Author Archives: Owen Allen

HoloLens for your hardhat

Microsoft announced the next version of HoloLens, HoloLens 2, at MWC Barcelona this week. The enterprise opportunities for augmented reality are coming into view more crisply and with faster refresh than ever.

One of the most intriguing announcements of the day is a version of HoloLens 2 for your hardhat. Microsoft partner Trimble, a civil engineering and construction company, seems to know a little bit about hardhats, as well as a little bit about helping their customer envision what will be built.

That is one sexy productivity machine.

This image of the HoloLens 2 equipment, modified to snap on top and over what looks to be a standard-sized hardhat could be the next piece of equipment that is standard on every job site. the HoloLens 2 viewer appears to be able to swing up, as well, for when it is not needed, and swings back down into place, just as night vision viewfinders would on a solider.

It probably wouldn’t take too much, actually, for the HoloLens 2 to add infrared and night vision to its capabilities. In fact, I wouldn’t be suprised if that is a premium plan license for the HoloLens 2 within the next six months. 🙂

I look forward to helping enterprise customers learn how to view their data and engage their employees and customers in new ways and from new perspectives, using HoloLens 2.

Image of downtown city street at night. Augmented reality traffic.
How many layers of information are there in this photo? How many more layers of non-visible information? How would you bring them all together with the HoloLens 2 or other augmented reality device? Let’s do it together!


Mapping the New Microsoft 365 Roadmap


Abstract city navigation map with lines and streets. Vector black and white urban planning scheme

The Office 365 Roadmap has gotten more complicated and longer with every release cycle and customer idea for new features, it seems. In fact, it got so overgrown, that they recently deposed the Office 365 Roadmap as the emperor of a past dynasty and have replaced it with a new, younger and better looking leader and knower of all knowledge, the Microsoft 365 Roadmap.

Ancient Ruins


While the documentation people are busy chiseling the names of the old roadmap off of the statues and monuments of the past, let’s take a minute to look at the new Microsoft 365 Roadmap.


The Microsoft 365 Roadmap is now a one stop shop for feature status that is In Development, Rolling Out, and Recently Launched.


We are all trying to find good ways to think about the vastly increased coverage that Microsoft 365 includes over and above Office 365. Now included are the feature roadmaps for Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility & Security.



Luckily, the new roadmap comes with a set of filters that allow you to select product, device platform, and on which version/instance of the Microsoft Cloud your search should be limited to (i.e. the Gov cloud, GCC, Education, Germany cloud instances, etc.)


Some of the best features of the new roadmap, though, are how you can use it to communicate with your colleagues and how to track updates to the feature items.

Quickly share an update with someone.

We’ve all been there. Someone asks about a feature in a meeting, no one can remember what the status is, so after the meeting (or while you quickly go ADD and ignore the Teams meeting call) you pop over to the roadmap and search for it. You find the feature detail, and now all you want is to share it with your team and the world. It so happens that there is a super convenient email icon in the bottom left of the feature detail. You click that, and an email draft with the link to the feature is created for you. Almost like magic.

Download your own copy of the roadmap

First of all, you can very easily download your own copy of the roadmap data in a .csv file. One click at the top of the list (It really can’t get any easier than that!) and you have your own set of data to query, or build your own tracking system on.

(When you build an app that compares a collection of roadmap.csv files and maps out update frequencies, features that are updating the most rapidly, features that are not getting enough attention (taking too long), then please let me know! I’d track that.)

Until that is available, however,…

Use the RSS Feed to track roadmap updates

roadmap-4…I’ll be using the RSS Feed to track updates to the roadmap.  What? RSS sounds like Really Slow Signals? Or, as a millenial, you wouldn’t get caught dead using a message transport protocol that your father used to use? Not so slow, my friend, and what is old is new again. You should be using Feedly or some other RSS reader to track updates to web sites, your own curated news sites, and blogs, like this one. 🙂

Personally, the RSS reader that I use is called NewsBlur (, and it totally rocks. If you can afford it, I highly recommend you get one. logo_newsblur_blur

So, click the Microsoft 365 Roadmap RSS feed, grab the URL for the RSS Feed, and add it to your favorite news reader.

And, then you can track your Microsoft 365 features like a professional.



