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Pandemic pushes the importance of cloud technologies

Microsoft Inspire, an annual Microsoft Partner Conference for the first time in history, was showcased virtually this year allowing partners from around the world to join.

Partners heard from various inspirational keynote speakers, along with executives taking point on the subject of the changing business and consumer landscape as an effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Gavriella Schuster – Corporate Vice President of Microsoft, in her opening keynote announced the four key areas which are Microsoft’s key focus for FY21, impacting organizations in a post-COVID world:

  • Enabling remote work
  • Business continuity
  • Security
  • Cloud Migrations

Many of the product announcements and future roadmaps at Microsoft Inspire 2020 centered around the theme of making remote work more accessible, “the full value of Microsoft 365 as a secure, remote work collaboration solution” Gavriella said.

Here are some of the main headlines and and product announcements.

The future of Remote Work for Partners

Part of the new “remote everything” movement, Microsoft announced that it’s focus would be on:

  • Empowering employees,
  • Optimizing operations,
  • Transforming products,
  • and Customer Engagement.

What was first considered to be a temporary solution, has now become a permanent shift in the way businesses will operate post COVID-19. By empowering their end customers with new modes of working and building resiliency and rebuild businesses. Delivering more cloud-based enhancements like Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft Teams, and Power Platform solutions.

The new face of Microsoft 365 – Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, this year’s ‘game changer’ mentioned through the event was established as the new ‘remote work ecosystem’. Uniting communication and collaboration between employees through one platform.

As partners began the transition around empowering employees through these solutions, security concerns were addressed as data is transferred between digital locations.

“We are helping customers meet compliance requirements and protect their most sensitive information. The new Endpoint Data Loss Prevention in Microsoft 365 helps organizations identify and protect sensitive information across all their endpoints,”

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Microsoft Inspire 2020 – Product Announcements

Business Applications Announcement

  • Microsoft released a pre-built Power Platform solution that will help customers prioritize health, security, safety and streamline the process of returning employees to the workplace.

Microsoft 365 and Teams updates

  • Power BI personal app for Microsoft Teams – a centralized hub for data visualization and accessibility.
  • Microsoft Lists – a new Microsoft 365 app that facilitates easy information tracking and organization of works. Available in Microsoft Teams by Mid-August.
  • New capabilities in Microsoft Teams to support the first-line workers.

Azure Updates and announcements

  • New multi-factor authentication and Privileged Identity Management support in Azure Lighthouse.
  • Launch of the latest member of Microsoft’s hybrid portfolio – the next generation of Azure Stack HCI. It is the fastest and easiest way to integrate existing datacentres with cloud.
  • New Azure Migrate enhancements to enable customers to conduct richer datacentre assessments.

Dynamics 365

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Voice capability to offer out-of-the-box integration with everyday applications.
  • Preview of Dynamic 365 Connected Store – the AI tool that uses intelligent edge devices like video data and IoT sensor data to deliver triggered alerts and actionable recommendations.
  • General availability of Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection with new capabilities like Account Protection and Loss Prevention.

Extended Meeting Capabilities with Teams Apps

Microsoft is excited to announce new meetings extensibility points that will enable project services like us to expand the Teams meeting experience. With this new capability, developers will be able to build apps or integrate their existing ones within the meeting surface and provide a richer collaboration experiences for users across the entire meeting lifecycle – covering events and actions from before, during, and after a meeting. These new extensibility points will be available soon for preview over coming weeks.

Empowering solution services with new meetings surfaces
Until recently, developers could integrate Teams apps within the constructs of channels, 1:1 chats, and group chats – but not meetings. Now, these new meetings extensibility points provide an opportunity to enable their apps within the scope of a meeting as tabs, in new surface areas like the app panel, through in-meeting app signals for notifications, and access to critical APIs to enable powerful app experiences. Developers will be able to enable these capabilities by configuring Teams app to be available in meeting scope within their app manifest.

Enabling richer collaboration experiences across the meetings lifecycle
Microsoft Teams is the hub for teamwork and with these new meetings extensibility points, developers will be able to enable richer collaboration experiences across the meetings lifecycle. End users will enjoy an enhanced end-to-end meetings experience as they go from scheduling the meeting to attending the meeting to collaborate with meeting attendees after. Below are a few examples of the possibilities with these extensibilities.

