The new « Business and Collaborative » way to work with Office 365

Dear folks,

I have two goals in my life : spend the rest of it on Kefalonia, Greece, and eradicate :

  • Excel sheets which are not used for accounting or financial purposes (99% of Excel files)
  • emails (all of them)
  • and eventually Access databases

The nonsense is :

  • the first goal is reachable but will cost to me a lot of money
  • the second goal is unreachable but could save hundred of billions of euros/dollars to companies all over the world

All of this wasted money makes me sick for my clients ; especially when Excel files are sent by email, this is an oversized provocation…

I know you won’t be interested in how I’m doing to achieve my first goal, so let’s talk about the second one : empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. You’ve already heard that ? I know… Satya Nadella stole it 😉

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Because Microsoft is providing the best tools to achieve my second goal, I’ve became a professional of those technologies, with William (I must write his name once in my blog posts or he will sulks me for the entire week).

There are two ways to reduce the amount of emails, Excels files :

  • Propose alternatives with collaborative tools
  • Propose alternatives with business tools

In ancient times, Microsoft had a single collaborative tool : SharePoint, and a single business tool : Dynamics. And now, with Office 365, this is quickly changing.

They are tons of new tools to improve your productivity, and that’s what I’d like to explain today. I will present you the new collaborative suite, the new business suite, how you should use the old products and to be aware of some Microsoft fantasies.

This is the Microsoft strategy, and if you are a part of the 100 millions of running Office 365 to produce value, you are directly concerned by this.

 

Collaborative tools : everything runs on Office Groups

For any project you have, create an Office Group. If you are working on ten projects, you’ll have ten groups, and one more for your team, but it’s by design, and it’s ok.

This model is awesome because it lets you to capitalize and share all kinds of exchanges, contents and documentation about a project – with a very simple way to manage permissions. And the best is : it’s totally user self service and don’t need dozen of hours of training.

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  • Exchange will provide a shared mailbox for your Groups, with a dedicated email address. Well… It’s better than a « private » email speaking about very important stuff of the project, but it stays an email.
  • SharePoint will provide the document library you need to share documents and files to your Groups. It also provides a team site, if you have some specific needs for your project. Note that SharePoint Groups are using the modern experience of SharePoint.
  • Teams. I LOVE THIS TOOL. A tool to run them all ! It gives you tons of features. The first one is a kind of chat (IRC style !!!!). The second feature of Teams client is including Skype for Business (but telephony) chat and videos calls. Last but not least, you can access to almost all others parts of your groups (SharePoint, Yammer, Planner, …) in the Teams client.
  • Planner to manage tasks of your project. Very useful. The mistake people are doing is to create a single plan for all of their projects… Planner is not MS Project, use it with the « micro service » way of thinking, and if you have more than 25 active tasks in your plan, maybe your project should be splitted in two (or more) projects = two (or more) Office Groups.
  • Yammer to communicate with the outside world (inside of your company). Yammer should be dead, but Microsoft finally found a good way to use it with Office Groups. Use Yammer to communicate with other people of your company about your project ! For example, we using Yammer to collect some needs and ideas about the O365 governance of our client. It works, it’s great !
  • OneNote.  A team without a shared OneNote is a dead team. OneNote is maybe (with Power BI) the best tool ever, to take some notes together and share it within your project team.
  • Power BI. Because we don’t use Excel to make data treatment (Excel is for financial stuff, and we don’t do that), we LOVE Power BI. And we love having a Power BI dedicated page for our Office Groups. Sharing our treatments results, KPIs and tons of other things is just awesome.

 

Business tools

If you are/were a SharePoint consultant, you necessarily met a client whose wanted to do a CRM in SharePoint, or an HR tool, or even a « little » ERP… BUT SharePoint has never been made for that. And there was no alternative than Access, or event worth, Excel. So I could not blame my clients to think they could make a business application within SharePoint.

Just to be clear :

  • SharePoint is made for Enterprise Content Management (ECM), for Knowledge Management (KM), for internal (Intranet) and external (CMS – deprecated) communication and collaboratives purpose (team sites) but for this last point, it’s almost over – see Office Groups above
  • Excel is for accounting and financial purpose AND NOTHING ELSE ! For data stuff, use the free Power BI Desktop.
  • Access … This tool should only be used for POC purposes, little SQL Server datas editions, and never in production for more than five users.

There is now an alternative : PowerApps with the Common Data Service and Microsoft Flow.

Microsoft decides to re-brand its Business tools suite to Dynamics 365. It’s hard for my clients to understand Dynamics 365 is not only Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Navision, … It’s also PowerApps, Common Data Service and Microsoft Flow. I can’t blame my clients, this new name is confusing. Even if it’s very smart from Microsoft, because it brings the « Dynamics 365 » tiles for all the users (even for SalesForce users 😉 of O365.

Common Data Service is awesome, even if it’s young. It’s a very simple way for PowerUser to create a database. I will make a full blog post on it – at this time, I’m building a full application for my own business (kind of CRM) ; and it’s unbelievable how easy it is to build and app with CDS and PowerApps.

Common Data Service is definitely an Access killer – included in E1, E3 and E5.

If you want to pay more, if you are bigger, if you need more powerful tools, you can use the well knows Dynamics CRM, AX and everything I really don’t know. It’s really out of my field.

 

Big tools

Big tools are legacy tools, still in production, still updated, and for a while. You need a lot of expertise to implement, develop and govern them (= they are expensive).

SharePoint Sites Collection (publishing sites, document center, videos, …)

You still have to use it for ECM, KM and Intranet needs. I think Microsoft won’t change that before a while. You should not use InfoPath and SharePoint Designer any more. You will be able to/can use PowerApps and Flow for those needs.

For development stuff, don’t use add-ins (or even worth, the C# SDK) anymore. Just use the SharePoint Framework and/or the REST API. You should also take a look at PnP JS Core.

MS Project

This tool is awesome and powerful, but as SharePoint, you’ll need an army of experts to make it works.

Visio

Same thing than MS Project. But they are less experts than MS Project. If you speak French, you can listen to the aOS podcast we’ve made with the only MVP Visio in France : Michel Laplane.

SQL Server with SSIS, SSAS, SSRS or/and
Azure SQL DB with Azure Data Factory, Azure Data Lake (and a lot of other Azure stuff) and Power BI

A lot of tools for data mining, ETL, treatments and restitution. I’m not an expert, but I know it’s where you must go if you want to do some big data stuff (and you should drive this kind of project in every company – if you want to survive the next decade).

Navision and Dynamics

Really, I don’t know anything about those tools. I know they are CRM and ERP. I think Microsoft has bundled them in Dynamics 365 offer… If some professionals could enlighten me, would be awesome !

 

Microsoft fantasies

Sometimes, Microsoft likes to test some things, like Sway, Staff Hub, Stream or things like that. Let them have fun !