Category Archives: Content Management

Slide libraries: A tale of two use cases

A slide library is typically a set of PowerPoint content that can be accessed on a slide or object level. Across a variety of functions (e.g. sales and marketing) and industries (e.g. consulting, financial services), slide libraries play a significant role in presentation creation. They allow users to leverage existing content to quickly build new, consistent, and on-brand presentations.

Slide libraries used to be a core feature of SharePoint. Even though they were a popular feature, since SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has stopped supporting slide libraries due to design constraints.

While the idea of searching, previewing, and inserting individual slides is central to slide library solutions, their approach needs to fit tightly within the customer context and their use cases. As we’ve worked across a range of customers, two primary use cases have consistently emerged:

  1. Marketing/Business development/Templates
    • Small number of assets that are frequently used
    • Browsing more important than search
    • No significant management capabilities required
    • Asset development and curation performed by a small team
  2. Research
    • Large number of assets that are each infrequently accessed
    • Search more important than browsing
    • Sync content from a CMS (e.g. SharePoint)
    • Have formal processes in place for asset development/curation

Strong slide library solutions need to effectively serve both use cases. While customers may start with only one, as they mature both use cases often emerge as equally important.

For example, consulting firms have templates that drive productivity and output consistency. These templates are typically designed by a core operations team and stored locally on each employee’s computer. As firms mature, they invest in a knowledge repository that houses summaries of all completed projects. These summaries come from a larger group of employees and are typically curated by a central team. As the repository grows in size and value, the ability to access specific slides become increasingly important.

When selecting a slide library, ensure your vendor has the ability to support both uses cases equally and can meet your growing needs.

Microsoft add-ins drive productivity while minimizing change management

Add-ins minimize change managment

Microsoft Office has a stranglehold on business productivity with no signs suggesting a significant shift any time soon. While Office provides a strong toolkit, there is plenty of room for improvement with additional features that help specific user groups. Microsoft, after all, is aiming to please a wide audience which tends to leave feature and workflow gaps.

As a result, a wide ecosystem of partner companies has popped up to fill these gaps, adding even more functionality to Microsoft Office. Realizing that partners play a critical role, Microsoft has fostered the ecosystem with in-depth documentation, an app store (for certain types of add-ins), and even competency certifications.

Aploris earns Microsoft Partner Gold and Silver Microsoft Partner competencies
Aploris, creators of TeamSlide, have earned Microsoft’s Gold and Silver application development competencies

Often partner companies add functionality with add-ins that bolt onto Office and interact with Office documents. The range of add-ins is endless from a Wikipedia add-in that allows you to conduct Wikipedia searches from Word to our slide search tool, that helps you find and extract individual slides on your computer. Typically, add-ins are accessed through the navigation ribbon in an Office application (e.g. PowerPoint).  We’ve previously discussed the benefits of add-ins versus browser-based tools.

Beyond adding functionality, add-ins help drastically reduce the change management effort commonly involved in rolling out a new feature or tool:

  • Add-ins can be silently deployed and often require no user input during installation
  • They operate within a host application that users are already familiar with (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel), reducing the friction typically associated with new tools. For example, the icon that launches the add-in can be included the navigation ribbon and the tool open in a pane within the host application
  • Add-ins can notify the user within the primary application, facilitating a number of adoption strategies. For example:
    • After installation, add-ins may start automatically the first time their host application is opened
    • Add-ins can activate based on a document state. Our slide search solution, TeamSlide, automatically notifies users if a slide in their presentation is out-of-date

Microsoft add-ins offer an effective way to add specialized functionality to the Office application suite. By embedding within familiar applications, they reduce the change management effort often associated with rolling out new tools.

Leverage taxonomies in SharePoint to improve search

SharePoint metadata used for optimal search results

 

With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft released Managed Metadata to enable corporate knowledge managers to define a taxonomy, allowing for better content organization and improved search relevancy. In particular, Managed Metadata uses a central Term Store where admins can build formal hierarchical classifications of terms (or labels) that can be applied across SharePoint sites.

However, taxonomies and the metadata that comprise them have to be built effectively to realize the benefits.

What is a taxonomy?

In SharePoint, a taxonomy is a hierarchical classification of terms that are categorized and applied to the content. They form a structure for metadata that consistently classifies documents. For example, your sales folder in SharePoint may contain standard pitch presentations. You may define a taxonomy that describes the ‘industry’ the pitch is focused towards and the ‘product’ it represents. Within ‘industry’, the taxonomy might limit the available options to ‘finance’, ‘healthcare’ and ‘manufacturing’.

