Microsoft’s Power Platform is a collection of Microsoft cloud services that make building end-to-end business solutions that would otherwise require extensive software engineering skills, code-less and interactive. The components that currently make up the Power Platform are: Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents. All work independently of one another to improve business processes, but can seamlessly integrate to create scalable business solutions with little to no prior coding knowledge. With Microsoft’s many data sources within Microsoft 365, building solutions around your already existing data has been greatly simplified and puts the power of innovation and automation into the hands of all your users.
Let’s break down the core parts of the Power Platform and their functions.
Your hub for creating business class applications that can work in a web browser or on mobile devices. Power Apps graphical interface allows you to drag and drop your ideas into a professional looking business app that connects to all your major data points within the Microsoft Dataverse.
Creating meaningful and digestible visual representations of your data is no small task and demands a lot of time to get right. With Power BI, Microsoft has compiled the complexities of data analytics into an app that saves you time with intelligent reporting tools that analyze your data and automatically create relationships and visual tools that seamlessly integrate to help create powerful reports. Power BI allows you to upload existing data from spreadsheets, connect to databases and leverage existing Microsoft data points to curate comprehensive dashboards and reports to better analyze your data.
Put the power of automation in the hands of users. Not too long ago, spending time to make repetitive business workflows more efficient required some coding knowledge and the ability to manufacture a way to deliver that solution to the users who need it. With Power Automate, you can build a solution to your time-consuming, monotonous tasks with a simple, drag-and-drop user interface and share that solution amongst your organization with a simple email. With many of the same data connectors leveraged by the rest of the Power Platform, Power Automate can automatically accomplish tasks for you by actions triggered within other services such as SharePoint.
Power Virtual Agents:
Communicating effectively and efficiently with your customers is going to remain a critical point of any customer facing workflow. Power Virtual Agents aims to help you generate the additional help you need at the front lines to open another avenue of support for your customers. With no coding involved, you can create chatbots that help interface with your customers, and based on your set of conditions and customer responses, build additional automation behind the scenes. This allows you to use the other components of the Power Platform to create your very own custom support solution.
Is there really no coding required?
This is a great question. If you have gotten this far, you have likely come up with a couple ideas you could leverage this platform for, but remain skeptical of its ease of implementation. You are right to raise an eyebrow as there is no perfect solution for every problem, but Microsoft is aiming to bridge the gap between automation and the non-technical user. The Power Platform is a robust solution and continues to mature, making its use cases easier and easier. While having a little bit of coding knowledge wouldn’t hurt, you can definitely build a solution without having a coding skillset at all. Have an in-house IT department or development team and you want to pair them up with the flexibility of the Power Platform? Microsoft has built a robust set of extensibility tools to help your technical team develop within the Power Platform, leveraging their advanced skillset to create even more complex solutions.
Getting Started with Power Platform Licensing
As with all services in Office 365, you will need a license subscription to access these services. Luckily Microsoft offers free trials of all the apps for you to test before you jump all in. Most Microsoft 365 SKUs will come with a free version of Power Automate and Power BI and you can locate these in your Office 365 app list. For Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents, will require that you seek out the trial offerings.
From there, all that is left to do is assign the licensing to your users and let them explore and get creative. There are plenty of templates for your users to get started along with a generous set of documentation and training material provided by Microsoft.
As mentioned earlier, there is a wealth of information out there and all of this can quickly become overwhelming. Power Automate in our opinion, offers the smallest barrier to entry and this is because of the interface. It’s no fuss and uncluttered interface provides familiarity with the drag-and-drop architecture already baked into the other components of the platform. Additionally, Power Automate offers many templates to get you started. By searching through the template gallery, you may find that the scaffolding of a solution has already been put in place by Microsoft... all you need to do is enter your information and test it out.
If you are wanting to build your own solution there are a couple pieces of anatomy that you will want to understand before diving in.
Flow – Each solution you build in Power Automate is called a flow. You trigger your flow manually or via an automatic action.
Trigger – A trigger is what starts your flow. Each flow must have a trigger, whether it’s started manually by a push of a button or by an action within a connected service like Planner or SharePoint. There is one trigger per flow.
Step/Action – These are what happens after your trigger action has been initiated. You can add many as you would like to make your flow as simple or complex as you need it.
At the beginning of your adventure into the Power Platform, keep it simple. It's very easy to find yourself in a hole while trying to create a solution to the most complex issue in your organization. This headspace can often lead you down a complex rabbit hole of information.Learn gradually and develop solutions that have minimal steps to ensure you are retaining the core concepts of how the service works.
Starting today, you can visualize data using Microsoft Visio diagrams from within Microsoft Power BI dashboards and reports. Microsoft solutions work better together—and now, Visio and Power BI work better together than ever before thanks to the new Visio visualization. Any Visio user can sign up for the preview to start using this capability right away.
