Office 2013 support in Office 365 … The end is nigh…

Being a Microsoft Office 365 Partner am keen to follow any news concerning feature changes and updates to Office365. Microsoft announced via this blog, that Office 2013 clients’ connections to commercial Office 365 services will not be supported after October 13, 2020. After this date, ongoing investments in the Office 365 cloud services – including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business – will proceed based on post-Office 2013 requirements.

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SharePoint and the Workflow Conundrum

When utilising a collaboration tool the key productivity rationale is to automate processes through the content stored within that collaboration tool. SharePoint has a number of platform flavours (on-premise, hybrid, online) and has integration points which is only limited by creativity it seems (not simply confined to Microsoft products). Therefore, it is crucial that when thinking of what workflow tool should be used to automated business process that you understand also the options, strengths, weaknesses of the various workflow options that can be utilised with SharePoint.

Having had a lot of fun trying to fathom, making mistakes along the way of course, I got together all my notes, including querying lots of knowledgeable people (thanks to you all) – and put together an article; published on Tech Net blogs and also on DOCS!

The article is quite large therefore I had it split into four parts (great idea from Charlotte C at Microsoft – thanks)

Sections in Part 1 are:
1: Introduction to the business process automated
2: What does a workflow system need to accomplish
3: Mind set of developing workflow
4: Types of workflow
5: What does the full article cover in terms of product, scope

Link: http://blogs.technet.com/b/uktechnet/archive/2014/12/10/part-1-sharepoint-workflow-service-delivery-options.aspx

Sections in Part 2 are:
1: Options for workflow with on-premise SharePoint
2: Options for developing custom workflows using SharePoint Designer / Microsoft Visual Studio

Link: http://blogs.technet.com/b/uktechnet/archive/2014/12/18/sharepoint-workflow-service-delivery-options-part-2.aspx

Sections in Part 3 are:
1: Options for workflow in SharePoint Online through Office365
2: Options for workflow in hybrid situations
3: The ‘workflow manager’
4: Publishing workflows to Azure
5: Workflow options available through third parties
6: Strengths and weaknesses of covering all options

Link: http://blogs.technet.com/b/uktechnet/archive/2015/01/19/sharepoint-workflow-service-delivery-options-part-3.aspx

Part four completes the article by summarising the key take-away – what tasks should be carried out concerning an approach to choosing the workflow solution that suits you and the customer

Link: http://blogs.technet.com/b/uktechnet/archive/2015/01/26/sharepoint-workflow_3a00_-service-delivery-options-_2d00_-part-4.aspx

Happy reading!

Office 365 Monitoring using System Centre Operations Manager

One of the most compelling challenges for Office 365 is centralised monitoring. Those working in the SharePoint arena will know only too well importance of monitoring and reporting across the platforms they manage. This is not simply from a technical but also from proof of service; the availability and evolution of those services.

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7 ways of identifying a Super-Duper SharePoint Support Person

Look through the job advertisements for any online job site or computer journal for an indicator of what most organizations seems to regard as a key attribute of SharePoint support staff. The need, desire, and hunt for technical knowledge seems to jump out at you from the pages. I have seen advertisements for SharePoint members that reads like a list of SharePoint third party products and affiliated integrated Microsoft products. The closest match of the candidate to that list is the first step towards being interviewed.

Indeed, even Microsoft seems to lay great store by this. Microsoft provides a range of qualifications which can be pursued. These qualifications become a marketable commodity; a SharePoint support person whose technical competence is measured by a Microsoft endorsed certificate commands a higher salary and is in greater demand than one whose ability is not so endorsed. In fact, an entire market is already in operational to provide Microsoft recognised training courses, with a range of quality, pace and price to suit most pockets.

This makes me suspicious about the training courses just mentioned. Of course, they create some kind of measure of a support person’s technical knowledge, and that is a useful aid for an organisation seeking to employ a proven SharePoint support individual. However, a Microsoft certificate is rarely a true indicator of real knowledge. It is an indicator of the individual to get through the relevant training programme. Additionally, the knowledge learnt is transient. In six months, Microsoft will probably have another version of the relevant product. In two years, the product may well look and operate very differently to when the original course was taken. Nevertheless, the certificate will still be valid even if what it is being measured against is no longer valid.

