The Everyone group in SharePoint Online

If you’ve done lots of SharePoint work, you will be familiar with default groups like “All Authenticated Users” and “Everyone”. In SharePoint Online this is different these days. There is basically just one similar group if you want to allow practically anyone on your site (usually as a Visitor). That group is called “Everyone except external users“. The other options that were available are gone. A few things to note about the “Everyone except external users” group:
  • Even though it says ‘everyone’, this does not mean that just any anonymous user can come in. This is not anonymous authentication. So in fact this is more like the ‘all authenticated users’, you do need to log in.
  • When you share something with a user or group in SharePoint, you get the option to send them a notification email. You also see that option for the “Everyone except external users” group, but even if you check that box, the email will not get sent. This is by design, and it makes sense – imagine how big that group is and how many emails that would generate.
Sources: Default SharePoint Groups Notification email not sent to group

Selecting the email address for your Team in Microsoft Teams

When you create a new team in Microsoft Teams, by default Teams will create a new Office 365 Group for you that is linked to the team. The name of the Office 365 Group is automatically determined based on the name you give your team. In other words: it’s not necessarily exactly the same as your team name, so it might not be the name that you want. The same goes for the email address that is created for this Office 365 Group.

Why would that be a problem? To me it’s about the email address that comes with the Office 365 Group (and therefore the team): I would like this email address to be as short and convenient as possible for the team, since it’s also often used as a distribution list when you’re sharing something from other applications.

So how do you get around that? Currently the only way is to create your Office 365 Group first. If you do this from the Office 365 Portal, you will see a field where you can fill in the desired email address – only the part before the ‘@’ sign. After you enter it, Office 365 will tell you right away if that address is available or not.
NB: you cannot alter the email address of an existing O365 Group through the UI. That can only be done with PowerShell, using the Set-UnifiedGroup command.

Once you’ve created the desired O365 Group and email address there, you can go to Microsoft Teams and create a new team based on that existing O365 Group.


Side by side Calendar View in Outlook Online

If you work with multiple calendars in Outlook 2013 or 2016, you will undoubtedly have used the option to view them side by side. This works fine in day, week and even month view. There is also the Overlay Mode if you want to merge it all into one virtual calendar, but the side by side view often works better to compare schedules.

When you use Outlook Online (so in Office 365), your options are more limited. When viewing multiple calendars, Outlook will use Overlay Mode by default.

So is there no side by side mode in Outlook Online? Yes, there is, but only in the Day view. You can access this side by side view as follows:

  • Enable multiple calendars by selecting them in the left pane
  • As soon as you click the ‘Day’ view link (or the ‘Today’ link – which is obviously also a Day view), another link called “↔ Split” will appear above the view links. Click this and you get a side by side calendar view for the selected day.

If you are already in the side by side view, the ” Split” link will change into a “→← Merge” link that takes you back to Overlay Mode.


2018 Oscar Predictions

Back in the day I used to have this movie site where I posted my reviews. I more or less stopped when the site started overflowing with ads – that’s what you get for using a free redirect service instead of getting a proper domain. If you Google hard enough (please don’t) you just might find the remnants. This is the home-made banner for that site – considering this was July of 1998 (this was one month before the launch of Rotten Tomatoes!) and using only freeware tools I thought it wasn’t half bad.

One tradition has stuck since then though. I wrote down my Oscar predictions every year, even if they were hidden in a dark corner of the web where literally no one would read them. So for 2018 I’ve decided to put them on my WordPress blog for a change. Here goes…

Update (6 March 2018): I’ve added a little Oscar statue behind the movies that actually won.
No real shockers this year. Shape of Water, Dunkirk and Blade Runner got a little more than I was hoping for.
Total score: 58% correct, including most of the big ones. All my guesswork on categories I didn’t see failed miserably (serves me right for just guessing).


Should go to Three Billboards, with Shape of Water coming in second. Shape of Water was a nice fairy tale, but as a movie Three Billboards has more to offer.
And just to go over the whole list:
Call Me By Your Name: not going to win because a) it feels too European and b) last year’s winner Moonlight already had a gay love theme
Darkest Hour: not going to win because its achievement is mainly Gary Oldman’s performance, not so much the movie as a whole
Dunkirk: not going to win because many people didn’t like or understand it at all
Get Out: not going to win because intelligent horror movies don’t feel like Oscar material. Also it was released in February of 2017, just too late for the 2017 Oscars, which basically means its ancient and the initial excitement about this one has disappeared from the voters’ minds.
Lady Bird: Good candidate, but slightly too subtle compared to Three Billboards and Shape of Water
Phantom Thread: Not going to win because Daniel Day Lewis has received enough Oscars
The Post: Not going to win because Meryl Streep has received enough Oscars for a while (although I suspect she’ll win a few more in the future). Same goes for Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
The Shape of Water: Not going to win because it’s maybe just too much of a fairy tale? And also the fish monster is a bit over the top.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Should win. Intelligent story, no less than three nominated acting performances (of which two will win if I’m right), thrilling, funny and sad at the same time.

