Thursday, December 31, 2015

My top 10 must read business books

This is always a work in progress but I’ll start by listing out my current top 10 business books and then if this changes over time I’ll republish them. I do read a lot of books and it takes something pretty special to break into this top 10 so I can’t see it changing that much. However, I certainly recommend each and every one of these books as an absolute must read for anyone and especially anyone running a business.

You can follow all the books I read and want to read over at Goodreads where I have an account. You can also view my activity via:

or just follow me on Facebook:

Here’s my current top 10 in order:

1. The Art of War – Sun Tzu

The all time classic on strategy. As relevant today as it ever was. A very short read but very deep.

2. The Millionaire Fastlane – M.J. DeMarco

I love the brutal honesty of this book. It doesn’t mince words about what it takes to shift from a pay check to actually living the life you want.

3. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

The world is all about not what you know but who you know. This book explains exactly how this works and how to use it to your advantage.

4. The Four Hour Work Week - Tim Ferriss

Many people believe this book is about shirking responsibility. It is in fact a blueprint for how to free up your time to do things you want and enjoy. It will challenge the way you look at your career.

5. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth - T. Harv Eker

Successful are defined by a different mindset. This mindset can be learned. It can be trained. This is a great book to show you how to do just that.

6. Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even If You Hate Marketing and Selling - Michael Port, Tim Sanders

You can’t survive in business without a steady flow of customers. Selling people is the wrong approach, you instead need to attract them to your business. This book helps you achieve exactly that.

7. Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level - Mark Divine

Another mindset book. Business is not always going to be easy or take the intended route. This is when you need to have the determination to see your plans through to success. This book shows you how to develop the mental toughness to make this happen.

8. The E-Myth – Michael Gerber

The classic on ‘procedurising’ your business and creating a structure that doesn’t need you to survive. The simple secrets inside this book can transform any business from hardship to joy.

9. Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine - Mike Michalowicz

Business is about making a profit. This then gives you the freedom to do what you want with that profit. This book helps you focus on profit and setting up systems to make the most of the profit you generate.

10. The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy - by Lewis Howes

A great summary book of many of the things you need to remember when it comes to leading a successful life. This book nicely encapsulates most.

These books make my top 10 list because I have read them all multiple times and continue to do so. No matter how many times I read them I always get something from them.

Let me know what you think. Do these work for you? What’s your top 10? I’d love to hear.

Recommended reading from 2015

I get through a lot of books during the year but here’s my recommended list from what I read in 2015 in no particular order.

The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

Checklist are the way to ensure you perform in a standard and repeatable manner. They allow you to focus on getting things done and prevent missing steps or making mistakes. This is a great book that reminds of the power of checklists and why you should be using them every day.

The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod

Those who get up early get more done and are more successful. After reading this book I changed my morning routine to get up much earlier and it is amazing how much more I get done first thing following the suggestions and guidance from this book. If you really want to get more done in your day, read this book.

Profit First – Mike Michalowicz

Another great book that had a major impact in the way I manage money. I like that it keeps things simple and focuses on the money after all expenses (i.e. profit). if you run a business or struggle to save for a goal I’d highly recommend you read this book.

Sleep Smarter – Shawn Stevenson

The key to so many aliments we experience in the modern world is to get more sleep. This book helps you understand why sleep is so important for optimal mental and physical performance. I am still struggling with eliminating technology before bedtime as recommended within the pages but I am getting better and so is my sleep after reading this book.

The School of Greatness – Lewis Howes

A revisit for me of many of the best things I’ve learnt via other books. However, it is always good to have it re-inforced and this is great book to ensure you are across the things you need to be great. There is always room for more common sense and motivation and you’ll find it in this book.

Extreme Leadership – Jocko Willnik and Leif Babin

A book with a strong military focus which I do find both appealing and interesting. Whether on the battlefield or life to be a leader means owning and fixing the problem even if you didn’t create it. Doing so with grace and humility is tough but that what being extreme is all about. Leadership is a skill and can therefore be learned and is something can make a huge impact when applied correctly. This book gives you insight into how to go about that.

Any of these books I suggest you’d find very worthwhile and you’d certainly take away some lessons. As they say – readers are leaders – and I certainly subscribe to that so set aside some time every day and watch yourself grow as a result.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Less is more

The problem is a feeling of overwhelm and indecision that can grip you whether in life or in business. This is a reaction generally to the amount of choice and things that we need to worry about. However, in most cases we have brought this angst down on ourselves through the constant accumulation of things we really don’t need and no longer use.

