Monday, 22 December 2014

Moving to Cloud? Change to never stop changing…

Our understanding of change management is rooted in theory almost seventy years old. Is it time for a fresh look at things?

Look up from your phone or tablet on your morning commute, and you will see that some 90% of your fellow travellers are also working, using social media, playing games and communicating on their devices. Most of these services are delivered through the Cloud on your device of choice, and this is the model that successful forward-thinking businesses are adopting today. Office 365 is increasingly becoming a means to transform businesses into a model that is in tune with the way users prefer to consume services, based around collaboration and communication.  

Even today, our understanding of change management is mostly derived from Kurt Lewin’s three-stage theory of unfreezing, changing and refreezing. So is our traditional view of change management still appropriate, given the way things are evolving around us? I believe not. One of the concerns I have come across when talking to change managers or IT teams in organizations who are thinking of moving to Office 365 is how to manage the changes implemented by Microsoft in Office 365, since they come in faster than they can handle them using traditional methods. The concern is that this rapid rate of change will negatively impact the business and its end users, and if not managed and controlled, it may cause disruption. The truth is that end users are used to fast-changing environments, and the increasing pace of change in the consumer market has established a user habit that is tolerant and appreciative of change. Indeed, this may be the main reason you should move to Office 365.

Let’s find out why; I will start with a quick overview of how change is traditionally managed in businesses. According to Lewin’s theory, change should happen in three stages:

·         Unfreeze – the unfreezing stage is about understanding the need for change and preparing the environment and people for it. To understand this need, and to assess whether the change would be worthwhile, Lewin’s force field analysis suggests that we assess all the relevant pros and cons – if the more the pros outweigh the cons, the more attractive the change is and the more reason to initiate it sooner rather than later. The forces in Lewin’s theory are, essentially, the various factors we need to think of in order to make an informed decision.
·         Change – change is not a switch that you turn on or off, but a journey which takes you from your current state to your desired state. As with every journey, you should ask yourself – before you begin – whether you have made the right decision, whether you are ready to deal with surprises, whether you have your seatbelt on and are ready for what may be a bumpy ride. Communication strategy and planning, training, asking champions to create excitement and lead user engagement, providing support and assistance when needed, and senior management engagement are some of the areas typically used to smoothen the journey and ensure minimal negative impact.
·         Refreeze – now that the change has happened, it’s time to go back to business as usual. The changed environment and perhaps end-user working habits will become the new norm, and will stay frozen till the next change.

Before I return to the unfreezing stage and put it into context, I want to tell you about John Smith, who might be working for your organisation today. John is just finishing work – he closes his Outlook 2003 and shuts down his desktop, the Windows XP logo being the last thing he sees before calling it a day. He puts his work BlackBerry aside and grabs his personal iPhone, which he queued up for over the weekend to make sure he got his hands on it before anyone else. Just before going to bed that night, he remembers that he had copied a document from his work PC to a flash drive so he could work on it at home – his desktop was running slow, and anyway, he much prefers his home laptop loaded with Windows 8 and Office 2013. He gets the work done and wants to email the document to a colleague, but remembers that he left his BlackBerry in the office, and can’t access his work mail from home. Now he gets creative! He copies the document into his Dropbox and shares it, and makes sure that he names the document “Version 4” so his colleague knows that this is a new version – she’ll work on it tomorrow and email it back to John as “Version 5”.

Now to the unfreezing stage, where we evaluate the pros and cons and make a case for change. Over the past few years I have assisted many organisations with various projects, and have encountered different views on whether a certain change will be of value to the organisation, or when a need for change is felt by the client but they are not sure how to approach it. I have also observed organisations making decisions while factoring in completely different forces as compared to some other clients. The reason for this is that the drive for change usually comes from two groups of people within an organisation; IT teams and business decision makers, who sometimes hold completely different views.

When change is initiated by IT, it’s usually to address an immediate need with a tactical view – this may fix the issue in the short term, but will not have any ties into the business’s strategic plan. When changes are initiated by different IT teams and all the changes are tactical, with no regard for other projects initiated by other teams, it may take an outside observer to realise the inefficiencies that have built up as a result. A strategic plan with a longer-term view of where organisation wants to be may appear daunting and expensive; however, often when we review the tactical initiatives of some of the organizations taken in a period of time, we find the latter has cost significantly more, and delivered far less. In addition, sometimes the initiatives are the IT teams’ interpretation of what the business needs are, which may differ from reality. A tactical approach to immediate needs and demands in IT is sometimes necessary, but must be in line with a business strategy defined by business decision makers.