  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water 
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Should go to Jordan Peele, might go to Nolan, but I think they will give it to Del Toro.

  • Christopher Nolan — Dunkirk
  • Jordan Peele — Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig — Lady Bird
  • Paul Thomas Anderson — Phantom Thread
  • Guillermo del Toro — The Shape of Water 


This one is really tricky, so many excellent choices and each very different. Could very well be Three Billboards, but let’s hope that Get Out gets its well deserved Oscar.

  • The Big Sick — Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
  • Get Out — Jordan Peele 
  • Lady Bird — Greta Gerwig
  • The Shape of Water — Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — Martin McDonagh


Not sure, apart from the fact that The Disaster Artist is not going to win it. I keep reading it’s most likely Call Me By Your Name, so let’s go with that.

  • Call Me By Your Name — James Ivory 
  • The Disaster Artist — Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
  • Logan — Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
  • Molly’s Game — Aaron Sorkin
  • Mudbound — Virgil Williams, Dee Rees


Gary Oldman no doubt. Why? Because it’s long overdue. Consider it a career award. That’s how these things usually work (although Stallone didn’t get it for Creed either, come to think of it).

  • Timothée Chalamet — Call Me By Your Name
  • Daniel Day Lewis — Phantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya — Get Out
  • Gary Oldman — Darkest Hour 
  • Denzel Washington — Roman J. Israel, Esq.


So many great performances, but has to be Frances McDormand. Any other winner would be a surprise.

  • Sally Hawkins — The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
  • Margot Robbie — I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan — Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep — The Post


I desperately want this to go to Sam Rockwell. And also I think it’s deserved. Dafoe was also very good in The Florida Project, but Rockwell sticks out because of his very believable ‘transformation’ over the course of the movie.

  • Willem Dafoe — The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins — The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer — All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell — Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 


I keep hearing Allison Janney as the likely winner, but my money is on Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird. Admittedly this might just be because I love her role as Sheldon’s mother in The Big Bang Theory. But also she’s great in Lady Bird.

  • Mary J. Blige — Mudbound
  • Allison Janney — I, Tonya 
  • Lesley Manville — Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf — Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer — The Shape of Water


Not a clue. I’m going with Last Men in Aleppo. Anything to do with Syria is top of mind and will stick with the Academy members.

  • Abacus: Small Enough to Jail — Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman
  • Faces Places — Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
  • Icarus — Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan 
  • Last Men in Aleppo — Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Søren Steen Jespersen
  • Strong Island — Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes


Again, not a clue. Heroin(e) is very good I hear.

  • Edith + Eddie — Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
  • Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 — Frank Stiefel 
  • Heroin(e) — Elaine McMilion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
  • Knife Skills — Thomas Lennon
  • Traffic Stop — Kate Davis, David Heilbroner


I’ve seen only the trailers. I’m thinking either The Eleven O’Clock or Watu Wote. I’m going with the latter.

  • DeKalb Elementary — Reed Van Dyk
  • The Eleven O’Clock — Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
  • My Nephew Emmett — Kevin Wilson Jr.
  • The Silent Child — Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton 
  • Watu Wote / All of Us — Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen


No discussion here. Has to be Coco.

  • The Boss Baby — Tom McGrath, Ramsey Naito
  • The Breadwinner — Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
  • Coco — Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson 
  • Ferdinand — Carlos Saldanha
  • Loving Vincent — Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Ivan Mactaggart


Haven’t seen any of this, but Lou is by Pixar, so….

  • Dear Basketball — Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant 
  • Garden Party — Victor Claire, Gabriel Grapperon
  • Lou — Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
  • Negative Space — Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
  • Revolting Rhymes — Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer


Haven’t seen it but A Fantastic Woman seems to be the main candidate.

  • A Fantastic Woman — Sebastián Lelio, Chile 
  • The Insult — Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon
  • Loveless — Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia
  • On Body and Soul — Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary
  • The Square — Ruben Östlund, Sweden


Not so easy. Tempted to go for my fellow countryman Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk), but I think I’ll choose Shape of Water nonetheless. It’s a fairy tale that looks like a fairy tale, Hollywood loves that when it comes to cinematography.

  • Blade Runner 2049 — Roger A. Deakins 
  • Darkest Hour — Bruno Delbonnel
  • Dunkirk — Hoyte van Hoytema
  • Mudbound — Rachel Morrison
  • The Shape of Water — Dan Laustsen


Also not so easy, many good candidates. Going for Shape of Water again, seems like the safest choice.

