.

    Add column status in sharePoint

  1. To create additional columns for your list, continue to use the Send an HTTP request to SharePoint (SharePoint) action and repeat the steps we did for the Status field. When you’re done, you could group all the actions together using a Scope (Control) action for easier interpretation when reviewing your flow. The Scope action is helpful to group actions and conditions in your flow especially if your flow is complex and is too busy to understand from a glance.Scope - Vacation Request app in SharePoint
  2. Lastly, click the Save button when you are done defining the lists, libraries and columns to be deployed from this Power Automate flow. Now, you can run the flow manually to have it provision the lists, libraries and columns defined.New Flow Overview in Power Automate

If successful, then the SharePoint site would appear to show the Vacation Request list and a Status custom field. I created additional columns that will be used in the next use case.

Power Automate Samples

2. Populating a List OR Migrating a simple Excel Table contents to a SharePoint List

Migrating Excel file to a SharePoint list with Power Automate

If your organization is planning a migration to Office 365 this can come in handy. You might already have a defined file plan for files that will be migrated to a specific Document Library or folder, but what about those simple excel tracking sheets? A Simple Excel file contains a large table without macros, conditional formatting, VB code, or referencing to another sheet. Using the SharePoint UI to perform a bulk import to a SharePoint list can be tedious and inconvenient especially if you do not already have the privileges to execute a PowerShell script. One option to resolve this is converting the Excel table into a SharePoint list.

In the previous example, we created a simple Vacation Request list. Now, we will add on to it a list to demonstrate the migration from an Excel table to a SharePoint list.

  1. Set the flow type to instant and use the Manually trigger a flow After the trigger, add the List rows present in a table (Excel Online Business) action. This action queries the rows from the table in an Excel file.mapping excel rows to SharePoint list
  2. Next, you’ll need to upload the Excel file to either OneDrive or SharePoint and define in the Location property of this action. In this example, I uploaded the file in the Documents library of the SharePoint site that contains the Vacation list. Then we will comb through each row using an Apply to each (Condition) and perform a Create item (SharePoint) action to the Vacation Request list. The condition will step into each row returned from our List rows present in a table (Excel Online Business)Create a SharePoint Item in Power Automate Flow

When running an instance of the flow, you might encounter this error when dealing with Date columns in an Excel Table.

{

"status": 400,

"message": "String was not recognized as a valid DateTime"

}

This is because the flow is reading the value of the ‘Start Date’ column and ‘End Date’ column as a serial number of the date. For example, the serial number 43946 represents April 25, 2020. To resolve this error, we will need to alter the column format from Date to Text or copy and paste it in a new column of Text format. Rerun the flow once the changes have been done to the file. Once your flow is completed successfully, navigate to your SharePoint list to view all the newly created list items.

Excel table turned into a SharePoint list

3. Provisioning an AAD (Azure Active Directory) User with Power Automate

Another example of a common SharePoint and Power Automate automation is provisioning new users in Azure Active Directory. This is a great way to automate the onboarding process that is helpful to both HR and IT departments. For this use case, we will provision a new user once a department manager submits a New User request.

The request or service ticket to setup the Active Directory Account can be stored in a SharePoint List or any 3rd Party application and will trigger the flow once the Status is set to Approved. To keep the scope of this use case simple, I’ll refer to a “Click a button to create a new Azure AD user account” template that is available in the Templates section.

Create a new Azure Active Directory User

Keep in mind that the account used to create this automation will need the necessary permission to use the Azure AD connector used in this template.

User permissions AAD

The trigger in this template has inputs that prompt the user running a new instance of this Power Automate flow. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call this user the flow initiator. The flow initiator is prompted for the following input properties and their responses will be used as the properties in the Azure Active Directory User.

