Team Up the Flow

Recently Microsoft Flow had got a lot of attention, new features, and new capabilities.

“Teams” has also been a developing application that is getting a very high push from Microsoft and also due to it’s simplicity and resemblance to other, day to day, chat applications, getting more popularity with clients. I can see the spreading of Teams in certain offices even without the IT department actually says or does anything, people are simply using it and if someone happens not to have access to it…oh well then we kinda hear about it in IT.

In any industry dealing with “on-site” tickets and fails, there is a lot to discuss between the technician or the field person and the dispatcher or manager in the back office. Since Teams is used for chat, in any case, to chat between co-workers in the office and its mobile app is available I thought why not to use it for the ticket support on site? The scenario is a familiar one.

So far it has been the “Happy Path” for the technician, but honestly, how many times things went wrong and he or she had to call back to the office? or even if everything is ok just to send the customers signature via the phone or surface back to the office while keeping track of the documentation and the initial ticket might be an issue already. True, there are many tools in the current market to do just that, but if you already have got O365, you are a small company with  2 -10 field technicians and you trying to cut costs I would suggest a different approach, less fancy but still effective.

The ticket creation process can be done in a dedicated PowerApp or another way, I would like to focus on the communication after the ticket has already been created. The ticket details are inserted into a Word document and added to a SharePoint document library on Office 365. Once the document containing the ticket was published in the document library a flow will create a chat entry with the link to the specific document. So how the technician will know it is a task assigned to him/her? The flow can add the chat entry to the right channel according to the assigned technician to this task. The assignment will be in the document library as well, an additional column to the Metadata.

The SharePoint Document Library:

The Teams Set up:

In Teams, I have added a team for all the technicians and a separate channel for each by name. I will use this channel ID later on to assign the technician

The Flow when a document is added:


  1. Find the: When a file is created (properties) flow type for SharePoint and make sure you are connected with the right user (especially relevant for those of us with several users and clients…)
  2. SharePoint will store the document, the only thing you will be posting in teams and transferring through Flow is the link to the document and the metadata
  3. I have used the switch case in order to assign the tasks/documents directly to the technicians by name. This is not for a huge corporate but for a small firm that has a few technicians and limited budget. The assignment – the case scenario is through the “Assigned to Email” Property.
  4. Maintain and Govern – my goal is to leave a documentation so the company can add cases or change technician names in the flow when people are leaving. A print screen of the flow and explanation of which field should be changed will be enough.
  5. Don’t forget the default case, if the assigned person doesn’t have a channel yet or the file containing the task was not assigned to.

If something was changed in the document and the head office would like to post another, manual column another flow can be initiated manually, there is another flow that can run from the document menu, this flow will add the message the dispatcher/manager in the office want to add to the technician

Why do we need it? Well, when the message is automatically assigned to the right channel with the link to the documentation it sends the alert to the technician but also enables the technician to chat regarding this ticket all the information and the details regarding it with the main office or management. All this information is retained in teams.

Possible bugs/Problems:

  1. The Word document, containing all the information possibly pictures and so on cannot be edited to the full scope, if another picture needs to be added it cannot be done via office online but only with a surface or another mobile device that can have a word installed with full capabilities.
  2. The information is retained as a chat and searchable in the Team, it might be more difficult to access than a traditional record in a CRM application
  3. Things might get confusing – if you have your calendar in one place and the task assigned in another.


The key part of this implementation, just like any other, is communication with the users, both administrators/managers/dispatchers, and the field technicians, and understanding their needs from this application. This process can fit some of the organizations but it is not a “one fit all” solution.




Measure the innovation – KPI for Product Initiation

In my presentation about Product Management using Office 365, I am using PowerBI and the connection to flow to track the performance of the Product team during the “Ideation” phase.

The core of this solution is a basic SharePoint list, where the product team can track it’s ideas and vote on them. While those ideas are gathered in order to be implemented in the product later on. Meanwhile the feature or enhancement can be considered to be part of the product scope. The list is very simple by design:

The list is in the Product Group and on the top, you can see all the participants of this group.

I have connected this list to the Product group section in PowerBI, to get the KPI report in there.


The ideation process can be problematic to measure and there might be irrelevant ideas that got voted out. If a company would like to reward it’s employees based on the new ideas they bring to the table this might be a quick measure for creativity if implemented as part of the Product team site.

Connection PowerBI to the SharePoint list gives a quick view that can be embedded both in the product team site as a PowerBI Web Part and added to the company management dashboard elsewhere as an external report outside of the group permissions.

My thoughts on the technical aspects of manuall migration of an Access or other legacy forms application

Divide the migration to 3 different parts:

  1. The governance & Process flow
  2. The content- migrating the data
  3. The interface

Governance, planning and process flow

First of all decide what is going to be migrated and create a migration map and a document containing all the information.

Before any migration to the cloud I would like to refer you to the following article: Five pitfalls to avoid when migrating to the cloud

The most important one is: do not forget the what? who? and why business users are going to use it.

The simple understanding of who access what? which users are going to use this application and how? have a basic process flow and well defined personas for your application. If it is big enough, user stories will be needed as well.

After reviewing those topics you would be able to figure out the SharePoint solution architecture vs the existing one in Access. The how will be cleared, should you use several lists? how about groups? sites? PowerApps? maybe several pages just for the view and some custom made buttons?

2. Migrating the data –

    1. Create the data repositories – the lists, you can export the Access data by tables to Excel.
    2. SharePoint, unlike Access, is not a relational Data Base, that means that the data should be not normalized and hierarchy’s are not going to work the same unless a custom solution is applied.
    3. The easiest way is using the quick edit mode on a pre-created tables – yes that means basically rebuilding the Access solution

3. Migrating the interface

Prepare the solution – the data is going to reside in SharePoint lists? the access is going to be through list forms? another 3rd party solution? What is the user interface going to look like?

I would recommend to use Power Apps in order to achieve the forms look and feel and enjoy the benefits of the flow for any business rules you have mapped in the first part. The Power Apps can be connected to several data sources, hence creating the illusion of a relational DB after all. A very important tip, make all your editing in Power Apps desktop application. The online version is a bit, sneaky ;-).

Also on Quora

Connecting PowerBI Desktop to Oracle?

One of PowerBI’s biggest strengths is the connectivity to almost everything. (They say that through PowerApps it is going to connect to your home espresso machine soon enough), the challenge is when things don’t go as expected.

What is the business need?   Data visualization from ORacle data base.
What are the constrains? No cloud is allowed, everything is on premise.
The proposed solution? Use PowerBI to create a local dashboard that I can save and share internally in the company. The data displayed will be from ORACLE database that is local in the company.

Simple enough? well as I have later discovered not that simple…

In order to connect Oracle and PowerBI desktop there is a need in a connection on the Oracle side, otherwise we get the following error:

In the excellent blog post from the PowerBI community, the instructions are:

  1. Make sure you have 32bit/64 bit matching windows and PowerBI
  2. Install the ODAC from Oracle site (32bit or 64 bit)
  3. Go to PowerBI desktop
  4. Add new data connection, choose data base and Oracle
  5. Add the servers name and that’s it 🙂

So I have followed, but what happens when it doesn’t work? I got the same error as if nothing was installed to begin with!

It is recommended to install and uninstall all the Oracle client, install diffrent version, make sure you have matching 32/64 bit versions and so on…

I have notice something different, between the connection properties in my Oracle SQL developer tool and the PowerBI data connection window:

So what am I writing in the server name? Nothing seemed to work and worse, I was prompted to use my machine access credentials instead of the DB access credentials. Meaning the connection that PowerBI is trying to establish is to some object on my computer instead to the data base.

The easiest path was discovered in this excellent blog about Excel Power Pivot: PowerPivot Pro

Connecting to Oracle Using TNSnames.ora

The process goes like this:

Creating a file named TNDnames.ora either manually or using the ODAC release 4 which can be found right here for the 64 bit version 

Download the Zip file-> unzip-> run the file setup.exe setup as administrator

The setup will ask you to enter the exact same data you have entered in your database connections properties.

  • Connection Name (Please do not put space or special characters in there)
  • Hostname
  • Port (usually 1521)
  • Service Name
  • User Name
  • Password

There will be a file created in the following directory:


The files name is: tnsbanes.ora

In the blog post I have mentioned before, contains the full file created.

Mine looked very similar:



(ADDRESS = (PROTOCOL = TCP)(HOST = HostName )(PORT = PortNumber))



(SERVICE_NAME = ServiceName)))

After this file is created, either manually or by using the ODAC wizard, it is the equivalent of the connection string. I have entered in the PowerBI get data option the following:


and used the database credentials in the permissions part.

It worked!

More tips around creating the connection:

  1. You do not need to install Visual studio just for the connectivity option. If you are prompted to install VS and the error while installing the connector is:

That means it is not the right connector for the data connection proposes.

2. As recommended in the PowerBI community, clear all the data connections associated with this connection. There might be automatically saved credentials from your previous attempts that will make things not work. In the desktop version go to file-> options and settings-> Data Source Settings; simply delete the not working connections.

Good Luck! and don’t forget to visit the powerBI community:

SharePoint Saturday Vancouver

This was a very exciting event for me as a proud member of the VanSPUG board – the local SharePoint user group and personally as a SharePoint enthusiast.