  • Beauty and the Beast — Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
  • Blade Runner 2049 — Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
  • Darkest Hour – Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
  • Dunkirk — Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
  • The Shape of Water — Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin 


All of these movies have great special effects. How do you compare? Let’s pick Guardians of the Galaxy though because it has some original stuff. The Blade Runner style has been done before (in a movie called Blade Runner…), and I’ve seen plenty of dino and big ape effects, same goes for lightsabers.

  • Blade Runner 2049 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • War for the Planet of the Apes


Should be either Baby Driver or Dunkirk. I want it to go to Baby Driver though.

  • Baby Driver — Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos
  • Dunkirk — Lee Smith 
  • I, Tonya — Tatiana S. Riegel
  • The Shape of Water — Sidney Wolinsky
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — Jon Gregory


Well now, Phantom Thread is about fashion, so that seems like the best candidate, although Beauty and the Beast might steal it.

  • Beauty and the Beast — Jacqueline Durran
  • Darkest Hour — Jacqueline Durran
  • Phantom Thread — Mark Bridges 
  • The Shape of Water — Luis Sequeira
  • Victoria & Abdul — Consolata Boyle


Darkest Hour, because of the Gary Oldman makeover.

  • Darkest Hour — Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick 
  • Victoria & Abdul — Daniel Phillips, Lou Sheppard
  • Wonder — Arden Tuiten


Alexandre Desplat is always an Oscar favorite. As long as it’s not Hans Zimmer I’ll be happy.

  • Dunkirk — Hans Zimmer
  • Phantom Thread — Jonny Greenwood
  • The Shape of Water — Alexandre Desplat 
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi — John Williams
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — Carter Burwell


Have you seen Coco? Then you’ll know this song cannot lose. It’s the key to the movie.

  • “Mighty River” — Mudbound, Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson
  • “Mystery of Love” — Call Me By Your Name, Sufjan Stevens
  • “Remember Me” — Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez 
  • “Stand Up for Something” — Marshall, Diane Warren, Lonnie R. Lynn
  • “This is Me” — The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul


I think either Baby Driver or Dunkirk. Will they give it to Dunkirk as a consolation prize for not winning anything else? Wouldn’t surprise me. So let’s go for Dunkirk, although I’m secretly rooting for Baby Driver.

  • Baby Driver — Julian Slater
  • Blade Runner 2049 — Mark Mangini, Theo Green
  • Dunkirk — Richard King, Alex Gibson 
  • The Shape of Water — Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi — Matthew Wood, Ren Klyce


Again, it’s between Dunkirk and Baby Driver. This time I’ll go for Baby Driver because of the music.

  • Baby Driver — Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin, Mary H. Ellis
  • Blade Runner 2049— Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Mac Ruth
  • Dunkirk — Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo 
  • The Shape of Water — Christian Cooke, Bran Zoern, Glen Gauthier
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi — David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Stuart Wilson


Current and Future Trends for Cloud Architectures

Near the end of 2017 the Capgemini Academy organized a webinar where several experts discussed the Current and Future State of the Cloud. During that webinar I covered some important developments for Cloud architectures. This post is a short write-up of that content.

The evolution of cloud architectures

Cloud architectures started out by sticking close to familiar concepts from on-premises architectures. This resulted in many IaaS based solutions, where the servers were just moved into the cloud as virtual machines, but were still running the same solutions and therefore using the same architecture.
Although there’s nothing really wrong about this lift-and-shift approach, this type of architecture has an important downside: only a small part of the benefits of cloud computing are being used, because you’re not building for the cloud, but adapting to the cloud.

All cloud providers luckily also offer some common solution components as native cloud components, and it is now very common to integrate at least a few of those components as part of any cloud architecture.
You can think of solution components like a cloud identity service, or a cloud web service that hosts your applications so you don’t have to maintain a web server yourself.
In that way, the cloud started to become more of a platform offering a toolbox full of services and components that you can use as part of your applications, which is why they call this Platform as a Service or PaaS for short.

There is more and more flexibility around the ways in which you can combine different types of services in the cloud to create your overall architecture. Such services could be storing some data, performing a calculation, or streaming a video. All these different chunks of functionality are being offered as native cloud components by the providers, and are the building blocks for your solution architectures.

If there is one major trend in cloud architecture at the moment, it’s that all large cloud providers now also let you create your own building blocks, with exactly the amount of functionality that you want. Those building blocks come in very different sizes, and there are two important trends to notice here:

Creating a single function as a building block

The first trend is that you break down a solution to the smallest possible building blocks, where you create a single function as a standalone component that you can call from anywhere, reuse, and scale.
This is what is often called Function as a Service (FaaS) or Serverless computing. But keep in mind, these are still services offered as part of the platform, so it is in fact the next evolution of PaaS, or PaaS on steroids if you will.
All major cloud providers offer something like this, Microsoft calls it Azure Functions, Amazon calls it Lambda and Google calls it Cloud Functions.

