Scaling up to Enterprise Level

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In my previous post (Creating a Flow to set record image), I created a way to bring an image into the CDS from an external source. This works well (obviously!).

There are 3 stages involved in the process:

The next stage of thinking is if we would be doing this in an enterprise environment, how would we do things differently? Talking to Mike Carlton, there are a number of things that we’d need to take into consideration, including (but not limited) to:

  • Security
  • Storage
  • Compatibility
  • Classification
  • Record management & lifespan

Let’s talk about these, and go into more detail for each

Security. There are a number of ways in which people try to hide attacks. One of these ways are in images – it’s possible to include a .exe file (or similar) – the user downloads a normal looking image, which is actually an attach vector onto the computer. To minimise the risk of this occuring, the image file would need to be scanned by appropriate antivirus/antimalware first (which is a Flow action, using Azure Security for this purpose). Incidentally Microsoft use the same heuristic engine across all of their estate, so some people would want to also incorporate a second one as well

Storage. As everyone knows, storage is important! And depending on what type of storage is being used, pricing can vary greatly (anyone who’s costed D365 storage against Sharepoint storage against Azure Blob storage will know this). It’s therefore important to keep on top of this, as otherwise it’s very possible that the storage costs will increase rapidly! It would therefore be rational to include a file size check, to avoid someone trying to use an image file that’s hundreds (or thousands) of MB’s.

Compatibility. In the scenario here, we’re using an image. There are many different image types, and when scaling up we should implement checks to ensure that the image type is indeed one that’s supported (by whatever system we’re pushing the image into). In scenarios for other data types, it would also be important to check (and enforce when required).

Classification. When bringing data into a system from external resources, it’s essential that correct classification (ie metadata) is stored against the data. This ensures that the system is kept

Records Management & Lifespan. When scaling up functionality, it’s important to start considering who should have access to the data, and if any necessary security controls should be put in place to manage this. It’s also important to understand how long data should be kept with the system, and if processes should be implemented in order to redact and/or remove the data after a specified period of time (this is extremely relevant with GDPR now being in place)

Charity Volunteering

I’ve been somewhat absent over the last 1.5 weeks. Not because I haven’t had things to talk about (I have!), but because I’ve been quite busy. There’s the usual workload of course, but I’ve also been doing some charity volunteering, which has been taking up quite a bit of my time.

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Now, when you say ‘charity volunteering’ to someone, the image conjured up could be of helping out in a communal kitchen, raising funds for something, etc. Somewhat wide of the mark for this instance though.

With the caveat that I’m not going to go into deep detail, there’s a charity for kids and teens with cancer that visits the UK every few years. They spend around 8 days here, jam-packed with activities. It’s really their only major trip abroad, as they’re quite seriously ill. They bring with well over 100 campers, they have a ratio of 1:2.5 councillors per camper, and a full medical team and tech crew. It’s quite a large group. Many of the kids are receiving treatment throughout the trip itself.

My father had handled the logistics of the trip for more than the last decade. He did logistics professionally, and through his connections enabled the trip to have a better experience time after time, building on it with each visit. I had assisted him with this special group several times, and was always amazed at what he managed to accomplish.

He passed away early this year. One of the first responses to the news of his passing were questions as to how the group would be able to visit this July. I took it upon myself to try to step up, and carry out what had been carried out before.

With still no idea HOW I actually managed to accomplish it….I did. Liaison with national organisations such as the CAA, airport operations/security, baggage handling, airline operations/security – it all went through. Everyone was more than willing to help out, and I am most deeply grateful to everyone involved.

It really has been a lesson in seeing that if you really do put your mind to something, it’s (usually) achievable, and I am extremely happy that I was able to help out and assist with things running as smoothly as they did

Marketing and Brand

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My current logo is quite standard (I’ve actually used it for a number of years for some things). But it’s not quite what I’m wanting for this. Therefore a logo rebrand is now being kicked off – results to hopefully be displayed soon!

As mentioned by many people, it’s vitally important to have a consistent theme and brand. It’s also important to cover the multiple different channels available.

Additionally I’ve now registered both Twitter and YouTube channels! This will push my comfort zone (for YouTube at least), but will hopefully be good.

Stay tuned!

Reflections on the last year (or so)

Whilst on the commute into the office this morning, I got to thinking about the last year or so, and how far I’ve come along in that time. If I went back in time to spring/summer 2018, I don’t think I’d have ever (accurately) forecast my development and status that I’ve undergone over that time (both personally and professionally).

A major impetus and assistance for some of the progression has been down to the wonderful people that I’ve met (as well as my family, of course). Without the network that I’ve built up, I would most certainly not be where I am now.

So this post is to say….

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…to all of the people who I’ve met:

  • The Dynamics Community (CRMUG and others)
  • The MVP’s who I’ve reached out to with questions (ok – some of the questions ‘may’ have been silly, in hindsight!)
  • The SME’s who I’ve pinged to find out more
  • The people who helped me with setting up this blog (as I had no idea what I was doing)
  • The conversations where I joined in, even though it wasn’t directly relevant to me
  • All of the assistance with introductions and interviews
  • The training for taking exams (documented in blog posts here already)
  • The great suggestions
  • The social meets

And last but NOT least, to the support and patience that my family provided me with.

I can only pay back in a small part. What I can do, however, is copy your examples and do my best to help others as well – ‘Pay It Forward’ (which has been touched on before).

So if I may be able to help with something, even in a small way, please reach out 🙂

Training & Certifications – Success!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post ( https://thecrm.ninja/2019/05/08/training-certifications/), I’ve been updating my knowledge and studying for the MBP-900 exam.

At the same time, I’ve also been studying for the MB2-15 and MB2-716 exams, in order to attain the MCSA qualification. These had an inherent deadline, as the 716 exam and MCSA qualification are ending at the end of June 2019.

Once I felt that my knowledge level was up to the necessary levels, I went to book all three of them! My preference is to take the exam using the Remote Proctored method, whereby you use your own system, and the audio/video is monitored by a remote exam proctor. They check the workspace, room (to make sure that no-one else is there), and keep an eye on things.

The date for my exams was June 19th 2019 (yesterday). I staggered the exams to give some time between each to relax and get ready for the next one.

Amusingly as part of the whole process, I memorised the script that the proctors use…which didn’t necessarily endear me to them, as they’re not allowed to skip any part of it 😀

Having taken the 715 and 716 (and passing!), this then resulted in the MCSA award. Knowing that the MCSE was tantalisingly in reach (and also stopping at the end of June 2019), and only needing one more exam to attain, I decided to book the 717 exam for late afternoon – I’ve been looking at the material for it, but wasn’t sure if I would be able to pass it or not.

The next exam was the MBP-900. This is the new format of exam (only lasting for an hour, with around half the number of questions of the previous exams…at least that’s what I had during it). Thankfully due to the marvellous course by Julian, I was extremely well prepared, and sailed through it. One question didn’t make sense at all, so had to guess it – not sure if I answered correctly or not….

Then the last exam of the day was the 717. I took more time on this than any of the others (almost ran out of time), due to not having spent a lot of time studying the material. Thankfully….I managed to JUST scrape in with a PASS!. And as a result, also got the MCSE for Business Apps.

Many thanks to Mark Smith for the motivation, Julian Sharpe for the MBP-900 training course, Neil Parkhurst for the materials on his blog, and many others as well.

All in all, an intense day, but with a real feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment from it. And not to forget – I also get badges! Woop woop

Microsoft Stack Part 2: Office365

Microsoft: Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 is a software-as-a-service which allows access to a suite of applications through a subscription-based model. Office 365 can be used for both home and business use, and is available on premises and through the cloud (note that some of the extended functionality is only available through desktop applications; access to these will depend on the level of license purchased).

Word

Word is a word processing application which is used to create, edit and format written documents for both home and business use, and it is available in every subscription level across the Office 365 platform. It can also be purchased separately outside of a subscription.

Word has wide applications in the business world as it can be used to create any sort of business document, such as proposals, reports, plans and memos. Templates for these documents can be found in both Word itself as well as online, allowing users to create their documents without having to waste time formatting documents. Also, due to the range of design options available in these templates, users can choose templates which fit the culture of the organisation.

With collaboration, it is possible for multiple people to be viewing and editing a single document at the same time.

Excel

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Excel is a widely-used spreadsheet software that allows users to calculate, analyse and visualise data. Like Word, it is part of the core applications suite and is available as part of every subscription package for both home and business use. It can also be purchased separately.

At the most basic level, Excel can be used for entering and storing data. The program, however, has far more capabilities than this, and contains around 500 functions to carry out a vast amount of different tasks, ranging significantly in complexity. The functions available range from simple, everyday functions such as sum, average and count, to more complex and specific functions such as the ACCRINTM function which calculates the interest accrued on a security which only pays interest at maturity. Due the vast capabilities of the program through the functions available, Excel has wide application in the business world and can be a powerful tool for organisations.

Excel also has the ability to use the data within it to create graphs, charts, pivot-tables and other items. This allows for data to be able to be presented visually, enabling people to quickly see an overall picture of the data.

It’s also possible to connect Excel to other data sources (either as a once-off, or with a continual link). This can allow data held elsewhere (e.g. Dynamics365) to be manipulated further within Excel itself. Examples of scenarios for this include comparing and utilising multiple data sources to create an overall dataset.

With collaboration, it is possible for multiple people to be viewing and editing a single spreadsheet at the same time.

PowerPoint

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Microsoft PowerPoint is a program which offers users the ability to create presentations to display information. PowerPoint come with a wide range of templates for a number of different kinds of documents which can be used to customise the way in which information is presented on the slides. This allows staff to focus their time on the information and data rather than on formatting.

Further information can be found in the documentation for ‘Microsoft Presentations’

OneNote

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OneNote is a notebook software which enables users to capture ideas, take notes and create task lists. Notes can be created using text, audio recordings, videos and highlighting and annotating text. Users can organise their notes into pages and sections and notebooks, and can easily share their work with others.

Benefits of OneNote include:

  • Taking notes & gathering information on any device.
  • Synced on all devices for anytime access to notes.
  • Create notebook sections inside books.
  • Create notebook sections inside notebooks
  • Create pages & subpages inside sections
  • Handling mathematical formulae natively

OneNote is also optimised for touchscreen and tablets, allowing users to enter data directly without using a keyboard. Benefits of this include being able to draw diagrams directly into documents, placing flow diagrams easily, etc.

It’s also possible to directly implant other files that can then be referenced, such as saving images from the web, articles from news-sites, and other items.

Access

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Access is a database software which allows users to collect, store, sort and manipulate databases. Access and Excel are similar in that they both store data in columns and rows, and can carry out similar tasks, but there are important differences between the two applications and how they are used by organisations. Access is more focused towards for working with databases, and as a result it has a much greater storage capacity than Excel, which is not designed for storing large amounts of data. It is also preferable to use Access to handle large amounts of records, for example, as the manipulation of the data is more productive and it can ensure consistency and accuracy.

When looking at implementing database systems, it could also be useful to consider using Microsoft SQL Server as the database layer for large/complex solutions.

Access is available in the more premium subscriptions for home and office use. Alternatively, it can be purchased separately outside of a subscription.

Publisher

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Publisher is a publishing application (only accessible through a desktop application, not as a hosted product) that comes with the more enterprise Office365 licenses, or as a stand-alone application. Publisher differs from Word, which is Microsoft’s flagship word processing application. Word is for writing documents, whether they be long or short with the tools to add page numbering, footnotes, tables of content, indexes, references and annotation. Publishing on the other hand specialises in creating newsletters, brochures, and greeting cards that have graphically rich content and require precise positioning of text and graphics.

Publisher comes with many templates specifically designed for most printed media with pre-positioned placeholders for text and graphics. This makes it easy to choose the layout that best suits the application, for example a newsletter and then start adding text and graphics to suit.

Everything that Publisher does is about creating an aesthetically pleasing layout, formatting and the control that the designer has over objects on a page. Images and even blocks of text are all elements to Publisher and they can be positioned anywhere on the page. Additionally, all these elements are independent of one another. Changes to one element’s position, colour or size doesn’t affect any other element.

Microsoft Stack Part 1: Outlook

Microsoft: Outlook

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Outlook is a communication and information management software that allows users to connect and organise their email accounts, address book, calendars and task list. Although Outlook is mainly used for its email functionality, users can also enter appointments and events on the calendar application, add contact information in the address book and create lists of tasks to carry out.

It is possible to be able to connect to different types of email account (Exchange, Office365, POP3, IMAP etc). Different functionalities within Outlook will depend on the account and integration type (eg the Outlook Calendar will not synchronise back to a cloud provider if connecting to it through POP3). However there are various third-party add-ons that can provide and extend the functionality to accounts and devices

Outlook is available for both personal and business use across the Microsoft Office suite in every level of subscription offered. It can be accessed through the Outlook desktop application, or the Outlook web interface

Mail

Mail, the email component of Outlook allows users to send and receive emails, create folders and set filters to sort incoming emails into these folders, send emails at a future date, edit and manage rules for specific events and use conditional formatting.

It’s possible to flag emails visually with different colours, or to mark them as a Task (which will then appear in the Task list).

Using Rules, workflows can be set up to auto-route emails to specific folders based on the sender, subject, etc. This can assist with de-cluttering the general Inbox for users, allowing them to be more efficient. It’s also possible to set up more complicated workflows (eg auto-responders) quite easily

Calendar

The calendar component within Outlook can be used to create, edit and search for appointments and reminders, track RSVPs, manage multiple calendars, share your calendar with specific people and use the scheduling assistant to check whether attendees are free on certain dates.

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There is the ability to be able to delegate control of a calendar to other people, with varying degrees of access. This can allow someone else to manage the calendar on behalf of the user, as well as arrange meetings for them.

Appointments can be scheduled with both internal company contacts, as well as external contacts.

Outlook lets users schedule resources like meeting rooms, projectors, etc simply by adding them as a resource to a meeting. The resource then functions just like any attendee, including the ability to auto-respond to the meeting invite as well as the ability to see the free/busy schedule.

People

The contacts part of Outlook, known as People, allows users to create, edit and search for contacts, place contacts into folders, and link contact accounts to Twitter and LinkedIn. Users of People can also import their contacts from friends, followers and connections on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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When using Exchange, the People section of Outlook can be used to import information for other company users and/or contacts from the Exchange Global Address Book.

Tasks

In the task manager component of Outlook, users can create, manage and organise the tasks that need to be undertaken as part of a project. Tasks allows users to create tasks, share and assign them to others, prioritise and categorise them, track tasks by time and monitor their status and progress, amongst other things.