Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Power BI Q&A feature in reports

I know I've been lazy in the last six (ok, even more) months... but things have changed around my career a little bit. Don't get me wrong, I am still doing lots of SharePoint stuff, but since last summer I also got involved in some Power BI projects. I've also started putting up a another small blog on Facebook related to my other passion, which is globetrotting.

I got really good insights in the Power BI technology during a full day workshop at the European Collaboration Summit in Zagreb, Croatia last year. Thanks to John White and Jason Himmelstein for the wonderful delivery of the content. It was transferred to hands-on experience starting the day I got back to work.

In the last 9 months, I've got my hands dirty and designed several solutions, based on Power BI reports and dashboards, with data from SharePoint, Exchange Online and other business applications.

To prove I'm seriously into this, today, I have actually passed the now official Microsoft exam:

Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Microsoft Power BI (70-778)

It was the toughest exam I've taken (no kidding!), there were a lot of DAX queries and a mix of admin and developer questions...it was a close one with a passing score of just 745.

Anyway, I wanted to give you some value with this post by telling you about a feature that got released in Power BI Desktop recently... that's the Q & A.

Even on the exam, questions to Q & A referred only to the dashboards in the Power BI service, but this feature is now also available in the reports in Power BI Desktop. Your Power BI desktop client must be at least the December 2017 version... but I recommend you get the March 2018 update.

It's a preview feature, so you'd need to enable it first. You can do that by going to File -> Options and settings -> Options -> Preview features. Tick the Q &A feature, click OK and restart Power BI desktop.

The next time you start your Power BI desktop client, you will see this:

How does the feature work? Pretty simple, you can ask questions about your data in a natural language. Just click on the canvas in Power BI desktop report view and the following visual will appear:

For example, I'll load a dataset of Projects and ask the simple questions.. ok how many are they? Rather than doing a COUNT function with DAX... and boom: I've got the answer.

Now, sometimes, you will not know the exact field name by which to search... let's say you insert a query for top client by revenue, but the field in the dataset is called customer. Here's where the synonyms come into play. I will write another post on how to get the most of those.

So... how many of you are using Power BI? Are there any of you interested on taking the exam?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Export to Excel now Works in Chrome. Open with Project doesn't work anywhere :)

So.. some good news for the majority of people.

This scope of this post is all about SharePoint Online.

The most popular browser in the world nowadays is Chrome... and we've had the pain of not being able to use the "Export to Excel" functionality on SharePoint lists for a while... I've even implemented HTML buttons in CEWP in order for people to download a pre-saved .iqy file and get the same functionality in any browser. From last week, the OOB button on the ribbon seems to work fine in Chrome! It also works in FireFox (not sure since when) and IE and Edge had this working traditionally.

Now the bad news...

The Open with Project button that was working fine in any browser traditionally...now doesn't work. In any browser. So the only way to open your Project (.mpp) files that are synced to SharePoint task list is to go to Site Contents -> Site Assests and then open the file from there.

While this has been aknowledged by Microsoft like 2 weeks ago, there's still no fix and no ETA on a fix...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Calculated fields with HTML in SharePoint Online lists are GONE.

Updated 15/09/2017: This feature has been extended up to 28/02/2018.

So today I just found out that many of the lists that I've created for Projects, task lists etc. have gotten pretty bad looks. I mean... BAD. This # field should be displaying the color background of the task number, according to the task status...NOT today.

I've also used this to display website links in a pretty way, as well as some traffic lights for project statuses. Then I stumped onto this message in the tenant's Office 365 Message Center.

Turns out, this "undocumented" feature, which exists since ages is taken away IN A DAY. Thanks, Microsoft. Good job in notifying us and making the transition so smooth. I have now requested an extension and let's see what happens...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SharePoint Saturday Munich 2017 Day 2: The Conference!

You can read a short introduction about SPS Munich and the pre-conference workshops that took place on the previous day in my last post.

We went to the conference at around 8:30 and the atrium was already full of people. We were met by Mathias Einig who organizes the SPS Munich and SPS Stockholm events and he gave us the tip to quickly get into the Keynote room as it was expected to get packed. It did. The room was full and there were 3 more rooms that had been watching the keynote on big screens.

Even though Chris McNulty from Microsoft had to cancel his keynote at the last moment, Vesa Juvonen and Eric Shupps opened with a very artistic keynote - Vesa playing the Microsoft guy, and Eric being the bad, really annoyed customer asking the "awesome" questions :) From time to time, Eric did put his positive hat on, yes he had one. We've got many insights from the keynote, mainly around priorities and not real release dates, but there are a few things that are definitely on the way:

- Proper Modern Team Sites, providing customization capabilities that will match the levels possible within the Classic sites
- Classic sites are not going away anytime soon
- OneDrive single client for syncing both SharePoint document libraries & OneDrive will soon be a reality (in fact there is a TeamSiteSyncPreview.reg which you can download and already sync SharePoint document libraries.
- SharePoint Framework will be the future model for SharePoint development. Skills needed would match those of a regular web developer, so the possible career path for SharePoint developers would be more interesting and flexible.
- There will be another (maybe even two) on-premise version of SharePoint Server.
- SharePoint Product Engineering is aiming to shorten the release cycle from 3 years to small incremental releases, so that the users can get more feedback in the process. And oh boy, they did get feedback as Vesa said.

Last but not least, we've had lots of laughing in the hall. Well done, Vesa and Eric!

Eric did really get into the bad cop from Texas role and transmitted a lot of feedback and questions that the audience would have otherwise asked anyway. One of my favorite ones as I hear it all the time from the people I work with:

A little bit of impressive statistics shown by Mathias. With 430 attendees, I think that was the biggest SharePoint Saturday ever? I bet it is the biggest in Europe and the best one held so far. The event was in fact international with all sessions held in English and people from all over Europe and even the US!

Meanwhile, at the coffee area, there was this really cool poster by IF-Blueprint AG who were volunteers at the event. Cheers to the person or team who worked on it, it's really cool!

The agenda. First of all, we've all downloaded the mobile app Whova (which is available for iOS and Android) way before the conference day came, so we've made our custom agendas.  Sorry to the 3 people at the event that had Windows Phones :) The app was really useful for a couple of things:

- Navigating through the schedule and modifying it on the go. I've changed my mind for one of the sessions on the day.
- Rating the sessions - there was even a section for comments.
- Networking with other SharePointers. I've got a message from another Bulgarian whom I didn't know before the conference, but we were in the same room.
- Photo Contest :) Even though we've posted some pics, I think the organizers missed that one partly because there were so many things going on at the same time! But this is not a critic in any way. It was fun, at least to see what people would post in terms of interesting pictures from the event.

There was a printed agenda as a bag insert, too, it was also useful. I liked the looks of it, so I'll share the picture here (it's from the official SPS Munich site).

The #spsmuc20 session with Spencer Harbar got replaced with Paul Hunt's Exploring Identity Management Options in O365 as Spencer couldn't make it to the conference, but it wasn't on my agenda anyway.

The sessions that I've visited were:

#SPSMUC00 - Keynote: The Future if SharePoint is Now, Reinventing Content Collaboration with Vesa Juvonen and Eric Shupps

#SPSMUC01 - The Key to a Successful Office 365 Implementation is Adoption with Jasper Oosterveld

Move, Manage, Protect SharePoint & Office 365 - sponsored session by Metalogix.

#SPSMUC07 - Office 365 Groups Deep Dive with Maarten Eekels

#SPSMUC06 - Securing Office 365 and Microsoft Azure like a Rock Star with Jussi Roine

#SPSMUC11 - Power charging Microsoft Teams with Bots, Connectors and Tabs with Wictor Wilén

#SPSMUC13 - Level up with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow with Mikael Svenson

#SPSMUC23 - Panel Discussion: Groups, Teams, Conversations, Skype, Yammer - say what?

...and SharePINT of course :) 

My recap of the sessions:

#SPSMUC01 - The Key to a Successful Office 365 Implementation is Adoption with Jasper Oosterveld

First of all, Jasper is an amazing speaker, full of energy and always wearing a smile. I truly believed that his IS the key to Office 365 adoption, along with all the tips & tricks he presented :)

One of the case studies I found very interesting - a video with the key stakeholder. The project was a simple Project Management solution in SharePoint, one you've probably designed in a few days - it looked like the default columns in a Task list, then a very simple branding, BUT the key was the way it was presented. With a video with the key stakeholder - I think a VP of Information Technology or something similar.

