The Gig Werks Podcast

The Evolution of Microsoft 365 & How it Comes Together to Deliver Solutions to the Business

Podcast Description: The Evolution of M365 & How it Comes Together to Deliver Solutions to the Business

M365 has evolved from a collection of individual products to a truly integrative platform that empowers you to design and build comprehensive business solutions that connect the different tools at your disposal (Power Automate, SharePoint, Teams, Power BI, etc.) to solve your challenges and drive value, ROI and efficiency throughout your organization. In addition, these solutions can seamlessly be delivered where your users are most comfortable working every day, driving adoption.

Check out the Gig Werks podcast discussing what that evolution looks like within the M365 platform, what it really means for businesses and highlight different examples of M365 solutions that showcase the possibilities for what can be accomplished with the platform. From the rapid dissemination of critical information in real-time, to the certification / recertification process and new client onboarding. You’ll learn the benefits; power & return on investment you’ll enjoy bringing together the tools that already exist in your enterprise to create an impactful solution because – M365 is greater than the sum of the parts.

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Podcast Transcript

We want to welcome everybody to listening to our podcast today.

I’m Joe Giegerich and the managing partner of Gig Werks and with me is Christian Holslin, our enterprise architect.

Chris and I have been working together 17 years now building solutions principally around Microsoft. And what we want to discuss here today is Microsoft 365 and how it’s the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

Typically, Classically, historically, people have looked at Microsoft platforms as sort of separate, right?

You have Exchange, you have a SharePoint, you know, and they’re different stack components.

But the real power of M365 is really the ability to create comprehensive solutions, bringing together all those disparate components, you know, in a very large measure.

Teams is the embodiment of that where it’s really a front end right to these other

products be it exchange, the use of Azure AD, it’s wire up to SharePoint, the ability to put bots  and queries.

And so today we’re going to be having a discussion around that topic generally and we’ll probably have some follow up podcast there.

And so Christian let’s start with you here, the expert inside the shop, what do you see is some of the big benefits of moving from on Prem to M365. And why did they rename it to that?

Why did they rename it to Microsoft 365? I mean it used to be, so it used to be Office 365. And then as the platform evolved, what we all realized and what we saw, you know, first hand working with a lot of our customers, building, helping them build these solutions where they’re bringing in all these different technologies. Office is not the only piece of it, right. So you’re not just talking about word documents or Excel files, right?

When you’re talking about office, you’re talking about Microsoft 365, you have teams, SharePoint, you have Azure Active Directory of exchange online, you have groups, you have power BI, you have dynamic platform, you have CRM, you have dynamics right.

There’s a massive host of products now that are all integrated. They all sit on top of Azure AD.

And so it’s more appropriate to really call it M365, to call it Microsoft 365 because it’s the, it’s the platform that you’re using, it’s not just the components of it and this is the whole Point behind our podcast is, so you have all these different tools that you’re used to sort of like individually using.

Where do you get a lot of value out of bringing these together and what are the kind of use

cases that are relevant for most of our organizations that we worked with for a lot of our customers?

And that evolution has really led to the ability to build comprehensive solutions that

even like Power BI is the example I always like to give. Where do you want to post it? Do you want to post in the SharePoint site? Do you want to go right to Power BI itself? Do you want to fetch it with a bot out of teams? Right. So it’s this notion of, you know, it’s all these disparate components, but where does the user, and I think that’s a big part of the M365 story, is where is it best for the user to live.

To get business value, right, which when you look at it as silo components meant clicking

into different browsers versus well, we have these elements where we’re getting data, we’re presenting it, we’re triggering workflows.

What’s the appropriate entry point, right for end users to make the sense of something that spans several of those platform components.

And Power BI specifically, actually the reason why that particular example that you chose is so critical when you’re talking about the cloud versus the on Prem.

So like classic environment that we used to work with when we were building on Prem solutions, the hardest part of the entire delivery was how do we build the reporting engine for these people?

Where do we put the reporting UX? Right. And you had to, you know, install SSRS in SharePoint mode and do some complex integrations and set up a bunch of Kerberos.

I mean, it was, it was wildly complicated. And now the easiest part of the solution now is power BI. It’s like, oh, well, that’s where it goes, right? And you can put a power BI tab in teams right next to a SharePoint page tab in teams, or you can put a power BI report on a SharePoint page and you can integrate all of these assets together and get them all from one place, right. And teams really being the vehicle that’s driving that.

You know, that’s why I love that you bring up power BI, because now you have access to that. And it’s so easy to put together reports and charting and doing analytics with all of that data because not only is the user experience there where it really wasn’t before, it was much more difficult to get, you know, working before now.

It’s seamless and under the hood, power BI will natively connect all these places and pull data

for you without you having to do anything other than say go get it right.

