The TV is on. The Euro 2020 finals between England and Italy has just kicked off. But Sunday nights are blog nights: and so trying to get the best of both worlds I will be writing a short blog about a granular but useful addition to functionality which came along for the approvals app this week. This is the ability to use generic links. Up until this point, we've had the ability to upload documents from a local machine; we've had the ability to add a document from OneDrive. But nothing regarding SharePoint; nothing about something other than a document. Now, we know that support for SharePoint - here meaning a dedicated option within the approvals app along with a site and file picker, is on its way. This is within the item on the Microsoft 365 roadmap - RID 70787. However, being able to use a generic link we don't have to wait for that. Indeed, generic links are really flexible insofar that we can start to review and approve anything which has a URL. This opens up some interesting scenarios
given that I pretty much liked everything about Stream: the web experience, the mobile experience. Both were easy to use and did what it said on the tin. It had started to have great features like trim and screen capture. It could be brought into Teams in a number of ways - and kudos has to go to the Stream Team for how hard they must of worked on it; creating a strong app which was really taking off and really focused bringing out the best in video. However, on the other hand whilst recognising all of this; pivoting made a lot of sense. There was a growing amount of noise and frustration from the tech community about not being able to share video externally, about not being able to apply common compliance functionality such as retention. Since Stream had it's own completely separate storage many things had to be developed separately. Whilst I know there was plans to do this - ones which were very near to completion since I was involved in roundtables previewing the functionality; in a world where apps like Microsoft Lists were being designed to work right across the stack leveraging existing storage on SharePoint and OneDrive and existing security and compliance functionality; Stream felt outside of that almost moving in the opposite direction. So 'bringing it into the Microsoft 365 stack', the idea that a video 'is a file just like any other file' won out. And what did that mean? Stream 2.0 would pivot to become the player across the Microsoft 365 stack. SharePoint and OneDrive would house video files. There would be a new personal web app, a new player and video 'portals' which could be created on SharePoint. Now, in the time between Ignite 2020 and now much has focused on things such as recordings, changing the default location to SharePoint and OneDrive and CDN support. We know that the new player is coming soon due to it hitting the message centre. However not much has come out officially about the web portal and when we can start using it. Tonight, out of sheer curiosity I had a go at amending an URL since this worked previously for Lists via OneDrive. The new Stream portal is already there. This wasn't in a TAP or preview ring. This was in a Ring 4 GA tenant. Let's see what we can do
I don't mind putting up my hands and admitting that even though we are only halfway through 2021 this year has been particularly full on. I've already hit a few of what I like to call 'crush periods' where the totality of work, community, exams, and everything else reaches a point where you think 'how am I going to surmount this? Of course, this may be something you have experienced yourself; that point which borders of getting out of hand and the term unsustainable applies. But you know what? It's been surprising too. These periods haven't been where I would have expected or anticipated them to be given that I have a lot of experience in conclusively dealing with volume and actively managing workload. They've typically emerged out of left field and can then disappear again just as quickly. Now, it's important to state for the record that I consider this to be very much a first world problem. Given what has happened to many during Covid I am extremely lucky and privileged irrespective of how it gets since I have the luxury of a job and one which is in demand; and if I am being totally honest with you I am also a big reason for my own time poverty since I like speaking on the circuit, and writing blogs like this, and teaching, and many other things besides. The point is, in relation to a busy life it's becoming really really important to use what is within my means to economize my time. If you have been following the blog over the past several months you may have noticed: a lot of that involves the Power Platform. In my job, I work with others trying to build Power Apps for things which significantly improve existing business processes. I am personally trying to automate my way out of as many things as possible which I do manually with Power Automate. I build dashboards and reports in order to make better and faster data driven decisions. With Power Virtual Agents, I am loading a bot with Q&A so others don't need to come and ask me about it again and again and again. So as a big advocate of Microsoft Lists, a subject which I've written and spoken about often in the past - and will do once again at the European Collaboration Summit in November - it's been really awesome that Power BI reports can be built on top of Lists. Let's have a look at this, and then let's see if we can get this into the Team
If you haven't already, you'll hear a lot about Viva in the coming months. Viva - from the Latin vivere 'to live' is a set of apps designed to enhance employee experience. In layman's terms, they're made to make your day to day work life better, easier and richer so that you are (in theory) happier, more productive and (in theory) more loyal to the organisation. The idea is that you feel invested in. The organisation thinks about you and how best to support you in your role. Now, there are four apps or 'modules' which constitute Viva with more expected in the future. The first is Viva Topics, an AI powered app which organizes content and expertise into related 'topics' surfaced across existing apps such as Yammer and Microsoft Teams. You want to know what that specific acronym means? Or what that project is all about? Topics will show you a description of that, who is working on it and assets related to it. The idea being that knowledge is to hand without breaking the course of your workflow. You then have Viva Insights, an app which brings together MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics providing data-driven insights and recommendations to improve productivity and wellbeing. In other words it'll show you things like how much focus time you have and how long you have been working out of hours. It'll show managers how their team members are working together. It's also expected to include Headspace demoed to much fanfare back at Ignite last October. Third, you have Viva Learning, 'a hub for Learning' within Teams aggregating on demand assets from Learn, LinkedIn Learning, third party providers like EDX and a company's own content. This is currently in preview and won't be in GA until later this year. Finally - and what the discussion concerns today, is Viva Connections. Connections is described as being 'the gateway to a modern employee experience' and 'a curated, company-branded experience that brings together relevant news, conversations, and other resources'. It is, more or less, a SharePoint home site surfaced into Teams pinned on the app rail and which will have a mobile experience later in the summer. Unlike the other apps, Connections is completely free and GA making it ideal as the first Viva app for any organisation to get to grips with without having to invest more into licencing - and it is important insofar it fuses SharePoint and Teams even closer together. To many who haven't tried this previously through App Studio, it's exciting stuff.
Having just got back from 3 days at the MCT Connect and MCT RL conference, I am looking forward to the conference season. Sounds weird to say it like that. But I guess what I am trying to articulate is that after having had good fun at Ignite, MVP Summit and MCT - all large multi day events, I am looking forward to getting back to speaking at singular day events and user groups where you can kind of rock up, do a nice session, and exit stage left, maybe catching one or two other sessions in the process. Transactional. Light. I am sure many circuit speakers understand where I am coming from. Now, for me, the 2021 conference season kicks off with a trip back to the Reactor where I'll be speaking with Vesa Nopanen on approvals. We've got a lot of demo lined up and we need to try it out for Marathon the week after. But when I was stitching the session together I thought of an idea that I wanted to explore a few months back when I was doing blogs on approvals but never got around to, which was parallel approvals. You see, if you are like me who operates across departments or support multiple business units within a group, parallel approvals are important because approval needs to come from multiple independent stakeholders. Imagine this scenario, I used to be Head of Professional Services where I worked, and when I was designing and developing new Professional Services items I used to need technical, financial and commercial sign off. They wouldn't make the decision together because they are all independent, and so before an item could be released all the stakeholders would need to evaluate it based on their respective reviews before it could go to market. I know, I know, I still have that blog on Viva Connections to do and that's probably more relevant and in vogue, but hey I have an approvals session on Tuesday and the completionist in me hates leaving things I meant to cover previously