Business decision makers tend to think about John. They ask questions such as “How can I make John’s life easier so that he can be more productive? How can I make John more efficient and successful in the business by improving the way he works with others?” They believe that when they have done this for every John in the company, their business will be more efficient and successful, will have happier staff who love going to work on a Monday morning, and will be able to keep its competitive edge in the market. They know they may have to spend money on this journey, but, as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. Even in tough economic conditions and with shrinking budgets, there is still room for creative spending where it is most needed. This is what a strategic plan should be built upon to make a transformation successful.

Now, if you have made a decision to embark on your journey of change, you had better communicate to John why you are aiming for a certain destination and not another, and why you decided to take action in the first place. You need to explain what your staff should expect during the journey, the benefits they’ll get once they reach the destination, and read them the safety card so they know what to do in the event of an emergency! Communicating your vision to your staff and helping them understand how this change will improve their work life is the key to success.

Change is no longer an option – it is a must, and it no longer comes every few years, but every day

But what then – implement change and refreeze? I believe this can no longer be the case in modern business: change is no longer an option, but a must, and it no longer comes every few years, but every day. In our personal lives as consumers, we change our mobile devices, TVs, tablet devices, mobile contracts, energy suppliers, etc. frequently, or as soon as we can afford to. Constant upgrading is something we all demand in our personal lives when it comes to the products and services we consume – why should it be any different at work?

There are always concerns when moving away from what we know to a new, unfamiliar way of doing things. But isn’t that the case with any change? The main thing is to understand the change, and plan the journey. In addition, any change needs to be supported and reinforced (reinforcement is a post-change phase included in more modern change management methods). This is to ensure that the change is actually adopted and that the business has achieved all the goals behind the change. This can be very simple – if, when balancing pros and cons, you were thinking about making John’s life easier, he will happily adopt the solution because it makes his life easier.

When you decide to adopt a cloud solution like Office 365 in order to increase productivity, facilitate communication and collaboration and take advantage of the best that the latest technology has to offer, this will not be a process of unfreezing, changing and refreezing. Instead, we see unfreezing, changing and keep changing. This is a change to make sure you never stop changing.

Adopting a cloud solution like Office 365 is a change to make sure you never stop changing

Now John is back in the office, and this time he has a Windows 8 laptop running Office 2013. He has all his documents in SharePoint Online so that he knows they’re all backed up. All his documents are synced to his OneDrive for Business on his laptop, so that he can access them quickly even when he is not connected to internet. He opens a document that he has been working on this week and can start from where he left off. He notices that Sarah is also working on the document and sees that she is available on Skype for Business (previously known as Lync Online). John initiates a chat on Skype for Business directly from the document and asks Sarah to look at some of the changes he has made on the document.

He leaves the office slightly early, but opens up the document on his personal phone using the OneDrive for Business mobile application and responds to Sarah’s comments. The document is finalised but there is no version number in the name of the document – everything is version controlled on SharePoint. He is happy with the document, so he shares it with his manager directly via OneDrive. The manager receives an email with a link to the document and opens it on their Windows phone. They decide to call John using Skype for Business to give him their final comments and ask him to share the document on Yammer (Microsoft’s social platform for business) so that everyone in the business can have a conversation about John and Sarah’s project. This is the cloud-enabled workplace – the workplace that takes change in its stride.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

One-Time Passcode for Office 365 Message Encryption is now available!

Previously when you sent an email, encrypted using the Office 365 Message Encryption, recipient would need to sign in using their Microsoft Account (or if they didn't have one, they would need to create one) to be able to view the message. Although this was (and is) a good solution for some customers, majority of customers didn't find it very convenient as it would not provide a great experience to the recipients who could be their business partners, suppliers or customers.

Now, there is a second option available to recipients who don’t have Microsoft Accounts (or don’t want to have one) and don’t want to sign in to view the encrypted messages. You can now choose the option “DON’T WANT TO CREATE A MICROSOFT ACCOUNT? GET A ONE-TIME PASSCODE TO VIEW THE MESSAGE” to access the encrypted message using a one-time passcode. You still will have the option to sign in using your Microsoft Account or if you don’t have one, you have an option to create one.
Diagram showing steps to get a one-time passcode

When you select the one-time passcode option, you will receive an email which contains a passcode, and a notification will be shown on the webpage that indicates a passcode is sent to your email address. You then need to get the passcode from your email and enter it in the webpage and click “Continue”. You will now be able to see the message in an OWA style webpage.

