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The Power of SharePoint

By Michael Blythe as written on powerbi.microsoft.com
Do you have SharePoint Online and want to better automate and streamline your business processes? Have you heard of PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, or Power BI, but you’re not sure how to use them with SharePoint Online? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve written a paper that explores how to build out a basic project-management app based on SharePoint lists and three key technologies that integrate with SharePoint Online: PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and Power BI. These three technologies are all part of the Microsoft business platform, which makes it easy to measure your business, act on the results, and automate your workflows.

Business scenario

In the paper, the company Contoso has a SharePoint Online site where they manage the lifecycle of projects, from request, to approval, to development, to final review. A project requestor, such as a department head, requests an IT project by adding an item to a SharePoint list. A project approver, such as an IT manager, reviews the project, and then approves it or rejects it. If approved, the project is assigned to a project manager, and additional detail is added to a second list through the same app. A business analyst reviews current and completed projects using a Power BI report embedded in SharePoint.  Microsoft Flow is used to send approval email and respond to Power BI alerts. When you’re done with the paper, you will have a cool scenario like the following:

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Downloading the paper

You can download the entire package, with the paper and the accompanying files, or you can download individual pieces. After you download, open spo-scenario.docx, and follow the paper. The paper describes the role of the other downloads. Before using the sample apps and report, create your own SharePoint lists and update connections in the samples. For more information, see the section "Task 1: Set up SharePoint lists" in the paper.
  • To download the entire package:
  1. Go to the download page, and click or tap Download.
  2. Select all the files, then click or tap Next.
  3. Click or tap Save or Save As for each file.

Getting started quickly

The scenario we present in the paper is simple compared to a full-blown project management and analysis app, but it still takes some time to complete all the tasks. If you just want a quick introduction to using PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and Power BI with SharePoint, check out the following articles:
When you’re done, we hope you’ll be back to check out the full scenario. Even within the scenario, you can focus on the tasks that interest you, and complete the tasks as you have time.

