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Making Sharing of Files and Folders Easier
Apart from Microsoft 365 roadmap item 124933, I can’t find a formal announcement about the Simplified Sharing Experience, but I have been aware that Microsoft recently updated the share dialog used by Microsoft 365 apps to make it easier and more straightforward to use. According to a LinkedIn post, (Figure 1) Microsoft ran an A/B experiment to test the new dialog. I guess I was one of the testers! In any case, the new sharing dialog is now available in all Microsoft 365 tenants. Users of OneDrive consumer will see the upgraded dialog in the second half of 2023.
The Role of the Share Dialog
The share dialog is what people see when they share a document or folder with others inside or outside their organization. According to Microsoft, the dialog is used over 800 million times monthly across 52 different Microsoft 365 experiences (desktop, browser, and mobile). In other words, Microsoft 365 apps offer users the opportunity to share in 52 different places across the suite. The most common of the experiences are likely in SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Windows, and Teams.
Microsoft says that they focused on creating a dialog that makes it simpler for users to perform core sharing tasks. When someone invokes the new screen (Figure 2) to share a file or folder, they see a simpler layout pre-populated with the default sharing link as specified by the tenant or site policy (in this case, the sharing link allows access to people within the organization). The name of the sensitivity label assigned to the document is also shown to provide a visual indicator about its relative confidentiality.
To complete the link, add the people to notify and enter a note to tell them what to do, and click Send to have the message sent by email or Copy link to copy the sharing link to the clipboard.
If you need to change the type of sharing link, select the cogwheel to expose the link settings (Figure 3). Again, everything is very straightforward and simple. If you choose a link that allows external sharing, I’m told that the new design “makes users more comfortable with sharing.” I’m not quite sure what this means, but any of the sharing that I’ve done with people outside the organization has worked smoothly.
Microsoft has also overhauled the Manage access dialog to help people manage the set of users and groups that have access to a file or folder (Figure 4).
Microsoft says that customer feedback about the new dialog is very positive. It’s worth noting that this is not the first time that Microsoft has revamped the sharing dialog. The last major overhaul was in 2020-21 when Microsoft rationalized on a common sharing dialog for all apps, notably for Teams.
The Importance of Sharing
Getting sharing right is clearly important. When Microsoft launched the Delve app in 2015, it resulted in a crescendo of protest from tenants who suddenly found that Delve suggested documents to users when the organization thought that Delve should not. Of course, the software did nothing wrong. Delve respected the access rights given to users when it computed the set of interesting documents to suggest (using an early version of Graph document insights). The problem was entirely down to poor management and access control, often at the level of complete SharePoint Online sites. Users might not have realized that they had access to the documents in poorly-protected sites, but software can’t be blamed if it goes looking for documents to suggest to a user and finds some that are available.
We’re heading for a similar situation with Microsoft 365 Copilot. The Copilot software depends on finding information with Graph queries to help satisfy user prompts. Like Delve, Copilot will find files that are available to the user who prompts for help, and the results generated for the user might include some confidential. And if the user doesn’t bother to check the content generated by Copilot, the information might then be revealed with people who shouldn’t have it. This is the danger of oversharing, and it’s certainly an issue for organizations contemplating Microsoft 365 Copilot need to resolve before implementation.
Simplified Sharing Experience One Step Along the Path
The new sharing dialog won’t solve oversharing. It’s just one step along the path to help users share information with the right people in the right way.
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