Before meeting experiences
Users will be able to add Teams apps during meeting set up. Through the “roles” API, technicians will be able to configure the apps to tailor the experience based on the user’s role/persona (e.g., presenter, attendee, guest, anonymous).

before meeting experiences.png

During meeting experiences
Developers will be able to design how the Teams app uses the app panel (right pane) within a meeting. They can build experiences integrating tools such as adaptive cards, HTML, and other platform capabilities to create an engaging surface for users to interact with. Again, technicians can configure how the apps will behave based on the specific roles/personas in the meeting. The apps themselves will be visible from the meeting tool bar to host tabs.

during meeting experiences.png

Another capability that clients will be able to take advantage of are through in-meeting notifications (content bubbles), where the app will be able to surface important content to the users based on their role/persona.

during meeting experiences2.png

After meeting experience
The benefit of these new meetings extensibility points is that, like today, end users will have benefit of having their apps persist within this meetings surface to continue to use and draw back upon for further collaboration.

after meeting experiences.png

Consistent level of administrative controls and management
While these new extensibility points provide new sets of capabilities, developers can remain confident and leverage their existing toolset to manage Teams apps that integrate in meetings. We’ll be able to continue to have the same controls, tools, and policies to ensure enterprise grade security, manageability, and trust.

Unlocking meetings scenarios together with Microsoft Partners
Meetings extensibility has been a highly requested from both MSP Clients and Managed Service Partners for good reason. There are numerous scenarios across lines of business, industries, and competencies where these extensibility points will unlock opportunities to enhance collaboration and productivity. We’re excited to announce that several of Microsoft’s key partners, including Polly, Open Agora, Miro, iCIMS, and HireVue are integrating these new capabilities in their Teams apps at the time of our anticipated general availability launch later this year – unlocking new scenarios and experiences for Teams users to interact with their apps across the meeting lifecycle.

polly and open agora.png

Polly and Open Agora are apps that allow users to create and distribute polls and surveys to gather data easily for real-time insight and analysis. With the new meetings extensibility points, these partners will be able to build more integrated polling/surveying experiences directly within the scope of meetings.

mirro.png

Miro provides users a virtual whiteboard for visual brainstorming and organization. With the new meetings extensibility points, users will be able to enable these apps across the entire meetings lifecycle for whiteboarding before, during, and after meetings.

icims and hirevue.png

iCIMS and HireVue are talent acquisition and interviewing platforms that provide organizations end-to-end recruiting, interviewing, and hiring solutions. With the new meetings extensibility points, users using these Teams apps will be able streamline and enrich the candidate hiring experience, such as entering interview feedback directly while facilitating virtual interviews.

Design, build, and expand new meeting experiences
Microsoft are excited to provide partners these new meeting extensibility points. As Microsoft roll out the developer preview over the coming weeks, Microsoft invite us to begin integrating your apps with these new extensibility capabilities and look forward to collecting your feedback to help us improve. General availability is expected later this year.

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How Microsoft 365 Business can help improve your business.

Welcome to our blog on the recent addition to the Microsoft skus – Microsoft 365 Business. Today we’re going to help our clients by talking about the product, some of the note-worthy features that are included, as well as hopefully giving you some insight into where they can help improve your business.

The first thing we want our customers to recognize is that the Microsoft 365 Business sku is separate from the traditional Office 365 licensing. It has been built on the foundations of the popular Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium, however with new additional and advanced features that will change the way you think about your IT Infrastructure. We’ll address these features shortly, however this is an important segue to think about where your business is in its technology life-cycle.

Infrastructure Diagram

What we’re seeing is that there are still many organizations using very, very old-style technologies such as Windows 7 as well as XP systems. Remember these systems have next to no support, which basically means that they lack the ability to work in a modern workplace. The lack of security features such as single sign-on seen in Windows 10, branching the security management, group policies and ease of access across Office 365 and other application connectivity. Lack of up-to-date systems and security features acting as one of the major defenses against modern-day infections such a cryptolocker, ransomware and other malware.

Another fact to point out with older infrastructure is you may:

  • Different PC’s being purchased over time,
  • Multiple arrangements of different operating systems,
  • Multiple desktop configurations with various versions of software compatibility.

Infrastructure that probably isn’t consistent across the organization creating frustration and preventing users working consistently. In turn, businesses are looking at very different style of solutions to bridge this gap, and this again makes it more complicated and potentially more expensive to manage.

So our goal is to bring a consistent environment to all our customers to give them what’s modern, up-to-date, and also provide the ability to manage these things in a better fashion. That’s where Microsoft 365 Business comes in.

So think of Microsoft 365 Business as an infrastructure and software integrated solution. Microsoft 365 has expanded from the traditional foundations of the Office 365, still inclusive of the Desktop and Online Office 365 Applications and features of the Office 365 Business Premium licensing you may be familiar with, however has added additional security features typically seen in the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) licensing:

  • Mobile device management, to consistently manage security across your environment remotely from the cloud with Microsoft Intune. Manage all devices whether they’re mobile or on the desktop, Windows 10, Android, iOs and Mac, and with an additional range of compliance features that are becoming more in demand now based on things like the Data Breach legislation. Therefore all customers need to be aware of their compliance requirements and needs, and these services to allow that.
  • The ability to encrypt documents and do things like forcing multi-factor authentication, and restricting copy and paste.
  • Information Rights Management to protect sensitive information and data effectively no matter where they go on the internet; embedding permissions we can protect them inside teams, we can protect them inside OneDrive, we can encrypt the emails leaving the business.