Special Thanks and Recognition

Star badge icon.I’d like to include a special thanks to @joepalarchio, who managed the Office 365 Roadmap Watch website and RSS Feed for the past number of years. While the roadmap was called the Office 365 Roadmap, it did not have a RSS Feed. (Designed by millenials who had RSS Feed using parents?) Well, the RSS Feed offered by Office 365 Roadmap Watch proved so popular that the new and improved Microsoft 365 Roadmap could not deny the obvious, and the RSS Feed for updates was re-introduced. Thanks, @Joepalarchio!

Power Apps Preview Program

Microsoft has released a new PowerApps Preview Program.

build-on-platform_33This is a welcome idea, as there are certain to be more and more new capabilities and features that Microsoft would PowerApps developers (people like us) to start working with – both to allow the developers to get a headstart with new applications, and for Microsoft to get an idea about how the new features are performing.

Why do we need a Preview Program? Can’t Microsoft just ship the features?

While tempting to have Microsoft ship everything immediately, and many features are shared with us this way, there are also large features that may have an impact on earlier features, that may require that your code and app be re-designed slightly, or that the code be built in a different way to take advantage of the newer capabilities.

In a run-time interpreted app like PowerApps, it is also easy to understand how the first versions of related features may be working together, and can be exposed to public PowerApp developers, but all of the safety code to ensure that features work reliably well with previous features, may not be complete. So, this means we need a Sandbox environment to test the Preview capabilities in. For PowerApps, what do we use for sandbox environments? Environments.

env3Microsoft has created a new Environment where they have published the preview capabilities. For now, this means all you have to do is to build your new or updated PowerApp in the “Preview (United States)” environment. I’m sure that as the Preview capabilities find traction and usage increases, that there will be environments in other geographies.

The new environment works with a new PowerApps web portal, a new PowerApps web player, and there will be new capabilities in the preview version of the PowerApps admin center.



So, what are the new features?

It will be interesting to see which features and capabilities Microsoft determines are worthy of the preview environment and which get deployed directly into the mainline application, or if even the simple features will take the side journey through the preview environment. Of course, if all the features go through the Preview environment, then who’s to say how many flavors of preview environments we may end up with in the future? 🙂

In today’s announcement, the new features and capabilities weren’t specifically mentioned. PowerApps will publish a list of these as they roll out, titled, “What’s new in PowerApps.”  Other places to watch are the the PowerApps Blog, as well as this O365 Toolman blog.

Other Important Items

  • There is no preview for the Desktop version of the studio. (Use the Web Studio)
  • Preview not available for mobile devices (have to wait for released capabilities)
  • Common Data Service databases not supported in Preview yet (working on this)



The Activity Store is the New Source of Truth

The search for a document management solution wasn’t really being undertaken by the right people until you were asked whether or not it could either

  1. Serve as the Source of Truth, or
  2. Respect another repository as the Source of Truth

Life used to be so simple back then. At least, that was how it seemed. It turned out, that even the records management solution was never The Source of Truth – it was only ONE Source of Truth within the organization.

We will forever have to manage many Sources of Truth within our information farms and fields and domains.

It was always easier, though, when we could roll up multiple systems or at least similar systems, into a single Source of Truth.

Printed circuit board futuristic serverThe lingua franca of our information domains has changed, though. It’s no longer documents, or fragments, or reusable content. It is not even the lowest common denominator, the log file, any longer. It is now “Activity”. If that sounds like a vague term, it is only vague until you define it. Create a schema for it, and then every system can feed and consume “Activity” using JSON or other protocol (I’ll bet you still have plenty of systems/applications using REST or Javascript APIs or even .CSV files, don’t you?) and your systems can start to build on each other again.

Microsoft 365, primarily through the use of the O365 Audit Log and the Microsoft Graph, is providing an Activity Store that will power the next generation of applications.

Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services provide solid tools for managing and tracking the IaaS portion of your data center. But there is no comparison to the Audit Log and the Microsoft Graph for making sense of what is happening within your Digital Workplace.

As you build applications, you should be dropping hints, if not writing explicit updates, into the Log and the Graph. This is not only for ISVs, but also for the new breed of custom developer, or even power users.  You can choose to make your app yet another Source of Truth, but if you want your data and function to be incorporated into one of the new style of Digital Workplaces, then you may be better served by leveraging a central Activity Store.

