Author Archives: wpreston

Representing Events in Microsoft SharePoint – Collision between Modern and Functional

Background

There are a number of use cases for having visibility to one or more calendars in SharePoint intranet pages – calendars or events lists where a small groups of folks maintain the list of events and a large group consumes the info.

What are the recommendation on how to achieve this?

Calendars in an intranet. That’s the main detail being considered here. How big of a deal is it?
(No really, I’m curious, please let me know in the comments.)

Initial Thoughts and Letdowns

When it comes to the data, Outlook or Exchange handle dates and events best. However, the only surfacing of data between Exchange and SharePoint is the Group Calendar web part. Group Calendars allow everyone to see it, but also allow anyone to add, edit, and delete from the calendar. Not what we want.

SharePoint has historically had an Events list, that also does a good job of managing events – including All-day and Recurring event capabilities. A SharePoint list has list permissions that allow it to be configured with certain editors and certain viewers. However, the only way to surface the calendar view of this list is using a “classic experience” with the functionality we want but with a very dated interface that not only clashes with SharePoint’s modern look, but is only available on a modern page by embedding the view using an iframe. No web part available.

When using the “new experience” of the Events list, there is a new Calendar view type.

showlist

While this calendar looks great in the modern page, it currently seems to be buggy, does not carry through useful features of the classic view like overlays, has issues with filtering items, and does not currently work with the List View web part (but can be displayed with an iframe embed similar to the classic view). Some of these issues may be resolved with a reported update rolling out “soon” (September CY2021).

NOTE: The calendar view for modern lists isn’t just for event-like lists (which is what this post is focused on). The view can be used for *any* list type with a date column and in many cases is a really nice stop forward for those lists.

A bigger problem with the new experience and the Events list is that when using the new experience the All-day and recurring capabilities are broken. These properties and functionality do not show up in forms, though the fields still exist in the list. To make matters more confusing, while in the new experience, click ‘New’ and get the New item form. The form does not show the All Day Event or Recurrence fields, but if you edit the form, both fields are listed and checked as if they should be visible. Not cool for users or power users…

My guess is that this may be happening because of the integration of Microsoft Lists with the SharePoint interface and that Microsoft Lists do not seem to be able to handle these features either – creating a bit of an inconsistency in the interface. If you create a Microsoft List, you can create Start Date and End Date columns and align them with the new Calendar view, but there doesn’t seem to be a capacity to handle other date/event specific functionality that was available with the classic Events list.

SharePoint does also offer a Events web part, which attaches to the Events list. Rather than displaying in a traditional calendar view, the web part offers two different ‘tile’ views – following that little UX trend. While it may be a change for users, the web parts are a nice offering and definitely has its place within the intranet, highlighting upcoming events rather than leaving users to sort through a calendar view. Clicking on events also leads to a few special pages: Events.aspx and Event.aspx that are clean and easy to read. They also DO respect the event All-day and recurrence feature – which is good, but inconsistent with the modern calendar view mentioned above.

With that, Events appear to be at a bit of a crossroads – with some messy collisions – between classic and new/modern functionality that I hope Microsoft will clean up soon.

Conclusion for now

For now, the best solution seems to be continuing to use the Events list as long as it is available, adding the Events web part to the toolbox (previously only used calendar views), and embedding a calendar view until an updated List View web part comes along. It seems like there are a few “broken windows” here that I hope Microsoft repairs soon. A functional calendar view web part will take a nice step or two forward. Knowing what the plans are for Microsoft List support for events would also be nice.

Am I missing some critical feature or capability that solves these needs? Does the enterprise have have these calendar/event requirements?

What are you using in your intranet?

Questions

  • What is the Microsoft roadmap for Events going forward?
  • Events lists are shown as “Classic” features.
    • Will they continue to be supported?
    • Is there a timeline for support, replacement, or deprecation?
  • Will events be supported in Microsoft Lists?
    • You can create a list with start date and end dates, but no “Recurrence” or “All Day” functionality.

References

Microsoft Lists – Broken Home Page

Has anyone else experienced this?

When going to Microsoft Lists – both via the browser and the app, the page that displays my Favorites and Recent Lists errors out with the following:

MyLists

Fortunately, there is one workaround I’ve been able to use for the short term, going back to the Office home page (www.office.com) that displays all Office files including your Lists.