Taxonomies enforce naming standards and categories to add consistency across the platform and support enterprise content management. They enable end-users to locate and discover information quickly, helping solve business problems.

Benefits of building a taxonomy in SharePoint

1. Improve document search relevancy

The biggest advantage of defining a taxonomy is improving search relevancy. If your SharePoint content repository contains hundreds or thousands of documents, users are likely having a difficult time finding specific pieces of content. For example, locating a single PowerPoint presentation, or even a slide within a presentation, may be time-consuming and frustrating. As repositories rapidly grow, documents are often not consistently classified, making it difficult to sort through search results. This can result in significant productivity loss as finding content takes too long and, at times, users may even recreate content.

Applying a taxonomy allows users to search for terms or apply filters to quickly locate specific documents.

2. Maintain uniformity across your organization

Managed Metadata allows SharePoint admins to build a taxonomy that is shared across multiple sites and extended to other applications. Further, terms defined in a SharePoint taxonomy can include synonyms and multilingual variants. This allows all users to apply a consistent classification to documents using a defined set of terms.

As expected, you can control who has the ability to add and modify the defined taxonomy, allowing for flexibility as your content repository grows.

3. Effectively scale with your business

Nested folders are a simple and easy solution when first adding content to SharePoint. However, they can quickly become overwhelming as your data multiplies. Users may struggle to navigate folders to find relevant files, and even if you define an organizational structure, documents will be forced into one folder when they might belong to two or three.

With metadata, folder names can be added as tags to documents, allowing the document to have multiple classifications. This methodology easily scales and enables easier search and retrieval.

Considerations when adding a taxonomy in SharePoint

1. Ensure third-party tools leverage your taxonomy

Many organizations rely on third-party apps to either add, manage or search for content in their SharePoint implementation. When possible, select apps that support and leverage the taxonomy you invested in. This ensures consistency across your entire toolkit, creating a seamless experience for end-users.

For instance, our slide library and search solution, TeamSlide, integrates with SharePoint content repositories, importing the entire taxonomy along with the content. As a result, users can search for slides with a taxonomy already familiar to them (in addition to slide content).

2. Time new taxonomies with a SharePoint migration

SharePoint migrations offer the perfect time to identify and implement a new taxonomy. During migrations, content is often reviewed and cleaned, creating opportunities to test and improve the classification model.

 

Don’t let old slides derail your customer meeting

An old slide can kill the momentum of a meeting, confusing your team and the intended audience. From sales professionals and marketers to coaches and trainers, we are often asked about our ability to automatically update old slides. They consistently share stories about meetings that were derailed by stale content

SharePoint and other online repositories enable team members to access the latest presentation, typically through a web portal. Access, however, to such repositories is cumbersome, and employees end up keeping a copy of the presentation on their own hard drive or personal cloud storage service (e.g. Box, Dropbox). They keep referring to their version of the presentation even while the primary source gets updated. Over time, these differences grow, and the employee’s slide ends up with stark differences from the latest version available on the online repository. The differences can range from small branding inconsistencies to glaring content errors.

We recently connected with a marketer who noticed that her sales team had old specifications on their product overview slides. As a result, potential customers perceived that their products were inferior to the competition, costing them the sale! One trainer recently told us that his curriculum constantly changes, and at recent session his presentation slide and handout slides were mismatched. This understandably confused the audience, taking valuable time to correct.

At TeamSlide, we built a tool and method to automatically ensure you always have the latest content.

  1. Build an online slide library
    We start by allowing you to build a slide library.  You can manually upload presentations that are split into individual slides or connect to an online repository, including Box, SharePoint, or Google Drive.
  1. Assign a unique ID
    With some help from PowerPoint, TeamSlide automatically assigns a unique ID for each slide. As you download slides from the library, the ID is attached to the slides in a hidden manner.
  1. Check the library
    Now, when you open a presentation or run the content check, TeamSlide reads each slide and look for the ID to identify slides that are connected to the slide library. It then compares the date the slide you downloaded slide with the date of the last update to the library, checking if a new version of the slide exists.
  1. Review and apply
    If updates are found, you can review the changes and accept. If multiple slides are stale, they all can be updated with a single click.