  • Mail Nickname (i.e. username)
  • Display Name
  • User Principal Name (UPN)
  • Given Name
  • Surname
  • Business Phone
  • Mobile Phone
  • Department
  • Job Title
  • Office Location
  • Preferred Language
  1. First, create a password for the user (it is a Initialize Variable (Variable) action), which autogenerates a password for this account with a concatenation of the text “Pwd” and a formula of substring(utcNow(), 20,8).
    Create a password for a Azure AD user in Power Automate
  2. Next, use the Create User (Azure AD) action to populate the properties based on the responses entered in the inputs from our trigger. Once this action is successfully completed, send an email to the flow initiator with the autogenerated password for the newly created account.Complete the AAD user flow in Power Automate

So, what does this workflow look like in practice? In this scenario, the flow initiator is likely an HR professional or a Hiring Manager. This person receives the email sent in the last action, Send an email (Outlook) and pass it on to the new hire. After the new hire goes through an orientation session and gets settled at their workstation, they get a print out with their credentials from the flow initiator.

high level flow in Power Automate

4. Automated approval process – From approval request to a response

The days of printing out a Vacation Request form, filling it out, and leaving it on your manager’s desk for are hopefully a thing of the past. With Power Automate, organizations can modernize legacy ways or mundane processes and introduce technology effectively.

In this example, we will use Power Automate to start the approval process for a type of document, notify the approver that there is an action task pending their approval, and allow the approver the option to respond on their workstation or on a mobile device using the Outlook app or the Power Automate app. Both apps can be downloaded from the iOS App store or Android Play store.

To demonstrate the approval request and approval response using Power Automate, let’s modify the Vacation Request list that we used previously.

  1. For this flow, use the automated flow type and the When an item is created (SharePoint) This means that whenever a new item is created in this list, it will trigger an approval flow requesting an approve/reject action from the manager.
  2. Next, add the Create an approval (Approvals) action and the Wait for an approval (Approvals) These two actions represent the requesting portion of this use case. I choose the Approve/Reject – First to respond choice for the Approval type. Alternatively, you could define custom outcomes instead of ‘Approve’ and ‘Reject’.Setting up an Approval Process in Power Automate
  3. If you have a requirement where there are multiple Approvers and the Approval must run in parallel, then you could wrap all the approval actions in a For each {approver] condition. To do this, click the ellipsis menu of the for each condition and click Settings. Set the Override Default toggle to true under the Concurrency Control setting and set the degree of parallelism to the max. By default, a ‘for each’ condition is executed in sequential order. To learn how to accomplish this, read the Advanced | Flow of the Week: Send parallel approval requests to a dynamic set of approvers blog post.

For the sake of simplicity, we will keep the scope of our flow to only one manager. In our example, the manager receives an email notification regarding the request. Then, they respond directly in the email by clicking either the Approve or Reject button shown in the body of the email, optionally, they add a reason and then click the Submit button.

Pending approval- Power Automate approval process

Depending on the response of the manager, the flow will move on to the outcome chosen. At which point, we change the value of the Status column to either Approve or Reject and send an email notification to the Requester (Created By – Email Address).

Approve or Reject Process in Power Automate

5. UI Flows in Power Automate – Intake form process to on-premise data source

UI Flows in Power Automate allow you to create and record Robotic Process Automation (RPA) capabilities to automate repetitive tasks in Windows and Web applications. With RPA, organizations can streamline business operations, reduce cost, minimize errors, improve compliance and productivity. Think for a moment of a task you need to complete on a reoccurring basis. Perhaps, you generate monthly financial reports for the financial department, or an inventory report for the procurement department, or you just want to get more done in less time. RPA is the way to do it. In this example, we’ll demonstrate the automated process of routing content from a Microsoft Form to an on-premise data source, Access.

For our next scenario, our fictitious DevFactonaut company wants to automate its sales process.  DevFactonaut has a Contact Us form on their public facing website. The form, built using Microsoft Forms, is configured for anonymous use. Potential customers visit the company website, fill out the form, and connect with sales about the services offered.

To handle that, we will set up a form that upon submission triggers a flow that saves the entry in an Access database file stored on the company’s server. We will be using Power Automate, UI Flows (Desktop), Microsoft Forms, and Access.