A great discipline to get into is eliminate such things by doing a regular ‘clean out’. Many people are habitual hoarders and struggle to get rid of anything they have collected. What they don’t realise is that each and every item is weighing them down and taking up precious ‘space’ in their lives and more importantly, in their minds. This means they don’t have the ‘space’ available when an opportunity presents itself.

Let’s start by looking in your wardrobe. How many items of clothes do you have that you no longer wear? What about your drawers? How many old pair of socks are you holding onto because you believe they are somehow lucky or you fear running low? I’ll wager lots and lots. Unfortunately, the only real function they are serving is simply taking up space.

A great place to start de-cluttering your life is to focus on your wardrobe. Go through each item and honestly ask yourself if you really need it. Even if you think you do, could you buy it again if you really wanted? Finally, ask yourself when was the last time you actually wore that item. if you can’t remember, then it’s a great candidate to go. If you are disciplined about this approach and stay strong you’ll be surprised at how much you can eliminate. Give what you don’t need to charity and then take a look at how much free space you now have in your wardrobe. No more having to squeeze items onto the clothes rack. No more being unable to close drawers. Life with less is so much better but this is only the start.

Next, take a look at your workspace. What doesn’t need to be there? What papers and items are you just keeping for the sake of it? Do you really need or use all those Post-It notes? If you really want to keep the papers then scan them and ditch the paper. Most of the stuff you are hoarding at your desk can be purchased again if really needed so be ruthless, what do you REALLY need to get the job done? if you don’t need it, ditch it and don’t look back.

The removal of clutter extends everywhere, even into your digital file system. If you go through all those files you keep on your hard disk or in the cloud do you really need them? Sure, you can probably keep them because there is the space but each item you elect to keep simply adds to the clutter. What happens when you need to find that one file amongst all the clutter? What happens if you need to backup or move those files? The clutter goes along with it. If you really can’t press the delete key on your stuff then I’d suggest you create an archive areas seperate from your day to day data and move the low priority stuff there. Keep the information you work on day to day as clear as possible.

De-cluttering is an essential skill in today’s modern world. We are all adept at accumulating “stuff” we think we need, personally and in business. The more we add, the harder it becomes to manage and more it costs us mentally because we worry about it, consciously or subconsciously. Keeping it simple is unfortunately not simple at all and requires discipline. The way you achieve that discipline is by regularly de-cluttering everything about your life. If you start small, like with your wardrobe, you’ll find it easier when you move onto other areas. The more you use your de-cluttering muscle the stronger it becomes.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that de-cluttering is only a discipline you apply personally, it should be something you apply to your business as well. Regularly. All the stuff you have in your business is weighing you down and drawing your focus away from the opportunities available because you don’t have the space to deal with them. When de-cluttering your business, ask yoruself whether the item in question is helping you achieve success. If not, then it is probably weighing you down and distracting you from success. No matter how big or small the item, if it isn’t helping your towards your goals you are probably better off without it.

De-cluttering improves focus, frees the mind from the unnecessary and promotes discipline. It is therefore an essential skill of the successful but one that anyone can achieve if they simply set their mind to it. Start small and you’ll be amazed at how easy it actually becomes to de-clutter your life and open yourself up to the opportunities around us. Less is always more.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Beware of malware Office 365 statements


It’s taken a little while but the bad guys have taken to impersonating Office 365 billing statements like the one shown above. Unless you check REALLY closely you’d click on the links provided and get your machine infected with something evil like Cryptolocker.

As always, the best defence is to be careful when clicking links and downloading attachments inside emails, even if they look legit.

The average user really doesn’t stand a chance as I have highlighted many times:

Why the bad giys always win

Paranoia is therefore your best defense, so be paranoid, REALLY paranoid when it comes you emails wanting you to click something, even those that appear to come from Office 365!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CIAOPS SharePoint Level 1 course now available



Following on from my Getting Started With SharePoint course I am happy to announce that the follow-on course, SharePoint Level 1, is now available at the CIAOPS Academy.

SharePoint skills is the biggest thing I find that is holding most Office 365 users back. This is because SharePoint is all about collaboration rather than simple storage. That means it has far more features and functionality than people appreciate. Understanding what SharePoint is actually capable of helps people to utilise SharePoint better to solve their business challenges.

My courses are designed to show you what SharePoint can do via focused on-demand video tutorials, reinforced with download PDF lesson notes.