Note that the concept of an architecture based on multiple services each performing a part of the functionality is not new – this is already well known from Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) that we were already using on-premises, even before there was such a thing as cloud computing.
What’s happening now though is that SOA is taken to the next level, by splitting up functionality into a set of microservices that operate independently. This too is a general concept that is not necessarily cloud specific – microservices architectures (MSA) are also being created on-premises – but the cloud is ideally suited to support such microservices architectures.

Creating entire applications or configurations as a building block

Getting back to the building blocks that you can create yourself, I’ve now talked about creating the smallest possible building block, by using a Function as a service.
The other end of the spectrum is when you have a set of components that are difficult to separate – for example an application that is very dependent on certain software in the environment it runs in, like a specific Operating System, with a specific Service Pack installed and some specific libraries.

In that case you can still create a building block by combining all of these components that depend on each other, and storing them inside a Container. So now it’s these containers that become the standalone building blocks in your architecture. They can be moved around, duplicated and so on.
If you work in IT, you will be familiar with the phenomenon “it worked on my machine”. Well, containerization is how you prevent this.

The need for this type of building block is again something all cloud providers have acknowledged, they all have a service for containerization (Azure Container Service, EC2 Container Service, Google Container Engine). You probably have also heard about things like Docker or Kubernetes, which are also all technologies related to Containers.

The impact of cloud native building blocks

The fact that there are now so many cloud native building blocks to choose from, has created new possibilities but also new challenges. There are two important developments I want to mention:

  1. First, the fact that so many building blocks are now available – and the number is running up very fast – and the fact that you can combine so many different types of these services in a single cloud architecture, means that these cloud architectures can get pretty complicated.
    If you create a solution comprised of many different building blocks, with some of those possibly spread out across multiple cloud providers, you need really good management tools to stay in control. Just offering certain technical capabilities in cloud computing is not enough. You need enough tooling so that you as a customer can control your solutions – with your own IT staff.
    Keep in mind: there is no server anymore that you can log on to, if you want to investigate the logs. You need to really consider if all parts in your cloud architecture are providing you with enough feedback, enough logging.
    The good news here is that the cloud providers are investing heavily in keeping the management layer up to date with all of their new features.
  2. Because many features are now available as standalone cloud building blocks, it has become a lot easier for the cloud providers to also offer these services in a hybrid scenario, not just in the public cloud.
    As a result, the scenarios supported for Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud are maturing. This is sometimes called the Private Cloud 2.0. It means that the capabilities of a private cloud are no longer just a small subset of the public cloud. If you look at Microsoft Azure Stack for example (their Private Cloud offering), it’s actually very similar to their public cloud version.

The (very near) future for Cloud Architectures

In the next few years the amount of cloud building blocks will keep increasing at a high pace. These are the areas where you can expect most important new features appearing:

  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
    Don’t think of standalone robots (just yet), but more like services or API’s that you can use from your applications. All large cloud vendors have already started offering cognitive services that offer things like facial recognition for example (Amazon Rekognition, Microsoft Cognitive Services Face API, Google Vision API).
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
    Another reason why AI is going to be so important is related to evolution of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and platforms. The amount of data these devices produce means that the total amount of ‘knowledge’ stored in the entire world will soon be doubling every 12 hours. We will need really clever AI solutions to still make sense of all that information.
  • Data storage
    Luckily, we don’t need to store all of that IoT data on a regular file system or in a traditional relational database. Several other ways of storing data are available in the cloud: NoSQL data storage or Object Storage (think of the latter as the cloud version of a file system). Relational databases are hardly the standard anymore in the cloud era. They are really only suited for structured, highly uniform data sets. But if you look at the trends in cloud computing (AI, IoT), those are going to produce very large quantities of a very different type of data.
    Especially the NoSQL storage (Cosmos DB from Microsoft, or DynamoDB from Amazon, Cloud Datastore from Google) seems particularly suited for IoT data storage, which is why I expect lots of new services to easily connect your AI / IoT solutions to a NoSQL solution.All that data can be stored (and available) globally if you want, but also very local: the next few years will see a lot more maturity around meeting local regulations. The large cloud providers are producing new local data centers at high speed (even the data centers themselves are created with physical “cloud building blocks”), allowing customers to place isolate data or functionality in very specific zones within a region.
  • GDPR
    Talking about regulations and architecture, I have to also mention GDPR, the new EU data protection policy (mandatory from the end of May 2018). Any customer will have the right to request the data an organization is storing about him, and the big one: they have the right to be forgotten.
    This means your current and future cloud architectures need to have mechanisms in place to access and delete that data upon request, without this resulting in an unstable system or inconsistent data set. In other words: GDPR compliancy needs to be in there by design.
    You will especially need to take a close look at how you store your data, and which microservices you have available to quickly comply to customer requests.

