A new workplace: do you choose the private cloud or public cloud?

Are you planning on making big or small steps toward a digital transformation? If so, you are likely to want to migrate to the cloud, or you are already migrated. A large number of organizations have already made the step partially (for example, taken applications to a SaaS model) or are actively making plans to go from their old (on-premises) ICT environment to the Cloud. Going to the Cloud also allows you to wave goodbye to old legacy systems that slow down your business process. But what road should you choose to get there, and for which type of Cloud should you choose?

Will you go for a pure ‘lift-and-shift’ data center relocation, or to a new data center of an ICT supplier? This is primarily relocating responsibilities, based on existing requirements. That can be a fine choice. Or will you skip this intermediate step and will you choose directly for optimizing with the help of the public cloud? An external data center or a public cloud both have advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your situation and objectives, you will come to a decision. In this blog we share the 4 steps that can help you make a deliberate choice.

More than 70% of the IT managers we talk to, agrees: the public cloud is the most safe, flexible and cost-effective solution. The following steps will help you get started quickly:


In order to be able to make well-founded choices in the future, you need prior knowledge of the different types of cloud. We make a distinction between the Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud and Public Cloud. In short, we see the private cloud as just another data center and the Hybrid Cloud as an intermediate station in the direction of the final public cloud. We also make a distinction in the extent of flexibility, scalability and market introduction time. Especially the Public Cloud is still insufficiently known to most of our discussion partners. It is best known as 'just another datacenter', but even more invisible. But with the same VMs and infrastructure elements but with the same VM’s and infrastructure elements.

The big difference, however, lies in the added value of all building blocks, services and applications, ready for use, with which you can optimize, make cheaper, innovate and do new things that were never possible before.  You can have a large amount of invoices for a short period of time without having to buy in advance and above all, the security of Public Cloud is so high, there is so much invested in that many large multinationals are now convinced that they or IT suppliers can’t take care of security that well as, for example, Microsoft.

Make sure that you are familiar with the techniques you have in-house and why these have been chosen. What are the reasons that certain applications depend on old-fashioned technology? These 'legacy' applications can also be offered from the Cloud and eventually be rationalized.


An ICT architecture from the past offers no guarantees for the future. If you want to go forward, want to innovate and your employees always want to work with the latest technology, you will come to a different decision than when you look at your situation now and what you now know how the existing needs to be improved. Most likely there will be many new requirements in coming years.

It is easier said than done: provide a clear strategy to the optimal Cloud workplace. Your wishes of the future come from elements that you do not know yet, but also from your organizational goals or trends in the market. In the healthcare sector, for example, the patient will do more himself, he expects services to be digitally tuned and care for care will be supplemented more often by digital means. In manufacturing, you and your competitor will quickly take steps in the utilization of the amount of data and the possibilities of IoT. To mention just a few examples. These come from new techniques and possibilities such as Smart Manufacturing, Agile Manufacturing, Autopilot manufacturing, 3D innovation and Zero Emission Manufacturing. But especially also from your organizational goals and strategy.

It starts with an analysis of the business and its users; Who are they, what do they need at the moment and what does the future look like? Based on these data, the current state of ICT (assessment) and the available budget, you draw up a strategy. For short-term (the low-hanging fruit) and for the long term. This creates a roadmap that gives a clear view of the steps to be taken. Based on your current situation and legacy, based on your wishes and requirements now and on the basis of future requirements, which we do not yet know concretely.


This is the time to examine your current situation in detail, describe your alternatives and map the technical pros and cons and dependencies. What is the impact of a move, renewal and change? What are the risks? Which elements must first be arranged before a certain step can be made?

Part of this is a Cloud readiness assessment. In this assessment, an inventory is made of the existing ICT environment. With this inventory, the application landscape and the critical components from your ICT environment are clearly mapped out. This data helps to shape the strategy / roadmap and in this phase you will also recognize the benefits of the public Cloud. It also helps in identifying the scope and indicates where the focus lies and where quick wins can be achieved.

Ultimately, you have an overview of the possible choices, at least 3 (at least 1 Private Cloud, 1 Hybrid Cloud and 1 Public Cloud) and all aspects of the migration there. From costs in the field of operations, migration and management, to the risks.


Based on the information gathered in the first 3 steps, the business case is drawn up, with a TCO and with 'soft' benefits. The business case provides an answer to whether the possible choices fit in with the business objectives, fit within the organizational strategy, have added value for the organization and users and take risks with them. The business case is also the basis for support, since it is based on the benefits for the user and the goals of the organization. It is not an ICT party. The broader the new solution is, the more chance of success you will have.



Rapid Circle can help with taking these steps, making the assessment and the business case. We can do this on all forms of cloud, but you can also ask us to do a second opinion, for example only on the possible choice for Public Cloud. We often see that many aspects are not taken into account by traditional consultancies, for example, which does not give a complete picture.

It is no secret that we are a fan of progress. In many cases an intermediate step (Private cloud) is a good idea, for example when you have too many and too heavy legacy applications. But if they are overseen and you have already taken steps towards SaaS, chances are that you will end up on a hybrid cloud or Public Cloud. Especially if you are looking for a future full of opportunities, with the sights on progress, in small steps, with an ICT platform that supports you to respond faster than your competitor.

Would you like to know more? Please contact Erik-Jan Frieser at Erikjan.Frieser@RapidCircle.com

The Cloud Workplace of the future

The workplace has received a lot of legacy over the years, so that the user experience is perceived as less optimal. Slowness, limitations and not suitable for mobile are just a few examples. But the number of applications and apps is also increasing, and with that the application management, while that is precisely what it wants to reduce. The shadow IT, with all the dangers for data leaks, is also in wait. In this blog we explain why the workplace of the future not only makes your employees happier but also how it makes your organization more agile.

Lightweight functionalities, any device, super fast

The future, however, looks rosy. The future workplace can meet the demands and wishes of the modern organization, networks and modern generations of employees. You can work, collaborate, share ideas, communicate, exchange, tune in, wherever and whenever you want, on whatever device you want. Without having to worry about safety and privacy sensitivity. Because that is arranged. And luckily you are always on the latest versions of the applications, as you are used to from large mobile apps and important websites from your private life. You can just as easily collaborate with colleagues as with people from the chain or with the public. And everything is easily found and accessible, from 1 experience.

Personally relevant, on a data driven workplace

The workplace also knows exactly what is relevant and important to you now. This is done on the basis of Machine Learning. Without anyone else being able to see that, the workplace can help you not forget tasks, associate you with a relevant and perhaps unknown colleague or present a document that is similar to something you are currently doing. The workplace will also increasingly become a digital assistant. Through Artificial Intelligence you can communicate with the workplace in other ways and that interface will help you instead of giving you the workplace assignments. This is the smart workplace that enables you to do your work better and more pleasantly, and that makes the organization more agile and social.

This makes the workplace super-personal. Also because the workplace can be personalized even better, while also the conformity is guaranteed. With processes, procedures, classifications and safety standards. By personalizing we do not mean in terms of settings and choice of applications, but in terms of the front of the digital workplace.

Incremental development towards the future workplace, based on the Microsoft cloud

This workplace of the future is already there for a large part already, but is being developed incrementally for you. You do not have to worry about this on the basis of the cloud. Of course it is important to include the user in the continuous innovations. For this Rapid Circle has an effective model that gives an overview and with low costs can make people actively smarter in working with the workplace. This approach takes into account the interdependence of applications. The impact is determined and tested at each step.

Your ICT department and people will become more important

This also means good times are ahead for the ICT department. There are fewer people required for management, but more value-added roles and direction roles, such as making translations between business and functionality, helping the organization make smarter use of applications, application management (and innovation), data security and security and finding and assessing new functions and managing suppliers. This will all be more important in the coming years.

Building on a SAAS model makes you manoeuvrable. Microsoft Azure as your control station and data (analysis) layer

When as many applications as possible are hosted by the supplier of the application, you have a number of advantages. In this way, the applications can be updated most effectively, quickly and most cheaply and renewed and you are always on the latest version. The supplier is responsible for the performance and operation of the application.

The Azure cloud at Microsoft provides infrastructure elements and basic elements to organize the workplace: Device Management, Authentication and Access, Security, Data Security, Start of the workplace, providing 1 experience, data analysis and machine learning, data management and findability of data and content, it is all offered from the Microsoft cloud.

This ensures that all other applications are seamlessly accessible and integrated within that 1 user experience, on mobile, tablets, PC, glasses, IOT devices and other interfaces. And applications that still have to be hosted on their own server, you can run them in a datacenter as long as possible, locally, or on Azure for example. The workplace ensures that these are also accessible.

What does this mean for your data center?

The workplace and the data center behind it will have to be very flexible for this. It must be able to move with the agility of the organization and with the changes in the market. It can apply innovations and the business will feel free to invent new processes and working methods within the standards. Without the manageability, safety and costs being compromised.

A contract for a longer period than 1 year makes you stand still in time

This means not only that the workplace must be flexible, but also the contracts with your suppliers. Concluding a contract for a few years does not encourage flexibility. The future is paid per year or per month and per amount of usage.

Awareness of security and privacy. A trade off with usability?

