Combine MS Flow with SharePoint for More Powerful Web Parts

Modern SharePoint Pages were introduced in 2016.  These pages allow you to quickly author pages that support different types of content that can be added using web parts.

The list of available web parts is growing and by the sounds of it, improvements and new web parts are on their way.  Here is more news on this from the SharePoint Conference 2018.

One of the gaps we've found (apparently, we aren't the only ones) is that there is no equivalent to the Content Editor Web Part (CEWP) or Script Editor web part for Modern SharePoint pages. There are a couple of other options for filling this gap:

A MS Flow Solution to the CEWP Gap in Modern Pages

You can use a combination of the Modern Embed Web Part and MS Flow to create web parts that expose information from across your organization quickly and easily. 

The Business Case

SharePoint provides a great way of visually connecting people with information.  Using SharePoint's features you can improve collaboration and enable business users.  

In many of our solutions, we rollup or otherwise display business information from within SharePoint or other systems using APIs. 

In this Case

We want to provide a custom listing of Active Projects in our Planning department, so that users can quickly jump into the subsite created for this project.

Solution Outline

In this solution, we will create a Flow that returns HTML content to be rendered in SharePoint using the Modern Embed web part.

Here is a more detailed description of the solution:

  • Create a Flow that is initiated by an HTTP Request
  • Use MS Flow to connect to our list of Planning Projects in SharePoint
  • Use Flow to Transform part of the the data returned from the SharePoint list so that it can be returned as HTML
  • Provide the Flow's caller with an HTML HTTP Response
  • Use a Modern SharePoint Embed webpart to make the call to Flow each time the page is loaded and present the markup that is returned to the end user.

1 - Get Started with MS Flow

If you haven't already done this, you're missing out. You'll be impressed by how intuitive this tool is and by how quickly you can build very useful solutions with this product. Login Here

We also recommend the Microsoft Flow guided learning site.

2 - Create a Flow using the HTTP Request Trigger

 When an HTTP Request is receipt by this trigger, you can kick off a new instance of your Flow.

When an HTTP Request is receipt by this trigger, you can kick off a new instance of your Flow.

Start out with an HTTP Request Trigger - This means that your Flow will run whenever this endpoint is called.

 The extremely useful and versatile HTTP Request Trigger. 

The extremely useful and versatile HTTP Request Trigger. 

IMPORTANT: After you save your Flow the HTTP GET URL is generated.  You will need this later!

3 - Connect to a SharePoint List (or just about anything else)

There are a multitude of connections you can make with Flow.  I suggest you have a look for yourself on the Flow page of Connectors.

In this example, I'm using Flow to hook up to SharePoint, but there are over 200 types of connections you can make with Flow.

  Connect with Flow   Flow offers a up a ton of connectors from cloud and on-premises apps.  Yes - you can connect to on premises data using the on-premises data gateway.

Connect with Flow

Flow offers a up a ton of connectors from cloud and on-premises apps.  Yes - you can connect to on premises data using the on-premises data gateway.

Okay, back to our steps.  We're going to add a connection to SharePoint to our Flow.

Add Action: Send an HTTP Request to SharePoint

 The Send an HTTP request to SharePoint action

The Send an HTTP request to SharePoint action

You could also do this with the SharePoint - Get Items action.  However, in this example, I've used the Send an HTTP Request to SharePoint action.  You can see that this is a basic REST API call to get items. I'm querying our Projects list to get items.

4 - Prep Your Data

Here are a couple of steps I've taken to prep the data returned from SharePoint so that it can be returned by the Flow as HTML.

Add Action: Data Operations - Parse JSON

 Action: Data Operations Parse JSON

Action: Data Operations Parse JSON

Add the Data Operations - Parse JSON action. 

Important: You'll want to run the Flow once yourself and get the response from your SharePoint action and click on the Use sample payload to generate schema link.

Add Action: Data Operations Select

 Data Operations - Select

Data Operations - Select

Add this action beneath the Parse JSON action.  The Data Operations Select action allows you to select and transform specific elements from a collection to create a new collection.  Here is the more specific detail from Microsoft.

You should be able to select the value element from the previous step.  You can see that I've created a bit of HTML for each item that has been returned from the list of Projects. 

IMPORTANT: Click on the small icon on the far right side of the screen to map a simple JSON string instead of the default key value pairing. 
Also - You'll need to add double quotes around your HTML string or you will receive the error 'Enter a valid JSON'.

Add Action: Data Operations Join

Data Operations Join

The join action allows you to take multiple items from a collection and combine them into a string.  In this case, we are joining the HTML strings from the previous step into a single string - separating each with a <br>.  Here's more on the Data Operations Join action. 

5 - Create an HTTP Response

In this step, we'll create a response for the request that triggered our Flow to begin with.

Add Action: Request Response

 Send back HTML with the Request - Response action

Send back HTML with the Request - Response action

Our response includes CSS, HTML and the output from our Join action in the previous step.

