Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Plethora of Portals

As I was looking through Microsoft’s catalog of applications, it occurred to me just how many of their platforms are information-centric and seemed to overlap in functionality. Where should I go when I want to get stuff done, find information or produce it? Since the early days of AOL and AltaVista, we’ve seen the awesome power of a “Jump Page” as the starting point for our information journey.

Microsoft, which one do I choose?

From one software vendor’s perspective, we’ve got many options. What’s the best option for me? Seems like there should be opportunities to gain synergies between available Microsoft platforms.

Bing.com

Searching for information on the internet? News, images, encyclopedias, Wikipedia, whatever you need, and more is on the web. Microsoft Bing helps you find what you need regardless if you’re using text or an image to search for like for like information. It also serves up “relevant” information on the jump page, news mixed with advertisements. There is also a feature enabling you to add carousel “boxes”. for example, containing latest MS Word files used, synergy from Office.com

Office.com

Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Visio, Power BI… If you’ve created content or want to create content using Microsoft applications, Office.com is the one-stop-shop for all your Office apps and the content created using these applications.

SharePoint

Another portal to a universe of information around a centric theme, such as collaboration/interaction with product/project team members, an Intranet, SharePoint site with one or multiple teams. At the most fundamental level is the capability to collaborate/interact with teams, potentially leveraging Microsoft collaboration tools. Just one of many of its capabilities “out of the box” is a document management solution and the use of version control.

SharePoint can also be used for any type of Internet/web platform, i.e., a public-facing portal platform. However, SharePoint, in fact, is a sharing tool in which the authors of the website can share video presentations, shared calendars of public events, and a plethora of customized lists.

Yammer

Engaging your people is more critical than ever. Yammer connects leaders, communicators, and employees to build communities, share knowledge, and engage everyone. I’m thinking synonymous with a bulletin board. The implementation of Yammer looks like Facebook for the Enterprise.

  • Use the Home feed to stay on top of what matters, tap into the knowledge of others, and build on existing work.
  • Search for experts, conversations, and files.
  • Join communities to stay informed, connect with your coworkers, and gather ideas.
  • Join in the conversation, react, reply to, and share posts.
  • @ mention someone to loop them in.
  • Attach a file, gif, photo, or video to enhance your post.
  • Praise someone in your network to celebrate a success, or just to say thanks.
  • Create a virtual event that your community can ask a question and participate live or watch the recording afterwards.
  • Use polls to crowd source feedback and get answers fast.
  • Stay connected outside the office with the Yammer mobile app.
  • Use Yammer in Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, or Outlook.

“Yammer helps you connect and engage across your organization so that you can discuss ideas, share updates, and network with others.”

Microsoft Teams

For any team, there is a wealth of information varying from the group or single Chats, Teams, Calls, Files, and practically integration for almost all Microsoft applications and beyond. The extensibility of MS Teams seems relatively boundless, such as integrations with Wikis, SharePoint document folders, etc. From what I can tell, many organizations just use Teams for the group, or individual Chat channels are barely grazing the surface of MS Teams’ capabilities.

Setup of MS Teams, Teams “landing” page is a great place to start constructing your “living space” within MS Teams. From there, you can carve out space for all things related to the team. For example, in the “Team ABC” Team channel, you can add N number of “tabs” relating to everything from an embedded Wiki to specific SharePoint folders for the team’s product specifications. A team could even create an embedded Azure DevOps [Kanban] Board to show progress and essentially “live in” your MS Team, team channel.

Another porta;l overlap, Microsoft Teams Communities, seems to equate to Yammer.

Delve

What is Delve – Microsoft 365?

Use Delve to manage your Microsoft 365 profile and to discover and organize the information that’s likely to be most interesting to you right now – across Microsoft 365.

Delve never changes any permissions, so you’ll only see documents that you already have access to. Other people will not see your private documents. Learn more about privacy.

Delve is a content curation platform for the person it’s most relevant to…you. It gives the appearance of a user experience similar to carousels of video streaming apps. There are “Popular Documents” carousels and other carousels that are based on the most recent access. Based on how files are saved based on who can access content is how the platform gives you a treasure trove of documents you never knew you had access to or existed. It actually paints a potential compliance nightmare if people select the default document access as “…anyone within my organization…”.