Digital Crimes Unit uses Microsoft data analytics stack to catch cybercriminals

Microsoft Digital Crimes Unity

The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit consistently leverages the latest in analytics technology, relying on some of the brightest employees, some of the smartest scientists, and certainly some of the company’s best partners in law enforcement, to disrupt and dismantle devious cybercriminals. Learn how Microsoft used some of our best technology to uncover the behavior of one cybercriminal ring, and how the Digital Crimes Unit worked in partnership with Microsoft IT and federal law enforcement, to shut down one of the nation’s most prolific cybercrime operations.
Business Problem
It’s not hard to find a good deal on the Internet, but this deal looked a little too good. Kelly Reynolds, a small-time operator in Des Moines, Iowa, was offering Windows software online at prices that were a small fraction of retail. In November 2013, an agent from the US Department of Homeland Security purchased a copy of the software, including a product key to activate and use it, and sent the key to Microsoft, along with a question: Was the product key legitimate or stolen?
They say timing is everything in life. In this case, it was true. Had the question been asked just a few years earlier, Microsoft probably would have passed it on to its Product ID Center, which would have checked the product key number against a database and identified it as a real number that hadn’t yet been activated. Microsoft probably would have answered that, as far as it could tell, the key was legitimate and unused. No flags would have been raised. And that might have been the end of the investigation.
Instead, it was only the start. That’s because Microsoft had already brought together leading data scientists, forensics specialists, and former law-enforcement officers; equipped them with the company’s own advanced
data-mining and analysis tools; installed them in the Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) of the newly created Cybercrime Center located on the Redmond, Washington, campus; and tasked these individuals to fight cybercrime worldwide.
Thanks to the involvement of the DCU, the inquiry about the suspect product key in Des Moines resulted in the identification of tens of thousands of stolen product keys, the disruption of a multimillion dollar criminal operation, and the generation of leads that are now helping to identify half a dozen more criminal enterprises. (Some names and locations have been changed due to ongoing investigations.)
This is a story of collaboration—starting with a team of Microsoft analysts who worked closely with law-enforcement agents in a public-private partnership at every stage of the investigation, from their earliest suspicions to the early-morning SWAT-team raid that busted the Des Moines operation.
Another partnership was equally crucial to the success of the case, this one a partnership wholly within Microsoft itself. It was an example of a model that sees business units—in this case, the DCU—working in collaboration with Microsoft IT, with each party playing to its distinctive strengths. Microsoft IT took the lead in providing and supporting the technology infrastructure on which the data analysis was based, and the DCU led in creating the data sets and models that would yield the most effective solutions. It’s a marked evolution from the traditional way that IT has been handled in most companies, with a centralized IT organization providing infrastructure and the business solutions that run on that infrastructure.
Here, Microsoft IT gathered and integrated data from 20 databases throughout the company, established a highly automated and efficient means of updating the system, and managed it on a 24 x 7 basis for optimal accuracy and availability. But it was the data scientists in the DCU who best understood the data and invented highly innovative ways to use it.
Yet another piece to the story is the collection of technologies for mining and analyzing big data that the investigators used to uncover the scope of the global conspiracy from a single set of numbers. It’s a collection of technologies that is proving increasingly useful not only to Microsoft but also to other corporations. And not only in the fight against cybercrime, but also in making sense of big data and propelling better, data-driven decisions in fields as diverse as physical sciences and financial services.
Those technologies include some of the newest Microsoft big data mining and analysis tools, including an Analytics Platform System to manage the massive volume of data; Azure HDInsight for big-data analysis; Azure Machine Learning for predictive analysis; and Power BI and Power Maps to give the Microsoft analysts a highly visual and easy-to-use tool to gain insights from the data.
When law enforcement asked about the Des Moines product key, the Microsoft DCU investigators were ready. They checked it against the 650 million product keys and 7 billion rows of data—growing at a rate of 4 million rows a day—in its product key activation database. No one had previously attempted to activate the key—a good sign. But then the key turned up in a Microsoft database of known stolen keys. It was one of more than 300,000 keys stolen from a Microsoft-contracted facility in the Philippines and resold and distributed by another rogue operator in China. That didn’t mean that Reynolds, in Des Moines, knew the key was stolen nor that he had any other stolen keys—but it was enough to raise suspicion.
It was enough for law enforcement to search his curbside trash and discover records of another 30,000 product keys, which also turned up in the stolen-key database. Now, Microsoft and law enforcement had enough to act—but they wanted more. Analyzing a database of PCs with stolen software keys—a traditional way to look for patterns of fraud—turned up nothing suspicious about the Des Moines location. So how was an online seller in Des Moines connected to a stolen product-key ring halfway around the world? Both Microsoft and law enforcement wanted to know.
“We took datasets about product keys shipped worldwide and merged them with datasets about key activation—and we did it in ways we’d never tried to do before,” says Donal Keating, Senior Manager of Cyberforensics at the DCU. “That requires some heavy lifting to manage the data volumes, especially when you’re asking new questions and want the answers quickly. At a different moment in time, we wouldn’t have had these tools—and we wouldn’t have gotten our answers, certainly not as quickly and easily as we did. What happened in minutes might otherwise have taken days.”
When Keating and his team looked at the data in an untraditional way, the answers instantly became clear. Instead of focusing on the PCs on which product keys were activated, they decided to look only at the activations themselves—and then an IP address in Des Moines suddenly appeared as the most prominent site in the US (see map, below.). Law enforcement used the information to obtain warrants to connect the IP address to the location of the suspect activity.
More than 2,800 copies of Microsoft Office had been loaded and activated on just four computers there. “We don’t expect to see Microsoft Office loaded on a PC 700 times—let alone see it loaded 700 times onto each of four PCs,” says Keating, with some understatement. “We didn’t understand it, but it confirmed that whatever was going on in Des Moines wasn’t legitimate.”
When law enforcement entered and secured the house, they found plenty of evidence, including invoicing and purchasing records, and emails indicating the imminent delivery of another 300 stolen product keys.
The officers also found one of the PCs on which Reynolds had activated hundreds of stolen product keys. And from him, law enforcement got the answer to the mystery of why he had done so. Reynolds confessed that he had activated the keys—a bit less than 10 percent of his inventory—to test them, much as a drug dealer tests random samples of a new narcotics delivery to ensure its quality.
“That was a new insight into the behavior of the bad guys,” says Keating. “And it gave us a new pattern—the ‘test spike’ algorithm—to put into the big-data warehouse to help detect new cases.”
Already, leads and lessons from the Des Moines case have helped DCU identify other suspected stolen key operations at home and abroad. And Microsoft IT is helping the DCU make the data discoveries in this case a standard part of its cyberforensics toolkit for future investigations.
“The bad news is that cybercriminals have never been as brazen and as sophisticated as they are today. But there’s good news: our tools and technologies are better than ever, and that means we can do more to disrupt the cybercriminals. We leverage big data and technologies like Azure HD Insight, PowerBI, and PowerMaps to understand and glean behaviors on how they operate and anticipate their next moves. And we have deeper partnerships with industry, academic experts, and law enforcement, too—all of which helps us drive greater impact,” says David Finn, Executive Director & Associate General Counsel, Digital Crimes Unit.
Conclusion
Organizations realize a competitive edge when more employees are empowered with data. The unique approach that Microsoft has to data technology delivers this capability—whether through insights and analytics or with powerful reporting for line-of-business applications. In a world where business demands the speed to compete, Microsoft data solutions cut the time it takes to go from raw data to results for everyone.

