An intranet that doesn’t engage will grow stale and unused… So, design is worth that investment

‘An intranet that doesn’t engage will grow stale and unused… So, design is worth that investment’

With the big focus on Intelligent cloud strategy, what is your vision with SharePoint on-premise implementations? what guidance you will provide to customer who continue to invest in SharePoint on-premise?
We’ve announced SharePoint Server 2019, our next on premises release, back at the last Microsoft Ignite conference. This upcoming week, we’ll share more details about the release, so stay tuned!
We are committed to supporting customers through the transition to the cloud, including a new on premises release so the cloud earns the right to be the default choice instead of it being a forced move. Our deep investment in hybrid experiences and well as migration tools from us and partners help bridge this gap.
We think a lot about how we can be a trusted partner to our customers in this generational shift to cloud computing. I think the fact that Microsoft ourselves is going through similar cultural and technological transformation gives us a lot of empathy for the disruption many of our customers are seeing and I personally try to channel that empathy into the product every day. It’s not just about a technological choice but rather an entire relationship you can have with Microsoft to help you through a critical time for your business.
It’s a given that Intranets are important communication vehicles for most organizations. What additional benefits will ‘intelligent’ intranet brings to the table?
Much of what is intelligent is how the intranet becomes more aware of the user who is signed in. It becomes more dynamic as the user moves from site to site, reads news and navigates into and out of libraries and lists. Each experience is aware of who the user is working with and what they are working on – which then begins to present content and people to the user before they have to go hunting for it. This equates to an intranet that works for you, one you visit and rely on more.
You must have experienced and have seen so many Intranet implementations, In your opinion what are the things common amongst the best implemented intranets?
Engaging design that matches thoughtful information architecture are the first two areas that come to mind. Users should want not only to come to an intranet for what they are looking for, but to return as they experience a beautiful site that holds value on a more recurring basis.
Second, it’s needs to be current, both with functionality and the content itself. This can be highly curated, or programmatic based on intranet rules and policies, so people don’t see the same content over and over again, and if something gets out of date – that it is removed or disappears from the users viewpoint.
Could you share your views on how intranets will evolve over the near-long term – say in the 5-10 years. What are the challenges and opportunities that you foresee?
The notion of a more connected intranet will evolve to bring in further sources of information that surround us that can influence and help our day to day. This could be as simple as external news sources, and it could be services and systems that boil complex scenarios and information clashes into meaningful insights based on all your interactions with the world – your social influences, personal surroundings based on location, awareness of sentiment, and more. The challenge is to refine and have the intranet be helpful without loss on nuance of what is important for the individual.
SharePoint Hub Sites is brand new and is generating a lot of buzz. What are the major strengths of Hub SItes? How do you expect communication and collaboration to change in organisations with the introduction of Hub Sites?
The best feature of SharePoint hub sites is that they are simple and powerful. Once established, they allow for easy ways to better organize your intranet. As they are established, we expect that people will experience better access to content that is important to them without having to hunt for it. There are also simple visual cues that one is in the same family of sites, and easy thing to miss if not done right, and the value is confidence passed on to the user.
Being a Senior Product Manager, what are the most challenging and interesting customer implementation scenarios you have come across?
Certainly the move to the cloud adds complexity for customers who need or want to span from on-premises to online. And this can be a moment in time, or established for some time.
Once hybrid is established, the complexity barrier comes down. And then the journey is a mix of using more cloud and less dependence on on-premises. The mid-term complexity is a variance of site types in the mix of the intranet, classic publishing sites alongside modern sites. This is very possible, and sometimes poses a variance of feature set and design look and feel. But the challenge is addressable, and for many customer who are planning for a cloud-mostly, cloud-only future, this is a manageable, meaningful step.
We work in a lot of scenarios where the end users of the intranets we work on are Millennials. These projects are always interesting to work on. Do you any thoughts on how intranets can be made more engaging for Millennials?
I don’t think of it as age groups, but of new experiences some people prefer, crave or are simply used to. And this is something that drives the industry at it’ core – how can I make my product/service more engaging.
And with SharePoint, we’ve been on a user interface / user experience journey for the last two years, and have many plans in the works to continuously adjust and refine as we go. We get a lot of signals from a lot of users, of all ages, and we work to continuously refine their collective experience.
What’s your take on voice and conversational interfaces with respect to intranets? Will be seeing mainstream adoption of intranets integrated with voice assistants?
There are a lot of chat methods, some human, some not – and all are programmed and interacted with humans from the get go – so far. And per intranets, they will simply adapt and adopt them all.
We see great progress with how the Microsoft/SharePoint-based intranet interacts with chat systems like Microsoft Teams and Yammer, and of course email via Outlook. And as our customers and partners bring in bots using the Bot Framework, the service simply provides a method for placing the bot where it needs to be against the corpus of knowledge or actions it’s meant to pull from and provide to the user via chat. And these will get smarter, and humans will get more chat savvy in context with their content, and the intranet plays role as service to all – still keeping the glue that binds people between their content, information and forward-moving communications.
Intranet sites often don’t get enough love from stakeholders when it comes to user experience. What would be your advice to user experience designers working on intranets?
It’s worth it. An intranet that doesn’t engage will grow stale and unused to the degree of which the invest pays back. So, design is worth that investment – and only has been proven worthy over and over again.
Intranet adoption remains a big issue. We spend at ton of time listening to what our eventual users have to say during the conceptualisation phase to address this. What’s your advice to organizations planning intranets to help them drive and retain engagement?
That same approach, to listen, to iterate beyond initial roll out, to train users, to continuously communicate to them. You’ll never reach 100% for some obvious reasons, but you can influence more and more with each simple new feature, with each refinement based on feedback, with each executive support push. And last: content is key. If you don’t have good content (and good search and discovery to find or showcase that content dynamically), then there is no good reason to visit the most beautiful of intranets. Cherish the contributor too, and make it easy for them to contribute.
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How SharePoint is changing: Behind the scenes with Adam Harmetz, Partner GPM on SharePoint and Office 365