Security and privacy is at least as important as user experience. The demands for security, the sophistication of cyber-attacks and the fines that are involved increase explosively. That increase in quantity and sophistication can no longer keep up with any organization. Even the largest corporates no longer. This can only be a big player like Microsoft. Microsoft is the largest company in the field of security and privacy. They put most people on making and improving security features. And they are rolled out so quickly that they can only be rolled out quickly on the basis of the cloud. You are also on the latest versions of what you need. The machine learning that is used to continuously search for attacks and leaks, is only possible in the cloud. We think that no organization and no workplace without the Enterprise Mobility and Security suite of Microsoft or alternative products can.

Be cautious: a business case does not always lead to a good insight

The cost estimates and revenues of an Azure-based workplace and data center are often estimated by 'independent parties'. Apart from the fact that we do not exist independently, we think, all the estimates we have seen so far are not correct. The Azure costs are on average more than 2 times lower than estimated and the benefits are largely not included. The costs are usually only considered for the non-optimized as-is (lift and shift) situation, without any discount. There is always a lot of optimization possible. One dimension is also taken into account with regard to benefits: the benefits, which do not always fit 1 in 1 with the old situation, so that the potential of Azure is not taken into account. Our advice is to have an Azure specialist validate these types of assessments.


The future workplace allows users to perform their work more pleasantly and better and makes organizations more agile. Business innovations can be implemented faster and innovations go faster. So why postpone now, temporarily with old technology and therefore in a few years again make an investment for a new workplace? Based on a study of the costs and benefits of a (public) cloud-based workplace, you can determine whether it is a good time to go to your workplace of the future.

Remote Healthcare with Skype for Business


Patients with chronic illness such as diabetes, heart failure or COPD visit the hospital regularly for monitoring. During these periodic visits, blood pressure, heart rate, weight and glucose are measured. Often everything appears to be in order and a visit was unnecessary. For some patients, a visit is even so intense that the doctor visits the patient at home. In a time of spending cuts in healthcare, this is very time-consuming and costly. Now it appears that this can be done much more efficiently by supporting the right IT resources.


Suppose the patient can carry out the required measurements at home and pass them on to the hospital through an app or manual input. With this information the doctor gets a good picture of the patient and can act proactively if the measurements deviate. But how a patient actually feels can not be measured. The doctor wants to see the patient for that. Thanks to video calling this can now be done remotely so that both the doctor and the patient can stay at their own location. The doctor makes a number of time slots available to the patient from whom he / she can make a choice. Just before the appointment, the patient logs on with his PC, tablet or phone and enters a virtual waiting room. As soon as the doctor is ready for the appointment, the connection is activated. The connection will be terminated after the consultation has ended.


Remote care has many advantages for both the healthcare institution and the patient. Healthcare institutions are faced with sharp cutbacks in the current situation. By providing care at a distance, the physician gains better insight into the situation of the patient and his or her condition. As a result, it is less frequently necessary to see the patient for a check. Instead, a remote consultation can be scheduled. This saves the doctor a lot of time. For the patient, this means fewer trips to the hospital, and more control over the disease, which means that more accurate action can be taken and complications can be prevented.


Rapid Circle has developed an app based on Skype for Business from the Microsoft cloud platform. The app has functionalities such as a virtual waiting room, showing pictures and documents during the conversation and provides insight into consultation hours and availability of a doctor or specialist. Much attention has been paid to security and privacy. The connection is set up securely and after terminating the connection the patient can no longer connect without scheduling a new appointment. The big advantage is that the patient can use the image-calling app via the Skype for Business app in the app store or via a web browser. Licenses are therefore not necessary on the patient side. The web app works on all 'devices' and platforms.





The importance of adoption

There is no such thing as a successful project without succesful adoption. No matter how well your interface integrates with other systems, how much need the organization has for the solution, or how much time you've put into the solution, without adoption, end users won't know how to properly use your solution, and therefor all your efforts are likely to go to waste. But rest assured, because adoption is here to save the day!

Everyone involved in a project must recognize the following: a need arises within the organization, the perfect solution is developed and after a few years the then so perfect solution, suffers a silent, lonely death leaving everyone wondering 'where did it go wrong', 'why didn't we use it?' The answer is: adoption.

We admit it: adoption is difficult. Drawing up adoption plans requires a lot of time. And if that is not bad enough, after going 'live' it will most likely take up even more of your time. But you will see that it's worth it, because if that need is really present and the solution is really good, people will want to use it. They however cannot do so without the right support. And with a good plan and thorough implementation, your solution too, will succeed.

Step 1: Determine vision & describe scenarios / Start on time

One of the most common mistakes in the adoption process is that it only starts after the project plan has been drawn up and established. Even before the project starts, at least one project member needs to get up and get started immediately with the adoption. Because if you want to determine what your organization needs, you first need to know what the current bottlenecks are, what challenges and dependencies there are to solve them and which colleagues you need.

Collect a strong team of organization-wide stakeholders around you who, like you, understand what, why and when. And believe in this!

Step 2: Prioritize & plan

As soon as the project has the vision and scenarios clear, it is time to determine where the priorities lie. Which solution fits here and for the organization to determine the right strategy. This is also the time to put your adoption team together, who will jointly make the adoption process a success?

Do not forget to check the above regularly, for example with the help of a pilot or a proof of concept. When you build it in the right way, it can be used as a basis for your end product and therefore no work and initiative is lost.

Honesty and a realistic view of the world are essential here. Know your customer. No matter how beautiful a particular solution may seem, it is only successful if one understands why and wants to take the trouble to use it. Make it feasible. A realistic and good (communication) planning can not be forgotten at this stage.

Step 3: Get out there

Now that the project is starting to take shape, it is time to create awareness among your colleagues about what is coming and when. Managing expectations is of great importance here. Do not promise more than what you can do and listen carefully to the questions you get during this phase. This will help you to draw up adoption materials and the roadmap for further development after the launch.

During this phase, you will also discover who can help you in phase 4 to spread the successes. These future 'fans' will ask the most questions and if you go about it smartly, they will be the ones most motivated to get their hands on your new tool. 

Make sure that the whole adoption team is available during the go-live and the first period afterwards and that everyone has the same knowledge about the solution! This seems to be an open door, but in practice this often turns out to be a small part of the group.

Step 4: Measure, evaluate, and don't give up

From the moment the project phase is over, the work for the adoption team really starts. After going live, most questions come, the first successes and the first new wishes and questions from the organization.

Do not expect the go live to run perfectly smooth. No matter the amount of preparations of the project teams, there are always unexpected circumstances that you will come your way. It is therefor necessary to be as flexible as possible. Do not let yourself get distracted by minor set backs, take it easy, step by thep. Also don't forget to enjoy the successes and share them with the organization, this is the best way to positively promote your project. 

And don't forget: nobody understands the chosen solution as well as you and your team. You have been working on it daily (for weeks), while the majority of your colleagues still have to get used to the new solution.  So even if you have to repeat yourself over and over again: do it. Do not give up. It's impossible to force understanding to someone. Until then: keep calm and love the process called adoption!


On Tuesday, October 25, a handful of experts and MVP’s participated in an Enterprise Collaboration Q&A at the IT/Dev Connections conference in San Francisco, CA.

Among those experts was Thomas Verwer, Cloud Infrastructure Lead at Rapid Circle. Experts such as Jaap Wesselius, Andy Malone and Theresa Miller were also present.

During the session, experts were asked about the challenges in terms of Enterprise Collaboration for the upcoming year.

Compliancy, security, (cloud)identity and adoption of new services such as Teams and Groups were the main focus.

The experts emphasized that much of the cold feet and fear to transition to the Cloud, are unfounded. For every risk there is a mitigation measure and for extreme scenarios where extra functionalities are needed, very mature third party tools are available that make the total solution very mature. The Microsoft Cloud offers a very strong proposition for companies that want to take collaboration to the next level.

To name one of the challenges, companies that have already transitioned to Office 365 have made a head start in the preparation for the GDPR that will be introduced in 2018.

Thomas Verwer speaks during the Ask The Experts Session

Thomas Verwer speaks during the Ask The Experts Session

Andy Malone emphasizes the enormous power that results from the continuous development of all collaboration tools within the platform. Not to forget the importance of considered Governance that comes with the introduction of those techniques. For this reason it is very important to think carefully about who can create Groups within an organization.

Click here for more information about the IT/Dev conference and the speakers.


For the fourth time in a row Rapid Circle has been awarded during the Microsoft ‘Global Partner of the Year’ awards. This time in the category ‘Content and Collaboration’.

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The Microsoft Awards are introduced to acknowledge Microsoft partners who make the difference with customers, using Microsoft technology. Rapid Circle has been chosen from over 2800 nominations from 115 different countries. Rapid Circle owes its acknowledgement on the unique approach for the adoption of Office 365 and Digital Workplace based on the tool Pulse, that makes desired behavior and the effectiveness of adoption and training measurable. As a ‘Finalist’, Rapid Circle is once again one of the 4 partners worldwide for Content & Collaboration.

The essence of our adoption approach is that we don’t focus on the use of a tool itself, but rather on indicating that specific behavior, supported by the Microsoft platform, supports objectives of the organization. In essence, we measure desired behavior. For example, when we train people to use OneNote during meetings, to make notes, we measure how many people during a meeting (this can be found in Outlook) use OneNote. There are many measuring points, from behavior during meetings, time spent reading emails to the level of cross-department collaboration. To know more about our Organizational Pulse tool, click here.

“Rapid Circle wins award based on a model and tool to make the success of adoption demonstrable and to make the value measurable.