6 - Connect to MS Flow with the SharePoint Embed Web Part

This is the last step.  All we need to do now is add a Modern Embed web part to the page and use iFrame markup that points at our Flow endpoint.

 You may have thought you'd done some cool stuff with the The Embed Web Part before, but this is probably way better than whatever that was.&nbsp; :)

You may have thought you'd done some cool stuff with the The Embed Web Part before, but this is probably way better than whatever that was.  :)

Add Modern Web Part: Embed

Okay, this is the easy part.

  • In a modern SharePoint page, add an Embed web part
  • In the Website Address or Embed Code, add iframe HTML to connect to your Flow endpoint.
    • <iframe width="100%" height="400px" src="[From Step 2]"></iframe>
  • From Step 2 in this blog, you'll find instructions on getting the endpoint for your Flow HTTP Trigger.
IMPORTANT: I recommend taking some steps to secure this endpoint so that it confirms the referrer domain and / or add a token in the secure client app that is calling your Flow.  You can add logic to confirm this in your Flow and handle these requests accordingly.


In completing the last step, you should be able to see the Embed Web Part connecting to your MS Flow endpoint and rendering the HTML response on the page.

Hopefully you find some use in this pattern!  We think it may be a quick and easy way of exposing data from across your organization in SharePoint without custom code, third party web parts or a lot of effort.

Please post questions or comments below, we'd like to hear from you!


News From the Factory: Jun 11 2018

Book a Demo

We have a number of demo's prepared or would be interested in just catching up!

Our Update

Our team was in Toronto last week running an App in a Day training session at the MTC @ downtown.  Aside from that, we're working with PowerApps and to address a few interesting end to end processes and working on some more traditional SharePoint solutions.

We'd love to hear some feedback on our newsletter, about your projects or to connect with you. 

You can use the button on the left or hit up either Rem or Sean on LinkedIn.




Fidelity Factory Teaming with Microsoft to Deliver App in a Day Sessions

We're excited to be delivering these sessions with Microsoft in Calgary and Toronto.  Use the button below to register for App in a Day Training in a city near you. (Microsoft)


Flow of the Week: Approval Reminders using Parallel Branches

Remind. Everyone. (Microsoft)


Add Intelligence, Automation and AI to your SharePoint Content

Here are some great updates on the availability of great new features for SharePoint (Microsoft)


Middleware Friday: Infobip and MS Flow bring you SMS Triggers

How cool is this. (Integration User Group)


PowerApps Webinar Listing

Learn something new today. (Microsoft)


Change the Colors of Modern SharePoint Sites

Modern SharePoint Essentials. (PixelMill)


PowerShell Cmdlets for Flow and PowerApps

These will make your life easier. (Microsoft)


Video: Automatic Transcription and Recordings in Teams

Yet another great addition to Microsoft Teams. (YouTube)


Blog: Flow for SharePoint Designer Workflows

Out with the old, in with the rad. (Microsoft)

SharePoint and OneDrive Security

Video: Build a Flow with Custom Forms and Approvals

Straight up from John L. (Microsoft)


News From the Factory: May 23 2018

Book a Demo

We have a number of demo's prepared or would be interested in just catching up!

Our Update

Our team has been busy working on Light Duty Project Management, Communications Portals and data capture in MS Forms for our clients.

We'd love to hear some feedback on our newsletter, about your projects or to connect with you. 

You can use the button on the left or hit up either Rem or Sean on LinkedIn.

Training Opportunity: Register Today

We are happy to be working with Microsoft to deliver App in a Day sessions in Toronto (June 5) and Calgary (June 18).  You can register for these sessions below. 




Fidelity Factory Teaming with Microsoft to Deliver App in a Day Sessions

We're excited to be delivering these sessions with Microsoft in Calgary and Toronto.  Use the button below to register for App in a Day Training in a city near you. (Microsoft)

SP Conf 2018 Announcements.PNG

Rundown: SharePoint Features Announced at #SPC18

Naturally, the big SharePoint conference comes with big announcements. (CMS Wire)

Surface Tablet.png

Is a $400 Surface Tablet Coming?

"Microsoft is working on a new line of budget Surface tablets to better compete with Apple’s low-cost iPad optionsaccording to a report from Bloomberg." (TheVerge)

PowerApps File Upload to Blob

PowerApps Feature Alert: Upload Files to Blob Storage

Capture files in PowerApps and send them to Blob storage. (Microsoft)

The Surface Hub 2 is Coming

The Surface Hub 2 Announced

You'd best submit that PO for approval now. (Microsoft)

Search for Words in your Images using o365.png

Search for Text in Images Using o365

New o365 search capabilities making this possible. (Microsoft)


MS Business Applications Summit

July 22 - 24 in Seattle - Connect people, products and ideas. (Microsoft)

ECM in under 3 minutes.png

Video: ECM In Under 3 Minutes, How to Conduct a Content Audit

Valuable content for the ECM crowd. (YouTube)

SharePoint and OneDrive News

Windows 10 Timeline View

Quickly look back at all the apps you've used and when you've used them. (PCWorld)

SharePoint and OneDrive Security

New Security and Compliance Resource for SharePoint and OneDrive Available

Keep your content secure people. (Microsoft)


News From the Factory: May 10 2018

Book a Demo

We have a number of demo's prepared or would be interested in just catching up!

