Need to Know Podcast–Episode 189

This is our follow up episode with Marcus Dervine from Webvine speaking about Digital Transformation. We continue with the transformation pillars that Marcus has outlined in his as the road to successful adoption of technologies like Office 365. Of course Brenton joins me again to catch you up on all the cloud news. We’ve tried to keep the update as short as we can as we noticed that the episodes are getting longer. We’ll do a deeper dive into updates in the next episode as we wanted to make sure there was plenty of time for our guest.

Take a listen and let us know what you think –

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Marcus’s book – Digital Transformation, from the inside out (use coupon code CIAOPS for 20% off)


Azure outage

New file template management

Mass delete notification

Passwordless Login

Windows 10 sandboxing

Windows 10 Quality updates

Need to Know podcast–Episode 185

A great interview this episode with Marcus Dervin from Webvine focused on Digital Transformation. Marcus has some real insights to share from his recent book on this very subject and we even have a special offer to listeners of this podcast to also grab a copy and learn from an experienced operator. If you are looking to digitally transform or help other business do the same, don’t miss this episode.

You’ll also get the latest round of Microsoft cloud updates from Brenton and myself as we aim to keep you up to date with the ever changing face of the cloud.

Take a listen and let us know what you think –

You can listen directly to this episode at:

Subscribe via iTunes at:

The podcast is also available on Stitcher at:

Don’t forget to give the show a rating as well as send us any feedback or suggestions you may have for the show.





Marcus’s book – Digital Transformation, from the inside out (use coupon code CIAOPS for 20% off)


Page metadata coming to SharePoint and Office 365

Idle session timeout policy in SharePoint and OneDrive is now generally available

New Office ribbon

Microsoft Surface Go

New Planner capabilities



In a recent article I wrote about how Findtime was under going a transition. Maybe, this is part of that change?

If you navigate to:

and sign up (you may need to wait to be accepted) using your Office 365 account you’ll be able to use Cortana intelligence to handle your meetings.



As you can see by the handy introduction message I received when I was approved, you simply CC the Cortana email address and allow the bot to take care of everything.

This is even better than find time because the bot takes care of all of the interactions with the other parties. is still in preview but go, sign up and give it a whirl. I think you’ll find it something as helpful as Findtime, if not more. I also expect it to improve over time, so stay tuned for further updates.

Send recurring tweets using Microsoft Flow

Much of the content that I create on my blog has value beyond just the day it was posted. This is what is known as ‘ever green’ content. I wanted a way that I could ensure that the best of this ‘ever green’ content gets posted to social media on a regular basis. This will allow new followers of mine to discover information they may not have seen since they first started following me.

Thus, for this exercise I want to have a process where I can list tweets I want to recur and have them automatically scheduled to be sent. I am currently using a third party service to achieve some of this but it does lack some features and flexibility so I decided to have a crack at soling this challenge using Microsoft Flow.

Now, I will fully admit up front that I am still bumbling around Microsoft Flow and finding out how things work. There are probably better and more efficient ways to achieve what I’m doing here but this is just my initial step and I plan to continually improve this over time. However, if you have any suggestions or know how I can do things better, by all means please let me know.

To start with, I needed a location to store my tweets. I therefore created a custom list in SharePoint in Office 365.image

The Body field is a text field of 140 characters max (as this is how long a single tweet can be) and contains what will be tweeted. The Post field is that day (date) that I want the tweet to be sent. My plan is to scan this Post field, find today’s date, then use the Body field from the matching record in the actual tweet that gets sent out. What I then wanted to do was add one year to this Post date so the same tweet would then be scheduled to re-occur next year. I’ll get to the challenges I encountered doing this shortly.

I also created a unique sequence number for each tweet so I could easily track which tweet I was dealing with in a field called Sequence. I could have used the SharePoint ID field but I wanted more control, so I created my own.


What I also wanted to be able to do was group my tweets by month (I was thinking about doing things like; May is the month of Azure and the like down the track). This field, called Month, is a calculated field as shown above. It basically gets the month value from the Post field.


Now the Next Post field was the way I solved re-scheduling the tweet for the following year. I tried all sorts of things in Microsoft Flow to update the existing Post field but none worked, so I decided to simply use a calculated field in SharePoint which you can see above. The Next Post field basically takes the date in the Post field and adds one year using the formula above. I’ll use this Next Post field to update the Post field after the tweet has occurred in the Microsoft Flow.

So now onto building the Microsoft Flow.