The Activity Store is the new Source of Truth. Are you leveraging it yet? If not, your competitor might be.  There will always be many Sources of Truth. But buyers will be asking if you are yet another, or if you are able to leverage the one that they have.

Retiring The MOSS Garden

I’m finally getting around to some summer gardening. It’s time to plow under some ground that used to be productive, in the hopes of re-planting and eventually reaping some future harvests.

I’ve retired “The MOSS Garden”, and have transplanted my historical records of blog posts from the now-retired MSDN Blog where they used to be planted, and moved them into here. Those are basically the posts from 2003 through Sep 2010.


So, if I’m going to get back into blogging, that leaves me two blogs… and (this one). I’ve never been much for search engine optimization, so it will be interesting to see if any of those old posts ever get indexed or have any views. But, at least they will have a home as my old MSDN blog is about to die. See you online!

File Storage in Teams and SharePoint

Have you ever asked yourself where to store a file? Should you store it in Microsoft Teams? Should you store it in SharePoint? When should you choose one or the other?

Data storage. Laptop and file cabinet with ring binders.Here’s the Pro Tip: Files that you store in Teams *are* stored in SharePoint automatically. You really don’t have to (or get to) choose.

If you are working in a channel inside of a Microsoft Team (and you can’t be working in Teams unless you are working in a channel – go ahead and try it – I’ll be right here when you get back), then there are a couple of things that you can rely on automatically.

The first item that you can rely on to be there is a Files tab in that channel, where you can store things.

The second item is that there is a SharePoint site that is backing up the Team you are working in. The knowledge that there is a SharePoint site behind every Team that is created leads you to an entire set of other assumptions. For example, there is a Document library in that SharePoint site that is called Shared Documents.

and the magic is that for every channel that you create within a Microsoft Team, a folder with that channel name is created within the Shared Documents document library.

This is where the Files that you place into the channel files tab are stored.


(I am borrowing this image from: – Thanks, Microsoft!)

This means you can:

  • synchronize those files to your devices using Microsoft OneDrive for Business.
  • find those files using SharePoint search and other applications, such as Office 365 Delve, that leverage the Microsoft Graph, because your files are being indexed.
  • Quickly find and open recently used documents from your Office 365 Home page because the Microsoft Graph.
  • Refer to and share those files in SharePoint News articles on the SharePoint side,
  • or refer to and share those files with other members of your organization using Microsoft Teams on the Teams side.
  • Trust that SharePoint and Team permissions are being respected when guest users are invited into your Team or into your SharePoint site.
  • etc.

Store your files in Teams or in SharePoint. You may only have to save them once!

It is easy to find the SharePoint site that is associated with your Team — from the ‘3-dot menu’ in any channel title bar, select “Open in SharePoint” and the associated SharePoint site will open in another tab.

Enjoy your Office 365 Tools.Man holding blue helmet close up

Teams – Manage Who can post in the General channel

The Microsoft Teams blog has summarized updates that they’ve rolled out over the past month, and I feel that a few of these deserve special attention. Here’s one –

Control who can post in the General channel – When you create a team, a General channel is created for you automatically. Many organizations use the General channel to share an overview of what the team wants to achieve and to share other high-level information like a welcome presentation.

Team owners now have more control over who can post in the General channel. You can choose between three settings – allow everybody to post, limit posting to team owners only, or allow all team members to post but remind them that their message will be seen by many people.

You can find this setting in the Settings area of each team which you can access by clicking Manage team next to the team’s name.

Control who can post in the General channel

From <>

This is great. But, why is it important?

This removes some strong anxiety from team owners of large groups – sometimes they are confused about the “General” channel. It also makes it easier to explain when a conversation should be moved into its own channel.

When a group/team is formed and begins to work together, they have to “agree” how to communicate with each other. This can be an implicit or an explicit agreement. These formal or informal rules also are re-negotiated when moving to a new communications platform, such as Microsoft Teams. This new feature of managing the posting in the general channel helps to reduce the areas of uncertainty and can help teams leverage Microsoft Teams more quickly.

