For years I have been helping organizations to get the most out of SharePoint by creating simple solutions that can be built with the tools available out of the box. This typically involves some component of training on basic site features and functionality. But let’s be honest, training is great while in the moment but most of the time it is like drinking from a fire hose. Typically you retain some of the content from the training experience, but there is so much that is easily forgotten because you aren’t using it on a daily basis. In fact, many times you don’t remember what you need until you run into a scenario where you are trying to do something and think to yourself, “I know that I learned how to do this at some point.” We have all been there, and if I am honest, sometimes I just stop dealing with a task if I can’t easily remember what to do or don’t know where to quickly get the answer.
What if you had a tool that provides a solution for scenarios like this? Imagine if you could just click a button and get help that is tailored to where you are within a SharePoint site? No need to search for it in a collection of help documents, or out on the web but instead it gets pushed to you based on what you are currently working on. Content Panda, a free in-context help app, provides this sort of tailored help for you.
What does help look like in SharePoint?
Microsoft provides a simple help solution within sites that allows users to search for help if they click on the (?) question mark icon (Figure 1) in the top right of any page. When a user clicks the icon, SharePoint presents a search box with some contextual help articles. Once a search is completed, the results are displayed and include content from SharePoint help documentation and various community articles. Additionally, a link to the Office 365 Community site is provided (Figure 2) and users are urged to submit a search for additional answers.
Figure 1: Click the ? to bring up SharePoint Help.
Figure 2: The support community for Office 365. Nothing directly related to what you were working on.
A new way for delivery of help content in SharePoint – Content Panda
Content Panda is an in-context help delivery app that can be added to your App Catalog. When you add Content Panda to your site, it places a small panda tab in the middle right side of your site pages. When a user clicks the panda face or “on” button, the page lights up to highlight various page controls. Content Panda places a plus sign (+) in the top right corner of those controls (Figure 3) that can be clicked with a mouse or tapped on a touch screen and provides a way to get additional help on each of the highlighted areas. The panda tab shows a number to indicate how many elements on the current page have additional help associated with them.
Figure 3: The panda icon indicates there are 23 places (indicated with +) where you can click to find detailed help on that item.
Within each element on the page, users can simply click the plus (+) to access help specific to that item. The help that is generated comes from multiple sources, including community curated content, predefined keyword Internet searches and hand-curated instructional videos. As an example (Figure 4) the site logo is a common element that users want to update within their site. If Content Panda is installed and the user clicks the panda icon, users will see the site logo highlighted and can easily access information on updating the logo by clicking the plus (+) in the top right of the site logo. Content Panda’s help panel provides a title, definition/overview of the element, a link to instructions on how to update the logo, helpful links from a pre-defined keyword Internet search and a quick instructional video that walks you through how to answer the question at hand.
Figure 4: Content Panda suggests how to change the site logo.
Content Panda works within the framework of the master page to highlight all elements that are displayed on the current page, allowing for very granular help on many different pages. This allows for pages such as Site Contents and Site Settings to be presented with additional context, helping Site Administrators to quickly and easily complete common tasks.
How will Content Panda help users?
Content Panda offers several very compelling ways to help your organization. When considered alone, each benefit is powerful change agent; but when considered together, it isn’t hard to see how Content Panda can be a single tool that can truly change how your organization works with SharePoint.
Help where you need it
There is something to be said about being able to quickly and easily access help based on your location within a SharePoint site. Imagine that you are on a team and you are working with a large list of data. You see that some of the data is displayed on the page that you are on, but you really need to view the data in a different way. By clicking the Panda tab on the current page you will see several areas highlighted. Since you have a general idea of what you are trying to do, you will be able to easily click through the plus (+) next to the list views, Content Panda will bring up help about list views (Figure 5), and you’ll be well on your way to creating a new way to view the data.
Figure 5: Content Panda brings up help about list views when you click the + next to a list.
You didn’t need to understand what lists views were before getting started; you just started working with the data and learned what you needed along the way. Without Content Panda you would have had to have a general idea of what you wanted to do and then searched for additional information on that topic either in the out-of-the-box SharePoint help or in a search engine. With Content Panda you could simply click around on the current page to find the help that was most relevant to the task you were trying to complete.
Are you a Site Admin?
Another common scenario to consider is the use of Content Panda by the Site Administrator. This person is typically responsible for the overall management of the site, but often times this responsibility is just one small part of their job. Having Content Panda available to you allows you to quickly and easily get access to information that helps you do your job more effectively. For example, consider a page where the Ribbon controls are displayed for a list (Figure 6). Knowing what each and every button does can be a daunting task for even the most experienced admin. Content Panda addresses this issue by providing the help right at your fingertips.
Figure 6: Content Panda knows you’re on a Form Web Parts button and provides appropriate help.
These are just a few examples of how one tool can provide value to two different audiences. End users and Site Admins will both be able to access real-time contextually relevant information as needed. Content Panda allows for your teams to self-service many of the redundant questions and issues that you answer hundreds of times a day. Content Panda acts as your front line help assistant. By giving your teams the relevant help content they need, it frees you up for all the other mission-critical tasks you deal with daily. Can you imagine a day where your end users are helping themselves instead of calling and emailing you at every turn? Content Panda can help make that a reality.
Get started for free
Content Panda is a free app that can be added to your Office 365 or On-Premises SharePoint environment. You simply need to download the app from http://www.contentpanda.com and then upload it to your App Catalog. Once these steps are complete, you will be able to add Content Panda to all of your sites. You can find detailed instructions here. Installation must be done by someone who is a Site Owner or Administrator. Don’t worry though; if you don’t have owner or administrator permissions, Content Panda makes it easy for you to reach out and recommend the solution to your administrators. Installation is quick and simple and the benefits of the tool can be realized immediately.
A sneak peak to the next version
While this article is focused on the free version of Content Panda, it is important to note that Content Panda Professional, the premium version of the platform, will be launched for general release before the end of 2014. It is currently available on an on-demand basis for enterprise customers and partners. The Content Panda Pro version is fully customizable, allowing customers to change branding, add in their own knowledge base or favorite content provider, and to tag and reorganize content. Content Panda Professional also provides rich user tracking, auditing and information on how users are interacting with their Office 365 instances. An OEM version of Content Panda is also available. You can send inquiries about these versions to [email protected].