With certification programmes, SharePoint software producing companies have nothing to lose, and so very much to gain. They can sell training courses, appoint recognised trainers. They can ride on the back of the hype the qualification brings in its wake. They can reduce their support burden by encouraging customers to pay to be able to do their own support.

Even so, organizations generally face issues in finding the right level of technical support for their products. SharePoint could be considered to be different in the mix of Microsoft products because SharePoint is a platform. That means more interaction from support level to the business, not just solving technical issues. The support the business is after from a SharePoint perspective goes beyond into the land of solving business challenges. Questions like the following are normal directed to SharePoint support:

  • I need to provide a method of people to collaborate in a single location
  • I need to store and manage my content
  • I have trouble understanding how to do something
  • Can you fix the issue I have

But what exactly makes up a great SharePoint support person. Is it simply technical? Definitely not. This article attempts to answer the fundamental questions concerning how to determine what constitutes a ‘super-duper’ SharePoint support person. To do that, I am going to break the article into seven points. Each point relates to an attribute that a SharePoint support member should have. I have also tried to keep this article version agnostic. I will not be going into any particular version of SharePoint, or product.

So, let’s kick off with a basic statement. SharePoint Service Delivery is about capability. The solution being provided to users must be capable of fulfilling their requirements. At the same time, the relevant solution needs to be supported by individuals who will be able to provide help and aid to those using the relevant solution. Therefore, it goes without saying that the skills of those who need to support users’ needs to go beyond just technical aspects of the solution being provided.

A 2013 Gartner report called “ITs Aspirations Require Addressing Current Realities” described a disturbing trend:

“CIOs have consistently reported a lack of skills as the single biggest factor limiting IT’s successes”.

The report goes on to say:

“One in four CIOs believe that the IT labor market is ‘working’.”

That can mean at least two things. First, that those being recruited to provide support are not skilled enough. Secondly, that the recruitment process in identifying the right person to provide support is not working. And, the key to organisations having the right people is based on their capability to provide support services.

In addition, the constantly changing face of technology as it expands and morphs will lead people to become continuously productive as explained in this article:

http://www.businessinsider.com/next-generation-of-tools-make-us-constantly-productive-2013-9

This will therefore impact on how support is provided, particularly for those products which are in the centre of collaborative tools. In order for SharePoint to be capable of providing a support service to the user base, the user base needs to be adequately supported. The environment in which SharePoint can be employed, for example, on-premise in an organization, off-premise through Office 365, and on any mobile device, being smartphone, tablet, etc. means that the environments in which SharePoint support could be employed is also varied:

  • Telephone Call Centres. SharePoint support is provided in an environment where the call is likely to be solved over the telephone, or escalated to another tier in the support organization.
  • SharePoint Support provided by the parent organization. Typically for on-premise, though for a hybrid support is provided by the same SharePoint Support provision.
  • It Support provided by third party. An third party SharePoint support provision is on-contract to an organization to provide a level of support.
  • Through an Internet Service Provider. The Internet Service Provider provides the platform and also the support required for users to collaborate within the platform provided. Generally, those users then provide, or are automatically ‘set’, to have administrators who provide a first level of support.

Irrespective of the environment (which may in fact be a combination of the above), SharePoint support persons require particular attributes to ensure that a SharePoint service can be effectively provided.

1: They can do multiple roles

As a member of SharePoint Support, part of the job is to support end users and troubleshoot various types of tasks. However, their tasks involve much more than simply resolving a problem. They must be able to listen to a user, gather information from that user, diagnose and resolve the problem (or escalate the problem to a senior technician or system administrator), and properly document the resolution of the problem in the manner dictated by company policy.

A SharePoint Support team member is expected to fulfil a number of roles in the support environment. A good SharePoint Support team member must possess both technical skills and non-technical skills, such as interpersonal skills that are necessary for building rapport with the user to better troubleshoot and resolve the user issues. Some of the primary roles of the SharePoint Support team member include:

  • A public face for the company – in most cases, the only human point of contact
  • A knowledgeable resource who is familiar with the product and able to perform hardware and software installation tasks and system monitoring and maintenance
  • A source of information, because even if you do not know the answer, you know where to get the answer or to redirect the end user
  • An effective communicator, because customers are not calling to be sociable – many of them are distressed or upset, and you will need to manage the interaction effectively
  • A good trouble-shooter who is able to quickly diagnose the issue by performing specific tasks

 

2: They get back to basics

As stated in the section “1: Carry multiple roles”, a SharePoint support persons job is to provide end user support in a At a high level, the SharePoint support person should be prepared to perform the following tasks:

  • Perform general troubleshooting of SharePoint and integrated applications and solutions that will be used with SharePoint
  • Provide customer service, including listening to the customer, defining and solving the problem, and educating the user on how to avoid the problem in the future.
  • Install, configure, and upgrade packages and solutions.
  • Monitor and maintain the SharePoint platform
  • Document calls and close them or escalate them as required by company policy and time limits set by Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Note that whilst the above appear to be technical, the key is to support the customer. The mission statement simply means ‘Quickly Resolve the Problem’:

  • If a SharePoint solution is unavailable, service restoration is the first priority
  • Incidents, problems and known errors must be clearly distinguishable from one another
  • Service levels are governed by an SLA
  • Customer interact with the SharePoint support for the resolution of problems
  • Electronic self-help does not make human representatives obsolete

 

Within IT Support, there would generally be a support model. This covers, problem, service management and IT helpdesk support. Without going into any detail concerning how the IT Support model operates, the key is to understand that it is the duty of any member of SharePoint support is to provide a service understood by their customer. Therefore, for every issue to be resolved SharePoint support persons must get back to basics with every customer (and non-customer).

Here is a scenario:

Fabrikam is a coffee research company with offices in London and New York. They have a SharePoint installation which is supported by a SharePoint dedicated team. Fabrikam, at the start of setting up the SharePoint support model was aware of the time difference, and elected to have SharePoint support provisions in both time zones, but managed by IT Support. All calls would be logged centrally so that all IT Support teams and SharePoint support teams could see the work being carried out in New York and London.

The above scenario is a simple reminder that in order to have adequate support you need to understand the working time zones of the users. There is little point of proving that all your users are supported if your SharePoint support team is asleep when customers using your SharePoint provision need support on the other side of the planet. However, the above example is general. Let’s take the example back to specifically why it is important that each member of your SharePoint support team takes things back to basics. I have a large lawn to mow at my house. I use a lawnmower provided by a company in my nearest town. That lawnmower always breaks down, and generally, it’s my fault. Either I hit a stone, try to cut grass that’s far too long that plugs up the grass scoop, and more besides. I am getting better at working with that lawnmower, and that’s because the guys who supplied the lawnmower, who seem to fix things faster than you can say ‘Jack Robertson’, will always pass on a good bit of information when it is fixed, will always ask ‘what was you doing before the problem started’, and will always give demonstrations of using parts of the lawnmower which I didn’t think existed.

So, why is that important? Well, imagine that you are new to SharePoint. You need to upload a document, but cannot remember how to do that. You call your SharePoint support member. The SharePoint support member responds with something like this:

‘You dolt. It is easy to upload that file. Just click the New Document link. Why bother me with that’ – mutter… mutter…

In terms of even a relationship with SharePoint support that response guarantees service delivery ‘epic fail’.

Good SharePoint support persons get back to basics. They ask what the user was trying to do. They give step by step information on how to upload documents. They inform the user that there are places where the user can go to get more information. They state alternatives to using the New Document link in a document library. They empathise with the user (more on that later).

This does not mean that when the user calls SharePoint support that they have to wait while SharePoint support scrolls through a list of possible solutions or navigates around a decision tree, especially if the payoff does not appear to come quickly.

The reason why it is so important to go back to basics, is simply not because you want to teach SharePoint 101 basic stuff to SharePoint people. It is because the comfort factor of those calling SharePoint support increases. If that increases, they become more confident. If they become more confident, they learn, and want to learn. If this is not done, you will start seeing users ‘switch off’ from using SharePoint support. Or even worse, they will inform other users not to contact SharePoint support and will use other methods of finding out how to do things. Or even worse than that, they will stop using SharePoint all together!

3: They turn customers into enthusiastic customers

Imagine you set up a SharePoint support service. You may find that many customer simply will not call that support service. Some will not call because they do not know about SharePoint support. Some may even complain about SharePoint when it does not do what they expect it to do, but they will not call because of their experiences with any other customer service, whether it is a airline, telephone company, car park fining, cinema ticket purchasing, etc.

