30 August 2016

Power BI Tips: Start And Embed

Power BI iconPower BI is a Microsoft suite of business analytics tools for Office 365. It is very useful for exploration and visualization of data, for example data from usage of SharePoint or Outlook products. I have recently begun recording a series of demonstrations about Power BI, and the first two have now been published in the Tips section.

Power BI is based on a self-service concept, where users can analyze data in an Excel-like interface and create custom reports. The idea is that users should be able to interact with data directly, without having to go through an IT department each time.

Power BI sketch

Get started
Each user has to connect Power BI to their Office 365, so in the first demo about Power BI I show how to do that. I select the online version, but I will come back to the desktop version later. In the introduction demo I also show how to import an Excel file and start playing with the data. The Power BI dashboard reminds of the Excel pivot table, but the interface is much more user friendly and intuitive. Calendar Browser for Outlook icon Statistics
Power BI supports multiple data sources, but the reason I chose to use an Excel file is that most products Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint icon give various Excel reports on data in databases or SharePoint lists. The data in these reports can very well be explored and visualized in Power BI.

Thus you can study statistics about how resourcesFolder HelpDesk for Outlook icon are used within your organization, how time is spent, how support cases are followed up, how projects are managed and so on, depending on which product you are using. Different kinds of default reports are generated, and you can also create custom reports.
Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint icon
Embed Power BI in SharePoint
The second demo shows two ways to embed a Power BI report in a SharePoint page. The built in "Publish to web" feature is the easiest method, and it is good for public data.

The built in method should however never be used for restricted data, because it gives a link that does not require login. Therefore I also describe a more secure method where users have to log in to Power BI with their SharePoint work account to see the report.

It is always a good idea to use Power BI with SharePoint to have updated reports, and I will go deeper into that in a later demonstration. For now you are welcome to watch the Get started demo below and to learn more in the Tips section.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

23 August 2016

IT, Music And Cricket Fires New QA

A couple of months ago QA Engineer Sumit Nandwal joined the team. Our QA Engineers don't have much customer contact, but the QA team is crucial in making sure that our products have the high quality we are so proud of. Here is Sumit's introduction:

During my four years of experience as a Quality Assurance Engineer, I have worked with different kinds of web and mobile applications. Being a Quality Assurance professional, my highest priority is to ensure the best possible product experience for the end-users.
Sumit Nandwal
IT family
I have been interested in computers since my early childhood, and I have a Master of Computer Applications from Rajiv Gandhi Technical University. Now has offered me a unique opportunity to work with new ideas and technologies like SharePoint. As a team member I wish to continually expand my knowledge and skills and deliver the very best to our customers.

I am blessed with a healthy family. My father working for Central Government with Employees State Insurance Corporation and my younger brother  as a Software Engineer. My extended family include members working in various capacities with reputed IT companies, so I would like to say we are a family of IT professionals.
Singer and songwriter
Work aside, my major area of interest is music. My hobby in music is not just limited to listening, but I also sing and write my own songs. I am currently learning music production and sound engineering, and my favorite genre is Alternative Rock and Indian semi-classical.

I also play a lot of cricket and watch all the matches of the Indian Cricket team. I aim to succeed in both my areas of professional and personal endeavours and wish to achieve high goals in both.

I believe in the saying “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice”. The idea behind this thought is that I should always remain honest in whatever I do in my life.

Sumit Nandwal

I am looking forward to tackling new challenges together with my colleagues in the team. By  knowledge sharing and cooperation we will continue to create quality products for customers worldwide.

Sumit Nandwal
Quality Assurance Engineer Business Solutions

16 August 2016

SharePoint Templates Manager With Client For Desktop Office

Templates Manager logotypeTemplates Manager for SharePoint V2 has been released!  The new version has a client application, so now users can select the SharePoint templates in their local Excel, PowerPoint or Word. Version 2 of Templates Manager also has some enhancements of the SharePoint installation.

No need to open SharePoint
With the new client installation, users who prefer to work with their desktop Office applications can use the SharePoint templates in their PCs without even noticing that they get the templates from SharePoint.

After a manual login to SharePoint the first time, Templates Manager Client knows what templates library to connect to. The user can just click on the Select Template button in the ribbon to select a template.
Templates Manager ribbon group in desktop Office

SharePoint enhancements
The Office desktop applications have more features than the online versions, but working online also has its benefits, for example that several people can work on the same document. Therefore some users will continue using the browser, and for those users we have given two enhancements.

Templates Manager shows the templates sorted by category, and users can also search all templates. New in version 2 is a possibility to filter the templates for document type to get a more handy selection. If you know that you want to create, for example, a presentation, you can filter the templates so that only .pptx files are displayed. Then you can browse or search as before.

