The best tools to help you find and book your Meetings

While not so much of a problem between one or two people, when you are trying to arrange meetings or conf calls between a larger number of people (especially cross company), the process can be quite a frustrating and laborious process with lots of back and forth emails checking people availability. Unless you are lucky enough to have a PA!

#Microsoft has a couple of simple, yet powerful tools, tucked away in Office 365 to help, yet I’m often amazed how many people simply don’t know that these tools exist… So, this blog is aimed these people… Trust me. It will make your work life just that little bit easier.

There are two services I’m going to cover here: –

  • FindTime
  • [my personal favourite]

Microsoft FindTime

FindTime is an Azure powered Outlook add-in that makes it much easier to find the right time most convenient time for a group of people to meet. As I said, this is one of the most under-appreciated (and unknown) part of Office 365 / Outlook and it’s an absolute godsend if you book lots of meetings.

The basic problem with meeting scheduling is that everyone involved in a meeting has different availability and whilst intra-company you may be able to see colleague calendars, across company this is not easily achieved. This means that for a meeting with all parties to be arranged successfully a common free or preferred time must be found.

How FindTime works

Microsoft FindTime does this by coordinating communication between meeting participants by essentially “polling” each attendee to find their acceptable time from a set of choices the organiser chooses. As attendees vote or decline times, they see in real time others preferred timing for the meeting.

Once an agreed time is found, FindTime creates the meeting on behalf of the organiser. That’s it.

FindTime is simple and easy to understand and use (if the plug in is installed). The FindTime Outlook add-in works for Office (ProPlus), Outlook (Web) , and Outlook for Mac but is only needed by the actual organiser. Attendees who respond/vote to the FindTime polls don’t need the add-in.

Creating a New FindTime Poll

To create a new meeting poll, the organiser simply needs to either create a new message or select an existing message.

Within the email, The To: recipients are your required attendees while those on the Cc: list are optional.

From here, you click the Findtime button on the toolbar and then simply select some time slots for your meeting (see below).

The suggested time slots are organised by availability or time. Availability shows who’s free for a selected slot, but this depends on FindTime being able to access the free/busy time of the attendees. If your (or your attendees) Office 365 tenant doesn’t make free/busy time available to other tenants, FindTime won’t be able to consume this data when it initially checks availability so will be reliant on the attendee’s choice/preference only

Every Meeting a Teams Meeting

FindTime can create an online meeting with Teams (or Skype for Business Online).

As the organiser, once you’ve defined your preferred times, you simply insert the poll into the message and send the email as normal. In the background this then creates the poll in the FindTime Azure service to prepare for responses.

Responding to FindTime

People invited to the FindTime poll receive the poll in their email.

To respond, the user clicks on the poll which takes them to a voting page on which of the proposed time slots are acceptable.

Attendees then submit their preferred “choices” to FindTime, which collates the responses and settles on the best available time.

As people vote, the meeting organiser gets updates via email.

Reaching Consensus

Once each participant has voted and the organiser has picked the best time, the FindTime service auto schedules the meeting (assuming the required participants have reached a consensus on a time). If participants agree on multiple slots, FindTime selects the earliest available time.

If an agreed time cannot be found, the meeting is not automatically scheduled and the meeting organiser can update the proposed time slots to try and find one that suits. Alternatively, the organiser can go ahead with their preferred time and accept that some people can’t attend.

For more information, please head over to the FindTime FAQ.

Note. If this is your first time using FindTime, I recommend you check (and set) you default time as FindTime seems to like to default to US Pacific Time Zone. To check and set your default time zone, you need to go to and access your account settings.

Calendar.Help (aka Office 365 Scheduler)

In my option, this takes meeting scheduling to a whole new level and will soon be an integral part of Office 365 and Cortana – if it ever gets released in GA!

Calendar.Help leverages Cortana as the point of interaction and uses a combination of your Outlook Free/Busy and artificial intelligence processing to book meetings that work for everyone without the need for plug-ins etc.

The way Calendar.Help works is that you simply include in your email to set up meetings. Cortana uses natural language processing and interprets your request in the meeting to find the best time.

Here’s how works

As you can see from the email below, you simply send Cortana an email asking her to book a meeting for you.

Once Cortana has the request and is processing it, the organiser receives a confirmation email from Cortana. If “she” needs more information, Cortana will email the organiser to ask for clarification

Cortana then does her thing and liaises with the attendees to agree a time that works through a combination of asking and checking diaries in the attendees Exchange diary. Once attendees have responded and/or a suitable time has been found, Cortana books the meeting for you.