— Microsoft

Harold Punter, CEO of Rapid Circle: “This acknowledgement means a lot to us, because it emphasizes the direction we’re going in is the right one. We are a Microsoft partner who wants to support our customers in getting the most out of the Microsoft cloud platform.  Much of it usually remains unused which is a shame. We provide a broader use of the products, but always with a purpose, in terms of productivity and collaboration of the employer.”

Want to know more about our solutionsContact us.


Microsoft has confirmed Rapid Circle’s membership in the exclusive Partner Advisory Council (PAC) program. The PAC is an invitation-only membership and consists of the most select group of partners sharing their customer projects experiences with Microsoft management. Microsoft uses this feedback for their product development strategy, especially with respect to new product releases. 

Rapid Circle is active in the Public Sector group at corporate level giving Rapid Circle a seat at the table to contribute to Microsoft’s Public Sector Strategy. This program allows partners to receive information at an early stage, about the roadmap, products and go-to marketing strategies of Microsoft. Rapid Circle benefits from the latest Microsoft development strategies, which can then be implemented at an early stage in customer projects. In addition it allows Rapid Circle to give its customers the chance to be a part of the Rapid Deployment Program. By participating in the PAC, Rapid Circle strengthens her position as a top ten Worldwide Microsoft Cloud Partner of Microsoft worldwide.

“We are very pleased to be selected as one of the 16 partners worldwide for this council. There are only a few councils, which means we are part of a very select group that shares practical experience with the management of Microsoft Corp. This information and feedback is being used by Microsoft for, among other things, improvements in new product releases and for their partner strategy.

— Wilco Turnhout - CCO Rapid Circle

For more information, contact us

LUMC chooses Rapid Circle as Office 365 implementing and executing partner

LUMC establishes a leadership position among Academic Medical Centers in the Netherlands by fully shifting to Microsoft Cloud The Leids Academic Medical Center (LUMC) has chosen Rapid Circle to be its implementation partner for Office 365. This makes LUMC one of the first hospitals in the Netherlands to fully shift to Office 365. Office 365 will play a central role within the digital workplace for all its employees that will, among others, optimally work within the LUMC’s VDI environment.


LUMC has chosen Rapid Circle based on their experience with Office 365, successfully proven approach, vision on successful client usage and its solutions. On top of this, it was important for LUMC that Rapid Circle’s ‘best practices’ can be used for the implementation in general and within LUMC's VDI workplace concept.


Rob de Weerd, Manager ICT Operations at LUMC: ‘For us, it was important that the partner could not only deliver a solid design but had also been through different pitfalls. It’s also very important when they know how to make working together a pleasant experience. We see in Rapid Circle a partner that helps us proactively with making a success out of all our planned steps in the field of Office 365 and the Microsoft Cloud. Rapid Circle has proven that they understand what healthcare entails and that they prefer working in small pragmatic steps, with a sharp focus on the future’.


Wilco Turnhout, cofounder Rapid Circle: ‘LUMC has a progressive vision on ICT with professional pragmatism. They enjoy being an example to other hospitals in terms of setting up solid state-of-the-art solutions and platforms that truly help employees do their work in a better way. I’m proud that we were chosen to form a team together to work on the implementation of the Microsoft Cloud.’


More info on how we can help you with Office 365/Microsoft Cloud? Contact us!

Rapid Circle is now a Sharegate Premium Partner

At Rapid Circle we are always on the lookout for great new partners. This time we are happy to announce we are an official Sharegate partner. Sharegate is a third-party software that allows companies to comprehensively manage migration and administrative reporting tasks for SharePoint, Office 365, and OneDrive for Business. Sharegate has also rapidly become one of the leaders in its industry.

As a partner and reseller, we have the in-house knowledge to advise and guide you in the extensive array of features Sharegate offers. Moreover, when applicable, we have the expertise to incorporate the use of Sharegate in your file share or SharePoint migration plans to Office 365.

Finally, through our partnership, we are also able to offer discounts up to 25% to any of our customers interested in buying the product.

Interested in how we can help you with your migration? Feel free to contact us.

Sharegate logo
Sharegate logo

Rapid Circle makes "Cloud builders" dev team available to customers

The same cloud experts who build our award-winning solutions are now available to our customers as remote team members.

Rapid Circle Cloud Builders provides world-class cloud and mobile developers who work remotely within your team to help you meet your project goals. Want to know what they can do for you? Check out the Cloud Builders page here. Learn more about our solutions and the Cloud Builders team, and get your dev project started at no costs.

Improve internal news with the new Attini Feature: Shadow Copy

With the popularity and the usage of our internal news app Attini Comms expanding, we figured it was time to bring a new feature into the game for those organizations that have become lean, mean news machines. It is called Shadow Copy and it allows you to copy an article that you found in a random channel to your own channel. This way news can spread even faster.

Who is it for

This feature is very useful for organizations with over ten news channels and/or where the creation of news is a decentralized activity. It will help owners of a channel to easily bring in interesting articles from other channels and present them to their own audience. And the readers of those channels of course also benefit, for this will bring more news their way.

How it works.

Since the Shadow Copy feature is quite a big pack of functionalities, it helps if we explain the way it works based on a scenario. So, let’s first meet the stars of our story.

First up is Mark, the Attini administrator of Basically A Random Company Inc. (BARC Inc.) who makes sure that all the twenty channels that he administers are kept in tip top shape. Second is Nicole, the Director of the Sales Department and owner of the Sales news channel. Third we have Harold, an employee of BARC Inc.

Let’s say that in the IT channel of BARC Inc. a very interesting article has been published about how to safely connect to Wi-Fi networks at work. The tips and tricks mentioned in the article are very useful to all the colleagues working for the IT Department to setup secure connections. So, Mark has read the article and during a chat at the water cooler tells Nicole and Harold about it. Harold is a real news buff who has already read the article and encourages Nicole to check it out. Nicole knows that a lot of Sales colleagues are working from all different places, so she decides to look up the article in the IT channel.

When the three colleagues look at the article they all have a different set of options presented to them due to the new Shadow Copy feature:

In the top right corner of the article page, a menu is presented based on the permissions of the user looking at the page. Each channel for which you have permission to publish an article will be shown. That means that Mark sees all channels (because he is the Attini Admin), Nicole only sees the Sales Channel (because she has Contribute permissions only for that channel) and Harold doesn’t even see the menu since he owns no channels at all.

After reading the article, Nicole decides to copy it to the Sales Channel. During the copy a new article is created within the Sales Channel. However, this is no ordinary article. For one, Nicole cannot edit the content of the article. She wanted to copy the article and that is what she gets, an exact copy. But more important, a relationship is created between the original article (further known as the mother) and the copied article (further known as the child).

This relationship is used to update the child article as soon as a change is published in the mother article and to show where the child article originally came from. Showing were the article originally came from is important information. It leads Harold the news buff from the child article to the channel that possibly contains more articles about internet security. And it leads other channel-owners to the mother article from which they can also create a copy for their news channel. This is important because the feature does not allow copying a child article. To put it in family terms, we will allow creating sibling articles but aim to avoid a grandchild or even greatgrandchild article being created.

Now that the article is copied, Nicole has brought the tips and tricks about internet security to her audience. With an easy click of a button she has made the Sales colleagues happy. However, we did not forget about Harold our news buff. Because like a true news enthusiasts, Harold has subscribed himself to all the twenty channels that BARC Inc. has. Which means that he gets all the articles from the IT Channel (containing the mother article) and all articles from the Sales Channel (containing the child article). Of course, we filter out the duplicates from every feed so no one sees the same article twice. Mark, Nicole and Harold see the following items in their feeds.

Harold only sees one of the Internet Security articles, because the duplicates are filtered out of his feed. In this case the child is filtered out and the mother article is featured in his feed. As long as the reader is subscribed to the channel which holds the mother article, they will only see the mother article in their feed. If an article is copied to multiple channels, so multiple child articles exist, and a user is not subscribed to the channel holding the mother article, then the oldest child article that would be presented to this user would be visible.

So, if the Internet Security article would be copied to a third channel, Harold would still only see the mother article in his feed. In the event that Harold would unsubscribe himself from the IT channel, that holds the mother article, he would then only see the oldest child article in his feed, which is the one in the Sales channel, because Nicole copied the article first.

By filtering out the duplicates we can guarantee that the Shadow Copy feature can be used without limit, bringing news articles to new audiences and not polluting the feeds of people who already had access to the article. And by only showing the oldest article a user is subscribed to, we make sure that every user sees the article when it has the most news value for them.

Customers using the <link to sticky news>Sticky news feature</link to sticky news> feature need not fret as the deduplication feature of Shadow copy means that Harold will only see one of the sticky articles if the sticky article was the one copied by Nicole.

How to get started

Are you interested in adding the Shadow Copy feature to your Attini Comms installation? Than feel free to contact us by sending an email to attini@rapidcircle.com. We will be happy to run you through all the details and get you started!

Do you want to give your company news an additional boost in reaching all the colleagues, please make sure you check out the Sticky News feature we just released.

PNP PowerShell: Maintain all your Termset data across tenants

The Term store manager available in SharePoint enables companies to manage their enterprise-specific taxonomy easily through new term groups and term sets. This metadata can then be referenced by users for selecting choices when filling in profile or content-related data.

