Presenting at the Australian Digital Workplaces Conference

With the change in terminology over the years, the name “SharePoint” became a little grey/muddy – and we said goodbye to the “SharePoint Conference”.

In Australia, we have the Digital Workplace Conference which is being held on 23-24 August in Sydney.

I’ll be presenting a session about MICROSOFT TEAMS – and what you can do from a developer viewpoint.

This platform (teams) is one of the most exciting new tools from Microsoft, following on from Office 365 ‘groups’.

I’m also re-thinking and re-evaluating what it means to have an “INTRANET” – with the use of tools like MS-Teams – and wonder how we’ll see a tool like OUTLOOK in a few years from now.    (Email isn’t going away, but there are other ways of working together)

Project activities via ‘conversational collaboration’ and ‘chat-based workspaces’ are the new way – but are businesses ready ??

And then there’s AZURE – which is massive…

Stuff is happening so fast that it’s hard to know how to keep up to date.     And – it’s hard to know what is the best way to do X, Y, or Z…    (pick your topic)

Which is why it’s GREAT to have a conference like DWC – where there will be lots of different perspectives and viewpoints – and wonderful discussion & debate.

*I* personally enjoy these conferences to validate my own perspectives and technical approaches – and either (a) discover something new or (b) realise that what I’m doing is correct – and BOTH are great outcomes !

My session at DWC is in the TECHNICAL ROCKSTARS track (LOL !) – there is also tracks about :

  • Thought Leadership
  • Customer Case Studies
  • Business Productivity

As above – new ideas, and, see what other people are doing….

My session is entitled : Customising and Extending Microsoft Teams

I’m still working on some samples & demo’s – and looking forward to discussing with you all in AUGUST.

See you in Sydney !

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Active Directory = Accurate Directory ??

In many organisations (most organisations ?), the under-lying backbone of the entire infrastructure is ACTIVE DIRECTORY – often known simply as “AD”.

AD is everywhere

Active Directory underpins Microsoft application platform services such as SharePoint, and SQL Server, and CRM, etc – key business solutions – users simply open their web browser, after their initial Windows AD logon, and can then use automatic logon (Windows Auth).   

For customers using SharePoint, the “user profiles” functionality for people search and MySites is sourced from data within AD – there is an entire functional component for AD “sync”.

And for workflow products such as K2, there is a reliance on the corporate directory – especially when forwarding tasks to “my manager”, or certain roles/groups.

Also, IT departments rely on ‘group policy’ to restrict and/or allow software on different computers and servers – much of this is sourced from AD.

There are additional flavours of AD with “Federated Services” (ADFS) – and lately, more and more customers with Azure AD (AAD).    

AAD is now the under-lying backbone of the Microsoft cloud platform – Office 365 uses Azure AD.

Get to the point !

  • Active Directory is the most important piece of software+data within the modern enterprise – regardless of on-prem, or cloud.     

That’s nice, aaaand….?

For such an important ‘platform service’ the data within AD is often (excuse my french) kinda shit…!

My history as an application developer showed me that the need for an ACCURATE Active Directory is vital – especially for correctness of  :

  • AD groups – for correct users/auth
  • Manager hierarchy – escalating tasks to users – for K2, or Nintex workflows
  • SharePoint User profile data, photos, titles, locations, phone numbers, etc.
  • Dynamic groups in AAD rely on accurate data – eg. “user.department = sales” (negating the need for AD groups – but highlighting the importance of correct DATA)
  • Large organisations with thousands of users need an accurate ‘people’ directory for faster communications, eg. Skype for Business

Who’s problem ?

Often the ‘correctness’ of data within AD was left to the IT department to manage.    They have the permissions/rights to update data – but often don’t have the values.

Conversely, business users need correct data, but often don’t have the ability, skills, or permissions to do so.

What’s the answer ?

Often IT departments rely on scripts, or ‘identity management’ software, but there’s now a new way to achieve this.

Hyperfish enables organizations to automatically identify and populate missing information in Active Directory, quickly and easily.

