Managing templates in large cooperation’s is a cumbersome and sheer impossible task when using static templates. That is why we developed the multi-tenant enabled officeatwork 365 Template Designer add-in for Word. It allows organizations to design dynamic templates by hooking them up with data coming from the Microsoft Graph and SharePoint Online. That way with one single template thousands of users can create purpose fit document for any brand, legal entity or employee. With the power of Office 365 this solution becomes a truly cloud first mobile first solution providing benefits to all knowledge workers in an organization globally. The benefits are more brand and legal compliant documents, less user frustration when messing with the template trying to get it right and greater agility when changes happen on a brand or organizational level. As the data is stored online in Office 365 changes to brands, locations, employees etc. can be applied instantly and globally with no IT involvement at all.
What it does
The officeatwork 365 Template Designer add-in for Word allows power users to easily create dynamic templates that can be used globally by all users, with all legal entities eliminating the need of creating thousands of templates upfront or having users wasting time in trying to get their personal template right. Technically speaking it allows to create placeholders in a document that are linked to external data. The user can then easily select or input data (using the Document Wizard add-in) that then gets displayed in one or many placeholders.
How we built it
We initially built the Template Designer during 2014 and launched it for the first time in December 2014. Since then we have constantly improved it in regards to functionality and user experience.
Challenges we ran into
One of the challenges we ran into is the figuring out what level of trust fits all organizations. It was obvious that there is no ONE fit for all approaches here. Having a admin consent required to launch the add-in will scare away many first-time users. Having only user level consents is limiting in what data can be used in the templates. So, a dynamic consent flow like available in Azure AD 2.0 Auth flow would be the solution. Unfortunately, not all data sources we need are supported by Azure AD 2.0. So, in January 2017 we implemented our own dynamic Auth flow enabling us to use any source dynamically. It is in preview stage now and will be released most likely in February 2017.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud of the application architecture as such. It enables us to easily implement new data sources including their Auth flow in a speedy and modular way.
What we learned
We learned to be creative in taking existing architecture patterns and apply them in a way allowing us to solve related or un-related business problems.
What's next for Template Designer for Word
As mentioned the next thing will be to make this great new Auth flow in our add-ins publicly available.