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Webinar: How the Microsoft Cloud Helps @PIH Improve Global Health

Many nonprofits (and cerpihtainly other organizations as well) would likely share the same sentiment as Partners In Health (PIH) – due to the mission at hand, resource allocation, more often than not, prioritizes the needs of people over systems. It’s not all that surprising that this can lead to disbanded communication systems. Systems that, over time, become expensive to maintain and increasingly deficient.

This was the situation Partners In Health faced, and they are solving it by migrating to Office 365. PIH is a Boston-based nonprofit that delivers high-quality health care and serves impoverished communities around the world. Through the move to Office 365, they now have a single, reliable platform for colleague interactions and can more effectively focus on the mission, improving the quality of health and meeting the needs of underserved populations.

More from a recent news release:

Deployment of Office 365 across sites in Africa, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Russia and the U.S. will further Partners In Health’s mission to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. It will also enhance cross-site communication and collaboration as the organization responds to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Cloud-based storage allows documents to be accessed at any time from any device in any setting, including those where bandwidth is limited. With a common email platform, information may be shared seamlessly among colleagues, partners and all others involved in the fight against illness and poverty.

This migration included including a transition to Exchange Online for company-wide communication, Azure-hosted ADFS for identity management, and SharePoint Online for document storage and collaboration.

We’re fortunate to have assisted PIH with this deployment, and are excited to host a webinar next week, on Wednesday, March 4 at 1 p.m. CT, How Partners In Health Is Using the Microsoft Cloud to Improve Global Health.

During the session, PIH’s CIO Dave Mayo, as well as Kent Larson and David Chapman from Perficient, will share details around the challenges the organization faced prior to moving to Office 365 and how the Microsoft Cloud has impacted their ability to share information and collaborate across the globe, even in the most remote locations. They’ll also discuss how change management played an important role in a successful deployment.

For more about PIH or to make a contribution to help the organization transform global health, visit Read the rest of this post »

What To Call Your My Site

Use “Your” instead of “My” when labeling things that are considered belonging to a user! Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – The Limitations of Alternate Login ID

Back in April of 2014, Microsoft announced a feature called “Alternate Login ID” (sometimes referred to as “Alternative Login ID”). The idea was that instead of changing the UPNs in your on-premises Active Directory, you could use a different value to authenticate to Office 365 and sync that value to the cloud as your login.

At the time of release, I wrote an article (“Office 365 – Configuring AD FS & DirSync with an Alternate Login“) that covered the necessary configuration to use Alternate Login ID. It seemed like a very viable option for organizations that had dependencies on their current UPNs and would not be able to easily change their UPNs. In the past 10 months, that article has been one of the more popular articles that I’ve written so I wanted to follow it up with an update based on information that we now know today.
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Azure Search: Scoring Profiles


When a search query is submitted to the index, each document that is returned has a search scoreazuresearch_configure1_5_searchtile which is an indicator of its relevance in the current search query and context. The higher the score, the more relevant the item and therefore, the higher it is ranked on a scale of high to low.

In Azure Search, you can tweak the calculation of a search score through an index modification called a scoring profile. A common usage of scoring profiles is Geo-search, which allows you to automatically boost items which are closer to the location of the user. You can also simply boost by pushing newer documents to the top of your search results, or in some cases boost some older documents. It all depends on what your business needs are.

You can configure as many scoring profiles as you would like in your search index, but you can only specify one profile at a time when running a query.

Scoring Profiles vs. Managed Property Weighting and XRANK

For the SharePoint Devs out there getting into Azure Search, Scoring Profiles is a lot like Managed Property Weighting combined with XRANK in SharePoint. However, I find that Azure Search gives you control that allows you too really customize your boosting in ways that SharePoint cannot. Most of your boosting control comes in how you define your scoring profiles in your index, which allows you to really clean up your query on the front end without having to use XRANK. For example, to achieve a simple Geo-search, you would only need to provide the scoring profile and the current location as parameters in your search query.

As a further bonus, you can configure as many different scoring profiles as you would like, giving you full control of how your query gets processed. While in SharePoint, you can only configure a single set of relevancy rules without using XRANK, in Azure Search you can configure as many as you would like and specify which one you would like to use at the time. This way you can specify different weights for different fields (managed properties) when your business needs change without having to completely clobber the back-end index.  Read the rest of this post »

Customer Experience Drives Digital Transformation – Webinar 2/25

Digital Transformation tenenhance-customer-experience-and-loyaltyds to have a slightly different meaning to different people, depending on how you ask.  Whether it’s cloud, customer experience, eCommerce, integration, CRM, digital marketing, mobile, collaboration, analytics or Big Data, most would agree, however, that digital transformation enables businesses to “see” their customers better and add value throughout the lifecycle.

There’s a reason that the first topic we will be covering in Perficient’s Digital Transformation webinar series (following the initial webinar which can be viewed here)  is, “How Customer Experience Drives Digital Transformation.”  The customer experience is often the driving factor, the catalyst, in digital transformations, as mentioned on i-SCOOP:

Although digital transformation is not just about customer-facing functions, it’s clear that in many transformation projects, the customer experience is a key driver and catalyst. In more IT-oriented projects, the same goes for the user experience and user adoption. Actual usage and adoption in fact is essential to make such projects succeed.

When I think of customer experience and digital transformation, I immediately think of Sitecore. Sitecore is all about customer experience management and its .NET based platform – with many integrations—including Dynamics AX, Microsoft’s ERP platform, etc. — provide a single, connected experience and allow marketers to create great brand experiences with every customer who engages digitally. Things like persona development and personalized content make them a no-brainer in reaching consumers in the digital age.

Regardless of your platform preference, join us on Wednesday, February 25, at 1 p.m. CT to learn how and why you should give customer experience more thought, no matter where you currently are in your digital transformation initiative. Read the rest of this post »

New Additions to the Office 365 Family

I’ll keep this post short and sweet in honor of Friday!

Now if you are an avid follower of Microsoft, you got to agree that the most fascinating news (other than stock news) about the company is their shift to the cloud with platforms and products like Azure and Office 365. With so much exciting features coming through it’s tough to keep track. We at Perficient here, have the privilege to work with the latest greatest and keep you updated with the same. The three new features which caught my attention last week provide a great enhancement to user experience, be it mobile or desktop. I discuss them briefly here

Office on iOS

Office 365 Message Encryption Viewer – This app allows you to open mail attachments and send back an encrypted reply. Microsoft verifies your identity to ensure you are who you say you are. Get a one time pass code on your phone.

image1 Read the rest of this post »

Webinar Recap: Preparing for Your Digital Transformation in 2015

We’ve mentioned Perficient’s2015-02-19_16-59-26 Digital Transformation webinar series a couple times now here on our Microsoft blog. Last week, the series kicked off with its first session, Digital Transformation in 2015: Laying the Groundwork for Success. Perficient’s Strategic Advisors are the strategists behind the webinar series, and help our customers create and enable a digital transformation enterprise-wide.

While most people tend to think of digital marketing first and foremost when it comes to digital transformation, there’s a whole lot more. There are many other aspects of business significantly impacted by digital transformation – cloud, integration, collaboration, customer experience, CRM, analytics, and Big Data, to name a few.

And while Microsoft’s play in digital transformation may not be glaringly apparent at first glance, it’s certainly there. As Rich Wood put it in his recent blog post, digital transformation is about embracing new ways of working to allow you to move faster, work smarter and be more effective, and that’s Microsoft at its core. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – How to Update Address Lists in Exchange Online

Address Lists are a way to create an additional “view” within the Global Address List (GAL) based on a set of mailboxes attributes.

As an example, perhaps you want to create a view for everyone with the “Office” of “Headquarters”. This new Address List would appear as an additional dropdown in both Outlook and OWA. Address Lists are also part of Address Book Policies (ABPs) should you want to have actual segmentation of your GAL.

However, with Exchange Online, there is a small issue with Address Lists that can make them challenging to work with.
Read the rest of this post »

On-Premises Claims Authorized SharePoint and Hybrid Apps in Azure

I recently needed to deploy a SharePoint-hosted App that would work in both SharePoint Online and On-Premises. My client had an Azure license, and we are hosting the App there. Now, how to get the On-Premises farm to work with my App? I started by reading this MSDN article on the subject.

This article had 90% of the information required, and as usual the other 10% is where the hair pulling happens. Here, I will attempt to fill in the other 10%.

  1. Patch your environment to the November 2014 CU for SharePoint Server. There are fixes in the August CU that affect this configuration and without them it will not work. Why the November CU then? Just take a look at the August install instructions and you will see why. If for some reason you cannot do the November CU the August will work, but set aside a day.
  2. Your Claims Provider class needs to implement the SupportsUserKey property, the GetClaimTypeForUserKey method and the GetUserKeyForEntity method. If you are using the Codeplex project Claims Provider Here and are using ADFS for your STS then you are fine. I had one that was upgraded from 2010 and had these methods and property missing and that left for lots of hair pulling.
    public override bool SupportsUserKey
        get { return true; }
    public override string GetClaimTypeForUserKey()
        return Microsoft.IdentityModel.Claims.ClaimTypes.Upn;
    protected override SPClaim GetUserKeyForEntity(SPClaim entity)
        if (entity.ClaimType == this.GetClaimTypeForUserKey())
            return entity;
            string token = OperationContext.Current.RequestContext.RequestMessage.ToString();
            XmlNodeList claimList = GetClaimsList(token);
            XmlNode upn = claimList.OfType<XmlNode>().Where(c => c.Attributes["AttributeNamespace"].Value.ToLower() == "" && c.Attributes["AttributeName"].Value.ToLower() == "upn").FirstOrDefault();
            return new SPClaim(Microsoft.IdentityModel.Claims.ClaimTypes.Upn, upn.InnerText, AdClaimValueType, SPOriginalIssuers.Format(SPOriginalIssuerType.TrustedProvider, SecureStoreClaimsSettings.Default.ProviderName));
  3. The User Profile Service needs to be completely set up and functioning. The OAuth procedure with Apps uses the UPA to match the string value of user ID from the token to look up and rehydrate a user in SharePoint so that it can operate on its behalf. If it can’t find the user in the UPA you will get a 401 when the app requests information.
  4. If, like me, you are working in a development environment and have deployed Apps that are now not working I would recommend deleting any App Catalogs and your App Management Service and rebuilding them as corrupted App installs were giving me some issues.
  5. The PowerShell scripts listed in the above article seemed to be a bit out of date. Steve Peschka made some updates to them on his blog, but the MSDN article does not seem to have those updates. I have combined the 4 steps listed in the article along with Steve’s updates into one script with step by step instructions that I hope will help the next guy. The scripts can be found here.
  6. Deploy your App to you App Catalog and cross all available limbs.