Enterprise taxonomies can sometime contain dozens of groups with too many term sets and terms to manage, update of copy manually. There are standard ways offered to export taxonomies into a .csv file and importing them to term store on a different tenant.

But what if you want to not only export term sets and term labels but also their other term-specific data and configuration such as:

  • Localised labels for each term
  • Synonyms
  • Navigation settings (if the term set is intended for site navigation)
  • Custom properties associated with each term
  • The exact GUID of the term

The above data may not be interesting for users, however for administrators and content creators and developers these additional elements of a term can are very important.

Fortunately, we can export all the term sets configuration using the powerful and very useful PNP PowerShell cmdlets

Thanks to the efforts in the Microsoft Patterns & Practices (PnP) community, we now have a set of useful PowerShell cmdlets that can help us. The list of cmdlets is continuously growing and we find that as administrators we can accomplish many more tasks using CSOM

Specifically, the cmdlet that we can use is:

Export-PNPTermGroupToXml – Enables us to export a Term group and all its underlying terms’ setting to an xml-based output file

ImportPnPTermGroupFromXml – Enables us to import a Term group from an XML file

Export your taxonomy

To use the cmdlet, I first need enter credentials connect to my SPO tenant content type hub site collection:

Once connected I simply need to pass an output file and the term group name I want to export

Looking at the exported XML you can see that all the relevant term settings included GUID are now available to import to another term store

Importing your taxonomy

The import is done in a similar manner.

Connect to the destination tenant

Pass the XML file as a parameter as seen below

That’s it!

Improve internal news with the new Attini Feature: Sticky News

All news is important, but some news is more important than other. And that is why we bring you Sticky News as a new feature inside the number one Office 365 News application.

Sticky News is a feature that is available as of this summer for Attini Comms. The new feature allows the creator of a news article to flag their article as being extra important which will make sure the news article remains at the top of the list in the news feeds. So instead of being pushed down by other articles with a more recent publishing date, the sticky news article will remain at the top of the news feed for the number of days that was specified by the writer of the article. To give it an extra touch of importance it is possible with a slight design change to highlight a sticky news article by displaying it in an offsetting color, depending on the type of Attini Reader web part you are using.

How To Use

As you have noticed, the technical and functional changes that are required to turn a news article into a sticky news article are not that major. However, the feature has proven to be a total game changer for organizations that are already used to Attini. The reason why is simple: having the ability to make your articles sticky, gives you a big advantage when spreading your news. And as our favorite spiderlike superhero so obviously stated “with great power comes great responsibility”.

The Sticky News functionality can be granted to each news channel that you have within your Attini Comms setup and this is done via the Attini Comms Dashboard. This means that only an Attini Administrator has the power to turn a news channel into a sticky news channel that can produce sticky news articles. Also, it is good to note that the power can be taken away as well by the Attini Administrator. So, the control over who gets the power and who doesn’t lies with the person administrating the whole Attini Comms landscape at the customer side, exactly in the place where you want to have this control.

Once the Attini Administrator has granted the Sticky News functionality to a channel, the owners of that channel have the power to create Sticky News articles. Per article they have the option to upgrade it to a Sticky News article or just publish it as a regular article. And since the difference is indicated by a simple flick of the switch, it is easy to make your news sticky. Even if you posted an article as a regular news story and the next day you decide to make it Sticky, you simply check the box and publish the article again to move it to the top of the feed.

Per channel you can have a maximum of three Sticky News articles. Let’s assume you post one sticky news article every day. If you would start on a Monday then Monday sticky article is on spot one and the rest of the spots are filled by other articles based on the priority model that you have chosen (most recent, most liked, most viewed, etc.). On Tuesday, your Tuesday sticky article will take spot one, the Monday sticky article will move to spot two and spot three and lower is taken by the rest. On Wednesday, your Wednesday sticky article will take spot one, the Tuesday sticky article will take spot two, the Monday sticky article will move to spot three and spot four and lower is taken by the rest. On Thursday, everything moves again when your Thursday sticky article is published, but now the Monday sticky article will not be considered sticky anymore and will get ranked amongst the rest according to the ranking model. Below, an overview is given of how the feed would look on each of the days.

Up to this point the story is plain and simple. You have one channel fitted with the sticky news and the owner of that channel can choose which stories to make sticky. However, most of our customers have multiple news channels, which in practice means anywhere from two to over fifty channels. And that is when the Sticky News scenario becomes interesting. Because the more news you have, the bigger the benefit is to have a way to make an article stand out. On the other hand, the more people who have the power to put their news at the top of the feed for days, the higher the risk will be for editors gaming the system.

To make sure you get the benefit from the Sticky News functionality and not turn the business of publishing news into a free for all fight about who can get their article at the top of the feed, some best practices need to be taken into consideration.

  • First, only channels with a wide audience should be candidates for the Sticky News upgrade. If a channel only has 50% or less of the company in the audience set, then the news published there is already targeted at such a specific group that probably every story is equally important for the reader.
  • Second, only channels with a high frequency of publishing articles need a functionality like Sticky News. If you only publish an article once a week, it will stay at the top of your feed anyhow, so no need for making it stick.
  • Third, make sure that if multiple people have the power to create Sticky News that they communicate with each other on a regular basis. If the power lies with a central communications team or colleagues near one another they have ample opportunities to discuss which stories should dominate the feeds the coming days. The situation that you want to avoid is two colleagues that never talk to each other battling it out over the news channels to get their news on top. The result of such a situation is seen in the comment section of every YouTube video and always turns ugly.
  • Fourth, be sure to monitor the use of the Sticky News functionality after it has been granted to a channel. If the functionality is not used properly (or not used at all) it is worth a conversation with the owners of that channel. And don’t be shy to take away the power again, because having not so interesting articles dominating the feeds may make the creator of that news very happy, but could make your readers frustrated.

How to get started

Are you interested in adding the Sticky News feature to your Attini Comms installation? Than feel free to contact us by sending an email to attini@rapidcircle.com. We will be happy to run you through all the details and get you started!

Do you want to give your company news an additional boost in reaching all the colleagues, please make sure you check out the Shadow copy feature we just released.

PNP PowerShell: Managing Content Type Artefacts across a single or multiple Office 365 tenants

Creating content types in Sharepoint has always been relatively easy for site and content administrators. Furthermore, with the Content Type Hub feature, custom content types can be centrally defined and pushed out to all site collections. The challenges and difficulties, however arise when you want to make some inherent changes to these site objects or want these exact site objects to be present across your DTAP (Dev, Test, Acceptance & Production

For instance,

  • I’ve created my custom content types in my dev tenant. Now I want to migrate the changes to production?
  • How can I update an internal name of a field with a content type and ensure that the changes are reflected everywhere?

Actions like these were (and still are) generally avoided because there’s be no good way of accomplishing them. It’s still very good practice to thoroughly prepare and review what’s needed before creating custom content types. Making changes to these artefacts still requires effort especially when there is content that is already using these artefacts.

Fortunately, the ability to manage existing content types has gotten easier. Thanks to the efforts in the Microsoft Patterns & Practices (PnP) community.

We now have a set of useful PowerShell cmdlets that can help us. The list of cmdlets is continuously growing and we find that as administrators we can accomplish many more tasks using CSOM

You can go through the PnP Cmdlet documentation here https://github.com/SharePoint/PnP-PowerShell/tree/master/Documentation

I want to focus on creating content types and managing changes to these artefacts you use the following 2 PNP cmdlets

Get-PnPProvisioningTemplate: Enables you to extract a site template with all or a partial set of the site artifacts. The extraction is an xml file which can be reviewed and updated

Apply-PnPProvisionTemplate: Enables you to apply an extracted site template to an existing site. Essentially providing you with a means to apply changes how to all sites in a tenant or a different tenant

The overall process then would look like this:

Create custom artefacts in content type hub

As usual create your fields and content types in the content type hub. I recommend to:

  • Tag these artefacts in a custom group so they are easily identifiable
  • Decide on a naming convention for both fields and content types that helps others to see that these are custom artefacts
  • Avoid spaces in field names when initially creating them. Otherwise you end up with internal names looking like this

Where the space is replaced with a hexadecimal “_x0020_”. This is not a critical issue, however can be avoided and corrected.

I’ve created a content type in a unique group:

With a custom field Document Category

Extract artefacts using Get-PnPProvisioningTemplate:

Using the cmdlet, I can first enter credentials connect to my SPO tenant content type hub site collection

Then extract only the Fields and Content Types using the -Handler attribute

Make changes to your artefacts in XML

In your xml output file, you will find all the Fields and Content Types. You search for the relevant ones by looking for the group name (“Demo Only” in my case)

You can now edit field properties such as the StaticName and Name

Be sure to update the reference to the update field name in the corresponding content types as well. In my case I had created a “Demo Content type”

Modified to

Once your satisfied with you changes save the XML file and you are ready to apply the changes to the original content type hub site collection

Apply changes using

Connect to your content type hub site collection again:

Run the Apply-PnPProvisioningTemplate with the updated xml file as an input:

I changed the static name of “Document_x0020_Category” to “Document_Category” which is not reflected in when viewing the field column URL:

This was a simple demonstration of the scripting tools available to manage site artefacts change that previously were difficult or impossible to update.

Changes can now be pushed out to all site collections by republishing the updated content type:

Using this same technique, with a bit more preparation you can also extract a set of custom content types for one tenant and apply them to another. Thereby keeping field names, content types and their internal GUIDs all intact!

