Top 5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Network a Success Blogs: Working out loud and using social collaboration tools as part of your daily workflow can take some getting used to. It’s also not always easy to persuade people to adopt new methods for working or to even try new technology. We understand taking that first step towards socializing the way you work with your team can be difficult. Luckily, with the help of our customers, we’ve compiled a list of best tips to help you and your company understand how to get the most out of social.

1. Work out loud

If you’re brand new to Yammer and want to set the example for others in your network, try working out loud. What do we mean by working out loud? Share woking drafts of your documents and ask for feedback from peers. By sharing projects as you work on them, you’ll find more opportunities for collaboration. The more feedback you receive the more polished the final product will be.

2. Invite colleagues from your team and other departments

Loop your colleagues into the conversation by inviting them to join your network. Set up a Yammer Group for your team, share notes from meetings, collect comments on documents, and provide updates on your projects. At your next team meeting, take the opportunity to do a Yammer 101 overview to help them get started. Use the group to manage team projects to get everyone involved.

3. Connect with other active members and create a community of peers

It’s said that three’s a crowd. Well, we believe you should connect with as many peers as you can find. Share ideas with one another and set a strategy to help others embrace this new way of working. By reaching out to others who are active Yammer users, you will find an untapped pool of success stories and a group of like-minded individuals who are working towards the same goal as you.

4. Recruit an Executive

An executive sponsor can help clear the path for those who are hesitant about trying new technology at work and can even champion the initiative. Find an executive who is particularly passionate about driving change in the organization or social tools in general. Provide your sponsor with regular updates on your progress, the value you’ve gained, and any challenges you are facing.

Simon Terry

Simon Terry, CEO HICAPS at National Australia Bank found that the best way to engage executives was by discussing relevant topics on Yammer and inviting them to join the conversation. Help your executives get started by coaching them to understand the following key points:

  • Get your messages out, but make it a two-way dialogue:  Yammer allows leaders to reach people at all levels of the organization and engage them in a two-way conversation. It gives executives a chance to clarify strategies, get updates on the initiatives, and become aware of customer feedback.
  • Discover the potential of your employees: Social media gives people a forum to share their knowledge and allows others to uncover unknown talents in their coworkers.
  • Stick with it: People don’t alway flock to discuss your post. Your title or reputation may be intimidating. Yammer offers a way to connect with those you may not regularly interact with, but you may have to give people time to warm up to you.

5. Highlight successes


There is power in recognizing the success of others. A great way to easily find accomplishments is to encourage your team members to hashtag valuable conversations with #yamwin. This makes it seamless to showcase successes in the future.

Jennifer Thorimbert, Enterprise Community Manager at The Walt Disney Company said that for her early adopters, quickly showing triumphs–no matter how big or small–was key to ensuring Disney’s Yammer network continued to grow and to stay relevant after the initial launch.

Whether you’re at a startup or a Fortune 500 company, it’s time to embrace social as the future of business. It can take time for newcomers to become acclimated with this new style of working, but even a simple demonstration of how collaboration tools and working out loud can show social’s potential for transforming business.

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Getting started with app development Blogs: Eli Sheldon is a Program Manager on the Microsoft Project team.

With the new Project, our extensibility story entered two new exciting realms–Apps for Office and Apps for SharePoint. Bookmark this page for all the resources you need to start developing your own apps, tips based on frequently asked questions from our partners, and ideas for developing on either or both of our new models.

Quick start

If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend a lot of time reading articles and SDKs and forum posts–you want to get your hands dirty! The primary resource you’ll want to use for all Office, SharePoint and Project development is the conveniently-named–here you’ll find all of the relevant documentation, tools and support channels you’ll need.

To start writing Apps for Office targeting the Project client, all you technically need is Notepad. You’ll likely want some guidance, and this article is a great place to start–this is part of the wealth of information contained in the Apps for Office and SharePoint SDK.

To start writing Apps for SharePoint targeting Project Web App (PWA), you’ll want a copy of Visual Studio 2012, the Office Developer Tools, and the Project 2013 SDK which contains the necessary redistributable files along with our developer documentation. This article, from the Project 2013 SDK, is a great end-to-end tutorial to help you ramp up quickly.