  1. First, let’s build the form using Microsoft Forms by signing into https://forms.office.com/ or clicking the Microsoft Forms from the Office 365 App Launcher.Build a Microsoft Form using app launcher
  2. Click the New Form button and build the form with a title of Contact Us, provide a description of the form, and add fields onto the form as shown.New Form
  3. In the top right corner click the ellipses and the settings to allow anonymous responses and a customized thank you message. Optionally, you can pick a theme or set a custom theme.microsoft Form settings
  4. Next, we will create our flow that will be triggered to route the contact request from Microsoft Forms to our UI flow that will store the value in the Access database. Navigate to Power Automate by going to https://flow.microsoft.com/ or clicking the Power Automate from the Office 365 App Launcher. Click the My Flows section shown in the left navigation pane, navigate to the UI flows group, and click the Create a UI flow connect a Microsoft For to Power Automate
  5. You’ll have the option of choosing a desktop app or web app. Choose Desktop app and click Next. Define a name for the flow, for example; Store Contact info to Database. Click Next.

Create a UI flow in Power Automate

  1. Afterwards, you’ll be prompted for the inputs fields that would be entered to the Access Database. Simply taking the values from our Contact Us form as our Input fields to be used in our recorded UI flow.Set up flow inputs in Power Automate
  2. We will then record the steps that the UI flow will perform. Make sure that you have downloaded and installed the package needed to record the steps.Record and edit steps in the flow
  1. You might have to restart your workstation after the package is installed.Record the UI flow
  2. A recorder control will appear and docked at the top center of your screen. Click the Record button when you are ready to perform the tasks.Record flow
  3. Click Done when you’ve finished your recording of tasks.start the UI flow record
  4. Click Next if you are satisfied with the recording. In our scenario, we won’t define any outputs as we are just submitting values from our Microsoft Forms (accessible outside our organization) and saving the contact info in our Contacts Management Database file. If you’d like, perform a test to validate that the recording will execute without any errors.Test UI flow in Power Automate
  5. Since our test is successful with our UI flow, the final step is to create an automated flow and run the UI flow when a new entry is submitted from the Microsoft Form. We will need to configure a On-premises gateway for the UI flow to connect to the server. For instructions, read how to install an on-premises data gateway.On-premises data gateway in Power Automate

This automated flow type uses the When a new response is submitted (Microsoft Forms) trigger. We will then add the Get response details (Microsoft Forms) action to retrieve the fields from the Contact Us form. The last action will be the Run a UI flow for desktop (UI flow) action, and we’ll map the Microsoft form fields to the UI flow’s input fields. This action is a premium action, and you’ll need to validate if you have the sufficient licensing associated to your account.

complete UI flow in Power Automate

With minimal effort, we were able to get a working UI flow to be recorded, have it invoked from an automated flow, and the automated flow to handle the data intake submitted from the Microsoft Forms. You may have reasons for and against using Access database. Here, I used Access, to show you that you can collect data externally and store it in an internal database.

Final Thoughts

So, what did you think? Does this interest you? Do you see possible scenarios on how to integrate these demos in your organizations? Let’s connect and continue the conversation.

That’s a wrap! We went through 5 use cases done with Power Automate in a very grounded and simplistic scope. However, I hope this gives you insights and showcases the powerful automation of Power Automate. Pun intended.

Sparrow turns Microsoft Teams into the Ultimate Communication Hub

Today, DevFacto Technologies released Sparrow for Teams, a real-time employee communication application that turns Microsoft Teams into a communication hub for the enterprise.

Sparrow for Teams enables organizations to quickly and reliably communicate with all employees, regardless of where they are. Built natively in Microsoft Teams, Sparrow for Teams reaches desk-based, mobile and remote employees alike right inside the platform they are actively using throughout the day. The app allows companies to publish and distribute media-rich messages and news articles keeping the workforce up-to-date on vital information.

In recent weeks, Microsoft Teams allowed countless companies around the globe to continue operating remotely while their offices remained closed. As a result, Microsoft Teams usage has grown by 275% since last fall establishing it as the leading workplace collaboration platform.

