Microsoft Ignite is back. It's been 6 months since the last one - and if I am being honest, it feels like the last one only took place last weekend. Of course, in many ways the last one was really the first - the first in lockdown, the first where it wasn't possible for us to attend in person - but it was also the first to surpass 70,000 attendees as the remote experience opened it up to a much larger audience who otherwise wouldn't have been able to attend. But whether this one constitutes 'Ignite Part 2' or is a singular replacement for Ignite the Tour, we all find ourselves returning to the biggest IT pro event of the year at a different time: both in terms of the calendar and in terms of more optimism as we may begin to see a return to a degree of normal life as we know it this year. I, for one, am very interested to see Microsoft's take on the state of things. Last year, see heard a lot about resilience, about being digital responders and we saw narratives such as accelerating digital transformation to the cloud for business continuity and supporting remote workers as they deal with a spectrum of challenges, including emotional and mental well being. Will we see a continuation of these narratives or will we see a pivoting of this? Jared Spatero's session The Hybrid Workplace suggests we will and where Microsoft think we will all be operating post pandemic. But what is intriguing is Satya Nadella's keynote which will be held on AltspaceVR. As much as showing the power of technology and mixed reality, how does this feed into the narrative, and like AI, how in the years to come will we all be using mixed reality day to day within our hybrid workplaces to connect, and get work done. What's clear from the last year, is we no longer have to be there, and so doing, we ultimately - if we are true to ourselves, may find it is even better than the real thing.
The last blog I did was on Bulletins. My good friend Vesku Nopanen responded in kind with Milestones. So I thought I would just go on to talk about Employee Ideas. Like Bulletins and Milestones, Employee Ideas is an app in the Teams Store which is built upon Dataverse for Teams. It's part of a new wave of Power Apps which can be deployed and then extended giving users a leg up as opposed to having to create something from scratch. So what's this one all about? Well, the description in the screenshot below outlines it pretty well: it's about creating and managing and voting up ideas in the team. Ideas for improvement. Ideas for change. Ideas for how to be more inclusive. For me this is a pretty cool for two reasons. The first is that I often have ideas but have nowhere to put them. Me being me I typically leave them in notepad or on an open excel, then I'd lose them or they would be buried in notes where I would never find them. I must get to a better place then ideas either being in OneDrive or in my head because if you are like me I am very forgetful. Maybe that's just my age. Secondly, I love the prospect that this could potentially be used similar to Uservoice, particularly when it comes to crowdsourcing innovations or improvement actions. Let's get great ideas teamwide, let's not have a monopoly or self identify as having the best. Now, as far as I know the Employee Ideas app came out sometime around November/December 2020 - but I could very well be wrong about this. Bulletins and Milestones are the newer apps, but these have all been close enough together they could be considered in the same wave. Most I talk to don't realise that they are even there, so are probably going to get discovered together. Let's get hands on with this one.
Happy Valentines Day! It's been a busy few weeks. I am in the middle of this thing called the Microsoft Teams Winter Tour. Basically, it's about ten conferences I am speaking at chained together throughout at the course of January and February. At the time of writing I have done seven. So three more to go - and all three come a week from today on the 19th in a triple header that'll see me speak in France, Italy and Nigeria all on the same day. To be fair its been incredible - but it's also been hard to keep up with all the new stuff coming out in Teams too - and there's been a lot. A lot of news and a lot of developments. So in the period between now and Ignite I am going to try and step back up and I'll start with something which seemed to fly under the radar which is bulletins. This is an app which appeared sometime last week and what interests me particularly about this is that its a Power App, one whose data is stored within Dataverse. Now Power Apps in Teams has massive potential - we all know this, we've all known this a long time. However, previously Power Apps designed by Microsoft typically came as either Teams Templates, or Power Apps Templates which meant you would need to customise and install them yourself as Custom Apps: in other words they weren't already available out of the box from the Teams App store. Is this a new direction? Have Microsoft seen the best way to get into Power Apps is to actually go from the position of using them then customising them? Well, yes. Read the description below - 'it's then easy for an org to go on and extend the core functionality'. Clever Microsoft. Oh I see you. But let's talk about Bulletins. It's an app that's designed to keep Team Members informed in terms of broadcasts and announcements. FAQ's also. Now I can only imagine some within the Yammer community are going to have something to say here - but before we mosey on down to Defcon 1 in regards to apps which dupe functionality, let's have a walkthrough and deploy this and see how we go. Personally, from the description I think this could be good. On the other hand, I also think it could go really bad if people don't understand about storage
Ok quick one as we start the weekend. I had a scenario this week where a customer of a partner asked me 'is it possible to add retention policies to private channels in Teams' - for files in private channels, not standard channels and to do this centrally. The reason for this is that they had third party backup software which doesn't work with private channels currently. Now hands up before investigation and testing I didn't know the answer to this, and it was one of those situations your probably familiar with - considering I do this every day why hadn't I come across this previously? I know. Yet these are good opportunities to learn and to fill in the blank. So, it turns out you can, but the documentation on docs doesn't exactly make this explicit. This blog aims to do so and clarify retention policies on private channels, and in contrast to standard channels
It's been a while since I wrote anything about video. I did quite a few blogs on Teams and Stream last year and even did a few sessions on how they worked together on the circuit - but with the transition to modern Stream I'm very much waiting for the new experience; when we start seeing features like the web experience, when podcasts and portals emerge. All in good time - even though in moving the TMR's over I badly need the use of trim, and I still want to talk about video. You see, I watch a lot of it. I love the medium, and so doing a few blogs on power automate and approval scenarios with Lists and Teams, I also had an idea for a new blog involving video. The idea is that I constantly struggle with time. With responsibilities for work, family and community I often miss quality content that goes by on great channels like Microsoft Mechanics. So I thought what if I could put this into a List which updates and I can work through that. Surfacing it in the Team could be quite valuable