The preparations and organization went well, we had many sessions with leading SharePoint, BI, Dev and user adoption experts.

We also had an announcement that was made by Charles Sterling (Chass) from Microsoft regarding a new connectivity between Power Apps and PowerBI, demonstrated the first time during his session. I had the privilege to be his “data monkey” and help with all the data entries. A useful trick that he is always preaching for, add a person who is going to help you presenting and will enter all the code lines, url’s and maybe even move the slides forward. You can even pick a person from the audience, and worse case scenario, just ask him or her to step back. During this presentation we have also learned that it is better having all your designing with PowerApps done in the desktop editor rather than the online tool… ohh well.

The event was a great success, you can see the pictures in our Facebook page:

VanSPUG Facebook 

My tips for organizing an event like this and sharing my expirience in VanSpug:

  1. Select the winning team! I am part of the best board I have ever had the chance to work with and it shows in the growth of our community, the cooperation, supporting each others decisions and commitments
  2. Plan – We have used the tools such as planner to complete the planning. We came up with a checklist of tasks, assigned and delivered. In a workplace it is a common sense, but in a volunteer organization it is not that obvious.
  3. Communicate- we have tried the teams communicator and Skype chat. Eventually settled on the Office 365 Outlook. The emails are short and we are all attentive to the requests.

Small but significant- looking at other SharePoint Saturday and SQL Saturday events, the small stuff were the once that made the difference. Clear navigation option, understanding where the rooms are located and having all the lectures printed near the room’s door really helped the audience to get to the right place in the right time. Just like navigation is an important part of your SharePoint portal, it should also be a priority in the venue.

I had also the privilege to participate in the event and give my presentation regarding Product Management using all the Office 365 tools. I must say that groups, planner and off course SharePoint and PowerBI were my leading recommendations. I will explain in details in another post.

 Link to the YouTube Video

Let’s talk about workflows

Writing the word Workflow in the SharePoint online section of the office store, resulted 92 (!) different apps. So let’s check what we have got.

First of all why do you need the workflow? what should it be doing?

If the answer is everything well, there are the most famous in the market – Nintex workflow, they do come with a price tag. Nintex Workflow for Office 365 enjoy, I know I did when my client could afford them.

There are less expensive tools that are created to give similar functionalities such as: UMT360 Workflow Visualization, K2 blackpearl for SharePoint (never worked with them so I cannot form an opinion just mentioning).

Another great solution, is easier to implement and has several workflows built in, for almost end user to be able to configure: Infowise Smart Action Pro Infowise are very well positioned company, they have several working and user friendly solutions, I had the privilege to work with their tools and if they cater to your requirements would highly recommend.

For the rest of the tools available, I have never worked with directly, so lets divide them into categories:

  1. HR/Payroll related workflows: KasPer Pro HR with Self Service
    1. Track vacations Holiday Authorization Management, Leave Request Pro
    2. Policies confirmation SP Employee OnBoarding
    3. Expenses tracking – Expense Approval Pro , Expense Management for SMEs
  2. Specific process/occupation related workflows
    1. Clinic – medicine processes – Clinic App
    2. Budget management – Budget Workflow Manager
    3. Travel management – Travel Request System
    4. Replacing CRM – KasCur Pro CRM
    5. There are more
  3. Managing your workflows: Workflow Manager
  4. Workflows with project or project related content: Actionspace: Tasks-Projects-Workflows (SharePoint), Project Documentation
  5. Form Based workflows – (You can use Info path but this has probably less functionalities with better graphic)
    1. FlowForma – Business Process Enablement Tool
    2. TeamWorkPath

Finally, in the army we had a list workflow, set from the 3 stages workflow and some customization using SP designer on a form, to get your commander approval signature for taking a weapon from the weaponry. Later we have “upgraded” the form to infopath so the units symbol could be added. I doubt we can find something like this in the online store but it was a workflow I have created, so it is all about what, and who you actually need to support with the workflow.

(Also published on Quora)

Security Groups in SharePoint What happens when someone leaves?

SharePoint 2013 doesn’t have dynamic security groups. It is based on the AD groups already in the organization. The users cannot be created in SharePoint only existing users in the organization can be added. The same happens in Office 365, you need to add the user for the entire organization either as a guest (free account), contact or organizational user.

This is from the Office 365 main menu and not internally to SharePoint

The users are added in this screen according to the different groups:

Now, the users can be added into specific groups or sites in SharePoint or any other Office 365 application. If a user deleted from here, and no longer exist as a user in the organization, he will disappear from the sites and groups preventing be ghost users in a SharePoint site. (At least according to what I have seen, I am sure there are some exceptions perhaps someone can comment?)

So What happens on premise? SharePoint 2013? Someone leaves the organization and than what?

