Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Power BI reports from Lists – the new way, or old? And getting them both into Teams

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

Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Setting up Viva Connections – From Scratch, End to End

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.

Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Parallel Approvals in Microsoft Teams

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

Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Using List Rules and Exchange to keep the Team up to date on changes

It feels good to be back on a somewhat even keel. Winter has been absolutely crazy - and after the Microsoft Teams Winter Tour and Ignite I had to take a short break to play what I call the containment game. You know the one. Batting everything out whilst simultaneously closing everything down. It's stopping that accumulation of work from getting out of control. I am happy to say that's now done. I won. It's back to business as usual. So what should we talk about first? There is a lot of things given that Ignite is now over - and if I were others maybe I would go for the latest and greatest, yet having wanted to discuss it since it's recent release and having had no bandwidth to do so I have settled on List Rules and how we can notify the Team of changes to the list. Something straightforward and doesn't take long to write home about. So Rules. Rules are defined by Microsoft as having the purpose of 'automate [ing] tasks such as sending someone a notification when data changes in the list'. In other words, they are very likely replacements for Alerts which have been around a long time and are legacy functionality stretching back to classic SPO and SPO Lists. Now, this blog won't cover every possible scenario for a rule. There's no point - it's super simple and as you go through this blog you'll see how easy it is to implement rules. What I am more interested in is notifying the team of changes rather than individuals: either in Teams or via email. What's that? This can be done by Power Automate and we could create a flow and do it that way. Absolutely. Yet this would suggest whoever is implementing it knew how to do that and had the time and inclination to do that. For me, a lot of what I hear is people want to just do things there, on the List. So Rules for simplicity, Power Automate for anything more

Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Retention Policies on Private Channels

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