Both Visio and Power BI are highly visual and naturally complementary. With Visio, you can create illustrative diagrams, such as interconnected workflows and real-world layouts, to pursue operational intelligence. On the other hand, Power BI helps you build intuitive dashboards from various visualizations, like charts and maps, to understand complex datasets, measure KPIs and track goals—all to achieve business intelligence. Using Visio and Power BI together, you can illustrate and compare data as both diagrams and traditional Power BI visualizations in one place, driving operational and business intelligence to understand the overall picture.
With this new feature, you can import a Visio diagram from SharePoint or OneDrive for Business into Power BI. The underlying Power BI data is then automatically and intelligently linked to the diagram based on its shape properties, eliminating the need to do this manually. In just a few clicks, and without help from IT, Visio diagrams become yet another interactive Power BI visualization that can help you make informed decisions faster.
Get more out of your data using Visio and Power BI together
Consider this fictitious example: Contoso is a large retailer working to improve its inventory management. Using Power BI, the current inventory per store can be represented in a series of visualizations, including a treemap that shows stock by item (left-side chart in the image below).
The visualizations are perfect for an all-up view of inventory at this store. But what if Contoso needs more nuanced details, like sales and inventory data for specific clothing racks? What if it needs to understand where each rack is located in the store and how they are positioned relative to one another? Using a Visio diagram of the store’s layout, Contoso can overlay the data in Power BI on Visio’s clothing rack drawings. The resulting Power BI dashboard provides an accurate, up-to-date representation of overall store inventory while also giving it the ability to drill into specific items.
In the animated image above, the treemap was replaced with individual item racks, color-coded and labeled based on inventory levels from Power BI data. When Tea Dresses is clicked in the Visio diagram, you quickly see that sales are very strong, which helps explain why inventory is low. Similarly, when Suit Coats is clicked in the Power BI bar chart, you see the item is well below its sales target and inventory is still high. You also can see that the suit coat rack is located in a back corner of the store, making it less accessible to customers. Based on this information, the Contoso team might decide to use more rack space for tea dresses and less for suit coats, or reposition the racks for greater accessibility.
Visio visualizations in Power BI offer detailed insights for nearly any diagram type, including:
Flow charts for identifying interdependencies.
Fishbone diagrams for root-cause analysis.
Organizational charts for assessing the impact of hierarchies on process decisions and people management.
Visio flowchart illustrating a sample home loan approval process for a bank. Using the Power BI charts, the bank sees that actual ticket response times for performing property risk assessments are higher than expected. In the Visio diagram, that process step is highlighted in red and, because it’s so early in the process, could affect other steps in the future if the ticket processing issue isn’t resolved soon.
Fishbone chart showing that poor working conditions—specifically excessive noise and temperature, which are highlighted in red in the Visio diagram—are the root cause of diminished product quality. The diagram relies on the employee ratings of operational categories depicted in the Power BI charts on the right.
Dashboard showing how certain people and departments, illustrated by the Visio hierarchy diagram in the upper left, affect different organizational processes. In this case, the marketing and sales department is over budget on tele sales and tele call efforts, all of which are highlighted in red.
Visio and Power BI are inherently visual tools—each helps you to dissect data in new, meaningful ways. Together, they can uncover even more insights.
A significant number of customers have reported ransomware (Win32.WannaCrypt) that was suspected to be introduced into their environment via email, this malware is using social engineering to target companies. Microsoft Anti-Malware products have been updated and detect the present version of this malware from definition version 1.243.290.0 onwards. The ransomware then propagates in the Customers environment exposing a windows vulnerability that was patched in March 2017 encrypting the contents of the hard drive
Impacted customers should work through their disaster recovery plans to rebuild and/or patch their systems. Microsoft support will render assistance to infected customers in priority and based on business impact.
Install Security Update MS17-010, to PREVENT further spread of the malware.
Create the registry key to disable SMBv1 (used only if Security Update MS17-010 cannot be applied).
Updated Antivirus definitions should be applied (Microsoft Anti-Malware products detect the present version of this malware from definition version 1.243.290.0 onwards).
Update the SDK to remove reference to the Azure Access Control Service (ACS)
With the deprecation of the Azure Access Control Service (ACS), it is important to update the SDK authentication code to remove all references to the ACS. Effective from versions Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016 Update 1 (v8.1.1) and Microsoft Dynamics 365 (v8.2), Microsoft removed Live ID support and ACS dependencies on the server-side. It is required to update the references in all client side components as well.
For more information about the impacted versions and a workaround, review this article on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Team blog.