Outlook.com / Best of MSN

Another portal of information focused around you: your email, your calendar, your To-Dos, and your contacts/people. It’s not just your communication with anyone, e.g., your project team members; it’s organizing your life on a smaller scale, e.g., To-Dos. You can also access other shared calendars, such as a team release schedule or a PTO schedule.

The Best of MSN is information, i.e., news around your interests, a digest of information relevant to you, delivered in an email format. Other digests of information from other sources may be curated and sent if subscribed.

Mediums to Traverse Information: AR, VR…

The visual paradigms used to query and access information may drastically influence the user’s capacity to digest the relevant information. For example, in an Augmented Reality (AR) experience, querying, identifying information, and then applying it, serving up the content in a way most conducive to a user’s experience is vital.

Users can’t just “Google It” and serve up the results like magic. The next evolution of querying information and serving up content in a medium to maximize its usability is key and is most evident when using Augmented Reality (AR). If you’re building something, instructions may be overlayed by the physical elements/parts in front of the user. Even the context of the step number would allow the virtual images to overlay the parts.

Automated and Manual Content Curation is a MUST for all Portals

Categories, Tags, Images, and all other associations from object A to everything else, the Meta of Existence, are essential for proper information dissemination and digestion. If you can tag any object with metadata, you can teach an AI/search engine to identify it in a relevant query. Implementing an Induction Engine, a type of Artificial Intelligence that proposes rules based on historic patterns is a must to improve query accuracy over time.

Next level, “Information applications” – Improved Living with Alzheimer’s

Next Ecosystem: Google..?

Azure DevOps: In Search of Exceptional Reporting Falls Short of Expectations

Azure DevOps (ADO) reporting “out of the box” or leveraging extensions lacks robust project delivery timeline reporting many are reliant upon for conveying project timelines. Integrations by Microsoft DevLabs such as “Delivery Plans”, “Feature Timelines,” and “Epic Roadmap” all fall short of making the mark. Why? The ADO product targets Sprint delivery and primarily focuses on reporting with the most common graphical paradigms for measuring Project / Sprint progress, such as the Sprint Burndown rather than a Gantt chart.

Still Can’t Print

Sounds like a small ask, but it’s not. None of the aforementioned Azure DevOps Extensions gives the user the ability to print out timelines. I don’t think anyone said, “let’s not let users do that”. Printing out “Gantt-like” charts is not easy with special formatting constraints. If you’ve ever tried to print out an MS Project Gantt chart, you would know the pain of adjusting print parameters to get it just right, e.g., fit to NN page(s)

Still Can’t Share Outside Azure DevOps

This kind of relates to the “Still Can’t Print” issue. In the best-case scenario, users should be able to print their “Gantt like” charts to a PDF, and then the PDF can be used to externalize and vocalize the timelines, for example, with the “Feature TImelines” extension. Yes, you can send a link to these timelines visualizations; however, the user who will try and click the link will need to have some license setup in ADO to see the page.

Reporting Across Projects and Teams within an Org

The Azure DevOps “Delivery Plans” extension has finally empowered users to report across any and all projects across your ADO organization. In addition, filtering by a Team is also available if you have multiple teams working within a project. A portfolio manager could look across their portfolio of projects and only see what is relevant to them.

Markers

The Azure DevOps “Delivery Plans” extension allows the user to add markers/milestones to a project timeline. Product “release indicators” could be added to the timeline.

Delivery Plans Extension

Delivery Plans seem to be the most promising visualization tool, with additional capabilities noted:

  • Styling Rules (Colors, Bold, Italic, Underline)
  • Fields Displayed on Cards (up to 17)
  • Tag Colors

Drawbacks to Implementation

  • Field Criteria doesn’t include AND | OR Logic
  • “Feature Timelines” does a vertical “Group By” Epic, which seems to be a better “delivery focused” view showing which features will be delivered within a specific Epic instead of delivery grouped by Team. At least we should have the option to do either.