Since developing this method, we’ve even applied the check to portions of a slide. Now teams can store individual charts, collections of shapes, and text boxes and these objects can be updated on a slide (without having to update the entire slide).

The seamless process ensures that you are effectively notified and given the opportunity to review and update old slides in a matter of seconds. Across multiple industry verticals, teams are deploying a TeamSlide slide library to provide easy access to PowerPoint content and ensure that their users never walk into a meeting with an old slide.

How slide libraries rescue PE firms and improve their client meetings

PowerPoint slide rescue

Whether it’s from pension funds, wealthy individuals or other investment managers, meeting with prospective clients to raise money is a core function for private equity (PE) firms. On a regular basis, marketing and client teams work to build content to fuel these meetings:

  • Firm overview and history
  • Biographies of key leaders
  • Investment strategy
  • Fund performance
  • Due diligence process
  • Management and performance fee

However, with the large variety of meetings, audiences, and objectives, PE marketing teams have the significant challenge of building and maintaining a large number of PowerPoint presentations and slides. As we’ve worked across a number PE firms, three pain points emerged.

1. Customizing and updating presentations

Presentations need to be tailored to the specifics of the meeting to improve outcomes. From client logos and customized messaging to updating fund details and the latest performance numbers, there are a painful number of checks that the marketing team needs to run through.

2. Tracking and managing slides

The constant need to update and modify slides leaves behind a mess of old versions that are hard to track, manage, and update. This inevitably leads to errors that have costly implications.

3. Compliance and regulation

With constantly changing regulations and different levels of awareness among team members, checking for compliance is a significant time sink. The process usually bottlenecks with a sign-off required by one or two key individuals.

Slide libraries to the rescue

Slide libraries, used by a variety of other industries and functions, are the preferred way to organize PowerPoint content. Typically, slides are stored in a central library that includes strict access rights, ensuring that content is verified and approved for client meetings. Slides are individually accessed and combined to build custom presentations.

Two primary methods of slide access exist:

  • Browser-based: Users launch a browser to find individual slides that are either combined and exported or copied and pasted into the user’s presentations
  • PowerPoint add-in: Users search for slides without ever having to leave PowerPoint and click to insert into their active presentations

In our conversations, we find that PE firms prefer the PowerPoint add-in method as their teams are already actively working in PowerPoint.

Some slide library solutions even notify users when a slide they are using is out-of-date. When working in PowerPoint, the slide library add-in can check if the slides in the active presentation have been updated by other team members. If they have been, the user is notified and given the option to update with just a click.

Slide libraries can sync with existing content systems like Box or SharePoint to help speed up the initial setup. This reduces complexity as firms can still manage all their slides in one system.  Microsoft’s SharePoint used to offer a native slide library function, but it was unfortunately discontinued starting with SharePoint 2013.

At TeamSlide we focus on building a robust a slide library solution that fits within the workflows of PE firms and other financial services organizations. We offer a Business version that allows teams to create a shared library, as well as a ‘Pro’-fessional version that allows users to search for slides in presentations on their own computers (including Outlook attachments).

For private equity firms that build presentations every day, accessing content through a slide library can solve multiple pain points and result in effective client meetings.

 

5 questions client relationship teams should ask before updating to SharePoint 2016

SharePoint 2016 updateClient relationship managers have to constantly keep track of their clients and their investment portfolios to ensure they receive the best possible service. This is among the constant need to work internally on standard distributed reports and one-off requests with portfolio managers, compliance officers, and the chief financial officer. SharePoint has proven to be an extremely useful tool for content management, making it easy for everyone on the team to quickly access the latest version of the content they need.

If your team is considering migrating to the new SharePoint 2016 (cloud or on-premise), here are 5 critical questions you should be asking.

1. Does your team need to upgrade SharePoint?

Migrating from one version of SharePoint to another is a significant undertaking. Before jumping in, consider if your client relations team even needs the upgrade.

Start by analyzing the reasons for an upgrade. For instance, with SharePoint 2016, zero downtime patching leads to increased resilience and there is also support for Office 365 and SharePoint hybrid search integration.

On the other hand, there can be several reasons not to upgrade. Your team may be perfectly satisfied with the current version, and as with all new software, there will be a learning curve to consider. That being said, if you are still using an older version of SharePoint including 2003, 2007, or 2010, note that Microsoft only provides mainstream support for 2010 SP1 and newer.