Watch the full webinar

You can still catch the full webinar if you like – the recording is available here. It’s a quick way (around 35 minutes total) to get up to speed on cloud computing trends for security, cloud native development and architecture.


This is a repost from an article I published earlier on the Capgemini “Capping IT Off” blog.

What You Need To Remember From Microsoft Ignite 2017

The 2017 edition of the Microsoft Ignite (September 25–29) is behind us; all follow-up content has been posted by Microsoft and the dust has settled. After three editions, this has quickly become the go-to event to find out what Microsoft is up to in pretty much every area, ranging from cloud services to operating systems to Office software to even hardware (although I didn’t see any Xbox sessions—apparently, the business application scenarios for this don’t exist or haven’t been worked out).

ignite17recap_lunchThe logistics were impeccable this year, which is no small feat considering the 30,000+ attendees (who all have basic needs such as Wi-Fi and food—in that order), 700+ sessions, shuttle services to dozens of conference hotels, and so on. The city of Orlando luckily was in full working order, which was also uncertain until a few weeks before the conference with the passing of hurricane Irma. Support to hurricane victims in Texas and Florida was also a big theme of the event in general, with plenty of support initiatives around the conference center, including aid kit assembly stations and even a mobile blood donation station (which proved so popular they came back for an extra day).

Below is my summary of Ignite announcements that I think you need to keep in mind, mainly because of their potential impact for your organization or your customers. By no means does this cover everything that was announced—the event was completely packed with good and often new content, I wouldn’t even dare cover all of this in a single blog post.
Several good summaries have already appeared around the web covering different areas of the announcements. I’ve added a list of additional sources at the end of this post, in case you want to read more.

Teams to replace Skype for Business

Microsoft Teams was announced as the future default communication client. In other words, Skype for Business will somehow integrate into Teams and the name Skype for Business is likely to disappear. The timeline for this is unclear though.
When Teams was released, the buzz was that this was Microsoft’s response to the popular Slack. Integrating Skype will make Teams even stronger and put more pressure on Slack. The main question is of course how current Skype for Business users will react who do not necessarily want to use all that Teams has to offer.

Deeper LinkedIn integration

Since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, everyone saw the potential, but the big question was how closely their respective products would be integrated. The first concrete integration scenarios have now appeared. The Outlook integration is still fairly basic, offering a direct link from your contact information to the LinkedIn information, including a Connect option.

Dynamics 365 is the domain where the integration with LinkedIn (and other Azure services) is really taking off. Take for example the new Dynamics 365 for Talent modules (Attract and Onboard), which combine LinkedIn and CRM data to find the ideal candidate. These modules also make use of the new Dynamics 365 AI Solutions, which promise to deliver automated customer interaction which goes beyond manually scripted dialogues.

Especially for CRM scenarios, the LinkedIn integration will become an important extension and not just for talent recruitment. Note that nearly anyone who is anyone within an enterprise has a LinkedIn profile these days, full of useful information helping you to connect with that customer (what school did they go to, what are their hobbies, etc.). Surfacing that information is relevant is nearly all CRM scenarios.

Adobe partnership

Already announced shortly before Ignite, Adobe now uses Azure as its default cloud services platform, and perhaps even more importantly, Microsoft now promotes Adobe Sign as the preferred solution for digital signatures. This step is not to be underestimated, since electronic signing of documents is an increasingly popular (and probably soon indispensable) part of document workflows.

Azure Stack

The amount of sessions around Azure Stack (25+) was surprisingly high, which means Microsoft clearly sees a substantial market for it. This on-premises, private cloud version of Azure, which is always sold in combination with the appliance it runs on, is now shipping through partners including Dell EMC, HP Enterprise, and Lenovo. It can be purchased as an integrated system or as a fully managed service.

Microsoft positions the combination of Azure + Azure Stack as the only fully consistent hybrid cloud solution, in which Azure Stack is an extension of Azure. Lots of emphasis was placed on the fact that Azure Stack will regularly receive updates to maintain this consistency.
New Azure Stack specific training and certification is coming soon.