The forgotten part of an Office 365 migration: Network Connectivity

Migrating an on premise email infrastructure to Office 365 is pretty straightforward; whether you have Exchange 2003 (even!), 2007, 2010 or 2013, lots of documentation and migration scenarios are available on the Web to make it a successful migration project. After popping the champagne when the first mailboxes moved successfully, the first complaints reach the service desk: the (Outlook) performance is getting slower and slower. What went wrong? Did we not follow all the procedures in the “Deployment Guides”?

The slow performance is probably related to Network Connectivity. But how can we solve this? The answer is not simple; it contains several important steps to optimize the network performance.

1. TCP Window Scaling:

To use a high bandwidth link efficiently, the connection must be filled with as much data as possible as quickly as possible. With a TCP Window Size limited to 64k when Window Scaling is disabled, not all the available bandwidth is used.

Increasing the Window Size beyond 64k, the sending machine can push more data onto the network before having to stop and wait for an acknowledgement from the receiver.

Check this setting on your network perimeter devices.

2. TCP Idle time settings:

Network Perimeter Devices (like firewalls) are normally designed for internet access to Web Pages. This means TCP Sessions were not expected to be idle for a long time. If there were any idle TCP Sessions, the firewall simply closed them. Users were not affected by this using web pages only, but now the situation is different: we’re using Outlook to connect to our Office 365 Mailbox. Outlook leaves TCP Sessions open for a period of time (as long as Outlook is open) and when the firewall kills the “idle” TCP connection, Outlook hangs, causes disconnect pop-ups or even prompts the user for a password.

Solving this problem, make sure the perimeter devices are configured consistently; keep the SSL/TCP idle Session Timeouts for “normal” traffic around 2-3 minutes, but create a separate group for Office 365 traffic and make sure the timeout for this group is higher than 2 hours (as Windows will send a keep alive by default after 2 hours).

3. Latency:

Latency is the time it takes for content to get from a server or service to your device and is measure in milliseconds. Faster is better. It can be caused by a number of factors, like low bandwidth, a sparse connection or transmission time.

Outlook connects to a Client Access Server in Exchange Online which redirects your request to the server where your mailbox is located. These datacenters are on high speed backbones, but you have to make sure your connection is taking the traffic as fast as possible to that datacenters with as low latency as possible at your site.

4. Proxy Authentication:

To ensure your Office 365 connections complete quickly is to check proxy authentication is completing quickly. Better is not to use a proxy at all!

If Proxy Authentication is required, at least make an exception for the Office 365 URL’s and applications:

  • Allow outbound connections to the following destination: *.microsoftonline.com
  • Allow outbound connections to the following destination: *.microsoftonline-p.com
  • Allow outbound connections to the following destination: *.sharepoint.com
  • Allow outbound connections to the following destination: *.outlook.com
  • Allow outbound connections to the following destination: *.lync.com
  • Allow outbound connections to the following destination: osub.microsoft.com
  • Ports 80/443
  • Protocols TCP and HTTPS
  • Rule must apply to all users.

5. DNS Performance:

If name resolution takes time, it results in a poorly performing Office 365 Infrastructure. Make sure your DNS servers are in the same region; for example, if you use “” as your (external) DNS server, you might get the “wrong” result. Your request is pointed at the US servers first, which causes delays in the connection to the servers in your region.


6. TCP Max Segment Size:

Maximum Segment Size is a TCP level value which is the largest segment which can be sent on the link minus the headers. To obtain this value, take the IP level Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) and subtract the IP and header size. A standard Ethernet Connection uses a packet size of 1500 bytes leaving us with an MSS of 1460 bytes. Ensure your TCP packets are able to contain the maximum amount of data possible. Low values will affect network performance.

7. Selective Acknowledgement:

TCP is a reliable protocol which ensure delivery of all data. It does this by the ACK’s indicating it’s received up to a certain point in the data stream. With SACK enabled, we’re able to tell the sender we’re missing a packet and which packets we already got. The sender can just retransmit the missing packet without sending the successive packets. This greatly increases the efficiency of the TCP protocol (it is enable by default in Windows). Check you network devices whether it is enabled or not.

Optimizing Network Connectivity is highly recommended to ensure to fully utilize the available network bandwidth and have the best performance possible for network traffic. If any of those resources are performing badly then the end customer is likely to experience poor performance.

By eliminating the above described topics in a random order, you'll ensure you are providing the best possible Office 365 experience for your users.

Microsoft and Xamarin better together

It is not a very fresh recent news anymore, but still we'd like to dive into some more details about why the acquisition of the company Xamarin earlier this year by Microsoft is advantageous and exciting for us and our clients.

Who is Xamarin? What do they do?

Xamarin is a young company, about three years old but growing very fast, which its primary business is to create tools to let developers build native desktop and mobile applications for non-Microsoft platform by using Microsoft modern tools and languages as Visual Studio and C#.

With the increased popularity and adoption of mobile devices and mobile apps, obviously a pure Microsoft developer is in trouble having to build a native mobile application for either iOS, Android or both platforms.

Any of these would require not only knowing the specifics of each different system well, but also adopting different toolsets and languages for each platform to support. Furthermore, this type of development is in contrast with modern methodologies which help delivering custom Apps in shorter time, to be more reliable, and with possible more frequent updates and upgrades.

Having to manage a single team of developers and make use of one unique toolset, fully supported and evolved, is a huge advantage in developing a cross-platform mobile application, and for sure Xamarin's strong point.

Why the acquisition has been positive?

Xamarin used to be a commercially licensed product, with yearly subscription licenses to be acquired for developers. Especially for this reasons, and despite what you would think if you go read about the history behind Xamarin (started in reality about 15 years ago with Mono project), it was indeed a pretty closed source and commercial product.

During this year's MS Build Developers Conference, the partnership has been publicly announced, together with some revision on the licensing model of Xamarin, opening it to wider audience, and publication of most Xamarin's source code on GitHub. This has generated a big increase indeed in the interest and adoption of Xamarin widely.

Finally, the merge can be of course only advantageous to get Xamarin's tools still better and better integrated with the rest of MS development tools.

Are there alternatives? Is it the best?

In cross-platform mobile development, so when having to create a mobile application for multiple mobile OS, two main 'worlds' exist: native Apps vs. hybrid Apps.

Native apps, as the name suggests, run native on the platform where they're running on, getting the best of performance and possibility to make use of all specific platform capabilities.

Hybrid apps are always created with a single language/toolset which is HTML, JavaScript and CSS, and they run on different platforms in a web browser, simulating the experience of a native app (so you won't notice for instance web browser's address bar or such).

In many cases it's very hard to notice with type has been chosen when using an App we have downloaded or obtained in other ways, and many apps have been recently changed from hybrid to native (don't know any that has done the opposite path) without the users can notice because interface and experience remained pretty the same.

As mentioned earlier native apps are anyway in general more performant, even if harder to create with a single toolset, where Xamarin is for sure leading and few other minor competitors.

At Rapid Circle we think native apps and Xamarin are the best, and probably Microsoft thinks that too :)


Can Rapid Circle help my business creating a mobile app with Xamarin?

Absolutely. We've been developing custom mobile apps for our clients using Xamarin since 2014, and since then Rapid Circle is as well an authorized Xamarin Consulting Partner.

The Apps we've been developing normally connects with LoB or Azure environments, having the possibility to fully work in case of lack of intermittent network connectivity, or other such features based on customer's needs; but they'll always run native!

Our preference are off course Office 365 and Azure, and for this I'd suggest you to check out some of the Apps we've published in the App stores:

We'd love to hear your feedback on them.

What to say more… I am myself also a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer for the second year now. This certification can be obtained by subscribing to Xamarin University and passing needed exams. As last (but not least), one of our former colleagues in India, software engineer, is now working as engineer at Xamarin, or better to say Microsoft.

We have then proven experience if you need to build a custom mobile application, and we can respond to all your question or needs about Xamarin apps, Xamarin Forms, Xamarin Test Cloud, Application Insights, HockeyApp, and more..

Measuring the heartbeat of Rapid Circle with BI tools

Wouldn’t it be interesting to measure certain ‘online behavior’ that says something about work style, culture, effectiveness and collaboration within an organisation? In order to visualize this weve developed a tool that 1) offers our customers a tool to make (the progress of) change management tangible and 2) demonstrates the added value (ROI) of ICT innovations (like an Office 365 platform). We developed this tool - Organisational Pulse - especially for bigger organisations, but we were also very curious to take the temperature of our own organisation! Despite the fact that we, as a relatively small organisation (with 90 employees), already had a pretty clear image of the way we collaborate and do our jobs, it gave us some interesting and useful insights. We’d like to share these insights with you in this blog.

We also summarized these insights in a infographic. Click HERE for the infographic with our measurements and interpretation.

We can measure the behavior of employees with Organisation Pulse in a way that wasn’t possible before. For example: how often do employees copy their manager in an email, how many recurring meetings does someone have and how often do they send emails during those meetings, how many people on average are added to the ‘To’, ‘Cc’ and ‘Bcc’, and so much more. These are just a few examples of data that can tell a lot about the work style and culture in an organisation. If you want to change these, this tool is your guide to keep track of your progress.