This comes as companies notice a progressive shift away from the traditional internal communication channels. “This new era has thrust many companies to embrace collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, which provides tremendous benefits and brings an incredible challenge for internal communication. How to provide effective communication to everyone when they are organized in small tribes? This is where Sparrow for Teams is a great help,” says Adrian Cropley OAM, former Chair and fellow of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) worldwide, and founder of Cropley Communication and the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence. “Sparrow for Teams bridges corporate communication gaps by bringing authoritative communication right into Microsoft Teams, helping our customers reach all their employees – including those on the frontlines” adds Chris Izquierdo, CEO of DevFacto Technologies.

With Sparrow for Teams, news articles and messages can be distributed to all company employees or targeted to those in specific roles or locations. The app prioritizes information in the newsfeed so that nothing and no one gets missed. Authors can notify employees of urgent communication and indicate when an article is a required read, breaking news or needs to be acknowledged by each staff member. Sparrow for Teams comes complete with a rich analytics dashboard to measure, analyse and report the effectiveness of communication efforts.

Learn more about Sparrow for Microsoft Teams.

Create Your Content Once and Maximize Your Distribution

Create your content once and distribute it to as many channels as possible

We’ve all heard one version or another of this statement. Creating the same content, shaped for different platforms, is error-prone and timeconsuming. All too often, the tools supposed to help us write once, publish everywhere, don’t focus on that as a key feature. They quickly become burdened with tons of additional features and increased complexity, requiring us to revert to manually dealing with our various communication platforms. 

Organizations today inevitably end up with multiple channels of distribution, yet not everyone in your organization consumes content the same way. We are dealing with multigenerational workplaces with varying degrees of digital literacy and a range of device preferences. Most large organizations today rely on Email, their Intranet, and potentially Mobile Apps to communicate with their employees. These channels are usually siloed with separate analytics (if any) that make for a challenge when communications professionals try to get a good understanding of how content is being consumed. Analytics should be feeding the virtuous circle of improving content and delivery, driving up engagement, which feeds the analytics, which helps improve the content and delivery.  

At Sparrow, we strive to make your life easier. We have the communications professional at the center of our universe, understanding the different ways they need to reach out to all of their communication ecosystem. With Sparrow, you can create your content once and have it published automatically by our platform into many different channels, including: 

  • Email 
  • Intranet 
  • Mobile Apps 
  • Microsoft Teams 

What’s more, posts can be marked as must-read (mandatory), targeted to select audiences, be in multiple languages, and more. 

Sparrow Publishing

Quick, easy, and flexible. You focus on creating your content in one place and leave the nuisances of distribution and scheduling to SparrowWant the post to be published later? We have delayed publishing. Need to ensure people explicitly click a box to say they have understood that policy update? We’ve got that too. Want to reuse a post from a few weeks ago? Clone it with a click of a button. Need only the leadership team to see it, or maybe new employees? Set the audience to exactly who needs to see it. Sparrow will help you get the right message to the right people at the right time. 

If we already have other systems in place, can Sparrow work with those? 

Yes. We understand organizations have made significant investments in other tools, and replacing them is not easy. That’s why we have built Sparrow with the hooks to integrate our platform with your existing tools. 

Do you have an Intranet that you would like to keep? That’s great; let’s integrate. This can allow your organization to take advantage of our mobile apps and Sparrow for Microsoft Teams while continuing to use your Intranet. 

With Sparrow, you decide which components you deploy. For example, you can trial our platform by adding the power of corporate communications on the Microsoft Teams platform and deploy our Intranet, Intelligent Newsletter, and Mobile Apps at a later time. The choice is yours! 

Sparrow Mobile

Analytics for the data scientist in you 

There has been a push in recent years for internal communication to provide concrete measurements, “Where are the numbers?” Sparrow has a comprehensive analytics module that helps you understand how the content you are producing is being consumed by the organization. Our analytics start with the content itself by providing you with detailed metrics on the readability, grade level, length, as well as the number of unique opens, complete reads, and more. Stay tuned, as we’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming article. 

Analytics

 

When it comes to “Write it once, publish it across all the channels,” think Sparrow. 

Experience Sparrow for yourself – book a demo today!

