Microsoft Ignite & SharePoint/O365 – Outcomes


Well this blog post is coming in quite late as Microsoft Ignite was a little less than a month ago. But I believe in better late than never and there are some good topics that I wanted to follow up with. I was lucky enough to attend Ignite with a great group of folks from Concurrency and was also able to do some great networking to meet new folks in the SharePoint and O365 collaboration world. My initial reaction of Ignite was that it was a little overwhelming at times. Coming from the world of smaller SharePoint conferences having 20k+ people in a giant building with all different types of Microsoft technology led to some long walks and not many deep dive sessions. With the amount of announcements in the Office 365 and SharePoint Server 2016 space that were being discussed it was and still is a challenge to keep up with. Looking at the conference from a strictly SharePoint perspective it felt limited at times. Many of the primary SharePoint sessions were packed to the brim and had to be held in overflow areas. I think this directly spoke to the overwhelming usage that SharePoint has in the enterprise still. I am now very excited to attend the smaller SharePoint specific conferences such as SharePoint Fest and SPTechCon to dig deep into the new experiences. I have been trying to go through all of the videos on Channel 9 but there are so many good ones. If you want to download the videos and slides directly here is a link for instructions on how to do it.

In this post I will try to highlight what I believe to be the best sessions for collaboration around SharePoint and Office 365 and also review my pre-conference predictions.

My prediction outcomes

NextGen Portals

Ok we all knew they were already going to announce something but this still was an exciting topic. The new Knowledge Management portal currently called Codename “InfoPedia” was demonstrated. It was apparent that this portal was still in the early stages of development but their strategy to deploy a KM could be great. The new KM portal will consist of Boards, Articles and Microsites in which users are empowered to generate content quickly in a standardized and already styled way. This leads to a more organically and horizontal growing solution rather than a pre-determined hierarchical solution. Here a great post from Benjamin Niaulin about this topic.

Recommended sessions for this topic:

OneDrive for Business Sync Updates

Again we knew this coming but everything announced here was great news. I could write multiple blog posts on all of the new stuff they announced around this topic but here are the juicy highlights. The new OD4B sync client will use the current OneDrive protocol. There will be a unified sync client across OneDrive and OneDrive for Business platforms and the preview and RTM client will be available by end of year. Some other important things to note with the new client:

    • Selective sync (everyone have a round of applause for this one)
    • No more 20k file limit
    • Support for up to 10GB files
    • Blocking of unmanaged PCs
    • Includes PC and Mac

Recommended sessions for this topic:

Simplified Hybrid with SharePoint

I attended the SharePoint Hybrid pre-conference at Ignite and got to see first hand what is coming with hybrid in SharePoint and Office 365. Overall the strategy is clear to me that hybrid will be the new on-premises. There are features that will only be available in Office 365 and Microsoft’s strategy is not to bring you to the cloud but bring the cloud to you. This will allow enterprises to opt-in to hybrid on your own terms. This was very obvious in their hybrid strategy moving forward. Microsoft is trying to make they hybrid experience transparent. I won’t go deep into any of these strategies but if you want to discuss them just shoot me an email or a tweet. Their primary pillars are:

    • Hybrid Search
    • Hybrid OneDrive
    • Hybrid Extranet
    • Hybrid Team Sites
    • Cloud-drive Hybrid Picker
    • In the future with no further info yet…
      • Hybrid taxonomy story
      • Hybrid DLP
      • Hybrid eDiscovery

Recommended sessions for this topic:

What I hoped to see

Future of Forms

Isn’t this everyone’s favorite SharePoint topic? I came in hoping to hear something about forms, or at least anything. With the incredible amount of announcements there was still nothing new on forms. The current state still exists in which InfoPath 2013 will continue to work in Office 365 and SharePoint Server 2016. The only time I heard forms being discussed in a session was during the MVP panel that I linked to above. The panel confirmed the current state and provided similar input to what I am currently telling my clients. If it is a small list form customization go ahead with InfoPath. If you have a larger and more long term forms requirement it is time to look at a 3rd party or custom development.

Future of SharePoint Workflow

There were not architectural changes announced during Ignite. With a total of 0 sessions and 0 discussions about workflow during Ignite I would tend to lean towards the thought that there will be no architectural changes. Workflow will continue to run on Workflow Foundation 4 as an external resource as it does today on-premises and in Office 365. Now there was some news that will affect workflow creators.

There will not be a SharePoint Designer 2016 but SharePoint Designer 2013 will continue to be supported.

I think this is an important step in the evolution of productivity in SharePoint and Office 365. Obviously SharePoint Designer was built with on-premises as its base. That much control is unnecessary in a cloud solution like Office 365. So on that side it makes sense to start bringing in limits. And of course anyone who has used SharePoint Designer heavily in the past knows it was a very buggy product that loved to crash. It is important to remember that we are over a year away from the release of SharePoint Server 2016 so there will be more news around this topic.