A successful SharePoint support service has enthusiastic customers. There are so many ways in which SharePoint support team members can make customers enthusiastic customers. First, let me describe what it is that defines an enthusiastic customer.

Humans are forever needing to find easier ways to get things done. They love shortcuts. This is because at work humans are doing multiple things and making multiple decisions. And because they are doing multiple things, when they are shown how to increase the speed (and productivity) of certain things in their daily tasks, they will become more enthusiastic. This goes with any software application, or any business process they work in. The key however, is to not get technical, don’t use jargon. Speak in their language. Here is a scenario.

Scenario: Telling something to a customer that helps them associated to the problem at hand. User tries Search for the first time in SharePoint and whilst they understand how to use the interface, you ask how they carry out searches without using SharePoint. Customer states that they have used the Explorer to search for files using Windows 7. You state that by using the search option “Search in Windows Explorer” in Enterprise Search that the user is able to ‘connect’ Windows Explorer Search to SharePoint search.

The result is a customer who has learned something new, and passes this onto other customers.

4: They are prepared to take the blame

Scenario: Customer calls into SharePoint support stating that they were working on a document which they had ‘checked-out’ from SharePoint, then something happened on their computer forcing the application to crash, and now they could not re-open the document because it was already checked out. The customer tried various ways of attempting to open the document, but had given up and called SharePoint support. By the time they did, they were angry, frustrated, and even more frustrated when they found that they had to wait for over an hour before anyone called back.

The point here is that first SharePoint support takes the blame. Irrespective of the problem, whether the user is at fault, whether SharePoint is at fault, the key is not to identify who or what is at fault in the first instance. The key is to get the customer to calm down, and to understand that you are the face of SharePoint and that you will resolve the issue one way or another.

To relate to this, another scenario is where a customer, in a restaurant, states that the service provided has not been to their approval. The restaurant manager, instead of apologising and stating they will seek to address the issue, says the customer is wrong to state the service is at fault, and instead states that the customer should not have come to their restaurant in the first place. Clearly this is the wrong move, because the customer can then easily state to others that the service was bad and no one took any attention to sort out the problem.

5: They are prepared to say the things they don’t want to say

When someone complains, its easy to get caught up emotionally in the situation. This is particularly when the very thing you are supporting is the thing that the customer is complaining about.

Scenario. A customer calls stating that their document library displays an error every time they attempt to upload a document. The customer is quite frustrated and says that SharePoint is “rubbish”.

As a SharePoint support individual does not immediately become furious and state ‘How dare you say that?! I have never had a complaint from anyone else!’. Instead, they say ‘That’s terrible, please tell me what happened so I can make sure it never happens again’.

6: They create a career path

SharePoint support individuals will require technical abilities; however, that does not mean they come from a technical background. Organisations choosing SharePoint support individuals would be looking for the appropriate personal skills to deal with the users. That is because the users come first.

Training is another area to consider. Check out this article here: https://sharepointgeoff.azurewebsites.net/articles-2/training/

There is something that I think all SharePoint support persons should be aware of. And it is a certification called MCDST. MCDST stands for Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician. I did this when I was running a IT Support department, and needed to ensure that all my technicians did that course and the exam. I also did the same course and exam.

For more information on MCDST, check out this link:

http://www.microsoft.com/es-es/learning/certification/mcdst.aspx#tab3

The reason why I did the course was twofold. Firstly, to understand the issues concerned with providing support for the current operating system. Secondly, to understand the implications of providing a service to end-users. And do not be deterred by the fact that the course covers operating systems. A key element of the course is understanding customer service and what it means to be in support.

7: They put themselves in the customers shoes

SharePoint support people understand their user expectation. This ‘expectation’ is rational, reviewable and realistic. Rational because support can understand how the user uses SharePoint, and therefore, is able to estimate the needs of their users with a degree of accuracy. For example, if the usage patterns of SharePoint appear to be heavy on a Thursday, but Friday is quiet – but Monday is difficult because that’s is when all the queries come in regarding any issues on Thursday, then SharePoint support can glean that carrying out maintenance on a Thursday, and testing on a Friday is best.

