How to get your Office 365 environment up and running in minutes, part 2

Office 365 E1 trial is Microsofts 6 months free trial that includes Office 365 E1 product suite. Microsoft is making this special E1 Trial license available in response to the increased need for employees to work from home in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

Also read Part 1 of my blog-series, which opens up more from the Office 365 E1 product suite. In this section, I’ll cover setting up an Office 365 environment from the very beginning to adding users. Once you’ve received the promo URL from your Microsoft partner, such as us, open the link in your browser’s private mode for easy deployment.

Ordering a trial subscription

On the first page, you need to fill in this information. In Business email address, enter the email address you already have. You will receive basic information at that address afterwards. At the same time, pay attention to the text in the upper right corner: “Want to add this to an existing subsription?” This is in a situation where your company already has an Office 365 -environment, but you want to try out there what more E1 brings to it.

Next, you need to decide the first ID, the password, and the name of the Office 365 environment. You should choose the name carefully, as it cannot be changed afterwards. At the same time, the first user is the administrator account for the entire Office 365 environment, so save the account for yourself. I recommend using an unassigned ID in the example “o365admin”.

This is to ensure that you’re. Not. A. Robot. Enter a valid phone number in the field to which a verification code will be sent to you.

Enter the verification code you received in this field.

Next you will get a summary. It shows the address from which you can access your Office 365 environment and the administrator ID. This same information will also be emailed to the email address you provided at the beginning.

For the Office 365 E1 trial, you may not want to add a domain here. With the domain connection, you get the domain name acquired by your company, for example, for e-mails and user IDs. This connection can also be made afterwards.

Next, users can be added. Here it would be good to add the first few users. The rest of the users can be imported from the Office 365 Admin Portal in bulk, so you shouldn’t add dozens of users at this point.

Microsoft Teams is an integral part of the E1 subsription, so this setting asks if you want to create additional groups. However, I recommend doing them directly on Teams or the management portal. By default, there is one group to which all users in your Office 365 environment are automatically joined.

Because Office 365 E1 does not include Office Apps for Windows, only Skype for Business is shown here. Of course, it will not be installed, as Teams is more versatile and comfortable. In addition, the Skype for Business service is coming to an end, so it is no longer worth investing in.

Last thing, you can give feedback. You could also migrate emails right away. The migration can be done retrospectively and usually requires more detailed planning, so don’t do it at this point.

The end! Here is the Office 365 Admin center, which will become familiar in a moment. Now it’s a good idea to take a coffee break, as your Office 365 environment is still being prepared in the background.

 

Adding users to the Office 365 environment

Next, let’s add users to your Office 365 environment. There are quite a few options to add users, in this example I am going to add users with the Add multiple users function.

The idea of the add multiple users function is to first download the template file in CSV format, either with header fields or even template content. In this example, I will use template content and add myself as a user.

The sample file already has 5 users, which of course I will clear. The template file is a template separated by a CSV comma. With Excel, this is easy to set up. Of course, if your company gets user data imported from another system, it will make things easier.

I type my own information according to the model. It is worth adding Mobile Phone number to use it in the future. NOTE! Check the file by opening it in Notepad to make sure the fields in the CSV file are comma separated.

Next, I send the file back to Office 365 and use the Verify button to verify that the file is in the correct format.

Next, the license is assigned to the users. In the example, I selected all the products in the entire E1 subsription.

You can download a handy spreadsheet for user exports, or get the same information via email. All that remains is to pass on the information to the user in the way you want.

As a result, in the Office 365 environment, one user has been added.

This example provides a relatively easy way to set up an Office 365 E1 Trial environment and add users with their licenses. Nothing else is necessary to do now. Email transfers, domain configurations, and other configurations can be done very retrospectively. You can get help designing and executing these from Sulava. Contact us with the form below.

The next section focuses on the implementation of Microsoft Teams.

How to get your Office 365 environment up and running in minutes

Get to know how to set up an Office 365 environment from the very beginning to adding users.

Our offer

Setting up an Office 365 environment for a customer who has not used the Office 365 services before. The tenant will be set up using the Microsoft Office 365 E1 trial license offering.