Also of note: I can still create and use lists just fine.

It would be nice, however to have my Lists page up and running. Please let me know if you’ve encountered this in your tenant and/or found any resolution. I’d love to get more info on what a root cause might be, if there are other repercussions, how to resolve it, etc.

Thanks!

Modern SharePoint Page Approval with Power Automate: Message Optional

Overview

The current iteration of page approvals in SharePoint Online using Modern pages and news is handled by Power Automate – and the integration is pretty slick. Kudos to the Microsoft teams responsible for it (SharePoint + Power Automate).

Approval Flow

Once an approval flow has been configured and a user submits a page, the user is prompted by the following panel:

Approval Panel

Note here that the Message field is required. In many cases, this is fine. There are some circumstances however where site owners may want to make the Message field optional.

The Quick Steps

Without getting into all the nitty gritty, here’s how it’s done (at least one approach):

  1. Go into Power Automate and open the approval flow
  2. On the first step of the flow, expand the “For a selected item” step
  3. For the “Message” property, select the menu (three dots) button and select “Make the field optional”)
    Flow Field Optional
  4. Expand the scope (mine is called “Scope 2”), and the “Start and approval” step
    Approval Details
  5. Click on the “Details” expression (circled above) – which opens the panel for updates
    Approval Expression
  6. Update the expression to include a question mark (“?”) after “triggerBody()” and before “[‘text’]”.
    Expression Text
  7. Click “Update” (see above)
  8. Save the flow, and test

When an approval is submitted, the Message field in the panel should now show as “not required” – no asterisk should be visible. The panel should allow users to leave the field blank and “Submit” the page for approval without error.

Not Required

The Details

One example I’ve seen where this is applicable is a site where there is a content management team that does a significant amount of the page creation, but also has folks outside the normal content team that submit content from time to time. Approval is needed. When the main content team is creating pages – they want to get through it and keep moving. The Message field turns into a “junk” field, they keyboard smash or put some useless text in the field in order to submit the page. This is irritating for users and inserts bad/silly data into the system. Rather than remove the field outright, we’d still like to have it available when needed – by folks outside the team, for example.  

Let’s review how this works. Open up the flow. Then expand the “For a selected item” step (Step 3 above).

Changing the Message field to “Make the field optional” seems pretty straight-forward. It will even work for some flows. But by itself this change will not work for all scenarios. The flow will fail when the Message field is left blank because later in the flow a step attempts to use the text IN the field. When that text is blank, the flow fails. 

If you run/test the flow with no Message text, you can open the failed instance of the flow to see where the error occurred. The scope will show an indication that something is wrong. When you expand the scope you can see the error on the “Start an approval” step. This flow fail is also followed up by a “Something went wrong…”  email from Microsoft Flow.

Broken Flow

Looking at the error message, there’s something wrong with ‘text’, which looks like it’s pointing back to the Message field we changed.

If we test run the flow again, and put text in the message, the flow works fine.

Looking at steps 4-6 above, you can see where the additional change needs to be made – adding a question mark to the expression. This syntax (the “?”) allows the expression to evaluate the Message field – [‘text’] – as Null when it is empty. Before we added the question mark the expression didn’t know what to do with a blank Message field and failed the flow. 

Note: I haven’t been able to find official documentation anywhere on what the “?” syntax is within expressions, how to use it, when to use it, etc. Maybe my search skills are falling off. If you find something from Microsoft, let me know and I’ll update this post and references for it. Until then I’ll include what I did find below.

References

Paul Stork has the most information I’ve seen on the use of the question mark (?)  thus far as seen in this community post:
Solved: Use of Question Mark(?) in expressions – Power Platform Community (microsoft.com) 

Another blog that references the question mark with regards to a Power Automate expression
Power Automate – how do we check if a property exists in the object? | It Ain’t Boring (itaintboring.com)

SPS Events Shutting Down… Events WILL Continue

Overview

  • SPS Events, the organization behind many SharePoint Saturdays, is coming to an end
  • The events, however, will continue – as “SharePoint Saturdays” or under new and evolving names (like ours, see below)  

Details

Last week – Friday August 20th, 2021 – the SPS Events crew posted announcements on their Facebook page and web site that the SPS Events entity as we know it will be shutting down this coming Fall. Check out the details here: 

This is certainly the end of an era – the end of an amazing legacy built and managed by awesome people. Eric Harlan, Susan Lennon, and a ton of folks and organizations behind and alongside them created a community like no other.