Conclusion

Relentless pursuit of technical acclaim distracts so much from the attributes we really want in our SharePoint support staff. If SharePoint support individuals only ever dealt with SharePoint technical issues and the servers SharePoint runs on, then technical ability is all we could ever reasonably ask of them. But they do not – they deal with people. This is particularly in the wake of support being provided through Office 365, where there is far less emphasis on technical ability on working with the SharePoint server side, but an increased awareness required on integrated products like Office, Exchange, Lync. Irrespective of the knowledge required to provide support, SharePoint support must be dedicated to maintaining continued, hour by hour productivity through user support. Therefore, what is needed is people and methods that increase or maintain user productivity. User productivity is not just an “I’ve got a bug in this SharePoint site” issue. It is a “Help me to know how I go about producing the output I need using SharePoint” issue. The first query requires technical ability. The second query requires technical knowledge coupled with an ability to convey that knowledge in terms the user can understand and believe in.

Therefore, to back up the 7 ways of identifying a super-duper SharePoint support person, there are the 7 attributes as follows:

  • Patience – to be able to listen to a user describe a situation
  • Thoroughness – to give the user confidence in their ability to solve the problem and to ensure that the job is done
  • Enthusiasm – to enjoy the job and stay motivated
  • Responsibility and Empathy – to be able to take on the burden of a task, and to be able to put oneself in the users position
  • Technical knowledge – to have acquired the sort of knowledge the job requires
  • Communicative ability – to be able to use language well enough to convey confidence
  • Works well under pressure – to be able to remain positive

ITAR – An Office365 Dedicated Support Plan

Introduction

If you run and/or own an Office365 tenant, you are guaranteed 99.9% uptime, you get a Service Health Dashboard, and you can see a Planned Maintenance Schedule.

Whilst these features are crucial to ensuring a resilient platform that gives visibility of status, it is important to recognise that there is another support plan which addresses compliance – particularly when it comes to who is responsible for the service, protection of connection and encryption.

Office 365 (enterprise version) offers enhanced versions of Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online dedicated support plans that are designed to support the security, privacy, and regulatory compliance meeting the following:

•  U.S. federal government agencies requiring certification under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002.

•  Commercial entities subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

This document describes the advanced security and privacy features that are available in the ITAR-support plans from Office 365.

It also calls out any significant feature differences between Office 365 ITAR-support plan solutions and Office 365 dedicated plan solutions.

 

What is ITAR

Microsoft Office 365 ITAR-support plans are a variation of the Microsoft Office 365 dedicated plans. The primary difference is that ITAR-support plan solutions are designed to meet the security, privacy, and regulatory FISMA/FedRAMP compliance requirements for U.S. federal government agencies and support the regulatory needs of companies operating under ITAR.

These enhanced services are offered to customers under the Office 365 ITAR-support subscription plans (“ITAR-support plans”).

The ITAR dedicated support plan attempts to address frustrations of having to deal with generic (raise a support call into a ‘global queue’) helpdesk tickets regarding compliance and security. Another benefit of this support plan is the ability for those providing Office365 to help the customer build SLAs and at the same time provides more confidence in the use of online systems. Since ITAR is specific, the support resources applied will be closer to the relevant issues and will define solutions specific to those relevant issues.

Summary of ITAR

Data Protection

Encryption at Rest and Encryption in Transit

Encryption at Rest and Encryption in Transit is covered, describing that documents would be encrypted using AD RMS. Effectively, this means that users would access AD RMS documents using AD authentication. Note that Encryption at Rest only applies to Exchange and SharePoint Online. As for Encryption in Transit, there is a description concerning dedicated and Internet Connectivity.

Environment and Customer Isolation

Environment Isolation, which is the isolation of the Office 364 Environment. Per Customer Isolation – describes where data is held and how as an ITAR plan customer hardware is provisioned and segregated. Note that this segregation covers only Exchange, SharePoint and Lync online.

Connectivity Protection

Trusted Connection

Trusted Internet Connection. Very useful for thise customers who need support for TIC requirements, Office365 ITAR support plans provide a dedicated connection, rather than an direct internet connection to data centres. This service is provided to SharePoint, Exchange and Lync only.

Two Factor Authentication

Smart cards using PIV (Personal Identity Verification) can be used to ensure secure authentication of clients. However, there are a number of client responsibilities described, including PIV implementation, client side authentication, including PKI and card management. This ITAR supported provision covers Exchange and SharePoint only.