The new course is available on demand and contains 25 lessons:

1. SharePoint structure overview

2. Introduction to Email Alerts in SharePoint

3. Introduction to Document Approvals in SharePoint

4. Changing the Site Title, Logo and URL

5. Document Check In/Out

6. Connecting SharePoint to Access

7. Content types

8. Creating sub sites

9. Introduction to Lookup Columns

10. Advanced List Editing

11. Working with Document Library Versioning

12. Introduction to Views

13. Using Promoted Links

14. Create a SharePoint Document Library Template

15. Using a template to migrate a SharePoint Library

16. Creating and using Site Columns

17. Creating and Editing Site pages

18. Adding a Yammer feed to SharePoint

19. Displaying Linked Lists

20. Getting Started with InfoPath

21. Saving a SharePoint Online Site as a Template

22. Creating a new Site Collection

23. Using a Site Template with a new Site Collection

24. Deleting a SharePoint Online Site Collection

25. Getting Started with SharePoint Designer

It is designed follow on from the Getting Started course and add to your SharePoint knowledge and help you make better use of SharePoint in your business. This course will help you become more of a SharePoint Power User.

The course is available stand alone or now combined into a SharePoint Quickstart package that also includes the original Getting Started course.

I have already commenced work on next SharePoint course which will take up where this Level 1 course finishes, so stay tuned.

You can find all my online courses at

Friday, December 18, 2015

A new CIAOPS SharePoint online course is coming

My Getting Started With SharePoint Online course is available via two methods:

Delivered via email


On demand

I am just putting the final touches to my follow up 25 part SharePoint Level 1 online course that picks up from the Getting Started course and I’ll be posting it to the CIAOPS Academy before Christmas 2015.

ANYONE who has already signed up to one of my online courses at will receive a 50% discount on this new SharePoint Level 1 course when it becomes available.

So, if you have already taken one of my online courses then you’ll just need to keep an eye on your inbox for your discount code on or around Christmas. If you haven’t already taken one of my online courses then you might want to sign up to an existing course before December 25, 2015 to ensure you get the special 50% discount on the new course when it becomes available.

You’ll find all my online courses at

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A story with a happy ending

Open Live Writer

By now you should appreciate that I spend a lot of time blogging, not only here but in many other places on the web. When I first started out my blog was running on proprietary software I hosted on my own server. From there I moved to a public SharePoint blog that I also maintained on my own infrastructure. Eventually, I ended up on Blogger for various reasons and the offline tool that I used to craft posts was Windows Live Writer which Microsoft made available for free.

Over the years Microsoft has moved away from maintaining and updating Windows Live Writer which I can totally understand, especially being a free product. Problem was the Internet continued to evolve and was slowly but surely creeping towards being more secure. This meant that Blogger (a Google property) also became more secure in the way it handled authentication.

Doing so back in June 2015 this new autehntication broke the ability for Windows Live Write to post successfully to Blogger. The summary of my experiences are here:

Back with Blogger

As I expressed in that post, I was concerned about the way forward with Windows Live Writer because the writing was on the wall for it no longer being maintained. Kudos to both Microsoft and Google for working together on solving this and for Google to extending the older autentication for another 6 months.

Fast forward to a few days ago and BAMB, unable to post again (the 6 month lifeline was over). The support forums again lit up with people crying, screaming, begging for the problem to be rectified.

Scott Hanselman from Microsoft announced on December 9 that Windows Live Writer was being forked to an open source product called Open Live Writer. You read about it here:

Only problem was the new Open Live Writer still didn’t support the ability to post to Blogger. However, the encouraging news was that some smart people were working on solving the problem.

Martin Woodward from Microsoft who is an author and contributor on the project left a comment on my post:

Windows Live Writer not working with Blogger again

to let me know the issue was being worked on as a priority. Cool, just needed to be patient.


I then received a reply to a tweet from Scott Hanselman that there was now a version of Open Live Write that supported posting to Blogger.


So I popped back over to:

downloaded the latest version and installed it.

One of things I was worried about was the fact that I have two factor authentication enabled on my Google account. Would Open Live Writer handle this? Yes it did! In a better way than before when I had to use one time applications passwords with Windows Live Writer.

So after publishing a test post to confirm all was in order I am now back on the blogging train and normal service will continue.

Firstly, thank you to EVERYONE who worked to resolve this issue. You have no idea I suspect of how many souls you have pleased. It demonstrates the greatness of people when they work together (remembering that both Windows Live Writer and Open Live Writer are free products).

I look forward to continued improvements with Open Live Writer going forward (some stuff still needs doing but that is minor) and again thank everyone who made this piossible. You are legends!

I love Open Live Writer

Open Live Writer

Hopefully this means we’re back!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Windows Live Writer not working with Blogger again

Windows Live Writer has once again stopped working with Blogger. This means I can't post until things get fixed. Live Writer has recently been open sourced by Microsoft but that project also doesn't work with Blogger. Hopefully it gets sorted soon and I can back to posting.

Very frustrating and may have to consider alternatives if the situation continues.