At Rapid Circle we only add our direct manager as a recipient to only 3% of the emails we send. You could cautiously conclude that we do not try to justify our selves as much, or as you could also say it, we don’t try to ‘cover our asses’. We do see that one of our ‘departments’ copies the manager much more in emails than other departments. Furthermore, we see that with an average of 2,4 recipients added per mail, we don’t have the need to email a lot of people at the same time.


We hardly ever use of the Cc or Bcc function. Based on this we could assume that the political pressure in our organisation is very low. We don’t see the added value of copying a lot of colleagues in emails. It doesn’t take much time to add people to an email, but think of the relevance and efficiency if it takes every recipient three minutes to read it. We think this is the most polluting behavior there is in bigger organisations.

On average we spend 2.76 (of the 40) hours per week at Rapid Circle on structural (mostly weekly) meetings. We also spend 1.47 hours per week on average on non-structural, but planned, meetings. In total, we only spend 4.23 hours per week on meetings. These numbers prove Rapid Circle doesn’t have a culture in which meetings hold a prominent place.


We expect that for many of our customers these statistics will reveal a lot of interesting, but also confronting information. What will they do with it? To answer this question, we’ll have to wait until this data is available. However, it will be in any way very interesting to dig into for organisation specialists.


There is a lot of cross-silo collaboration within Rapid Circle. We already expected this, because we don’t really have ‘departments’, but instead we have competence groups and a flat organisation. For this analysis we sorted all our employees based on competence, mark that our (project)teams are mainly multidisciplinary. In this regard, it’s logical that we score 65% on cross-silo collaboration. This means that 65% of all the documents we share, emails we send and meetings we have, are all shared with colleagues outside of our ‘department’. Also, our usage of Skype for Business is very high. Interesting, but also very logical, because worldwide we have three offices (Pune (India), Melbourne and Amsterdam) and our work is not dependent on a location; we work a lot from home, at customers and on the road.


Effectiveness of our own work

Rapid Circle is a customer oriented organisation. Almost everything we do, like our support, projects, adoption and workshops, we do for our customers. You would expect that more than 50% of our emails are send to at least one external recipient. It appears to be only 48%. Are we too internally focussed? We should investigate that more. On the other hand, if I compare this with the statistics from our customers, 48% is pretty high. Can we conclude that in big organisations in the Netherlands, we just keep each other busy?


As said before, we don’t spend a lot of time in recurring meetings. This seems to reveal a certain level of effectiveness. during only 14% of all of our meetings one or more email was sent by one or more people present (or should be present) in that meeting. This also tells us something about our effectiveness. We seem to be focused on the ongoing meeting, instead of other things.


Also interesting are the costs of reading emails. What does this really cost us? We measure this based on the amount of characters in the text (excluding the text upon which an answer is sent), times a constant that indicates how long someone needs to read a X amount of characters, times the amount of recipients. After this, we add up all the emails (per month) and multiply the result with €35,- per hour. At Rapid Circle this sums up, with 90 employees, to an amount of €50.860,- per month. Via a different formula we end up with a allocation of approximately 45 minutes per day per person, if everybody reads all of their emails. In our information-intensive organisation, that’s not much. Besides, added up we send 23.000 emails per month.


It is our experience that this number is much higher at large organisations. We have seen organisations who receive more than 4 hours worth of emails per day.

Work style

At Rapid Circle, trust and responsibility are important values. We don’t impose working hours and people can work wherever they want. This might lead to the expectation that people work in the weekends as well. However, only 2% of all our emails are sent during the weekend. That’s not much. As an owner of the company you could perceive this in two ways. I choose to interpret it as follows: we do a very good job, because you can see that people can manage their work just fine during the week.


What’s also interesting are the numbers that indicate what guides our people in their daily work. Are they guided by their inbox or by their own priorities? On average, at Rapid Circle, people are busy sending emails almost 10 quarters a day. During an 8-hour working day, that could be 32. It seems to be that we do not let our inbox guide our workday. Again, we score lower than other organisations, but it is still 10 quarters on average. If you compare that to the amount of emails we receive and how little meetings we have, it is more than that I hoped for.

And again the question is, what do you want to do about it? Delve Analytics, a tool developed to have more insight in your own work style, might be a solution for us. If we cumulate the big data numbers and the individual statistics from Delve employees can become more aware of an effective work style. This only works if we explain it right and if the management team gives the right example though. At Rapid Circle, magement could do better though, because on a daily basis we check our inbox during 26 quarters of the 32 per day.  That means that from just about the moment we get up in the morning till the moment we go to bed, we send an email almost every 15 minutes. I find that shocking. Or is it okay for us? I’d like to hear other people’s opinion.

Moreover, the same statistics indicate that the support team is led by their inbox only 8 quarters per day. Apparently they use other (the right?) tools for messaging within our support system.

Furthermore, we can measure a lot more little things. Things that don’t necessarily say something about work style in general, but about certain behaviors that can be influenced. For example, we only share 17% of the information we share via the cloud (from OneDrive or SharePoint or with a link to the document). So, we still send a lot of attachments via email. We should be ashamed of ourselves as a Microsoft Cloud partner. Okay, we already do a lot better than other organisations, but this number must increase. How? At least by management giving the right example, because, shame on us, that group just scores a sad 8%. The technical team does already way better, with 45% of the attachments sent through the cloud.

Overview IG Organisational Pulse English
Overview IG Organisational Pulse English

Other things we can measure

The statistics displayed here are only a small part of all the statistics we can generate. These other statistics can offer even more insight in culture, usage, costs and added value. For example, the value of knowledge, of documents, which departments are contributing the most to the (re)use of knowledge, to meetings starting and ending late or on time.

Every organisation will interpret and use the statistics in a different way. We also see that what one organisation finds interesting might not be interesting or can even be seen as the pointer of progression of change for another. The dashboard will be different for everybody. Luckily our application is like a Big Data Analytics tool. We can create new charts real quick via Power BI.


The conclusion I draw regarding our own statistics is that on the one hand Organisational Pulse has the most value for especially bigger organisations. On the other hand, these numbers provided a couple interesting insights. For example, the statistics about the usage of cloud services. We use all the functionalities, but not always to the max. What does that tell us about adoption roadmaps at our customers? Changing behavior is really hard. We’re also going to act on setting an example as the leadership team, including myself.

The purpose of applying this tool to our own organisation was mainly to give us a better feeling about how to interpret the data. We can also state that creating a benchmark with more data from customers will be very interesting. This way we can measure how organisations do, compared to the average of a few other (big) organisations.

Would you like to know more? Read more, download the infographic or contact Wilco Turnhout.

Crawling as fast as possible

More and more we are becoming a generation of searchers. And that is not meant in a philosophical, running your fingers through your beard kind of way, but in a very practical everyday reality kind of way. When was the last time an argument you had among friends was not settled by searching the internet for the right answer? And this trend is not just influencing your personal life, but your work life as well. A clear shift is happening within corporations to go to a flatter organization structure, have self-organizing teams and increased cross functional interaction. We are trading in hierarchies for communities. Heck, there are even companies that let their employees pick their own job titles[1].

In this world of less structure one thing becomes more and more important to still be able to do your work: search! However, making sure stuff is available to be found within SharePoint Online is not always straightforward.

Our colleagues Marijke Ursem and Martin Offringa wrote a blog (read it here) about the workings of search in SharePoint and how to make sure the search results are shown just how you like it. So we will not cover any of that here. Instead we will dive into the bag of tricks we have to make sure that content is searchable as quickly as possible.

The Index

For those of you who are new to the subject of search in SharePoint, let us quickly cover some of the basics.

The search results you see in the content search web part or the search results web part are not coming directly from your lists and libraries, but from the search index. The index can be considered as one big bucket with all the searchable content and only stuff that is in the index can found through search.

Based on an automated schedule the index is filled with the latest changes that occurred in your tenant. This is done by the crawl, and in SharePoint Online there are two variants of the crawl: 1) the continuous crawl that runs every 15 minutes and picks up new and changed documents or items and 2) the incremental crawl that runs every 4 hours and picks up changes in the search configuration.

Crawling 1

Schematic to show how the content a tenant, the crawl and the index relate to each other.

Lack of Control

One of the most heard complaints about search in SharePoint Online related to search is that even with the highest of permission levels on your tenant, you are still not fully in control of the crawl. This is because, in contrast with an On Premise situation, the automated schedule cannot be changed. In SharePoint Online, it is Microsoft who runs the show.

But there is no use in complaining, because at the moment there is no option to speed up the crawls. So if you can’t beat them, join them. Because there are some tricks that help you to go as fast as possible when it comes to having your changes crawled in SharePoint Online.

The Basics

First, a document which has no published version will not be crawled. So when you are working inside a document library that has minor (concepts) and major (publications) versioning activated, make sure to publish your documents.

Second, when you add a column to a list of library it will not be crawled if there is no item that has a value for that column. So make sure that at least one item contains a value for this new column, even if that means adding a temporary test item.

The Simple Tricks

Maybe the best analogy for the scheduled crawls is to view them as an old fashioned postman, who is doing his rounds on a fixed schedule. And on his round he comes by a series of classic postboxes with the little red flags on them. The classic postbox works by raising the flag when there is something in it and leaving it down when it is empty. And let’s decide that in this analogy raising the flag is a signal to the postman doing his rounds to empty the postbox.