Power BI with Gantt Chart Reporting Against ADO

The closest you will come to Azure DevOps Project Plan reporting will be to utilize the Azure DevOps data source from within Power BI and install the Gantt Chart Visualization designed to report on ADO.

Power BI and Azure DevOps: Reporting “outside the box” to Stakeholders

Microsoft Azure DevOps (ADO) Reporting

With one Power BI report, users have the ability to report against ALL of their Azure DevOps servers and ADO Projects within a single report, and data would be up to date.

Out of the Box Capabilities

For those who need to pull data out of Microsoft Azure DevOps for reporting purposes, there are challenges when attempting to provide that information outside of Azure DevOps.

Typically, if I want to share project reports with my stakeholders, I would provide them a link to share these dynamic dashboards which focus on what they want to see. Project stakeholders may want to see an upcoming production release “bill of health” view, e.g. Burndown chart, Average Velocity, open critical bugs, etc.

However, what if some of your stakeholders don’t have or want access to Azure DevOps? Well, you could take a screen capture of a dashboard, and email your stakeholders that information or…

Power BI to the Rescue

Using both Power BI Desktop, a free license, and cloud Power BI Pro within the Office 365 suite of products, you can create a suite of reports against the Azure DevOps data, and share those reports on a schedule of your choosing. There are also several Analytics / Views that come with Azure DevOps to get you started.

Step 1: Select the Data Source:

Launch Power BI Desktop application found in the Microsoft Marketplace. Select “Get Data” after launching the application. Then a list of data sources is displayed to the user. Select “Online Services” data source group, “Azure DevOps (Beta), then “Connect”.

Power BI Data Source
Power BI Data Source

The user should then be presented with an Azure DevOps login.

ADO Login
ADO Login

Enter your Azure DevOps instance details for connecting to your site. If you are already logged into Azure DevOps in another browser tab, no additional authentication is required. You should now be presented with a list of Analytics / Views that come with ADO “out of the box”.

ADO Analytics Views in Power BI
ADO Analytics Views in Power BI

Just for demonstration purposes, please select the first item on the list, “Bugs – All History by Month”. A preview of the data should be shown on the right side of the panel. Select the “Load” button, which should be enabled if you’ve followed the steps thus far.

On the right side of the screen, there should be a panel called “Fields”. You can select all or some of the columns/fields within the View that was pulled from ADO. As you select the fields, they should populate on the left side of the screen, “Page 1” of the Power BI report. At this point, you may leverage your Power BI prowess to build graphical visualizations of the data you’ve imported.

Power BI Graphical Reports
Power BI Graphical Reports

Save your Power BI report, and then “Publish to Power BI”. The default destination is “My Workspace”, which should be defined with the use of the Power BI Pro, Office 365 app. Save the report and close the Power BI Desktop app. Open the Power BI cloud app from Office 365.

Open the “My Workspace” folder, and look for the “Dataset” and accompanying Power BI “Report” you just created. Click on the “Dataset” with the same name as your report to open it. Select the “Refresh” menu, and the “Schedule Refresh” menu item. Define your schedule to run BEFORE you will push the report via email to your stakeholders.

Subscribe
+ Add new Subscription

Go back to your home screen, select “My workspace”, then select the report you’ve created. Once the report appears, select the “Subscribe” menu. select the menu item “+ Add new Subscription”. Populate the who, what, and when, then select the “Save and Close” button.

Azure DevOps View Creation
Azure DevOps View Creation

That’s it. You could then start to create your own Analytics Views from within Azure DevOps, and then create Power BI reports.

Please note:

“Analytics views are data sets that are exposed to Power BI. You can use views to create reports based on your Azure DevOps data. This feature is in preview. How do I use analytics views?

Tools of the Trade

2nd Edition – July 2021

Project Managers, Scrum Masters and Agents of Change

If you’re working on any type of project as a Project Manager, Scrum Master, or are part of any change management process, these tools should be in your technology toolkit. Over the years I’ve adopted the tools listed here. Some of these products were already part of the corporate environment, so I was required to use them, sometimes to my chagrin. In other corporate environments, I had the freedom to identify, select, and adopt one or more of these tools for teams I led. I hope this article introduces you to the next tool in your toolkit.