Database stuff

As you may gather from this paragraph title this is not really my cup of tea, but even from my point of view there were plenty of important database related announcements at Ignite:

  • SQL Server 2017 is now available on Linux or Docker—a major step for a database platform that has forever been tied to the Windows platform.
  • Not surprisingly, More and more scenarios and services are popping up that help you migrate your on-premises databases to Azure.
  • Microsoft R Server is renamed to Microsoft Machine Learning Server
  • CosmosDB (formerly DocumentDB) events, such as when a new order item is stored in the database, can now be linked to Azure Functions: a web application written with (the serverless) Azure Functions can now respond to such events.This builds on the Azure Event Grid, which as Microsoft puts it “treats events as first-class citizens.”
    ignite17_recap_cosmosdbThe scenarios that are within reach with this combination of technology are impressive. Think global-scale IoT or finance or gaming systems, where huge amounts of events can come flying in from all directions. Storing these in Cosmos DB and responding to the events with Azure Functions allows you to maintain consistency at a global level.

Cognitive Services and Machine Learning

New capabilities to understand human natural methods of communication have been added to Microsoft Cognitive Services. There is a new Text Analytics API that offers things like sentiment analysis, language detection and key phrase extraction. A Bing Custom Search API to help you provide personalized search experiences is expected in October 2017.
Finally, Microsoft’s own Bot Framework (currently still in preview) is expected to be added to Cognitive Services later in 2017.
All this is particularly relevant for customer service scenarios and digital marketing, where bots are becoming more and more commonplace.

In general, Machine Learning got lots of attention this year. Some important new additions to Azure Machine Learning (AML) were announced at Ignite, mainly revolving around ways to help users (well, data scientists really) design their machine learning models. There is a new local AML Workbench for this (runs on Windows and Mac), an AML Experimentation service and an AML Model Management service.

Quantum Computing

A considerable amount of time in the Monday keynote was spent on an on-stage discussion about quantum computing between Satya Nadella and several mathematicians and physicists. This is probably not something that will go to market in the next two years, which makes the amount of attention it got all the more remarkable. The discussion was quite fascinating, a kind of 101 on the practicalities of quantum computing, although it might have been a bit early in the morning for this kind of content for most of the audience.

Without trying to explain this in too much detail (or claiming I fully understand any of this quantum computing stuff—my background is in French literature, so expect no miracles here), the idea revolves around a new kind of storing information: inside topological qubits.
These qubits contain information that cannot be “read” at a lower level, because even reading that information would already alter the state of the particles involved. The information can however be observed globally, on the “braids” that revolve around the particles. Because of the topology of the particles and the braids around them, that quantum state is quite stable: the topology means the information is protected against errors by design.

ignite17recap_quantumcomputerThe qubits (=quantum bits) of information that scientists are now trying to read are stored in Majorana fermions (a.k.a. particles) which were only discovered a few years back. Reading these must be done very carefully, which means having a machine with clever chips composed of semiconductors and superconductors that works at near absolute zero (so not your average home PC). A first prototype of this kind of machine was even shown on the Ignite expo.

The major promise of the topological quantum computer is that:

  • Some types of computational problems can be solved much faster. You can do more work in a single calculation when working with qubits. Any single calculation will take more time than in a classic computer, but you will need a lot less calculations overall.
  • The topology of the qubit means the information is protected against errors by design, so once it works, it should be incredibly robust.

The (im)practicalities of quantum computing mean that this is not for in your home or even for on-premises in a single company. Scaled as a cloud service however, this suddenly becomes a lot more realistic. The timeline for this is unclear, but as the on-stage panel confirmed, what they do know is that this will definitely become a reality in the future. When it does, it will be big.

SharePoint and OneDrive

There were so many SharePoint and OneDrive-related announcements that I have written a separate blog post on these. Looking at those announcements from a helicopter view, Microsoft is putting a lot of effort in developing site types (Modern Team Sites and Communication Sites) that look very attractive out of the box, have lots of graphics, and are responsive. Basically: sites that don’t look like SharePoint. Or at least like the SharePoint we’ve known since 2001 up until the 2013 version.

ignite17recap_SPpanelThe big problem for SharePoint in intranet scenarios has always been that for every feature you want, the answer is “it depends.” Yes, SharePoint is a Swiss army knife that can help you do almost anything, but there are always several options to implement a feature, each requiring different levels of customization or configuration. That’s not always a good thing. Many organizations looking to create a new intranet just want to see what they are getting. Telling them that “it depends” or “you have many options” often just creates a feeling of uncertainty.

With its new focus, Microsoft is filling a gap that is currently filled by ISVs offering intranet-in-a-box solution. After speaking to several Microsoft product managers at Ignite, it’s very clear to me that Microsoft sees the need for SharePoint to also offer an out-of-the-box intranet option, with plenty of built-in features (news, search, surveys, and so on) requiring little configuration. It will be very interesting to see how current 3rd party intranet-in-a-box solutions respond to this.

What else?