Furthermore, it is important to know that the crawl acts on value changed. So in our analogy, value changes raise the flag automatically and indicate to our postman to pick up the changes. So if you have a document and you change for example the person mentioned in the “owner” field then this change will automatically be picked up by our postman. However, when you change the way the owner needs to be presented from “account name” to “display name with presence” this change will not automatically raise the flag since no value change occurred. Only a setting change was done.

To make sure your change is picked up anyhow, you can raise the flag yourself via the library settings, which is described in a support article of Microsoft[2].

Crawling 2

The same article also describes how to raise the flag for a whole site and since Microsoft already did an excellent job of explaining how it is done, we have nothing to add to their story.

Crawling 3

When we leave the libraries and list behind us and start getting our hands dirty within the search center of SharePoint Online there are also some tricks we can pull out of our top hat. Within the Search Schema we can have a ball setting up managed properties and mapping all sorts of crawled properties to our managed properties.

For those of you who are new to the Search Schema, crawled properties and managed properties and want to learn more about the topic, we recommend to give the support article Manage the search schema in SharePoint Online a good read.

While you can do a lot of nice and necessary work inside the Search Schema, you will have to do something extra to make sure your changes have effect. The reasoning behind this is that “…Because your changes are made in the search schema, and not to the actual site, the crawler will not automatically re-index the site”[3]. What you need to do is re-index the site which uses the crawled property that you have used in your managed property mapping and then “…site content will be re-crawled and re-indexed so that you can start using the managed properties in queries, query rules and display templates”. Or if the crawled property is only attached to a certain library or list, you can re-index that list which will have the effect that “…all of the content in that library or list is marked as changed, and the content is picked up during the next scheduled crawl and re-indexed”.

So for sites, lists and libraries we have the power to raise the flag and our postman (a.k.a. crawl) will pick up our changes and update them in the index so they are seen in search results.


The Advanced Tricks

At this point your question will undoubtedly be what else you can do to give the crawl a kick, because going into every site that you want to raise the flag for one by one is just too much of a hassle.

Well unfortunately, this raising the flag thing is the only instrument we have in the wen interface. Because as said, there is no way to influence the schedule, only ways to influence what is picked up during the next round of our postman. But rest assured, we are not suggesting that you actually go into every site that you have and click a button. We are suggestion that you put others to work for you.

The first option you have is to put Microsoft to work for you. Via the Admin Center you can raise a ticket to Microsoft technical support and ask them to re-index a bunch of sites, a site collection or even all your site collections. It is also possible to request a re-index of all the user profiles. What Microsoft Technical Support then will do is raise the flag for all your content so that everything gets picked up during the next round of the postman. Upside is that Microsoft can do this much more efficient, but the downside is that you still have to wait for the next incremental crawl. And of course, there is waiting involved between raising the ticket and getting a response from Microsoft.

So, where do we have to turn to get even faster results? This is really not a question of who, but a question of what. Because the answer lies in PowerShell. For those of you who want to learn more about Windows PowerShell, this TechNet article is a nice place to start.

With PowerShell we can fire off commands to our SharePoint tenant and, just to name an example, can raise the flag on a bunch of sites. So this puts you back into control and releaves you from waiting on Tech Support to pick up your ticket. Plus, you won’t have to do much scripting, because others have already done it for you. Two scripts that are particularly handy come from Mikael Svenson (https://twitter.com/mikaelsvenson).

The first script enables an admin to trigger a re-index of a site collection and all its sub sites[4]. The way the script raises the flag is by changing the search version property of the site or site collection which ensures that the site will be picked for re-indexing on the next incremental crawl. This is a major time saver in the sense that you do not have to manually trigger re-indexing on every single site

The second script allows you to raise the flag for all the user profiles in your tenant[5]. A user profile is just another content record and for it to be picked up by the crawl it needs a value change. So when you start changing user profile properties it would require a user to change something about their profile before the change is picked up. And since users do not necessarily change their profile’s very often, it might take a while before your change has reached all users. So this script is a major help in activating your change for all profiles in your tenant. Also because there is no way to raise the flag manually on a profile other than to apply a value change to that profile. And actually, this is also what the script of Mikael does. On every profile it overwrites a property value with the same value, which in the eyes of SharePoint is a value change and thus all the profiles are picked up by the next incremental crawl.



When working with search in SharePoint Online you have to deal with the fact that you cannot influence the crawl schedule. Just put it out of your mind and try to accept it. What you can do is make sure that all the changes that your made are picked up as soon as possible by the continuous and incremental crawls that pass by your tenant. Or, to put it in terms of our analogy, making sure that the postman is picking up your message on his very next round.



A lot of the items discussed in this blog have been created, communicated or distributed by others as first. We certainly want to put credit where credit is due, so we tried to do our absolute best to always show the source or inventor of the trick where this was possible.

Also, the scripts mentioned in this blog should only be used and deployed by people who understand what they are doing. Never let code loose on your tenant that you do not understand yourself. This warning has nothing to do with PowerShell or these scripts in particular, but is just part of good sensible ownership for any admin.

If needed Rapid Circle can help you understand and safely deploy these scripts on your tenant and help you save time in configuring search for your SharePoint Online environment.

[1] http://www.fastcodesign.com/3034987/evidence/the-case-for-letting-employees-choose-their-own-job-titles

[2] https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Manually-request-crawling-and-re-indexing-of-a-site-a-library-or-a-list-9afa977d-39de-4321-b4ca-8c7c7e6d264e?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

[3] https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Manually-request-crawling-and-re-indexing-of-a-site-a-library-or-a-list-9afa977d-39de-4321-b4ca-8c7c7e6d264e?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

[4] http://www.techmikael.com/2014/02/how-to-trigger-full-re-index-in.html

[5] http://www.techmikael.com/2014/12/how-to-trigger-re-indexing-of-user.html

Microsoft Forms preview: The ins & outs

Microsoft Forms was formaly introduced via an Office Blog post "Microsoft Forms—a new formative assessment and survey tool in Office 365 Education" and in preview since April 2016 for Office 365 Education subscribers. It allows users to create quizzes, questionnaires, assessments and subscription forms.

The product

Microsoft Forms is a product that specifically targets the education market and allows users to create web based forms in which different types of questions can be created. The tool lends itself to create a pop quiz for a classroom, a questionnaire to gather qualitative information about a topic or a simple subscription form. As said it is specifically targeted towards the education market and therefore only Office 365 Education licensed users will be able to use the product (in preview). Watch the video released by the product group below;

Microsoft aims to deliver an easy and fast solution for teachers to create assesments, which can filled out via all types of browsers on all types of devices. Don't let the simple interface fool you,you do have powerfull options available, such as validation, notification and export to Excel.

Not the new InfoPath

If you are anything like me, your first reaction when hearing that there is something new called Microsoft Forms will most likely to be: “Finally, the replacement product for InfoPath has arrived!”. Well, it has not. Microsoft Forms does not come close to the full suite of options we know from InfoPath. And more importantly, there are no signs whatsoever from Microsoft that it is supposed to replace InfoPath in the future. For that we have to look at Microsoft PowerApps. Microsoft Forms is a product to create assessments, quizes, surveys, etc. Let's show the power of the product by building a little quiz.

Pop quiz!

Let's jump in the product and create a Pop quiz! It'll show off what the poduct is really good at; creating a questionnaire.

The Basics

Microsoft Forms logo
Microsoft Forms logo

So let’s find out what it can do and take a closer look to this new addition in the Office 365 family. First off, Microsoft Forms is a legit product within the Office 365 suite for education licensed users and therefore you start it, like any other product in the suite, from your app launcher.

Launching Microsoft Forms brings you to the My Forms overview, where all your Forms are shown, and a button to start creating a new one. My overview looks like this:


When you click the new button you a Form builder is loaded which allows you to enter a title, an introduction text and start adding questions. There are five types of questions that can be added to a Microsoft From.


First, we have the “choice” type which allows you to define a question and list a set of options that can be the answer. Unique to this the “choice” type is that you can use the “other” option if you want to provide a way for your form users to answer outside of the given options. This type of question is typically used for general information questions where there is no wrong answer like: “how did you find out this quiz?”.


Second, there is the “quiz” type which also works with defined answer options. Unique to this type is that there is actually a correct answer which can be set. Also you can provide feedback for each option to explain why an answer is correct or incorrect. The “quiz” type question is really the one that gives Microsoft Forms its educational flavor, because this is used to verify knowledge instead of gathering information.


Third, the “text” type for which the answer is given in a text box. Unique to this type is that there is an option to allow for a long answer, which gives the person taking the quiz a bigger textbox for the answer.


Fourth, we have the “rating” type which allows you to answer using a scale. This scale can be set to stars or numbers and can run from 1 to 5 or from 1 to 10. The “rating” question is often used in questionnaire to gather information about how the test subject agrees or disagrees with certain statements.


Fifth and last, there is the “date” type question for which the answer is given by selecting a date from the calendar. A date type answer is often seen in subscription or application forms or in questionnaires to ask about someone birthday for example. However, with a little creativity you can work this type of question into a quiz if the answer is a date (perfect for history exams) with is question like: “What was the founding date of Rapid Circle”.


Advanced options

For each of the five types of questions you can indicate if a question is required or optional. This is almost common practice with any type of question tool, but since it is such a powerful way to ensure data completeness I did not want to let this go unmentioned.

Also, for all types of questions you have the option to add subtitle. This could be used for providing a hint about the answer or giving guidance about how to answer the question.