The meeting invite is sent based on your preferences and instructions.

Preferences and Settings

Out of the box, works well and there is a webpage where you can manage preferences in. This includes, blocking out lunch times, default meeting length, times to avoid and whether to always make the meeting an online meeting in Teams for example. You can also use the web-portal to initiate meetings and bookings or cancel pending requests, but you can also just ask Cortana to do this in the email.

One thing I find with however, is that sometimes, attendees respond directly to me and don’t include Cortana which means she is then out of the loop and unable to progress your meetings further…. this is kind of an end user education thing but can be a pain!

Would love to know how you find the service(s) described here – do you use them, do you find them useful, do you use some else?

PowerPoint Coach – come on – we all need this tool!

So, I have a couple of presentations coming up in the next couple of weeks and I have been dying to test out the #PowerPointCoach.

So before we head off for the weekend, I just wanted to make you all aware (if you weren’t) of this awesome new addition to PowerPoint if you haven’t seen or heard of it…

Introducing PowerPoint Coach

Training and feedback are vital in helping us confidence and improve our “public” speaking abilities. While we can self review, gain feedback from team mates or peers, Microsoft has gone a step further to help us using the power of AI….oooooooh AI…

Presenter Coach in PowerPoint does this listening and feedback for you (and you never have to worry about it drifting off as you rehearse). Presenter Coach lets you enter “rehearsal mode”, providing on-screen guidance for pacing, inclusive language, use of profanity, filler words (like “erm” and “actually”) and culturally insensitive phrases.

To test this out, head over to PowerPoint Online (not the desktop version), Open or create a presentation, then go to the “Slideshow” menu and click “Rehearse with Coach” Even works with “recorded slides”. 

It’s really great to see this in action after being announced earlier this year.

Of course one thing it cant do it tell you whether your presentations actually make any sense (well not yet anyway) – what is does it provides great feedback on your pace, flow and rythm…something i personally struggle with when I first kick off!  


have a good weekend all.


Microsoft has won the long awaited US JEDI contract worth $10B.

There will be some celebrations tonight a battle to win one of the biggest contracts in the cloud, #Microsoft has won the sought-after #JEDI cloud computing contract with the #Pentagon valued at as much as $10 billion over a decade, dealing a blow to the market leader, #Amazon \ #AWS which had been the front-runner.

What is J. E. D. I?

JEDI, Not related to Starwars in anyway, the 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure, is aimed at making the US defence department more technologically agile. The US Department of Defense wants to replace its aging computer networks with a single cloud system.

Under the contract, Microsoft will provide artificial intelligence-based analysis and security as well as host secure and highly classified military secrets among other services.

The #Pentagon have said “JEDI continues our strategy of a multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment as the department’s needs are diverse and cannot be met by any single supplier.”


Microsoft haven’t formerly commented as yet so expect to hear more when they do.. This is a collossal win for Microsoft and for any company with a deal of this size.

Did you know there’s a “Business” version of the SurfaceProX

With all the news and media about Surface Pro X, it’s easy to miss that Microsoft have also released a dedicated business version called… Well Surface Pro X for Business which has one core feature aimed at business rather the consumer.

What’s the Difference

On the surface (ok dad joke) the business version isn’t much different from the consumer version. It’s the same spec, same processor, same pen and battery etc, but where it differs is in its security, which is unique to the new Surface business line up in this latest generation.

The Surface Pro X for Business is what Microsoft are calling a “Secured-core PC.”

What’s a Secured-core PC?

In short, this new technology is powered by Windows Defender System Guard and protects the Surface Pro X from firmware hacking such as LoJax

With Secured-core, your organisation can now prevent hackers from tampering or altering with the UEFI (or BIOS) which in the future I think will be a pre req for IoT type devices as well as business decides of all types.

There are 3 levels of protection provided by Secured-Core which make the Surface Pro X ultra secure and essentially shields Windows 10 from attacks and unauthorised access which target the device before Windows has booted or during shutdown.

  • Firmware attacks
  • Kernel attacks and
  • System integrity attacks

Who’s Secured-core ideal for?

Microsoft claim that the target market are people that work in the most data-sensitive industries such as government, financial services, and healthcare but really this is suited to any organisation that ultra concerned with security.

Just Surface?

No… This is by no means limited to just Microsoft decides. Lenovo, Panasonic, Dynabook, Dell, HP etc are all behind this new approach

Find out more

  • Microsoft have published the following information about Secured-core here
  • Thurrot have published this information
  • Computing have this to say

What do you think about Secured-core? Needed? or Over kill?

Look was announced at the #SurfaceEvent 2019

Microsoft announced a lot of new and updated products today at the 2019 #SurfaceEvent.

Surface Laptop 3

Surface Pro 7

New… Surface Pro X (ipad competitor)

Surface Neo (foldable)

Surface Duo (a phone built with Google)

Surface war buds

This was a very quick summary…


The Microsoft Whiteboard just got better

What’s Microsoft Whiteboard?

Microsoft Whiteboard allows Windows, SurfaceHub and iOS (Android coming soon) to Create freely and work naturally – giving ideas room to grow with Microsoft Whiteboard. Transform your work into professional-looking charts and shapes on an infinite canvas with an interface designed for pen, touch, and keyboard.

The Whiteboard app is also built into Microsoft Teams and can be used in video calls to help teams work collaboratively in a virtual whiteboard space.

Whats Changed?

Microsoft Whiteboard allows Windows, SurfaceHub and iOS (Android coming soon) to Create freely and work naturally – giving ideas room to grow with Microsoft Whiteboard. Transform your work into professional-looking charts and shapes on an infinite canvas with an interface designed for pen, touch, and keyboard.

Microsoft updated their White Boarding App yesterday “Microsoft Whiteboard” for Windows (including Surface Hub) and iOS yesterday adding a hugely requested feature which they have called “templates”.

What Templates are available?

The templates help to quick start meetings and get everyone on the same page. They have been added to help with common tasks and Team sessions around SWOT analysis, project planning, learning, and more. Microsoft have created layouts that provide an immediate structure  with helpful tips for running activities that can be easily expanded to fit any and all content.

Microsoft have said that more templates and capabilities will be made available continuously in the coming months.

If you cant see the feature yet, head to the store and check for updates!

If you dont have Whiteboard yet – you can get it here:

Another critical step to preventing Identity and Information Theft…

One of my earlier posts talked about how enabling Multi-Factor Authentication across your organisation can dramatically reduce your risk of attack/breach or data theft by Identity Compromise however after reading some of the comments and talking to some other IT admins and CSOs, I felt this needed a Part #2.

According to Symantec, 91% of all Cyber Attacks start with a spear phishing email  

Protecting Corporate Email

Its fair to say that “most” organisations who use Microsoft Exchange Online for their corporate email services use some form of additional security or protection…. 

Exchange Online Protection

Microsoft provides Exchange Online Protection (EOP) as a standard service with Exchange which essentially is an anti-spam and antivirus service.

Every and any mail security company, Symantec, proof point, mimecast, you name it, will heavily criticise Microsoft for its “lack” of protection against modern and zero-day threats and to be honest they are quiet right too but what many people aren’t aware of (and I don’t think Microsoft shout about it loud enough) – they have some pretty good advanced services you can enable (or buy).  Any security officer will tell you that they key to security is defence in depth and there isn’t a single  “master of all” platform or vendor out there that can protect an organisation from attack, regardless of what form it comes in.

Having multiple defences (not necessarily multiple vendors) in place helps because if spam sneaks by the first line, it might be stopped by the second. 

As you’d expect there are many 3rd party products and services available that complement the standard Exchange Online Protection services available including ProofPoint, Symantec, Mimecast etc, but if your organisation uses Microsoft Exchange Online then, depending on your licensing level, you have some pretty impressive advanced security features which to be honest, you should be using especially if you don’t use any 3rd party bolt-ons. This Office 365 ATP (note, its not specifically focuses on Exchange).

Hello Office 365 ATP

Microsoft Office Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), which is part of Office 365 E5 (or an add-on) builds on the Microsoft EOP and provides two key features aimed at protecting users from phishing attacks, malicious attachments and other advanced threat vectors which typically target users but getting them to click something, fill something in or download something. Again, according to Symantec 1 in 4 people will click a link in an email without checking the message header or checking it is from who they think it is.

Of course Microsoft claim Office ATP is the best line of defence for their Office 365 customers. As you’d expect, Third-party mail hygiene services beg to differ and say that their solutions offer better protection. Either way, you’re better protected when EOP is not the only line of defence.

So what’s Office ATP Include?

Office ATP delivers two key security enhancements for Exchange (and Office 365 in general) including ATP Safe Attachments and ATP Safe Links, both features designed to prevent or stop malicious content arriving in user mailboxes and indeed across the other key Office 365 services.

ATP Safe Attachments

The concept behind ATP Safe Attachments is fairly simple and is designed with protecting users against emails that may contain malicious attachments. ATP Safe Attachments helps here by intercepting all emails before they hit the users inbox, essentially detonates the attachment to makes sure its safe. ATP Safe Attachments also stops infections caused by malware being uploaded to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business sites, including the SharePoint Online sites used by Microsoft Teams (which is enough for Microsoft to claim ATP support for Teams).

There are a couple of configuration options around how Safe Attachments works which are mainly designed to control how attachments get delivered to users.

The options are relatively self explanatory. For avoidance of doubt, I’d strongly recommend using Dynamic Delivery, which means all users receive their email messages (at first) without the attachments (well, they get a place-holder) while those attachments are being scanned by Microsoft to check they are safe.

Safe Attachments doesn’t generally take long to process attachments and in my experience the delay is usually less than 30 seconds (though that can feel like ages if you are waiting for the scan to complete in order to open your attachment – especially if its a sales PO!). 

ATP Safe Links

ATP Safe Links as the name implies, provides “click-time” URL Protection to blocks malicious links by analyzing them at arrival time and also each and every time the user clicks on the link to protect against spear phishing attacks that weaponize a link after an email is delivered.

While links are being checked, users are prevented from getting to these to the sites. Yes, this can delay mail recipients from being able to get to information but given the amount of bad sites that exist on the internet (and that more than 91% of phishing attacks original from email), this is a fair compromise, even if users are sometimes frustrated when they can’t immediately reach a site because of a blocked link.

A newish feature in the ATP Safe Links policy allows Office 365 administrators to “delay message delivery” until all links in an email message are scanned (see below). This seems to be “off” by default but is definitely one I think should be enabled. 

” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” />Configuring Wait for URL Scanning in an ATP Safe Links policy

What are my other Options?

I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of the other services in this blog, the 3rd party vendors will do this, but depending on your licensing level, need or desire to use multiple vendors for security or to standardise your security products across other key strategic vendors, you may choose to explore. Which is best – its hard to say but if you have nothing, I’d start with Office ATP as its most likely included within your licensing plan (and if not its easy to set-up a trial with your partner).


Microsoft and also many 3rd parties provide Advanced Threat Protection services across Exchange Online . At time of writing, Microsoft, however, are the only vendor that extend these services across other Office 365 services including SharePoint Online, One Drive for Business and therefore Teams.

New AI capabilities promise to transform the physical retail space

OK so a short blog this time and about something I don’t usually write much about… Dynamics

Microsoft have announced 2 major and significant new features coming to its #Dynamics 365 platform which will essentially bring Dynamics 365 AI into real stores.. Which is actually really really cool..

Aimed at bringing AI driven insights to physical retail stores

These two new retail-focused apps named are called “Dynamics 365 Commerce” and “Dynamics 365 Connected Store”.

  • Dynamics 365 Commerce is a solution that will unifiy back office, in-store, call center and digital experiences all within a single interface with “intelligent” features.
  • Dynamics 365 Connected Store will help companies improve the physical retail experience by analysing data from video cameras and IoT sensors to help show traffic flow, dwell zones, dead areas etc allowing retail spaces to better visualise and plan their store front layouts and adjust based on where people foot fall and grouping occurs.

Dynamics 365 Connected Store will help companies improve the physical retail experience by analysing data from video cameras and IoT sensors to help show traffic flow, dwell zones, dead areas etc allowing retail spaces to better visualise and plan their store front layouts and adjust based on where people foot fall and grouping occurs.

This could add real competitive edge to Dynamics retail customers

This release wave will also see a new Dynamics 365 Product Insights, a new application with Dynamics 365 which will use product telemetry to help companies “build richer relationships and improve engagement.”

Learn More – There is a free Microsoft Business Applications Virtual Launch Event on the 10th October in which the world will learn more.

How to quickly prevent 99.9% of attacks on your users’ accounts

Cyber-attacks aren’t slowing down, and it’s worth noting that many attacks have been successful without the use of advanced technology.

For even the largest, most security averse company, all it takes is one compromised credential or one legacy application to cause a data breach.

This underscores how critical it is to ensure password security and strong authentication across your organisation and whilst there are many many solutions out there that can protect networks, applications and data, there is one simple thing that organisations can do, regardless of size and sector that can have a significant impact on protecting cyber-attacks and breach through compromised credentials.

Where are organisations most vulnerable?

A recent report from the SANS Software Security Institute, the most common vulnerabilities include:

  • Corporate email compromise: Where an attacker (often called bad-actor) gains access to a corporate email account, such as through a phishing or spoofing attack (emails that look like they are from IT or a trusted source that get users to “handover” their log on credentials), and uses it to exploit the system, and steal data or compromise your business. Accounts that are protected with only a user id and password are easy targets.
  • Legacy protocols: Old email clients and many “stock smartphone email clients” can create a major vulnerability since applications that use these old basic protocols, such as SMTP, were not designed to leverage or use modern security technologies such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). So even if you require MFA for most use cases, if legacy protocols are enabled, attackers will search for opportunities to use outdated browsers or email applications to force the use of less secure protocols.
  • Password reuse: This is where attacks such as as “password spray” and “credential stuffing attacks” come into play. Common passwords and credentials compromised by attackers in public breaches are used against corporate accounts to try to gain access. It is considered that more than 70% percent of passwords are duplicates and used on other public sites such as shopping or consumer sites, this has been a successful strategy for many attackers for years and it’s easy to do. Most users re-use passwords because many believe that complex passwords (a mix of letters, numbers and symbols) make passwords and accounts secure  – but it can actually have a counter affect since passwords are more likely to be re-used. 

What you can do to protect your company

There’s loads of simple steps than can and should be undertaken to provide some basic account and security hygiene.

Administrators can quickly help prevent many of these attacks by banning the use of bad passwords (Azure AD can do this naively), blocking legacy authentication, and through basic awareness and training to staff on how to spot common phishing attacks.

Whilst all this will help – by far the most effective step you can take as a business is to turn on and require Multi Factor Authentication (MFA). This  extra layer of user account protection, creates a very effective barrier and layer of security that makes it incredibly difficult for attackers to log on or use stolen/compromised credentials even if a user “hands the over” as a result of a successful phishing attack.

Simply put, MFA can block over 99.9% percent of account compromise attacks. With MFA, knowing or cracking the password isn’t enough to gain access since the user will be challenged to enter a code, respond to a text sent to their phone or approve logon via an app on a device that they have in their possession. To learn more, read Your Pa$$word doesn’t matter.

MFA is easy to enable and use

According to the SANS Software Security Institute there are two primary obstacles to adopting MFA implementations today:

  • Misconception that MFA requires external hardware devices.
  • Concern about potential user disruption or concern over what may break.

When we have these kind of conversations with customers, the 2nd point is usually the most common – “the owner wont like it” or “what if stops person x from logging on and they cant talk to IT?”

No banking app allows their customers to access their services these days without some form of MFA and we all (as we have to) simply accept this so why should accessing your company’s data be any different?

Depending on your organisations choice of MFA technology and the level of licensing they have in place, services such as MFA can be used in conjunction with Risk Based Conditional Access – which is a feature included within Azure Active Directory. 

Risk Based Conditional Access

Risk Based Conditional Access is essentially adaptive authentication which looks at a number of different risk factors to determine what and how to allow a user to gain access to resources. In the MFA example, RBCA can be configured to now need MFA to be used when on a corporate device when in the office but enforced when ever users are remote or on an non-corporate or non encrypted device.

Need some help – the organisation I work for @cisilion can help – get in touch via twitter or visit our website. For more click here: 


Note: Aspects of this information are taken from a blog by 
Melanie Maynes | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft Security



What are organisation-wide Teams in Teams?

Organisation-wide teams provide an automatic way for everyone in a small to medium-sized organisation (up to 5,000 users) to be a part of a single team for collaboration and notifications.

With org-wide teams, an organisation can easily have a (well actually up to 5) public teams that pulls in every user in the organisation and keeps the membership up-to-date with Active Directory as users join and leave the organisation (assuming your AD is well managed of course).

As your organisation’s directory is updated to include new active users, or if users no longer work at your company and their Teams license is disabled, changes are automatically synced and the users are added or removed from the team.

Team members can’t leave an org-wide team.

As a team owner, you can manually add or remove users if needed.

Best practices for organisation-wide teams

To get the most benefit out of using an org-wide team, there’s some best practice Microsoft has published based on its research with customers:

  • Allow only team owners to post to the General channel, to reduce channel “noise.”
  • Turn off @team and @[team name] mentions to prevent overloading the entire organisation.
  • Automatically mark important channels as favorites to ensure that everyone in your organization engages in specific conversations.
  • Set up channel moderation so that moderators can control who can start a new post in a channel as well. As who can reply..You may want it as an annoucment only channel for example.
  • Remove accounts that might not belong. Such as test accounts etc.

I also discovered you can convert an existing Team to a Org-wide team if you want to.. Again this is an admin required task.

Private Channels in org-wide Teams?

There is of course Private Channels also coming very shortly to Teams which can also be used to segregate aspects of your org-wide Team to, well, less than all the organisation… I’d probably suggest not using this function inside these kind of Teams (assuming it’s permitted).

Thanks for Reading.

Private channels for Teams are finally here.

What are Private Channels In Teams?

Updated: 4th Nov 19

Private Channels (which are being released this week) will allow team owners to limit which team members can see the conversation and content within a particular channel within a Team (kind of a private space between a wider Team). This allows team admins to right-size channel participation and exposure without having to create discrete teams to limit visibility. This can help with reducing team sprawl and can help with internal and B2B communications.

Private channels will be indicated by a small lock / padlock icon next to the channel within a Team.

  • Team owners will be able to see all channels and private channels
  • Team members will only be able to see and participate in private channels they have been added to.
  • Any member of a Team can create a private channel and they then become the owner of that private channel even if they aren’t the owner of the Team.
  • Private Channel owners can add and remove members just like with a Team but to be a member of the Private Channel, the user must be (at least) a member of the Team first.
  • External users/guests can be added to a Private Channel just like with a Team but again the the guest must also be a member of the Team first.
  • Related to the above… YOU CANNOT USE A PRIVATE CHANNEL to invite guests and then only share certain information with them and not the rest of the Team.

But it’s not been an easy journey!

  • Private channels have been the most requested feature on User Voice
  • The feature has been in development for over two years now
  • On March 19th this year Microsoft announced that private channels will be coming out later this year
  • This week the upcoming change started apprwaing in customers Office 365 Message Centre
  • They start rolling out this week (Nov 4th)

Why do we need Private Channels in Teams?

Pretty much ever since Teams was released users have been asking (shouting) for Private Channels. The concept sounds straightforward enough; private channels would only be seen and accessible by the creator and whoever he/she invites. In practice, however, the feature has been a major development challenge.

According to the user requests and comments in Teams User Voice, people generally want more options when it comes to creating channels in Microsoft Teams. Specifically, they want channels that are:

  • Public-Open (Visible anywhere including outside the organisation that anyone can join)
  • Public-Invitation (Visible anywhere including outside the organisation; must be invited)
  • Company-Open (Only visible inside the organisation and anyone inside can join; those outside the organisation must be invited)
  • Company-Invitation (Only visible inside the organisation, must be invited)
  • Secret (Invisible to everyone except existing members, must be invited)

The need has raised quite a debate

What might seem a simple request has created lots of friction and almost brexit like opinion polls over the last couple of years

The “Pro” private channels want it becuase:

  • Private channels enable admins to have more granular control over who can and can’t access certain content.
  • Sensitive material can be more easily gated.
  • Having private channels would also make something like a manager/executive-only chat within a Team possible or make a customer focused team have an internal “private” area

The “anti” private channels don’t like the concept of a private channels because:

  • Teams is all about open collaboration. It was designed to make working with others as seamless as possible. Once you’re in a Team you have access to everything in there so the concept of a private channel goes again the grain.
  • By implementing more controls and requiring the team owner to manage permissions for every private team that gets created, it can quickly become counter productive and ‘anti’ to the purpose of the platform.
  • Private channels can be seen as unnecessary. You can arguably create a new separate team if you want privacy.
  • If you want a private chat between two or more managers/execs, you could simply create and use a regular group chat.

These are all workable (though not necessarily as convenient) options.

Why has it taken so long to develop?

Outside of the long and extensive debates above and Microsoft having to try to make sense of it, consult with large enterprise and event run early alpha tests with clients to test and confirm the pro and cons, the design and implementation of this feature has been complex

In simple terms, Channels in Teams simply were not originally designed or created to be “blocked off” or isolated and so because of this, the architecture of channels doesn’t lend itself to being private and has had to be majorly modified to accommodate this feature

There’s more to it than this though…

Every Team that’s created is enabled by other components of Office 365. For example, Teams need Planner for task management and SharePoint (that includes One Drive) for file storage. If a certain channel in a Team became private…

  • SharePoint permissions would be broken.
  • Planning permissions would be broken.
  • Stream permissions would be broken.
  • Tab level permissions would be broken.

The engineering team at Redmond have had to overcome a whole load of technical and process integration obstacles to provide options for organisation who wish to make part of their open collaboration platform. not open!

I already use Teams? What do I need to do?

You don’t have to do anything. Private channels can be used or disabled should IT not want this feature being used…whilst not released yet the options to control it are available now in the Teams policies settings in the Teams Admin Centre.

There isn’t a process to covert a Team into a channel within another team so this is a process you’ll need to consider and think about and there will be use cases for such you’ll want to consider… A personal example for our organisation is where we have Team sites for customer project work which is internal and another customer Team site we use for sharing and collaborating with a customer..

We in effect have duplicate Teams today for this reason. I expect we will look to consolidate these down to one and use private channels within a wider channel that we will use for internal / company confidential communications and docs.

Of course… This also is a great time to look at house cleaning Teams across the estate…Time will tell on that one!

When it is available?

Private Channels is rolling out this week…so now (almost). Like all new features.. They take a few days to roll out depending on your Office 365 release schedule.

What it means to be a #WindowsInsider #MVP

I am proud to share with you that last night, I finally received the official Windows Insider  MVP Award from Microsoft, for my contributions in the Windows development life cycle community in the past 12 months.

Those that know me and work with me, know I’m passionate about technology and have become a real #MicrosoftAdvocate since running the Microsoft business at @cisilion.

What is it?

The Windows Insider MVP award is an additional award to the over arching Microsoft MVP award. It was created and announced in 2016, and is focusing on Windows and Windows Powered Devices.

What’s the Criteria?

The MVP award program rewards participants who contribute significantly, and voluntarily, to their technical communities. While Microsoft doesn’t publish the exact qualification criteria, the nomination process usually includes includes being nominated, detailing your community activities over the past 12 months, including blogging, speaking engagements, social media and contributions to forums or other technical groups (including and

What it means

It is an honor to be awarded for my work and contributions to this fine community led by @donasarkar and her team of #ninjacats. Its a bit like a passion and second job at times…. Playing with new and experimental features, suggesting and feeding back and influencing the future development for everyone. It’s a small but great community to be a tiny part of globally.

Congratulations! Thank you for your contributions to the Windows community, we are excited to welcome you as a Windows Insider MVP. This award is a token of our appreciation, your leadership and passion help make Windows the best yet. We look forward to collaborating with you and all of our Windows Insider MVPs as we continue to strengthen the Windows Insider MVP (WI MVP) Program.”

What are the benefits?

Outside of a nice badge and trophy, the Microsoft MVP title unlocks access directly to the Microsoft product groups, via webinars, email lists, Yammer community and the invitation-only annual MVP Summit at Microsoft HQ in Redmond.

Additionally, Microsoft MVPs gain software licensing benefits to some Microsoft software titles, LinkedIn Learning and other third-party MVP offers. Speaking to other MVPs and WIMVPs, there is feeling that the MVP Community is like a family of enthusiasts and processionals

Whilst I have not been before, all content presented at the MVP Summit (which is held in March each year), is under a strict non-disclosure agreement. This allows MVPs an incredible level of access to hear about upcoming product changes and to influence product strategy and feed back thoughts, ideas and issues.

Microsoft places a huge amount of value on the stories from MVPs on what’s working well and what the road blocks are for the user and professional community.

I’m told content is presented well and that there is a great opportunity for open discussion…I am told there also “time” for some social events including dinners as well as tour of some of the special places on the Microsoft Redmond Campus….but most of all the opportunity to meet the amazing people that design, build and market some of the best products, services and platforms that set out to “empower every personal and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”.

Finally.. I hear there also lots and lots of geeky swag and stickers..

Thanks for reading my boast post!


Microsoft has a new SMS Organiser app and it’s brilliant

Microsoft has launched (in preview) an SMS Organizer app for Android devices.

Why? Well, other messaging apps like WhatsApp are really good at things like sorting messages and adding some intelligence but plain old text/SMS apps don’t get any love… Until now..

Microsoft originally released the app in India last year but its now popped up in early release mode in the Play Store here in the UK…according to sources it’s only available today in UK, USA and Australia today.

Why should I care?

SMS Organizer uses machine learning to automatically analyse and sort messages and then organises them into different folders for you.

For example, any and all messages recognised as spam or sales promotional messages get filtered into a “promotions” folder, while real messages live in inbox.

Microsoft also generates contextual reminders in your SMS inbox for things like flights, trains, and appointments or bookings and there’s also a whole bunch of customisation options including ability to block senders, star/favourite messages, and even archive/backup older messages.

Once you install it, it asks to take over as the default messaging app.

That’s it… Download it here… ANDROID ONLY.

Thanks all


You can now include system audio in Teams meetings

August 2019:

Up until now (well, yesterday in my experience, it has not been possible to share your “system audio” when sharing or presenting content such as a video or PowerPoint from within a #MicrosoftTeams meeting.  A new update in in Teams which is rolling out “now” (mine “switched on” yesterday” now lets you do just that! 

This feature is easily missed but you can spot it (and enable) it from the share try tab when in a teams Meeting. When sharing content (such a application or your screen, simply tick the “include system audio” and you are good to go. 

A couple of things…

…you need to check to make sure this works though

First, you need to ensure your Windows audio device is the same as your audio device in Teams. So if you hear the audio from other participants in your headphones you have to make sure that your Windows system sound is played to that device too.

If you don’t have the same audio device selected in Teams and in Windows you will likely see the error below.

Secondly – if you have already stared a sharing session and forgot to enable the system audio, you can enable this “mid-sharing” by clicking the icon in the top control bar. To do this, simply move your mouse to the top of the screen and it should appear, select “Include system audio” by clicking on the button.

What about Live Events?

Right now, from my initial testing anyway, sharing system audio does not work with Live Events which is odd. I’ve seen nothing specifically about this in the Teams Road map but i suspect this is something that will be addressed in time. 

Thanks for Reading.


Microsoft finally puts the Nail in Skype for Business Online’s coffin

We knew it was coming and it’s actually taken longer than many people thought, but just 2 years after the first debut of Microsoft Teams, Microsoft has announced the Skype for Business Online will no longer be available from 31st July 2021 – which is two years from today!

Here’s what we know

  • Skype for Business Online will be officially retired on July 31 2021 and after that date the service will no longer be accessible in any region.
  • Current Skype for Business Online customer will experience no impact, changes or feature additions to their existing service
  • Organisations are advised to start planning their move to Teams soon and can access resources through Microsoft or their partner
  • Skype for Business Server is still supported until at least 2025.

Why now?

Microsoft has been working heavily on Teams since its launch which was always intended to fully replace Skype for Business Online at somepoint.

There gave been a plethora of new updates releases to Teams in recent months especially around voice, auto attendant services and support for direct routing (bring your own SIP). At Microsoft’s Global Partner Conference arlier this month, Microsoft also announced that their full APIs stack for voice have been released meaning that ISVs and software partners now finally able to bring their custom extensibility apps such as Contact Centre Solutions and Call Recording into Teams.

Unlike Skype for Business Online, it’s key to remember that Teams is not just a cloud phone system, but a fully integrated enterprise chat, collaboration and productivity platform with an extensive set of phone features.

Today Team and Skype for Business (online and on-premise) can co exist and even integrate to varying degrees with each other but each and all of the these modes have been designed with eventual migration to Teams in mind.

From September 1 this year, Microsoft will also discontinue the Skype for Business Online service for new users (meaning new customers cannot have Skype for Business Online) , providing them only with the option of Microsoft Teams as their central place for communication and cloud voice – or ofcourse Skype for Business Server.

Any organisation already using Skype for Business Online will retain all access, including the ability to add new users but organisations need to start planning for the migration which will turn off for good in 2 years time.

What about Skype for Business Server?

Any organisation using (or planning to use and deploy) Skype for Business Server will not be affected, and the Microsoft have committed to supporting the service until October 14, 2025 at the very least. Skype for Business Server 2019 has recently been released and comes with it, extensive integration to Teams to make integration and longer term migration possible.

How should I get started on migration from Skype to Teams?

Microsoft provide a comprehensive set of technical guidance and planning resources for Teams, and of course you can work with your Microsoft Partner to help you plan, pilot, migrate and train users.

That’s all for now.



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