2. What data should you migrate?

Take a step back and plan out what data you’ll need to migrate to the new version of SharePoint. If you’ve had your old version for several years with a large number of users, you are bound to have stale data that no longer has any value. You might have clients you no longer work with or old investment portfolios and Excel sheets that aren’t relevant.

Migrating excess data not only increases the required time but also the costs related to physical storage and maintenance. Before diving into the migration, take a moment to clean your data repositories.

3. What do you do with your slide library?

If your team depends on SharePoint’s slide library, note that it was discontinued starting with SharePoint 2013.

A slide library is a set of PowerPoint slides that can be accessed individually and doesn’t require the user to first open a presentation. In addition to providing slide-level access, slide libraries will help manage slide versions and ensure that users always have the latest content.

If the slide library was critical for the way your team accessed PowerPoint content, you’ll have to consider a 3rd party solution. At TeamSlide, we offer a robust solution that works from within PowerPoint – you are welcome to see it in action. We’ve also previously written an article about the key considerations for replacing SharePoint’s slide library.

4. What upgrade path should you use?

With years of investment portfolios and client reports, your SharePoint environment may be too complicated for a complete native upgrade.

A native upgrade is an option made available from SharePoint 2013 onwards that allows databases to easily ‘detach’ from the old version and ‘attach’ to the new version. It’s a simple and direct process, but it’s only useful if you have a rather small and simple SharePoint environment with less than 500GB of data.

If you have a complicated environment or your total data is more than 500GB, consider a parallel upgrade option which involves building a SharePoint 2016 environment in parallel to the current version and then moving data from the old to the new version selectively. With this option, you are able to selectively choose what needs to be upgraded. Note that if you are upgrading from a SharePoint version lower than 2013, then the parallel upgrade is the only available option.

5. What level of security will you need?

Client relation teams should first review the service level agreements (SLAs) they have with their clients. As team members will likely be saving crucial investment and banking information on SharePoint, security will be a primary concern.

In addition to a better user experience, SharePoint 2016 will help you continue to comply with your SLAs. An automated migration follows the security of your older version, but be careful if you are initiating a manual migration. In addition, if you are considering a move to SharePoint Online, ensure that your client SLAs will allow for data to be stored in the cloud.

In conclusion

When updating to SharePoint 2016, client relation teams should first consider whether they need the update, clean up their data repositories, plan for the missing slide library, choose a migration strategy and also consider their security needs.

Tired of digging for slides? Bring your content management system inside PowerPoint

Tired of digging for slides? Bring your content management system inside PowerPoint

SharePoint, Box, and other content management systems (CMSs) are a great solution to securely store and share your company documents. They provide online access, version control, metadata support among a host of other capabilities. CMSs allow marketing and sales teams to organize their PowerPoint assets by product, vertical, customer segment for easy search and retrieval.

However, accessing content from a CMS typically involves breaking your workflow from a productivity application (e.g. PowerPoint) to a separate interface. Further, the CMS interface may require several clicks before you find the content you are searching for.  This disruption is time-consuming and switching applications can disrupt your thought process.

CMSs are making progress in their integration with Microsoft Office products. For example, Box now allows users to simultaneously edit a Word document. Or, you can edit a document with Office 365 right in your browser.  Most CMSs include desktop sync applications that ensure folders on your computer mirror your online account.

Retrieving content from a CMS is still a tedious process. Further, for PowerPoint users, the problem is amplified as users are often looking for a particular slide rather than an entire presentation. Even after traversing their CMS to find a presentation, they dig through the presentation it to find the specific slide they need. SharePoint had a basic slide library solution that briefly solved this problem but it was deprecated a few years ago.  As a result, this enforces bad habits as users retrieve old versions of slides and presentations stored on their computer rather than the latest version available on the CMS. For sales reps, this can lead to out-of-date product information, old branding, and propagation of errors which ultimately impacts their ability to close deals. An alternative to SharePoint’s slide library, ideally a significantly improved version, is required to improve productivity.

At TeamSlide, we focus our efforts on providing a slide level search engine that works within PowerPoint. You can search, preview, and insert a slide into your active presentation without ever leaving PowerPoint. TeamSlide connects to a number of CMSs including SharePoint, Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive. Essentially bringing the CMS inside PowerPoint. Once connected, TeamSlide searches across presentations to surface the most relevant slides for your search.

For sales teams, TeamSlide allows you to quickly find a particular slide and build effective presentations. For marketing, TeamSlide offers a simple way to disseminate content while still leveraging your CMS. In addition, TeamSlide will check your slides against the central repository to ensure you always have the most up-to-date content.