Hang in there, back soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Power BI adds Cortana integration


One of the regular Power BI demos that i do involves using the natural language query engine at the top of the dashboard. The above example is from a spreadsheet I uploaded to my Power BI environment that contains information about all the Olympic medal winners.


So if I now type total medals by country into the query Power BI automatically provides me with the visualisation as you see above.


But if I wake Cortana up by saying “hey cortana” and then asking “total gold medals australia by sport” you’ll see from above that it comes back with some Power BI suggestions.


If I now select one of these you’ll see that it pulls the information from that same spreadsheet I was just using in Power BI.

That now means Cortana is integrated with Power BI! Pretty cool eh? So how do you configure that?

The first step in the process is to integrate Office 365 and Cortana. I have detailed that previously at:

Connecting Cortana to Office 365

Next, you’ll need to go into the Power BI Dashboard for the data set you wish to integrate with Cortana.


Select the COG in the top right corner of the dashboard for the dataset and then the Settings option from the menu that appears.


Ensure you have the desired dataset selected on the left. Then on the right ensure option Enable Cortana to access this dataset is checked.

Now users who have access to that Power BI dataset and have Cortana enabled and linked to their Office 365 account can query data by voice or simply by typing into the search box.

Another REALLY impressive new features is Quick Insights. Here I’ll use the Chicago Crime Statistics spreadsheet that I’ve also uploaded into my Power BI environment.


Select the ellipse (three dots) to the right of the data source under the Datasets heading in the lower left of the Power BI screen.

From the menu that appears (shown above) select View Insights.


You’ll now see a list of discovered “insights” displayed as shown above. But how are these “insights’ generated?

Power BI’s new Quick Insights feature allows you to run a variety of analytical algorithms on your data to search for potential insights with the click of a mouse. Through a partnership with Microsoft Research, we’re honing a growing list of algorithms to discover and visualize correlations, outliers, trends, seasonality, change points in trends, and major factors within your data, automatically, within seconds.

It gets even more impressive than that as detailed here:

Announcing Power BI integration with Cortana and new ways to quickly find insights in your data

Aside from all the new cool Power BI stuff the integration with Cortana illustrates another benefit of the Microsoft platform and how services like Cortana are being integrated across everything!

This stuff just keeps getting better!

Microsoft Devices Day Slides

I was lucky enough to be recently involved with the Microsoft Devices Day Roadshow around Australia, during which I presented on Office 365. 

The first session was news around Office 365. That presentation is shown above and can be downloaded from my site directly at:

The second session I presented was all around building offerings beyond just simple email with Office 365. 

You’ll find the slides from that session above as well as at:

This second session was more focused on white boarding solutions around Office 365 and that may not come across in the deck. However, there is other stuff in there that may benefit people so feel free to download it.

If you have any questions about these sessions, whether you attended or not, feel free to contact me as I’m happy to share with your directly more details on either of these.

I take this opportunity to thank Microsoft for the opportunity to present as well as everyone who attended.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Need to Know podcast–Episode 94

I’m joined by a returning guest, Microsoft MVP Troy Hunt to discuss the Ashley Madison hack and the impact that it had on Troy’s site Have I been Pwned? You’ll not only get a fascinating look inside a high profile hack but you’ll also learn a lot about Azure and how Troy utilises it effectively to handle the scale required for just such an event.

As always, a big thank you to Marc Kean for producing this episode and doing the intro and outros.

You can listen to this episode at:

or subscribe to this and all episodes in iTunes at:

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send me any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show. I’m also on the hunt for some co-presenters so if you are interested on being a regular part of the show please contact me.


Troy Hunt

Have I Been Pwned

Office 365 E5 SKU

Power BI adds Bing content pack

OneDrive for Business shared link expiry now available

Azure Backup now does servers

Microsoft Findtime

Enterprise Mobility Suite

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Power BI adds Bing content pack


Power BI is a free (yes the basic offering is free) tool from Microsoft that allows you to analyse and report on data from all sorts of sources. You can upload your own spreadsheet for analysis and you can use the built in contents packs as you see above.

Microsoft has just release the Bing content pack for Power BI allowing you to analyse search terms.


To configure, all you need to do is all the Bing content pack from the Data Sources option. You’ll then need to enter a search term you wish to track (here “Office 365”.


Then you’ll get a dashboard you can start configuring.

The only limitation at the moment for the Bing Content Pack is that it doesn’t support the natural language query that the other content packs do. Hopefully, that feature will be coming in the future because that would really be a killer addition.

In the mean time, if you haven't had a look at Power BI head over to:

and sign for a free account and start making your data visual.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

OneDrive for Business expiration of share links now available


You should find, if not already then soon, that you can now set an expiry time on something you share from your OneDrive for Business as shown above.

This gives you much greater control over your files by being able to automatically revoke access to information after a certain number of days.

This ability is not yet available in SharePoint Team Sites but I would expect to appear there soon as well.

For more information on sharing files from your OneDrive for Business see:

Share documents or folders in Office 365

Azure Backup now does servers

Azure backup has allowed to backup up files and folders from servers and workstations to Azure very quickly, easily and cheaply. I have detailed this previously at;

Azure desktop backup

As announced here:

Announcing Microsoft Azure Backup Server

Azure backup now has the ability to backup server workloads like Exchange, SharePoint and SQL to both a local storage location as well as to Azure storage.This means that it can not only protect files and folders but all of the data on premises just as quickly and easily as it could for files and folder, however now there is also the added ability to have a local copy of the backup as well.

This now makes Azure backup a really compelling option for any business and provides the flexibility many demand.


To get started have a look at the above links or login to your Azure backup vault and download the Application Workload client to get started.

Microsoft Findtime

Microsoft has just released a new product for Office 365 that allows you to more easily schedule meetings with both people inside and outside your organisation.

Take a look at these two videos for more information.

Basically, it is a add-in for Outlook on your desktop and your Outlook Online.


When you select the meeting poll button you’ll get a new pane in your Outlook on the desktop like that shown above where you can select a few options for a meeting to send to every one.


You can then post those option into the email and send it off, in this case, to someone outside the organisation. If they were inside the organisation you would see their availability.


The recipient receives the email invite with a link to a page as shown above allowing them to vote on a suitable times.


You get the same style of interface from Outlook Online as you can see above when requesting an appointment.


You receive notification of those preferences as shown above.


Once the times are clear for everyone the meeting is automatically finalised.


A new calendar appointment item is automatically added to everyone inside your organisation with the meeting details as shown above.


While those outside the business receive a normal calendar appointment, as shown above, in an email they can accept and add to their calendar.


You can now also login to a web dashboard to see and manage your appointment requests as you see above.

I’ve only started to play around with Findtime but I gotta say it is really cool and is going to be a big benefit to many people. Best part? It’s free for Office 365 subscribers, so go to

and get started today!

Enterprise Mobility Suite

I did a presentation recently on the Enterprise Mobility Suite for Microsoft and have uploaded the slides (Above) to my for you to download if you want. You’ll find the direct link at:

The main benefits I see of using the product is the fact that you get Azure AD Premium which means added features like password write back and more functionality in the Azure Single Sign On Portal amongst other things. There is plenty to commend EMS to customers but the first start for resellers is to understand the product.

Here are some additional links that I found relevant but didn’t include during my research:

Supported SaaS apps -

Deploying the Azure RMS connector -

Advanced Threat Analytics -

Advanced Threat Analytics Installation -

Although I did include this link to a presentation on Advanced Threat Analytics from Microsoft Ignite in May I’ll repeat it here because I think that anyone interested in what this product can do should take a look. It is also really cool technology as well, so even if you don’t you’d deploy I’d still encourage you to take a look.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Office 365 E5 is here

After an announcement earlier this year Microsoft has released a new Office 365 suite plan called E5.

E5 will replace the current E4 plan that will be retired over the next 12 months. What does E5 include? Basically it includes everything E4 included but adds services like:

  • PSTN Conferencing provides the flexibility to dial in to a meeting from a traditional phone, in addition to the existing ability to join a meeting with a single click on your PC or mobile device.
  • Skype Meeting Broadcast makes it easier than ever to produce large virtual meetings for up to 10,000 meeting attendees, who can join from virtually any browser or device. Now Skype for Business truly is a single platform for every type of meeting.
  • Cloud PBX enables companies to eliminate separate PBX systems and transition to the cloud with Office 365 as the central location to manage users for communication and
  • With PSTN Calling, Office 365 customers can also subscribe to Microsoft managed calling plans and phone numbers, starting in the U.S. with more markets coming later.
  • Delve Analytics—Empowers individuals through rich dashboards that provide insights on time and relationships, with the goal of helping individuals get time back and spend it effectively.
  • Power BI—A business analytics service that enables information workers to visualize and analyze data with greater speed, efficiency and understanding through live data dashboards, interactive reports and compelling visualizations.
  • Customer Lockbox—Gives customers new approval rights, transparency and control over their data in the cloud.
  • Advanced eDiscovery—Integrates Equivio machine learning, predictive coding and text analytics capabilities, to reduce the costs and challenges that come along with sorting through large quantities of data for eDiscovery purposes.
  • Advanced Threat Protection—Protects against unknown malware and viruses by applying behavioural analysis.

For more information about the E5 SKU including pricing visit:

Office 365 Enterprise E5 overview and documentation

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Join the CIAOPS Office 365 Tech email newsletter

One of the greatest challenges faced by IT Professionals today is simply keeping up with the technology. The problem is there are so many different sources that it comes from as well as the volume that it flows at.

What makes it even more difficult for todays IT Professional is that they need to be able to administer the systems as well as assist end users get the most from the same systems. This means understanding both the front and back end of systems. In effect that means keeping abreast of the twice the amount of information.

I do my best to provide the best quality of technical information via a number of sources but not all information is relevant to all audiences. With that in mind I have created an new email list dedicated to IT professionals and administrators of products like Office 365. It is aimed at providing technical information about the products in more depth to help administer them better.

You can sign up for this new CIAOPS Tech email list directly at:

If you are also interested in end user information via email I’d encourage you to sign up to my free 23 part SharePoint Online training course at:

because after the end of the SharePoint course the information continues with detailed emails about getting the best from Office 365 products like OneDrive, Delve and more.

Why via email? Email provides the ability to automatically collect the information, store it for later review. I have found that many people still prefer to use email as their primary source of information for these reasons.

There’ll still be plenty of detailed information in this blog and via my other social media sources as usual but if you want to receive information from me about Office 365 and the Microsoft cloud then subscribe to one or both of the above email lists as suits your needs. Of course you should also feel free to send me any suggestions, at any time, about what topics you’d like to see covered on these lists as I want them to be as relevant as possible.

As always, I appreciate people consuming what I produce via various channels and I look to continue to improve what is offered.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Office 365 Service Trust Portal


Security is a journey not a destination and that’s what makes it so hard when dealing with technology. One of the things that I believe that makes Office 365 the best product on the market is Microsoft’s commitment to security and compliance. A great place to start if you aren’t already aware is the

Office 365 Trust center

which has a huge amount of information around security for products like Office 365. If you have a security question about Office 365, start there.

What you may not be aware of is that Microsoft has just made available a dedicated an Office 365 Service Trust Portal for each Office 365 tenant. Once you sign up, you’ll find a vast array of security and compliance information tailored specifically for your Office 365 tenant. Here’s how you sign up.

Start by visiting:


You’ll be presented with the page shown above which you’ll need to login as an Office 365 global administrator.


After successfully logging in you need to approve access from the Office 365 Service Trust Portal to your Office 365 tenant. Simply select the Accept button to proceed.

(now for some reason I’ve had to repeat the login and accept twice a couple of times for different tenants I enabled, so if it doesn’t work the first time, simply try again)


You’ll then be asked to enter you region and industries. Simply select from the pull down options.


When you have made your selections select the Save button to the right.


In a moment or two you’ll receive a message that your configuration has been save and the Trust Portal has been updated with relevant information.


You can now navigate to the menu options on the left of the page, like Compliance Reports which are shown above. Here you will see all the security and compliance information available to you as you can see. You can also use the options at the top of the page to easily search for specific information.


One of the first options I suggest you take a look at is the Office 365 Customer Security Considerations spreadsheet. You’ll find details of this here:


You’ll find it by selecting Trust Documents from the menu on the left,


From the options on the left locate Office 365 Customer Security Considerations Preview. Selecting this will download a spreadsheet which you can save locally.


When you open the spreadsheet you should see something like that shown above.

If you take a look at all the content in the spreadsheet you’ll find links, PowerShell commands, best practices and more. There is also an Office 365 Customer Security Considerations Preview Reference Guide available from the portal to help you use the spreadsheet.

Security is a very important aspect of cloud computing and given resources like the new Office 365 Service Trust Portal I am confident that Microsoft is making available the best information needed to help both customers and resellers understand and better secure their information in their commercial services like Office 365. This is yet another reason why Office 365, for me, stands out from the pack when it comes to being serious about business cloud computing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wanna transform your current technology business?


One of the most common frustrations I see when I speak with IT businesses is the fact that they are still struggling to transform their business to the new cloud model. The challenge is independent of technology, it is about the business model and many simply don’t know what to do.

Nigel Moore and myself, who also head up Cloud Business Blueprint, have decided to address these frustration head on with a new offering called My Cloud Business.

How is My Cloud Business different? It is totally business focused and technology independent. So if your business is Office 365, Amazon, Google, etc it doesn’t matter. If you want to transform your technology business to the new cloud model then My Cloud Business is for you.

Cloud Business Blueprint will remain doing what it does so well, providing technology resellers a community to share, learn and obtain both technical and business resources from. My Cloud Business however will be the place for people who want to take the step outside the technology and learn how to structure, build and grow their business to not only adapt to the world of cloud but also thrive in it. You’ll need to be committed to this transformation. My Cloud Business is therefore not for everyone but is designed to fully support those who want to ‘step up’.

Nigel and I are busily building content for release very shortly but this is an opportunity to be an early adopter. If you sign up right now you’ll go on our mailing list to be kept abreast of everything we have planned. We also expect to provide early adopters significant benefits for supporting us early in the piece.

So, if you are struggling to transform your business to the new cloud model and are looking to step up and really exploit the opportunity it now presents then I suggest you sign up to our notification list today to get in on the ground floor. There is no obligation if you do, you’ll simply receive updates via as we bring them online.

Monday, November 23, 2015

All About Azure AD presentation

I recently did an introductory presentation on Azure AD at Infrastructure Saturday in Brisbane. You can find the presentation embedded above or directly on my site:

Hopefully it can provide benefit to some.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Getting more from Office 365 means understanding SharePoint

Would you accept purchasing a new car and it running in first gear? Of course not! You’d immediately return it to the dealer and have it fixed. I however see so many businesses running Office 365 suites that include SharePoint Team Sites and them never being used. Even worse I see SharePoint being used in first gear constantly, yet people never opting to change up gears to the next level of what SharePoint has to offer.

Why is this? I believe the answer is simply a lack of understanding about what SharePoint is, and like any knowledge, you don’t gain such insight over night or by reading a few web pages. To gain the most from SharePoint you need to change the way you view information sharing. You need to shift your mindset from storage to collaboration as I have written about previously:

The Classic SharePoint Online Migration Mistake

First gear with SharePoint is generally using it as file storage which I see many people do. The problem is if web storage is all you have planned for SharePoint how is that any different from where you store that data today? All you are doing is simply moving that data from one storage ‘bucket’ to another. Where that bucket maybe is irrelevant because it is just being used as container. Simply moving data from one location to another makes no sense. Where is the value add? What is the business benefit of data being in bucket number two? Where is the business benefit of going to all the trouble of migrating the data? Being purely pragmatic about things here, it make no business sense and generally is just incurring expense.

With SharePoint wedged in first gear many now continue to ‘load’ SharePoint up with more and more data and wonder why things aren’t magically becoming more productive. They do nothing more than just uploading files to one document library. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity is it no? In short, you are burdening SharePoint with structures and concepts that bog the service down. In short, it is like constantly driving around in first gear.

Much like a modern car, SharePoint Online has a significant number of forward gears that you can and should take advantage of. Problem is most people don’t invest the time to learn how to do this. The essence of productivity is that you invest some time up front learning how to do something better and then apply that. The payoff is never immediate, it is down the track. However, the payoff is always much greater than the initial investment because productivity scales.

In my books, you cannot use or sell Office 365 without making some investment in learning SharePoint. Everyone, I mean everyone, using Office 365 must appreciate the basics of SharePoint. They must be at least able to take the product out of first gear. Beyond that is a choice. You can certainly skill yourself up on SharePoint or you can get assistance from someone already skilled who can provide a shortcut for you.

Every top professional sports person/team has a coach. Why? Because they are looking to improve so they can be more competitive. How come the same doesn’t apply to businesses with Office 365? Why aren’t they trying to use the product to its fullest extent? Why are they not seeking the skills and knowledge to become more competitive? Why are they using it’s most mundane functionality?

SharePoint knowledge and experience is not simply going to materialise overnight. It is a transformational process that requires learned experience. There are certainly ways and means to accelerate this but it means making the commitment to making the most of a tool like SharePoint and aspiring to open the product up beyond first gear. The benefits there are well worth the effort.

Of course, the next road block people raise is about how they go about learning SharePoint? The best option is to start with a problem you need solved and try and use SharePoint to solve that. Maybe you have a need for an automated vacation request process. Maybe a need to create a shared team calendar and so on. In essence SharePoint is a tool, a very powerful tool that is at your beckoned call. Use it to solve a problem. That’s what it does best.

The next resources I will point you to are my own. Although that may appear self serving I have taken what I have learned in the field and created offerings that are tailored to exactly these introductory needs.

If your SharePoint is stuck in first gear take my

Free email SharePoint course

there you’ll get an email a day for 3 weeks with a video tutorial about one aspect of SharePoint Online including downloadable lesson notes.

If you want training immediately take a look at my online courses at the

CIAOPS Academy

which include a number of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business (which is SharePoint) courses you can sign up for immediately.