Project Apps for Office

What exactly is a Project App for Office? At its core, an App for Office is just a webpage running in a container in the rich Office clients that can communicate with the Office client through a powerful new JavaScript API. In Project, these apps are surfaced as a task pane, much like the classic Task Inspector. For examples of apps currently in the app store, see Sensei’s Project DashboardTM or Projility’s ProjectWare ConnectTM.

Information about Project Apps for Office can be found in the Office SDK. The final product you create is an XML file called an app manifest and the webpage hosting your content / code.

Project Apps for SharePoint

What do we mean by a Project App for SharePoint? SharePoint 2013 introduced a new extensibility model to support the SharePoint Online ecosystem, and now that we have Project Online, we followed suit, leveraging much of the same system. An App for SharePoint can take many forms–a web part, a ribbon customization, a full-page custom experience–and a Project App for SharePoint is simply an App for SharePoint that includes PWA functionality. We have many in the app store already, such as Campana and Schott’s Milestone Trend Analysis or Solvin’s TrackTimesheet Go.

Information about Apps for SharePoint can be found in the SharePoint SDK, and info about Project Client Side Object Model (CSOM, the new API used to support our apps) is best found in the Project SDK. The final product you create is an app package containing an app manifest and all of your functional code. There are multiple hosting and deployment options, and apps should work both online and on premises.

Get your app out to the world

Once your app is ready for prime time, you’ll want to publish it to the Office Store. You can sell it for a price you set, or release it for free. You choose the trial conditions and the licensing options. To get started, you’ll want to read this documentation. To see all of the Project apps already delighting our customers, check out the Office Store.

If you don’t want your app to be public, you can easily distribute it through traditional means–but what fun is that?

Frequently asked questions

We get some questions pretty frequently, and while we do our best to update formal documentation accordingly, sometimes it’s best to just bubble things to the top so they don’t trip you up!

Q: How can I deploy my apps from Visual Studio?

A: If you attempt to deploy an app to any random Project Online site, you’ll probably hit an error saying “Sideloading of apps is not enabled on this site.” To prepare a site for app deployment right from Visual Studio (which gives you rich debugging), follow along with this guide from Colin Phillips, which involves using PowerShell to turn on the relevant feature.

Q: How long does it take to publish my app? How can I speed that up?

A: As soon as you know you’re going to publish an app, you should create your Seller Dashboard profile, as this process involves pretty thorough identity and tax verification. Your app does not need to be ready for this to start–so get it out of the way now!

Once you submit your final app package, you can expect (but not count on) validation to take roughly a week, depending on the current submission queue. The most common issues are inconsistent version numbers and other basic metadata. Make sure to read the complete validation rules before submitting!

Q: How can I access information from my Project App for Office not exposed by the JavaScript API?

A: You’ll want to connect to PWA for cross-project info and SharePoint-hosted info. Fortunately, I wrote a blog post detailing exactly how to do this!

Q: I keep having issues related to OAuth tokens!

A: Bing is your best friend here. Many developers have posted across many forums with what to do to resolve pretty much any OAuth issue you hit.

Q: I’m stuck and need Microsoft to help me!

A: Our forums are populated both by Microsoft extensibility experts and a strong community of seasoned developers. Any time you hit a wall, don’t hesitate to post your issue here. Check out these resources too:

Now you have all of the tools and resources you need to create the next killer Project app. I hope to see your work in the store soon!

— Eli Sheldon, Program Manager

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Profit and loss data modeling and analysis with Microsoft Excel Blogs: Accounting and Finance Professionals have a new learning resource. The Profit and Loss Data Modeling and Analysis with Microsoft PowerPivot in Excel article, Excel workbook samples, and sample Access database provide scenario-based data modeling and analysis help for self-service BI with PowerPivot and Power View.

The scenario describes how Finance professionals at Contoso Ltd. create a PowerPivot data model, Excel PivotTables, and Power View reports to analyze budget, forecasting, and other profit and loss account metrics, such as:

  • Aggregate, or value measures such as sums and averages for currency and headcount.
  • Comparison measures such as year-over-year, year-to-date, and variance for cash flow and headcount.
  • Performance, or ratio measures such as percentage, cost per head, and rate and volume variances–all of which calculate on different combinations of value and comparison measures.

Extensive details of over 80 DAX formulas are provided, as well as tips for creating highly efficient and fast performing data models. The Excel 2013 version of the sample workbook also provides several dynamic Power View reports.

To learn more, download the whitepaper.

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Cloud services you can trust: Office 365 availability Blogs: “Your complete office in the cloud” is how we think of Microsoft Office 365. While it gives us enormous pride that one billion people use Office, we deeply appreciate the responsibility we have to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations every day. We recognize that productivity apps are mission critical; using them is how work gets done. It is imperative for us to ensure our service is trustworthy and reliable while we continue to add new capabilities to Office 365. Our measure for this is service availability.

Office 365 availability

Since launching Office 365 two years ago, we have continued to invest deeply in our infrastructure to ensure a highly available service.  While information has been available in detail for our current customers, today we’re making this information available to all customers considering Office 365.   We measure availability as the number of minutes that the Office 365 service is available in a calendar month as a percentage of the total number of minutes in that month.  We call this measure of availability the uptime number. Within this calculation we include our business, government and education services. The worldwide uptime number for Office 365 for the last four quarters beginning July 2012 and ending June 2013 has been 99.98%, 99.97%, 99.94% and 99.97% respectively.  Going forward we will disclose uptime numbers on a quarterly basis on the Office 365 Trust Center.

Here are a few more details about the uptime number:

  1. The uptime number includes Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office Web Apps, weighted on the number of people using each of these services. Customers use these services together, so all of these are taken into account while calculating uptime.
  2. This uptime number applies to Office 365 for business, education and government. We do not include consumer services in this calculation.
  3. Office 365 ProPlus is an integral part of our service offering but is not included in this calculation of uptime since it largely runs on the users’ devices.
  4. Individual customers may experience higher or lower uptime percentages compared to the global uptime numbers depending on location and usage patterns.

As a commitment to running a highly available service, we have a Service Level Agreement of 99.9% that is financially backed.

Availability design principles

We have been building enterprise-class solutions for decades. In addition, Microsoft runs a number of cloud services like Office 365, Windows Azure, CRM Online,, SkyDrive, Bing, Skype and Xbox Live to  name a few. We benefit from this diversity of services, leveraging best practices from each service across the others improving both the design of the software as well as operational processes.

Below are some examples of best practices applied in design and operational processes for Office 365.

Redundancy. Redundancy at every layer–physical, data and functional:

  • We build physical redundancy at the disk/card level within servers, the server level within a datacenter and the service level across geographically separate data centers to protect against failures. Each data center has facilities and power redundancy. We have multiple datacenters serving every region.
  • To build redundancy at the data level, we constantly replicate data across geographically separate datacenters. Our design goal is to maintain multiple copies of data whether in transit or at rest and failover capabilities to enable rapid recovery.
  • In addition to the physical and data redundancy, as one of our core strengths we build Office clients to provide functional redundancy to enable you to be productive using offline functionality when there is no network connectivity.

Resiliency. Active load balancing and constant recovery testing across failure domains:

  • We actively balance load to provide end users the best possible experiences in an automated manner. These mechanisms also dynamically prioritize, performing low priority tasks during low activity periods and deferring them during high load.
  • We have both automated and manual failover to healthy resources during hardware or software failures and monitoring alerts.
  • We routinely perform recovery across failure domains to ensure readiness for circumstances require failovers.

Distributed Services. Functionally distributed component services:

  • The component services in Office 365 like Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office Web Apps are functionally distributed, ensuring that the scope and impact of failure in one area is limited to that area alone and not impact others.
  • We replicate directory data across these component services so that if one service is experiencing an issue, users are able to login and use other services seamlessly.
  • Our operations and deployment teams benefit from the distributed nature of our service, simplifying all aspects of maintenance and deployment, diagnostics, repair and recovery.