KACHIHRO are proud to have been selected as a launch partner for this wonderful new technology platform, and have been beta-testing + trialling the software.  

This video explains the key features – the best bit is that it becomes a “self-updating” Active Directory – meeting the needs of both “business” and “IT”.

Trial or Demo

If you’re keen to learn more, and are located in Australia, please contact KACHIHRO.

Click here to see details on our partner page >    www.kachihro.com/partners/hyperfish.aspx

Click the contact us link to arrange a time to discuss, and do an assessment of your Active Directory environment.

R & R & T

It’s amazing to check the calendar, and see that we’re into OCTOBER already.   It means that it’s less than three months until Christmas – and also the end-of-2016.   

Today, I’m returning to work, after two weeks of leave, hence the “R&R” title.   There was certainly some rest & relation – and spending time [“T”] with the family.     

It was school holidays, so we took the kids to Queensland, Surfers Paradise initially, and had a blast at the theme parks – roller coasters, water slides, superheroes, dolphin shows and so forth – for four days !    And then, to Noosa for a few days by the pool, and reading a book, and I even managed some MTB’ing time to myself.     And, I grew a ‘holiday beard’ – lots of grey hairs – boo !

It was during the last few days that I included some different “R & R & T” = Review, Reflection and Thinking.    

And – realised how important it is to stop and think.    Everyone should take time for #RRT.

The KACHIHRO business has been operating successfully & steadily now for three financial quarters, it’s ticking along quite well.  

It wasn’t until I was discussing with ex-colleagues at a recent drinks gathering, when I was describing all that I’ve been doing, that I realised that fact (from another perspective).   

I’d done a six-month reviewsix-month reviewin June – time for another, eh ?

And so – here’s a quick run-down, following some #RRT by the pool – along with a Mojito or three – and MTB’ing in Tewantin :

  • Since the end of June, I’ve moved from the standard ‘contract’ for a time period – to working 2 days a week / 3 days a week, for a few customers
  • Juggling is tricky – the context switch is a constant battle – it’s important to keep track via OneNote, and emails – as well as tracking time/hours
  • SharePoint 2013 – doing some patches & updates, and helping the customer with minor bits & pieces
  • Began learning the “Sitrion ONE” platform, for enterprise mobility – as a technical pre-sales / engineer – and have learnt a LOT
  • Presented a session at the O365 Saturday
  • Assisted a customer with some O365 configuration, after migration from on-prem
  • Assessing a new customer for an SP2010 to SP2016 migration
  • Signed up as a partner for Sitrion, and K2 – as well as being included as a launch partner for Hyperfish (more on that shortly)
  • Had some stress + minor anxiety attack, when I had my first non-billable-days for the year, in mid August – not bad to be fully billable until then !
  • Instead, had coffees & lunches with many, many people, as a re-assurance, as well as re-connections – and enjoyed a ‘well needed’ cycling adventure in the hills near Marysville
  • Have been enjoying podcasts from “Introverted Entrepreneur” and “MS Cloud Show” – as well as “This American Life”
  • Re-developed the website for KACHIHRO – check it out here…>    http://www.kachihro.comwww.kachihro.com
  • Financially, doing well – profitable, anyway !    Managed a small profit for the first FY, unlike my prior employer (who earned $160m, and still posted a loss of almost $2m !)
  • Working on plans for FY17, already underway – developing a product, and hoping to do more partner+services work

Wow, eh ?!

So, yes it’s been nice to look back on the successes and progress so far – ticking along – and wondering what the next few months will bring.

How’s it going with you ?!     Hopefully FY17 is progressing well, one quarter completed – with the inevitable rush to Christmas.    Make sure you take some time for #RRT.

Let’s meet up for a coffee/lunch – it would be great to hear what colleagues + customers are doing – and how KACHIHRO can assist in your technology journey.

Smile

More about Sitrion

Following on from my presentation at the O365 Saturday, I wanted to clarify a little more about the SITRION product – and how it works.

MBAAS : Mobile Backbone As A Service

The key value proposition for Sitrion is the “Sitrion ONE cloud” that is used to receive/relay data from on-prem, and SaaS’es, and push notifications to mobile devices.   

