28 February 2017

Dedicated Teachers Behind Study Manager For SharePoint

The other day I read in a Swedish paper that refugees who had come to the town Tierp as unaccompanied minors had managed very well in Sweden. As I have had a lot of cooperation with teachers and IT technicians in Tierp, this was really good news to me.

When you come to a foreign country as a refugee you often have experienced traumatic events, and that might be especially true if you arrive as an unaccompanied child. In those cases, it is extremely important that you are met by a welcoming society and dedicated teachers and other adults.

Study Manager for SharePoint logotypeI know Tierp has such devoted teachers, because I have had the privilege to cooperate with some of them in a project that resulted in the SharePoint solution Study Manager. The development of this product was sponsored by Tierp and initiated by professionals who teach Swedish to immigrants.

What we created for Tierp was a learning platform in SharePoint, where teachers can add and organize teaching material and where students can practice at their own pace but still with teacher supervision. The solution has served the immigrants who study Swedish very well.
Study Manager for SharePoint
"It is a joy to work with Study Manager", says one of the teachers, Medina Becirovic Emkic. "The solution works splendidly. All students, also those who are not used to computers, can work with the exercises, as Study Manager is so easy to use."

The article I read is unfortunately only in Swedish, but it says that most of the young people who came as unaccompanied minors to Tierp between 2007 and 2016 is working and have a good income - even a little bit higher than the average for Swedes of the same age! None of them have been convicted for a crime. cooperation iconSuch a result can only be achieved when the immigrants get qualified help to learn Swedish quickly. The whole team is familiar with Tierp and Study Manager, and we all congratulate the Tierp society and the young immigrants to the success!

Today Tierp takes advantage of Study Manager for many more subjects, and Study Manager has become a standard product that is used also by other schools and companies. If you think Study Manager could be useful to your educational purposes, you are welcome to try the solution.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

24 February 2017

Office 365 From Scratch Published On Amazon

Office 365 from Scratch cover Office 365 is a quickly expanding platform – so quickly that it might be difficult to keep track of what is included and how to best make use of it. With my new book, Office 365 from Scratch, I want to help decision makers and administrators to learn the Microsoft cloud platform. Office 365 users who want to know more about the possibilities their accounts give them, will also find parts of the book interesting.

The topic Office 365 is huge and cannot be covered in one book. My intention has instead been to introduce the different parts of Office 365 and specify the right words for the features in apps and services. Microsoft has a lot of information online, but it is not easy to find it if you don't know what to search for!

Office 365 from Scratch starts with general information on Office 365 and describes how to get started and add user accounts. After that I introduce:
  • Microsoft OutlookExchange, for e-mail, calendars and contacts. E-mailing is mission critical for most organizations, but managing growing mailbox sizes can be a nightmare for IT-departments. The stable and secure Exchange Online is often one of the reasons for using Office 365.
  • Microsoft OneNoteOffice, which includes the most common applications for word processing, calculation, presentations and notes. The Office 365 Enterprise subscriptions include the Office desktop suite and online editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
  • Microsoft SharePointSharePoint, for enterprise content management and sharing. I have already published two books and hundreds of video demonstrations solely about& SharePoint Online, but in a book like Office 365 from Scratch there is only room for an overview of what is most important to know. I also give information about apps that build on SharePoint: Video Microsoft OneDriveand My Site with Delve and OneDrive for Business.
  • Office 365 Groups, a service built on SharePoint and Exchange. In a Group users can share documents, work on project plans, schedule meetings and receive e-mails in a shared inbox – often concerning a specific topic, such as a project.Office 365 Planner icon The Planner app is included in all Groups, and the Conversation apps Teams and Yammer make use of Groups just like StaffHub, the brand new app for work scheduling.
  • Microsoft FlowFlow, Microsoft's replacement for SharePoint workflows, can be used extensively with various services, and you can create flows for elaborate collaboration over multiple platforms.
  • Microsoft PowerApps iconPowerApps lets IT professions create mobile friendly apps connected to data from various sources and distribute them to users within the organization.
  • Power BI iconPower BI helps you create interactive visualizations of data from unrelated sources and show them on websites or in apps.
  • Sway is a presentation app where users work on a web-based canvas.Office 365 Sway icon It is possible to insert images, text, documents, videos, charts and maps from many different sources in the sways.
Office 365 from Scratch includes links to Tips articles with video demonstrations. I hope these articles will make the learning more varied and enhance the understanding.

 Amazon logo       Office 365 from Scratch is sold at Amazon. Just like my earlier books, Office 365 from Scratch is available as e-book as well as paperback and included in the Kindle Matchbook program, which lets you buy the e-book for a very low cost when you have purchased the paperback.

I have had good assistance with this book. My mother Kate helped me organize the material, Rituka Rimza proofread the manuscript and Vijayant Rimza created the book cover. I am grateful for your contribution!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

16 February 2017

PowerApp With Current User's Phone Messages

Microsoft PowerApps iconIf your organization uses a SharePoint list for phone messages, you can create a PowerApp from it and make a workflow hide all messages but the current user's. This way each user will see his/her own messages in the app. In two new articles in the Tips section, I describe how to achieve this.

Phone messages in the mobile
In some of my earlier tutorials I have described how to create and enhance a phone messages SharePoint list. Now there is one more: how to create a PowerApp that shows phone messages. Such messages are of course ideal to have in a mobile phone, and as PowerApps give a mobile friendly user interface, a phone messages PowerApp sounds like the perfect solution. It can be done, but you have to take some more steps after letting PowerApps auto-create an app from the SharePoint list.