The solution home page:

A project site:

Video still... it made me wonder how many times I've seen projects fail because of poor communication / presentation / a little bit of PR.

Jasper also used the introduction of Microsoft Teams by Satya Nadella as an example, how Microsoft are bringing "the big guns" when introducing something new.

As a takeaway, if you'd do Office 365 projects, make sure you:

- Have vision & goals.

- Have an executive sponsor.

- Have a budget for adoption (it's not free).

- Know your target audience.

- Make a launch party (everyone loves to have some fun at work).

- Think about a video with the project sponsor if you have virtual teams.

- Try and answer the "What's in it for me?" question proactively

- Train your users by doing quick 1-2 min videos frequently (think of hiring a voice actor to make your videos more professional).

- Train users in person if that's the style of working in your organization (don't make groups larger than 10-15 people and don't do it alone as you won't be able to handle all the incoming questions).

- Train the trainers (especially valid if you're an external consultant and you're not going to be around for long in the organization).

- Have Office 365 champions (definitely try to get those people from different departments).

- Share a roadmap.

- Be honest!

- Set a baseline and success criteria. You can use the OOB O365 Reports to measure the success once you launch - you'd need to be an administrator of the O365 tenant to access those.

- Start small.

- Use the First Release cycle for selected power users in your organization. Keep in mind they must be curious and play with the new features so that you get feedback from them.

- Office 365 is going fast! Go to conferences & events, just like SPS Munich :) to stay up-to-date.

Hands down, the session was above my expectations. Even though just a level 100, I got some useful insights which I'll use into practice.

Move, Manage, Protect SharePoint & Office 365 - sponsored session by Metalogix.

Crappy sponsored session. Slides in German!? The speaker said he gets a bit uneasy in front of people (?!) A good question that was asked at the end about the licensing model for calculation could not be answered. Got redirected to account managers. So where were the account managers instead of in the room?
Although I am certified on Metalogix Content Matrix and I've used their software for a large-scale migration for a customer 2 years ago, I honestly think they could do better. Anyway, thank you Metalogix for being SPS Munich's only diamond sponsor!

Instead of this session, I was planning to go to a level 400 Business (?) session: #SPSMUC10: The Executive's Guide to the Digital Workplace and I am so glad I didn't go there!

Maarten was a great speaker, very professional, the session included lots of info about Groups (and Teams, even if it wasn't announced beforehand). He started with the building blocks of Groups:

Maarten focused on a few things:

- Connectors - those are also available in Teams and there are more than a 100 of them already. You can build your own by creating an incoming webhook and then send requests to it from any web service (this was demoed with Postman - a very handy tool which I was not aware of, so thanks Maarten).

- External guest access - right now the only part that's available to external users is the modern team site. Teams do not have external access just yet, but it's on the roadmap.

- Manageability - mixed feelings story. Groups are managed from so many different places - O365 Admin Center, Exchange Admin Center, the Outlook (?) Groups mobile app, PowerShell...with the latest being the greatest.

Maarten showed us some good examples of commandlets to manage what kind of external users people can invite in groups (on the picture above) and gave us a few insights on the Groups roadmap to wrap up the session. Again, very glad I chose this one over the level 400 business session...

We've had a pretty good lunch, this day it was a menu with predefined options, but again, hands down for the food. I will not fill this blog post with pictures as they're too much already, you just have to trust me! It was awesome and we've had plenty of time (80 min) for lunch (there were some sponsored sessions going on during lunch time too) and in that time we've managed to get a tour of the brand new Microsoft DE HQ office. There were 5 groups for the day (10-11 people) and the previous group was already full, so this time we went 15 min ahead of time.