 

Experience Sparrow for Yourself - Book a Demo Today

Streamline Office 365 multi-tenant collaboration with ADSS

We regularly talk to organizations that want to enable better collaboration between users of multiple Office 365 tenants. Some have structured their operating units across multiple tenants, others need to comply with strict regulations around internal information sharing or accommodate deep partnerships between various organizations. Not only is it cumbersome to manually invite each user of the other tenant, it’s nearly impossible to remove them once they leave the other organization without very close communication between tenants and ongoing monitoring. This spells trouble (and mess!) for a corporate active directory. So, what is the best way to enable multi-tenant collaboration? 

What is multi-tenant collaboration in Office 365? 

Consider a situation with two Office 365 tenants, tenant A and tenant B. 

When a user in tenant A shares a document or sends a Teams invitation to collaborate to an external contact in tenant B, what typically happens is: 

  1. External contact receives an invitation email.
  2. They sign in to authenticate. If they have an Office 365 account on a different tenant, they will sign in using their organizational account. 
  3. External contact from tenant B becomes a guest user in tenant A. 

Now, the external user has some collaboration capabilities on tenant A. This is straightforward for enabling collaboration on a case by case basis, but what if you needed to do this for hundreds of users in another tenant?  

Enabling multi-tenant Office 365 collaboration at scale 

Office 365 multi-tenant collaboration gets complicated in companies that have several subsidiaries with thousands of users, and those who undergo mergers and need to enable collaboration for existing employees under a different tenant.  

When mergers, acquisitions or divestitures happen, there is an urgent demand for quick collaboration across different Microsoft 365 tenants. This does not just mean Teams or document collaboration as in the example aboveEmployees across tenants will be looking to communicate across the tenants the same way they are used to and need to: 

  • Easily find other tenant’s users when sending emails or collaborating in Teams. 
  • Easily add other tenant’s users to calendar invites. 
  • See the other tenant’s distribution lists. 
  • Apply security restrictions based on the other tenant’s security groups. 

Up until recently, enabling this sort of capability to work with another tenant has been a challenging process. Think GalSync FIM/MIM heartache, lots of PowerShell scripting, CSV files, exports, and imports. This can quickly become a very difficult process to manage and maintain going forward. 

The good news is that Microsoft has an offering to meet that challenge 

Enter Active Directory Synchronization Service

At Ignite last year, Microsoft announced a new capability called ADSS that addresses all these difficulties. ADSS stands for Active Directory Synchronization Serviceand it’s a rather unfortunate acronym for those who remember Active Directory Sites and Services. As of writing this post, if you google ADSS, you’ll find anything, but content related to the service. 

Luckily, some fine folks at Microsoft were happy to respond an inquiry email I sent them about product specifics.  

What can you expect from Microsoft’s ADSS? 

ADSS is a Microsoft Services cloud service that’s designed for quick implementation, with no on-premise set up. The pricing is unit-based, keeping the costs predictable, and the service is offered on a consumption-based delivery model, so you’re paying only for what you use.  

What do you get with Microsoft ADSS: 

  • Global Address List and Day 0 Integration 
  • Quick single GAL setup for all your tenants 
  • Coexistence for Office 365 
  • Synchronize all the objects and attributes necessary to drive seamless collaboration between Office 365 tenants. This means synchronizing Users, Security GroupsDistribution Lists, Contacts & Guest accounts between tenants. 

The key point here, is that this is not a tool that you download and configure. It is a managed service offering that runs in Azure and is managed by Microsoft. You get the benefit of quick deployment and a hands-free operation. Microsoft handles all aspects of the service for you.  

If, at some point, you’ll need to merge Active Directories into a single tenant, the good news is, your investment into ADSS can be leveraged and evolve into a full user migration service by upgrading to ADMS (Active Directory Migration Service). 

Engaging ADSS 

As mentioned, ADSS isn’t an offering you can just add as a service in the Azure Portal. It is a managed service first and foremost. It requires engaging Microsoft Enterprise Services to implement the people, the process and the software to the specific needs of your organization. 

Pricing also depends on your specific organization requirements, but it’s fair to say this is a service geared towards the larger enterprise customers on Office 365. 

If this is something you are interested in exploring in more detail, reach out to us and we will be happy to help get you started!