Sticking to a 3-year release schedule for Office, Microsoft announced its plans to release the new Office 2019 sometime in the second half of 2018. And yes, there will also be a new on-premises SharePoint version linked to that: SharePoint 2019 will appear around the same time. Microsoft is clearly making good on its promise to continue support and development for on-premises scenarios.
My biggest question now is: which features will be gone (or at least deprecated) in SharePoint 2019? And will there be a replacement that offers SharePoint Designer-like functionality?

Bing for Business is a new search service for internal company use.ignite17recap_bingforbus It still gives you public internet search results, but combines those with company internal results, by applying machine learning to information retrieved through Office 365, SharePoint, Delve, and Azure AD. This is a typical Digital Workplace enabler: by combining information in a clever way, employees can gain new insights and get work done more quickly.

There were several sessions dedicated to GDPR, the new European data protection law that enters into effect on May 25, 2018. To be honest I was slightly underwhelmed by the content of the sessions I saw on this topic. Microsoft clearly understands the importance of GDPR, but at this point seems to mainly offer some tools that help in the analysis of GDPR compliancy. I have yet to see GDPR compliancy measures being built into any product as a feature.

ignite17recap_M365There was lots of talk about Microsoft 365 at Ignite. No, this is not another word for Office 365 and it’s not new technology. It’s just a different way of product bundling and selling Microsoft’s take on the digital workplace for first line workers. First line workers are typically the first ones who directly interact with your customers; think of sectors like retail, government, healthcare, or travel & hospitality. The offering (called Office 365 F1) is basically a bundle of Office 365, Windows 10, Enterprise Mobility, and security. The only new element from a technology point of view is that there are laptops aimed specifically at Microsoft 365. We’re talking low-cost ($300) laptops from HP, Lenovo, and Acer.

Although not new, it was good to see the live-generated closed captions on screen during the sessions, courtesy of Azure Media Services. heavyaccent

English was shown on-screen, but multiple other languages were available on the second screen. These translations are getting better and better, but the service still has trouble with certain accents (in particular Indian accents so I noticed), leading to the rather unfriendly text “INDISCERNIBLE—HEAVY ACCENT” appearing on-screen numerous times.

Want to read more?


This is a repost from an article I published earlier on the Capgemini “Capping IT Off” blog.

Form follows function? Not in modern SharePoint sites

Microsoft is putting a lot of effort in developing site types that look very attractive out of the box, have lots of graphics, and are responsive. Basically: sites that don’t look like SharePoint (or to be precise like the SharePoint we’ve known since 2001 up until the 2013 version). Looking at the SharePoint content presented at Microsoft Ignite 2017 this trend was obvious. A large chunk of those sessions was related to the two newest site types inside SharePoint: Communication Sites and Modern Team Sites.

sharepoint-commsiteThis new direction is greatly supported by the exceptionally strong global SharePoint community, guided by the SharePoint Patterns & Practices (PnP) group. This open source initiative has produced valuable goodies like the PnP Partner Pack which offers (amongst several other things) powerful remote provisioning scenarios, and recently the SharePoint Framework (SPFx). SPFx is so successful is has now been formally adopted by Microsoft as the de facto standard for UI customizations.

SharePoint has so far been a Swiss army knife that could do almost anything, with every possible feature requiring different levels of configuration or even custom coding. It provided the basic plumbing, but the (hard) work to create a full set of compelling features that actually look good on screen was traditionally left for ISVs offering intranet-in-a-box solutions, or to consultancy firms creating custom intranets for mostly enterprise customers.

I’ve spoken to several Microsoft product managers that confirmed SharePoint is going to now eat a piece of that pie itself, by offering plenty of built-in features (news, search, surveys, and so on) requiring very little configuration and with lots of attention for how it looks on-screen. It will be very interesting to see how current 3rd party intranet-in-a-box solutions respond to this. Just basic intranet functionality and proper styling are not going to add enough value anymore. I expect that in the end only feature-rich products that offer a consistent experience across all kinds of site types and for all types of users (including editors!) will survive.

Microsoft’s new-found focus is in itself very positive: there is more to choose for organizations. What worries me though is the lack of attention for the severe limitations that these new site types—especially Communication Sites—still have at the time of writing.

sharepoint-whenusewhatThere is an almost complete lack of personalization options, or any other way to make these sites dynamic. They are just very, very static. It’s not that I mind looking at pretty things, but without any kind of interaction it will eventually get boring.

At the moment Communication Sites are mainly usable for storytelling or showcases, and you should use a regular team site or publishing site for anything with substantial functionality.
Worse still, while we await the arrival of the completely revamped SharePoint admin center (set to arrive early in 2018), the new site types are completely disconnected from the current admin interface. You cannot create the new site types from the admin pages. Also, even after you create a new modern site from the end user UI, it still doesn’t show up in the list of sites in the admin center.