Dynamics 365 Insider Preview Program
Microsoft will invite customers and business partners to join The Dynamics 365 Insider Program. This program is committed to:
providing a solid platform for open and honest feedback to the Research & Development team
a forum to experience new features and functionality firsthand
a window to road test new software updates
Quite a few changes will be implemented for this new preview program. The onboarding and participation experience are the biggest changes, including:
continuous preview enrollment via “one time” registration
The MSE 2017 Update 1.4 was just released in May 2017. New Features
Engagement Analytics with Power BI: the Power BI content pack for MSE was extended by a new Engagement Analytics report; adding to the Engagement Performance and Team Performance reports previously released. The report provides additional insights with metrics based on location, sentiment, tags, and authors.
Improved usability in Social Selling Assistance: the Social Selling Assistant experience received a first polishing pass. Some updates were made to the UI and the main navigation now contains a direct link to the Post view in Analytics, filtered for private messages, so users can get to their customers’ messages in a single click.
Improved visibility of links, text and tooltips when using the dark theme.
Fixed an issue that prevented sending private messages to Facebook from within Microsoft Social Engagement.
For more information, review the following article post.
Supported email service configurations for server-side synchronization
Dynamics 365 customers with an email service included in their installation are faced with the decision of using server-side synchronization or the email router/Outlook synchronization. In both situations, there are multiple things to consider, including data encryption. This Technet article provides a table showing what’s supported by server-side synchronization for each type of installation. There are also scenarios included that aren’t supported by server-side synchronization.
Microsoft to deliver Microsoft Cloud from datacenters in Africa
Few places in the world are as dynamic and diverse as Africa today. In this landscape, there is enormous opportunity for the cloud to accelerate innovation, support people across the continent who are working to transform their businesses, explore new entrepreneurship opportunities and help solve some of the world’s hardest problems. For these reasons, Microsoft is very excited to share our plans to deliver the Microsoft Cloud from datacenters in Africa.
Services include Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 — from datacenters located in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with initial availability in 2018. This announcement brings Microsoft to 40 cloud regions around the world — more than any other cloud provider — and will help organizations and people from Cairo to Cape Town accelerate their journey to cloud computing.
For more information about this opportunity, take a look at this post on the Official Microsoft Blog.
Changes in the Dynamics 365 Portal trial strategy
As part of the Dynamics CRM 2016 SP1 release, Microsoft introduced the Portal Service for Dynamics CRM and launchedhttps://experience.dynamics.com, where customers can request a Managed Portal trial to use in their Dynamics tenant.
With the launch of the Dynamics 365 service, the whole trial strategy for Dynamics 365 service has been redefined. Portal trials are now bundled as part of Dynamics 365 trials along with other add-ons like field service and project service. Apart from giving an integrated trial experience, the bundled Portal trials get converted into Paid version automatically when you purchase your Dynamics 365 subscription. This functionality was not available with Managed Portal trials before.
Universal Resource Scheduling Solution for Dynamics 365 Update 1
This past fall, Microsoft introduced the Universal Resource Scheduling Solution in Dynamics 365. Regardless of what type of scheduling your organization is engaged in: Field Service scheduling, Project Service Scheduling, Case scheduling, Lead scheduling, custom scheduling, the Universal Resource Scheduling Solution helps you book your skilled resources to the right work, at the right time, independent of work stream.
Update 1 is now available with new features to enhance the scheduling solution, including:
Fulfilled and remaining duration: an out of the box way to track fulfillment of a requirement and filter out requirements which have been fully scheduled
Configurable Colors on Resource Summary Rows: option to add colors to the resource summary rows for the daily, weekly, and monthly schedule board views
Requirement Search: Users can now search for requirements in the requirements list on the schedule board.
For more information on the Universal Resource Scheduling Solution update, review this post on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Team blog. Additional update information can be found here.
Sample apps for Project Service Automation T&E entry
Source code samples are now available for two mobile apps which can be used with the Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation solution. One app is for project team members to enter their time entries and the other app is for them to enter their expenses. Review this blog post for more details on the apps and where to access the download.
Training Sites & eLearning
Get the most up to date training and eLearning information for Dynamics 365 from the Help Center. The highly anticipated Training & Adoption Kit for Dynamics 365 is also available for download which includes user guides, quick reference cards, eBooks for end users and admins. Feel free to modify the content and distribute to your customers.
Want to know what new features are available for both online and on-prem customers? Then check out What’s new in Dynamics 365 Help and Training.
Roll Back Upgrade via Restore Feature
Did you know the Backup/Restore feature in Dynamics 365 can be used to roll back an upgrade? Once upgraded, customers can select a backup from the previous version and restore to it. This will effectively roll the instance back to the previous version.
Invite Users to access Dynamics 365 with Azure business-to-business (B2B)
Customers can invite other users to access their Dynamics 365 CRM (online) instance through their Azure portal. Invited users can access the Dynamics 365 CRM (online) instance using their own login credentials once an Office 365 Global admin has assigned them a Dynamics 365 license and a security role. For more details on how to invite a user, review this article.
Introducing the Data Export Service for Dynamics 365
The Microsoft Dynamics 365-Data Export Service is a free add-on service made available on Microsoft AppSource that synchronizes Microsoft Dynamics 365 (online) data to a Microsoft Azure SQL Database store in a customer-owned Microsoft Azure subscription. The Data Export Service synchronizes the entire Dynamics 365 data initially and thereafter synchronizes delta changes on a continuous basis as they occur in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 (online) system. This helps enable several analytics and reporting scenarios on top of Dynamics 365 data with Azure services, such as Power BI or Machine Learning and opens up new possibilities for customers and partners to build custom solutions. For use cases and to learn how to set up the service, take a look at this article.
Analyze your Dynamics 365 business processes with Power BI
The new Process Analyzer Content Pack for Power BI is now available for Dynamics 365 version 8.2 and higher. This content pack links directly to the Dynamics 365 database, creating interactive data visualizations that help provide insights into business process flows. Track service performance with metrics like volume in processes with average duration in stage (broken down by stage), the process stage funnel, volume over stage completion date, and velocity through stages (with duration and days since completed). Users can create personalized business-process analytics that are most relevant to them and explore the information using the Power BI portal.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta_button2 h2="Learn more about Dynamics and Power BI in Your Office!" title="REQUEST AN INVITE" size="lg" position="bottom" link="url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.managedsolution.com%2Fhololens-cie%2F||" accent_color="#e8ba25"]
Managed Solution, your full-service Southern California technology partner, is offering a limited amount of augmented reality productivity engagements, in YOUR office*, for companies with 50 users or more.
This cutting-edge experience is funded through a partnership with Microsoft & Managed Solution and is aimed at bringing together key stakeholders from different departments in one place to experience a new reality for your business; a reality where productivity accelerates, driving profits, teamwork and culture to new places.[/vc_cta_button2][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Thread manufacturer spins its future in the cloud
Thread manufacturer spins its future in the cloud
Coats, the world’s leading industrial thread manufacturer, has made the Microsoft cloud the linchpin of its strategy to transform its business for a data-driven age. Coats is moving all its datacenter assets into Microsoft Azure, including its production SAP HANA systems, to gain elasticity, vastly improve performance, and lower costs. Its 7,000 employees with access to Microsoft Office 365 use it to share and make sense of information across different locations and time zones. The technology team supports anywhere, any device productivity by securing applications and data with the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security suite. By adopting Azure and Office 365, Coats can now explore new Microsoft cloud services such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to transform its products, optimize operations, empower employees, and interact with customers.
On the surface, Coats could be mistaken for a traditional manufacturing company. It was founded during the Industrial Revolution and still has factories filled with large-scale thread-making, dyeing, and winding machinery. But you don’t survive for more than 260 years without keeping up with the times. And Coats has proved adept at looking beyond spinning spindles and seeing that its business is about far more than making thread. It’s about using information to solve customer problems.
How to stay relevant for more than 260 years
Coats makes thread. Lots of thread. Every week, 1 billion tea bags are brewed using Coats thread. Every month, Coats produces enough thread to stretch all the way to the sun. Each year, Coats makes enough thread to go into 8 billion pairs of jeans—a pair for every person on the planet. Making that much thread, from a diverse range of materials in every conceivable color, is a huge manufacturing challenge.
Coats can trace its origins back to the 1750s and is proud of its rich heritage, including, for example, the fact that in 1879, Thomas Edison used Coats thread in his experiments to invent the light bulb. The company has grown over the centuries and is today the world’s leading industrial thread manufacturer. It also provides complementary, value-added products and services to the apparel and footwear industries. In addition, it applies innovative techniques to develop high-tech performance-materials threads and yarns in areas such as automotive and fibre optics products.
When it comes to technology, Coats has traditionally focused on keeping its manufacturing equipment and processes up-to-date because, after all, manufacturing was its core business. About five years ago, however, with the rise of big data, a new reality began to set in: Coats was really in the information business. “We realized that our future lay in the smart use of data, to create more-intelligent manufacturing processes, to reduce manufacturing costs, and to provide more innovative ways to meet customer needs,” says Richard Cammish, Chief Information Officer at Coats. “We needed to transform our information intelligence to create customer solutions faster, cheaper, and better than ever.”
Adds Harold Groothedde, Technology Solutions Director at Coats, “We’ve always been very advanced in manufacturing technology but slower moving in IT operations. In 2013, we still used Lotus Notes for email and had a fragmented desktop environment. With 7,000 of our wired employees spread across multiple locations on six continents and some 60 manufacturing facilities, we sorely needed more empowering communications and collaboration technology. We wanted our employees to share ideas and improvements more frequently and very easily.”
The company’s information technology mantra became “invisible technology, visible performance,” meaning, technology that allows people to work more efficiently without getting in the way.