As far as workflow creation, I do believe that this is a step in the right direction and hope to see a browser based workflow creation experience. I will also use this time to plug my session at SPBiz that is directly related to SharePoint Designer workflows. This should be a great free online conference.

Future of Yammer

I was very wrong with my prediction here. I was leaning towards the thought that brand for “Yammer” itself would be going away. It was stated pretty loud and clear that this was not the case. There were multiple sessions around this solution including the Yammer Roadmap. Yammer is here to stay and will have a place in the Office 365 ecosystem. Each experience that comes with Office 365 does have its appropriate use cases. The challenge that we currently are and will continue to face is the confusion around when and where to use an experience. There was even a session around this topic titled How to Decide When to Use SharePoint and Yammer and Office 365 Groups and Outlook and Skype. Obviously if we had to have a major session on this topic there is confusion on what to do. I hope this vision continues to clear moving forward.

One item of note around Yammer and Office 365 is that the UI for Yammer is changing to align better with the rest of Office 365. If you are a part of the Office 365 Network (and if you’re reading my blog and are not, go join it now) you are already seeing these changes happening.

The Site Actions Menu in SharePoint Server 2016 not changing locations from the top right

I can confirm that it is staying in the right from the demos performed. No need for any panic from the community.

Anything else interesting?

I think the winner of most interesting topic during Ignite and so far after Ignite has been Office 365 Groups. Microsoft is putting a ton of time and effort into this collaboration experience. I believe that Office 365 Groups still need some help around the governance and control but they will be a go to solution in the future. Here is a link to a great blog post from Nik Patel that will go into a little more detail. Overall groups will be an experience that encompasses nearly all aspects of Office 365.


Recommended sessions for this topic:

Here are some other interesting topics and some sessions about each.

SharePoint Server 2016

Office 365 Security

Office 365 Migration API


I look forward to the next Microsoft Ignite conference in 2016 coming back to Chicago on May 9-13. It will be interesting to look back on this post and see how different the landscape moves in just 1 year.

Utilizing the new Related Items column via workflow – Part 2

This is a continuation from Part 1 of the blog post Utilizing the new Related Items column via workflow. In Part 1 I wrote about the scenario that I had in which I wanted to connect a document library and a custom list using both a lookup column and a Related Items column. This post discussed how to make the column visible so it can be added to a list or library. In this post I will discuss a strategy to use a SharePoint 2013 Workflow created by SharePoint designer to interact with the Related items column.

To solve my scenario of showing what documents are connected to the deliverable list, I added the Related Items column to the custom Deliverables list. My hope was that I could perform these steps when documents are uploaded to the deliverable documents library:

  1. A document is uploaded to the deliverable documents library and a selection of the matching lookup from the deliverable list is chosen.
  2. The related items field on the corresponding deliverable list is updated with the document that is uploaded.
  3. As more items are added for the same deliverable list item the related items are appended on top of each other.

I found the format for updating the Related Items column from this blog post by Pieter Veenstra. This is the format for a single record in Related Items:


This is the format for multiple Related Items:


I just needed to find a way to use variables to input this data. I created a list workflow that happened on change and creation that was able to successfully perform these steps using variables! Here is the overall workflow and I will break down the sections below.


Setting Initial Variables


This section first pauses for a duration to allow the document to be fully checked in and then sets 2 variables.  The first variable, v_relate_deliverable_intID, gets the ID of the current item lookup value. The second variable, v_temp_related, gets the current status of the Related Items column in the Deliverable list that corresponds with the current item lookup value.


This information is needed to ensure that we don’t overwrite any data that already exists in the Related Items column. This variable is then used in the IF statement. This statement checks to see if there are already Related Items or not.

If we need to add to already existing Related Items

The primary steps of this section build the variables that are needed to take the existing Related Items string value and add on the new document’s string value.


The first 2 Find statements get the index number at the beginning and the end of the existing Related Item string where the outside brackets exist. For example, a broken down version of an item with 3 Related Items where we want to add a 4th would look like this: [{Item1},{Item2},{Item3}]. The brackets are existing at Index 0 and 24. These values are stored in the variables v_index_1 and v_index_2. Our end goal is to get [{Item4},{Item1},{Item2},{Item3}].

The next 2 Calculate statements add 1 and subtract 1 from the index to be able to perform the substring actions. Continuing my example this sets the 2 new calc and calc2 variables to 1 and 23.