Compliance and Support considerations

Described is the ITAR level plan information concerning compliance with FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) covering service hosting, and Microsofts’ plans to to comply with FEDRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program). Also, discussed are the security and screening features concerning dedicated hardware, infrastructure location, security access and screening.

Personnel and Background Checks

ITAR ensures that those responsible for supporting Office365 systems on behalf of customers undergo stringent personnel and background checks as follows:

  • Employment History Check
  • Education Verification
  • Social Security Number (SSN) Search
  • Criminal History Check
  • Office of Foreign Assets Control List (OFAC)
  • Bureau of Industry and Security List (BIS)
  • Office of Defense Trade Controls Debarred Persons List (DDTC)
  • Fingerprinting Check

The article details what kind of checks are carried out and that they are recurring checks. This is applied to Exchange, SharePoint and Lync.

Further Reading

Whilst reading up on ITAR, I found a number of other documents which are extremely useful and I would strongly suggest you check them out:

Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 – FISMA

Recognises the importance of information security to the economic and national security interests of the United States. The act requires each federal agency to develop, document, and implement an agency-wide program to provide information security for the information and information systems that support the operations and assets of the agency, including those provided or managed by another agency, contractor, or other source.

 

International Traffic in Arms Regulations – ITAR

Controls the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML).

 

Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program – FEDRAMP

For security in Cloud computing, the US Government has compliance audits such as Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) which cloud providers can go through to meet security standards.

FEDRAMP is a program which develops relationships between Federal agencies and cloud service providers. The program is designed to be compliant with FISMA.

 

Microsoft Office 365 ITAR-Support Service and Network Descriptions

Documents that support and further describe FISMA and ITAR-Support Solutions Service Description and the Network Service Description for Office 365 ITAR Support Plans

 

Office 365 Dedicated

Resources covering Office 365 dedicated service descriptions, deployment guidance and dedicated administration.

Office 365 Support Information Available

For anyone working with software systems will know that there is nothing on the planet that is so completely frustrating, as a solution that does not work. Downtime leads to increased overhead costs, lost productivity, lost customer satisfaction and lost revenue. This hits business users of course, but also those who are there to support the business.
Small business users are especially hit by this since they are completely dependent upon the technology. Take into consideration therefore that if businesses do not understand the provisions of support for a cloud service that they will particularly suffer, especially since they will not, in the main have direct access to IT staff to aid them.
Office 365 carries with it solutions (SharePoint, Lync, Mail, Yammer, Office) within a significant number of feature such as Identity, Exchange, Rights Management, etc. Just think of what a small business will need to go through to start to raise a call concerning an issue if there is a problem with one or more of those solutions. And those with internal IT teams to help will fair no better. Having an IT team to turn to, without understanding that self service is available, that tools, troubleshooting techniques, videos, forums that are available, does not warrant a successful support structure. Additionally, the support level in Office 365 needs to marry with expectations from the client. You can only do that by understanding the provision of support provided.
So, here’s a call to action. For those utilising Office 365, or even providing Office365 to clients, I would strongly suggest that the following article is read and understood. And, before you start saying ‘this will not apply to me because I am using SharePoint 2013 on-prem, and I might be using an Office 365 tenant’ – it does!

The article describes:

  •  Community and self-service support options – describes the various resources that can be used to provide self-help.
  •  Pre-sales support – describes the various assistance provisions for understanding features, benefits, plan comparisons, pricing, licensing, etc.
  •  Billing and subscription management support – describes the kind of assistance for signing up, renewing subscriptions, paying bills, etc.
  •  Technical Support – describes what areas of support will be covered and how.
  •  Shared Support Responsibilities – very important for those who will need multiple roles in their Office 365 administration and support management scenarios.
  •  Additional support options – describes three other levels of support like Microsoft Cloud Vantage, Premier and Professional Direct Support, including partners, developers and volume licensing.
  •  Features – describes the support options, like phone support, technical, billing, pre-sales, etc. against the differing licencing options available for Office 365.

So check out the article on this link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/office-365-support.aspx

SharePoint and the Internet of Things

SharePoint and the Internet of Things

Bold statement time. The Internet is a collection of machines – and there is more data generated by machines than humans. IOT (Internet Of Things) is connected devices providing data which will simplify, enhance, and enrich our lives. Already connected devices are beginning to revolutionise our lives; but to understand the nature, challenges and opportunities we need to understand how we can take informed decisions concerning this technology and trends.

