Nintex and Sharegate Partner to Help Migrate Nintex Workflows and Forms to Office 365

Nintex Workflow is a product we have recommended to our clients for many years – it provides a business user friendly workflow editing surface within SharePoint or Office 365 for creating and running workflows.  Nintex Forms is a electronic forms product that provides web based forms (similar to InfoPath and a good alternative given lack of InfoPath investment from Microsoft) for implementing electronic forms that then kick-off workflows for processing.

Sharegate has now partnered with Nintex to support migration of workflows and forms using their migration suite.  Sharegate provides a suite of tools for moving between versions of SharePoint and Office 365 and you will now be able to migrate Nintex workflows and forms using their migration tool.

More details are expected to come at the upcoming Microsoft Ignite conference.  Stay tuned…

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New Office 365 Management Activity API Targeted to SIEM Vendors

One of the key challenges with Office 365 is monitoring security events and integrating these into an on-premise security event management systems.  The APIs have not been readily available for generating feeds to get activity data out of Office 365.

Microsoft announced today a new Office 365 Management Activity API that will enable feeding these events into their future SIEM solutions.  There are a number of vendors who are now participating in the preview program – see this list for more details.

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Microsoft Now Will Ask For Your Explicit Approval to Access Your Office 365 Content

As further protection of your enterprise content, Microsoft has announced that they will ask for your explicit approval in the rare event that a Microsoft engineer needs to access your content.

For the purpose of maximizing data security and privacy for Office 365 customers, we have engineered the service to require nearly zero interaction with customer content by Microsoft employees.  Nearly all service operations performed by Microsoft are either fully automated so there is no human interaction, or the human involvement is abstracted away from Office 365 customer content. As a result, there are very few activities requiring any direct involvement by a Microsoft engineer. But, we didn’t want to stop there. We are taking the next step by putting the customer in explicit control over access to their content in the very rare instances when a Microsoft engineer does to log into the Office 365 service.

This new capability, Customer Lockbox for Office 365, provides unprecedented customer control over content residing in Office 365, so customers can be assured that their content will not be accessed by Microsoft employees without their explicit approval. It brings customers into the access approval loop, requiring the customer to provide explicit approval of access to their content by a Microsoft employee for service operations. The Customer Lockbox feature will be enabled in Office 365 for Exchange Online by the end of this year, and for SharePoint Online in the first quarter of 2016.

In addition, all these requests will be available to customers via the Office 365 Management Activity Logs.

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Microsoft Announces New Azure Service Fabric

Microsoft has just announced a brand new service called Azure Service Fabric.  The service is designed for enabling developers and ISVs to build cloud services with high scalability and customization.  It is the same foundational technology that Microsoft uses to power its own services (e.g. Skype, InTune, Event Hubs, DocumentDB, etc.)

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The target for Azure Service Fabric seems to be ISVs and developers who are building hyper scale APIs, products and services. 

The most interesting statement is this one:

With our unique commitment to deliver a consistent cloud across public, hosted and private clouds, we will deliver the solution on-premises in the next version of Windows Server.

It is assumed this means that the same technologies, APIs, dev tools, etc. will work with on premise, hybrid and cloud scenarios. 

Key benefits that Microsoft is targeting include:

  • It supports creating both stateless and stateful microservices – an architectural approach where complex applications are composed of small, independently versioned services – to power the most complex, low-latency, data-intensive scenarios and scale them into the cloud.
  • Provides the benefits of orchestration and automation for microservices with new levels of app awareness and insight.
  • Solves hard distributed systems problems like state management and provides application lifecycle management capabilities so developers don’t have to re-architect their applications as usage grows.
  • Includes Visual Studio tooling as well as command line support, which enables developers to quickly and easily build, test, debug, deploy and update their Service Fabric applications on single-box deployments, test deployments and production deployments.

A preview version of this service will be released at the upcoming BUILD conference.

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Office 365 Video Portal IPhone App Just Released

The Office 365 Video Portal is a specialized portal experience for serving videos.  It takes any video that you upload to it and encodes it via Azure Media Services so that it is easily accessible on any device whether it’s a corporate laptop on your main network or an IPhone on a shaky connection.

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Microsoft has now just released the Office 365 Video IPhone App.  It logs you into your Office 365 account and then displays the latest videos through a native client. 

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I just tried it and the video playback is excellent!  You can also upload videos directly from your IPhone to your Video portal.