Our Update

Things have been busy!   The general interest in Flow and PowerApps hasn't slowed down.  We're seeing interest in Escalating Approval Processes, Light Duty Project Management and Collaboration Solutions.

We'd love to hear some feedback on our newsletter, about your projects or to connect with you. 

You can use the button on the left or hit up either Rem or Sean on LinkedIn.


Industry News

PowerApps and Flow.PNG

Blog: Governing and Managing Flow, o365 Groups and PowerApps

Helpful Tips, Tricks and Tools

Excel Power Bi and JS.png

JavaScript and Power BI Visualizations are Coming to Excel

Microsoft announced support for these features this week. (Techcrunch)

Your Phone.png

Your Phone App for Windows to Support iOS and Android

Access your iOS and Android features from your Windows PC. (TheVerge)


MS Teams at Microsoft

How Microsoft addressed the needs of their modern workplace with their Teams product. (Microsoft)

Step By Step Instructions for Setting up the Help Desk PowerApp

The Help Desk PowerApp Sample is Ready

Here are your step-by-step installation instructions. (Microsoft)

Download The Teams Customer Success Kit

Get the MS Teams Customer Success Kit

Guides, Templates, Flyers, Posters and More... (Microsoft)

Flow Upload Files and More.png

An Excellent Flow Walkthrough

Upload images and return data tables in PowerApps using Flow. (Microsoft)

SharePoint Update - Spring 2018

From the Product Team: SharePoint Update

Find out what the SharePoint Team has recently completed and what they'll be working on next. (Microsoft)

SharePoint and OneDrive News

Limited Access Policies in OneDrive and SharePoint Available Now

Stop users from accessing your site using unauthorized devices.  Now generally available. (Microsoft)

Say No to InfoPath

PowerApps is your Way Forward from InfoPath

Follow this article for great instructions on how to replace your InfoPath forms with PowerApps. (Microsoft)


New Tools, New Governance: Office 365 Groups, Flow and PowerApps


Microsoft has released great tools and services available through Office 365: MS Teams, PowerApps, Flow to name a few.

Turning these services on will provide huge benefits to your business.  As with all great technology, don't forget to manage it properly. 

We hope this post will help you on your way to effectively govern and manage these tools for your organization.

PowerApps and Flow

Powerful Tools

PowerApps and Flow are a great combination for routing information to the right person(s) or place at the right time on any platform or device.  We have seen significant adoption and interest from our clients.  We expect this to continue as these products continue to mature and develop.

 PowerApps and Flow

PowerApps and Flow


These tools offer the ability to quickly build and deploy high value solutions that will quickly put smiles of the faces of your users.  Along with this, a lot of mileage can be covered with these tools with little or no code and in a relatively short amount of time. 

These tools provide great benefit to many of the organizations we visit. Once activated, any licensed user can create a PowerApp or Flow. 

Environments: A Key Management and Governance Tool

Once these services are enabled, a default environment will be created on your tenant.  Each environment has two built in roles; Environment Admin and Environment Maker. 

Environment Admin: Anyone in the Environment Admin role has full rights to the environment including role assignments. 

Environment Maker: Users in the Environment Maker role can create PowerApps and Flows. 

IMPORTANT! By default, all users in the default environment are granted the Environment Maker role and it cannot be removed.

Mo' Software, Mo' Problems?

If you look at your organization, how many mission critical apps are in MS Excel or MS Access and were (maybe many years ago) created by an engineer or accountant? 

Now consider how much further these solutions could evolve using a tool like PowerApps and Flow - with the availability of hundreds of connectors?

Don't feel too bad though. Most organizations have experience with their users creating undocumented, ungoverned Excel Spreadsheets that drive mission critical processes.

Effective Management

Control with Tools

Manage with Environments

Several environments can also be created to control how PowerApps and Flows are deployed. 

Helpful Tip! You can create Production and Test environments, then turn the Default environment into a sandbox. 

Manage with Roles

You have full control of the Environment Maker role in the new environments and can add only the users you want to allow to create new Apps/Flows.  This however, does not limit who can create Apps and Flows in the Sandbox (Default) environment.   

Manage with PowerShell

The great folks at Microsoft have recently released PowerShell cmdlets for PowerApps and Flow (

You can create a script to list all apps in the Sandbox (Default) environment and delete them.  This would allow you to create a true Sandbox where anyone can create, but the environment will be regularly be swept clean.

A PowerApps connector for Flow is coming, this will make it easier to create a Flow to manage the Sandbox (Default) environment.