There is a LOT going on here, but it’s basically an Azure tenant site that does the traffic shipping – as allows you to configure the apps/cards.

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Native Device App

For a user of a Sitrion app, it’s very quick to get going.   Just need to download the app from the store (AppStore or Google Play), and you get the SITRION icon on your device.   When you open the device, you need to login using an email address, and password.   This then determines the specific apps that you have access to – based on the assigned ROLE for your user.

The native functions of the device can be used within an app – such as camera, GPS, “make a call” and so forth.   All you need to do is define the business logic + user interface, for each app.

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Application Development

Creating “content” for Sitrion follows a nice developer story, using an IDE within Visual Studio.  Instead of spending time with the iOS or Android development SDKs and/or Xamarin, the AppBuilder plug-in allows developers to define specific functionality – much like we used to do with InfoPath forms, or Nintex forms.   The design of these forms follows a ‘railed’, with some basic UI components that you can drag and drop.

The good thing is that the two types of projects – CARDS and MICROAPPS – will all have a very similar User Interface, providing for consistency, regardless of the backend data.

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What is a CARD ?

The simple explanation is that a CARD is a system-generated “push” notification.   This can be via data updated within a SharePoint list, or a backend system listener to SQL Server, or any other trigger (we’ve even done a file-added-to-DropBox trigger).   Sitrion will then send a notification to the user, and a ‘toast’+sound alert if configured.   This is great for corporate communications, rather than relying on a user to respond to an email, or go read an intranet blogpost.

Cards will only ever have TWO screens – a summary, and a detail screen.   This is to retain this notion of ‘small nuggets’ of information – rather than lots of information for each card.

These cards can be read-only, as a simple notification – or – can require a response as a TASK.   Again, this depends on the business logic required, and can be an approval, or a check-in, or whatever !

When the action is taken, it will be send via the Sitrion cloud, and executed within the backend system – such as ‘create an item in a SharePoint list’ – or ‘approve action on a K2 task’.

When an item is added to an O365 list, it will send a notification alert.  Shown below is a Summary + Detail screen

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What is a MICROAPP ?

The second way to define functionality for Sitrion is via a MicroApp – this is a user initiated activity.   This will be the person opening the Sitrion app, and starting an activity such as “Expense Claim”, or “Time Sheet”, or “People Search”.

The design of these MicroApps is via Visual Studio, with greater functionality, and many screens (if needed).   The backend data connectors can read a list of data within SharePoint, or other data source, and users can do activities like List/Detail updates, or submit a form.  

The same device functions can be used, such as camera, and GPS, etc – but the important distinction is that these are “user initiated”.

A user can choose a specific MicroApp, and then enter details, and click ‘submit’

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Wiring it up

There are some good connectors for backend systems, such as SAP, SP2013, SP2010, SQL, K2 and so forth.   And, some SaaS platforms like O365 and Salesforce.    If needing further integrations, we’ve been using ZAPIER, which has close to 500 connectors – the sky is the limit (sorry – is that a bad “cloud” pun ??)

For any CLOUD connectors, you just need to include the login/password and a URL – such as Office 365.

For any ON-PREM connectors, you will need to install the Sitrion ONE “hub” which maintains connections to platforms such as SP2010 and SQL.

Here’s an example of the connection within a MICRO-APP, for a chosen SP site, list, and the data methods & fields.

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For a ‘card’, the next configuration is to tell the actual SharePoint list (or O365) to send data, when a specific action occurs.   

You just need to choose the List – and give it the “MessageType” to send.   And also, need to choose “On Update”, or “On Insert”, etc.

This is the view within Office 365, you need to include some additional configuration details for your particular tenant.

