Microsoft reveals Office 365 business road map

In a bid to publicly lure more customers to the platform, Microsoft unveils a business road map to future Office 365 enhancements and additions. The business public road map provides you with a way to learn more about upcoming updates before the change comes to your service. Microsoft new office 365 road map offer the users live updates on which new features have shipped, which are rolling out and which are under development.

Microsoft on its website has divided the Office 365 for business for road map into five categories named, Launched, Rolling out, in Development, Cancelled and Previous Releases. As per Microsoft, the new release provides the user a way to learn more about upcoming updates before the change comes to your service.

Along with Office 365 road map, in an attempt to forge a more open relationship with customers, it also announced an opt-in program called First Release that gives customers early access to new features.

Both the road map and First Release are targeted at business and institutional customers, not consumers. Consequently, Office 365 for business road map does not apply to Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal.

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Microsoft releases Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Office 2013

In its latest announcement, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 (SP1) at the 2014 Share Point Conference last week. The SP1 is a set of office products including Office 2013, Share Point 2013 and Exchange Server 2013. SP1 with greater stability and functionality is now available to download from the Microsoft download center. Office 2013 customers have to wait for another 30 days to get windows update notification on SP1 download. Microsoft made the release through their official blog (Office Blogs).

Office 2013 SP1 offers:

• Best support on web-based content management and modern hardware devices
• Enhanced security and improved compatibility with Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012
• 3D visualization tool Power Map for Excel
• Improves compatibility with Internet Explorer 11
• Click-To-Run virtualization technology that installs and updates Office 365 desktop applications
• Update from OneDrive to SkyDrive Pro
• Provides new apps for Office capabilities and APIs for third party developers

According to the blog post, there won’t be any new server releases until 2015, which is a great disappointment to IT admins who were anticipating the release of a new version of Share Point Server this year. The company will be focusing more on the roll out of new features for the online versions of Office 365 core products.

Business Intelligence the old way

An  incident last week served to remind me that not all business intelligence comes from technology giants like Microsoft or Oracle, and not all business intelligence is tracked by Gartner.

As part of the desgin of a software for a client we had to architect roles and permissions for different users of the system . The organization seemed to have a number of roles, some of which were permanent and some were temporary. In addition, some of these roles were distinct (they had permissions that no other role had), whereas some others had common permissions (plus some unique ones). Since the number of roles were less than 20, we decided not to have a “Role management” functionality, where the administrator would allocate permissions to roles in a dynamic fashion.

Our finest minds went to work on this problem, and we came up with a two category solution, where one set of roles were primary roles (the permanent roles) and some roles were secondary(the temporary roles ). Moreover, in the primary role category, most of the roles were hierarchical (moving up a chain of command), so every higher role encompassed the permissions of the lower role (along with a few new ones). We also gave the facility for users to have a primary and one or more secondary roles. Naturally, we were quite pleased with what we came up with.

However after we developed the solution and deployed it, the customer quickly became quite dissatisfied with the solution. What we missed out in our design was that there were two primary roles that were quite distinct and separate from the other heriarchically arranged roles. The customer was shocked to find that while he could choose one primary and any number of secondary roles, he was unable to choose two primary roles (one heirarchical and the other distinct). It had never occured to us that in the organization, there may be people who held two primary (??) roles simultaneously.

It taught us an important lesson. Business intelligence (the old fashion way) is not just about creating fancy reports, it is also about questioning every assumption and making sure that the software architecture maps are as close to the real business as possible.

The future of reporting

Most web applications built on Java or .Net have built in reports that allow the key stakeholders to see how the application behaves with respect to their goals and KPIs. Traditionally these reports are defined with the software requirements and are manually coded in.

But all this is about to change in ways that can cause wide impact. Over the last few years, Microsoft has been deliberately building up their Business Intelligence services into their MS SQL server software. I believe that these services will make Microsoft SQL server the database of choice for small and midsize companies. Why? Because of two main reasons:

a) With these services, Microsoft, which has traditionally been a strong contender in the SME segment, has effectively combined a transactional database and data warehouse into one server. This has significant implications with respect to both, cost of licenses, and the IT infrastructure that is required (both in terms of hardware and people). Now customers don’t have to spend on expensive BI tool licenses such as Cognos, Web focus, etc. when they come to Stylus as Stylus uses MS SQL database server for all customer’s applications and SSIS, SSAS, SSRS all come as free add on services with MS SQL enterprise edition.

b) Secondly and more importantly it allows for the creation of what we call the “intelligent business applications”. These are applications that not only have clear linkages to one or more business level KPIs, but they also allow the business users to do their own analysis and create their own reports. If customers already have existing applications built with MS SQL and require further customization, Stylus is well equipped to handle it, as it understands the advantages of MS SQL over the other BI tools available. To illustrate our expertise, please click here, to learn how healthcare BI services developed by Stylus can help improve a hospital’s operations, productivity and profitability.

But has this been a core feature of any BI solutions in the past? Yes, but the important thing to note here is that this will become (IMHO) an integral part of every software application that comes out in the near future (at the very least, that will be the case for every software we make at Stylus). BI will no longer be a separate technology with it’s own army of high priests (read Data warehousing experts) and prophets (read BI analysts) but an essential component of every software application that the business will use, be it ERP, CRM, MIS etc. In addition with minimal extra work, users will be able to quickly connect these individual KPIs (from separate applications) into Performance Management Dashboards that give a quick view of not just their performance but the Performance of the area of the business they are responsible for.

Now if that isn’t change you can believe in, I don’t know what is.