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Wonder what a Microsoft 1:1 hackathon looks like? OnePlace Solutions Teams/Graph Engagement Experience
I was fortunate enough to be involved in a 1:1 hack engagement with Microsoft recently where OnePlace Solutions hosted some eager Microsoft engineers for a week long engagement. The intention was to see how we could harness some of Microsoft’s new Teams extensibility options and the Graph API, and for Microsoft to identify limitations or areas for improvement.
The format of the event:
- brainstorming possible ideas ahead of the event itself
- discussion and selection of a few possible ideas
- splitting up into teams and scoping what were would try to achieve within the scope of the hack
- working in a compressed scrum process (daily stand-ups, task refinement and retros)
- present to a wider audience on the last day of the hack to show what had been achieved and the business benefit
It was amazing to see how quickly the Microsoft engineers were absorbed into our development team, brought up to speed with our existing code-base, and starting to deliver functionality.
The real takeaway and reason for writing this article it just to let everyone know what an awesome opportunity these engagements are from Microsoft, a bit of what you can expect and that I highly recommend getting involved if the opportunity arises.
What did I see as the biggest benefits to our business of doing this hack with Microsoft?
The tips, tricks and work pattern knowledge sharing that occurred only comes when you truly try to work together on a project and aren’t just academically sharing knowledge. We all work in different ways and by running the hack almost as a true project (in a condensed form) there is a lot more than just the coding that is being discussed. VSTS, scoping, work item tracking, design white-boarding sessions, daily stand ups, retros, git source control, review of pull requests. All this is outside of the actual coding and using the technology being hacked on, but it is also a critical piece of developing in an efficient, scalable and measurable way.
Accelerated and focused learning on new technologies. The speed of getting across where a technology like Teams extensibility is up to, what’s possible when applying to problems we are trying to solve, and that hard first mile of understanding the frameworks, dependencies, and tooling to get the first hello world skeleton running.
Outside of the technology it’s a great opportunity to meet and build relationships with people who share a similar passion and spend a lot of their time working to solve similar problems. At OnePlace Solutions we are a passionate bunch of technologists that enjoy working in a social and supportive environment – from what I’ve experienced the hack is a perfect match for the way we work, with Microsoft bringing the same mindset, energy and support to the hack. We spent as much time laughing and discussing topics outside of technology as we did on it. At the end of the day we are social creatures and I found the hack was a perfect environment that bought people together with a desire to want to work together on a common goal, to challenge and push each other to do more in a fun and supportive way, and have a good laugh at the same time. Having access to global Microsoft resources to get definitive answers quickly, removed the amount of wasted time and frustration which allowed productivity, enthusiasm and energy levels to remain high.
We dedicate an amount of time each sprint to R&D, which usually involves educating ourselves in what is possible with new technologies and APIs and often going as far as prototyping code to see what’s possible and where the limitations are. It’s hard to imagine a better return on investment than spending this R&D time with Microsoft in the format of a 1:1 hack.
So a huge thank you to the Microsoft engineers, we had a great time and my advice to anyone thinking of getting involved with these engagements is that they can have great value to your team.
The Insider Dev Tour is such a great event for Microsoft developers, you get the key announcements and latest news that came out of the Build Conference, delivered locally in a more intimate and interactive environment. Best of all it’s a free event put on by Microsoft.
I was very grateful for the opportunity to present two sessions at the Insider Dev Tour in Sydney last week.
- Create Productive Apps with Office 365
- Drive User Engagement Across all your Devices with Microsoft Graph
If you attended I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did. The following are links to the resources mentioned during the presentations.
What a massive week in Orlando for Office developers. So many sessions, so much new information, it really was a case of drinking from the fire hose!