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Security + Authentication

This is a complex discussion, and probably something to cover in depth within further posts, but the main points are :

  • Sitrion can maintain users/logins within the tenant itself (good for extranet or edge-users)
  • ADFS can be used also, and is the best/easiest option for other reasons, such as internal connection to SP2013
  • NO data is stored on the device itself, and is cached, and re-loaded when a user logs in. 
  • NO credentials are stored on the device either, for back-end or SaaS connections – Sitrion handles this within the “Hub”
  • Azure Service Bus is the magic sauce to the platform, as well as HTTPS and JSON

This is a basic architecture – I’ll aim to discuss these topics in greater depth soon…

Enterprise Mobility using Sitrion ONE

As a mobile platform, Sitrion allows for greater employee engagement, and connectivity, you could even view this as a ‘mobile intranet’.

The CARD functionality provides the ability to PUSH content to users, ensuring that information is shared with employees, and users will have tasks at hand, and able to respond quickly – helping staff who are time poor – and better utilising idle time on a packed-train commute to work (for example), to perform a few productivity tasks.

The MICROAPPS allow for user initiated business processes, and will be the ‘go-to’ app for sources of information, such as knowledge base, people search, shared files, and company links.

If you would like a personalized demo, or a discussion regarding the SITRION platform for enterprise mobility, and employee engagements, please let me know…     Smile

Enterprise Mobility (O365 Saturday)

Last weekend, I presented a session at the Melbourne “Office 365 Saturday” – with a topic covering Office 365 + Mobility.

I had a variety of topics/ideas that I wanted to relay to attendee’s – and covered the following…

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  • Mobile phones & tablets – are used more during the morning commute, and then evening times, PC’s are still more used in business hours
  • Millenials Survey – most respondants have their phone always with them
  • Rethink applications/solutions – using micro-moments, time poor, small workloads
  • Enterprises need to provide solutions, or users will find a way (regardless) – BYOD, BYOA

Microsoft : Enterprise Mobility

The next piece was with relation to what’s provided by Microsoft :

  • Good story for devices and infrastucture – MDM/MAM – Enterprise Mobility Suite
  • Azure Mobile apps have some great doco and sample content – but still need a MAC to compile for iOS (build server)
  • Xamarin is great for full custom ‘native apps’, but not really needed for enterprise – lots of code + deployment + testing
  • PowerApps is still in trial/beta, and not ready for enterprise (yet)
  • Hooking back end data can be tricky – on-prem is still a real thing, can enterprise do mobile-first, without needing cloud-first ?

My next discussion was relating the vendor landscape – specifically around K2 and SITRION – and my awesome chart of “small, medium, large”.

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This shows that you can do a LOT with Xamarin and Azure Mobile Apps – but time to market, and cost can be LARGE.

Similarly, the opposite end shows the O365 app with a quick & easy (and free) view of a SharePoint O365 site – and then PowerApps is next up the list with a “SMALL” level of cost, skills, etc.

In the middle are the vendor products – which was covered next.

Vendor : K2

  • K2 SmartForms can be used to source data from back end systems, and easily provide for mobile forms and business processes
  • With a simple checkbox, the data can be cached, and offline forms can be introduced – and submitted later

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Vendor : Sitrion

  • With a native mobile app, and custom designer in Visual Studio, Sitrion allows for integration to backend systems – including on-prem SP2010, SP2013, and SAP, SQL, etc
  • Employees have a native app that can recieve push content (CARDS), including read-only “Comms” from Marketing, etc – as well as Tasks to be responded to – these can be system initiated.
  • There is also the notion of  MICRO-APPS where a user can use the phone to initiate a process or application context, such as Find-A-Person, or Submit Expense Claim
  • The great bit is that you can easily connect on-prem data – meaning that enterprises can “get mobile” without needing to migrate their farm to O365
  • Sitrion provides an ‘admin portal’ within the cloud, that can be used to define users, roles, and so forth

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Demo !

With the demo I showed, I had a Sitrion ONE solution within Visual Studio, and then added a list item to a SharePoint list within O365, and received a CARD , and a notification on my iPhone.  

I then showed the use of an iPad, and web browser scenario – to interact with a MICRO APP.

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Close out

To finish up the discussion, I highlighted a few “use cases” that enterprises can use for a mobility story.  

It’s really open to anything – I’ve realised that it can actually be a “mobile intranet” – with company communications, tasks & approvals, and then apps that a user can open & interact with.