SPS Events did a LOT, but two things for me stood out:

They maintained a “master schedule” for our community of events. This was, and is, hugely important and useful. It helped with visibility to folks in a city, in a region, in a geography to find local events. It helped speakers and vendors with locating events outside of their usual regions. It also helped prevent overlaps and confusion in some cases. All of this was good for the community. I’m not sure where this master schedule will be maintained going forward. With SPS events alone this was a pretty big list. Now with SharePoint Saturdays evolving (as we are) to different names, to physical events, virtual events, hybrid events, etc. it seems like a challenge without an owner at the moment.

They also provided a platform, a framework, and support for new and smaller events to get a foothold when they needed it. This is such an important part of our community. Helping new folks, new speakers, new organizers, etc. across the board where and when we can is a cornerstone of what we do. I’ve never seen it in any community – technical or otherwise – as much as I have in our SharePoint, Office, Microsoft community.

There will likely be a lot of chatter and reminiscing about SPS Events this week. A lot of us have “grown up” through this community, found our paths, built careers, and so much more. A huge thanks to Eric, Susan, and all who have been and continue to be a part of this community. I count myself lucky to be a small part of it in our little corner of the world.

SPSTC –> M365TC

We’ve already had folks reach out and want to get ahead of the rest of it… We aren’t going away. Our local organization here in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, the Upper Midwest – is still here. As we mentioned a few months ago, we’re in the midst of renaming and rebranding. That rebranding effort will continue and we do plan on returning to events as you’ve known them as soon as is practical with the pandemic and all the repercussions of it.

Latest on events

I’ve been holding out hope for a Fall/Winter event in 2021, but between COVID’s Delta variant and venue limitations, an event similar to what we normally do twice a year is not looking likely this year. Normandale is closed to events through 2021. My interpretation of this is that we will look to early 2022 for a bigger event – with all the usual “it depends” that comes with pandemic details. We might look at doing some smaller events in the meantime, but that is very TBD.

Modern SharePoint + Power Automate Approval with Select User Auto-Approve

Background

I’m still a Power Automate newb. Lots of you have been working with these for years now. I’m legit curious what silly things I’m doing, what other approach I should be taking, what best practices to integrate, etc.

So let me have it… in the comments here, in Twitter, whatever. I’m waiting.

Overview

Power Automate backed approval flows for a SharePoint intranet site on the Site Pages library. Pretty slick and polished as a replacement for SharePoint workflows and nice template to look at for Automate newbs. Kudos Microsoft folks.

Now, however, I’d like to have approvals on my site, but also have them bypassed for certain users – folks that own the site, do the majority of content generation, etc. I still want the process in place because I have other content contributors that I still want to manage.

So, we have an out of the box page approval flow that I want to tweak.

It sounds potentially easy, but we all know better. There will be some pain. And there is. But we can work with it.

What I did

The out of box page approval flow looks as follows:
OOB Approval Flow

With the exception of a few new variables I added, all changes were limited to the “Scope 2” step. When I was finished, the top level view looked like this:
(Yes, I should be consistent with my naming – I’ll clean that up)

Final Approval Flow

I’ll walk through the variables shown above as we go.

Who Gets Auto-Approved

This is a topic that could be debated in terms of the best way to manage the list or folks that get auto-approved. Should you use a list, an Azure Group, a SharePoint Group, or something else? For simplicity’s sake, I’m going with a list. It’s the easiest to maintain visibility and control at the team level without needing to work with a security team every time we need to change a group. I’m also pretty confident that Automate can get to the data I need in a list. I’m not yet sure about the other approaches. Obviously a decision like this may vary org to org. For this example, we’re using a list.

I created a SharePoint list and called it “AutoApproveNews”. Yep, I’m old school and don’t like spaces in my list names. I’m not messing with the Title field right now, so just left it alone and required. It’ll need to be filled with rubbish for now. The only column I added to the list was AutoApproved as a Person or Group field displaying the Name. Yes, the name might not be unique… so something to look at later to seal the process up a bit more. Using the email address is probably a nicer, more unique, approach but I haven’t tried that variation yet.

I didn’t do anything special with permissions for the list while validating this concept, but there are a few ground rules you’d likely want to follow.

