Microsoft Ignite – Day Two from Grant Thompson

Geek Speak

Ignite is packed full of information on a myriad of technology topics. There are so many sessions it is almost always difficult to choose which to attend. In this update I am going to touch on a few and look for more posts in the coming days and weeks.

Digital Transformation
This is the buzz here, it’s on the lips of most presenters I have seen. No one has provided a universal definition of it and as I talk to people it means different things to

different folks.

As we all know, the cloud has ushered in a new era

of technology innovation and advancement and, best of all, with the “as a service” model, it is affordable for most organizations large and small. I believe the days of the SMB market lacking enterprise-class technology are behind us (save maybe some fancy hardware).

Digital transformation seems to be more of a feeling than a specific list of things. As Windows 10 receives rapidly developed new features and new functionality seems to appear in Office apps and Office 365 services almost daily users are empowered to do more, faster and easier. Users are transforming their work using these tools to be more meaningful, insightful and effective. In the coming days and weeks, I will be publishing articles on some of the new features recently released as well as some that are coming soon.

IT professionals are moving into a much more strategic role in their organizations. Instead of simply deploying, monitoring and maintaining systems they are innovating, training and putting together powerful solutions to business problems. In addition, many have felt the liberation and moved into a role where they are impacting revenue and adding significant value for their organization.

For the trusted business advisor (TBA) this same perspective is being adopted. The most successful TBA/MSP (Managed Service Provider) are helping their customers stay up to date on new features and services, learning how to support their customers’ revenue growth and dramatically improve their efficiency.
You can depend on SMB Nation to help consolidate this learning through articles, webinars and events (such as our upcoming Tour de Cloud which kicks off next week in California).

There is also a great deal of discussion about the “modern workforce”. As younger generations move into the workforce, they have a different view of technology. Their expectations are higher, their tolerance for things that don’t work or slow them down is low. They readily embrace social media and business tools that allow them to engage and collaborate.

Many professionals (tech and not) didn’t immediately see the value in social tools. A “millennial” worker however adopts them as normal and necessary. In order to empower, attract and keep the newer generations of workers organizations need to light up this technology and learn how it can transform their processes.

Another side of the workforce conversation has to do with the need for technology workers. Last night Microsoft hosted a “Women in Technology” reception and panel discussion. Teams with a good mix of men and women are more efficient and successful than those that are all or predominantly one gender. It isn’t just about hiring people with the skills and experience in a particular area, it is also the different mindsets and thought processes that compliment and balance each other.


Most of you have heard of tools like Delve, Graph and Power BI for Office 365. If you haven’t spent any time looking at this, the time is now. Delve and is a cloud-based analytics tool that uses machine learning to search emails, meetings, contacts, social networks and documents stored on OneDrive or Sites in Office 365. Graph is used for data visualization and Power BI is a powerful business intelligence tool (you got that from the name right?).

Organizations of all sizes need metrics. A significant problem in smaller organizations is that it takes time and technology to generate them. Most businesses have a lot of data and it comes in many forms. As an example, think of your mailbox as a database. How many times a day do you search your email for something? The wealth of knowledge in it is astounding. That is just one place that organizations store information. Think about your business or, if you are an IT consultant, your customers’ businesses. Make a list of 3-5 places where they have information “siloed”. The next task is to use the tools available to unlock the data and then to make it usable.

One very cool, up and coming Office 365 feature is MyAnalytics. This leverages Delve but instead of searching across the organization, it gathers metrics for the individual worker. How much time do you spend in email every day? What about meetings? What is your response time to your boss? Your largest customer?

Satya provided an excellent analogy - today more and more people use devices to track their health. How many steps they took, flights of stairs they climbed, how well they slept, etc. MyAnalytics uses information gathered through our devices and services to provide the answers to the “health” of our work. Using this tool, workers can identify inefficiencies or areas that need more focus and improvement as well as receive feedback on the areas where they are doing well. Not only that but as I mentioned earlier, the younger workforce will adopt and use tools like this because they are familiar to their way of life. And, as with most technology, next year this will be an expectation. New hires will ask, “How do I see my productivity stats?” MyAnalytics is included in the E5 Enterprise and Education SKUs and can be purchased as an add-on for Enterprise E1 or E3 and Education E3.

Once purchased, it will become immediately available to users. However, since it takes a while to absorb data it may be a week or more before users can see statistics.

Two important things you are probably thinking (I hope):
• Privacy – MyAnalytics has several privacy settings. Review the privacy guide here for details
• Plans – You read right, no Business SKUs can use MyAnalytics. If you think about the capabilities of Office 365 and the incredible value it brings to the SMB it is time to start identifying if your SMB or your customers can benefit from the features included. Then you should be recommending the “E” SKUs up-front or as an “upgrade”. If MyAnalytics saves an employee one hour a week it likely offsets them moving from Business Premium to E5. And think of all E5 has to offer.

Here is a snapshot of MyAnalytics.

MyAnalytics Dashboard Example

O365 Security and Compliance enhancements
On the last two SMB Nation roadshows, I spent a significant amount of time talking about security. As most of you know, I am a big fan of EMS for Office 365. This summer Microsoft changed the meaning of the acronym from Enterprise Mobility Suite to Enterprise Mobility and Security. I say they need to remove the Enterprise as organizations of almost any size can leverage the services bundled in EMS. Just because a service is called “Enterprise”, don’t dismiss it out of hand for the SMB. I think the same about the “E” SKUs.

One of the best enhancements to Office 365 Security and Compliance is in RMS – Rights Management Service; similar enhancements have been made for email encryption. RMS is a means of protecting sensitive company data by assigning rights (view, print, forward, etc.) manually or automatically, based on policy, to documents. These rights are enforced on the document itself no matter where it goes – inside or outside of the organization.

The process for authenticating the user to determine their rights to a document has been streamlined significantly. Office 365 customers using Outlook or OWA are automatically authenticated when they access a RMS protected document. Microsoft has now added Google and others to this automatic process. That means if you send a RMS protected document to a Gmail user, they can simply open the document and the rights you (or company policy) have assigned will be enforced.

The blocking of forwarding an attachment is now enforced regardless of the mail client. If the recipient is using Outlook on any device (e.g. Outlook for iPhone) the forward icon is disabled for the message. In other mail clients, such as the native Mail app for iPhone, the forward function isn’t disabled. However, when the recipient forwards the mail with the RMS protected document, the message itself communicates with Office 365 and returns an NDR (non-delivery report) indicating the user does not have the necessary permission to forward the document.

I have two more days here in Atlanta and look forward to sharing what I learn and experience.

PS - Join us on the Tour De Cloud workshop tour across the USA starting next week in California. Grant is the lead instructor. We're hitting 11-cities in all! Visit