Read more:

Monday, 21 April 2014

What’s new in April 2014 update of Excel Online

Some of the new features added to Excel Online in the April 2014 update, now available in both OneDrive (previously SkyDrive) and Office 365, are as follows: is the place to get going with Excel Online

Now, it’s much easier—just go to and click the type of document you want to create.
Authoring (inserting, editing, and deleting) comments

Users of Excel Online have been able to see comments on cells for a while, but until now there has been no way to add new comments to a cell. With this release, the ability to insert new comments as well as edit (and even delete) existing comments is added to Excel Online. Long-time Excel users may notice that the experience has been modernized—the text of a comment now shows in a task pane that contains all of the comments for the active sheet (making it easy to jump between cells with comments by simply clicking the comment in the task pane). 
Working with comments in Excel Online is now easier than ever, and is consistent with Word and PowerPoint Online.

Editing files with VBA

The capability of editing files that contain VBA without removing (or corrupting) the VBA contained in the file is now added to Excel Online. That means that if you have a file that you use in Excel Online sometimes and in desktop Excel other times, you can do that, taking advantage of the VBA in the desktop, and keeping it intact when you’re using it in a web browser.
XLSM files (with Macros) can now be edited in Excel Online, without removing the VBA.
Hiding and unhiding rows and columns

Previous releases of Excel Online have correctly displayed—by not displaying—hidden rows and columns, and there have been some “hacks” to hide and unhide those cells. With this release, Microsoft has added support for the most common way that users hide and unhide rows and columns, using a context menu that appears when you right-click a row or column header—just like in desktop Excel.

With this release of Excel Online, you can hide and unhide rows and columns just as you do in desktop Excel.
In-app feature search: Tell me what you want to do

We’ve all had that moment when we know what we want to do, but don’t quite remember how to do it, wondering, ”How do I change the font?” or “How do I find the median of a set of numbers?” Now, when you type a few characters in Tell Me, Excel Online will tell you exactly how to do what you want to do.

Tell me can quickly find any Excel command for you.
Customizable Status Bar Aggregates

Microsoft released an update in November that brought Status Bar Aggregates to Excel Online. With this update, several more aggregates where added , Min, Max, and Numerical Count; and by making the set of aggregates visible in the status bar configurable—just like in desktop Excel.
You can show the aggregates that are the most useful to you in the status bar.
You can show the aggregates that are the most useful to you in the status bar.
Get anywhere in your spreadsheet fast with GoTo

As Excel Online becomes more and more feature-rich, the spreadsheets being created are more and more similar to spreadsheets created with desktop Excel. That means larger, more complex spreadsheets and a greater need to quickly navigate around your masterpiece. Enter GoTo (Ctrl+G), a “pro” feature that allows you to quickly type in a reference and jump to that location in the spreadsheet.

You can jump to a place in your spreadsheet fast by typing a reference in GoTo.

Office 365 is now available in China, operated by 21Vianet

Office 365 is now available in China, operated by 21Vianet. Microsoft has more than 20 years of experience delivering products and services to China. Now through unique partnership with 21Vianet, Microsoft offer Office 365 from local data centers within China. This announcement follows the general availability of Microsoft Azure, operated by 21Vianet, announced last month.

The launch of Office 365 operated by 21Vianet – together with Azure – provides customers in the market with the full power of public cloud services from Microsoft.

Read more here.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Step by Step guide to creating a new custom Azure Rights Management Template

Microsoft recently announced the preview of the new custom Azure RMS templates.  Custom templates let you define the protection policies you would like to roll out within your organization. Whether your organization is using Azure RMS in as part of your on premises deployment (via the RMS connector) or as part of Office 365, you can now do this via the Azure Management Portal.

Custom templates give you more flexibility in controlling how groups of users within the organization can access and use sensitive documents. With custom templates you can designate different groups of users that will have access to documents protected with these templates, and you can define an access level or a list of rights for each of these groups. You can also control for how long content protected with these templates will be accessible, and you can define whether you want to require users to be online to access the content (thus, getting maximum control over their ability to access the document in case your policies change over time and ensuring all accesses to the documents get logged) or you want to allow them to cache document licenses so they get the ability to access the content from disconnected locations for up to a defined period of time.

To create custom templates, you can follow these steps:

On the Office 365 Admin page go to Service Settings

Click on the Rights Management tab and then select Manage

On the Right Management page click on additional configuration

This will now take you to the Azure management portal. You will need to have an Azure subscription to proceed. If you don’t you will need to click on the Sign up option and register your subscription:

When you initially activate Azure Rights Management capabilities in your organization two default Rights Policy Templates are automatically that cover the most common needs in the majority of organizations. These are called “<Organization> – Confidential” and “<Organization> – Confidential View Only” and give all users in your organization either full access or restricted access to the documents protected with them.
Once logged in to the Azure Management Portal, navigate to ACTIVE DIRECTORY
Then select the RIGHTS MANAGEMENT tab and click on your organization name
You can now see the option to create additional Rights Management templates for Office 365

Now select Create an additional rights policy template to create a new policy
Select Language of the policy, policy name and description and submit.
Once the new policy is created, you can navigate to Manage your rights policy templates, and click on the policy you just created in order to edit it.