Valtteri keskittyy Moderniin laitehallintaan, Microsoft 365:n sekä tietoturvaan. Hän on toiminut yli 10 vuoden ajan asiantuntija-, konsultointi- ja koulutustehtävissä. Hänellä on kokemusta niin on-premises -ratkaisuista pilveen ja pilvisiirtymisiin asti. Sydäntä lähellä on tietoturva kaikissa olomuodoissa.

What is Office 365 E1 trial, tips to start!

Office 365 E1 trial is Microsofts 6 months free trial that includes Office 365 E1 platform.

Microsoft is making this special E1 Trial license available in response to the increased need for employees to work from home in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

Office 365 E1 trial includes a sizeable product packages to get job done.

  • Outlook email with 50Gb of storage space for mails
  • Access to webbased Office apps Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote
  • Same apps are available to mobile devices, Android and IOS for 5 different devices!
  • 1Tb of personal storage in OneDrive for Business and shared storage for Office 365 Groups
  • Sharing information and videoconferencing is managed with Microsoft Teams
  • Recording videoconferences from Microsoft Teams is included. Superb Microsoft Stream is included also with 500Gb of storage

 

Here’s how to get started

You will need campaing code/link from a Microsoft partner to get your Office 365 journey started. Contact us so we can help, use the contact form below!

Order can be applied to your current Office 365 tenant or just start from scratch. In any case, you get a comprehensive package of tools to do work from home or wherever you will be! We in Sulava have a habit of working regardless of location, so physical location doesn’t matter at all. For that scenario, Microsoft Teams is a completely invaluable tool.

However, now you should stay at home and take advantage of the valuable tools found in Office 365!

 

Seven tips for getting started

  1. Think about end users. What tools do they need now to get the job done?
  2. Consider the discussion groups and especially the channels ready for the Teams, so that the implementation would be as successful as possible
  3. After 6 months of Trial, you can easily move forward in terms of licensing technology, prepare for the continuation in autumn 2020
  4. Do you also want email from your domain to Office 365? You can do it now or later
  5. Are the users’ devices in good condition? Microsoft Teams needs a good headset and webcam
  6. Is the security in order? This would be a great time to check your business situation
  7. Reserve enough time. Get to know the services and its possibilities. Ask the experts.

Getting started is pretty easy, but for the future for using Office 365 with your own domain, sync users, or email migrations are time consuming and require good planning. We at Sulava can help with all the further developments related to Office 365, so feel free to contact us!

In my next article, I’ll explain how to get your Office 365 environment up and running in a matter of hours.

 

How to get your Office 365 environment up and running in minutes

Get to know how to set up an Office 365 environment from the very beginning to adding users.

Our offer

Setting up an Office 365 environment for a customer who has not used the Office 365 services before. The tenant will be set up using the Microsoft Office 365 E1 trial license offering.



Valtteri keskittyy Moderniin laitehallintaan, Microsoft 365:n sekä tietoturvaan. Hän on toiminut yli 10 vuoden ajan asiantuntija-, konsultointi- ja koulutustehtävissä. Hänellä on kokemusta niin on-premises -ratkaisuista pilveen ja pilvisiirtymisiin asti. Sydäntä lähellä on tietoturva kaikissa olomuodoissa.

Intranet Information Architecture – Purpose and scope of the intranet

This is the second post in my blog post series explaining how to plan and implement an effective intranet information architecture. In the first part we got the ball rolling with the basics, and now it’s time to start defining the purpose and scope of the intranet.

In the upcoming parts of this blog post series we will then dive deeper in all areas of the planning process:

  • Read part 1: Understanding the basics – what is information architecture
  • Defining purpose, roles and contents of the intranet (this post)
  • Planning the physical infrastructure (hubs and sites)
  • Organizing contents in topic sites, navigation and metadata
  • Creating awesome and accessible pieces of information using content pages
  • Improving discoverability with landing pages and additional paths
  • Ways to take care of content findability
  • Implementing processes to keep the content up-to-date

 

Purpose and scope of the intranet

It might sound trivial – of course we know what an intranet is. It’s a place where we bury all the information and materials related to our business and support functions. Usually there’s also some kind of a news feed and lunch menu available.