So I started with a Recurrence block. I want a tweet to go out daily so I set that here. You when you are testing, you may want to change this down to something like 1 minute so you can make sure things are working. You can always change it back once you are confident in your code.

The other thing that I would like to do is actually be able to exactly set what time in the day this recurrence happens. I couldn’t see how to do that so when you run the Microsoft Flow for this first time, this will be the starting recurrence point. Thus, run your Flow at the time you want it to automatically tweet during the day.


So once Microsoft Flow is activated on the daily schedule it then needs to go to the SharePoint list (here, Tweets 2) where my list of tweets is saved. It needs to get the items in this SharePoint list, so add the SharePoint Get Items block to your code and point it to the appropriate Site Address and List Name as shown above.


Now what you need to do is add a Condition block to check the SharePoint list and find a match for today’s date so you know what tweet to send. This proved a little challenging so I needed to go into the advanced mode and check the field Post using the following condition:

@equals(item()?[‘Post’], utcnow(‘yyyy-MM-dd’))

This basically will find the row in my tweets list that matches today’s date. It does that by looking through the Posts field for a match.

I couldn’t find how to do a time check in my local time zone. The only option seemed to be UTC. Again, a bit more research and I’m sure I can work it but for now my condition statement is checking UTC not my local time zone. That can mean I end up posting a different tweet from the day in my list. For now, that isn’t a big issues as I just want a tweet posted daily.


So now, thanks to the Conditional statement, we have found the record we want to tweet for the day so in the YES condition we need to add an action block to actually send out a tweet. The contents of the tweet will be the Body field. You use the Post a tweet action block to enable this.


I then added a SharePoint Update Item action block to increment the date in the Post field one year. As I said earlier, I played around with different formulas to achieve this in Microsoft Flow but didn’t have any luck. I solved it simply by adding an additional field to the SharePoint list that contains the Post date plus one year (that field I called Next Post).

Here, I update the Post field with the Next Post field so now the tweet has gone, it will automatically be rescheduled for the same date next year. And because Next Post is a calculated field it will automatically up date to a further year out ready for the next time the tweet gets posted.


When I now run my Microsoft Flow you can see that a tweet from my original SharePoint list was tweeted. For the eagle eyed, you will notice this is in fact the second listed tweet from SharePoint. That’s because of the UTC timing in the conditional statement I mentioned earlier. Thus, tweet 116 was sent, not 115. No issues but now you can also probably see why I decided to give each tweet its own unique sequence number. Makes it much easier to follow what’s being sent.


Once the tweet has been sent I look at my SharePoint list and I see that tweet 116 has had it’s Post field incremented by one year as expected (to 2018).

As I said, this is far from a complete or perfect solution. At this stage it does the job and now gives me a basis for improving and enhancing what’s there. I’ll provide updated articles when I add major improvements to this Microsoft Flow, but for now I’ve very happy with how quickly I could get this working.

Some improvements I’m now thinking of:

– Having a posted tweet simply go to the end of the queue of posts (i.e. last date) rather than adding one year to it.

– Categorising tweets via their content and being able to schedule tweets based on their tags.

– Creating a tweet campaign where tweets for something like my monthly webinars could be sent out on a regular sequence.

– Doing some similar with other social media networks such as Linkedin, Facebook, etc.

– Have blog posts I create be automatically be added to this recurring schedule.

– etc, etc. This potential is enormous.

Hopefully, this will inspire you to take a closer look at Microsoft Flow and see what it can do to automate and streamline your business. I’m going to continue playing with Microsoft Flow but also get into Azure Functions, Azure Logic Apps, Azure Run books and more as I want to automate as much as I can.

Software will eat the world!

Need to Know Podcast–Episode 136

Our focus on Microsoft Ignite Australia speakers continues. In this episode we interview Dux Raymond Si who is the CTO of Avepoint but also a Microsoft MVP and Regional Director. Dux has three great sessions at Ignite that are:

Microsoft Teams, Office 365 Groups, SharePoint, Yammer…What Should I Use, and When?

For today’s fast-paced, mobile-driven, and globally dispersed workplace, Microsoft offers tons of great ways to effectively communicate and collaborate. But which tools are right for your organisation? Solutions like Microsoft Teams, Office 365 Groups, Yammer, Skype for Business, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow all offer something unique to your business. In this interactive session, you will gain practical guidance on finding the right tools to facilitate efficient communications and collaboration both inside and outside the walls of your organisation. We’ll also explain how to drive adoption and keep your chosen solution under control. Get ready to walk away with the ability to chart a productive and pragmatic collaboration approach that delivers immediate and lasting value to your modern workplace.


How to Accelerate Office 365 Success: Develop Your Information Governance Strategy in 4 Steps

So you’ve made the decision to move to Office 365 – now how do you ensure your critical business information is secure in the cloud? In this interactive session, you will learn how to reduce risk and ensure your users do the right thing by employing industry best practices for information governance, risk, and compliance. We’ll also explain how recent enhancements from Microsoft – including Office 365 Security & Compliance Center and Azure Information Protection – as well as other related technologies can help. This session will empower you to implement proven tactics to ensure your Microsoft Cloud investment meets business needs while protecting your most sensitive data.

and finally,

3 Steps to Innovate and #HackTheStatusQuo

Innovation comes from those who hack – those who refuse to accept the way things are and pursue changes based on an idea, hunch, or instinct. Innovation doesn’t come from those who adapt themselves to fit the status quo. Believe it or not, but your organisation’s success now depends on how well you hack. You are the source of innovation and hold the keys to unlock the possibilities cloud, Internet of Things, machine learning, virtual reality, and augmented reality can create by fully understanding how to harness these technologies. Join Dux and learn his three steps to start you on your hacking journey. Learn how he helped a non-profit organisation do more good through hacking. Don’t miss what will be one of the most upbeat and stimulating sessions at Ignite Australia.

If there is ever a reason to attend Ignite then these sessions are it!

Don’t forget to send us your feedback at

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Microsoft Ignite Australia: Innovation Track – with Dux Raymond Si

AvePoint Ignite 2017 Activities

AvePoint Office 365 Groups Playbook

My software and services

Previously, I detailed the hardware that I used in my work:

My gear

In this article I’ll look at the software and services I use most.

To start with, I use Windows 10 professional on all my desktop machines and Windows Storage Server 2008 on my WD Sentinel DX4000 NAS. I have upgraded all my immediate families machines to Windows 10 without any issues as well. We are therefore a Windows 10 family through and through.

Unsurprisingly, I used Office 365 for things such as a email, OneDrive for Business, Skype, Office desktop software and the like. What maybe somewhat surprising is that, although I have access to a free Office 365 tenant from Microsoft as a partner, I don’t use this in production. I have a completely separate paid tenant for my business.

Why is that, you may ask? The main reason is that I use my Microsoft Office 365 tenant for demonstrations and testing. I don’t want production data appearing when I do demos to customers and prospects. Having to two separate tenants means complete separation of the data.

I of course use all the standard Microsoft Office desktop software such as Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc however, the key application from the suite for me is OneNote. OneNote is my go to Swiss Army knife for just about everything digital. I use it to capture all sort of data. I even use it as a diary as I have detailed previous here:

One of the ways I use OneNote

The reason OneNote is key is because:

1. Just about everything I put in there us searchable

2. It is freely available across all platforms.

3. All my information is synced and accessible on all devices.

4. It is available on the web or offline if needed.

Another key service I use everyday along with Office 365 and OneNote is Azure. Typically, I use it for running up virtual machines that I test various things with but I also use it to backup my local data as well as that of other members of my family using Azure Backup.

Azure desktop backup

There is just so much that can be done with Azure. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I could use it for. I see Azure becoming a larger and large part of what I do every day.

I use Lastpass to keep my passwords and private information secure. It allows me to do things like generate and store unique passwords for each website that I sign up for. It is also available across all browsers on my machine (including Microsoft Edge).

For a subset of my local data that I wish to remain secure I use Truecrypt to create encrypted volumes. All my my Windows 10 machines run with full disk encryption thanks to Bitlocker, but stuff like financial and customer data I keep inside Truecrypt volumes for that extra layer of security. I understand that Truecrypt is no longer maintained and may have some very minor security flaws, but for how and why I use it, it is more than adequate.

To capture my desktop for my online training academy or my YouTube channel I use Camtasia.

To compose and publish blog articles I use Open Live Writer.

To keep track of where I spend my time on my desktops I use RescueTime.

For improved email productivity I use Microsoft FindTime and Boomerang.

For chat and web meetings I use Skype for Business from Office 365. I encourage anyone to connect up to me via my address = Chat is generally always faster at resolving things than traditional email.

For protection, apart from the standard Windows 10 tools, I use Malware Bytes.

Inside my browsers I typically have the following plugins:

Lastpass which provides automated insertion of web site credentials.

Nosili which provides productivity enhancement thanks to background sounds. My favourite is rain.

Pushbullet which connects alerts from my Android phone to my dekstop browser and allow me to share information easily between them.

GetPocket which allows me to save and categorise websites URLs, which I then typically read at a later time. Has its own dedicated mobile that I can use on any device.

The Great Suspender which puts unused tabs in Chrome to ‘sleep’ to save memory.

I use the automation sites If This Then That and Zapier to automate many different tasks. A good example of one of these is automatically publishing to various social media sites.

For my Office 365 and Azure email newsletters I use Mailchimp.

My preferred public social networks for business, in order are:

1. Twitter

2. Linkedin

3. Facebook

I also use Yammer extensively but for more specialised roles and thus don’t consider it really a ‘public’ social network, more a private one.

YouTube is also something I use daily for business and pleasure. It use for both education and marketing as well as entertainment, thanks largely to the XBox YouTube app. Just wish they’d hurry up and bring the Amazon Prime Video app to the Xbox here in Australia so I can watch The Grand Tour from my bean bag.

I use a lot of other software and services but the above are the main ones I use pretty much everyday that I’m at my desk.

I am always looking for ways to improve my productivity and effectiveness with software and services. If you therefore have something you can recommend to me please don’t hesitate to let me know what it is.

Make ‘less’ your first resolution


As we approach the end of another year, many people’s mind now turn to creating resolutions for the New Year. This is a very commendable thing to do, however the reality is that most fail to follow through with such resolutions and I have an idea as to why this might be.

The majority of resolutions that people make are additive. This means that they are things are in addition to what they are already doing. Herein lies the seeds of failure I would suggest, because the most important resolutions initially are subtractive ones.

The reasons why subtractive goals are more important is because they promote focus and build the resolution muscles. How is this you make well ask? Well, if you firstly go through your life and look at what you can eliminate or minimise there is no doubt that such processes are ‘hard’. Why is that? Over time you have accumulated all this ‘’extra’ stuff and you psychologically attach value to that accumulation even though that is logically invalid. In short, because you already have it, you think that is ‘worth’ something and thus, should be retained.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. How many time have you cleaned up your desk, closet, garage, etc. and come across an item that you honestly know no longer provides value and really should be eliminated? However, the internal dialogue steps in to tell you ‘not to throw this out because you may need it’ or ‘you just never know when situation X may arise when you will need this’. Pretty common eh? We’ve all been there haven’t we?

In these situations, your will power to eliminate and focus simply hasn’t been strong enough to over come the historical belief that the item still has value. However, conversely, it much easier to add ‘stuff’ isn’t? This because there is no historical baggage with the item or desire in question. You want because you don’t have so adding is easy you believe. The problem is that by adding without making room, you are adding more mental ‘load’ and spreading yourself thinner. Doing so greatly increases your chances of failure, not of just one item but of the whole system. In short, there comes a time when you are simply juggling too many items and they all fall out of the sky.

So, if your ability to eliminate is not strong then you are going to accumulate far more than you really need. Sound familiar? The solution therefore lies in exercising your elimination muscles first. The trick if to do the unpleasant and hard stuff first, when your resolution is at its strongest. Only when the hard tasks are complete should you move onto the easier tasks of addition. If you are unable to eliminate the truly unnecessary, then you are unlikely to keep any resolutions you add. It is really as simple as that.

The constant addition of items and resolutions increases the distraction and removes our focus. The more you have, the more that you need to maintain and more mental energy you devote to maintaining these. Eliminating give you focus, it makes you truly prioritise not only what is important but what is actually required rather than potentially useful. It allows you to devote your precious and limited energy you have to what truly matters, rather than a sea of unnecessary and irrelevant material.

So before you go making new resolutions, start with the resolution of elimination. If you can’t master that one simple one then your chances of mastering anything else are slim indeed. Only the resolution of elimination will set you free and allow you to achieve your goals. So, go forth and eliminate this New Year. I think be you’ll be surprised at how focused you’ll become.

November Webinar Resources

Only on more webinar before we greet 2017! A big turn out this month and some good questions around the Power BI Office 365 content pack and Teams Sites was had and recorded. I also did a quick overview of the new Microsoft Teams and how to enable it in your Office 365 tenant.

The slides are now available for free download at:

November 2016 Need to Know Webinar

If you are not a CIAOPS patron you want to view or download a full copy of the video from the session you can do so here:

you can also now get access to all webinars via:

for a nominal fee.

I’ll be posting information about the December which at this stage looks like being around the 15th of December. As yet I haven’t settled on a topic, so if you have a suggestion of what you’d like to see a deep dive on when it comes to Office 365 please don’t hesitate to contact me (