Project and Product Management Tools

Regardless of project implementation methodologies, as an agent of change, tracking requests for change, and approved changes for implementation should be quantified for effort and costs associated with the changes. Categorizing, classifying, prioritizing changes are all possible if changes are captured, tracked and opportunities compared.

Project and Product Management Tools
Project and Product Management Tools

Automation / Workflow

Project management automation? You bet!

Automation/Workflow
Automation/Workflow

Collaboration

Anyone not interested in a collaborative environment for dynamic projects doesn’t know the statement “Share the Blame, Pass the Credit.”

Collaboration
Collaboration

Communication

“There are no words to express…” so say it in a beautiful, graphical presentation that will get your message across.

Communication
Communication

Documentation

Meeting Minutes, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), Functional Specifications, random notes, images of error messages, etc.

Documentation
Documentation

Financials / Project Reporting

I once had to track a project “THIS BIG“, and it came with a few accountants in tow.

Financials / Project Reporting
Financials / Project Reporting

Download a PDF of the Project Manager / Scrum Master Toolkit

Products in Use Today, and Additional Tools

This list is to highlight the most recent tools I’ve used “in the field”.  Just because I’ve omitted a product or service, it doesn’t mean I don’t advocate their use.  Please see the archive file below on additional tools I’ve used prior to my most recent engagements.

Last Published PM/SM Toolkit from 2017 ( Archive for Reference)

Want to Have Your Product Evaluated?

If you’re interested in a product review of your software targeting Project Managers or Scrum Masters, please contact me with your product information, and I will follow up.

Delineation of Work Items, Segregated by Tech Stack

Building any multitiered solution is not just creating a User Interface to render the data, there is most likely a service tier that fetches data from a database, and serves that data up to the UI to then be rendered. How do you derive work items in your product backlog? One User Story, and multiple child tasks, one task per tech stack tier, UI, service tier, and database? Or three user stories, one per tech stack tier?

User Stories Defined, Per Tech Stack Tier

There are clear advantages of representing most work items with User Stories such as deriving story points, determining team average velocity, and a more accurate burndown chart depicting a downward trending scope and implementation of user stories.

Using child Tasks of user stories may obfuscate the total work required to implementation of the solution unless baked into the parent story points. Tasks are typically tracked in terms of hours, and separately user story points are calculated/derived from a collective, relative effort estimation, e.g. Fibonacci sequence; 1,3,5,8,13,20…, and many teams may overlay this scale to fit their sprint duration.

Feature and Story Planning – At a Glance

In order to organize each feature, and correlated user stories, teams may use a prefix in the title of the user stories, such as [UI] or [DB]. At a glance, a product owner, or the implementation team can see if all the required stories for a given feature have all the elements required to implement the feature. For example, if a new report needs to be created, multiple stories must contain [UI], [API], and [DB] stories.

Drawbacks – Accepting a User Story as Complete

If you segment your product backlog user stories based on tech stack, you may need to wait until all related stories, UI, API, and DB have been implemented. For example, If your API and DB stories are developed, and not the User Interface (UI), you’re QA/Testing may not start until the UI story has been deployed. Of course, your tester could test the API using testing tools like SoapUI.

Agile Advisor Plugin for Microsoft Teams

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Advisory Role in Microsoft Team Communications

Agile Advisor Plugin for #Microsoft Teams is able to observe team interactions, such as conference calls within Microsoft Teams. The Advisor can derive “dialog intents” and provide recommendations for improvement. A retrospective on communications, such as Scrum ceremonies

Voice Recognition During Teams Meetings

Technology that leverages voice recognition, such as Interactive voice response (IVR) solutions are fraught with failed recognition. IVRs are used to answer calls in just about every company, which prompts for either a phrase from the user on what they want and the ability to enter a numeric value correlating to the desired intent. Challenge #1.