  • Make sure whatever connection you’re using to SharePoint from Automate has access to the list.
  • Lock down the list to the folks that manage content so random users can’t just add themselves.
  • I also found it useful to remove the list from navigation. Don’t like cluttering things up unnecessarily.

First note on variables

The approach I’m using is that I’m going to get the name of the person submitting the news article, iterate through my list of folks that get auto-approved, and trip a flag that indicates I found a match.

So with that, AutoApproveFlag is created and set to false.

NewsSubmitter is set to the name of the person that added the new news article or page from the “For a selected item” step.
Submit Variable

The other variables are used in the text of the email, so you can fill in whatever fits for you. Here’s what I did for now:
Variable Initialize

You’ll see where they fit in down below.

New Steps

Using as much of the default flow as possible.

  1. After the “Set content approval status – Pending” add a step to “get items from” a SharePoint list and point it to the AutoApprovedNews list we just created.
  2. Add a “Apply to each” step to iterate through the SharePoint list data.
    Add a condition where if a match (comparing the AutoApproved field to the NewsSubmitter variable) is found, set the AutoApproveFlag variable to true.
  3. Add a Condition step. Test for the value of variable AutoApproveFlag – if not true (no matches found), then start the flow approval. I added the condition step and then dragged the existing “Start an approval” step into the No condition.

    Note: Because there will be some conditions where the Approval doesn’t exist, I need to change some of the email steps later in the flow because they use properties of the Approval in their email content – hence the other two variables that were created: strApprover and strComment. (I should be consistent with variable naming, started thinking about that after I was underway – cleanup for later)

  4. The default flow has a Condition step that waits for the approval response. I didn’t see a way to change the condition the way I wanted, so I created a new Condition step to check for an approval response OR check if the AutoApprovedFlag variable was set to true.

    Note: DO NOT delete the original Condition step until after #5 below and you’ve moved/copied the steps from the original to the replacement.

    Original:
    Original approval

    Replacement:
    New Approval

  5. Move or copy the steps in the yes and no conditions to the new condition step (#4 above). I was able to drag and drop some, but also needed to use the preview functionality of copying steps to the clipboard and then used the “Add an action” feature to add from clipboard.
  6. Now you can delete the original Condition you just copied the steps from.
  7. In order to clean up the emails sent later, I needed to replace Approval properties in the email content with variables that would work both when approvals were automatic and manual. In order to make these work, I needed to add a Condition step and Set Variable steps.

    With new Condition rules, moved steps, and an additional Condition step, the flow looks like this:
    After Moves

    Setting the variables as follows:
    Set Approval Vars

  8. Finally, we need to update the email content to replace the Approval properties with variables. Only the “Send email notification” steps (both “Yes” and “No” outcomes) under the scheduling condition (“Check if content has been schedule or not”) need to be updated.

    These are the ones you’re changing:
    Which email steps

    From this:
    TextBefore

    To this:
    TextVariables

  9. After we’re all done, Scope 2 looks like this:
    Scope2

I think that’s everything. I’ll update if I find additional details.

Recap, Summary

It works. What am I missing? What should I have done different?

Bring it!!

References and stuff

Thanks to Mark Rackley for a few pointers…

Modern SharePoint – Workflow and Approval Visibility with Power Automate

I’ve been out of the pages and workflow game for a bit while focusing elsewhere – so playing a bit of catchup in certain areas. Plenty of folks have been digging in here for a long time, so what I’m learning and re-learning isn’t news, but it is new to me and I’m sure there are others in the same boat. There are plenty of folks on older versions of SharePoint that are, or will eventually, make a similar move to SharePoint Online as I’m working on/helping with right now.

In legacy versions of SharePoint, we’ve had workflows and approvals around for some time. These have been managed through SharePoint Designer (SPD) (…may it RIP) and surfaced directly in the list settings where workflows were implemented. Looking something like this:

LegacyWorkflow

In “Modern” SharePoint – SharePoint Online – the preferred and recommended workflow solution is Power Automate, which creates “flows” instead of workflows.

The SharePoint and Power Platform (umbrella group within MS that owns Power Automate and sibling technologies) folks have done a nice job integrating Power Platform tools within the SharePoint interface – including Power Automate and specifically approval workflows. Baked directly in the SharePoint list top nav/action bar:

Automate Integration

Out of the box, configuring a page approval flow is super easy and pretty darn elegant as an approval solution. Kudos Microsoft.