Office 365 Groups

Capabilites and Adoption

Office 365 Groups are available by default to all users. Office 365 services that use groups include Outlook, SharePoint, Yammer, MS Teams, StaffHub, Planner and PowerBI.

Why is this a concern?

When an Office 365 Group is created the following items are created for the group:

  • Shared calendar
  • SharePoint library
  • Shared OneNote Notebook
  • SharePoint Team Site
  • Planner

The footprint of an Office 365 Group and how it will be governed is something you should consider as soon as your users begin using Groups.


Each user in your organization can create up to 250 Groups and Office 365 administrators. have no limit on the number of Office 365 groups they can create. The maximum number of groups and organization can have is 500,000.

Without proper training and communication, its likely that your employees will create Office 365 groups without knowing it. A common mistake users make is clicking the New Group button in Outlook, mistaking this for a distribution group.

 The New Group button

The New Group button

Effective Management

Fortunately, there is a method for controlling who can create Office 365 Groups.

The process is outlined in this Microsoft support article:

Implementing the solution outlined above will benefit you with is better control of MS Teams, Planner and (in general) Office 365 Groups. 

This way, MS Teams can be active and everyone can participate in a Team, but limit the creation of a Team based on need and business value.  Each request for a Team should go through an approval process - applying light governance.

In Closing

We offer consulting services to help our clients solve these types of problems.  However, our hope is that articles like this will help you do this on your own. 

News From the Factory: April 25 2018

Book a Demo

We have a number of demo's prepared or would be interested in just catching up!

Our Update

Last week we had a chance to meet with some great folks from the MS Flow and PowerApps teams while they made a stop in Calgary.  We've highlighted some of the news and demos we saw with them during their visit.

We've been seeing interest in small scale PMO solutions, uplifting legacy forms and light business process automation. 

We'd love to hear some feedback on our newsletter, about your projects or to connect with you.  You can use the button on the left or find Rem and Sean on LinkedIn.



Hot Dog No Hot Dog MS Flow AI Demo

Video Tutorial: MS Flow + Cognitive Services

Kent Weare and Jon Levesque demonstrate the capabilities of MS Flow and Image Recognition via Custom Vision in this great video tutorial.

The Intrazone SharePoint Podcast

Listen Up: A New SharePoint Podcast from the Product Team

Released Bi-Weekly, you'll want to subscribe to this one.

Test Flow Feature Dropped

Feature Alert: "Test Flow" Button

Spend more time developing and test your flows quickly with this addition. Check out the latest release notes here.

Security and Compliance in MS Teams.png

Security and Compliance in Teams

An overview of Retention, Legal Holds, eDiscovery, Privacy and related features in Microsoft Teams.

You Should be Using Flow Environments.PNG

MS Flow Environments. 

If you aren't using these yet, you probably should be. 

SharePoint Lists in MS Teams

Embed SharePoint Lists in a MS Teams Tab

"A new ‘experience’ was added to Microsoft Teams which allows you to create a Teams Tab that surfaces a SharePoint list and it’s pretty nice."

Step Up Your Flow Game with these Learning Resources.png

Step Up Your MS Flow Game

From the Product Team, here is a great learning resource for all skill levels. 

Modern ECM Whitepaper.png

Free Whitepaper: Modernizing ECM with MS Content Services

"How content is created, managed, and shared—and how users collaborate with that content—has gone through a drastic evolution from traditional enterprise content management (ECM) "

OneNote Moving from Office to Windows 10.PNG

OneNote App for Office to be Replaced by Windows 10 Version

"The OneNote 2016 app for Office 365 will be put on hold"


News From the Factory: April 11 2018

Book a Demo

We have a number of demo's prepared or would be interested in just catching up!

Our Update

We've seen a ongoing interest and project work in the areas of ECM, Reporting, Dashboards, Portal Development and Collaboration from our clients since our last update.

Technology wise, we are hearing a lot of questions about Teams and how it fits into the collaboration stack that is already deployed.  If you're struggling with this as well, use the button on the left to connect with us for a meeting to discuss this or other questions.



Ignite 2018 Registration.PNG

Ignite 2018 in Orlando: Registration is Open

This is one of the best conferences for folks invested in Microsoft solutions. 

Teams and Skype Admin Center.PNG

Teams & Skype Admin Center is Rolling Out

This is still being rolled out, once available you'll have more control on how Teams can be deployed in your organization.

Learn About the Content Organizer.PNG

SharePoint ECM 101: The Content Organizer

This extremely helpful feature makes it easier to make sure content is classified and stored in the right places.

15 GB Files in SharePoint

Now you can Host 15 GB Files in SharePoint Online

Slightly more than the old 50 MB limit.

Documenting Flow with the Steps Recorder.PNG

Step by Step Documentation Got you Down?

The Steps Recorder does a great job of documenting your steps with screenshots! Best of all, its free with Windows. 

Document Flow, PowerApps and SharePoint Solutions with ease.

Free SharePoint Training Videos.PNG

Free SharePoint Online Training Videos

The good folks at Microsoft have offered up these great training videos.

Custom Site Designs Feature.PNG

Introducing Custom Site Designs for SharePoint

Now you can create lists, call MS Flow, set a theme and other cool stuff when a SharePoint site is provisioned. 

Develop a Bot in Four Hours.PNG

Want to Build a Bot?

Well this is awesome.  Learn how to build a bot with this quick and easy tutorial.

What is Modern SharePoint and Why Should I Care.PNG

Why Modern SharePoint Matters

"Unlike guitars and whiskey, software doesn't improve with age."

This blog post by Bob German at Microsoft does a great job of breaking down the Modern SharePoint UI and why its important.


News From the Factory: March 27 2018

Our Update

MS Teams, PowerApps and SharePoint Forms.

The interest we have been seeing from our clients in Microsoft Teams hasn't stopped.  If you've been checking into it too, let us know if you have any questions. 

Since our last update, we've been busy delivering solutions using SharePoint, PowerApps and Flow.  Our clients have been investing in processes centered around the areas of tracking resource utilization, regulatory compliance, project management, marketing and communications.  

You Like?

This is new for us.  We decided to take our email newsletter and begin posting it online.  We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below or email us here.


New Demos

We've got new demo content available for MS Teams, Flic buttons, PowerApps and SharePoint



Flic Hub is now Available on IndieGogo.PNG

The Flic Hub is Here

No more need to link these amazing buttons to your phone.  Better get your wallet. 

Keeping Up with MS Flow.PNG

Keeping Up with MS Flow

The changes and updates come fast and furious for MS Flow. If you'd like to stay more up to date, here is a great post by Daniel Laskewitz (AKA o365 Dude) on how to stay up to date.

Differences between the new and classic experiences for lists and libraries

SharePoint Experiences: Modern vs. Classic

If you are looking for a little more insight into the differences between SharePoint's Classic and Modern experiences, here is a good place to start.

SharePoint Communication Sites

SharePoint Online Communication Sites

Wondering what these sites are and how you might use them in your organization?  Microsoft has released this helpful article. 

Content Management Updates in SharePoint

New ECM Features in SharePoint

If you're using SharePoint's ECM features, you won't want to miss this YouTube video from the Microsoft Mechanics on recent updates. 

Add Attachments to SharePoint Lists using PowerApps

PowerApps: Add Attachments to SharePoint Lists

This highly requested feature and is now available in PowerApps.  

CALSPUG Flow Meet Up

Microsoft Flow Team in Calgary April 19th

Kent Weare and John Levesque from Microsoft's Flow product team will be attending CalSPOUG.  There is limited seating available follow the link to register now. 


Teams is about to become a whole lot more competitive.PNG

Guest Access Coming to Teams

At long last...  

2018 Edition - Neilsen Norman 10 Best Intranets.PNG

2018 Edition: Nielsen Norman Group 10 Best Intranets

These guys definitely know their portals.  If you've got one, had one or need one, give this a read. 

Simple Steps to Avoid SharePoint Governance Failure

Simple Steps to Avoid SharePoint Governance Failure

Establish Commitment

If you're going to introduce governance to your portal, you must commit.  When considering the commitment required for your governance, consider the following:

  • Stakeholders from top down must be committed to the initiative
  • Establish a means of enforcing the polices, rules and standards
  • Establish the content affected and the users that will be expected to commit to the governance plan  

Establishing a high level of commitment is dependent on consensus.

Preparing for SharePoint Online Content Recovery


Understanding the backup and restore capabilities of your team as well as the services offered by Microsoft will allow you to define how you can best support content restores. 

This post from a Microsoft Support Technician identifies the services Microsoft makes available for content restores.  In the SharePoint Online Service Description, you'll find Microsoft's official word on their support for backing up and restoring content.

Its up to you to understand the capabilities of your team and how their skills, tools and knowledge of SharePoint Online can support content recovery.

Supported Content

Carefully consider the content that will be deployed into your SharePoint Online sites. 

If you are deploying mission critical content into SharePoint Online, be sure to understand the business impact that a restore will have on this content and that this content may have to be rolled back to a previous state.

The risk of deploying any content to a cloud service, is that you are giving up at least some level of control over the content.  Considering that you don't have control over where the content is stored, without a third party product or service, you are fully dependent on your provider for recovering lost content.

Identify, govern and communicate the content you will support for deployment into SharePoint Online.

Proactive Preparation

Preparation is a critical part of being able to respond to the needs of your business.  Like any other solution, you must understand the requirements the business has of the system.  Don't overlook requirements the business may have for restoring document content from SharePoint Online. 