Thankfully most sessions were recorded and are progressively being made available along with the relevant slide decks on https://myignite.microsoft.com/videos
If you only have time to watch one session my pick for the SharePoint/Office Developer would be Accelerate your digital transformation with SharePoint and OneDrive presented by Jeff Teper, Dan Holme, Omar Shahine, Naomi Moneypenny. This session was just non-stop announcements on what’s new in SharePoint, Office and OneDrive. Some of the announcements:
- Office 2019 is coming (Office clients, SharePoint, Exchange, Skype for Business servers – all servers to be available on-prem) – preview due mid 2018
- A SharePoint specific conference (backed by Microsoft) is coming back in 2018 – and yes it’s going to be in Las Vegas
- SharePoint hub sites to group related sites together, share branding and navigation and provide rollup of some information
- SharePoint site provisioning model to allow for scripted customizations during the provisioning process
- SharePoint Company Theming and an online tool to help (https://aka.ms/spthemebuilder)
- SharePoint File Preview webpart (supports over 270 file formats)
- SharePoint Migration tool to move SharePoint content from on-prem to the the cloud (Office 365)
- Improved external link sharing
- OneDrive – deeper integration into Windows 10
- Improved large list support
- New version of the SharePoint mobile app
Going one level deeper into the Office/SharePoint developer world, here’s some of the news that came out regarding:
Microsoft Graph (Build smarter apps with Office using the Microsoft Graph (Yina Arenas))
- Generally Available
- SharePoint Lists
- File Versions
- People API
- App-only support for OneDrive
- Access to Outlook shared calendars, contacts and mail folders
- In Preview
- Graph Extensions for Azure Functions
- Outlook Categories
- Outlook Rules
- Outlook Email Headers
- Outlook Rooms
- Generally Available
- Outlook Add-ins for Android
- Single sign-on API (Web clients)
- Auto-open task pane
- Single sign-on API for Outlook
- Centralized Deployment for Outlook Add-ins
- Adaptive card support in Outlook (OWA)
SharePoint Framework and Patterns and Practices
- SharePoint Framework became available on-prem with SharePoint Server Feature pack 2 (this was released a couple of weeks before Ignite)
- SharePoint Framework Extensions – custom snippets on every page (aka delegate controls) context buttons/actions, customized field rendering
- Reusable controls and Office Fabric Core
One of the more complex areas of doing modern Office development is authentication and authorization (especially when connection back into Office 365 services). This story is becoming a lot simpler if you can go exclusively through the Graph API. Vittorio Bertocci did a very entertaining session (Office development: Authentication demystified) that really shows you an on-rails experience for how to accomplish this from many different technologies and context. It is well worth a watch and has the potential to save you a lot of time and head scratching. This area of Office development has changed drastically over the last couple of years and there is a lot of conflicting information on the web and much of it is out of date.
There are some great 3rd party forms products that have been around for a long time now (namely Nintex and K2). Microsoft has been keeping very tight lipped on any official replacement to InfoPath and Forms in general and the community has been left feeling like they had been abandoned by Microsoft by not providing any replacement for their investment in InfoPath.
In a Office 365 Developer Podcast this week Jeremy Thake makes some very interesting comments (in the last 5 minutes of the podcast) indicating that Microsoft have been working on an InfoPath forms replacement it’s just been running way behind schedule. Interestingly he points to the technology behind Project Sienna possibly being an eventual replacement for InfoPath.
This podcast also mentions that we may hear (and see) something more official announced in October. Could this be the news that everyone has been waiting for? That Microsoft will have an official replacement for InfoPath. Let’s hope so. SharePoint (and Office 365) as a platform really need a rich forms technology at it’s core. Businesses look to SharePoint to replace those paper based workflows within the organisation so it’s kind of important to have a Forms technology natively within SharePoint to facilitate that wouldn’t you think?
The excitement is starting to build as the Microsoft technology conference of the year is almost upon us. I feel this year is going to be a first time experience for all attendees. We’ve got many individual conferences combined into one, even the old timers that have been attending these individual conferences year after year may be feeling some renewed excitement and feelings of trepidation of just how this conference is going to play out.
It’s certainly going to get started with a bang as Satya Nadella takes the stage for the keynote to an event that sold out weeks ago. I think the last time we saw a Microsoft CEO take the stage at a SharePoint conference was 5 years ago at SPC2010 when Steve Ballmer was at the helm.
Although Microsoft has gone (almost) all in on the cloud and been pushing cloud at us from every angle over the last few years, I think we will be hearing the word HYBRID quite a bit at this conference. We can also expect to hear a lot more about what SharePoint 2016 will look like and the feature set we can expect out of SharePoint 2016 on premises installations.
During the conference you’ll be able to find me at the OnePlace Solutions booth #537 in the Exhibition Hall. We will be running live, interactive demos of OnePlaceMail, as well as two new products that we are launching at the conference OnePlaceDocs and OnePlaceLive. Email management, Document management, and driving a solution focused, end user engagement for systems built on the SharePoint/Office 365 platform is what we’re about – if that sounds interesting then come by and meet the OnePlace Solutions Team. We will have plenty of giveaways as well so make sure you stop by to claim yours.
