OTSE3 – Office 365 Periodic Table, Apps, Tools, and Dashboards with Matt Wade

This edited podcast was recorded Saturday July 28, 2017. Hosts Jay Leask and Craig Jahnke jump right into some news and then kick off our show with guest Matt Wade, Cloud Services Lead at H3 Solutions and founder of icansharepoint.

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In today’s episode we cover:

  • News (starting at 2:30)
  • Interview with Matt Wade (starting at 9:50)

News (1:00)

Interview with Matt Wade (9:50)

Matt Wade | H3 Solutions | @thatmattwade

The below is the transcript of Jay and Craig’s conversation with Matt Wade, the answers are his own words.  This is an edited version of the full conversation.  The full 45-minute version of the interview can be heard here:

Who is Matt Wade?

Matt Wade:  So, I’m an engineer turned SharePoint geek. I started my career in 2009 as a mechanical engineer working for the Nuclear Navy, designing some mechanical systems on nuclear reactors going into a training platform and a little bit of work on, we probably seen it in the news lately, with the Gerald R. Ford class carrier. The first carrier going out is Ford and like kind of cool to follow the news because that was something I worked on pretty directly and I did a bunch of mechanical stuff surrounded by a lot of really smart people.

We had an issue where it was just hard to find stuff and SharePoint came out, SharePoint 2007. My dear old friend came out on our internal network which was fully classified. We had made it a very minimal internet access for most of the time that I worked there and rolled out and I kind of started playing around with document libraries, metadata, that kind of thing. And we had documents that we used as resources that dated back to before my parents were born. So, being to organize stuff by project name, component type, classification, year, and doing just whole sort filter group making views like– it was a really powerful tool for us. We had one central repository for all of our documents internally that were like issued and published but this was more of a local wrist of lengths that pointed to that and I just added our metadata to it and we were blowing up at the time.

We had like 15 people in my team and we tripled in size within a couple years. So, the fact that we had new people coming on and we have this new website that people could use, really worked out but I say 45 people– our network was 15,000 across the world from Honolulu to actually the British Isles. And the IT team had a whole bunch of work basically they needed to do for adoption stuff and they asked me if I’d come on. So, I did that for a couple years, kind of sort of as a special project and I said, “I’m not putting this engineering thing up on a shelf. I’m going to go back and keep doing that.”. I went back and I was like, “Man, I really like that SharePoint thing. That was a lot of fun.”. So, I went back.

I might be one of the few people that say that out, you know, openly but I went back out to the IT team for another couple years and I think I spend six years at that job. I mean I was like the single, not single but like one of the couple sources of information internally because so few people had internet access. They couldn’t just go out there and like Google something, right. So, I had to build basically an internal user help desk. Not just help desk but resources, you know, like a serve yourself kind of thing. So, I had a regular blog that I would do and it was time for a change after like six years or so. I think that’s a long time actually for a millennial in most job environments and I just kind of went out looking for jobs and one popped up in a job feed that was like, I could’ve written it myself for myself and it just happened to be in US Virgin Islands. So, I jumped on it, you know, it was great. And then since then I moved to the Virginia area, D.C., back in the March time frame and I’m now working as a consultant pushing people into the cloud cause I truly believe that’s the right way to go.

One of the things you are famous for is you Periodic Table of Office 365, how did that come about?

http://icansharepoint.com/periodic-table-office-365-welcomes-microsoft-forms/

Matt Wade:  I very much am a visual person. I like visually displayed simplistic versions of the complex stuff which I’ll write up the complex stuff but the graphic is really the quick go-to thing. A couple other graphics out there that people had put out and they really started to intrigue me because I started seeing them pop up organically at my clients and I liked them but they were sort of– they were organized in sort of an arbitrary way. And it’s like well planner tasks and project all have a tsk thing in common. There should be a way that we can organize these things so that they’re grouped by functionality and some people call this a ‘what to use when’ thing and it is I don’t believe it’s that at all.