‘How SharePoint is changing: Behind the scenes with Adam Harmetz, Partner GPM on SharePoint and Office 365’

With the big focus on Intelligent cloud strategy, what is your vision with SharePoint on-premise implementations? what guidance you will provide to customer who continue to invest in SharePoint on-premise?
We’ve announced SharePoint Server 2019, our next on premises release, back at the last Microsoft Ignite conference. This upcoming week, we’ll share more details about the release, so stay tuned!
We are committed to supporting customers through the transition to the cloud, including a new on premises release so the cloud earns the right to be the default choice instead of it being a forced move. Our deep investment in hybrid experiences and well as migration tools from us and partners help bridge this gap.
We think a lot about how we can be a trusted partner to our customers in this generational shift to cloud computing. I think the fact that Microsoft ourselves is going through similar cultural and technological transformation gives us a lot of empathy for the disruption many of our customers are seeing and I personally try to channel that empathy into the product every day. It’s not just about a technological choice but rather an entire relationship you can have with Microsoft to help you through a critical time for your business.
Nearly half of the workforce will be millennials by 2020. Will we be seeing any changes in SharePoint in terms of functionality and user experience to address this audience?
We have radically overhauled our user experience over the past two years, designed to simplify the experience, bring it to mobile, and democratize employee engagement and business process creation. Communication Sites, which launched last year, are probably one of the biggest ways we’ve done that. Anyone in an organization can get up and running with a professional and mobile ready Communication Site in just minutes. And of course our new Hub Sites feature is dynamic from day 1 – you can rearrange the sites in a hub as many times as you want, so your intranet is as dynamic as your business.
Much of this modernization was a result of the shift in the workforce you are referencing. These digital natives want self-service experiences and often blur the boundaries between time and place in dynamic ways. SharePoint is evolving to reflect that.
At Microsoft Ignite in 2017, a large number of new SharePoint features were announced. Closer connectivity to the cloud and Office 365 Hub Sites, a brand new migration tool, improved team and communication sites, Flow and PowerApps integration and lot more. Which part of the SharePoint roadmap has you the most excited?
It’s very hard to pick one thing. SharePoint has always been a portfolio product, providing multiple discrete pillars of business value. I truly see my job as not picking one favorite thing but rather ensuring that the broad spectrum of functionality that our customers rely on SharePoint for is all brought forward and modernized.
So I’m probably most excited about the fact that all the major pillar business pillars have something to drive excitement: in Share and Work Together, we announced deep integration with Teams. In Inform and Engage Employees, we talked about the momentum with Communication Sites and announced how you can organize all sites into a intranet with Hub Sites. In Transform Business Process we talked about deeper PowerApps and Flow integration. And the list goes on.
It’s clear that Microsoft is placing a lot of emphasis on SharePoint UX. The evolution of the user experience over the years has been dramatic. Could you share how this was brought about internally by the SharePoint team?
Great question. I love talking about how all this is happening behind the scenes. I think there are a few key ingredients to our plan and a happy confluence of factors that came together over the past couple years:
It was clear in the industry and how our community was extending SharePoint themselves that we needed a new front end architecture for our UX. We wanted to embrace open standards and move our UX code to client side, decoupled from the rest of the service. In short, our engineering team was already motivated to rewrite the front end.
We over doubled the size of our Design team and recruited some of the top designers in the industry. Product people like folks on my team focused less on UX interaction and more on product framing and data-driven insights from our service.
Our feedback loop went from 3 years to 3 minutes. We no longer only shipped a boxed product once every three years, but rather are iterating rapidly and getting a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data. In short, our customers are directly responsible for helping us co-design the improved UX in a way that gets a little better every day.
Intranets have received a lot of love in the SharePoint roadmap. It’s amazing that we are going to see Communication sites, News Pages, Bing Search, Promote Button, leveraging LinkedIn with Improved people cards, News Digest, Hub sites. A lot of these seem to be based on driving up adoption. Could you share some insights on the thought process behind these new changes.
Another great question. This I think was a classic example of how to approach the modernization of a pretty successful existing product. As much as we could, we kept existing concepts and features the same, with perhaps a new UX on top of them. We already have a rich Content Management System in SharePoint so the concepts of sites, metadata, lists, libraries, web parts et cetera – these are successful models and something our community is well used to.
We often talk about how much we can keep the Information Architecture the same as we modernize the product. So I hope folks recognize a lot in the modern intranet from their existing one and what has always been in SharePoint for many years. Beyond that, though, we did look at what customers were telling us and made a few bold bets in the intranet space:
Mobile & time to develop:We made some bets that ensure intranets would be accessible on a mobile device and reduced the development time (often to zero!) for building a site. This required us to own the default UX and create something that feels like an app (which you can extend) vs. a portal platform with no turnkey experience.
News & Social:The one major new user job we added to the intranet is that we took on the burden of helping orchestrate the process by which employees will discover content. Proactively helping people find the content locked away in the intranet wasn’t really a user job anyone relied on SharePoint before, but with News and Yammer & Teams Integration, more and more you’ll see us helping people get their content noticed and shared.
Intelligence:AI is changing the world and it has true transformative power when it comes to content discovery in the enterprise. The intranet will increasingly be a place where it’s clear that AI can have a really positive impact on the employee experience.
We are seeing a lot of interest related to PowerApps from our customers. Are we going to see tighter integration with PowerApps over the long term.
Absolutely! The Power Apps web part for SharePoint recently went out to production, for instance. PowerApps is the Rapid Application Development platform from Microsoft and it’ll be tightly integrated into the content collaboration platform (i.e. SharePoint in Office 365). It’s a classic 1+1=3 opportunity.
Customers are expecting quick implementations of their SharePoint solutions. What guidance you have for developers to address customer expectations? Also what advancements you plan to bring to developer toolset in the future to ease out the pressure on developers?
We designed the SharePoint Framework as a way of addressing these time to market concerns we were hearing from the development community. My biggest advice is to learn client side development as our goal is that any front end developer should be able to extend SharePoint with SPFx, with little to no SharePoint expertise required. The community has a bunch of great classes where you can learn the latest.
What suggestions you will give to IT and business manager to achieve faster and bigger adoption of SharePoint platform
Here’s a few of the most impactful suggestions I’ve seen in various customers I’ve talked to:
Encourage self-service site creation:Empower your users to create sites (or Teams) themselves. There are plenty of governance and organizational controls on the backend to help manage the sprawl; don’t get in the way at the team forming stage.
Adopt SharePoint News:It requires a culture change to move out of email into News, but when done the impact is transformational. It’s a way more transparent culture and there is a shared history folks can refer back to. If done right, the SharePoint News feed is a perfect blend of high value information without being overwhelming, so it can be habit forming when the culture as a whole adopts it.
Get users to install the SharePoint mobile app:Educate users that they can keep up to date with News and find organizational knowledge on the go.
And finally, what are you excited to see at SharePoint NA?
Seeing the community and meeting customers. We have the best community in tech and it’s always so much fun to catch up and build a shared network. And then of course I absolutely LOVE hearing customer stories of how they are using SharePoint or the challenges they are having. I always take back so much that I can share with the team here in Redmond.
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To convince clients about UX, it is important to speak the client’s language