Things like how the data our devices upload and download is shared, used, managed, controlled with clear data integrity. What should be our focus, what and who can help us understand this technology. IOT has implications for those working within the SharePoint sphere. As SharePoint workers, we will need to roadmap and further refine data provided  (from internally or externally provided systems harvesting sensor data) to define an IOT strategy.

We will need to learn how to promote use of devices used within organisations, so they become smarter devices thus turning our companies, and ourselves, into smarter people. The article I have written for TechNet, aims to describe, simplistically, the nature of IOT, some of the key opportunities realised by Microsoft and others, the challenges we may face in control, management, security, privacy. The article suggests some take-aways in what we may need to address to support the infrastructure and manage the data.

Sometime ago, I also wrote about the skill-sets coming into the fold of data analysis (the Data Scientist). We are already seeing the emergence of the CDO (Chief Data Officer) whose skillset will become more and more entrenched in helping people make decisions on data coming from sensor feeds and the management of IOT in organisations.

Even my kids know about IOT and sensor technology. My eldest daughter, an ardent follower of fashion, running her own shop, mentioned to me that she was really into reading up and working on opportunities concerning nano-technology in clothes, as she thought it definitely the future. I thought that nano-technology in clothes was a myth; that it simply didn’t exist (showing my age I suspect) – but I was astonished to find on IET an article talking about just that, even to the point where engineers were busy creating clothes and being designers! Imagine, nano-technology in clothes; that would be able to determine the colour and provide better waterproofing in clothes – wow…. Surely then, we can’t be far away from having our clothes change colour based on the time of year, or maybe even inform how many washing cycles clothes can take before needing repair / replacement? So that means sensor technology in clothes must be a reality…

Anyway, I just had to do more digging. I am sure there are implications from a systems analysis, and service delivery perspective, particularly for data management.  I found myself absolutely fascinated by the impact of IOT. From discussing with other techies in this field and more, I was able to put together an article which I’ve had posted to TechNet. Please go read the article here.

Ten Steps to Creating a SharePoint Support Model – Slide Deck available

I was absolutely delighted to have been part of an exceptional line up at the  European SharePoint Conference 2014 this year. The conference took place in Barcelona, Spain from the 5th to the 8th of May 2014 and was Europe’s largest SharePoint event, bringing great sessions and the latest innovations from Vegas. The conference programme included over 110 sessions, keynotes, and tutorials, including topics covering the latest news from SPC14 including what’s new with SharePoint 2013 SP1 – Office Graph/Oslo – new Office 365 REST APIs – Access Apps – Cloud Business Apps.

I conducted a session on “Ten Steps to Creating a SharePoint Support Model” aimed at Business Decisions Markers and End Users – description follows:

There is nothing like a smoothly running SharePoint support environment but is that possible? In creating a great support SharePoint environment helps foster great user adoption and great SharePoint champions. This presentation attempts to show a strategic approach where the questions to be answered on how to build a true support model for SharePoint be based on “What has to happen, why and where?”, and attempts to describe a basic support model of ten key steps; from knowing what resources make up your SharePoint environment to keeping in contact with customers.”

I had awesome fun conducting the session, and have been inundated with requests for the slide deck – you can download if from here – if you need any other formats please contact me.

Ten Steps To Creating a SharePoint Support Model Slide Deck

Additionally, a resource associated with this session, the 2013 Helpdesk Template, is available for download here:

SharePoint 2013 Helpdesk Template

Enjoy!

Microsoft® SharePoint® 2013: Planning for Adoption and Governance

Microsoft® SharePoint® 2013: Planning for Adoption and Governance

Take control of user adoption and governance processes in your next SharePoint 2013 deployment—whether it’s a specific site or complete farm solution. In this book, you’ll learn proven techniques and methods that will help you better manage the entire project lifecycle concerning SharePoint implementation from a practical standpoint.

Discover how to:

  • Align organizational goals and requirements
  • Define the full scope of the project
  • Set up a team to deliver a SharePoint solution
  • Effectively communicate with and include your stakeholders
  • Prepare for user feedback and adoption
  • Establish and maintain governance through the entire project
  • Use web analytics to provide substance to governance
  • Confirm readiness for delivery to the organization

Check out this review on the book:

http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/51817

Go here to get the book and find out more information.