Here are a few content restore scenarios to consider when thinking about what your business may be faced with:

Item Level Scenarios

  • A document goes missing
  • A file becomes corrupted
  • An item is accidentally deleted

List and Library Level Scenarios

  • A list or library is deleted
  • List or library settings / configurations / customizations are changed

Site Level Scenarios

  • A site is accidentally deleted
  • A content type / workflow or other customization is deleted
  • Items are deleted from a Gallery
  • Complicated Security or Permissions are removed

Site Collection Level Scenarios

  • A Site Collection is Deleted
  • Custom Master Page, Page Layouts, Themes or CSS are Deleted
  • Custom Solutions are Deleted

Planning Site Collections

The lowest level that Microsoft will restore content for a SharePoint Online customer is at the Site Collection level.  This means that when a restore is requested, all content currently active in a Site Collection will be replaced by the requested backup.

Be strategic in how you deploy Site Collections into SharePoint Online.  This article identifies the boundaries and limits for Site Collections and other areas of SharePoint Online.  

  • Before creating a Site Collection, qualify your decision using these guidelines:
    • Create Site Collections when you need a boundary for managing content of a similar purpose. Examples of this is where a Site Collection is dedicated for content such as Teams, Apps, Records, Communications Portal and Social purposes.
    • Create a Site Collection when you need to create a strict security boundary for content that needs to be administered in a highly secure way (HR and Finance content are examples of this).  You might have different Site Collection Administrators and controls on the content you are storing in these types of Site Collections.
  • Consider that having content divided between many Site Collections can add difficulties when multiple Site Collections need to be restored at once.  Deploy Site Collections sparingly.
  • Keeping all of your content in a Single Site Collection will force you to roll back all content to the restore point - having a greater impact on the business.

Responding to Content Recovery Requests

In any event, how your team responds to these types of incidents is critical.  If your team is well trained in the Office365, and SharePoint Online features, there is a lot they can do to respond and recover content quickly and easily on their own.

Tactics for Resolving Content and Configuration Issues

Security and Compliance Center
  1. Identify when and how the issue occurred
    1. Use the Security & Compliance center > Audit Log search
    2. This records all user activity in your SharePoint Online
    3. From here you will be able to determine when the issue occurred
  2. Troubleshoot the issue yourself
    1. For Content Issues, have users check the List and Site level Recycle Bins
      • Content is stored in the Recycle Bin for 90 days (by default)
      • After this period of time, the content is moved into the Site Collection Recycle Admin
    2. As a site Collection Admin, you can access the Site Collection Recycle Bin as well.
      • Once content is moved into the Site Collection Recycle Bin, it will stay there for another 30 days
      • Under the default settings, a piece of deleted content should still be recoverable from the Recycling Bin for 120 days
    3. Version history (if its been activated) can be used on a list or library to recover previous versions of a file.
    4. If a custom Workflow, Content Type or Configuration is deleted or removed, you may need to recreate it manually - is there a copy in your Development or Test Environment that you can refer to?
    5. As a SharePoint Online Admin, you can recover deleted Site Collections as well.  Read all about how to restore a Deleted Site Collection here.
  3. Know When to Escalate
    1. If the content you are missing is valuable enough, consider if it is worth contacting Microsoft or using other Tools.

How Microsoft Can Help

Microsoft takes a backup every 12 hours.  These backups are kept for a period of 14 days. Microsoft restores at a Site Collection level, not at the subsite or item level.  A Site Collection Restore replaces all of the content currently in the Site Collection with the backup.  Consider what this may mean for your business:

  • When you realize you need content restored by Microsoft, don't delay contacting them.  Once the 14-day period has passed, the restore you need may no longer be available. 
  • Considering that Microsoft takes a backup every 12 hours, if the item you need to have restored was deleted 1 hour after the last backup, a restore will roll you back to the point of the last backup.  Consider the impact to the rest of the business - how much other important work will be lost. 
  • Understand that your users of the Site Collection will face an outage while the Restore operation completed.  The amount of time the restore will take is dependent on the volume of content being restored. 

The Value of Third Party Backup Solutions

A third party solution may offer you more control over backup and restore capabilities than what is offered by Microsoft.  Why to consider using a third party tool:

  • More ability to perform more granular restores
  • Setup your own backup / restore schedule
  • Store content backups in the cloud or on premises

Third party solutions offer more flexibility and additional recovery options.  However, these solutions come with a price tag and a cost of ownership to consider.






Getting a File Link in SharePoint / Where is Copy Shortcut?

Getting a link to a file in the form of a standard URL isn't done the same way it was in the SharePoint Classic UI.

In SharePoint's Modern UI, users have lost the ability to right-click on document and choose Copy Shortcut from the browser's context menu. 

Don't worry, it might take an extra click now, but youcan follow these steps and still get links to your files:

Step 1: From the Document Context Menu, Click Get a Link

Step 1 From Context Menu Choose Get Link.png

Step 2: Select a Restricted Link from the Get a Link Dialog

Step 2 - Choose the Restricted Link Option.png

3 Simple Steps to Customize Your Office365 Login Page

A custom Office 365 login page that matches your branding and design will greet your users with a familiar experience and welcomes them to their portal.  This doesn't take long to set up and makes for a much nicer login experience.