‘To convince clients about UX, it is important to speak the client’s language’

David Juhlin is a Senior User Experience Researcher at PTC, Bentley University located in the Greater Boston area in the United States. Juhlin, an MBA and MS in human factors, says he “operates with a deep understanding of both the business and customers.” In this interview he talks about his pre-project preparations, getting clients convinced about investing in the UX process, Design Thinking and a lot more.

What is your preparation process you follow before starting any project?

This depend on what time you have on hand. If you have time to read up and deepen your knowledge in the domain that is always great. This includes the technology and the industry dynamics the product (and company) is or will be a part of.

Another thing that is important, but I consider a part of a project is the stakeholder interviews. These will help you better understand the business landscape, what has been done in the past, and what they are trying to achieve. It can also help aligning everyone involved so everyone has the same expectations. At this point you might discover that the business sponsor want something innovate, the project manager wants an incremental improvement of the product and the developers has a third understanding. If these are not addressed ahead of time, you are set up for failure.

There is often reluctance among clients to invest in the UX process. How do you convince stakeholders to invest resources in this?

It is important to speak the client’s language. If they are the traditional project sponsor, they associate UX to cost and they want to see numbers proving there is a positive return of investment of including UX. The trap many UX professionals fall in is to try to show exactly this. If you add an additional $100k you’ll be able to sell X more of the product.

You need to stay away from too many specifics at the same time as you show them numbers supporting the importance of investing in UX. An example is to show them how customer experience can drive revenue or how customers are willing to pay a price premium for improved experience. Another way is to show how improved UX is driving up stock prices.

What’s your take on Design Thinking as a concept? Could you tell us your views on if and how it can be applied to various problems?

Design Thinking is very powerful, but sometimes it is over promoted but people who don’t know enough about it. This usually happens when people recently learned Design Thinking and just became a “believer”. It is always dangerous to just accept theories and not question them and really understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Design thinking is a great methodology for solving complex tasks that can’t be solved by logic. For example, Design thinking is not suitable if you are trying to find out how much drinking water will be needed in Sydney in 2020. In this case it is better to look at statistics and use logic to calculate a prediction. If the problem on the other hand is changed to “we know there will be a water shortage in 2020, how can we best solve this?” Design Thinking would be the right approach.The key thing in my mind for Design Thinking is that you need to start with a need. Understand what the pain is for users and then start from a blank page of how to solve it. It sounds so simple, but unfortunately most companies do this wrong. They identify the need as “users can’t do X in our software”. That is not the need. The need is “users want to do X”, but the company has already set limitations of the solution. Sure, we can innovate within that scope, but the best solution might not have anything to do with that software. Why this happens is because companies are set up according to products and software they sell and support. Not the user needs the company solve.