The next statement which starts with Copy from… is actually the action named “Extract Substring of String from Index with Length.” This takes the indexes that we calculated with calc variables and outputs it to the variable output. Continuing my example this variable would now equal {Item1},{Item2},{Item3}.

The next 3 statements are used to build the new Related Item string for the item that we are adding. The format should look like this {“ItemId”:”[%Current Item:ID%]“:WebID”:GUID”,”ListID”:”GUID”}. 3 statements are needed because of a restriction in SharePoint Designer workflows. When trying to put that into a Set workflow variable action you receive the error:

“Using the special characters ‘[%%]’ or ‘[%xxx%]’ in any string, or using the special character ‘{‘ in a string that also contains a workflow lookup, may corrupt the string and cause an unexpected result when the workflow runs.”

2014-10-20 22_07_23-https___my.jci.com_sites_enterpriseIT_unity_pmo

To get around this error, the strings can be built separately and then combined. v_temp_start = {“ItemId”: and v_temp_end = “WebId”:GUID”,”ListID”:”GUID”}. The next command sets the variable output2 to [v_temp_start][Current Item ID][v_temp_end].  This gives us the full Related Item string into a variable. Continuing on the example above we now have {Item4}

The final statement in this section combines the already existing Related Items with the brackets removed with the new Related Item and wraps them in brackets. It sets the variable v_related_items to [[output2],[output]] as seen in the screenshot below.

2014-10-20 22_21_06-String Builder

If there are no existing Related Items

The steps of this section use the same logic as above to get the string value needed for the new Related Items text. We just need to get the string [{Item1}] without manipulating any already existing Related Item text.

2014-10-20 22_24_12-https___my.jci.com_sites_enterpriseIT_unity_pmo

These steps are identical to what is used and are broken into 3 statements to avoid the “Special characters..” error.

Updating the Deliverable List

The last statement before the transition to the end of the workflow is an “Update list item” action that is used to take the newly created Related Items string and update the corresponding item in the Deliverable list.

2014-10-20 22_29_34-https___my.jci.com_sites_enterpriseIT_unity_pmo

We are able to perform this step because we have the Related Deliverable column on our document library which we have put in the variable v_related_deliverable_intID. That means our update action can state in words with a screenshot below:

Update the Related Items column to the variable v_related_items for the item in the Deliverable list in which the Current Item ID matches v_related_deliverable_intID.

2014-10-20 22_32_38-Update List Item

Wrapping it up

Part 1 of this blog series discussed the scenario of connecting a list and a library using both a lookup column and the new Related Items column. This would allow visibility to the the connected content from both the list and the document library. First we needed to make the Related Items column visible and able to add to a list. Part 2 discussed how to update that column using a SharePoint designer workflow.

Below is a final screenshot of a list item with Related Item links that were automatically added to it when a document was uploaded to a corresponding library.

2014-10-20 22_37_12-Deliverable Tracker - Incomplete - Internet Explorer

I also added some JSLink on the web part to display the actual related items instead of just a count. But that is for another blog post! (maybe part 3?)

Utilizing the new Related Items column via workflow – Part 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part serious about using the Related Items column in SharePoint 2013.

I ran into an interesting request recently that ended up with an interesting solution. The request that I had was based around connecting a list and a document library. I built a custom list that was used to track deliverables for a project and all of the information about them. At first all actual document deliverables were “attached” to the list item when it was completed. This was not a good approach as attachments are not crawled and indexed. To fix that first issue, I created a separate document library that would hold the deliverables and added a lookup column back the deliverable list. Here are screenshots of the list and library with the lookup column.

Deliverable List

2014-09-12 21_49_56-Deliverable Tracker - BR 1.1 - Program Benefits Definition - Internet Explorer

Deliverable Documents

2014-09-12 21_47_04-Deliverable Documents - BR1.1 - GPP Deliverable Signoff.pdf - Internet Explorer

This was a good approach to tie the list item and a document together. But then the next question was asked…

If I am on the deliverable list, why can’t I see what documents are connected?

While pondering an answer I recalled that there was a new column in SharePoint 2013 called Related Items. I had used that column in the OOTB (out of the box) way with such things as tasks and videos but I had never tried to manipulate it myself. So I first went to try to add that column to my list to test it out but it was not listed as an available column to add…

Getting the Related Items column

This column is part of the hidden group (_Hidden) by default which does not display in the site columns list. This column can be found via the Task content type and updated to a new group. These are the steps to unhide the column:

  1. Navigate to Site Settings and click Site content types in the Web Designer Galleries section.
    2014-10-05 20_44_11-Site Settings - Internet Explorer
  2. Under the List Content Types section click on Task.
    2014-10-05 20_48_54-Site Content Types - Internet Explorer
  3. Click on the Related Items task link.
    2014-10-05 20_49_40-Content Type - Internet Explorer
  4. Click Edit site column.
    2014-10-05 20_50_25-Change Content Type Column - Internet Explorer
  5. Change the Group settings from _Hidden to an Existing group (such as Custom Columns).
    2014-09-24 21_18_23-Change Column - Internet Explorer

The Related Items column can now be added to a list or library! So I went ahead and added the column to my deliverable custom list and was ready to start figuring out how to use this column effectively.