We know users have multiple devices and therefore must have all sorts of things that need to be protected based on a single logging that users has with your Active Directory. We’ve got the ability to do a selective wipe of just corporate data, we’ve got full right capabilities once we put those devices under management, so if they get lost there’s no need to go and declare data breach because those devices are encrypted.

As we can see, the new Microsoft 365 Business product has bundled a number of significant skus together to make one hefty product. But that’s not all. Putting the bigger picture together Microsoft have also included the benefits of upgrading your Windows 7 or 8 pro to Windows 10 at no additional cost, as well as introducing the new Windows Autopilot tool. Basically, this tool simplifies device administration allowing you to deploy a full Windows 10 out-of-the-box experience significantly designed for you business. Imagine a business manager buys a new PC for an employee, The employee opens it up, they log in with their AD Credentials, and then they are logged into Office 365 where the software is pushed down and is automatically configured based on the policies you set at the back end. If you haven’t already realized, this ability means that the deployment of devices throughout your organization are seamlessly consistent, with all the security features and functionally preset. All the one operating system, all the one desktop set up, all the one security set up, and no ugly surprises. A question you may ask; “What if I have an app that still needs Windows 7?” No problem. Since your business has just upgraded to Windows 10 you’ll be able to run the software using Hyper-V. For more information on Hyper-V please refer to: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/virtualization/hyper-v-on-windows/about/

Now before we rap up, three things to note:

  • Microsoft 365 business is aimed typically at the SMB customer up to 300 users.
  • Microsoft 365 Business sadly does not give you the voice capabilities to do cloud PBX.
  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise will however provide you these features if the above does not fit your business model.

If we reference the detailed comparison of the plans below, Office 365 Business Premium is around $18 ex GST, and Microsoft 365 Business is only about $10 more to which if you’re paying for Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium P1 for MFA, and other 3rd-Party products for things like archiving then you’d waver those products and already be saving about $12 per user per month. For your information we’ve provided the features of the Microsoft 365 E3 and the E5 licensing as well. If you would like more information on the Enterprise skus don’t hesitate to contact us.

Alright, well if you’ve landed here from our Monthly eNewletter, or have wandered in from our website then thank you for tuning in and I hope we have provided you with the product knowledge you’re looking for. Don’t hesitate to contact us further on any of the information talked about here today, otherwise feel free to explore the gallery below.

Information Source: Robert Crane, “What is Microsoft 365 Business?” SlideShare (blog), September 7, 2018 , https://www.slideshare.net/directorcia/what-is-microsoft-365-business

Are you Utilising Microsoft Planner?

hero_o365planner_devices_723x459What is Microsoft Planner?

For anyone who is an avid to-do list keeper, Microsoft Planner is your new best friend. This tool is a project-management tool, similar to Trello, also a free project tool. With Microsoft Planner, businesses, schools and organisations can structure teamwork easily, where teams can create new plans, organise, assign and collaborate on tasks, set due dates, update statuses and share files. Planner also includes visual dashboards and email notifications to help keep everyone informed on progress.

 When is it Availabile?

All users with eligible subscription plans will automatically see the Planner tile appear in the Office 365 app launcher. No specific action by Office 365 admins is needed.

Planner is available for Office 365 Enterprise E1 – E5, Business Essentials, Premium and Education plans.

Microsoft Planner, Office 365

How does Planner Work?

Each plan you work on has its own board, where you can organise tasks into buckets, then categorise tasks based on their status or who they are assigned to.  You can also create cards for your tasks, place them in different buckets and tag them with numerous colours. Cards can have checklists, comments, attachments, links, start and end dates. Event planners can have buckets allocated for ‘in advance, ‘on the day’ and ‘after the event’.

This tool allows you to attach files to tasks, work together on those files, and even have conversations around tasks without switching between applications. Planner works across all devices and allows everyone to be on the same page. Utilising the Chart feature allows all team members to track and visualise their current progress in the ‘hub’. Yellow signifies task not yet started, Red for late tasks, Blue for in progress and green for completed. The ‘Hub’ allows you to track overall progress, see who’s on time and who’s behind and also track your own progress on tasks and assignments.

How to create a plan, build a team, assign tasks, and update status’

Step 1: Sign In and create a plan

Step 2: Add tasks and give them dates

Step 3: Sort Tasks into Buckets

Step 4: Add People and assign them to tasks

The Benefits of Planner

Microsoft’s planner is integrated across all Microsoft products – something that is extremely useful for customers already utilising Microsoft’s Office Suite. For example, Planner is integrated with Office 365 Groups, allowing conversations in Planner to be available in Outlook 2016, Outlook on the web, and the Groups Mobile Apps.

OneNote is also fully integrated – every plan has a OneNote Notebook created and users can utilise Office – allowing team members to attach Word, Excel and PowerPoint files to a card. This in its entirety is then stored in the SharePoint Online document library, with offline capabilities.