However, from the information architecture point of view, we have two extremely important questions to answer:

  • Who are the users and what are their use cases – why on Earth do they visit the intranet? What are they looking for?
  • What are the contents of the intranet – how does the intranet differ from a business unit public team? Or Yammer news feed? And what about file shares?

When we are able to present answers to those questions with clearness and clarity, we have actually defined the purpose, role and scope of our intranet – and after that it’s suddenly much easier to plan the information architecture so that intranet stuff is easy to find and stays up-to-date.

It starts with the Playbook

I have to admit – personally, I don’t fancy the word playbook. We’re all adults here and should know how to play this game already. But it’s the word Microsoft uses and I don’t have anything better to offer so let’s be happy and stick with it.

Usually, playbooks are used to support the move from a traditional way of working (file shares & email) to modern, cloud-based applications, and more communicative and open working culture. In a nutshell, playbook is a presentation which describes:

  • roles of communication and collaboration tools in our organization
  • ways of working together using those tools

If you find yourself thinking “well, I didn’t need any playbook to understand how to work”, you’re most likely right. The need for a playbook is quite a new phenomenon. Previously we only had two tools with very clear roles: email (to communicate) and file shares (to collaborate). And even with the rise of SharePoint portals and workspaces there was still just one simple place where to work together.

But in a modern, Microsoft 365 -powered workplace there are plenty of different apps with quite similar possible use cases. You can store and share your files using OneDrive, Teams or SharePoint. You can post announcements as SharePoint news, Yammer group conversations, Teams channel announcements or private chats – and yes, you can still use email. And if we don’t agree when to use what as an organization, it will be a mess.

Some concrete examples of playbook contents:

Pic 1: Explaining the move from old communication and collaboration tools to the new onesExplaining the basic roles and use cases of the new tools

Pic 2: Explaining the basic roles and use cases of the new tools

Explaining ways of working: content creation process on Teams, publishing & outer loop discussions on SharePoint and Yammer

Pic 3: Explaining ways of working: content creation process of Teams, publishing & outer loop discussion on SharePoint and Yammer

Well, okay – we could have a dedicated blog post series for the playbook, but let’s get back to the topic! So why do we need the playbook to plan Intranet information architecture? The answer lies in defining the scope of the intranet. With the help of playbook we can pick any single piece of information and answer the question: Should this reside on the Intranet?

Yes, we do want to be a little bit exclusive. There are some qualifications for the intranet content. In my opinion, contents of the intranet should be:

1. Published

– we don’t want to have any drafts or unfinished or not-yet-approved content on the intranet

2. Non-negotiable

– there’s definitely time and place for the discussion about the content, but it should happen either before publishing (when working together) or after publishing in enterprise social network platform (like Yammer), and not directly as a part of intranet content

3. Valid and up-to-date

– it’s okay to have an archive but it should be clearly separated from the operative content in active use

In a nutshell, playbook is a presentation of the design of your digital workplace. Intranet is one element (service, platform) of that workplace, and it should have a very clear specific role and scope. But what about users and their needs?

User scenarios – what are you doing here?

Every intranet is – of course – unique. But after 12 years of planning and implementing them I dare to say this: they do have a lot in common, too. The two most important, core use cases for every intranet I’ve seen are these:

I want to find the information I need (in order to thrive at my job)

I want to be aware of what’s happening (in order to feel connected)

So it’s pretty safe to assume that these two should be kept on top of mind during the planning process. But in order to dig deeper in and find out how your intranet should serve the organization, it’s important to identify business-specific scenarios.

A scenario or high level use case is a written description of how the intranet is used and what business challenge it will solve. Simple way to document scenarios is to write sentences with these four elements:

  1. As someone in [team, unit, role]…
  2. I want to [do something]…
  3. Using [tools]..
  4. In order to [goal / success measure]

For example: As a Contoso employee, I want to glance through the global news feed every morning while commuting using SharePoint mobile app in order to keep on track of the important updates and announcements.