Switching applications to find content is inefficient and promotes bad habits that can impact output quality. Bringing content systems inside productivity software is a natural step to solve this problem that can lead to significant benefits.

Integrate your slide library and CMS to manage your content in one place

Integrate your slide library and CMS to manage your content in one place

Most marketing and knowledge teams understand that managing a large number of PowerPoint files is a complex, time consuming task. The complexity grows significantly when managing individual slides. Slide library solutions greatly simplify the task by providing a central repository and allowing users to quickly find the slide or other PowerPoint asset they need. However, even the most robust slide library can’t replace a broader content management system (CMS) like SharePoint or Box. CMSs offer a broad range of capabilities that are helpful to diverse data sets; however, they lack the interface and in-depth PowerPoint features that a slide library or slide management solution provides. As a result, many organizations require both a CMS and a slide library.

For teams with a large PowerPoint repository, managing content across a CMS and slide library can be cumbersome. Typically, content is duplicated, and updating both sets requires manual steps that lead to errors. Further, access rights and other settings need to be aligned, creating inefficiencies. As a result, slide libraries that integrate or connect with CMSs and ensure they are automatically synced can unlock additional benefits.

What does the integration look like?

  • Slide library solutions can typically connect with a content repository using a standard protocol like CMIS
  • The slide library actively monitors the CMS for PowerPoint files, replicating the content along with the necessary metadata
  • Upon the first connection, the replication may take a while depending on the size of the repository
  • After the initial replication, only changes are captured
  • A tight connection ensures that both systems are consistently aligned

How does the integration help?

  • With the integration in place, only files in the CMS require management. All changes will automatically flow to the slide library, helping reduce the likelihood of introducing an error while saving manual effort
  • All the metadata defined in the CMS will also be passed to the slide library, thereby allowing for better search results
  • In some cases, access rights may also replicate, helping ensure tight control of content across the organization

Considerations during the integration

  • Check that any business rules that apply to your CMS can also be applied the slide library. For example, if you monitor file downloads to protect against data theft by employees, check that your slide library can send download data back to the CMS
  • Carefully select the content you want to make available through the slide library. While it may be tempting to make all your PowerPoint content available, applying a few filters will reduce the clutter and improve productivity
  • Ensure that the slide library can gracefully handle any errors that may occur during the replication. Errors should be logged and an appropriate team member contacted without impacting performance

TeamSlide’s slide management system integrates with a number of CMSs including SharePoint, Box, Dropbox, and Alfresco. Users can quickly connect their CMS to TeamSlide, making large repositories searchable on a slide level.

Considerations for replacing SharePoint’s slide library

As selling has become more content driven, sales organizations are relying more heavily on a large repository of PowerPoint slides and presentations. As they prepare for a customer meeting, a large chunk of productivity is driven by efficiently finding the appropriate content. Productivity is measured by not only the time required to build the presentation but also by the outcome of the meeting – was the presentation compelling enough to push the customer to the next step in the sales funnel?

Slide libraries are an effective way to manage your PowerPoint content and surface the right slide at the right time. They provide a single shared location to store content, a search engine to find and preview individual slides, and access control to ensure your information is protected.

SharePoint’s slide library feature was discontinued with SharePoint 2013 due to a design consideration. As a result, many organizations are now faced with either finding a new provider or stop using slide libraries.  While it may be easy to just stop using the feature, the benefits are hard to replace by a general content management system (CMS) and can lead to significant inefficiencies:

  • Sales collateral is often built on a slide or sub-slide level which is not the focus of a general CMS – your sales teams will have to dig through presentations to find the pieces they need wasting time and risking that they won’t be able to find what they need
  • Often, sales teams may use small variations of a slide based on the customer industry or size. If these variations are not easily accessible they will be continually recreated resulting in potentially poor output quality and lost time

When selecting a slide library provider for your sales team, consider these requirements:

  • Will the provider help throughout the life-cycle from setup to deployment and adoption? Will they be a strong business partner?
  • Can the slide library integrate with your content management systems (e.g. SharePoint)? Does the provider have the ability to fit within your IT architecture?
  • Does your company allow you to use cloud solutions or will you need an on-premise offering?
  • What are the storage limits?
  • Can you appropriately define the access control rules you need?
  • Does it integrate with PowerPoint allowing your staff to access slides without ever leaving PowerPoint?