Beyond that have a look at these resources:

SharePoint courses at Microsoft Virtual Academy

SharePoint 2013 training for IT Pros

Discover SharePoint

SharePoint Online Videos and Training

Start using your Team Site and OneDrive for Business

SharePoint can transform your business productivity but you will typically need to transform the way you think about SharePoint. That transformation is not simply going to drop in your lap, you need to invest some time up front to reap the rewards as with anything worthwhile.

Look at it this way, the investment you make today means that you will be able to do tomorrow what your competition can’t.

I hope that the next time I see your SharePoint driving past it isn’t screaming in pain over the redline in first gear, it is instead accelerating away into the distance in eight gear. I’ve shown you how to start that process, now be fruitful and apply.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Introduction to SharePoint lookup columns

Introduction to Lookup Columns

One of the problems faced when implementing a good collaboration Team Site is that you need to reference the same material in multiple locations within the Team Site. It is not always possible and it is also not best practice to put all the information you require in a single SharePoint app such as a list. There are however, times when you need to reference fields from another list in a Team Site. SharePoint supports this ability natively via Lookup columns that you can insert into an app as unique columns.

Although SharePoint should not be considered as a true relational database, good design encourages the minimisation of duplicated information by separating out information into unique apps (like lists) so that it can be used in many different ways. A good example of this is a contact list that contains names, email addresses, employers, etc. That contact list may need to be referenced in an “items purchased” list as well as perhaps a “phone log” list. It doesn’t make sense to have multiple contact items, it makes more sense to have a single point of truth that once updated is valid throughout the Team Site.


In this case the lookup will be performed on an existing contact list as shown above called Members. This is why designing a good structure with Team Sites is so important, because you need the look up item needs to exist prior to using it elsewhere.


In the list in which you wish to perform the lookup from (here a list called Locations) go into the List Settings and then locate the Column area towards the middle of the page as shown above.

Select the option Create Column at the bottom of this section.


You will need to give the new column a name. Then you need select the option below Lookup (information already on this site). Scroll down the page when you have made these changes.


You can then add a description and select whether the column must contain information and have unique values. Below these options you will now be able to select where the lookup information for those column comes from.


If you select the Get information from: field you will see a list of existing Team Site apps that you can select from. In this case the Members list will be selected.


Once you have selected where to get the lookup information from the In this column: field will change to be a list of all the columns in that app as shown above (here all the columns from the Members list). Now simply select the field you wish to display from the list that is being referenced. In this case the selection will be Full Name to avoid confusion.


With these two options now selected you will see that you can also display additional columns from the list that is being looked up. This is handy because you may need to display more than a single field from the list being looked up. In the case with the members list, perhaps you need not only their full name but also their email and mobile number.

In this case the additional fields Email Address and Business Phone have been selected.


At the bottom of the list of fields that can be added from the lookup location is a selection option that also allow these fields to be automatically added to the default List View. Normally, you will leave this selected, however fields displayed by Views can easily be customised at any point in the future.


The last option that can be set is how the relationship between the two lists will be handled. Basically here you determine what happens to this list when an item in the list being looked up is deleted. If you select the option to Enforce relationship behavior and an item is deleted in the list being looked up then any items in the current list that refer to that now deleted lookuped up item will also be deleted from this list.

You want to consider this cascading delete option carefully before you enable it because it can result in unexpected data removal. Best practice is generally to always retain the data, even if it no longer refers to something in the list being looked up. Best practice is therefore to leave the Enforce relationship beahvior unchecked.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and select the OK button to save the changes.


If you now view the list you will see the additional columns just added. Here the Person column is a lookup to the Full Name field in the existing list Members and the fields Person:Email Address and Person:Business Phone are also taken from this location.


When you add a new record to this list you will only see two options (as the other fields are referenced once the lookup is performed).


If you select the Person field (which is a lookup to the Members list) you should see a list of all the rows from that location as shown above.


If you now complete a new record and save it you’ll be returned to the list summary as shown above. Because the lookup field was selected the associated values for that entry (here from the record for member Robert Crane) will automatically be populated in the email and phone fields as shown above.


You will also see that lookup field (here Person) also becomes a hyperlink that you can select.


When you do that, a dialog window will open and display that record from the list being looked up (here Robert Crane’s record). You can now edit and make changes to this looked up item quickly and easily if needed.

It is important to remember that the lookup functionality between SharePoint lists is not a true relational database. This means that there may be times when you update one field and a dependant location doesn’t appear to be updated. In this case, the information has indeed been updated but the display simply hasn’t. By viewing or editing that item you should find that the dependent information that was changed is automatically updated and displayed.

Lookup fields are an important part of designing good Team Site structures to ensure that information is not replicated in multiple locations. This however means that more time needs to be devoted to planning these linkages up front, however the payoff can be a significant reduction in overhead and complexity.