Auto-creation from SharePoint
PowerApps has a button in the command bar of SharePoint lists with the new experience interface, so it is very easy to create a PowerApp from a list. But the result of the auto-creation is seldom optimal, and in the case of my simple phone messages app it is actually bad. The list only has four columns: Who called? (which is the re-named Title field), Telephone number (to call back), (the person who was) Called and a Yes/No column for Returned.

Microsoft PowerApps in SharePoint
No easy search for "my calls"
In SharePoint you can easily filter the list by Called, so that you can see only your own calls, but when you create a PowerApp all items will be included and there is no such filter option. There is a search, but it is only possible to search text fields.

I want the reception staff to be able to select the persons called among the SharePoint users, so 'Called' is a column of the type Person or Group and not a text column. This means that users cannot search for their own messages in the app.

Add the "Called" field
Even worse is that the "Called" field is not displayed in the Browse mode of the PowerApp, so users have to open each item to see who was called. Instead of Called, there is a rating field connected to the item ID, which is not very useful. In the demo below I show how to remove it and add the Called field instead.

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So, now the "Called" field is displayed in Browse mode, but if there are many messages in the list users will have to scroll a lot to find their messages, as all messages in the SharePoint list are displayed in the PowerApp.

To solve the problem and let each user see only his/her own messages, I suggest a SharePoint 2010 workflow, which can set permissions. Create an Impersonation Step that replaces all permissions with an edit permission for the person in the "Called" field. This way the items with "Lisa" in the "Called" field will be hidden for everyone but Lisa, and each user will see only his or her messages – in the SharePoint list as well as in the PowerApp. You have to be a site collection owner or admin to create such a workflow, and in the demo below I show how to create it.

With these two actions, you can create a much better PowerApp than the auto-created one. I have found that PowerApps quite often work like that. An experienced SharePoint admin can give users really efficient apps, but it might be difficult for other people to create something useful.

I must point out, though, that even with these modifications this PowerApp is far from perfect. For example it still shows all my phone messages, not only those I have to return. Further ideas would be to make the phone numbers clickable, so you can actually return your phone calls directly from the PowerApp and then mark the phone call as returned.

However, those modifications are for another demo. I hope you find this a useful example, even though the results need further improvement. If you want to try my suggestion, I recommend you to read the articles and not just watch the demos, as they give some extra information. And if you are new to PowerApps, study the introduction article and demo first.

Intro and Projects Power App
Phone Messages Power App
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Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

15 February 2017

Another Indian Science Triumph

Today India once again has made history. Even if USA and Russia might be the countries we most often associate with space ventures, India has also invested a lot in space activities – and been very successful! Today's record launch of 104 satellites in one single mission with good measure beats the earlier Russian record of launching 37 satellites in one go.

I have mentioned the high competence of Indian technicians in this blog many times before, even if it mostly has been in a context of computer program development. But India is also a leading space nation. ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), the governmental space agency that launched the satellites today, is highly respected worldwide.

India has an ambitious space program, and I especially like that it largely focuses on social benefit. Earth observations from satellites allow mapping, weather services, agricultural planning and disaster management, and instead of building a fiber network, like we do in Sweden, India uses telecom satellites to provide the country with internet.

To be independent of other countries, India has developed their own cost-effective and reliable launch systems. I have earlier written about the Mars Orbiter Mission, which got a spacecraft into orbit around Mars in 2014, and the record launch this morning was another triumph. It involved complex issues in management and maneuvering to avoid collisions among all the satellites.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle carried one main satellite for earth observations and 103 smaller nanosatellites, most of them from the United States but also from other countries (Israel, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates). It took less than ten minutes for the rocket to spew out its "passengers".

Congratulations to the success!
Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

09 February 2017

Office 365 Groups With Auto-Created Collaboration Apps

Office 365 iconThe Office 365 Groups service is included in all subscriptions that have Exchange and SharePoint. Groups can be created in several ways, but in a new article in the Tips section I give an introduction to Groups and show how to create a group in Outlook.

Quick setup of collaboration tools
The most important advantage of using Groups is that you very quickly can have a set of collaboration media organized for a group of people who want to work together, for example on a project. By default all Office 365 users may create groups.

Create an Office 365 group and choose people that you wish to collaborate with. Then the service will quickly set up a collection of resources for the group to share. You don’t have to worry about manually creating or assigning permissions to the shared resources, because when you add members to the group, they automatically get the permissions they need to the tools your group provides.

The group apps
Office 365 Groups iconWhen a group is created, Office 365 automatically creates an inbox for e-mail messages, a calendar, a SharePoint site collection, a Planner site and a OneNote notebook for that group. All group members can reach these apps from their Outlook mailboxes, where a new group entry will be added in the folders list.

The group also gets a ‘Connectors’ feature, where users can connect the group to many different cloud services within or outside Office 365. Any group member can add a service and let filtered information from that service flow into the shared inbox.

Used in multiple apps
You can create a new group from Outlook, as I show in the Tips article and in the demo above, but groups are also created  automatically for several Office 365 apps. You can for example start with Planner instead and have the group created there.

When a user creates a team site from the SharePoint Favorites, a group will be created automatically. The new conversation app Teams, which is still in preview, also build on auto-created Office 365 Groups.

Last month Microsoft released another app that makes use of Office 365 Groups. It is called StaffHub and is intended to help users who don’t work at a desk to manage their workday. StaffHub also makes it easy for managers to schedule work and share information.
Office 365 from Scratch cover
Office 365 from Scratch
All these Office 365 apps and services are described in my next book, Office 365 from Scratch. It has now come to the proof-reading stage, and I hope to release it in a couple of weeks. I will surely come back to you then!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions