Midlands Microsoft 365 and Azure User Group – November 2019

Last night I went to the Midlands Microsoft 365 and Azure User Group. It was co-organised by Urfaan Azhar and Lee Thatcher from Pure Technology Group, and Adrian Newton from my company.

This event was focused on Microsoft Teams, which is the MS version of Slack. If you don’t know what Slack is, you probably need to come out from under that rock…

First up was Matt Fooks speaking about “Microsoft Teams, the death of email!” We use Teams at work, but I’m a bit of a noob at it and I don’t get involved in any of the administration side of things. The session started with an overview of what Teams does and how it is organised. We spent some time speaking about culture related stuff, which may well be a bigger factor than the tech side of things with regards to transitioning from email to Teams (or Slack) as the primary communication channel. In addition to security and organisational stuff, there was a discussion of integration and applications available from Teams. The first session ended with Urfaan Azhar discussing some of the recent innovations in Teams, covered here.

After food and drinks it was Kevin McDonnell with “Using Bots in Azure/Teams for Automation”. Following the theme of the event, this was a remote presentation over Teams. 🙂 An interesting point raised at the start was how social functionality can help drive adoption and engagement in the company. As an example he showed a daily challenge bot, which allowed people to guess the location of today’s Bing image. It’s not “work”, but it got people engaged in the product and communicating. Amongst other things, there was a quick demo of Power Automate, the new name for Flow, which now has RPA functionality in preview. There was also a demo of Bot Framework Composer, which looks like a pretty easy way to generate the basics of a bot from a simple designer. There was also a mention of Virtual Agents for creating conversational bots (chat bots), which looked pretty cool.

As I’ve said before, I’m not involved in the administration of M365, Azure and Teams, but this is all about context and possibilities for me. My company has some of these products, so it’s good to know what they can do, and maybe take advantage of some of them from some of the stuff I do have a hand in.

Thanks to everyone who turned up to support the event, the speakers, and the sponsor Pure Technology Group. See you at the next event.

Cheers

Tim…

Midlands Microsoft 365 and Azure User Group – October 2019

On Tuesday evening I went to the second event of the Midlands Microsoft 365 and Azure User Group. It was co-organised by Urfaan Azhar and Lee Thatcher from Pure Technology Group, and Adrian Newton from my company.

First up was Matt Fooks speaking about security in M365 and Azure. He did an overview and demos of a number of security features, giving an idea of their scope, how easy/hard they were to configure and importantly what licenses they were covered by. Some of this was a bit over my head, but for me it’s about understanding possibilities and what’s available, even if I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it. Other people in the company do that stuff. At one point I leaned over to one of my colleagues and said, “Could we use that for…”, and he came back with, “Yeah. We’ve done a POC with that. Look!”, then showing me an example of it working with one of our services. 🙂

After food and drinks it was Urfaan Azhar speaking about Azure pricing, and working through an example with the Azure Pricing Calculator. I’ve been using AWS for a few years, so when I have questions I tend to use AWS terminology, which I’m sure can be annoying, but I’ve not learned the new language yet. As I expected, it’s “the same but different”. 🙂

Both guys were keen to point out that just doing a lift & shift from on-prem to cloud using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) isn’t what you should be aiming for. The real value comes from using platforms. My feelings exactly! If I just put what I have now into the cloud, it’s just other people’s servers. I’m more interested in what I can offload to give me more time to do other things, and to stop me screwing up on the daily because I’m to busy to do “the basics”…

Thanks to everyone who turned up to support the event, the speakers, and the sponsor Pure Technology Group. See you at next month’s event.

Cheers

Tim…

Midlands Microsoft 365 and Azure User Group – Launch

Last night I went to the launch of a new meetup called Midlands Microsoft 365 and Azure User Group. It was co-organised by Urfaan Azhar and Lee Thatcher from Pure Technology Group, and Adrian Newton and Mark Smith from my company.

Some of you may have noticed this isn’t about Oracle. Yes we have a big Oracle Cloud Apps thing and a bunch of Oracle on-prem stuff, but we also have a lot of Microsoft stuff here, including loads of mailboxes on Office 365 etc. As a result, Azure is also becoming a big thing for us.

I’ve used Azure a bit for some Oracle trials, with the articles on the site, and I did a WebLogic on Azure talk some years back, but this is pretty far out of my lane, so I was really there to show some support to our folks and trying to learn some stuff. 🙂

The turnout was really good. I think there were about 40 people in total, with about 6 coming from our company. For the first event I was kind-of expecting more of “us”, and less of “not us”, so the fact so many “not us” turned up was awesome! Getting a couple of Microsoft Most Valuable Professisonal (MVP) speakers for the launch event was cool.

After some introductions from Urfan and Lee, the first speaker was Ed Baker with an “Introduction to Microsoft 365”. The purpose of this session was for Ed to give an overview of the M365 stack and try to gauge what we were interested in, to see how the meetup should move forward in future. Ed is an Enterprise Mobility MVP and is clearly comfortable in front of an audience.

After food (Pizza and Indian) and drinks it was time for Gareth Jones with “An Introduction to Microsoft Azure”. Gareth talked about the way Microsoft deliver the Azure services, including the setup of their data centres. Once again, this was about gauging the interest for the different aspects of Azure. Gareth is an Azure MVP, and just like Ed was very happy in front of a crowd.

It was a really good start for the new meetup. Big thanks to Urfaan, Lee, Adrian and Mark for getting this going. Thanks to Ed and Gareth for taking the time to come and speak to us. Thanks to everyone who turned up to support the event, as well as the sponsor Pure Technology Group. I look forward to the next event, to see how this moves forward!

Cheers

Tim…