NOW. One of my first questions after turning one of these on was “Where can I see all my open approvals and manage them as needed?”. Because hey, I want visibility and the ability to override stuff. A few key points:

  • Configuring a page approval flow adds an “Approval Status” field to your library – so you can see the status in your Site Pages view
  • Users can review approvals on the submitted page itself and get there via the “three dot” menu on individual items in the Site Pages view “More –> Review Approvals”
  • Open approvals do NOT show up in the Workflow Settings page (shown above)
    • Initially, this might be kind of irritating, but it does make sense. The Workflow Settings page is SharePoint workflows, not Power Automate approvals
    • It would be kind of nice to have some note or even a link to where users can find the new approvals, but I suspect this page has a limited life left and probably isn’t worth updating

So, if you haven’t guessed it yet – where we find that list of open approvals, as well as history and lots of other goodies, is in the Power Automate interface.

There are several ways to get there, but the easiest for folks working in SharePoint already is to use the menu shown above and select the “See your flows” option. This will open a tab to Power Automate. In the left menu you’ll see Action Items –> Approvals.

Approval Flows

Ultimately, this is super easy and makes sense. But if you’re coming from legacy SharePoint and you haven’t made the mental shift to working with Power Automate yet you might just need a little nudge. Hopefully this helped.

SharePoint Modern Challenges – Weather Web Part

Overview

Working on a “relatively simple” intranet, using as much out of the box capabilities as possible… and running into what seem to be silly issues.

Want to display the weather. Cool (Haha, see what I did there?), seems legit. Should be easy. There’s a Weather web part.

Edit the page. Add the web part. It asks for the location. Nice and simple lookup that finds my desired location easily. The company has multiple locations, so we add multiple locations to the web part. Still looks good.

I can set the Celsius vs. Fahrenheit setting for the web part, but users can also override. Looks good.

I can override the displayed city name for each location.

That’s it for configuration/customization.

Issues

  • When does this web part update? How often? Can an update be forced?
    All unknowns. It would be nice to have this information as it does NOT seem to update on a timely basis and well… it’s weather – that changes regularly, if not quickly.
  • I have multiple locations in my web part. When I click the “MSN Weather” link for more information – like the next few days forecast – ALL locations configured within the web part seem to land on the same location’s info.
    • Not sure where it’s getting this default location. Might be the tenant’s default, the MSN site may be using web location settings, might be something else.
      I haven’t narrowed that down yet.
    • The link for each location appears to be individually configured as I can see the location of the web part in the link string.
      Does the MSN Weather site no longer recognize the URL string and/or parameters being passed in?
      Is something else overriding the desired location? Either way – it doesn’t work as users would expect.

Resolutions

None yet. I’ll update this if/when I find answers or work-arounds.

References

Show the weather on your page – Office Support (microsoft.com)

Paste Options

M365 Day to Day: OneNote Links

A while back I started using OneNote for ALL of my notes and journaling while I work rather than a pile of Post-Its and cards all over my desk. For the most part I’ll use a single page per day and from time to time add a separate page if I’m gathering thoughts on a particular topic.

Search in OneNote is pretty fantastic, so finding notes and thoughts is easy. Without going crazy down a wiki-like path, sometimes I like to refer back to a specific page though and make the connection more static by adding a link from one OneNote page to another. The basics are super easy – just like the typical cut-and-paste folks have been doing for years.

The link to a page is found when you right-click on the page name and select “Copy Link to Page”. 

OneNote page link

Pasting that link is also super easy, but if your default paste is set to “Keep Text Only” you get a crazy long not-user-friendly link by default. What I pasted below shows just the edge of 5 lines of characters users don’t want to see. The highlighted Paste Option is “Keep Text Only”.

OneNote default paste

Note: As you can see both above and below, you can also change the default paste option if you’d like.

The Paste Options dropdown shows up immediately after pasting. If you select the “Keep Source Formatting” Paste Option (highlighted below) you get a nice, user-friendly link as shown below.

OneNote source paste

Bonus note: Quickly get the current date (which I use for my journal page titles) with the Shift-Alt-D key combo.