“Choice” and “quiz” type question can be turned from single answer questions into multiple answer questions with a flick of a switch. However, the way that Microsoft Forms is letting the user know that multiple answers are possible is very subtle. For single answer questions the option selection boxes are round and for multiple answer questions the option selection boxes are square. So when making a multiple answers question, I would definitely recommend putting something like “(multiple answers possible)” into the question. Otherwise you well surely get complaints from your quiz takers.

Also for “choice” and “quiz” type of questions you can select the setting to shuffle the options. This will present the answers in a different order every time the quiz is loaded, which has several advantages. One, and I know you are thinking the same, it makes it harder to cheat. Two, when looking beyond the possible bad behavior of quiz takers, there has been a lot of research on how the order in which options are presented influences the option that is most likely to be chosen by quiz takers or the most likely to be correct. So if you as a quiz creator want to remove this bias, shuffling the answers is a nice option that helps you.

For the “text” type question, it is possible to provide restrictions. For example that the answer should be a number (nice for math problems) or that the answer should be between two values. All the restriction options are number based restrictions, so they actually help you to turn the “text” type question into a sixth type of question, namely the “number” type.

For the form as whole there are also some additional settings that can be turned on or off. For example, you can choose if you want to apply a deadline or if you want to shuffle the questions.


Sending out the Quiz

When you are done creating the quiz there are several ways to send out word about your newly created quiz. Obviously you can share the link by copying and pasting it to a certain location or email the link.

But next to that, Microsoft shows a nice realization of their mobile first strategy by allowing you to create a QR code for your quiz so people can scan it with their smartphone. Of course we did a test among colleagues, and it worked liked a charm. This function is especially interesting when promoting a training or event for which users need to subscribe. On the poster or flyer you can easily include the QR code so people walking by can scan it and immediately subscribe.

The last way to offer your quiz to users is by embedding it onto a webpage. This could be a SharePoint page, but any other webpage will do as well.

Forms QR
Forms QR

When spreading the word about your quiz, questionnaire or subscription form you can still control who can fill it. While the options are not very extensive (to say the least) the most important choice is available, which is to allow people outside your organization to fill out the form.


Feedback to the User

When someone fills out you Microsoft Form they get a piece of feedback after submitting. Next to the standard messages that thank the user for submitting and verifying that the form was submitted successfully, extra feedback is given when “quiz” type questions are incorporated in your form.

First, as discussed, a “quiz” type question offers the option to provide a comment per answer option which is shown after submitting the form. Second, in the advanced settings you can determine if the user should see the correct answer for a “quiz” type question after submitting. And Third, a user score is calculated based on the amount of “quiz” type questions they have answered correctly.

This last one is a bit tricky because it only looks at the “quiz” type questions in the form. So if you have a form with 8 questions and 4 of them are “quiz” type question, then the maximum score a person can get based on the feedback is 4 out of 4. From a technology point of view it makes sense, because for the “choice”, “text”, “rating” and “date” type questions you cannot indicated what the correct answer is so it just ignores those questions. But from a user experience it is pretty weird if you just answered 8 questions and you see that your score is 3 out of 4. And since there is no option to switch off this feedback about the user’s score, this definitely takes some communication effort to avoid confusion or complaint. So I would advise you to add a note covering this in the description text at the top of the form.

The responses

If you did a good job building and sharing your Microsoft Form, you will have plenty of responses in no time, which are automatically analyzed for you in the responses section of your form. Here you will find some statistics about the form as a whole and more detailed statistics about each individual question.


I have to say that the automatic statistics that are generated are quite good and cover the basic requirements around insight in your responses. But before we go into detail, I would like to point you to the “Open in Excel” button at the top right hand side which will allow to completely go berserk in analyzing the responses in your own way.

Forms excel
Forms excel

For “choice” and “quiz” type questions the responses are presented in a table like fashion as well as a chart. For “text” and “date” type questions the number of responses are presented along with the last three responses. And for “rating” type questions the number of responses is shown together with the average rating.

And for each question you have to option to click the “Details” button which shows all the responses for that particular question in a dialog box.


Final thoughts on Microsoft Forms preview

Microsoft Forms is a very complete quiz tool that will help you to create quizzes, questionnaires and simple subscription forms in a quick and easy way. Especially for a product which still is in Preview, I have to say that this first version already covers a lot of requirements. However, there are two major points of critique when looking at Microsoft Forms.

First, the name. It is very misleading in the sense that it brings high expectations to anyone who knows about the fact that InfoPath will be leaving us in the future. Because if you review Microsoft Forms Preview from the perspective of it replacing InfoPath, then you will be very disappointed.

Second, the audience. Microsoft offers the Preview exclusively to Office 365 education licensed users, while this product can also be very helpful outside the educational realm. Many corporations, government bodies and non-profit organizations could use this product. Creating a quiz for your internal training programs, making a questionnaire for customer satisfaction research or building subscription forms for an event is daily business for any type of organization and therefore the restriction to only offer this product to the educational market seems like a strange strategy. It even feels unfair for non-education licensed users. Logically, there are many many people lobbying to bring Microsoft Forms to all Office 365 users when it becomes Generally Available and I am one of them.

So Microsoft Forms shows to be a promising tool for creating quizzes, questionnaires and subscription forms. It covers the basics and in 90 percent of cases will do just fine. But it is not the long awaited replacement of InfoPath, so that remains on the wish list, and will live a life in the shadows of the Office 365 suite if it remains to be solely targeted at education licensed users.


How can I get Office Forms Preview?

Sign up to gain access to the preview via https://forms.office.com. Unfortunately it's only available right now for Office 365 Education and the US market. If you are outside the US, but do have access to an Office 365 Education tenant. Sign up, but fill out an US address.

Will it only be available for Education tenants?

At the moment it's only available for Education tenants. Microsoft is exploring all posibilities, but has nothing to share about that as of yet.

Will it be available in my region/language?

Yes, Microsoft Forms will be launched for all Office 365 Education regions and languages.

Is this the Infopath replacement?

You might think that when you read the product name, but... No, this isn't even close. Look at Microsoft PowerApps as the Infopath replacement

Is this the final product?

It's in preview with no live date set, so you may expect changes. These can be small and/or large. If you'd like you can contribute via the feedback button when you're using Office Forms or post your ideas and upvote others on the Office 365 uservoice (https://office365.uservoice.com/).

Is there a Microsoft Support article available?

Yes, use your favorite search engine or follow the link: Microsoft Support - What is Microsoft Forms?

The preview is available for US right now. Anything I should be aware of when outside the US, but still apply?

Yes, as it's running for US only right now, all data is stored in the Microsoft Data Centers in the US. So if you're in Europe for instance, the data entered in Microsoft Forms preview will be stored on US servers. This will be until the product becomes available for your region.

What will the future of development in SharePoint look like? Pretty much like it does now!

Managing the lifecycle of the components you build, deploy, operate and support on Office 365 is difficult. The platform is new, the cloud is new, and much of your classic DTAP model is simply no longer appropriate. We at Rapid Circle are committed, for some time now, as being a Microsoft Cloud company rather than just a SharePoint company and the recent developments around SharePoint announced at the Future of SharePoint event on May 4th continue to vindicate our stance.

Specifically, the announcement of an upcoming SharePoint Framework (SPFx) makes it clear that client-side development and the use of JavaScript are encouraged and promoted for custom solutions on Office 365!

Some key aspects relevant for developers and administrators that we found very interesting were

  • The framework is fully JavaScript based model.
  • There is no single JavaScript framework mandated. We can still use popular frameworks such as Angular, Knockout and Handlebars.
  • Node.js & Gulp tasks are used for packaging deploying components.
  • The Local development model is going to be very different. A SharePoint workbench is introduced where Gulp and node.js will used to host files locally, so you don’t need to use IIS on your local machine.
  • Visual Studio Code, an open source code editor is being promoted as the preferred tool. Also clearly indicating that Visual Studio is not a must-have requirement for developers.

It's important to note that SPFx not a radically new model. The framework might be new, but we've been doing client-side development for some years now using similar frameworks. Finally though, Microsoft is creating this framework which leverages techniques we already use such as CSOM, REST API's. Taking it a step further Microsoft is openly embracing open source technologies such as node.js, Gulp, Yeoman and more.

Our Rapid ALM tooling is very much aligned to what Microsoft has described in the event. It’s a development & delivery model that’s entirely JavaScript based and enables us to streamline everything from the core development of our Instant Intranet components, integrated with our test teams, and deploying to our client tenants. Furthermore, it’s built on and resides in the SharPoint online platform.

Using Rapid ALM to evolve our Instant Intranet solution we are also “early adopters" for Visual Studio Code as the default editor for our apps development where we use Angular 1.4, Require JS. Moreover, we utilize NPM and Gulp for building, packaging and deploying our Instant intranet apps. Finally we use Git for source code control & versioning.

Future of SharePoint Development model
Future of SharePoint Development model

With this development model, we have successfully created and setup intranet for customers in the first quarter of 2016.  This new development model in SharePoint is giving us the platform for Rapid and Instant service to our customers.

And we're looking forward to the upcoming SharePoint Framework and will continue to evolve & enhance our own to software development lifecycle!

This blog post is part of the series Future of SharePoint. More on this topic can be found at http://rapidcircle.com.au/tag/FutureOfSharePoint/