If you’d like to see or hear more – or have a personalised demo of the Sitrion or K2 platform, please let us know.

Feel free to check out the slides from my session – over at SlideShare – leave a comment below, if you like this session.

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The first six months

Today, I completed my 2nd client engagement (contracting) as my new business entity – aka kachihro.   That’s 2 x three month contracts – done and dusted.

I just realised I’ve only posted ONE blogpost – when I announced I was leaving OBS/Empired – it has been a whirlwind since then.

In a nutshell, the change to becoming a contractor has been great – I’ve learnt a lot, and had some wonderful conversations – as well as some soul searching & reflection.

So – in no particular order – here’s a recap of my first 1/2 year.

  • Finished at OBS/Empired just before Christmas, and had a great send-off lunch + drinks – with 3 other people who were also leaving !
  • So many great friends & colleagues, it was bittersweet, and felt a little strange for a week or two – luckily it was the Christmas period, which was with family/friends, and a great New Years Eve party.
  • Started my first contracting role at the start of January, when everyone else was going back to work.   It felt like going to a new customer/client – having to learn the faces, names, and roles.
  • Did some dev work with AngularJS, MVC, SQL – and supported another customer with SharePoint, and some older VB.NET apps – lots of bits & pieces.
  • Rolled into my second contract, after three months (had been offered an extension, but wanted to do smaller pieces).   K2+SQL – which was great to get deep into.   Hadn’t done any K2 for many years (not to that level) – was great to re-learn
  • Small project team, in a dynamic office with great technical dev’s – awesome office banter, and lunch room fun – it felt like the awesome hey-day of OBS
  • Part time SharePoint support and analysis work, with another contractor who has infra-strengths, but less app/dev skills.   We have a good working relationship, and similar viewpoints, with only minor overlap of skills
  • Some cycling to work – less this year – as expected.   But – awesome bike facilities under the building – the way it should be done !

And now, I’m ready to start some piecemeal work arrangements – with 2 days / 3 days for different customers.   This will be a challenge initially – but will be able to stay flexible and on-the-ball.

Some other learnings along the way – it’s not just “coding” !

  • Business expenses – registering for ABN, company name, GST
  • Accounting stuff like BAS statements, GST payments, super+salary (for me !) – thank goodness for QuickBooks Online (it’s awesome)
  • Purchased a new own laptop, and an iPad
  • Management level reading of books + articles – have enjoyed “The Introvert Entrepreneur” – and “The E-Myth : Why Most Small Business Fail”.
  • Managing my time+energy – and not say YES to everything (don’t get overwhelmed)
  • Have been spending more time “doing the work” than growing my business – which is fine, and I’m happy to not take on employees, or have a big team (not yet anyway)
  • Conversations – I’ve lost count of the wonderful coffee chats I’ve had – and being confident about my own abilities – out from the safety zone I was (happily) part of for 7 years
  • Contacts – have had a few ‘blind date’ meetups, and good conversations, with work forthcoming – has been good to discuss
  • Great advice to “back yourself” and be forthright in speaking my mind
  • Standard consulting stuff !   Wow the customer, over-communicate, give-a-damn, and get the job done – be dependable, and reliable.

Lots of other great ideas in the mix – I just need to work out which to focus on.

So – it’s going pretty well !

My first six months since ‘leaving the nest’ have been a success – only had my heart-in-mouth on a few occasions, and thinking “oh crap, I’m really on my own, eh !?!”

But – a good lunch chat with a friend – or a phone call – and it set me straight.

Let me know if YOU want to get together – lots to talk about.

(Hope things are good in your world – the IT world is booming…)

Smile

Where the magic happens

If you’re reading this, you either know me through the Melbourne team at OBS / Empired – or we’re industry colleagues via LinkedIn – or the SharePoint community perhaps ?  

Or a past customer ?

Either way, thanks for taking the time to read this – I appreciate it !

You may or may not know, but I’ll be leaving the safe harbour of OBS/Empired – my last day will be December 18th, 2015.