Other join options - Phone audio

M365 Day to Day: Teams – Phone Audio

It’s been a crazy year digging into web-based meetings with all the COVID-related circumstances individuals and organizations have been forced to adjust to. Many of us that were already working from home were, for the most part, already used to working this way. Organizations, on the other hand, may have found themselves in various states of technology or hardware readiness for the shift to remote and/or online work.

One situation workers may have found themselves in is being better equipped for phone conferencing rather than web conferencing – with headsets attached to work phones instead of directly to PCs. This led to folks needing or preferring to call into web meetings via phone rather than simply “joining” Teams meetings via the client or web interface.

So, if you’re wondering about using a phone to participate in Teams meetings:
Yes, Microsoft Teams does have the ability to join the audio component meetings via phones. This is done using the “Call me at” feature or the “dial in manually” feature. Microsoft does note that the “join call” feature via Teams is preferred for quality and availability.

User walk through:  Set up the Call me feature for your users – Microsoft Teams | Microsoft Docs

It’s also important to know that these features are managed by tenant administrators. So if users don’t see what they’d expect to see in the interface a first step is to check with their M365/O365 admins and see if settings or permissions need to be configured to see the features users are expecting.

Admin starting point: Manage Audio Conferencing settings for users – Microsoft Teams | Microsoft Docs

It’s also worth mentioning that some tenant configuration changes made my administrators can take time to show up for users – so set expectations appropriately.

M365 Message Center and Planner

I want to highlight a feature that Microsoft added to the M365 Admin Center, specifically to Message Center, and highlight why it’s important for folks – NOT just administrators – to be aware of.

I missed the announcement when this feature was released, but heard about it when listening to one of the M365Voice podcasts where Sarah mentioned it.

Overview

If you take nothing else away from this blog post, just know this:

Message Center syncs with Microsoft Planner.

This feature should be considered for a part of your M365 governance plan. It’s one of those examples where work is being done for you – work that should be setting your change management process up for success. That’s honestly the biggest reason I’m writing this. The feature isn’t getting anywhere near the exposure that it should.

Anyone that gets Message Center email digests and/or logs into the Admin Center to check the Message Center should be looking at this. Anyone that wants to keep up to date with system and service outages, with upcoming features, with feature deprecations, with feature and service updates and more should take a look.

Want to get to the details quickly? Use the links in the References section below to Microsoft’s materials.

Why

So, why is this feature so important? The short answer is “governance”. The longer explanation covers a lot of ground and gets into topics like change management. The content delivered via the Message Center is critical to organizations’ ability to manage platforms and services that orgs have come to rely on. Keeping up with those platforms is getting increasingly difficult in a world of cloud-based services where features are changing at a rate that’s challenging to keep current with. The volume of information coming through is also tough to keep up with – even Microsoft calls this out when announcing the sync feature as a way to help mitigate the issue.

Access to the Message Center has been another challenge. While updates have been made by the way of new roles and permissions, the Message Center has historically been the realm of administrators, which somewhat slowed or restricted the flow of content to everyone that needed it.

Finally, targeting or aligning Message Center content with the appropriate audience has also been a challenge both from the content creator side and from the content consumer side. When new content is released, getting it in the hands of the right folks can be critically important. Historically, responsibility for this has fallen on administrators – the folks most likely to be monitoring Message Center. While admins are certainly capable of doing this job, they’re 1) usually more than busy with their own responsibilities and 2) the “who should know what” function should really be dictated by governance planning and/or someone with the high-level vision of what the org is doing with the platforms and services they’re using.

Extra: The “crawl” investment to get this feature working is very low. It’s super easy to get the basics configured and up and running. Lots of bang for your buck.

Walk-through

While the “how” of a blog post is usually where the guts of the article are found, in this case the feature is extremely simple. The “whys” and “what’s next” are really where the interesting stuff is. But let’s step through it anyhow.