How would you balance the requirements between the user goals and business goals?

Let’s take an example of retirement savings. If you are saving for your retirement in one company, let’s say TIAA-CREF. TIAA will offer you funds they manage since they make money on those funds. Let’s say you are interested in a fund from investment company, let’s sat Vanguard. What should TIAA-CREF do? If they offer you the Vanguard fund, they’ll make less money since they don’t get their fund fees, but if they don’t let you buy it you might take all of your money and move to Vanguard.

The problem here is the incorrect problem statement. The company is considering between offering the competitors fund or not. I.e. weighing the user goal and the business goal. However, they have not considered why you wanted the Vanguard fund in the first place. If TIAA-CREF would create a better fund than Vanguard, all of a sudden both user goals and business goals align.

Companies stuck in this trade off thinking often view it as a zero sum game (if you win, they lose). What companies fail to see is if TIAA created a more appealing fund by lowering their fees they make less money off you, they might gain more customers.

Could you elaborate on your role and working process as an User Experience Researcher?

At this point my primary role is to discovery research, evaluate how well a solution solves user needs, and making sure users understand how to interact with a solution.

The primary goal of the discovery research is to bring insights to the team and help all team members empathize with their users. By better understanding the users’ main tasks, goals, motivations, and pain points, the team is better aligned and can be more productive in the other steps of the design thinking process.

The evaluation of different solutions, help the team assess the usefulness of a potential idea or solution. This helps the team decide what ideas to scrap and which ones to move forward with into the next iteration. By evaluating early and often can prevent the team to invest a lot of resources on the wrong solution.

Evaluating solutions users’ interaction is critical to make sure the final solution is usable. This is often the step most people think of as UX research since it involves usability testing, heuristic review, or some other evaluation methods.

How is designing enterprise applications different from consumer applications?

The main difference is the difficulty of recruiting participants. For consumer products, almost everyone is a participant, but for an enterprise application, the participant pool decreases significantly. For discovery research, they are also more difficult to convince to participate since we often want to do ethnography and shadow them in their work environment. This mean that the company they work for sometimes gets involved to approve a site visit.

The applications are also more complex so it is important to collaborate with other team members to better understand the users and their journey. Both before conducting any research, but also as you unpack the research data.

Could you tell us about how you made your way into User Experience?

During my university education I took a class about environmentally friendly cars. In that class one teacher showed us the IDEO shopping cart video and I was hooked on the work methodology they used. After that I changed major and went in to human factors. Since then I’ve been working in the User Experience field.

Can you tell us mistakes That a UX designer should avoid?

We all know how important UX and design thinking is, but we rarely talk about how great other processes are as well. For example, Kanban is very good process for developers. As UXers, we need to understand others have their “religion” and we can’t just force our process on to them.

We often want them to take a leap of faith and go along with our Design Thinking process, but forget that their bonus is based on other things. If we want to get others on board, we need to either have top management to change how their bonuses are determined or find a way to weave our processes into their so we don’t disrupt their normal work.

Could you tell us about the culture at Bentley University and what makes it unique?

I would prefer to skip this question since I am now working at PTC and I can’t say too much about the culture since I just started there.

Have there been occasions when your user research has revealed insights that were not in line with the client’s expectations? Could you give us an example and how you tackled it?

Any client that been a part of the research should never be surprised since it is important to guide them through what happened. For example, after an interview you can have a quick chat about what they saw and ask what their main takeaways were. If they at this point say something that is incorrect, you can explain how they miss interpreted the information.

The primary time this can happen is when you present your research to stakeholders that was not there and observed. However, you often get agreement from the others who were a part of the research which builds credibility and help them accept what happened.

If you present to a client and there are executives or other high position people, you can have your connection at the company give them a heads up in case the results are contradictory to their expectations or might stir up some emotions.

A time I had to give a tough presentation to a client was after I had evaluated the ease of use of their new platform. We had done a comprehensive test after the first iteration which showed major flaws in the UX design. The development team (it was outsourced) worked on the product for another 2 months and we then did a second round of evaluation to make sure it had improved. However, they had not addressed a single issue highlighted in the initial evaluation and only focused on adding features which only compounded the terrible experience. Everyone observing the evaluation, knew it would be bad news during the presentation.

To mitigate this as much as possible, the client tried to warn people in the organization that the test did not go well, but it was still a tough conversation since the client had spent a lot of money on the development. At the end we tried to change the presentation into a conversation about moving forward. What should they do at this point? My recommendation was to either hire a consultancy to build the interface design or take the development in-house. One of their designers also showed a design of how it could look like in case they took the design in-house. They ended up taking it in house.

Chat bots, conversational interfaces and voice are all the rage leading to headlines like ‘Chat bots will kill websites, apps etc, etc’. What are your views on this?

These words are always hyped up. Sure, these things can take over some of the interfaces, but at this point I don’t think they can replace it all. The main reason for my skepticism is how our memory works. Most of these new interfaces can only hold a few options that we can keep in short term memory. This limits the amount of options these interfaces can provide.

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Growing in leaps and bounds

Growing in leaps and bounds – 24X7 BOTForce

With a brilliant blend of AI and Natural Processing Language amongst other components infused into BOTS, SpadeWorx brings to you 24×7 BOTForce digital services for you and your enterprise!