You can get SharePoint List data, you can get data versus data. You can get data from Azure SQL, you can get it from a website. Right. Anywhere that you need you can just mash it up together and put it into a report and that’s that’s really really useful.

So it’s, you know, how do you take that power of that one tool and then drive value with the whole stack, right. With power automate, power apps, teams, all this stuff working in concert to give your users the solution that they need to execute their day-to-day work more efficiently with a high ROI.

And two or two or three things, I would pivot from that as well As for one, we have to get to it right now.

So you know we were talking about Power BI here briefly. I think the dataverse itself and it just if you showed a little more detail on it is also very, very representative of this concept

Microsoft is pushing in the marketplace of universal connection across these different components to build scalable business solutions.

Yeah, the dataverse is we’re at a moment in time now where we have a cloud based Sort of agnostic, platform agnostic data storage back end.

So the challenge with any application, with any solution, with any user experience they’re trying to build is where do you persist the state of that user experience? Right. I log in to anything, right? And then I’m getting half my work done and then I have to go eat lunch or my colleague calls me and I have to go, you know, meet a customer or something, right? And I’m in the middle of everything, right?

Where do you store that information? Right, how do you? How does it get persisted? And

traditionally it’s while we hire its development team and they build the database? And you know you have to build your own back end.

The Dataverse is a fantastic solution in that you can now create a data back end on the fly for anything you need and plug into it from anywhere across the M365 stack.

And so you can create a user experience in SharePoint Web Part that writes into a dataverse table that gets pulled into a power automate flow that processes data from a chat bot that sends an answer to a vendor in real time, right, with no human interaction.

And everything’s done instantaneously, right? Whereas before you’d have to set up all of those connection points and you’d have to build all of that stuff yourself, and now it’s here, it’s just sitting there for you.

So that’s what I see is the biggest value for the dataverse and from a developer’s perspective.

As well, it’s like, it has a really nice design surface where you can go in and very clearly build out a hierarchy of information, tables of data with fields and set it up and it’s yours and you can.

It’s malleable over time, you can work with it. That’s a big, big selling point for the dataverse.

It really sort of underpins the whole entire platform, right? And I thought it was very much where they were going and then finally got to, if you will, right. So for everything they’ve been working toward this comprehensive set of schools, basically to build more powerful integrative business solutions with ROI.

The dataverse was sort of the last mile, at least as it stands to really bring that full power together.

Yeah, I totally agree. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s the connective tissue that allows the applications to talk to each other without having to sort of mysteriously send data back and forth.

It’s that common language underneath that allows the applications to communicate seamlessly.

Yeah. And at a later juncture, because, you know, we want to cover sort of broad topics here, but it strikes me it would be good to have a separate conversation around the dataverse itself.

I think it warrants its own kind of conversation separately. Do you agree?

Ohh I totally agree. Yeah it’s it’s something we really need to get into in detail. We should definitely do you know in an episode on it because we you know we can cover a lot of ground just talking about if you’re not using it why should you and you know one of the things that you should know about it.

But yeah I mean here of course what we want to do is we really want to focus on what are the solutions.

What are the use cases that that make you know that the data versus make possible and how can you take advantage of them in your organization and all these other tools. And one quick question before we get to some of those solution use cases, we’d like to frame and then we can go into further depth on subsequent podcast.

The other thing about Power BI, you know, we’re talking about on Prem and moment again and all the hoops you’d have to go through that was sort of the glory days of Tableau and Tableau, you know, had a superior, you know, user interface and all that stuff, which it doesn’t now.

And so aside from the fact that Tableau is just flat out more expensive than power BI. It cannot do what we described as the value of sticking that report in the appropriate place for people to interact with. And so again, kind of a separate conversation around Power BI versus Tableau, although I think it’s much of a conversation at this point.

It would be like a conversation between WordPerfect and word. I don’t think many people care anymore. Just be honest with you that that ship is sailed, but that I just wanted to throw that in as well, so.

Why don’t you describe just a couple of typical use cases where you see the stack coming together and what some of those components are?

Absolutely. Yeah. One of my one of my favorite ones. This is a personal favorite of mine because It ties into customer service. So. The one of my favorite use cases, we refer to this in our notes here as the rapid dissemination of information.

And that sounds kind of general right, but the whole purpose of having this stack of applications is that each application within the stack.

Provides a discrete role for you to then get information about your job in a faster, quicker way, right? And the purpose of that right is to improve the ROI is to improve your customer service.

Customers, right? So one of my favorite use cases of this is. Is working at a customer service

like a call center? For example, you may be working at a call center that’s either virtual like you’re a chat bot based call center, or you’re working at a physical call center where you’re getting phone calls from your customers directly.

And one of the, you know, one of the use cases that we see that’s very frequent around this is, well, how do I know who I’m talking to? Right. And what does it mean to know who you’re talking to? So somebody calls you on the phone right now.

If you have teams integration with telephony, now you can snag that caller ID and you can run that through, for example, you know, like a power automate flow and you can get like a quick report about who’s calling you, right, or if you’re not using Teams telephony.

You could, for example, set up a chat bot where you type in the name of the person that called you and it goes out to the power platform and it runs a flow and grabs a power BI report and then sends you like a little dashboard of.

Here’s all the information about the person you’re talking to And one thing, this particular scenario, the M365 platform is extremely good at doing this.

Now where you have these real-time tools like the power virtual agent, which is the chat implementation you can put together, you know, basically using a wizzywig editor, a chat flow that says if I go in and I type this, I want you to go run a flow that goes and looks up that information, sends it back and then asks me what I’m looking for and then goes out to power BI and gets a report and then sticks it in a chat window in teams, right?

And that can all happen like nearly real time and so you can make these business critical decisions. Where you have time sensitive, information that you need to get your hands on.

And especially in cases like with customer service, call centers like that where you wanna know who you’re chatting with.

That information is the most valuable information that you can get. And the faster you can get it, the more effective you’re gonna be at your customer service. And the more effective you’re with customer service, the longer you’re going to retain your accounts and clients and the more likely they are to trust you and to continue working with you.

And so this is a very easy way of saying you can take a look at M365 and see how it directly impacts in a positive way your customer relationship.

Management good helping you. Please go ahead Joe, jump a couple of things on that too. So for one If you use like CRM, uh, you know a lot of CRM, Microsoft CRM, you’ll get that phone number, their CRM record of the person will pop up, right?

So you go, well what if I just use something bespoke? Question is twofold. Well question or comment kinda yes. But what if you also want to get financial information on them that exists in another and disparate accounting system and you want to fetch documents about that person that may not be stored in?

Be around because CLM, you know, it’s got document capabilities, but in terms of its structure and extensibility, a lot of times that’s not being stored or a lot of content wouldn’t be stored.

So it’s the ability to take even native bespoke functionality and frankly extend what kind of data or information you could pull back, right? Is that Accurate statement, Christian.

That’s a perfect scenario for this type of application topology where you’re, bringing in all of these different applications where you have dynamics as your CRM that’s giving you your customer profile data.

You have your invoicing system right, which could be a third party that has right like I say right and maybe you’re using a power BI data gateway to get that information right.

So you have power automate and a flow that runs in real time and queries your on Prem infrastructure or that’s sitting on Azure SQL database.

Queries that are in out of SQL Azure, and then Power BI gets that, turns it into a PDF and sends it to you in a chat and you’re sitting in teams and this all happens instantly, right?

Right. You get that summary report. They can spend right out, and that you know. It’s hard to beat that right when you need something instantaneously and it can do that for you. And the Part 2 of this I wanna stress as well, or at least it’s my belief that customer services, this scenario, people go OK, but I’m not selling watches or whatever. It may be right, but I would argue that if you’re an investment house, right or you’re a law firm.

You need customer service like when a client calls knowing first hand, right? Absolutely. So you know, is it, are they part of my corporate tax group or like where is this customer even fit in my organization?

Like how big a customer is it? Are they looking to retain more services, watch services, do they currently own? Because there’s nothing worse when you get a client on the phone and you go and you are and what do we do?

So a big part of customer service is being able to just, you know, calling it for what it is, is to come off as if you’ve never ever stopped forgetting about this customer.

They’re always front of mind because you know everything about them as soon as they call. And that use case is universal in sales and client retention and account management and spans into or, you know, you onboarding a new legal client onboarding.

The new investor and that that’s also kind of related to I think one of the use cases that you like, which is certification and recertification.

Right. And another point that you’re making is, is that use case, the customer service use case, especially within the context of legal right, that’s you actually hit on something that is. Now I’m just remembering because you know, I have an attorney for probate process that I’m going through with my father’s estate, right.

And every time I call them, they’re like what’s your customer? Well, you know, what’s thing again like what’s your client matter?

And I’m like, you know, if they had something like this, they could literally just use my caller ID.

And look it up out of a system, right? And then they would know, oh, here’s all the documentation we’ve been waiting for or whatnot, doesn’t it? Kind of feels you off. And then it’s a little irritating right that I call them, I’m like guys I’ve been working with you for a year like how do you not know who I am but you know that you were raised out situation but this is the endless frustration all customers of every service even if it’s a customer of professional services. But I just wanted to beat that drum.

But yeah pretty much every industry, every customer size, right every whether you whether you have 100,000 employees and a million customers or you have 10 employees and 100. Summers. It’s the same challenge every time. It’s who am I talking to and how do I know everything I need to know about them so that they’re comfortable dealing with me on the phone and I can get their stuff done right away.

So yeah, but you, you mentioned certification and recertification. It seems like a bit of a segue.

Yeah, this is, this is another onboarding those pieces. Yeah, this is this is another one of

those pieces where you can, you can bring together a lot of you know these tools in the stack, right. So, so just to kind of frame this really quick, right.

So you have your customer service use case and that’s all great, right. And so you’re getting all this information in real time about who you’re talking to and you know you can also set this up for your executives as well.

Joe, you for example as the leader of the company. Right. You need to know certain things about accounts, um. And the faster you can get that information the more effective you can be when you’re working with them, right. So it’s not just customer service, but it also stands to note, you know I want to expand on that as well before we move on that.

It’s also an executive level decision making tool beyond just you know, frontline customer service. So it helps with visibility across the board, but to kind of dovetail into the certification and the recertification process, so you have all this.

Data who has access to it and how do you know that the access levels are appropriate, right? So this is one of those things where a tool like teams and SharePoint is going to be extremely powerful in helping you make those decisions and help you decide and help you confirm and know whether or not a resource is actually, you know, protected.

And it’s only accessible to its to its given audience. And the teams in the SharePoint play

have been, have been huge and they’ve been working together very well for a long time. You know, you can always bring in things like power automate, flows and powerapps. That’s it.

On top of that to sort of mix and match that information together.

But you know, the concept of recertification is. When I go and I audit access to something, how do I generate that report, right? And so there’s a lot of ways you can do that. You can bring in tools from the graph API and you can query the graph, the Microsoft graph, which is the sort of that’s like the data verse of APIs, right? It goes across the entire M365 stack and we’ll give you information about every product and tool that you have access to.

And so you can read out Access control is from different files and Different libraries and teams

and channels and things like that and you can put together these reports. And there are also some third-party tools out there that can help you with this. And then you could run those reports through tools like power automate where you’re processing Excel files or you’re reading through the contents of these documents and you’re making automated decisions at a point in time that it gets generated.

So, what you’re doing is you’re essentially automating your audit process, which is, you know, that’s kind of the Holy Grail and this is something that we’ve talked to, you know, we see is very Dominant financial services where they have a lot of data and information that they have to keep protected and they have to prove that it’s protected every so often. And you know, if you can do that in an automated fashion, where you’re leveraging tools like power automate to do that inspection for you and then to essentially alert you when you need to take action rather than you having to go through and manually read everything.

Not only are you eliminating a lot of that manual labor They’re also eliminating a lot of that risk of you missing something as you go through Kind of certification, recertification have anything to do with like new client on boarding? How are they at all kissing cousins?

Well, yes and no. I mean they kind of, they kind of are because the certification process of making sure that access is valid always has to come at the beginning of when you’re onboarding a vendor, you’re onboarding a client, you have to set up your environment so that you know it’s actually certified for access that the only the certain people can access that, right. And you know you’ve got a product that does that automatically, which is insanely helpful. And then the recertification process is of course the auditing of that Later on.

Yeah. So it sounds like there to have one would make sense to have the other.

Hmm. Right. Yeah, yeah. You generally, you don’t just set up access rights and then assume that they’re correct for the rest of time, right? Right. You know, you set up access and then you have to recertify because you have to make sure that in the future, later on that the access controls are still valid at the current point in time.

Got it, got it.

And so at this point, we’ve discussed quite a bit some high level use cases and the like.

And what I’m thinking, Christian, is why don’t we set up some more time maybe either a webcast or podcast where we can go a bit deeper into everything from the dataverse and a couple of these use cases and maybe some additional use cases that sound like a plan.

I think that would be fun, yeah.

Anyway, folks, so we’re going to take a pause here. We just want to make sure that, you know, we give everybody a breather so we can spend time going into greater depth on some more of these use cases, greater depth on the dataverse and even more use cases.

Wait, wait, let me know. Well, I guess with that, this is a good time to take a break and a pause here and well, I think we’ve thrown a lot at our audience here today, Christian.

So why don’t we take a break here and then get back together and go into greater depth on the use cases we mentioned and a few more as well as the dataverse and then circle back and share out more with our friends and colleagues out there in the Internet.

And want to thank everybody if you did stop by to listen today, any questions about what we discussed today anyways, obviously we can help drive value for your investment in Microsoft 365, please do reach out. We’re always happy to engage customers. Most importantly, we really do have a passion about building solutions above and beyond everything else and would love the opportunity to work with anybody out there who found what we say today interesting. So, thank you again and talk to you next time.