Coats had state-of-the-art factories around the world, but manufacturing was siloed geographically; products that were manufactured in one country were sold in that country. Coats wanted a more unified view and flexible use of its global manufacturing capacity. Although the company used SAP software to manage manufacturing across some 60 manufacturing sites, it could not easily produce reports across factories, which deprived management of a holistic view of the business. Plus, those SAP reports took hours to generate, which created delays of up to 48 hours in business decisions.
Additionally, the company’s datacenter infrastructure was not agile enough to serve the dynamics of modern markets. Coats needed to spin up customer demonstration environments in hours and to launch test environments so that software developers could play with a new application. But it took weeks to order and provision servers, and it was impossible to scale infrastructure selectively in various locations.
For example, the company was experiencing dynamic growth in China but couldn’t deliver enough web performance for web visitors in China to play online product demonstration videos. Expanding in China also meant offering secure e-commerce services, which was difficult to do.
Ally strategically with Microsoft
Coats made a strategic decision to embrace cloud computing so it could gain the infrastructure elasticity and resilience it needed to run a global business and minimize the time its staff spent on datacenter tasks. “Deploying servers and managing email are not our core competencies,” says Groothedde. “Let someone else take care of that.”
Coats evaluated all the major cloud providers—Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—and felt that Microsoft was the best partner to complement its existing service portfolio and strategic technology direction. “The breadth and scale of the Microsoft cloud was impressive,” says Cammish. “It had Office 365 on the desktop productivity side and Azure on the datacenter side. We could use Azure Active Directory Premium to provide single sign-on for all applications, from email to SAP, which would support our ‘invisible technology’ objective.”
On the datacenter side, Coats has a mixed environment, with applications based on both Windows and the Linux operating system. “We wanted a datacenter provider that could support all our systems,” Groothedde says.
Microsoft committed comprehensive support in getting critical Coats applications such as SAP running in Azure. “The support we’ve received from Microsoft has been phenomenal,” says Cammish. “When you move your technology to a third-party datacenter, it is absolutely critical that you have attentive support in the event that something goes wrong. We got that from Microsoft. For me, as the person accountable for all the technology at Coats, this was very reassuring. Microsoft really cared about our success; this is a fundamental ingredient in any effective partnership and something which the technology industry needs more of.”
Cammish and Groothedde also felt that Azure security was superior to anything they could set up themselves. “From the Office 365 perspective, we knew that Microsoft was best qualified to secure its own products,” Groothedde says. “But on the Azure side, we would be running e-commerce transactions in the cloud, and we had to have ironclad security. We felt that Azure had all the security bases covered.”
Being able to crunch massive amounts of data across dozens of variables requires monstrous processing power, and Azure gives us high-performance virtual machines customized for HANA.
It migrated its 400-plus Lotus Notes applications into Microsoft SharePoint Online, which also became the foundation of the company’s intranet. Employees save files in the cloud, in Microsoft OneDrive for Business, rather than on personal hard drives, and can get to them from any location and device.
“With Office 365, employees can communicate with one another instantly, in any way that suits the need,” Groothedde says. “We’ve been able to connect a workforce fragmented across many sites and time zones in a seamless way. It’s fundamentally changed the way our office workers do business.”
Employees can see from the presence icon whether a colleague is available for contact, send that person an instant message, escalate the conversation to a voice call or video call, and share spreadsheets or manufacturing processes by sharing screens. Having a common, rich communications fabric encourages employees to reach out, ask questions, share ideas, and help one another. Employees in one factory can help colleagues in another factory to set up equipment correctly using “show and tell” video calls. By eliminating waits and miscommunications throughout the day, the whole business speeds up.
Plus, “All these capabilities are standard stuff for millennials, who expect capabilities such as chat and video conferencing at work,” Groothedde adds. “Office 365 has opened up more flexible work options such as home working, which is a hiring and retention advantage.”
Create a skinny infrastructure
The next step was to move nearly its entire datacenter footprint out of third-party datacenters into Microsoft Azure. The company is after what Cammish calls “skinny infrastructure”—with as few moving parts on-site as possible.
“We don’t want to be in the datacenter business; we’re in the thread business,” Cammish says. “We plan to move 90 percent of our global datacenter infrastructure into Azure, and we’re at about 75 percent now. The only things we’ll leave on-site are a few domain controllers and file/print servers.”
Coats gets tremendous economies of scale in Azure, which means significantly lower capital and operating costs and unprecedented levels of agility. Software developers, marketing teams, and customer support teams can spin up compute and storage resources as needed. “With Azure, we get storage and processing capacity on demand, something we didn’t have access to previously, and which now gives us much more operational flexibility and responsiveness,” Cammish says.
The company is moving into the services business, advising customers on their manufacturing processes and helping them predict how much thread they’ll need to manufacture particular garments. Crunching massive amounts of data becomes very complex very fast, and the ability to scale Azure resources lets Coats meet more customer needs. “Azure lets us pour on performance for short periods of time, while we’re giving demos or setting up temporary training and test environments, and then release those resources when we’re done,” Groothedde says. “It’s a very efficient way to operate.”
Great performance, on-demand capacity, and security are all important in supporting the company’s global e-commerce engine, which runs in Azure. Coats can tune e-commerce performance selectively in different Azure datacenters around the world, which has been critical in global expansion, especially in China. “We get consistent levels of infrastructure security with Azure, because we can leverage a wealth of security technologies that Microsoft is constantly improving,” says Groothedde. “We also have fewer endpoints to manage. We use Azure Security Center to monitor our environment, and with it we can be much more responsive when threats are identified.”
SAP HANA on Azure: Speeding up the whole business
For years, Coats used the Oracle database with its SAP applications. However, to improve SAP performance, it decided to switch to the SAP HANA database. Coats consulted with Microsoft about running SAP HANA on Azure, because HANA requires a very specialized server. The company was pleased to find out that Microsoft was just putting the finishing touches on a solution called, appropriately enough, SAP HANA on Azure.
Working with two prime consulting partners—Axians, which helped configure SAP HANA, and Brillio, which configured Coats’s SAP HANA on Azure estate—Coats moved its complex Oracle environment to HANA on Azure. “Moving SAP anywhere is difficult,” says Groothedde. “It’s complex software, and we have more than 180 servers in our environment. But the Microsoft SAP Center of Excellence provided exceptional support, both strategically and tactically, as we worked through various hurdles.”
Microsoft took care of problem escalation with SAP, and Coats had peace of mind in knowing that all of Microsoft’s architectural decisions were vetted by SAP.
With its move of SAP HANA to Azure, Coats racked up another distinction: it was the first organization in the world to run its production SAP HANA software in Azure. That includes four separate instances of the SAP ECC for North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, and a consolidated instance of the enterprise resource planning suite.
The performance boosts from running SAP on HANA in Azure have been remarkable. Transactions times have been reduced considerably in many cases. Reports that previously took 6 hours to produce now take 6 minutes. “By moving SAP HANA to Azure, we have been able to speed up planning cycles and accelerate delivery of finished goods to our customers,” Cammish says. “We are now in a position to do same-day factory production planning versus having to run scheduling jobs overnight. We have the ability to insert rush orders into the production schedule the same day versus waiting 24 to 48 hours. Our whole production engine can now speed up and improve customer service and delivery performance.”
The potential for using data in smarter ways to operate more efficiently, save money, and satisfy customers is immense. Azure gives us integrated tools that let us fully integrate and exploit our data.
Harold Groothedde: Technology Solutions Director
See the business in real time
The reporting speedup has been particularly impactful. Managers can push a button on a tablet computer and use Microsoft Power BI and SAP Business Objects to instantly see data from multiple sources as graphical dashboard-style reports. For example, at a glance they can see current sales order lead times and shipment status across all the company’s factories and deliver the service that customers expect.
Crunching data at Coats involves taking into account hundreds of thread materials, more than 150,000 colors, some 60 manufacturing sites, diverse customer requirements, and many other variables. “Being able to crunch massive amounts of data across dozens of variables requires monstrous processing power, and Azure gives us high-performance virtual machines customized for HANA,” Groothedde says.
Protect mobile data
To keep data safe as it travels from the Azure cloud to Office 365, SAP, and other applications on mobile devices, Coats uses the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite. The suite’s Azure Active Directory Premium service provides single sign-on for some of the company’s applications, to simplify and speed work throughout the day. And Microsoft Intune provides a cloud-based console that will ultimately be used to manage the company’s 7,000 desktop computers, 2,500 mobile devices, and the applications running on them.
“We wouldn’t feel good about displaying SAP data on mobile devices without Intune protecting our data,” Groothedde says. “Our users can access reports on Windows-based devices, iPads, iPhones, or any other device without complicated procedures for signing in to a virtual private network and with complete security. Intune opens up a whole new world in how we manage applications in diverse device environments.”
Coats has also created virtual desktops in Azure to give employees personalized desktops on tap from any device, which is especially useful in factory environments where PCs are shared by multiple employees. “Virtual desktops give us an easy, secure way to give factory floor workers, mobile employees, and contractors access to needed applications without deploying dedicated devices to each person,” says Groothedde.
Looking to the future
As it looks ahead, Coats is excited about the many new Microsoft cloud services it can use to transform its business. It’s experimenting with Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite to add predictive analytics. For example, based on past manufacturing histories, weather around the world, and other factors, Coats can predict inventory costs, demand for various types of thread, manufacturing volumes, and more.
“If we can better predict all these factors, we can better order the right inventory, manufacture the correct volumes, and deliver exactly what our customers want, even before they know they need it,” says Groothedde.
Coats is running a pilot project focused on operator and machine efficiency in the final winding thread production process. The company has applied sensors to the final winding equipment and made use of a control and feedback system to monitor and control this process. Coats pushes this data into the Azure IoT Hub for reporting with Power BI and then into the Azure SQL Data Warehouse and Azure Hadoop for processing by Azure Machine Learning.
“The potential for using data in smarter ways to operate more efficiently, save money, and satisfy customers is immense,” Groothedde says. “Azure gives us integrated tools that let us fully integrate and exploit our data.”
Adds Cammish, “By using the Microsoft cloud, we’re transforming for a digital age, where information is king. We are excited about using data to power our business into its next 260 years.”
Power BI + ZoomCharts = (Power BI)²: Boost your productivity and add the cool-factor to your reports
Power BI + ZoomCharts = (Power BI)²: Boost your productivity and add the cool-factor to your reports
With ZoomCharts, you can easier than ever before, explore, present and analyze your data. Full multi-touch support makes interaction seamless across all your devices.
Try it yourself with this Power BI live report to feel the difference:
How do ZoomCharts custom visuals increase your productivity with Power BI?
ZoomCharts is driving innovation in the world of charts and graphs. It’s challenging the very concept of charts by enabling the transition from static data representation to a fully interactive and dynamic user experience. Essentially, charts become alive. Interaction with the charts happens in the most natural way – with a simple click, touch, pinch or swipe. This means that datacan be analyzed and presented in a whole new way on any device. ZoomCharts claims that this approach saves time on report generation, presentation and answer seeking, turning data exploration into an engaging experience.
ZoomCharts combines analysis with presentation, making decision making easier than ever.
Three new custom visuals for data presentation and analysis
ZoomCharts has created three custom-visuals for Microsoft Power BI users:
Drill-down donut chart
Designed for exploring multi-level data in depth and across the level of interest.
Start with the overview and drill-down into details with a tap on a slice. Tap in the middle to return to previous level. “Others” slice is dynamic as well - tap to explore.
In this example, we are looking at sales data. With drill-down you can easily see how profits group by industries, company revenue and size.
Drill-down column/line/area chart for category-based data
Designed for exploration and presentation of category-based data.
Start with the overview and drill-down into details with a tap to expand a column or area of interest. Swipe up to return to the previous level.
In this example we are comparing revenue, cost and profit by product types and billing frequency.
Drill-down column/line/area chart for time-based data
Designed for exploration and presentation of time-based data.
Start with the overview and drill-down into details with a tap. Swipe up or down to zoom in and out. Swipe left or right to pan the timeline. Filter your report by selecting time range on time-axis.
In this example we can see revenue, costs and profits by years. With a touch, you can drill down to month and day level.
Built for productive reports with an engaging cool-factor
As Microsoft Power BI enables filtering through charts, you can combine all three new custom visuals to create even more productive reports. Here is an example of sales data report, where you can see, explore and analyze the sales data by the selected dimensions. Selection of a specific time range in a timeline chart will filter automatically the donut and column charts by the same time range. Similarly, selection of a slice or column will filter automatically the two other charts by the chosen category.
What does this mean for businesses?
With the ever-increasing need to make business-critical decisions, users need to optimize the way they work with reports and dashboards. With the increasing popularity of mobile devices, interactive, multi-touch-ready reports and dashboards is becoming a must-have. Successful businesses are able to make better decisions faster, and ZoomCharts in Power BI enable bussiness users to do that.
What does this all mean to you?
Is ZoomCharts here to change the way we work forever? We don’t know that yet. All we know is that ZoomCharts have customers from more than 35 countries worldwide with companies among the Fortune 500.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a steady rise in the importance of a data-driven culture in many organizations. Power BI has been at the forefront of this change by enabling users to easily monitor and analyze their most important business metrics in real time.
As a result, many IT departments and BI teams would like to empower everyone in the organization with Power BI to drive valuable insights and make data-driven decisions.
In many of these cases, business users need multiple Power BI dashboards and reports to run their business. For example, a sales manager might need a dashboard to monitor the leads funnel, another dashboard to monitor the sales leaderboards, and yet another dashboard to monitor and analyze sales forecasts. On top of this, there might be various other dashboards to monitor other key metrics of the business and the organization.
In these cases, managing permissions on each individual dashboard is time-consuming and error prone. It is also difficult for end users, as they must remember the names of all these dashboards and learn how to navigate to them. As a result, BI teams have been asking us for an easier and more efficient way to deploy a set of dashboards and reports to large audiences.
With Power BI apps, now in preview, you can easily deploy a collection of purpose-built dashboards and reports to a large number of business users and empower them to make data-driven decisions. You can distribute to the whole organization or to specific people or groups.
Business users can easily install these apps from Microsoft AppSource. Once installed, they can access via the web portal or their iOS, Android, or Windows devices. They can easily find and return to your content because it’s all in one place. They get all your updates automatically and you can control how frequently the data refreshes.
End users need Power BI Pro licenses to consume these apps. But if the app content resides in Power BI Premium capacity, end users can access the content without requiring a Power BI Pro license.
To create an app, you first need to create an app workspace. The workspace is the staging area for an app and serves as the container for the content in the app.
You will be able to add other collaborators and admins to these workspaces. Once you add all the content, you will publish the app to end users.
How are app workspaces different from group workspaces?
All existing group workspaces can serve as app workspaces and you can publish apps from any of these workspaces. Over time, we will let you create these workspaces without creating other artifacts like O365 groups in the background. See our roadmap and FAQ section for our plans on how we plan to evolve this functionality in the future.
Now that you understand what app workspaces are, let's start creating and publishing an app.
Create an app workspace
1. Open Workspaces, then click Create app workspace.
This will be the place to put content that other people can access and work on.
2. Give the workspace a name. If the workspace ID already exists, edit it to create a unique ID.
3. Give all members edit access and set the group to private. (These are the recommended settings. See the roadmap section for details on why.)
4. Now add email addresses of people you want to collaborate with in creating the app. You can’t add group aliases, just individuals.
5. Decide whether each person is a member or an admin, and save.
Power BI creates the workspace and opens it. It appears in the list of workspaces you're a member of. Because you’re an admin, you can click the ellipsis (…) to go back and make changes to it, adding new members or changing their permissions.
It’s empty, so start adding content to it. Adding content is just like adding content to your personal workspace (My Workspace), except the other people in the workspace can see and work on it, too. You can upload or connect to files, or connect to services from other companies, just as you would in your own personal workspace.
Note: You can only publish an app from an app workspace – you can't use My Workspace to publish apps.
Distribute an app
When you’ve finished creating and perfecting the dashboards and reports in your app workspace, you can publish the app to your end users.
1. In the workspace, click the Publish app button in the upper right to start the process of sharing all the content in that workspace.
2. First on Details, fill in the description to help people find the app. You can set a background color to personalize it. The app automatically uses the image of the workspace as the image for the app. To learn how to change this image, click here.
3. Next, on Content, you see the content that’s going to be published as part of the app – everything that’s in that workspace. You can also set the landing page – the dashboard or report people will see first when they go to your app. You can choose None. Then they’ll land on a list of all the content in the app.
Note: Content that originated from copying an organizational content pack cannot be published as part of an app.
4. The last step is to decide who has access to this app: either everyone in your organization, or specific people or groups, defined by their email.
5. When you click Finish, you see a message confirming it’s ready to publish.
6. In the success dialog box, you can copy the URL that’s a direct link to this app, and send it to the people you’ve shared it with.
Installing the app
End users can install the app in a couple of ways.
First, you can share that URL with them. The first time they go to the URL, they’re asked if they want to install the app. If they click Add, it’s added to the Apps section of their Power BI site.
Second, they can click Get apps in the Apps section of the Power BI service. Microsoft AppSource opens, where they see all the apps that have been shared with them, including the app that you most recently shared with them. If the organization has a lot of apps, they may need to search for it.
Either way, after that whenever they go to Apps, they’ll see this app in their list.
They can also install the app from their iOS, Android, or Windows device by clicking the link in the email. The app installs automatically and opens in the default landing page.
Update your published app
You can make changes to the app by navigating to the corresponding app workspace.
1. Open the workspace where you created the app.
2. You can make any changes you want to the dashboards and reports in the app. Note: These changes are not pushed to the app until you publish again. This lets you make changes without affecting the published apps.
3. Once you are happy with the content, go back to the app workspace list of contents and click Publish app.
4. Update Details, Content, and Access, if you need to, then click Update app.
Now the people that you’ve distributed the app to will see the updated version of the app.
Unpublish the app
To unpublish an app, click the “…” icon and select Unpublish app. The app will be removed from Microsoft AppSource and is inaccessible by end users.
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.
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:
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.
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:
The Office Store is introducing Power BI custom visuals to download and use in Power BI service reports and Power BI Desktop. Users will be able to easily discover and quickly download BI visualizations that interact with data to find key insights and drive important business decisions. Power BI custom visuals provide compelling data visualizations created by members of the community and by Microsoft. They behave just like the native rich visualizations already included with Power BI but can also be filtered, highlighted, edited and shared.
Here are some examples:
Word Cloud—Visualize the text in your data in a beautiful way.
SandDance—See all your data as grains of sand with animated transitions between views to help you explore, understand and communicate insights in your data.
Correlation plot—An advanced analytics visual based on R script to highlight correlations in your data.
Check Power BI custom visuals out for yourself—get started today!