Ford Uses Microsoft Cloud to Seamlessly Update Cars

By Sharon Gaudin as written on cloudfortomorrow.com

Ford Motor Co. is moving to automatically update its cars’ infotainment systems using Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.

The U.S. auto maker will begin selling some cars later this year with a computer system that can be automatically updated anytime the car connects to a Wi-Fi network. The cloud-based system is expected to be available in all of Ford’s cars by the end of 2016, according to Don Butler, Ford’s executive director of Connected Vehicle and Services.

The system — the Ford Service Delivery Network — will enable car owners to more easily get new services, even if their car is as much as 10 years old.

Ford is using cloud computing, data analytics and in-car software to change the consumer experience. Now a car’s navigation, entertainment and communication systems will be refreshable.

Previously, Ford’s infotainment system could be updated — but only by bringing the vehicle into a dealership or via a USB stick.

With a cloud-based system, updates to the car’s navigation system, contacts, audio system and center touch screen will be easier.

The updates should download seamlessly, without the driver being distracted – or even aware – of it happening.

“We couldn’t do this without the cloud,” Butler told Computerworld. “It’s really the only way to do it. Otherwise, we’d still need people to make a physical connection either at the dealer or through a stick.”

Other auto companies, including Tesla Motors, will be using over-the-air updates and cloud services to upgrade car owners’ infotainment, safety and powertrains.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said car owners rarely update their in-car systems when they have to drive to the dealer or get a USB stick. The cloud-based service should make it easier for systems requiring updates to work.

“I think it will be something that’s expected eventually,” he said. “Using the cloud is smart as it’s the only scalable way to do real time, over-the-air updates.”

To make this work, Ford is using a hybrid cloud system, which combines the features of a private and public cloud system.

Customer-sensitive data, such as the owner’s name and address, the vehicle’s mileage, its location and how well it’s running, will be stored on a private, on-premise cloud network that was built by Ford’s IT department.

For the public cloud, Ford is using Microsoft Azure, which the company uses for software updates.

Microsoft also is supplying the connection between Ford’s private cloud and the Azure public cloud.

“It’s a flexible solution that lets us tailor it to our needs,” Butler said. “Azure allows us the ability to flex between our own data centers and public data centers. And it’s global.”

That flexibility is the reason Ford’s IT executives chose Azure, instead of another cloud provider, like IBM, Google or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“We wouldn’t have had that kind of flexibility with AWS or Google,” Butler noted. “You use their cloud as they constructed them. With Azure, we’ve constructed and architected our own service delivery network, and Azure is a component of that network. It gives us the ability to have a solution that bridges their public cloud and our own private cloud. Azure is the plumbing that connects the two clouds.”

Ford also had already worked with Microsoft on its in-vehicle software, so the Redmond, Wash., company came to the cloud job with an understanding of the automaker’s vision and needs.

“It’s important to work with a partner that understands the environment you’re trying to operate in,” Butler said. “Microsoft had that.”

Kerravala said he’s a little surprised that Ford selected Microsoft. “I think Azure versus AWS versus Google is really in the preference of the customer,” he added. “I think most people think of Amazon as being the de facto standard of the cloud, but Azure is a solid choice, too. Azure has Microsoft support behind it and may prove to be easier to grow long term because of that.”

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said it makes sense for Ford to stick with Microsoft since they have a history of working together.

“As far as picking Microsoft, Ford and Microsoft have been collaborating for a long time,” he noted. “And Azure is a good platform for managing digital assets on a network. Here, it’s really two things — the Azure fabric, which is a software services platform, and the Azure service, which is Microsoft’s hosted version of the platform. Both make sense here.”

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Visualize your VMob data in Power BI

As written by Theresa Palmer on blogs.msdn.com/powerbi
VMob uses real-time contextual analytics to give retailers the ability to create highly personalized marketing campaigns which reach customers at the right time and place. Tracking and exploring your VMob data is easy with Power BI and the VMob content pack. Power BI retrieves your data, including User Statistics, Retail KPI and Campaign Performance, and then builds an out-of-box dashboard and reports based on that data.
This post will provide an overview on how the Power BI content pack helps users explore and monitor VMob data. For additional details on how to get started, please see the VMob content pack for Power BI help page.
Start loading the content pack by connecting to your VMob account in Power BI. Once the content pack is loaded, you’ll see a new dashboard, report and dataset in your workspace marked with an asterisk. Clicking on the tiles will drill into the 4 pages of reports built on top of the data set. For example, selecting the Redemptions by Campaign tile will load the Campaign Performance report which shows details about your campaigns for the last 30 days.
You can hover over any of the visualizations to see additional details about that specific data point. You can also leverage the filters in the report by opening the filter pane on the right.
Navigate between the report pages using the named tabs at the bottom. On each page, you can also switch to Edit Mode, to view all of the tables and fields that are included in the dataset. This mode allows you to add filters, create or modify visualizations and add new report pages. The highlighted tables in the Fields list show where the fields come from for a specific visual.
Any of the visualizations be pinned back to the dashboard to further customize it. When you pin a visual you’re prompted to choose which dashboard to pin to, allowing you to build up a dashboard with tiles from multiple different reports. Each tile can be resized or moved on your dashboards allowing for further customization.
After you initially import the data, the dashboard, reports and data set will continue to update daily. You can control the refresh schedule on the data set as well. The VMob content pack for Power BI helps you visualize and explore an initial set of metrics and reports that can be customized for your scenario.

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Microsoft Makes Small Businesses ‘Data Smart’ With Power BI

By David Smith, General Manager of Worldwide SMB as written on Microsoft for Work.
Despite being the buzzword de jour for large enterprises, the concept of “Big Data” is still in its infancy with small businesses. This is because the process of capturing, storing, extracting and analyzing large quantities of data always required far too much in the way of IT resources and technical expertise for the average SMB. But just because SMBs don’t want to maintain servers, hire data scientists and pay for expensive analytics suites doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from business insights hiding in their own data.

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Today Microsoft is releasing a new business analytics service designed to help the non-data-scientists among us uncover those insights and make more informed decisions about their business. It’s called Power BI, and it gives people working for companies small and large a straightforward way to analyze and visualize their information.

Power BI Brings It All Together

At its core, Power BI is a centralized hub that allows users to easily pull in, visualize and interpret the vast amount of data that their business generates on a daily basis. SMBs use a wide range of tools and services to run the different aspects of their business. By generating unified charts, graphs, maps and statistics, Power BI allows users to spot trends that would be difficult or impossible to identify by looking at an unorganized assortment of different spreadsheets and dashboards.
The greatest analytics tool on the planet is worthless if it doesn’t provide a simple and reliable way to connect with the information that matters to your small business, which is why we created content packs for Power BI. Content packs provide a way to automatically bring together data from different sources so the full picture can be analyzed in one place. And these connections extend beyond services like Excel or Dynamics CRM, so even if an SMB uses Google Analytics to track website traffic, MailChimp for email marketing campaigns and QuickBooks Online for accounting and payroll they can grab and analyze all of that data instantly (you can find the expanding list of content packs here).
We also know that small businesses aren’t always run from behind a desk. With Power BI apps for Windows, iOS and Android, users can view personalized dashboards and reports anywhere, interacting with their data in a touch-optimized experience.

Power of Data for Small Business

Say you’re the owner of a small online retail shop and you want to run a flash sale on a certain product to a specific set of customers. To do this effectively you need to have access to data that depicts your customer set to gather demographic information, online traffic that shows your most active customers, likely times to buy and historical sales data that shows you what worked well and what didn’t with the last flash sale you ran. Imagine if rather than searching each data set in its respective location and digging through everything manually, you could view all the information in one simple dashboard that illustrates trends and easy-to-spot insights, enabling fast and informed decisions about when to run the sale and who to market it to.
Best of all, you don’t need to learn a whole new set of skills to use Power BI. Power BI uses natural language query technology, which allows you to ask a question like “show me sales data from January to July.” In other words, you don’t need to be a data scientist to get at the information you need.

How Small Businesses Can Use Power BI

We’re often expounding the virtues of the cloud for small businesses because it provides the benefits of large-scale IT without the cost and complexity. Power BI is a fantastic example of exactly how the cloud is leveling the technology playing field for businesses of all sizes. A few years ago this type of solution would have been out of reach for just about every SMB. Now it can be set up in minutes with no up-front costs, making data analytics viable for even a single-person business. In fact, much of the functionality is available for free, without trial period restrictions.
Removing the price and technical hurdles means that many more small businesses will be able to capitalize on the value of analytics as a competitive tool and point of differentiation. Putting your data to use can give you a leg up on your competition. You’ll have real-time insights that allow you to adjust and adapt your business plan, so you can stay focused on what’s really driving results for your company. Basing your decisions on data not only helps you act strategically but allows you to be more in touch with your customer needs.
As an SMB, you have a lot on your plate already and exerting unnecessary time mining through endless data across multiple platforms doesn’t need to be one of them. Power BI makes your life easier and allows you to become more nimble and efficient, ultimately driving more results for your business.

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