This is something Microsoft could have handled better. As long as the new site types aren’t fully embedded in the admin functionality, they are basically degraded to beta/preview functionality that is not usable for Production scenarios. Which is a shame, because they look great!

I’ve spoken to several customers who expected that the improved look and feel was something they were getting on top of the classic team sites functionality. Instead of form follows function they are hoping for function and form to go hand in hand. That is not the case yet, these are very distinct branches on the SharePoint site type tree. The modern sites have a clear focus on form, the classic site types on function.
Once all site types are connected though, they will become the building blocks for an enhanced intranet where you select the appropriate site type depending on the goal of your sites.


Now I would very much be selling Microsoft short if I said there were no other developments outside the new site types. The SharePoint and OneDrive landscape as a whole is on the move. The pace at which features have been added over the last two or three years is just staggering. Below are the most important announcements made during Microsoft Ignite 2017. And I have doubt that all of these improvements will eventually also apply to the stylish modern site types:

  • Sharing improvements
    More options to easily share documents, including a way to auto-generate one-time passcodes. Also, remember those nasty long URLs you get to a specific SharePoint item? These now get shortened to a much more manageable length—it’s not Bitly sized, but still this an important improvement.
  • Flat is the new sexy (for site structures)
    Not an official announcement, but overheard in several SharePoint sessions: move away from sub-sites (unless you have a very specific scenario that requires these). The concept of creating a site hierarchy by nesting sites is fast becoming outdated and unwanted. Hierarchies can easily be simulated with proper navigation and metadata. Flat site structures are the way of the future.
    Also, if you still want to bind sites together in some way, there’s a new site type soon to become available: The Hub site.
  • Hub sites
    The new Hub site type announced at Ignite is a way to group sites together. An administrator will create a Hub site, for example as the hub for HR or for Engineering. Then any other site can optionally be linked to (only) one of these Hub sites. The result is that the sites linked to the hub will inherit the hub’s styling and navigation. Also, the hub will automatically create a search scope that includes the connected sites, enabling it easily generate news overviews across these sites.
    Note that the Hub sites haven’t really arrived yet, this is scheduled for 2018.
  • List improvements
    • Conditional formatting of lists
      There is lots of potential in the conditional formatting of lists. Imagine it: you can now highlight specific items in your list that means certain filter criteria that you configure yourself.
    • Attention views
      A useful addition are the attention views that show overviews of items requiring attention—not necessarily because they’re feeling lonely or weren’t invited to that party the other night, but for example because they have been checked out for a long time, are lacking some required metadata.
  • SharePoint Migration Tool
    A first-party tool for basic migration to SharePoint Online. The big question is of course which scenarios the final tool will actually support, but seeing as it’s a tool by Microsoft and it’s free, expect a lot of companies to investigate this option.
  • Predictive Indexing
    SharePoint could already generate automatic indexes for columns, but the predictive indexing is taking this one step further. The promise here is that we can finally get rid of the 5,000 item limit for views, since SharePoint will automatically create the necessary indexes so you can seamlessly keep working with your lists even as they become larger and larger.
    This is actually a surprising development, because not very long ago the statement on User Voice was that the 5,000 item limit was basically hard-wired, and you just had to work around it.
    It also raises a couple of questions: will these auto-generated indexes count towards the limit of 20 indexes? And what if I want to overrule these indexes? Will this work with multi-value lookup columns? Will this also help if I have (too) many lookup columns?
    Still, the new indexing will remedy the limitations in lots of situations, which is a good thing no matter what. We will just have to keep watching out for those pesky exceptions to the rule (there’s always a few).
  • Metadata Panel in Word 2016
    The Document Information Panel had already disappeared in Word 2016, but now a replacement is coming up, so users can edit both content and metadata from their own Office application again.
  • Multi-Geo capabilities
    Organizations will be able to choose a regional location for storing their SharePoint/OneDrive data and for storing the search index. Better yet, if you are a global company you can choose where data is stored for specific locations but still enjoy the modern productivity experience globally. This may not be important for many organizations, but it’s extremely important to a few very large organizations.
  • Flow and PowerApps
    Lots of new Flow and PowerApps options are arriving soon, such as a Web Part to add PowerApps to SharePoint, custom forms based on PowerApps, Flow-based custom approval and prompting for document reviews.

To stay up-to-date with the latest news about SharePoint and OneDrive, keep an eye on Microsoft’s SharePoint Blog that’s part of the larger Tech Community site.
For more about Microsoft Ignite 2017 take a look at other post about this conference.

This is a repost from an article I published earlier on the Capgemini “Capping IT Off” blog