Sources for this post:

5 Ways the BI Experience in SharePoint is Evolving

A post on the Microsoft Office blog today entitled “Evolution of SharePoint”  grabbed my attention.  In it, Office Product Management team General Manager Julia White discussed ways the SharePoint platform is changing to fit its niche in the cloud and on premises.

As I read the article, I started thinking about how SharePoint BI has also evolved and is continuing to co-evolve with the host platform:

1) Less Excel, more Power BI

In SharePoint 2010, Excel Service and Power Pivot were big deals — not to mention the introduction of PerformancePoint Services.  By 2013, these same features had been streamlined for on-premises users, but SharePoint Online users kinda got the short end of the stick.  Enter Power BI, and the integration with Excel became even deeper with Power View and the BISM Connector providing additional functionality.   But now, Microsoft has basically unyoked Power BI from Excel with the introduction of Power BI Designer.

What exactly this means for SharePoint users is as yet unclear — especially those in the on-premises scenario.  One can expect that the Power Pivot Gallery will live on.  There are promises of being able to embed Power BI artifacts in SharePoint online pages or web apps, as well.  But what seems most likely is that a Power BI App will be made available to on-premises users of SharePoint 2016.

2) On-premises to Cloud

Progress marches on, and nowhere is that truer than in the BI realm.  From the long list of services and features provided to expand the BI experience in SharePoint 2013 on premises, we’ve seen the entire industry pivot to the cloud.  For SharePoint, this has essentially meant expansion of Office 365 and SharePoint Online in competition with the on-premises product.  And to date, it’s the cloud path has really gotten the most lavish attention from Microsoft with Power BI.  It remains to be seen how SharePoint 2016 will be positioned in that light, and whether we might see a new story for on-premises SharePoint BI take form.

3) Performance Point is dead

No, really.  I would bet one of my digits (although not a significant one, yuk yuk yuk) that PerformancePoint Services will be deprecated in SharePoint 2016.  We’ve already seen it dropped from the existing cloud offerings; if you want PPS in the cloud, you’ll need to run SharePoint on Azure VMs.  So, what takes its place?  Nothing in Power BI has the exact same feature set, but upcoming Power BI Dashboards (based on Power View) should be able to at least provide a visual analog — if not the sophisticated drilldown capability.

4) Mobile on the rise

You don’t have to be too perceptive to note the surge of importance in mobile.  SharePoint 2013 made major strides in terms of browser compatibility by moving strongly towards HTML 5 standards, thus improving the UX for mobile users. SharePoint 2016 is strongly expected to be fully HTML 5 compliant, and to improve that mobile experience even more.  Similarly on the BI side, while the initial release of Power View was not HTML 5 based, Microsoft has made good on their promise to rebuild included visualizations to be HTML5 based.  The recent release of Power BI apps for iOS devices underlines the desire for the service to be both platform and device agnostic.  Basically, we are seeing Microsoft bend these platforms to the way usage patterns are changing.  Count on both SharePoint and Power BI to continue in that vein.

5) App Oriented

Based on what we are seeing from Microsoft, it appears that we can expect SharePoint to become more app-centric — both in the Cloud and On-Premises contexts.  SharePoint 2016 is rumored to include a manifestation of an App store.  Power BI Sites is a SharePoint Online app and, as mentioned above, I would expect a version of that app might be made available for on-premises SharePoint 2016.  Add to this the embracing of mobile, and an App based approach seems to be the best choice an increasing number of scenarios.

Overall, the direction for both SharePoint and Power BI is clearly to the Cloud.  Old tools and approaches are being turned over in favor of new ones.  And there is some uncertainty resulting from that for on-premises users of SharePoint.  But Microsoft seems to be standing by the platform no matter what, so I would expect to get a better idea of the BI story for SharePoint 2016 as CTP versions start hitting the Web.