Many admins prefer to use another SharePoint theme than the default one that we always show in the demos. Earlier the "choose template" dialog always looked the same, but in V2 it will fit in better as it picks up the colors of the selected SharePoint theme.

All Subscribers have free upgrades, and I recommend current users to upgrade their installations. This time we have had to add one more step in the process, because of Microsoft's decision to deprecate server-side code in sandboxed solutions.

Earlier we kept a very small amount of server-side code, to make installs, uninstalls and upgrades simpler for administrators. Now we have to bother our admins with some more clicks at uninstall and upgrade to make it possible to continue supporting Office 365.

The upgrade page shows the process clearly in a step-by-step instruction and in a demo, and if you are using Templates Manager in many sites we can give a PowerShell script that takes care of everything. Please contact us if you have questions!

Try it!
The process at first installation of Templates Manager is also changed because of the server-side code deprecation, but it is hardly noticeable. Here we have managed to keep the number of clicks the same as before and the installation is still easy to manage for evaluators – and of course for current subscribers who want to install Templates Manager in more site collections. We allow an unlimited number of installations and users, so subscribers can very well have more than one installation.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

04 August 2016

SharePoint Document Tagger With Jeopardy Winning Analysis Tool?

Document Tagger logotypeA couple of years ago developed a SharePoint solution that tagged SharePoint documents with metadata. We never released the final product on the market, though, as it requires a really good text analysis service. At that time we could not find a service that met our requirements, but today we have better options for Document Tagger.

Metadata – great to have but a pain to add
Everything that describes the contents and context of files is called metadata, like file names, location and of course keywords. The SharePoint search works much better when documents are tagged with appropriate metadata, and  with the help of metadata you can filter and create views that show files from different aspects.

 To manually tag documents with metadata is however boring and time consuming, so people often avoid doing it. In the developer group we have discussed several solutions to this problem.

Metadata solutions
Templates Manager logotypeThe product Templates Manager for SharePoint makes it easier to remember adding metadata. This is because we have made a change in how documents are opened in SharePoint. When you click on a template to create a new document from it, the document will not open immediately. Instead the Properties dialog will be displayed first, which is an important enhancement compared to the standard SharePoint behavior.

An even better solution to the problem of adding metadata is to let an analysis service give metadata suggestions which the users can accept or reject. That is the idea behind Document Tagger, a solution that sends documents to an analysis service in a secure way and gets metadata suggestions back to the SharePoint library. But of course Document Tagger will not be useful until it is combined with an analysis service that really gives relevant metadata to add to each document. Too many irrelevant suggestions will only make users frustrated.

In April I wrote a blog post about the Microsoft Azure Text Analytics, which we have found promising in tests. Now we have seen that also IBM's AlchemyLanguage seems to meet our standards.

AlchemyLanguage iconAlchemyLanguage is part of Watson, a question answering computer system that can answer questions posed in natural language. Some years ago the program beat all human players in a Jeopardy show and thus made the amazing prospects of cognitive systems clearer to many of us.

We can use both
The analysis service is crucial to Document Tagger, but technically it is not a big part of the solution and we can very well build several editions that send documents to different services.

We will continue evaluating the two analysis services I have mentioned above and maybe some more,  before we decide the future path for Document Tagger. Please contact us if you have comments!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

02 August 2016

Office 365 Planner New Option For Task Management

Office 365 Planner icon Microsoft has included a new application in most Office 365 subscriptions: Planner. This app is good for simple task sharing, but it cannot be customized at all. In a new article in the Tips section I give an introduction to Planner.

Task management
Every organization needs a good way to plan work with tasks, due dates and responsible persons. Planning needs to be shared within a group, and managers often need overviews of how work proceeds in multiple groups.

Such task management can be performed in many ways, from a physical kanban board where each task is written on a piece of paper to advanced digital solutions that can be highly customized. I would say that the Office 365 Planner comes somewhere in the middle of this range.

Planner features
Planner is organized in projects, here called plans, and each plan has its own board. A plan can have a number of tasks, and each task can have sub tasks, links and attached files.

The tasks can be categorized with colors, and you can also create so called buckets for tasks of different kind. Charts give an overview over a plan's tasks, and each user can click into My tasks to see only the tasks assigned to him or her.

Task discussions
Each task has a comment field where users can post comments. It is also possible to send comments by e-mail, because when a new plan is created it gets an e-mail address. A limited site collection, a group, is also created in the background, and e-mails sent to the plan's email address can be viewed in the group discussion.

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotypeFor more advanced task management I recommend the product Kanban Task Manager. The SharePoint editions take advantage of the inbuilt SharePoint features and gives a lot of other benefits and good customization possibilities on top of that.

Kanban Task Manager is also available for Outlook, and all Kanban Task Manager editions give statistics, filtering and search of tasks, overdue warnings, several views and many more features.

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions