New SharePoint features: metadata magic, connected site families

At Ignite 2017, Microsoft announced major capabilities to organize and manage information in SharePoint lists and libraries — and connect related sites using the new Hub site.

New SharePoint features: metadata magic, connected site families

I’m still processing the overwhelming number of new features announced at Ignite 2017. Microsoft produced a really amazing event. It was extraordinarily well orchestrated, with key “moments” highlighting each day of the conference.

The flow of the event went from the general to the specific — with big picture “roll up” announcements early in the week and deeper dives as the week progressed. The experience capped off with an epic private party at the Universal Orlando theme park.

The announcements and new features in SharePoint were impressive as well — especially what will soon arrive to Office 365 lists and libraries. These announcements had this information architect happy dancing in her seat — and I’d like to share a few of the key new and upcoming magical capabilities that I think will have a big impact on SharePoint adoption and business outcomes. (For more

If you prompt them, users will add metadata

Let’s face it: Our users don’t love adding metadata to document libraries. One reason is that we often ask for too much, so be smart about metadata and only ask for attributes that are really necessary. But another reason they don't do it is because it’s a pain to add, especially when you drag and drop one or more documents into a modern SharePoint library. Today, users are not prompted to enter metadata in the modern document library experience, so — no surprise — they don’t add it.

That’s all about to change with a new capability coming to SharePoint: prompting for metadata when you drag and drop documents in to a library.

multiple files to drag into sharepoint Susan Hanley/IDG

The easiest way to get content into SharePoint libraries is “drag and drop.”

metadata prompt Susan Hanley/IDG

SharePoint will soon prompt users to enter metadata when they drag and drop – and allow them to “bulk tag” multiple documents at one time.

Edit metadata from a “group by” view

Today, users can open a library in “Quick edit” mode to relatively easily add metadata in bulk. The challenge is that only “flat” views open in quick edit mode. Coming soon: the ability to “bulk tag” items in a library from the library view by selecting individual documents or an entire group of documents and applying common metadata attributes at one time.

This is extremely helpful because currently, quick edit mode is a bit risky to use. It is very easy to accidentally add the wrong metadata to items with no easy way to back out of changes. Allowing users to “bulk edit” a few or a group of documents from the library view will minimize the risks associated with opening the entire library in “quick edit” mode.

bulk edit metadata Susan Hanley/IDG

Users can select multiple documents – or a group of documents – and assign shared metadata values without using quick edit.

Make metadata beautiful again with the column formatter

SharePoint lists can be tailored to support lots of different business application needs. But in the past, business users and information architects have needed a developer friend to customize the formatting of fields and columns.

At Ignite, Microsoft introduced several “low-code” capabilities that open custom formatting to non-developers (or really to super power users). For example, data bar graphs, color coding, red-yellow-green KPI icons, or interactive icons for email and Flow can be added to any list or library.

The column formatter lets you cut and paste JSON formatting scripts from Microsoft’s SharePoint Patterns and Practices site or other online examples as column properties. Initially, this will still require some developer-ish/super power user-ish skills, but over time, Microsoft is committed to making the SharePoint column formatter a no-code solution that is as easy to use as Excel.

column formatter Microsoft

The column formatter provides a low-code way to customize the formatting of list and library columns.

Find where you need to make updates: “needs attention” view

One of my absolute favorite announcements is the new Attention View. Basically, this new capability allows you— with a single click— to see all of the documents across your entire library that are missing required metadata. This is really a major announcement for content managers everywhere and is a game-changer for document management in SharePoint.

By way of background, this capability fixes an over-correction of a previous problem. Back in 2008, I wrote a blog post about a really vexing issue with SharePoint that happened when you uploaded documents to a library and failed to add required metadata. Basically, when you did this, the documents landed in the library but were effectively invisible to everyone except the person who uploaded them — because they were missing required metadata. My post began, “It was a dark and stormy night …” because these documents often became a “case of the missing documents” for unsuspecting SharePoint users.