And we were in. I'd let the pictures speak for that place, but in a few words: it's awesome! Not what you'd expect from a huge corporation - it was not that grey, dark, American standard cubicle box floor...About 1900 employees are "attached" to that office, but our guides told us that there are only 1100 seats. The difference could be easily explained with the first picture:

#SPSMUC06 - Securing Office 365 and Microsoft Azure like a Rock Star with Jussi Roine

To be honest I don't have much experience with Azure and the security in it, I've just used MFA in Office 365. But Jussi's session was really insightful and I'm surprised he managed to stick it into 50 minutes.

I took a few things with me:

- Azure Active Directory is at the heart of security, just like the good old AD is on-premise.

- Enable MFA for the admin users in Office 365

- Enable the free security tools in Azure - Azure Active Directory reporting, Azure Security Center, Operations Management Suite

- Forget about building on-premise security solutions - they're not as exciting anymore :)

- You can discover unmanaged cloud apps/services on your users' workstations - something that most organizations would launch a project for and do manual surveys and interviews with people.

- If you're a large business, you'd need to invest in the paid options.

And this diagram was really cool - we've had 20 seconds to memorize it :)

Jussi was an expert in the field, and the examples he's used in the demos were quite interesting. such as detecting impossible travel activities from Netherlands to Bosnia and Herzegovina (cool country, been there on a rafting trip :)) and botnet attacks on Russi's tenants. Great session!

#SPSMUC11 - Power charging Microsoft Teams with Bots, Connectors and Tabs with Wictor Wilén

Wictor started with a quick introduction on Microsoft Teams and then focused on 3 areas:

- Connectors - nice use cases here. This topic was also covered by Maarten Eekels in one of the previous sessions.

- Tabs - While those seem basic, they are reminding me of the Global Navigation in SharePoint. Wictor did a cool announcement of his new yo teams-tab tool which is basically scaffolding everything you need to start building your Tab for Microsoft Teams. Wictor asked everyone in the room to know TypeScript for the next time, as this was the future of SharePoint development. I trust him. He was helping me out of a good will with a customer project a few years back and I can say his wealth of knowledge is incredible.

- Bots - those are based on the Microsoft Bot Framework and could do some pretty interesting stuff. During the workshops on Day 1, Vesa showed us how a bot is listening to commands via the iPhone's voice recognition and is creating a team site, based on the voice command. Pretty neat, huh?

 #SPSMUC13 - Level up with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow with Mikael Svenson

What an amazing session :) We were shown the Whac-an-MVP game created with PowerApps - LOL.

I took the following outcomes:

- PowerApps is the successor, not the replacement for InfoPath.
- Same is valid for Flow and SharePoint Designer workflows.
- Always copy your screens in PowerApps, there's no ALM story here :)
- Do not build any new stuff with InfoPath or SharePoint Designer (or at least try not to)

#SPSMUC23 - Panel Discussion: Groups, Teams, Conversations, Skype, Yammer - say what?

This was the most fun session. The atmosphere was quite relaxed at the end of the day, the speakers even got an unexpected beer delivery in the room :)

My outcomes:

- Forget about Yammer, use Teams
- Use the cloud as much as possible, there aren't many valid alternatives for on-premise social.
- Groups are the backbone of everything new in Office 365.

I've found the panel very informative and useful, except for some "marketing" comments done by Symon Garfield, I think he really didn't fit the otherwise "best-of-breed" group of speakers. Perhaps the fact that he's now a Microsoft employee would explain that...

There was a raffle with some pretty cool prizes (Phantom 3 Drone, Xbox etc,) and then an official closing by Mathias with a group picture of the speakers. An epic way to spend the Saturday, I'd say!

SharePINT :) Of course...looking forward for the next SharePoint Saturday!

Monday, March 6, 2017

SharePoint Saturday Munich 2017 Day 1: Pre-Conf Workshops

For the first time, I've аttended SharePoint Saturday Munich which was a massive community event, held directly at the Microsoft DE headquarters (awesome office, by the way).

My friend and ex-colleague Alex Pavlov who is living and working in Munich and has been a part of the previous event in 2015 told me it was awesome and I should definitely go this year. So, I asked another buddy Ivan Yankulov, he thought it was a good idea and we formed the team.

We've traveled the 1334 km  (1:50 hours flight) to attend the free, community-organized SharePoint event and boy, I personally do not regret it!