I think it’s just a simple to show what all of the products are and what they relate to in real life and what you’ve used before, sort of a commonality string. But building that, kind of running with what I had seen previously and, you know, how do I make this simpler and how do I group them. And, you know, it was for a few hours one day after work I had printed out a list or literally boxes of every single app that comes with 365 and I organized them in five or six different ways and I realized, again I’m an engineer I spent a lot time doing metrics operations back in the day, that oh, this is a perfect opportunity for a two access system because something like tasks for example in part of Outlook.

I like saying that because, these four buttons now in your app launcher don’t need to be scary because they’re just Outlook, the same buttons that you’ve have on the bottom left of your app for the last 30 years are there now. But tasks is also part of– a task, you know, system, so they have to be grouped together. So, they build it and go in two directions gave a lot of opportunity to relate different products that may not otherwise have been related. So, I played around a lot, took a lot of pictures so I didn’t forget the order of it and eventually I came up with a shape that looked kind of like the periodic table because dynamics is sort of its own little thing. So, I had it up in the top left corner and Sway is as well.

I might hurt some feelings but it kind of is and I was like this kind of looks either like a castle or it looks the periodic table. Well, everybody knows what the periodic table is, whether or not you like chemistry or hated chemistry in high school, and I’m on sort of the later side of that even though I went into engineering, it’s still recognizable and it’s a term that people can relate to and it’s something that can be digested literally by, you know, that person sitting at their desk just wanting to get there, you know– whether they’re in finance or marketing or accounting, fill in the blank. And put that out there and it was a big hit. I’m really happy. I’ve gotten, God knows how many, requests to use it in different places and I’m totally cool with people using it in a public forum.

The biggest complaint, they’re like– a response I’ve got back was, “You forgot Groups.” And I’m like, “No, I didn’t. Groups aren’t apps.” This is an app list. Like and when I describe what Office 365 is, I’ve now boiled it down to 365 is Windows and the browser. Alright. It’s basically an operating system. You’re ‘Start Menu’ moved from the bottom left to the top left but your apps are still in a menu and they open up in the browser instead. And I found that that’s the easiest way to push it is that I was working in Groups in the background and that kind of lit the fire under my butt to work on the Groups, intro-graphic which came next which was significantly more tedious to understand and research because the different sources sometimes disagreed with each other it turned out. But it was one of those, how could I organize all this stuff together so that its somewhat reasonably easy to read.

What are the differences between Yammer vs Groups vs Teams?

Matt Wade:   I’ve fallen in love with Microsoft Teams. Our company has moved to Teams. I think we did so like five or six weeks ago now. And it’s one of those things where we start playing with it a little bit and we realized that, okay, some of us are having conversation over in Teams, some of us are having conversation in Outlook. What are we doing here? So, we sat down for a couple of hours one Friday morning and said let’s talk this out. And, you know, we’re consultants, we should be practicing what we preach. We should definitely understand how this product works and we went through the process. Like should we just move straight on up into Teams and just do Teams and we agreed to do that.

I think we’ve sent three off shoot emails by mistake internally and we agreed that we were going to slap each other’s wrist if we did that and we did, I was one of the wrong emails and we’ve actually completely split our work for when we’re doing internal stuff we stick with Teams the communication process is so much simpler. Just the natural flow of conversation, the fact that you can split things up by conversations, that each document can have its own conversation and the conversation could now be– we could’ve started it last month and we could take it up again two years from now and we won’t have lost any of the context behind it and anybody that that join the company would be able to see all that context related to it.

Teams like dirty little secret is that it actually doesn’t really host any content, right. Chat is really Skype behind the– in the background and, you know, if you’re going to do meetings, its going through exchange and if you’re going to video calls or audio calls that’s going through Skype as well, the SharePoint library is popping up alive but it’s basically almost like an eye frame that’s looking out into the internet.

Teams is almost like a wrapper but I really do believe that it’s going to become not the app to rule them all cause that will never happen but it’s getting really close and I love the fact that everything is centralized and depending on which channel or team that I’m in, I can have a different setup with my tabs and what’s available to me at all times. So, I’m a big proponent of that. That’s the one that I push a lot and I kind of with this info-graphic I show what you get with all the different Teams that you can make, right. Well, Teams or I can make them in Groups, Office 365 Groups. Teams gives you everything but Yammer and people don’t realize that at first. Like if I make an Outlook group I can add Teams to it later if I want to but I only get Outlook, the calendar, and the SharePoint site collection planner and what not but with Teams, gives you Outlook too.

I gave the example where we’re both internal and external. I’m working externally on email, internally on team but I can keep all of my emails relating to a client, for example, or let’s say it’s a vendor or a customer or anything I can keep that in the same group and hop between Outlook for my external conversation and Teams for my internal conversation and it’s still all part of the same Group. All the permissions stay the same. When people join they’ll have access to both conversation pieces. When they leave they lose access to those emails. So, they can’t like forward them on and do a data dump if they wanted to. So that the interaction I think is great but it’s just a very complex concept to get across and it’s not until you can draw it out and show it that you can really, I think understand what it is. And I’m really hopefully that info-graphic helps a lot of people in that process.

Jay Leask:   Let me see if I get this straight. So, you use the Outlook Group that is created when you create a new Team for sending communication to external clients but you use Teams for the internal communication about that client. So, it separates who can see what. For example, the client can’t log into your network and see the team’s conversation but as long as you’re copying, I assume, the email address for that Outlook Group the content then gets put into the Group. So, you have the ability to look at all the conversations together in Groups but then you have the ability to go into Teams and see all the internal ongoing, the project schedule, etc., right?

Matt Wade:  Its elegant, isn’t it?

Jay Leask:   That’s really clever. Yeah. We’ve been trying to figure out the difference on our Team on what to use when and one of the things that you really– that hit home with what you’re saying is you as an organization sat down and you said these are the tools that we have available to us. These are the pros and cons for each of them. These are ways we can use them and you as a group decided this is what we’re going to do, let’s see how it works.

Matt Wade:   That’s correct. It’s sort of an informal governance but it is, we made an agreement. We’re going to abide by that agreement. We will learn lessons along the way and we will come back and we will re-evaluate how we’re using it and try to improve it later on.

Jay Leask:   Yeah. In previous podcasts we’ve talked about the roles of the people you need to engage to be successful. Specifically, that was around no-code solutions. I think what we’re seeing with Office 365, I think it’s still relatable. You mentioned earlier being a SharePoint guy, that was actually the terminology that Asif Rehmani used when we talked about. What is your feeling on what you need to be successful with all these tools? Can you have the same old SharePoint team or do you need– you mentioned having, you know, someone else with a new skill set to be able to shepherd you a long through all of this adoption, so to speak?

What do you need to do to be successful with Office 365?

Matt Wade:   So, when I did my first SharePoint online migration, this was the one on the island, I did not realize I was signing up to no longer be a SharePoint administrator. I was signing up to also be a Yammer administrator and a OneDrive administrator and the mobile–

Craig Jahnke:  It’s funny how that happens.

Matt Wade:  Right. The mobile access guru all of that stuff and when something went wrong, they’d call me and they’d be like, “Hey, Yammer did this.” And I’m like– I have maybe posted three times on Yammer, “I’m not quite sure what to tell you.” Like I can look stuff up but, you know, I don’t know. The big secret in the world that says IT guys really, they’re just a way in to get good Google searches, kind of thing, right. I’ll look it up and see if I can figure it out but I don’t have any promises in that. I think in that respect it becomes important to look at what your SLA is going to be.

These products are available whether or not the company, sounds awful to say but like whether or not the company supports them. I’ve seen matrices in multiple places where, okay, we’re doing the SharePoint online thing but that means we get 365 with it and you’re going to get all these other apps and you’re welcome to play with them but for the time being we aren’t going to support this one until two months from now.

This one’s going to be supported four months from now because our, you know, helpdesk or change management person or whomever has to go to get some training first before they can do something like that. You mentioned about like what kind of teammates you have to get involved in this process. I think that’s probably one of the most important parts. Whenever I do one of these migration aspects I always have a line that we include within our proposals that if your organization has certain professional skill sets within your organization we need to have access to them or at least they need to be able to know that this is happening and they either have to sign off that they don’t want to be involved, which is a shame, or they are going to get involved.

The biggest ones are one IT obviously just because IT is the one that usually owns the product from the, you know, admin side of things but if you have a content management specialist they better be involved. If you have a knowledge manager on staff of a team of knowledge managers, if you have the luxury of having that, they better be involved. Your internal communications staff, they better be involved because SharePoint publishing is essentially a communication portal. If you have branding or marketing people, they need to get involved yesterday because no matter what they always tell me they got involved too late and it could be the day that I started. Like that’s the kind of reaction that I get, generally.

Craig Jahnke:   Yeah, that’s quite common.

Matt Wade:   So, there is a whole team– exactly.

Craig Jahnke:    It’s quite common to see what you’re talking about and its really– I like that you ask for this stuff up front because I’ve been on many an engagement where it’s for some reason looked at as an IT initiative and nobody really realizes that all these other parts, not only need to be involved but play a significant part.

Matt Wade:   Exactly, yeah.

Jay Leask:    It looks like you’re recommending Excel maybe displayed in SharePoint pages if I’m getting that correctly, to create simple and easy dashboards. Is this something anybody can do or do you have to be like an Excel guru or a big power user? Like what are your thoughts on that?

Do you have to be like an Excel guru or a big power user to create dashboards?

Matt Wade:   So, yes, anybody in the spectrum could definitely do this. I took a little, minor bit of heat on this post specifically because people were saying, “Why on earth would you use Excel? That’s an awful idea. You have Power BI, use that.” And first off, not everybody has Power BI. Second, not everybody’s willing to learn Power BI. I realize if you understand Excel reasonably well the jump to Power BI is pretty easy. Power BI is also beautiful. The fact that you’re going to involve maps and you can have the fully responsive dashboards is very cool. I have yet to see an organization that is willing to jump on that because the dashboards that they have, if they have any of them, are basically jump numbers on a screen in some place, right. So, you can make it a little bit prettier. You can do a quick search in in your search engine of choice, I think I’ll probably go to AltaVista now, and take a look for some inspiration.

This is just like– like the graphic that I show there, this is the same thing as when people would use sort of the out of the box PowerPoint presentation templates that were– remember the old like cerulean blue background with the bright, you know, lime green text and nobody had any sort of design experience or thought that they could like create from scratch and frankly they shouldn’t have to. The content is the part that’s supposed to be good, right. but creative design is something that’s a skill, it’s not something that everybody has and if you have some inspiration you can use that and run with it. So, I give the example in here that I downloaded and freely available Excel based dashboard that just had some KPIs in it and I kind of go through how you can make the KPI be a graphic now instead of numbers, how you can highlight certain numbers of others, and how some of those numbers can be dependent upon other values that are in the spreadsheet.

You can get as complex as like having the main tab, the first tab, be like just a display tab the raw information actually goes in all the other tabs and different people own those tabs. So, nobody’s stepping on each other’s toes when they’re making their updates cause dashboards usually represent a culmination of information coming from multiple different locations. You don’t have to be an Excel wizard and even if you’re not and you do need some like some Excel skills here or there, if you can teach that person just update this on these days, you’ll be pretty good

Craig Jahnke:   I think we referenced this on an earlier podcast last week that Excel is still the way that business gets done.

Matt Wade:   Oh yeah.

Craig Jahnke:   And it will be a lot for a long time. And a lot of the Power BI dashboards that you even see out there are just sitting on top of an Excel spreadsheet unless you’re doing some live data reporting or like you said multiple data sources it could be a lot of overkill or a lot of setting up for no real additional value just other than to look pretty.

Matt Wade:   And, you know, as a SharePoint guy I have no problem any longer saying sometimes function is more important than form or regularly function is more important than form.

Jay Leask:    Yeah. Well, I think that’s been SharePoint’s argument for a long time. I’m looking at your periodic table and I’m noticing Excel and Power BI aren’t connected. I almost want to see them connected because of this capability. I think that’s just a personal desire.

Matt Wade:   That’s true. Yeah. I’ll think about that.

Jay Leask:    So when it comes to Power BI, you’re going to need a developer to be able to get that into something usable and referenceable. Is that what– is that the expectation?

Do you need a developer to create usable Power BI dashboards and reports?

Matt Wade:   You’re going to have to have somebody that has either some more skill than a typical Excel user or somebody that’s willing to put a little time in and do a little research. If you are already an Excel geek, like Power BI is a pretty easy thing to jump into but you’re going to spend time learning in that process, not just applying what you know versus if you’re already an Excel geek you can probably apply what you know and as long as somebody gives you sort of a template or some guidelines on how it should look, they’re going to get more out of it I think that way. And, you know, nothing against Power BI again I think it a beautifully done product.

I think that they can, you know, some of the examples I see out there are just excellent but I also think that too many people wind up looking at dashboards start talking about the look and feel before they start talking about the data because then I’ll come back and say, “Well, what KPIs are you going to use?” What’s a KPI? My bad. Well, its key performance indicator. What values are you looking for to represent here and what’s important to you? What are your C-Suite looking for? What sort of data points do you want to report regularly? Oh, and also don’t forget that when you simplify any sort of concept down to something as small as just a one, you know, a one digit or an arrow that’s pointing yellow to the right, that means that you’ve made that a more crude representation of the actually status.

I’ve never not been in one of these dashboard or update meetings where somebody says, “Well, it’s that but it’s really all about this. Let me explain.” People need to understand that, that these aren’t magical representations of actually project status, they’re just simplified representations of a very complex process and it can easily– I mean one nice thing about dashboards is that it can kind of hold people, you know, hold their feet to the fire to get stuff done cause its very public but at the same time those people are now walking away with potentially lower morale, less interest in actually finishing the project. You know, like they’re being, you know, scapegoated or being publicly harassed while everybody else had, you know, they number that they represent isn’t even 5% of the value that I’m looking at because their product is only $1 million and mines $20 million or, you know, something like that. So, people need to think less about the look and feel of their dashboard at first and really understand what is the data they’re trying to report. Why? How valuable is it and then how do you want to push it out there and make it available?

Craig Jahnke:   Well I agree that you don’t need to be a developer as Jay made it sound. Like a hard core coder is what I think of with developer, but it does take a little bit of skill to put together a good dashboard that actually means something. So, very nicely put the way you say it.

Lightening Round (30:30)

These one-word answers were provided in a quick back-and forth, minimal context lightening round to end the interview:

  1. What is your favorite element on the scientific periodic table?
    Sodium (Na)
  2. What are you currently reading?
    Al Franken: Giant of the Senate
  3. What TV show are you binge watching ?
    The Handmaid’s Tale
  4. Syfy or Discovery Channel?
    Hulu and Netflix
  5. Who were you cheering for, the Shark or Michael Phelps?
    Michael Phelps
  6. Pterodactyl or Stegosaurus?  Stegosaurus

Closing Thoughts (35:32)

Don’t call Surface Phone a phone [ Surface Phone Design ]

Dinosaur Fun Fact of the Day: Most dinosaurs have more of a feather like coating and are not a thick leathery skin.

Here it is your moment of zen.

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