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New People Experience Brings Delve, Blogging and a New Content Editor to Office 365

Microsoft has just announced the new “People Experience” for Office 365.  Like the Office 365 Video Portal, the new People Experience is a uniquely designed portal for a specific workload – expressing yourself and your work.

The new experience combines a number of features from Delve, user profile and blogging to create a new profile experience.

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The new user profile shows your contact information, your skills, your place in the organization and what you are working on.  The profile page is now accessible through a Delve people search or just by clicking on their name in OneDrive or Outlook.

In addition, there is a revamped blog feature that makes it easier to promote your own content.  The new “authoring canvas” is the future content editor for Office 365 with the personal blog being the first user of this new editor.

New Office Delve People Experiences in Office 365 2

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Yammer Conversations vs. SharePoint Collaboration Sites

Yammer is an interesting enterprise social technology and SharePoint collaboration sites have been around for many years.  For ad hoc collaboration, project sites, etc. which should you use or should you use both?  Here are some best practices and recommendations based on our experience working with both technologies.

Yammer is Microsoft’s Future for Enterprise Social

Microsoft has publically stated that Yammer is the future for enterprise social, not the SharePoint newsfeed.  You can switch out the newsfeed in SharePoint 2013 for Yammer and integrate yammer conversations into SharePoint team sites.   

In most of my conversations with customers, we recommend using Yammer over the SharePoint social experience unless there are specific concerns about using Yammer from a compliance or cloud perspective.

Yammer is Design for Conversations

Yammer is a great surface if you want to encourage conversations, ad hoc knowledge management and social communities within the enterprise.  However, compared to SharePoint it has some key weaknesses:

  • Document management capabilities

  • Support for taxonomies
  • User interface customization
  • Enterprise search

From a taxonomy perspective, Yammer supports a limited number of “content types” such as polls, links, conversations, activities, profiles, messages, etc. all related to social collaboration.  SharePoint provides a number of additional taxonomy concepts out of the box but more importantly allows you create your own taxonomy concepts and to tag objects based on your own taxonomy needs. 

Compared to SharePoint, Yammer is lightweight and lacks customization.  If you need a project site which is ad hoc and conversation based, Yammer might be sufficient.  However, if you’re running a project site where you need to store documents, align them to your corporate taxonomy, add business process workflows, etc. then you’re going to be limited by using Yammer as a collaboration platform.

SharePoint Provides True Enterprise Collaboration and Document Management

Imagine that you’re running a project and you need a collaboration space for managing the information related to that project.  You could create a Yammer group and collaborate that way but you’ll be missing out on a number of features that SharePoint can provide that Yammer doesn’t support:

  • Document management capabilities such as check-in/check-out, version control, auditing, records management, workflows, etc.

  • Web content management capabilities such as creating web pages, adding rich media, adding multiple pages, etc.
  • Adding additional functionality to your site such as calendars, blogs, image libraries, document libraries, etc. 
  • Ability to inject customizations such as third party add-ons or proprietary customizations

  • Ability to radically change the look and feel for your site
  • Ability to template out sites for specific business purpose (e.g. there is no equivalent of the SharePoint “Site Template” concept)

What SharePoint provides you in terms of functionality also comes at a cost – it requires configuration, governance and information management strategies that for some use cases will seem to heavy for ad hoc collaboration.  However, if you’re running a project with some level of structure and you want to enforce any level of information management standards, Yammer is going to be limited in its ability to comply.

Best of Both Worlds: SharePoint Team Site Integrated with Yammer

For collaboration, I would recommend using SharePoint Team Sites.  You can leverage all the depth of the collaboration features that have been available with SharePoint for years.  For those scenarios where you want a more social experience, you can then create a Yammer group and embed the conversation into your SharePoint Team Site.

A Yammer My feed embedded in a SharePoint page

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Are You Still Using the Yammer App? Swap to Yammer Embed by Sept 2015

The Yammer App is an app part available for free in the SharePoint store that allows you integrate Yammer conversations into SharePoint 2013 on premise or SharePoint Online if you are using Office 365.

Microsoft has announced that the Yammer App will be discontinued and will stop working as of September 2015.  If you are using the Yammer App currently, you need to replace it with new Yammer Embed feature.

The process for replacing the Yammer app for SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online

Using Yammer Embed, you can provide similar integration between Yammer and SharePoint including display of my feed, group feeds, topic feeds, or specific object feeds.  Instead of Yammer being an App Part, the Yammer Embed is just HTML script that you can embed anywhere in your page.

Paste the script into the Script web part

A Yammer Group feed embedded in a SharePoint page

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