  1. Inside of Admin Center, navigate to the Message Center
    Admin (show all) –> Health –> Message Center
  2. Click “Planner syncing”
    image
  3. Click “Set up syncing”
  4. Set up your plan:
    Select an existing plan or create a new Microsoft Planner plan (will open a new browser tab) by entering a name and selecting a privacy level.
    Within the plan, create a bucket if needed, and select the bucket that Message Center content will be synced with. A “To Do” bucket is created by default with new plans. Best practices are TBD yet, but I think something like “Inbox” or “Triage” seems like a good place to start and indicates action needs to be taken on items that show up in the bucket. 
    image
  5. Choose messages to sync:
    1. All updates vs. major updates
    2. Select the types of messages
    3. Select the products or services – This is where most organizations will likely do a little filtering in terms of which products the organization is using or not using.
      image
  6. Choose which current messages to import:
    The sync does a one-time pull from existing messages in Message Center. Users can select 0-4 weeks worth of content in week increments. This is nice for bringing recent items in, or to just prove the sync and filters are working.
    image
  7. Review your selections:
    image
  8. At this point, the connection is set up. The automation is not yet, but is prompted next. Selecting to automate will create a flow using Power Automate.
    Note: Sync start date defaults to the current date. If you’d like to select an earlier time in the day, you’ll need to select a future date (tomorrow) to select an earlier time, like something in the middle of the night. Default schedule is once a day but you can schedule it for syncing further apart.
    1. Select “Create flow with Power Automate”
      image
    2. You may also need to create a connection before creating the flow. This is where you have an opportunity to select the account being used to connect to Message Center. Check the best practices in your org for setting up connections.
      image
  9. That’s it!!
    Note: Message Center shows the last sync as well as a link to Sync now in the upper right of the screen.
    image
  10. If you chose to sync existing messages, check your Planner plan to see if they’ve come across.
    image

Editable and Cancellable

Once the sync has been set up it can still be edited and cancelled. Clicking on the same “Planner Syncing” link will open the sync details information where settings can be updated and the sync can be cancelled.

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Cancelling the sync will even remove the flow if one was created (nice touch!).

Tools Governance

The sync process involves Microsoft Planner at a minimum, and likely also uses Power Automate if you opted for the automatic sync. If those tools were already being used in your organization there are likely already policies, permissions, and practices to consider. If either tool is new to your org, you’ll need to take whatever steps are needed to ensure they are managed properly within the policies of your org.

The Roles of Roles

A topic often overlooked is roles from the perspective of technical platforms and services. Now, “roles” and “jobs” can be easily confused or thought of as the same thing. Sometimes they are, but often not. In many cases, a person in one job has many roles. It is important though to understand roles for platforms and services. A single person might be a user for one tool, a champion for another, or an owner for something else. Understanding who does what or who’s responsible for something is critical to determine what information – say, Message Center content – needs to get into whose hands to fulfill their role responsibilities the best they can.

It takes time and deliberate effort by an organization to identify and define tech-specific roles and to align policies and procedures around them. Performance and training are obvious reasons to make the investment, but understanding which audience needs to see what content related to change management issues is another legit reason, as is platform ROI improvement.

A topic for another time… Let me know if this is something you’re interested in as I’m working on a service offering around technical platforms, roles, and skills.

Once the sync from Message Center to Planner is set up, one hurdle has been bypassed and organizations have a lot more flexibility and options for getting the right information in the right persons’ hands – significantly improving the org’s ability to deliver for the business.

What’s Next

The initial sync configuration covered above is the “crawl” approach – getting the connection made between Message Center and Planner – making the content immediately more accessible. From there, “walk” and “run” scenarios can take several directions – depending on your organization’s change management practices, the tools available, the culture within the org, and more. A few potential areas are listed below:  

Change Management

The Message Center content is one input into a change management process in the organization – a process to “prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change.” – whether or not you’ve considered a formal change management process. If the org already has an established process, someone will need to figure out how this content works into the bigger picture. If you don’t have a process, the new plan could be the foundation of a new process.

Microsoft Planner

If Planner is already being used, the powers that be will want to consider which plan to use and what rules around that plan need to be implemented. There may be best practices for setting up users, which buckets to create, any automation options that can be used, etc. In the video linked below Microsoft suggests a few different bucket approaches that can be used.

Microsoft Teams

If Teams is being used in your organization (more and more likely) then you may want to consider integrating your Message Center plan one or more Teams to facilitate discussions, tasks, and more related to Message Center content, change management, etc.

Power Automate

If you’ve scheduled the sync for regular downloads, there is already a flow set up through Power Automate. If Power Automate is already being used at  your organization someone will want to make sure the flow conforms to whatever policies are in place. If Power Automate is new to the org someone will want to review its usage and potentially walk through whatever is required to add a new technology.

Let me know what you’d like to hear more about!

References