On the policy edit splash page, select the Rights tab

And then click GET STARTED NOW

On the CONFIGURE RIGHTS page, you can assign rights to users or groups. In this article I am applying rights to a user.
Click next.

Confirm your selection and close.

Now you can also go to the CONFIGURE tab and configure the content expiration and offline access settings.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

You can now enable simplified login between Office 365 and Yammer

Administrators can now enable user mapping between Office 365 and Yammer in the Office 365 tenant in just a few steps.

When you opt into Yammer as your default social experience in Office 365, Office 365 users are mapped to their existing Yammer accounts. This means that when you click Yammer from your Office 365 global navigation bar, you do not need to authenticate again. Office 365 users without existing Yammer accounts are taken to a streamlined sign-up and verification process.
  1. Sign in to Office 365 using an Office 365 global administrator account.  
  2. Select Admin, and then select SharePoint.
  3. Once you are in the SharePoint admin center, select Settings.
  4. On the Settings page, under Enterprise Social Collaboration, select Use service.

Now you are all set. When you click Yammer from Office 365, you won’t have to log in again. You can start connecting with people using Yammer right away.

You can apply Yammer as your organization’s social network in the SharePoint admin center, on the Settings page, to simplify Yammer login for your Office 365 users.

If you previously made Yammer the primary social experience for your organization, Microsoft will automatically backfill your Office 365 tenant with this new behaviour and notify you about the update by April 2014. But you can manually enable the behaviour today by reapplying Yammer as your primary social experience:
  1. In the SharePoint admin center, select Settings.
  2. On the Settings page, under Enterprise Social Collaboration, click the Use SharePoint Newsfeed button to clear it, and then select Use service and click OK to apply the changes. 

Each of these two updates might take up to 30 minutes to complete. Once the updates have completed, Yammer replaces Newsfeed in the Office 365 navigation. You can still access the SharePoint Newsfeed through Sites.

User mapping does not provide a complete Yammer single sign-on (SSO) solution. With user mapping, you do not need to log in again when you click Yammer in Office 365. However, when you browse to directly or use the Yammer mobile apps, you still need to log in with your credentials.

Compare this to Yammer single sign-on, where you log in using single credentials (typically your company credentials), whether you go through the Office 365 global navigation, use the Yammer mobile apps, or browse directly to To secure all the entry points to Yammer, it is still recommended that you use Yammer directory sync and Yammer single sign-on.


Monday, 10 February 2014

Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365 is now available!

Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365 is now available to Office 365 Midsize Business, Enterprise plans, Academic plans, Nonprofit plans, and standalone Office 365 plans, including Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. This will allow organizations with these subscriptions to enable multi-factor authentication for their Office 365 users without requiring any additional purchase or subscription.

Multi-factor authentication has been available for Office 365 administrative roles since June 2013, and today this capability is extended to any Office 365 user. Microsoft is also enhancing the capabilities that have been available since June by adding App Passwords for users so they can authenticate from Office desktop applications as these are not yet updated to enable multi-factor authentication. Users who are authenticated from a federated on-premises directory will also can be enabled for multi-factor authentication.

Multi-factor authentication increases the security of user logins for cloud services above and beyond just a password. With Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365, users are required to acknowledge a phone call, text message, or an app notification on their smartphone after correctly entering their password. Only after this second authentication factor has been satisfied can a user sign in.

Any of the following may be used for the second factor of authentication.
  1. Call my mobile phone. The user receives a phone call that asks them to press the pound key. Once the pound key is pressed, the user is logged in.
  2. Text code to my mobile phone. The user receives a text message containing a six-digit code that they must enter into the portal.
  3. Call my office phone. This is the same as Call my mobile phone, but it enables the user to select a different phone if they do not have their mobile phone with them.
  4. Notify me through app. The user configured a smartphone app and they receive a notification in the app that they must confirm the login. Smartphone apps are available for Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android devices.
  5. Show one-time code in app. The same smartphone app is used. Instead of receiving a notification, the user starts the app and enters the six-digit code from the app into the portal.
Soon Office 365 customers will be able to use multi-factor authentication directly from Office 2013 client applications. Microsoft is planning to add native multi-factor authentication for applications such as Outlook, Lync, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PowerShell, and OneDrive for Business, with a release date planned for later in 2014. This update includes the current phone-based multi-factor authentication, and it adds capability to integrate other forms of authentication such as: third-party multi-factor authentication solutions and smart cards. Smart card support is planned to include the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Common Access Card (CAC) and the U.S. Federal Personal Identity Verification card (PIV), among others.

Source: Amin Tavakoli