This set of AI applied automated solutions boasts of a wide range of benefits such as:

  1. Skimming of your legacy data and using machine learning algorithms to build predictive models.
  2. Using Natural Language Understanding and/or Computer Vision capabilities to analyze unstructured information.
  3. Employing workflow engines and business rules to digitize your business process.
  4. Leveraging conversational UI for simple but powerful user interactions Use big data and analytics for gaining key insights.
  5. Using big data and analytics for gaining key insights.

Its salient features include:

  1. Enablement of Process Automation with the help of BOTs (software robots).
  2. Employment of cognitive capabilities such as Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Computer Vision and more.
  3. Integration with your legacy systems for learning, decision-making and orchestrating workflow.

Introducing our Cognitive RPA BOTS: Yūjin & Amigo

As part of our 24×7 BOTForce framework we leverage techniques of Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing to automate various stages of the process.

Say Hello to Yūjin and its features:

Automates ‘hiring’ process related tasks
  1. Based on JD, it analyses candidates across several job portals.
  2. Scores the profiles based on ‘AI’ algorithm and not just keyword based match.
  3. Sends e-mails to shortlisted candidates with invitation to chat with Yūjin for clarifications, if any.
  4. Yūjin will answer queries by candidates across subject areas such as company overview, culture, employee benefits, policies etc.
  5. Yūjin will also work with candidates to complete the online screening test (if configured and needed).
  6. Presents shortlisted candidates to recruiter with all reports and stats for further processing.

Meet Amigo and its benefits:

Handles employee support scenarios
  1. For using Amigo, employees need to be authenticated. Authentication is automated by integrating the BOT with company directory or equivalent mechanism.
  2. Amigo can handle support requests from leave management, travel requisition, IT requests to employee benefits etc.
  3. One can simply chat with Amigo to put request. Using NLP capabilities Amigo derives the intent out of it and processes that request.
  4. Amigo has capability of orchestrating workflows between requester and approver.

Whether HR-based or otherwise, SpadeWorx aims at creating solutions that appeal to businesses solely for the reasons of making work more efficient, saving energy and time and producing results that are absolutely effective.

Contact us to discover the power of 24×7 BOTForce –

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SpadeWorx SharePoint

SharePoint 2016: Providing an Exceptional Office 365 Experience

SharePoint 2016 has outdone itself with a set of new, effective features that have been introduced. From enriching hybrid search experiences to One Drive redirection, SharePoint has aced the game of document management systems. An amalgamation of all the new hybrid features in one sentence could be – a brilliant and seamless user experience in terms of two environments: On-Premises and Office 365. From a Hybrid experience point of view, following are a few noticeable and improved features that we think are perfect for end users. Hybrid Search Feature: An enterprise has a hybrid environment if their content applications are common between on-premises and Office 365. It is now easier to find content, no matter where it lives thanks to a unified search. The cloud hybrid search solution provides the ability to crawl and parse on-premises content and then process and index it in Office 365. When users query the search index in Office 365, they receive search results from both on-premises and Office 365 content. Hybrid App Launcher: The extensible hybrid app launcher is designed to help you get to your Office 365 apps and services from SharePoint Server. Your Office 365 Delve and Video Apps and you customized Office 365 tiles will pop up in your SharePoint Server app launcher once you have enabled this feature. Changes in UI have also been introduced to enhance the hybrid experience. User Profiles: User profile information will be stored within both, the SharePoint server and Office 365. When a user wants to edit or view his information, that user will be redirected to his profile in Office 365. This will enable users to have to his information in one place. These users will be called Hybrid users and their profiles as Hybrid profiles. Links to OneDrive: You can now redirect documents to OneDrive for Business. Users can continue using their Documents and other similar folder and it doesn’t require changing their daily work habits in order to use OneDrive for Business. Using OneDrive for Business for your documents gives you a backup of your data in the cloud and gives you access to your documents from any device and also when a user clicks on OneDrive, he’ll be redirected to his Office 365 My Site and no longer to his On-Premises. Easy To Consume: It is now easy to consume data because of SharePoint 2016’s well integrated feature. SP’s easy-t-format attribute helps effortless consumption of data for application developers utilizing this system. The hybrid offering by SharePoint has made every user’s experience better and has positively enhanced their skills. Help us help you upgrade to the latest version of SharePoint 2016 and make use of its improved hybrid features today! The future is NOW with SpadeWorx. Get in touch to know more!
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Machine Learning

Machine Learning

Machine Learning is a form of Artificial Intelligence that enables a computer system to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning sifts through data to look for specific patterns and uses there patterns to program actions accordingly. Machine Learning (ML) is quickly expanding and is growing in recognition owing to the fact that ML can play a key role in a wide range of critical applications, such as data mining, natural language processing, image recognition, and expert systems. ML provides potential solutions in all these domains and more, and is set to be a pillar of the future!

There exists two types of machine learning: Supervised and Unsupervised. Among the different types of ML tasks, a crucial distinction is drawn between supervised and unsupervised learning:

Supervised Machine Learning Unsupervised Machine Learning
The program is “trained” on a pre-defined set of “training examples”, which then facilitate its ability to reach an accurate conclusion when given new data. Unsupervised Machine learning uses those type of algorithms that try to find correlations without any external input. The program is given data and must find patterns and relationships therein.

Why Machine Learning?

  • Machine Learning churns out high quality predictions/insights that are useful while making decisions without any human interference or intervention.
  • Machine Learning digests large volumes of data that would otherwise take a lot of time and effort if done manually, interprets and then releases predictions or provide insights that are conducive to the productivity of the enterprise.
  • In simpler terms, Machine Learning is one such tool that guarantees results that contribute towards the productivity of an organization.

Who’s using it?

  • Financial Services
  • Government
  • Health Care
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Oil & Gas
  • Transportation

Real world examples of Machine Learning:

  • The self-driving Google car is an intelligent form of Machine Learning.
  • Online recommendation offers such as those from Amazon and Netflix are Machine Learning applications for everyday life.
  • Knowledge about your customer’s feedback on Twitter is Machine Learning combined with linguistic rule creation.
  • Fraud detection is a form of Machine Learning used in Financial Services and the Government.

Machine Learning Process:

Feel free to contact SpadeWorx to introduce the benefits of Machine Learning into your business!

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Sharepoint Migration

SharePoint Migration

SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online are the two newest upgrades of SharePoint launched by Microsoft in a bid to improve efficiency and functionality for its users. The new versions of this multifaceted document management system have a multitude of new and more beneficial features that sets it apart from its predecessors.

Following are a few of the features that have been revamped or upgraded to enhance user experience.

OneDrive Redirection:

Though this has been available in SharePoint 2013, with SharePoint 2016 you can redirect your ‘My Sites’ to your Office 365 subscription’s OneDrive for Business host. In other words, if a user clicks on OneDrive, he’ll be redirected to his Office 365 My Site and no longer to his On-Premises.

Sites you follow in one place:

Now users can click on “Follow” both On-Premises and on their Office 365 and see them all in one place under the “Sites” app in the App Launcher.

The wizard to configure either of the simple scenarios above work very well, as long as you follow the requirements.

Hybrid Cloud Search:

The Office 365 Search will take your On-Premises SharePoint Search Index so that it can give you results from both for the same query. A unified search will be possible.

You will be required to use the Office 365 Search for this to work. If SharePoint 2016 On-Premises users query against their On-Premises Search service, it’ll continue to only give them local results.

However, once available, this will allow users to fully embrace Experiences like Delve in Office 365 and more to come in the future.

App Launcher and UI changes in SharePoint 2016:

SharePoint 2016 introduces the App Launcher, as well as changes to the UI, to help it match the Office 365 experience.


It is now possible to install whichever role that you please on particular SharePoint 2016 servers. Not only will this install what’s primarily required there, but also make sure that all servers that belong to each role are compliant. You’ll also be able to convert servers to run new roles if needed.

Zero Downtime Patching:

The size and number of the packages have been immensely reduced. The downtime required by SharePoint servers to update has also been removed.

Increased File Size for uploads:

The previous storage limit for SharePoint was 2GB. However, now you can store files that are far larger in size. Although there isn’t any limit, Microsoft has strongly recommended it stays at 10GB.

Quick Site Creation:

By using a template, you will be now able to create Site Collections in 1 second. This compares well to SharePoint 2013 that takes up almost over 40 seconds sometimes. This will require a level of configuration with PowerShell to set up.

Spadeworx encourages and helps migration of SharePoint to its latest version i.e. SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online without disruption of data and day-to-day operations. Spadeworx offers a well defined migration plan for users who wish to upgrade to updated versions of this versatile application. It is an entry into a whole new world of wiki-based pages, easier announcements, tagging, and an entirely new multimedia asset library! These are sufficient enough reasons to move to a friendlier and fresher version.

SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online differ from its previous versions in various aspects, few of which are mentioned above making your experience on SharePoint far more productive and useful. These are just a few of the features picked out from a long list of them. Enhance the potential of your company by using an upgraded and better version of SharePoint i.e. SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online. A thorough and defined migration plan is created that involves following steps.

Before Migration:
· Collect Migration Planning Information
· Design MOSS Taxonomy
· Design Moss Architecture
· Migration Strategy Planning

During Migration:
· Pre-Upgrade Steps
· Physical Migration

After Migration:
. Regression Testing
. User Acceptance Testing
. Production Movement

With zero loss of data and maintenance of integrity of information, SpadeWorx assures the cleanest and most seamless migration it can offer!

The future is NOW with Spadeworx.
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Top 5 Reasons you should attend the webinar on : Reimagine Productivity and Efficiency using JumpStart SPA.

Top 5 Reasons you should attend the webinar on: Reimagine Productivity and Efficiency using JumpStart SPA

Backbone of manufacturing industries depends entirely upon Production planned, Shop floor worker’s Productivity and efficiency which in turn reflects batch of products it can push out to meet the supply demand of the market. Almost all the manufacturing industries are having centralized system like SAP, ERP to manage their finance, purchase, sales, and administrative details. Appraisal and evaluation process of staff members which are categorized as White Collar Employees are managed using these tools.

Production and dispatch is totally dependent upon productivity and efficiency of factory workforce which are normally called Blue Collar workers. Currently in most of the organization Skill and Performance of Blue Collar Workers are done through offline medium with little or no transparency in the process and is dependent upon people opinion. This may lead to some gaps in assessment which has incremental effects.

Reason 1. Learning new skills is what makes us human but can we improve how we go about learning new things in new situations?

Reason 2. Learning how to learn can help you to understand what works for you and what doesn’t when you set out to learn new skill say for example for work, training or everyday life.

Reason 3. Understand the root cause of the reduced employee productivity and efficiency in a production environment.

Reason 4. Key skill assessment: Improving your own learning and performance, you will learn to recognise, use and adapt your skills confidently and effectively in different situations and contexts

Reason 5. How you can maintain employee data including evaluation and training reports yearly.

This Product is designed to cover opportunities of improvement in production department of any manufacturing Industry by making centralized database of factory workforce, measuring capabilities and filling skill gaps by online and offline trainings to the factory workforce.
Join to Watch Live demo on 3rd Feb 2017, 11AM – 12 Noon PST

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How bots help automation using MS Cognitive Services Framework

How bots help automation using MS Cognitive Services Framework

In this fast-paced world that is almost entirely technologically dependent; artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming a part of our everyday lives. Know what artificial intelligence bots are!

For long, artificial intelligence has remained a vague idea, one which people weren’t able to fully comprehend.

Well, it is quite simple actually! In layman’s terms artificial intelligence can be termed as the ability to infuse human abilities of decision making or speech recognition into technology. It simply means making technology as intelligent as us, so as to make life easier and less time-consuming. Take for example the widely popular personal assistant applications on your phone. From daily appointment reminders to helping you locate the nearest pet store, these applications do it all. This basic form of artificial intelligence is something that makes your every errand quicker and easier.

Artificial intelligence bots (robots) are similar, but labour at a much larger scale than mere personal assistant applications. MS Cognitive Services is basically a framework that integrates intellectual and life-like qualities of vision, speech, language and knowledge into A.I bots that help make processes within a company fully automated. MS Cognitive Services use tools such as cognitive thinking, natural language processing and machine learning within A.I bots to help automate. Cognitive thinking is the ability to soak in information, interpret it in an appropriate manner and perceive or react to the learned information suitably. Just like a human being, A.I bots are able to do this! Usually, computers need to have information fed into them in a systematic and organized manner and in a specific language that needs to remain unchanged. Natural language processing is the ability of an A.I bot to interpret and analyze a person’s natural language and speech thus diminishing the effort of making use of Java, C or other programs and use only basic human language to function. Machine learning is the ability of a computer to deal with interpretation of data unsupervised. It is the computer’s ability to evolve and make intelligent decisions on its own. All of these abilities are infused into a bot making it intelligent and giving it the power to make calculated decisions.

Collaborating with Microsoft Cognitive Services, SpadeWorx develops artificial intelligence bots that can be used on a large scale in the corporate world. Our company creates user-centric customized bots that are unique in its utility. These bots are crafted to essentially manage, curate and simplify processes that are time consuming and fraught with inefficiency. For example, SpadeWorx recently created the Leave Manager Bot which helps employees and managers to redefine the way the leave request, approval and management processes are carried out. The employees can apply for their leave using the customized bot, are able to check for holidays that are available, can send approval notifications or pose questions. For managers or those in charge of the approval process, the A.I bot can present previous leave approved timelines, pending requests, various colleagues in the department who are on leave, calendars, etc. This easy mode of conversation that is systematic and practical, cuts to the chase and makes the entire process simpler than if done manually. Apart from the Leave Manager Bot SpadeWorx prides itself on creating various other artificial intelligence bots and programs to make work more productive and energy-efficient.
The future is NOW with SpadeWorx.
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The first rule of chatbots: Don’t lie to your users An interview with UX designer Joe Toscano