When you have a large group and you want to have some sort of centralization of access to conversations, but you *know* that only a few of your conversations will apply to the entire group, this update from Microsoft fills that need – you can know explain/teach/model for your team that only the team-wide announcements or high-level logistical conversations need to be in the General channel, and that the primary place for new conversations is within one of the existing channels, or within a new channel.

Another good rule of thumb would be that if your Group/Team is such that you automatically create one or more channels when you are creating the Team, for example, if you know that conversations within your group/team are naturally sortable, then managing your team to restrict who can post into the General channel may be a natural move.

And if this is the case – that you create some channels at the same time you create the Team, and you want to restrict posting in the General channel, I think it’s best to start with the setting that alerts people that their posting will be viewable by all members of the Team – this will help encourage responsible General Channel Posting.

OK, sounds interesting, but How does this Help my Business?

Let’s say that you are a Sales Manager, and you are creating a Team to work with your sales team. Your concerns probably include:

  • Your concern is probably centered around how to get your sales team to use Teams.
  • You probably are worried that unless you can teach your sales team how to use Channels the right way, that they are simply going to use the General Channel for all of their messaging.
  • You are concerned that this will create too much noise and will frighten away some of your team members who aren’t as open about their large group messaging.
  • You also want your team to recognize that the value within the messaging is useful from a historical perspective. (days and weeks, not years)
  • You don’t want to create a full blown Team for each of your sub-groups

Well, your concerns are radically addressed by this capability to manage who can post in the General channel.  (No Sales Teams were hurt in this example.)

More details about the newest changes to Microsoft Teams that were released in November can be found here:

What’s new in Microsoft Teams – November Update [ ]


If you have additional questions about how your organization can leverage the valuable business productivity benefits that you know are to be found within Office 365, but you haven’t figured out how to lead your organization in that direction yet, please feel free to contact Owen Allen (@owenallen) at Alpine Lakes Digital – he specializes in helping companies like yours manage the change that today’s business realities require.

Speaking at the Collab365 Global Conference

gc17_dotspeaker_vrtclI’m getting this announcement out kind of late, but I’d like to invite you to attend my session at the Collab365 Global Conference on the evening of November 1, 2017.

The Collab365 Global Conference is a 24-hour virtual conference focused on Office 365 and related technologies. It kicks off at 1:00PM US-PT, and there are multiple sessions each hour.

I’ve recorded a session title Organizational Change Management with Office 365 and it will be broadcast as part of hour seven, at 7:00PM US-PT. Please register to attend the conference and then join my session at 7:00PM. I’ll be attending for a live Q&A session following the broadcast of the session.

Organizational Change Management for companies that are working with Office 365 is a great challenge for me, and one that I am enjoying quite a bit. If you are faced with driving change across your organization and would like to talk with me, please reach out.

You can track my session using the hash tag 


Related Resources:

Collab365 Global Conference

Chevron – A Refinery for Digital Transformation based on Azure IoT and Analytics

chevron-LogoChevron announced this week that they were committing to a Microsoft Azure platform for the consolidation, processing, and refinement of IoT data and Analytics across and through their organization.


This sounds like most other press releases, but the organizational change impacts that this announcement mentions and implies caught my attention.

About five years ago, I had the opportunity to help drive some change within Chevron as a consultant and I learned a little bit about the organization. I remember being extremely impressed at the way they think about systems and how training for every role – users and administrators and equipment operators, etc. – was ingrained into the company. Chevron also had a mindset at that time to work harder to stay abreast of technology.

In the press release (link below), operational groups such as, “supporting infrastructure …advanced technologies, … optimize exploration, reservoir management, production operations, midstream logistics and marketing operations.” Mentioning these in a press release indicates that they have already gone beyond simply committing to the purchase of a block of Azure compute and storage and are already planning on how value from this technology will be realized.

A large organization like Chevron has some tremendous pipelines to fill to get advanced technology like Azure IoT and Analytics to reach across the organization. Chevron has the infrastructure and the technology and the people processes in place to take advantage of today’s technology. It is encouraging to see the groundwork for successful organizational change is already being built.

Related Resources:

Press Release: Chevron Partners with Microsoft
to Fuel Digital Transformation
from the Reservoir to the Retail Pump

Microsoft Transform Blog: Chevron fuels digital transformation with new Microsoft partnership


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