Back in Share Point 2010 and before the so called “Ghost users” were very common phenomena especially when cutting the sites permissions from the main site which was easily done but extremely hard to govern.

There are 3rd party tools, based usually on Power-Shell commands that creates the dynamic groups ability in SharePoint. Those solutions are sometimes necessary when the organizational AD is poorly managed, the 2 teams (SharePoint and Active Directory) don’t have the best internal communication between them or the governance policy was defined separately. In smaller organizations, sometimes a delete Power-Shell function is used when someone leaves brutally deleting all the permissions by site collection. Not dynamic or efficient but works and leaves no tails of orphaned users. Remove-SPUser . Same can be applied for adding one.

The other way is to use the AZUE AD dynamic groups, which is very efficient for hybrid SP solutions (partially in the cloud and partially on premise). You still need to manage the users in AD and the groups.

Office 365 groups Life-cycle

The Group for Office 365 is more of a new way to call a Team Site.

Although it is a distribution list, just like and Outlook group, it has the following features just like any other SharePoint site:

· Document Library for storing and working on group files and folders

· OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes

· Planning tool for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress

You can find more information right here in Microsoft’s site:…

Groups have a similar life-cycle to any other SharePoint site:

To determine whether the groups are the right solution for your business need and organization, you can use this wonderful blog post:…

As in any SharePoint site, prior to opening the group, there are few things that have to be established for the process:

Good luck and share the group experience with me!

(was published in Quora )

Google Apps and Office 365, where are the great “office wars” now?

At first it was about Google penetrating to the the office software market dominated by Microsoft. I remember the discussions in large organizations about Microsoft licensing annual reviews, “we will tell them we can install and use Google now!” the managers used to say. I was always interested if those things were really said behind the close doors of the negotiation tables or it was just to make us cringe in the IT department anticipating the user adoption mess that will emerge as a result.

The question has recently changed, it was a question of cloud vs on premise. Today, the battle field has completely changed and it is becoming more and more a functionality, ease of use user adoption and tactics.

The “office war”, the tool that is most widely used in the offices. The main issue with moving from Microsoft Office to Google is the adoption and the perception of the information as something that belongs to “me” (myself as a worker/ the team/ the organization). Most of the people, this is an assumption without fact checking based on personal experience working across industries in 2 countries, are currently writing documents and email on their desktops and in an on-premise Outlook. Switching to Google will create 2 new experiences for the users:

  1. Changing habits – they know how to work with Outlook, they don’t want to work with something new, some even complain when the cruel IT people are updating the version. as mentioned in Computerworld essay: ”You can mess up elsewhere, but bring down people’s e-mail and you’ll start getting irate calls literally in seconds.” (Corporate e-mail in the cloud: Google vs. Microsoft)
  2. Changing perception – of a tool a tool that they have worked with in their home, a private tool for a private use, in their office.
  3. Changing the data ownership – everybody is listening to the media, telling how much Google stores all the data and uses the data, so many managers have hesitation whether or not move to a google based tools fearing that the information will leak.

All those changes is something that employees don’t tend to like, especially employees in large organizations, that find it sometimes difficult adjusting to new tools daily.

All this might change now, when Microsoft has created it’s online 365 solution and some businesses, especially the small once, have switched to the cloud solution. Now Google has a better chance, in my opinion, because it let’s Microsoft to shift the habit and the core assumption for the large corporations that data has always have to reside on premise and the cloud is a dangerous place. Once more and more organizations switch to Office 365 partially or completely, the question which is better? Google or Microsoft? or maybe another cloud based solution? shifts to Googles playground.

(from Quora)

Mail-chimp Data visualization

An Example of how to connect and use PowerBI to connect to MailChimp data and build a data visualization.

Go to the website: Interactive Data Visualization BI Tools

Sign up for free power BI and you will get your free power BI app. You can download for free to your desktop as well. On the left side of the screen choose the yellow Get Data option

Now in the menu choose: services

Scroll down till you see the Mail Chimp

Now click the GET button on the left side

A screen with an authentication method will appear.

Click on next enter your mail chimp user and password.

I have used the same email address for the Power BI Office 365 and Mail Chimp accounts – it might be useful for future authentications (different passwords!)

Now it will take a minute or a little longer and you will get a new menu item on the left side of your power BI app. Now you can see how you campaign is doing: (mine is empty, I haven’t had a campaign yet)

You can play with the data, create new reports and visualizations. When you are ready, you can save the report, generate a URL and embed it in your site or send the link to your friends. This is where the payment after the trial will come to play, the collaboration and storage part. If you just to need to follow the data and see how your campaign is doing the free version will suffice. Have fun and let me know if you need help.

(Also published via Quora)