Step 1: Prepare Your Images

For this example, you'll need two images.  We are setting the Main Login Image and the Banner Image.  You may need a designer to help get the images set to the right dimensions and not exceed the file size limits.

  • Main Login Image

    • 1420 x 1200 px
    • Maximum size of 500 KB
    • File Type PNG or JPG
  • Banner Image

    • 60 x 280 px
    • Maximum size of 10 KB
    • File Type PNG or JPG
  • See the example below for examples of both of the above images
Custom Office 365 Login Page Image Dimensions


Step 2: Access Azure Active Directory

You will need to be an Office 365 Administrator to complete the steps that come next.  If its your first time accessing Azure Active Directory, you will need to let it run an initial set up.

Open Azure AD

  • Login to Office 365
  • Click on Admin from the launcher
  • Click on Azure AD
 From the launcher, click on Azure AD.

From the launcher, click on Azure AD.

Access Azure AD Company Branding

The screenshots below are from the new Azure portal.

  • Click on Azure Active Directory
  • Overview
  • Company Branding
  • Edit Company Branding

Step 3: Upload Branding Images

  • Upload the Sign-In Page Image and Banner Image
  • Press Save and you are finished!

Advice on Using SharePoint as a Records Management Tool

Evaluating SharePoint as a Records Management tool is not an easy task, simply comparing features with the likes of Documentum, FileNet or OpenText only covers the technical aspects.  Records Management is more about process than technology.

Know and Refine Your Processes

One of the first things to establish is your information life cycle, if this is clearly defined you should be able to create a process flow diagram with a minimal amount of “if” conditions or business rules to define the flow.

If the process is overly complex with an abundance of business rules and conditions, it will not matter which technology you choose your chances of success has decreased.

Most Records Management Automation projects that I have seen fail were due to poor process definition and not technology.

Consider Automation Opportunities

Automation is one of the key drivers for applying technology to Records Management.  Automation needs to provide consistent and predictable behavior for managing records based on established policies.

In our experience, automated disposition based on retention rules is sporadic at best and typically overly complex with numerous rules and exceptions.  Managing the varying rules and exceptions becomes too numerous to manage.  Once the system gets complex users begin finding means to bypass the system to get their work done.

Use Content Types

To make disposition automation easier, organizations can leverage SharePoint Content Types.  Classifications can be determined based on the Content Type and metadata.  Once the classification has been determined the system will know the retention policy and other Records Management metadata.  The caveat is only if the Information architecture and Classifications are well established. This goes back to our earlier point on this being about how important the non-technical pieces of these projects are.

Using Content Types will allow the organization to do in place records management allowing users to manage their information in their chosen location instead of copying the record to a centralized area.  Since the disposition will apply to the content type the content can be anywhere on the portal if retention has been applied to that content type.

The issue with using Content Types is deciding on the number of Content Types you are going to allow.  If this is not monitored or a policy applied you could end up with hundreds of Content Types making it difficult for users to determine where their information belongs.  Imagine having to choose from a drop down with over a hundred options.

Consider Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Requirements

If there are specific Legal, Regulatory or Certifications required for your Records Management solution, a thorough technical review of the platform you choose is a must.

Involve the stakeholders in the business who are responsible for these areas when gathering the requirements for your solution.  The earlier these folks are involved, the better. 

Define Reliability and Availability Standards

Once the decision is made to use SharePoint for Records Management it elevates SharePoint’s importance in the organization.  The following should be considered

·       SharePoint should be part of Business Continuity Planning

·       Adding SharePoint to the High Availability Services category

·       Ensure SharePoint has a tried and tested Disaster Recovery Plan

SharePoint plus Third Party Solutions

In our opinion, SharePoint’s strongest features are found in the areas of collaboration, transparently connecting people with content and security.  SharePoint’s out of the box features, may fall short of what other products purely focused on Records Management can do.  

Don't forget about customization opportunities and third party solutions. The framework exists within SharePoint for Document and Records Management, but configuration/customization will be necessary to fit your organization’s specific requirements.

There are several ISV’s that have created a Records Management applications which leverage the SharePoint platform.  These products take advantage of the “plumbing” provided by SharePoint and have added their own components to provide a richer Records Management experience.

Organizations have the option to do light customization and configuration or to purchase a third-party solution depending on the complexity of their Record Management needs.

SharePoint: 2016 Review and 2017 Expectations

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2017!  Surely, the SharePoint features released in 2016 put some smiles on your face.  We wanted to use this post to review some of the features released in 2016 and highlight some of the things we expect to see in 2017. 

SharePoint Review: 2016

Collaboration Improvements

Microsoft put a lot of focus on improving collaboration in 2016. SharePoint Online users can confirm that the investments in modern lists, libraries and teams sites all look very promising.  Considering the introduction of Microsoft Teams and portal features like Team News, its apparent that Microsoft is focused on continuing to position SharePoint as a collaboration power house. 

 Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

Insights Reporting

If you were missing the old audit logs in SharePoint Online, we're sure the want for these passed after the Compliance center came online. Improvements have been made here in the past year.