In the next part I will discuss how to work with the Related Items column via a SharePoint 2013 workflow created in SharePoint Designer.

Link to part 2

Utilizing the new Related Items column via workflow – Part 2

Interact with list fields based on SharePoint Group

A very common question that is asked around the SharePoint community is about the ability to interact with item forms. These forms are how users view and edit items in a list. Changes to these forms can accomplished in a few different ways.

  1. Use SharePoint Designer to create an editable New, Edit, or Display form
  2. Edit the default New, Edit, or Display form pages using web parts.  (The edit page link for these forms can be found in the site settings via the gear menu.)
  3. Using a customized Infopath form (for now…)

Using any of these options it is possible to edit the forms in both a basic and advanced way. If you are creating new forms with SP Designer you can edit the HTML of the form directly and have control over nearly everything that is displayed.  You can do some easy customizations that can be very helpful for the end user experience. One example involves the hiding of a column (such as status) on the default edit form. These are the steps to do this in SP designer:

1.  Create a new Edit Form using SP Designer on the corresponding list

Edit1 - 2014-09-08 11_16_41-

2.  Locate the row that contains the column you want to hide and use HTML comment tags (<!– & –>) to comment out the row.

Edit2 - 2014-09-08 11_19_16-.aspx

One big disadvantage of this approach is that as columns are added, removed, or renamed the form will not reflect these changes. You will need to manually go update the field changes on each custom form that you created. Also this scenario hides the field for everyone that goes to the list. 

What if we wanted to only hide the status column for users of a certain SharePoint group?

This can be accomplished using jQuery and one of the best libraries available, the jQuery SPServices library. The files that you need and the instructions to get started using this library can be found on codeplex. Some great examples of using these services can be found on the blog of the creator of this wonderful tool, Marc Anderson.

Continuing on the example above of hiding a status column, let’s work towards the requirement of hiding that column unless you are in the SharePoint group “Approvers”. 

Here is the script that you can put into a Script Editor web part on the default Edit Form:

<script language="javascript" src="https://sitecollection/SiteAssets/jquery-1.11.1.min.js">

<script language="javascript" src="https://sitecollection/SiteAssets/jquery.SPServices-0.7.2.min.js">

$(document).ready(function () {

else {

function checkrole(groupname) {
    var IsvalidRet = false;
        operation: "GetGroupCollectionFromUser",
        userLoginName: $().SPServices.SPGetCurrentUser(),
        async: false,
        completefunc: function (xData, Status) {

            if ($(xData.responseXML).find("Group[Name='"+groupname+"']").length == 1) {
                IsvalidRet = true;
    return IsvalidRet;


Script Breakdown

The first 3 javascript calls load the appropriate libraries on the page. These calls can also be placed at a higher level (such as the master page) so they do not need be called on every page. The download files for jQuery can be found here and the SPservices can be found in the link earlier in this post.

The next script section starts with the document.ready() which detects the state of readiness of the page for you. Code included inside of this will only run once the page Document Object Model (DOM) is ready for JavaScript code to execute.

else {

The if statements calls the checkrole function and passes along the group name that you want to check to see if a user is a part of. If the statement returns true it shows the status column and if it returns false it hides the status column. The lookup checks the page for ID’s that contain the word Status. You can use a browser development tool to inspect elements on a page to get their generated IDs. You should not take the section of the ID that is the GUID.

Edit3 - 2014-09-08 20_33_57-Tasks - ..

The last section of the script is the checkrole function. This uses the SPServices library and the SPGetCurrentUser function to return the users data. It then scans through the responseXML to find the group name and sets the variable to true.

function checkrole(groupname) {
    var IsvalidRet = false;
        operation: "GetGroupCollectionFromUser",
        userLoginName: $().SPServices.SPGetCurrentUser(),
        async: false,
        completefunc: function (xData, Status) {

            if ($(xData.responseXML).find("Group[Name='"+groupname+"']").length == 1) {
                IsvalidRet = true;
    return IsvalidRet;

The big disadvantage of this option is that hiding a column does not actually secure the column from the user, it just hides it on the form. If this user has access to this column in quick edit or datasheet view directly in the list they would be able to change it.

These are some options to get started with interacting with list forms after the announcement of the death of InfoPath and a great tool in SPServices that can take the SharePoint user experience to a new level.