To fix this problem, Microsoft effectively made required metadata a suggestion rather than a requirement. Today, when you upload a document to a document library in Office 365, the document is visible to all users with read access to the library, whether or not you have added required metadata. For now, if you need the required metadata to trigger a business process or organize your content, you need to stick with the classic experience, cross your fingers, or train your users and hope they follow the process to add required metadata.

The Attention View effectively brings back required metadata and makes it required again! With the Attention View, content managers can easily find documents that are missing metadata and, directly from the new view, update the missing metadata to resolve the issue. From my perspective, this new feature eliminates any reason NOT to  use SharePoint as your primary document management platform. Attention Views for the win!

needs attention notification 2 Microsoft

The “Files that need attention” view will be a default view in document libraries.

needs attention view Microsoft

Content managers can view and resolve missing metadata issues from the files that need attention view.

To see how users will experience the “needs attention” views and notification, I recommend watching Lincoln DeMaris’ Ignite session. The video is linked below. In addition to the features I’ve called out in this post, it’s full of other improvements and enhancements that will have you happy dancing in your seat just like I was in mine at Ignite.

Groupify and Hubify: Modernizing classic team sites and creating site families

Two new terms became trending topics on Twitter as a result of some key announcements at Ignite: groupify and hubify.

The first, “groupify,” refers to the new capability to take a classic team site and give it the benefits associated with an Office 365 group. The “groupification” process will not change any unique permissions in your classic team sites, but it will allow you to take legacy team sites and “modernize” them. My advice: clean-ify before you groupify!

While I love being able to add Group features to classic team sites, it makes it almost too easy to bring our old junk content into our brand-new Office 365 Group sites. My dream choice is that we leave all the old content behind and start new with a new clean site. But that’s just not practical or realistic — and I get that. But, I strongly recommend that we encourage team site owners to do a little “pruning” before they bring old weeds into their new groupified garden.

The second, “hubify,” is another of my favorite announcements at Ignite. This long-awaited capability allows you to create a family of site collections (Communication Sites or Team Sites) that share common branding, navigation and a search scope. The family is called a Hub site. Hub sites also roll up news and activity from the family members to the Hub site.

At least initially, only the SharePoint Admin can create a Hub (or declare an existing site to be a Hub). I’m pretty sure the Owner of the Hub site can then choose which sites are part of her site “family.” This feature provides the ability to connect related sites while still following best practice to avoid sub-sites at all costs in SharePoint online. An individual site can belong to only one Hub. But if a site is moved from one Hub to another, it automatically picks up the branding and navigation from the new parent site. This allows your intranet to be as dynamic as your organization — without creating broken links or unpleasant user experiences.

hub sites Microsoft

Hub sites let you bring together related sites and roll up news and easily roll up site activity.

2 key sessions that all information architects should review

Almost all of the content from Ignite is available on demand at MyIgnite or in the Ignite YouTube channel. There are two key IA sessions worth looking at first:

Watch almost all the sessions from Ignite and download the slide decks

For a link to all of the SharePoint and OneDrive sessions at Ignite, see The SharePoint and OneDrive Guide to Microsoft Ignite 2017. This post provides a guide to the SharePoint and OneDrive sessions at Ignite, and each item links to the description and video of the session in the now open to all Ignite website.

You can also find Ignite content in the Microsoft Technical Community. I’ve noticed that not all of the video has been posted to the Tech Community, but one advantage of finding content there is that you can interact with the speakers in the post for each session.

Plus, Jenn Mason and I did a webinar in which we talk about the Ignite take-aways for business users (including Information architects). 

Links to all SharePoint-related blog posts from Ignite

Since you probably won’t have time to watch all of the session videos, these blog posts should give you a good summary of the major announcements and help guide you to which sessions to explore to learn more.

Building your modern intranet? Have I got a session for you!

I’ll wrap up this post with a shameless plug for the session Dave Feldman and I gave recently. We talked about and demonstrated how we are building a modern intranet at Shire.

More importantly, we shared both the IA templates and custom web parts that we showed in our demos. You can view our talk and find the links to the assets we shared in the Microsoft Tech Community: Build a modern intranet: Real-world planning, information architecture, governance, and adoption.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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