This Saturday, the organizers (the great team of Rencore AB) invested in setting up two full-day pre-conf workshops (paid - EUR 125 per workshop, limited to 50 seats each) on Friday, March 3rd.

The workshop, targeted more to administrators was SharePoint 2016 Infrastructure Powerclass for Admins with Thomas Vochten.

As I currently do not work with SharePoint 2016, I chose go to to: PnP all the way – Reusable tools for SharePoint with Vesa Juvonen, Erwin van Hunen, Paolo Pialorsi and last, but not least our friend from Bulgaria Radi Atanassov. Sounds funny, right? Going abroad to listen to a Bulgarian speaker - well, unfortunately in Bulgaria there's no SharePoint Saturday anymore and we (about 15-20 of us) only meet up in the SharePoint User Group Bulgaria once a month. I believe it's a good idea to meet 400+ more SharePoint professionals from all around Europe (and even a few from US) so that we can catch up on the latest features, best practices and get aligned on the SharePoint future. And have a SharePint altogether, of course.

I must admit I've missed the first tickets in December and I've booked my place on 9th of January, when the 2nd batch of tickets was released. I was refreshing the site a few times that day :) After I've registered, I got frequent communication over e-mail with updates on sessions, time, logistics etc. There was everything I needed to know so that I just showed up on the first day at 08:15 with my computer and tickets printed (later, I realized I didn't even needed the computer).

So, here we are, flying out from Sofia, Bulgaria on Thursday, March 2nd around sunset time, just after wrapping up the work day. Our flight was delayed with half an hour, but check out what a view we've got in exchange for that.

So, after the landing in Munich, I took the Lufthansa Express bus to the Nordfriedhof station and within 15 mins of walking I was at my hotel, just steps away from the Microsoft office, where we'd spend the next 2 days, full of Microsoft and Office 365 knowledge. By the way, Germany is so well organized, that you don't even need to know German to get around, everyone spoke English, from the bus driver, to the hotel staff and so on...

In the morning, we were at the Microsoft office 08:15 AM and the registration was already running full speed. Even though we couldn't get our badges on time, at 08:30 we were in the workshop rooms, with a cup of hot coffee (by the way the coffee that Microsoft treats their employees with was not bad at all).

Our workshop was focused on everything PnP. I must confess I do not use that yet, but I am quite interested in starting to use it. I brought my laptop (and a few more people did) as I though we're actually going to use the samples and do something with them, but the day went more in a conference-like agenda. Anyway - happy with it, and I just gave PnP a try today so that I can create a solution that updates the SharePoint User Profiles (Delve in SPO) with data populated in a SharePoint list. For that purpose, I've used especially the PowerShell module on which Erwin van Hunen is working frequently.

Here's a quick selfie of the Bulgarian team @ the workshop.

Even though there was a small fee for the workshops, the whole event would not be possible without the support from the sponsors, so I'm including the slide with their names. Kudos to all those great companies!

Paul Hunt mentioned on Twitter, that this was the best food on a SharePoint Saturday. While I can't compare, I think it deserves a few words. During all breaks, there were fresh fruits, pretzels, some small chocolate bites and cakes. Basically, thousands of calories :)

We've had lunch at the Microsoft canteen, and there were plenty of choices - some slow-roasted pork, pizza, pasta, sushi, soups, salads and freshly squeezed juices. Love it! During our lunch, Mathias Einig (who's the main person to blame for SPS Munich and SPS Stockholm) came to ask if everything's going well and if we're happy with the workshops. Great attention to attendees!

I've included this photo of my lunch as it contains something very rare these days - one of the 3 Microsoft phones we've seen during the event:)

After we were full of calories and knowledge, we ended the day with a 6-7 km walk through the Englisher Garten and a few beers (Maß, of course) at Augustiner Keller, which was recommended by Alex as a "local". The food and beers were great, I highly recommend this place, but you should make a booking, especially on a Friday or Saturday evening. There was a huge beergarten, so I'd love to come back here during the summer months. The same is valid for the Englisher Garten, it would be so green during the summer. It didn't matter for the locals, though as the beergartens there were full at 5 PM :)

More info on Day 2 - the actual conference will come as part of the next blog post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Will Teams take over collaboration from SharePoint?