If you want to get the most out of mingling and networking then be sure to check out these two great resources for all those official and unofficial parties (great work guys on compiling these lists as they are quite extensive):
The Microsoft Ignite Countdown show is also well worth a watch to get a feel for how the conference will run, things to do in Chicago and it’s a bit of a laugh at the same time.
I hope to see you at the conference and above all have fun and despite what you were told as a child, talk to strangers (as long as they have an Ignite badge!)
The big push from Microsoft over the last few years has been towards the cloud, and in the SharePoint area this means Microsoft wants you on Office 365 instead of on-premises SharePoint servers.
None of this should shock you, Microsoft has been yelling it loud and clear for some time now, and the message came through loud and clear at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas this year (my key takeaways from the SPC14). It has now been announced that was the last SharePoint conference and starting in 2015 a conference combining SharePoint, Lync, Exchange, Project, Office365 will run instead.
Here’s some interesting stats pulled from Google trends.
Office 365 (blue) vs SharePoint (red) – Shows interest in SharePoint slowly declining while interest in Office 365 has been rapidly increasing to roughly double that of SharePoint.
Microsoft’s Office 365 offering is compelling now they are starting to realize the benefits from combining multiple services into a single integrated offering. I don’t necessarily think Microsoft is trying to kill SharePoint off, it’s just drifting towards the background a bit in the noise of Office 365. When you look at Office 365, there are quite a few products that were thrown into the mix… SharePoint, Exchange, Yammer, Office Online, OneDrive, FAST. Trying to combine and integrate these products and leverage their combined power, Microsoft is heading towards talking about the tangible objects and features rather than the technology.. what do I mean by that? We start hearing terms like Conversations which may be a mixed thread of Email/Lync/Yammer all shown together, we start to talk of Documents whether they be stored in SharePoint and viewed with Office Online Apps, Office Desktop apps or accessed via OneDrive. It seems the technologies themselves are losing the focus and the rather the functionality they provide is coming to the fore (and I think this is where the rub comes for those hanging on to SharePoint on premises), this really awesome functionality is not provided by one product on it’s own, but rather when they are integrated together and the only way to get the highest level of integration and deliver this value is in Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud. So is SharePoint going away? I think it’s just becoming part of something bigger, and over time the functionality might just be called Sites or Workspaces or Places or Groups in Office 365 but it will essentially be the SharePoint of today powering the functionality delivered in the Office 365 of tomorrow.
Office 365 (blue) vs Google Apps (red) – Office 365 is competing with Google for taking business apps to the cloud and looking at Office 365 vs Google Apps or Google Docs these stats show a pretty fierce battle underway.
Office 365 (blue) vs Google Docs (red) – Office 365 is competing with Google for taking business apps to the cloud and looking at Office 365 vs Google Apps or Google Docs these stats show a pretty fierce battle underway.
The SharePoint roadshow is about to roll into town. This year ShareThePoint has organised 2 conferences in Australia (Sydney and Melbourne) in addition to the conference in New Zealand. It seems each year the SharePoint community is growing stronger. OnePlaceMail is again a sponsor of these fantastic events and I’m looking forward to the Sydney conference starting next week.
While Microsoft unveiled most of their surprises at the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas late last year, that does not mean this conference is just a rehash of the sessions from Vegas. Expect to see sessions delivering content with a bit more knowledge and ‘best practice’ than those delivered in Vegas. I like to think of it more as Vegas was ‘hype’ and these conferences will be more of the ‘reality’.
If you are interested in email integration with SharePoint and generally integrating SharePoint better with the desktop then please stop by the OnePlaceMail stand for a chat and live demo of how we can help you.
The OnePlaceMail team have put in a huge effort delivering features on top of the new SharePoint 2013 Site Mailbox architecture and have also published whitepapers and procedures to get you up and running with Site Mailboxes with the minimum of fuss. Come and pick our brains if you are looking at the new Site Mailbox features of SharePoint 2013.
Have a great conference and don’t forget to come by and say hello.
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At Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (in Toronto, Canada) Windows Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller announced that Windows 8 is on track to Release to Manufacturing (RTM) the first week of August, with general availability by the end of October.