By Vishal Gangawane

Chatbots were all the rage in 2016 and 2017 promises to be no different. We spoke to Joe Toscano, an user experience design professional based in San Fransisco, about the current and future impact of chatbots. Toscano manages and lead experience design and prototyping for R/GA’s team embedded at Google. R/GA is a full service digital agency creating products, services and communications to help grow our client’s businesses in the connected age. He also blogs on the Invision blog and at Muzli.
Q. As a primer, could you tell us in brief about chatbots? Also, are chatbots truly the next big thing and if true what industries is this likely to disrupt?
Chatbots, for those that are unaware, are software programs created to replicate human conversation with human users.
The concept of chatbots has been around for several decades. Since the 1950s, to be exact. The beginnings can be traced back to Alan Turing, and his experiments with computer science and human intelligence. These would later form the basis for what we refer to as the Turing test.
Creating a true “chat” bot is very difficult. It requires a lot of data and a lot of iteration.
I believe chatbots as most people understand them are a trend at this moment in history. I think right now we’re going to see a lot of companies trying to own the space and create the best bot possible. And I think for that reason chatbots are going to disrupt a lot of industries.
But I think once our natural language processing systems have enough data running through them and we can speak to these bots, the bubble will pop. I think the modern chatbot manifested in a text messaging app will be around for a while, maybe 3-5 years, but I don’t think it’s the end all product that most bot makers and creative technologists are truly excited about. I think chatbots as we currently understand them are just the onboarding for the future.
Q. You have written about your best practices for building chatbots. Could you repeat them for our readers again in brief here?
1.Don’t lie to your users: I think this is important for any brand/product. But it’s especially important with chatbots. Humans are much less likely to trust a computer agent than another human. And if you blow it once, you’re probably not going to get a second or third chance.
2. Onboard with conversation: The general public isn’t used to interacting with and commanding their devices. Help them learn by initiating the conversation. Don’t create a tutorial, but ask them questions or give them commands about how to use your bot.
3. Design for human emotion: Similar to point 1, your bot is not inherently attractive to human users. We, as humans, crave human connection. It’s important that your bot meets your user as a human. But don’t try to trick your users into believing it is a human. It’s a fine line.
4. Conversation is limitless: Language is an incredible tool. It’s the closest tool we have to mind alteration. We can speak and communicate ideas from one head to the other with relatively simple ease. But teaching a computer to understand language like we do is not easy.
5. Create boundaries: We’re better off creating specific conversations and directing the flow of the conversation to keep people within the ‘loop’ we’ve created. It will not only help make sure your bot doesn’t break, but also make sure that your users are having the best experience possible.
6. Let them down easy: When your bot does fail, make sure you’ve created a plan to help keep people around. If your screen goes blank or you give them some painful error message, your users are just going to leave and probably not come back again.
7. Every interaction is meaningful: Unlike the web and apps where many interactions are required just to navigate the page, every interaction with your bot will give an output. Every interaction becomes meaningful.
8. Help users help you: You’ll never know everything your users want. That goes for any product. But bots make it easier to figure it out. All you have to do is ask. Or offer a spot for your users to submit things. Let your users shape the product by telling you what they want.
9. Identify and target user sentiment: As we’ve already recognized, human emotion is as important in bots as anywhere else on the web. Maybe more important. And it’s the first platform where we’re getting insights into human emotions through contextual conversation. We can use this to teach our bot to recognize the emotions and help create a better experience.
Q. Say five to ten years down the line, how do you envision chatbots transforming the lives of users?
Humans are very habitual creatures. Sure, not every day is exactly the same, but there are a lot of similarities across days. I believe the knowledge we get from bots will allow us to build systems that anticipate our needs and get us away from our screens. I believe eventually bots will become an extension of our self.
Right now we do this through sites and apps that automate things for us — Reminder apps to keep us on track, apps like Instacart to do our grocery shopping, apps like Uber to get us a ride from place to place.
I believe eventually we won’t have to pull our phones out of our pocket but we’ll be able to make all these things happen.
Q. In the same vein, how will the role of UX designers change in about the same period?
I believe the role of UX designer will stay relatively the same — create systems that meet your users needs in the most intuitive way. But I believe the needs of users will change, and that’s the difference.
That’s just a historical fact though. If we stayed the same, society would never move forward. I just think we’re going to start moving forward at exponential rates. I’d argue we already have in many parts of the world, but I believe it’s going to be global instead of just in pockets of the world like San Francisco, New York, South Korea, etc.
Q. Aren’t chatbots essentially a technical project? Will UX designers have a role to play beyond providing the script/dialogue of how the conversations will play out?
Similar to the last question, I believe UX designers will always have a role — understanding and empathizing with the humans using the product. I believe this will be one of the last roles to be phased out of technical projects, because human emotion is so hard to replicate in binaries.
Q. How will chatbots affect enterprise software? India’s software industry primarily caters to large enterprise clients overseas so we are extremely interested in seeing how this plays out.
I don’t have specific examples off the top of my head but any way that systems can be automated and made more efficient, an enterprise is going to love it. And I know that’s a fact.
Q. Will the emergence of chatbots mean lesser investments in building web, mobile applications by enterprises? Or will chatbots play a more complimentary role with what gets built?
I think initially you’re going to see businesses trying to build chatbots within their apps. I think it’s going to be difficult for businesses to commit to the fact that apps are going to be old news, because they’ve invested so much into their ecosystems and it won’t be easy to just toss that stuff out the window. I think that’s part of why it will take so long for bots to become the default.
But I believe eventually bots (i.e. Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, etc.) will become the next telecom. I believe there will be a few that hold the market and people will use them based on what their algorithms produce.
Data is the new oil and building the best AI system is the new race to space.
Q. Which companies/startups/people are the ones to watch out in the chatbots arena?
In terms of complex, data driven bots used for search and information/navigating the world around us:
• Google → Google Assistant
• Amazon → Alexa
• Apple → Siri
• SoundHound → Hound
In terms of focused bots performing specific tasks that do it really well right now:
• Pana
• Hipmunk
• Duolingo
• Penny
Q. What are likely to be the hurdles and roadblocks before we see mainstream adoption of chatbots?
I believe the biggest hurdle will be user adoption and I believe the biggest roadblock to that will be making sure bots do not turn into spam messaging bots, because bots already have a stigma of being spam and if we want people to adopt these systems, we’re going to need to turn that around.
Also, privacy. Making sure people know what their data is being used for and how they can control where their data is going.
This is a very important chapter in my book, actually.
Q. And finally, is the hype true? Will chatbots kill apps?
Yes, I believe the hype is true. I think it’s still going to take 2-3 years before we have a revolutionary breakthrough that makes these technologies accessible to everyone, and I believe it will take 3-5 before bots become adopted by the mainstream, but I believe automated systems that are backed by artificial intelligence and are interacted with through voice/text will kill off apps eventually.
If you want to know more about chatbots, Toscano in the process of writing a book that explains all these points and much more. It is likely to be done by mid-February 2017. You can sign up to join over 700 people that are already on the waitlist here:
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