Already using Microsoft Teams? Do you like it or hate it already?

I've had a talk on the topic last week at the awesome SharePoint User Group Bulgaria meeting.

You can find the video and the slides from the talk, I hope you enjoy them!

Next week I'll be visiting SharePoint Saturday Munich where there will be a deeper level session led by Wictor Wilén on Teams and the customization available.

I'll share some insights after the conference here, so stay tuned.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Microsoft Flow after General Availability: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Hey... it's been a good 4+ months since my last post, shameless.

I'll be sharing more details in a future post on why is that, but for now I'd like to post a few updates on Microsoft Flow after it reached General Availability 3 months ago.

1. Outages

I've been using this since the very first day of the Public Preview and it's been acting strange sometimes, but since it entered General Availability, it started to calm down... a bit. Since this Monday (30/01/2017), when it went bananas...for a full day in production. Nothing like the small glitches that we've seen in Public Preview. Asking about SLA I got confusing answers from Microsoft, something that it's a standalone app etc. So it's not considered part of Office 365 and it's SLA? At least I got it this way.

Although it's just the front-end that was lost, there was no way that a user could know if their flows are running in the background or not. There weren't any messages in the Office 365 Portal or Azure Status portals indicating any issue with the services. After I've asked Microsoft, they've fixed it on the next day, and mentioned that it was a regression after a code update. At least they assured me our flows were running in the background, which is good.

So, as an outcome, take your time before starting to use Flow for production scenarios. It is a very powerful tool, but it's just not mature enough yet and hasn't reached parity with SharePoint Designer workflows (no matter how un-innovative it is). If you ask me, my advice is play with Flow and start learning it - it's obvious it's the future and especially now when it's integrated into modern lists and libraries. Keep your legacy workflows in SharePoint Designer, there's no migration path, but they'll be supported until 2026 (parity with the SharePoint Server 2016 support lifecycle), and there's no end date for support in SharePoint Online.

2. Limited Runs

Another bad news is that Flow now has limited runs (depending on your Plan). You can check all plans here as well as find out which Office 365 plan contains Flow.

In the Preview, we've had thousands of runs for free. It was indicated in the very beginning, however that the pricing will not be available until General Availability. So this is more of a neutral point.

3. Premium features

I've subscribed to Flow (Plan 1) on a trial basis in order to explore some of the paid, premium features like connecting to JIRA, Salesforce, etc.

I've had nothing but a bad experience with those so far - they are so unreliable - your flow runs one day and fails on the next without an obvious reason.

Raising a ticket to Microsoft is useless as the Flow would already work before they answer you. The functionality that I wanted to achieve with JIRA is quite limited in the Flow - it can only capture 2 triggers, which is not sufficient at all if you plan some kind of integration:

Hopefully, Microsoft will invest heavily in Flow as they say and the premium features will bring more value in the coming months. It's good to know that almost any major software is there right now...if your scenario is simplified enough, it might even get the job done for you prior you hire a team of developers to do the integration you need for your organization.

4. Sharing

Finally, and surprisingly you can now invite a new owner to your Flow. 

Once you do this, your Flow will get this green label "Team Flow" under its name. And to edit the owners, just go to the icon with the 2 people on the right hand-side.

What are the benefits?

- All Flows are attached to user accounts. This means the user who created it (and was practical enough to share it with their backups) can now go on vacation...undisturbed :)

- The Flows are storing connections of user accounts and if you'd like your HR to come insert their password in order for them to achieve that nice little automation they've requested from you - they might not feel confident about it. Now you can share the Flow with them and they can insert their username and password from their device and be confident you don't have access to that.

5. Environments

After GA, you'll notice you now have 2 Flow environments when you log in.

One from the preview (which is over) and one listed as default.

A few surprises:

Your Flows are living.... in the Preview environment!

There is no copy or migration of Flows into the live one... confirmed by Microsoft. That means recreation :) hopefully you didn't invest too much efforts in building Flows with the preview (like I did :)

As a dessert, Microsoft is not going to kill the preview environment (again confirmed by them), so there's no hard deadline on when to recreate your flows. There's also no limit on the runs on the preview environment as of this day, but I didn't tell you that :)