Helping End Users Help Themselves

We’ve all been there, our end users are queued up at our door or cubical entrance, waiting in line as though they’re waiting to buy a lottery ticket or get a haircut. And yet in this case it’s something much less interesting… perhaps it’s “how do I create a column within a SharePoint document library” or “how do I upload multiple files”? To most seasoned IT Pros that have been using the SharePoint platform for a while, these seem to be easy areas to dive into. For those that are business users or end users that are just trying to store documents somewhere, it’s maybe not that easy.  Each and everyone of these instances could be done in just 10 minutes… 

If you’ve been implementing the SharePoint on-premises platform for a while, you find yourself somewhat perplexed that users aren’t able to perform simple tasks – though in many cases they weren’t that simple. Consider uploading a document into a document library – most users are used to the experience of something like File Explorer or Windows Explorer where they merely drag and drop a file from one folder to another (aren’t GUI’s grand?). In the case of SharePoint through 2010, dragging and dropping files onto the canvas of the browser, typically just meant that you were opening up the file by dropping it into the browser and having it fire a MIME type when it detected a particular file type.

With SharePoint 2013, things began to change as the UI became more intelligent. With SharePoint Online, dragging and dropping onto the canvas of the page effectively meant that you were interacting with a library – easier yet the ability to select multiple files within the library and drag and drop them to a new location.

The user experience is becoming a bit more refined and modern as some might say, helping the end user to be more productive without necessarily requiring them to reach out and interrupt their favorite IT Pro (caveat, IT Pros still like donuts, so please feel free to stop by and bring one by to us and not forget who we are).

As an IT Pro, we hope that the queue of individuals with 10 minute questions continues to decrease, however what we find is that the number of individuals still seems to be there, waiting with their trouble tickets in hand waiting for assistance.  This isn’t due to the platform though, but rather the individuals still not knowing how to interact with the platform. Call it an issue of change fatigue on the behalf of the users but also the lack of time or training to become acclimated with the tools that they have at their disposal. In days past, an organization could pick up a copy of MindSharp’s training modules which provided the ability to embed videos and how to’s within a SharePoint site or portal to make use of out of the box capabilities. Or alternatively if you were looking for something more modern that gave expert examples of advanced topics you might look at VisualSP or perhaps Content Panda.

For the basics though, the areas that end users still struggle with before they can even step into the MindSharp / VisualSP / Content Panda arena, there’s a gap that needs to be leapt over. How do we get there you ask? Why not just the out of the box information that Microsoft has started providing yonder at office.com in their Quick Starts for Business and Education

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These resources provide not only the basics of the Office clients for the end users desktop but capabilities like OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, Delve, Groups and SharePoint to help users get up and running quickly. Additionally, for organizations that are big on having slick sheets for each of their applications for end users to have available, printed off next to their computing workstation, there are downloadable guides in PDF and Sway format for core applications.

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All in all, the basics for helping to get moving forward with getting team members up and running with Office and Office 365 capabilities.

Azure AD Connect – SSO

On a pretty regular basis I find myself discussing the merits of using AD FS with Office 365 when a customer or client has special requirements pertaining to their environment. Not only does it allow for instant user control ensuring a user authenticates against their local domain, but it also provides for capabilities pertaining to “complex” user scenarios.

One thing that AD FS does for user login’s is the idea of a “Simple Sign On” where the user’s identity is passed on their behalf in the background, similar to how a Kerberos ticket might be passed but in the terms of an authentication flow that ends up with the user having a resource token to pass to Office 365.

One of the downsides of AD FS is the requirement to have redundancy, proxies and oh right, still having Azure AD Connect running for identity synchronization from the on-premises environment to Office 365.

Enter the Pass-Through preview capability within Azure AD Connect.

Back in mid-December 2016, Microsoft introduced Azure AD Connect custom settings to allow for “Simple Sign On” through just using the Azure AD Connect preview functionality.

For more on this topic, I highly recommend reading the SSO / Pass-Through article Microsoft posted here:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/connect/active-directory-aadconnect-sso

Renaming your LiveID

If you’ve found yourself running into a problem of having an Organization ID and a EASID (LiveID with an e-mail address) with the same name – you may find yourself frustrated when working with Microsoft Services, whether that’s MSDN, Office.com or something else that has a Microsoft login.

Further, you might find yourself wondering, “what’s a Work ID versus a Microsoft Account”? Admittedly I find a lot of individuals slightly confused about this. But – Microsoft realized this and that they needed to make a change.

Nevertheless, there’s a fix for that – https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/11545/microsoft-account-rename-your-personal-account

So if you’re tired of dealing with your username and figuring out which you need to choose, you can always change your user account to something else. There are some caveats to that though… you may not want to rename your Microsoft account if you fall into either of these situations

  • You use a Windows phone running Windows 8.
  • You are part of our Xbox Developer community.
    • You could lose access to some developer tools.

But for everyone else out there, give it a whirl and try it out if you want clear delineation.