Dialog and Intent Identification

Beyond trying to identify the user’s intent from a phrase or sentence, a dialog, a series of interactions between two or more team members is even more complex. Current AI models that identify intent from a sentence or phrase have a mixed variable of accuracy, which is why these models must be tuned over time. A collective of interactions, a dialog between two or more team members, has a much higher level of complexity to identify intents. Challenge #2. Once a dialog intent(s) has an “N”% level of accuracy, rules may be fired with any number of outcomes, such as unintrusive logging of Agile suggestions for best practices, and next steps: e.g. a retrospective of the scrum ceremony.

Dynamically Identify Roles in Teams Meetings

Who participates in Microsoft Teams meetings and team chats can be associated with Microsoft Teams’ member profiles, such as Scrum Master, and Product Owners.

Enhance the Adherence to Agile Principles

12 Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto, and opportunities for rules to be trigger based on conversations, the interactive dialogs.

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Dialog Intent Rules for Agile Guidance

From the above agile principles, we can derive the following dialog intents and precise recommendations for improvement.

Barriers to Implementation

At the current level of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Digital Assistants, i.e. chatbots, even the “best in breed”, has “difficulty”, i.e. lower probability with intent recognition, with a single sentence or phrase. Multiply that by interpreting an interactive dialog with multiple sentences, multiple participants, and exchange of responses, feasibility is highly speculative.

And Still More Opportunity: Recognition of Facial Emotional Expressions 

Expressions of people may be able to be determined, and opportunities for suggestive posture can be advised. Even body posture folded arms as an example, can imply a guarded opinion, and not open to compromise.

Reference article – Emotion recognition using facial expressions

Caution and Opportunities

This plugin output could be used for annual employee evaluations.

2020 posts that never were

Occasionally, when a thought gets bubbled up in my brain, I pop open Twitter, and tweet the thought. In some cases, the fleeting idea seems larger than a tweet, so I open up WordPress, and start a post. I may save it and come back to add content to the post. I’ll come back to the post, and say to myself, what was I thinking, and don’t pursue publishing post. Here’s the list of blog posts that I drafted this year, but decided for one reason or another, I wouldn’t post it.

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT MICROSOFT BING

THE ANATOMY OF A TWILIO STUDIO PROGRAMMABLE VOICE WORKFLOW

LOW COST, PLATFORM AGNOSTIC, BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE, PROLIFIC REPORTING TOOL

RADICAL TRANSFORMATION OF K-12 EDUCATION SYLLABUS

AFTER THE PANDEMIC: GETTING PAST THE FEAR FROM SOCIAL DISTANCING

STOP WORDS: MODEL TRAINING

AI – BEST IN SHOW

BUY AND BUILD – DIGITAL TRANSFORMATIONS

Azure DevOps 6 “Most Wanted” Features

Integration of SharePoint into Azure DevOps and Toss the Current Wiki

JIRA and Confluence a powerful combination. Microsoft should ditch the Wiki integrated into the Overview module, and use SharePoint (lite) instead. Put your best foot forward!

Backlog “Feature Timeline” Filtering

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, the add on “Feature Timeline” by Microsoft is a fantastic bridge between Agile and Waterfall, displaying a Feature [i.e. Milestone] timeline. Expand upon this module with additional capabilities, such as filtering Features by Tags.

Microsoft Teams Chat mentions in Azure DevOps (ADO) Product Activity Feeds

I like trolling the Activity Feed on my Dashboard as much as the next person. Let’s add some external, yet related data sources, such as Microsoft Team Chats directly correlated ADO Team == Microsoft Team. Is that a setting, linking MS Azure DevOps Team to Microsoft Team? Should be…

Auto-generation of Release Notes After Each Build from Repos into the Azure DevOps Wiki

  • Similar to Java Doc, in line code comments roll up into C# Function doc
  • Commits Required to Specify Correlated Work Item IDs
  • Dynamic Wiki Page creation for each build, including release notes, unit test suite execution results

Ability to Create Azure DevOps Wiki pages from within Power Automate (i.e. MS Flow)

Shared Queries Segregated by Teams within the Project

Teams each have their own view of relevant Team information such as Dashboards per team

Runner Up Features

  1. Need the ability to re-name Azure DevOps Dashboards
  2. Need the ability to Clone Dashboards
  3. Product / Project / Portfolio Level Capacity Planning – 3rd party integration, OnePlan handles this requirement