Microsoft provides a lots of SharePoint-specific material with very similar scenario model and even ready-to-use workshop materials – you can find them here (Envision Workshop Concept).

Wrap up!

So, in the pursuit of proper intranet information architecture we ended up (re)designing the whole digital workplace – and that’s not a bad thing to do! At the moment way too many organizations live in a communication & collaboration chaos.

Ideally, the process for defining the scope, role and purpose of the Intranet goes like this:

  1. Identifying digital workplace scenarios
  2. Planning digital workplace tools and ways of working to support the scenarios
  3. Explaining and visualizing them with the Playbook
  4. Recognizing intranet-specific scenarios, tools and ways of working –> purpose, role and scope of the intranet

With this information it’s easy to continue to the next step in the intranet information architecture planning process: planning the physical infrastructure (hubs and sites). See you next time!

I will be presenting a session of this topic in SharePoint & Microsoft 365 Conference next May in Las Vegas – hope to see you there!

This blog posting has originally been published at Katja Jokisalo’s blog

Stay tuned for webinar!

We are planning to host a webinar on information architecture in June. Enjoy this blog-series and you’ll find a sign-up link in later episodes.



Microsoft-konsultti, erityisosaamisena O365 ja SharePoint, sydäntä lähellä ryhmätyö, intranetit, hakutoiminnot ja hankintojen hyötykäyttö. MVP | MCT | MCITP | MCPD | MCTS | MCSA. Sähköposti: katja.jokisalo@sulava.com, Twitter: @katjajokisalo.

Intranet Information Architecture – What is it?

This is the first post in my blog post series explaining how to plan and implement an effective intranet information architecture. In this first part we will start with the basics – what is information architecture, what does it mean in the context of intranets, what skills are needed in order to plan and implement it, and what are the main areas involved and steps to be taken in the planning process.

In the next parts we will dive deeper in these main areas of the planning process during the spring 2020:

  • Understanding the basics – what is information architecture (this post)
  • Defining purpose, roles and contents of the intranet
  • Planning the physical infrastructure (hubs and sites)
  • Organizing contents in topic sites, navigation and metadata
  • Creating awesome and accessible pieces of information using content pages
  • Improving discoverability with landing pages and additional paths
  • Ways to take care of content findability
  • Implementing processes to keep the content up-to-dat

Phew, there’s lot on our plate! But let’s start with the basics 🙂

What is information architecture

Building your own modern intranet site has never been this easy – in the simplest case you can just visit lookbook.microsoft.com, pick your favorite template and copy it to your tenant.

Despite the fact that there’s no more need to plan and implement your own technical solution or platform for your intranet from the scratch, there’s still one critical aspect which can’t be copy-pasted or implemented as is. In order to build a great intranet, you really need to plan and implement a proper intranet information architecture which is unique to your organization.

What are we talking about?

So what actually is information architecture? Wikipedia describes it pretty well:

Information architecture (IA) is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labelling — , intranets, — to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design, architecture and information science to the digital landscape.

In a nutshell IA means taking care of these two things:
1) Organizing content
2) Usability and findability of the content

Organizing content means that we recognize the different contexts of the content, group items together based on that context (with structure or labels) and usually also apply some hierarchy to it. A traditional library is a typical example of this – books are divided into different categories (sci-fi, cooking etc) and arranged by the author. However, it used to be difficult to find the book you’re looking for and you needed to walk back and forth between the shelves in order to figure out the navigation logic.

The second part – usability and findability – is necessary in order to make the organized content easy to use and discover. Google search engine is a good example of this – it’s extremely easy to use and you do find stuff, but the results are not organized and you need to rely on your own media reading skills to figure out if the contents are valid or trustful or in the context of your search.

How does it apply to intranets?

When we talk about intranets – and specifically modern SharePoint intranets – organizing content means that we create a physical structure (sites and libraries and folders) and necessary labels (metadata) for the content, and present it to the user with pre-planned logic (navigation). We also plan our page templates with layouts and elements (web parts) to organize the contents of the single piece of information. Pretty simple!

When it comes to usability, things tend to have more layers and variations based on your needs and resources. Even though we don’t have many out-of-the-box options to modify the user interface, we can still take care of usability by making sure that the intranet is easy, efficient and satisfying to use. Some tips below.

  • Easy to use
    • offer training, tips, how-to-guidance for the most important use cases
    • create color themes with sufficient contrast ratios and page layouts with clear visual sections
    • implement landing pages which will guide the user to the content and provide context
    • make sure that every page has contact information available
  • Efficient to use
    • support mobile use
    • implement multi-channel publishing – push intranet contents to other apps or let your users access content from where they work (eg. a tab on Teams channel)
    • limit the amount of content visible with audience targeting
    • use elements offering personalized content based on Microsoft Graph data, eg. suggested news
    • make sure your internet bandwidth is reasonable
  • Satisfying to use
    • make it beautiful! Use pictures!
    • create interesting, well written content which is up to date

And what about findability? That’s a very important part, because the most common complaint about the intranet is that “You can’t find stuff”. There are actually two closely connected topics to consider here:

  • Findability, which means the ability to FIND the content you’re actively looking for, either using search or navigation
  • Discoverability, which in addition to findability means the ability to NOTICE, EXPLORE, WALK INTO the content (especially changes, new and updated content) even if you were not actively looking for it.

We’ll have a dedicated blog post for both of these later on in this series.

What do you need to know?

So, it seems that planning and implementing information architecture does require something else than just creating top level sites for your intranet contents. It’s easy to ruin the user experience of your technically advanced intranet with the lack of information architecture.

However, it’s not rocket science. There are three main skills involved:

1. Users and their needs.

Remember – intranet is always a service platform, internal support function which main role is to offer the employees the information they need in order to excel in their job. So the first thing you need to know is who is going to use the intranet and why.

2. Contents.

It’s essential to be familiar with the content in order to organize it. In a tiny organization there might be someone who knows everything about everything, but in normal case we work in two different levels – there’s group of people who know a little bit of everything (planning the overall intranet structure and main areas) and other groups of people who know everything about their specific subject (content experts or owners planning the contents and navigation of their own site)

3. Technology.

There are a bunch of technical limitations and best practices affecting how the information architecture can and should be implemented. For example, by default in modern SharePoint people can only follow sites, not categories or metadata. This means that if you want to allow the users to follow certain type of news, you shouldn’t put all your news articles in one centralized news site but instead make them decentralized in the related topic sites.

How does the planning process look like?

I’m happy and honored to have been able to participate in planning and implementing more than 70 intranets during my career so far. Despite the fact that these projects vary in size, resources, technology and complexity, there’s always a certain “base model” of planning process I tend to follow.

information architecture planning process

In the beginning (black row) we define the users and their needs, the roles of the intranet, and connections to other information work apps and services. We also figure out what are the contents of the intranet in high level and who are the people taking responsibility of each of the main content areas.

In the second phase (blue row) the main physical structures are planned. Contents are divided to sites, and based on the amount of content and complexity of the intranet, hubs and main level (hub) navigations are planned by the intranet core project group.

Then it’s time to dive deeper in the content (green row) with the content owners and start planning the contents and local navigation of each topic site. Local navigation is usually organized by topics or themes, but during that work it’s also useful to figure out what other labels we should apply to content. These labels (=metadata) are later on used to create additional paths and improve findability and discoverability.

When we do know the contents it’s time to plan how to present the information for the user. In this phase (red row) we decide what kind of elements there are in each page and in what kind of layout supports the content the best. This is also the right time to talk about terminology and style of the written language and other contents of the intranet.

So we started from the high level general view of the intranet contents and in each of the first four rows we stepped into more detailed level. In the last phase (yellow row) it’s time to take a step back and return the focus to the higher level. Now that we know what’s happening inside the intranet it’s time to plan the landing pages (intranet front page, section or topic site landing pages) and additional paths to content. In the last step we also define the ways and processes to keep the contents up-to-date.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the ride and got an idea of the meaning and importance of a proper information architecture. I will be presenting a session of this topic in SharePoint & Microsoft 365 Conference next May in Las Vegas – hope to see you there!

This blog posting has originally been published at Katja Jokisalo’s blog

Stay tuned for webinar!

We are planning to host a webinar on information architecture in June. Enjoy this blog-series and you’ll find a sign-up link in later episodes.


 


Microsoft-konsultti, erityisosaamisena O365 ja SharePoint, sydäntä lähellä ryhmätyö, intranetit, hakutoiminnot ja hankintojen hyötykäyttö. MVP | MCT | MCITP | MCPD | MCTS | MCSA. Sähköposti: katja.jokisalo@sulava.com, Twitter: @katjajokisalo.

Teams and SharePoint provisioning: What, why and how?

Workspace provisioning solutions are one of the most common — if not the most common — type of customization built for Office 365. In fact, custom workspace provisioning solutions have been built for pretty much as long as SharePoint as a product has existed.

The word provisioning means automatic creation and configuration of something (in our case workspaces) instead of a person doing all the work manually. And by workspaces we mean places for collaboration, such as Teams teams and SharePoint Online sites.

If we recall what the situation was in the cloud a couple of years ago, we can remember that we were still very much focused on provisioning SharePoint Online sites. At the time, it was more about getting customers to move away from classic SharePoint sites, and building provisioning solutions that targeted the new beautiful modern team and communication sites instead.

However, ever since the release of Microsoft Teams and it gaining enormous momentum and popularity, the balance has shifted more and more towards building solutions specifically for provisioning teams. SharePoint still has its well-earned place in this story, though — especially the modern team sites that are connected to the Teams teams via the underlying Office 365 groups.

There are so many things I can tell you about provisioning. This blog post aims to clarify the meaning and benefits of workspace provisioning solutions to those who are not yet that familiar with the topic, and explain why there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem.

Why do I need automated workspace provisioning?

There are several reasons why organizations might want to invest in a custom workspace provisioning solution. People in different roles can benefit from it, and the reasons depend on who do you ask.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Let’s look at things from an admin’s perspective first. Whenever a user creates a Planner plan, a modern SharePoint Online team site, or a Teams team, an Office 365 group is created in the background and added to Azure AD. That group then connects all those different services and assets for the group members to use in their collaboration.

Because creating Office 365 groups can happen in so many different ways, and from so many different places, it can quickly start to feel like things are getting out of control. Not all users necessarily even realize that such a group gets created whenever they, for example, create a new plan.

And it is not just about the number of groups but also about the settings in those groups. How is the group named? What kind of collaboration happens in the group? Is it used for confidential internal information or for collaborating with employees from other organizations? What kind of basic security settings are chosen? Should external sharing be limited or allowed? Et cetera.

Because of these concerns, organizations typically flip the switch and disable Office 365 group creation for everyone. Then they allow it via a security group to a small set of admins who know how things should be done, and that way take back control. Those admins are tasked to create groups for other users by following documented steps carefully — if they see the user’s request agreeable. But really, don’t those admins have better things to do? Is this the kind of work they are being paid for?

OK, that joke got old very fast

Automated workspace provisioning can also greatly benefit end-users. Quite often, there is a need to create a lot of workspaces with similar configurations. A typical example is a project workspace.

Whenever a new project starts, a new Teams team with specific channels is created. A Planner plan is constructed for the project tasks (often the exact same base tasks for every project), and the plan is then pinned as a tab on one of the channels in Teams. A predefined sub-folder structure needs to be created for storing project-related documents on the SharePoint site document library, and it needs to be done in the way that it shows up correctly on the Files tabs in Teams. Sometimes also a separate SharePoint Online communication site needs to be created for showcasing the project to other employees in the company or to external users who may be interested in the project outcome. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

It is a lot of work to get done by hand for every single project, and quite often you might forget to do something. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t need to spend the project budget and schedule for clicking around in the UI, and instead could get to work immediately?

Automated provisioning pipelines to the rescue!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, an automated workspace provisioning pipeline means a process, where the workspace is created and configured automatically in a pre-defined way. As with many other automated processes, there are two benefits:

  • Reduces the amount of manual work. When all the steps are automated, an administrator is no longer needed to create teams or SharePoint sites in a controlled manner whenever users need them. And end-users don’t need to always do the exact same configurations for each workspace manually. Users can trigger the provisioning process themselves, and the creation and configuration of the workspace is done automatically (after a possible effortless approval step). This saves time (and hence money) for both the administrators and users to focus on the tasks that matter and can’t be as easily automated.
  • Humans make mistakes. If all teams are configured manually, possibly by a lot of different people, things can easily get set up in an unintended way. When configurations are automated, all teams and sites get created consistently and correctly.

How is it implemented?

The automated provisioning pipeline can be implemented in many different ways, and choosing the right method always depends on the customer-specific requirements. The services and tools we can use include various kinds of forms, bots, SPFx solutions, custom web sites or APIs, Azure Functions, Logic Apps, WebJobs, the PnP Provisioning Engine, SharePoint site designs… the list goes on!

So far, I’ve built at least a dozen different provisioning solutions for Teams and SharePoint, and no two customers have ever wanted the exact same functionality. Customers always have their own internal working cultures, business-specific needs, challenges, and priorities. For some, a very light-weight solution with simple tweaks is enough, while some want very thorough and fully automated processes. This is most likely the reason why this kind of a controlled automatic provisioning process doesn’t exist out of the box. One size just doesn’t fit all.

The solution needs to be built in a way that it fulfills the requirements, is pleasant to use, and doesn’t annoy any of the different types of users involved. The implementation has to be done following the best practices when it comes to, for example, security, while at the same time keeping the customer’s money in mind. Typically there are several ways for accomplishing the desired outcome; hence, I always think:

  • Which one of the possible options is the quickest for implementing the feature (lowest implementation cost)?
  • Which one is the most cost-effective way in the long term? Let’s not do things in a quick and easy way if it means high licensing costs or Azure bills in the future.

Is it for me?

I may be a little bit strange consultant/developer/architect. I genuinely think what is the best solution for the customer also from their money perspective. And I don’t mean just by considering the implementation and maintenance costs I mentioned above. I also evaluate, does the solution create high enough return of interest to justify the investment for the customer?
How many workspaces are created per week, per month, per year?

  • How many different users need to create workspaces?
  • How complex are those workspaces? How long does it take for each of those different users to create them and set them up the way they should be set up?
  • How much time (and hence money) could be saved if the workspace creation was automated and the end-user only needed to fill in a simple order form? How much does it make in a year?
  • What about in three or five years which is still a very realistic lifespan for a provisioning solution.
  • What is currently the customer’s biggest problem related to workspaces; does the provisioning solution help to solve it?

Sometimes, especially for smaller organizations, it may be enough if we take advantage of the out of the box features and offer some high-quality training for the users. However, when the number of users increases, the gained control and time saved can easily justify — and in time, exceed — the initial investment to the workspace provisioning solution. There is always an opportunity cost. Could you spend this time making more money or creating more value for the company by doing something else than setting up yet another Teams workspace?

Want to know more?

This blog post possibly marks the beginning of some new content around this topic. In the meanwhile, I’ll be speaking about this topic in-depth at the Global Microsoft 365 Developer Bootcamp in Helsinki in November, and the European SharePoint, Office 365 & Azure Conference in December. If you want to know more about how to choose the different tools for provisioning Teams and related SharePoint sites based on customer requirements, see you in Prague!



Microsoft MVP. Laura työskentelee Sulavalla sovelluskehittäjänä. Laura on työskennellyt SharePoint-ympäristöjen parissa vuodesta 2011 lähtien, keskittyen räätälöintien ja integraatioiden toteutukseen sekä ympäristöjen ylläpitoon. Nykyään Laura toteuttaa ratkaisuja myös O365- ja Azure-ympäristöihin, rakentaen monipuolisesti niin erilaisia räätälöintejä, integraatioita kuin kokonaisia web applikaatioita.