Office 365As a full-stack software developer with a penchant for UI/UX, I must admit I was a little skeptical when I was recently tasked to investigate Office 365 as a development platform.

What I found surprised and impressed me.

The Office 365 Development Platform

We’ve gotten really good at spinning up web applications that help users solve problems and increase productivity. That’s great, but it can also leave users with all sorts of disparate applications and stand-alone tools to interact with throughout the day. This contributes to a common productivity disrupter: context switching – that is, the need to frequently switch between different applications and user experiences.

Office 365 offers new compelling ways to integrate external services and custom functionality directly into the Office applications people already use.

Users can do more without having to alt-tab their way through the day, and developers can leverage a rich set of features and functionality without re-inventing the wheel.

Imagine being able to perform many of your day-to-day tasks without ever leaving Outlook. Or accessing external content directly in Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Users can do more without having to alt-tab their way through the day, and developers can leverage a rich set of features and functionality without re-inventing the wheel.

What’s more, the functionality you add is available from anywhere, on any device. Office 365 provides rich browser-based web apps as well as native apps for Windows, iOS, and Android.

Nice.

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Law & Order’s Det. Lennie Briscoe & Det. Ed Green

I just finished working on a proof of concept using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. The application needed to support the activities of a crime investigation unit in the government.

As a devoted Lennie Briscoe fan, I felt I knew my way around a crime scene…but what I didn’t know was CRM. As it turned out, it didn’t matter! Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 was fairly easy to get up and running. I put together a cloud-based implementation that included:

  • CRM Online w/Office 365
  • Azure VM for the installation of the e-mail router
    • SMTP Server: SendGrid
    • POP3 server: Gmail

All were “free” (free as in “trial”). All were in the cloud. All played nicely together.

That said, there were several confusing bits to sort out regarding the e-mail configuration. I’ll share what worked (and what didn’t work) for me. Maybe it can be a timesaver for you. Read More…

I’ve been reading a lot about the sweeping organizational changes at Microsoft. It’s always interesting to analyze and attempt to interpret their strategy and internal politics. (For example, why is the Dynamics business still separate? Is it being positioned to be sold? Probably not, but fun to consider.)

However, I am more drawn to the larger changes the re-org is enabling. The external press always seems to be negative about the actions of Microsoft’s executive leadership ever since Bill Gates left.  While I may not agree with every choice Steve Ballmer has made, when you really stop and think about how they have transformed themselves over the past six years, it’s pretty amazing — especially when set in juxtaposition to the lack of change at other lumbering IT giants. Microsoft is well on their way to transforming from a worldwide monopoly of “Windows and Office” to a “devices and services” business. Read More…

This week, many AIS team members are attending the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. We’ll be posting blog posts from each of them as they learn what’s new and what’s exciting during sessions, demonstrations and other conference highlights.

During the Microsoft SharePoint Conference keynote yesterday morning, there weren’t a lot of surprises (if you’ve been paying attention for the last few months, that is).  However, you can always learn something from the emphasis that Microsoft puts on certain topics.  The biggest “announcement” was that the enterprise features of Yammer are now included with Office 365 E Plans and SharePoint Online.  SharePoint 2013 also went up for sale (at least for some customers) yesterday. The rest is all about the cloud and apps.

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As a Microsoft partner with several gold competencies and cloud memberships, we are entitled to an extensive suite of internal use licenses for many of Microsoft’s on-premise and cloud products.  During our recent rollout of Office 365, the elegance of Microsoft’s long-term vision of federating authentication (which has been evolving since the release of Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) 1.0 in 2005) really stood out.

Once an ADFS 2.0 infrastructure is in place, federating authentication with our hosted Office 365 environment was relatively easy.  Our users now have access to hosted versions of Lync, Exchange and SharePoint using their familiar domain credentials.  Up next for us is migrating our current Dynamics CRM Online deployment into the Microsoft online services portal environment where our Office 365 environment is managed.  Once this change is complete, CRM will leverage the same ADFS-based federated authentication platform.  Read More…