The recent release of improved Usage Reports is another great addition to being able to track what is happening in your SharePoint. 

 Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

The Site Contents page was also reworked to provide users with analytics on metrics like Site Visits and Trending Content.

 Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

Social Collaboration

Microsoft Teams

With competitors like Slack gaining market share in the collaboration space over the last couple of years, Microsoft introduced their Teams product in 2016.  If you haven't had a chance to use Teams yet, we recommend having a look.

Teams starts with a client based front-end and sends everything to SharePoint - each Teams area is back-ended in a SharePoint site.  Teams offers chat, conversation channels, file sharing, video conferencing and more.  

Improving Experiences

Paired with the Collaboration improvements mentioned above, Microsoft has overhauled the interface paradigms for a few key areas that haven't recently seen major changes.  The Modern experiences for Lists, Libraries, Team Sites and Pages represent investments made to innovate existing feature areas.  

Let's face it, document and list collaboration are the root of what makes SharePoint great.  The 2016 reveal of the Modern Interface features were well received, There are more improvements to the Modern experiences to come in 2017.

 Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

The Delve Windows 10 App was also released to better connect people with relevant information through the power of Microsoft's Office Graph. 

Another gem that was announced alongside the Delve app were intelligent people cards in Office 365 - another win for collaborators. Being able to see what someone has recently updated along with their contact information saves time and improves collaboration.

Another major 2016 release which affects developers and user experiences in SharePoint is the SharePoint Framework.  The new development framework is a client side development model which will allow developers to deliver highly integrated web part and page solutions for SharePoint.

The new Sites Home in Office 365 gave users a much nicer, intelligent way to find the sites they are looking for in SharePoint.  This can be quickly accessed from the SharePoint tile in the launcher.

 Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft


Mobile Apps

Microsoft released SharePoint Apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone in 2016. Our experiences with these Apps have been limited to SharePoint Online.  However, the SharePoint Apps can connect to SharePoint deployments in on-premises and hybrid deployment patterns.  

The SharePoint App packs Office Graph intelligence, access to content, full enterprise search and more.

 Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

No Code Solutions: Power Apps and Flow


PowerApps came online at the end of 2015 and Flow in 2016.  PowerApps allow users to build apps that connect to data sources they are already using - including popular non-Microsoft sources like Salesforce and Slack.  PowerApps are no code solutions. Once a user builds a PowerApp, Microsoft takes care of making the apps available on mobile phones. Users aren't burdened with the worry of publishing their apps into multiple apps stores.  

In 2016 PowerApp features continued to grow.  Barcode scanning and connectivity to data hosted in on-premises SharePoint sites were made available this year.  


Flow enables business users to create automated processes which connect to existing services and data.  A workflow in Flow can be mixed into PowerApps to create powerful solutions that automate actions, move data and evaluate logic.  

Flow becomes even more powerful when you consider that it integrates with 83 (and counting) services, including the likes of DocuSign, Dropox, Basecamp and more.  

In 2016 the On-Premises Data Gateway became available, you can connect from Flow, PowerApps and Power BI into your On-Premises SQL data.  Also released in 2016 was the Flow mobile app.

Microsoft has made an obvious commitment to no-code solutions and 2016 proved to be a great year for growth in this area. 

The last release of 2016 included, Flow support for DocuSign, OneDrive for Business and SurveyMonkey have been added, 

SharePoint Expectations: 2017

SharePoint insiders may have some interesting comments for us after reading through this section of the post.  However, here are some of what we expect to see in 2017.

No-Code Productivity - Power Apps and Flow

Its clear that Microsoft is committed to delivering powerful no-code solutions to Office 365 users.  We expect to see support for connectivity for more third party services and improvements to the On-Premises Data Gateway (not that the current list of available data sources is lacking).

Further Improvements and Enhancements to Teams

Teams was released late in 2016.  We expect there to be more improvements to the features offered here.  Our expectation is that Teams could become the new darling of social enterprise collaboration, and Microsoft is going to commit all the way on this.

Modern Publishing Sites

We saw Modern Page experiences come online in 2016.  In 2017, its no secret that Microsoft is planning to improve the Publishing site experience.  If improvements to Publishing Sites follows the other modern experiences, this will benefit users of SharePoint on mobile devices - the modern experiences are built responsively for multiple display sizes.

Continued Mobile Investments

As we highlighted above, Microsoft made big investments in mobile apps that enable SharePoint Online users in 2016.  We expect this trend to continue.  We fully expect Microsoft's release cadence and feature improvements to continue - will there be any new mobile apps in 2017?

More Modern

We already stated that we expect the Publishing Sites to get a facelift this year.  We also expect the modernization of core areas like lists, libraries, pages and sites to continue.  This means some of the features currently available in the Classic UI will be moved over to the Modern UI. 

I think we can also expect a few improvements and new features to be revealed in the core product areas - Microsoft has shown its commitment to gathering feedback from its users and continuing to improve SharePoint.