This was a decision that I didn’t take lightly, after 6.5 years – almost 1/3 of my working career – it took me about 3-4 months actually, to finally take the plunge.

I was looking back on the change that’s happened over that period (both personally and professionally) since March 2009 – and I’m kinda amazed actually :

> When I started at OBS in 2009, we had two kids – now three.   All three kids are now at school, and I coach their basketball team.

> When I began at OBS, I was working on SharePoint 2007 projects, and InfoPath/Nintex – and hadn’t done anything (yet) with SharePoint 2010

> The company was less than 100 people when I joined.     We have transitioned from a Nintex-owned SharePoint consulting services organisation, to a publically listed international corporation of ~1,000 people

> I was awarded as an MVP after the work I’d done with the local user group (MSPUG), and SharePoint Saturday’s, (and my blog/s) and attended the MVP at the Microsoft campus in Redmond (2011)

> I have presented sessions at TechEd on the Gold Coast, and SharePoint Conference/s in Australia and New Zealand.

> I attended a SharePoint 2013 training week in Kuala Lumpur

> I have become a cycling fanatic, and ride to work most days, rain or shine.    In 2009, I hadn’t ridden my bike in years – and was unfit & over 90-kgs.   I now cycle 120km a week, race in amateur MTB events, have ridden Mt Buller and Falls Creek (in the same day!), Lake Mountain, Mt Buffalo, Mt.Donna Buang – and ridden + camped on two touring rides.   And I’ve lost 12kgs.   

(This began in 2010 – thanks to a “workplace health check” at OBS.  I had a “scare” approaching the age of 40 – time to get fit & healthy !)

> In 2009, we had no Azure, or Office365 – or “the cloud” – or hadn’t even seen jQuery or AngularJS (they weren’t created !) – and not many people had even heard of FaceBook.

> In the last 6.5 years, I’ve met a LOT of great people – and made a lot of great friends, worked with some amazing colleagues – and worked for some great customers / projects.

So – why leave !??!

Is it simply “time for a change” ?   

That’s one consideration – 6.5 years is a a long time in IT, where the average employment is ~2 years.

But mainly, I’ve been looking at my career path, and what I do – and like to do.    

I’m not the sort of person to be a practice lead/manager – I’ve tried the ‘people management’ side of things, but still enjoy working in ‘delivery’ on technical projects, and problem solving, and creating solutions for customers.   

I not really keen to work in sales – or project management.

I really enjoy doing DEVELOPER work, and there’s a big need for people in the marketplace.   

Hence why, I’m heading off to do my own freelance consulting – with Azure, O365 and SharePoint, and related technologies.

I also have some ideas about a product that will assist my son’s basketball club, and might turn into a bigger offering (pie-in-the-sky at the moment – but ideas !)

Out of the Comfort Zone

I’m sure I’ll face some challenges and pitfalls, and success & (hopefully not many) failures along the way.   

But – I’ve always wondered about “contracting” – and have never done it.

I don’t want to close out my career in 20 years and think “I wish I’d tried that”.  

And so – that’s exactly what I’m doing.

kachihro

I’ll now be a one-man-show (as of Jan 2016) – under the name of ‘kachihro’.  

There is a reason behind the name – probably best discussed over a 1:1 chat.   

Thanks to EVERYONE who has provided me with great feedback and support, as I embark on this scary mission – your words of encouragement have been invaluable.

What’s next ?

From here – I’ll be flat-chat finishing out project work at Empired – and doing handover to peers – and then have some time with family over the Christmas break.

I will certainly miss the awesome “work family” that I’ve enjoyed over the time – TFBSFA !!

I’m certain I’ll keep in touch with some people – Empired has a great future, and lots of opportunity and growth – but I’ll be growing in a different direction.

Hopefully, I can catch up with you (YOU !) for a coffee, or lunch, or a beer – or all-of-the-above – when the calendar ticks over into January.

If I don’t see you – have a great Christmas – yes, I went there – it’s only 6 weeks away !!

Please email if you’d like to get in touch >   chris@kachihro.com