Monitoring. Extensive monitoring, recovery and diagnostic tools:

  • Our internal monitoring systems continuously monitor the service for any failure and are built to drive automated recovery of the service.
  • Our systems analyze any deviations in service behavior to alert on-call engineers to take proactive measures.
  • We also have Outside-In monitoring constantly executing from multiple locations around the world both from trusted third party services (for independent SLA verification) and our own worldwide datacenters to raise alerts.
  • For diagnostics, we have extensive logging, auditing, and tracing. Granular tracing and monitoring helps us isolate issues to root cause.

Simplification. Reduced complexity drives predictability:

  • We use standardized components wherever possible. This leads to fewer deployment and issue isolation complexities as well as predictable failures and recovery.
  • We use standardized process wherever possible. The focus is not only on automation but making sure that critical processes are repeated and repeatable.
  • We have architected the software components to be loosely coupled so that their deployment and ongoing health don’t require complex orchestration.
  • Our change management goes through progressive, staged, instrumented rings of scope and validation before being deployed worldwide.

Human back-up. 24/7 on-call support:

  • While we have automated recovery actions where possible, we also have a team of on-call professionals standing by 24×7 to support you. This team includes support engineers, product developers, program managers, product managers and senior leadership.
  • With an entire team on call, we have the ability to provide rapid response and information collection towards problem resolution.
  • Our on-call professionals while providing back-up, also improve the automated systems every time they are called to help.

Continuous learning

We understand that there will be times when you may experience service interruptions. We do a thorough post-incident review every time an incident occurs regardless of the magnitude of impact. A post-incident review consists of an analysis of what happened, how we responded and how we prevent similar incidents in the future. In the interest of transparency and accountability, we share post-incident review for any major service incidents if your organization was affected. As a large enterprise, we also “eat our own dogfood,” i.e., use our own pre-production service to conduct day-to-day business here at Microsoft. Continuous improvement is a key component to provide a highly available, world-class service.

Consistent communication

Transparency requires consistent communication, especially when you are using online productivity services to conduct your business. We have a number of communication channels such as email, RSS feeds and the Service Health Dashboard. As an Office 365 customer, you get a detailed view into the availability of services that are relevant to your organization. The Office 365 Service Health Dashboard is your window into the current status of your services and your licenses. We continue to drive improvements into the Service Health Dashboard including tracking timeliness of updates to ensure so that you have full insight into your services health.

We also have some exciting new tools to improve your ability to stay up to date with the service.  Last week we released a new feature in the administration portal called “Message Center.” Message Center is a central hub for service communications, tenant reporting and actions required by administrators.  Also, by the end of this year, administrators can expect a new mobile app that will provide service health information as well as other communications regarding their service.

Running a comprehensive and evolving service at ever increasing scale is a challenge and there will be service interruptions despite our efforts. We want to assure you that we are continually learning and are relentless in our commitment to provide you with a reliable highly available service that meets your expectations.  Service continuity is more than an engineering principle it is a commitment to customers in our SLA and as one of the key pillars of Office 365 Trust Center (the other four pillars being Privacy, Security, Compliance and Transparency). This public disclosure of Office 365 uptime is evidence of our ongoing commitment to both Service Continuity and Transparency.

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Loving the ‘Like’ Button Blogs: Any social network user will tell you, the more “Likes” your post gets, the better. But in practice, I’ve seen that a “Like” can mean more than simply liking what an update has to say. As an avid user of the “Like” button, I was curious to learn more about how other people use it on Yammer. So last week, I created a survey and posted it to the Yammer Customer Network (YCN). The feedback was lively, and the results indicated that Yammer users intuitively choose the “Like” button to quickly convey a variety of messages.

As it turns out, there are many different uses of a “Like,” and each has a direct benefit to you and your network. I’ve broken down the major examples as ranked below, and encourage you to try using “Like” in a new way:

1. “Like” to show your approval, appreciation, or agreement.

95% of the users surveyed hit “Like” when they genuinely like someone’s post. Clicking the “Like” button is an efficient and easy way to participate when you’re busy, as Workflow Expert Lori Koncz explains, “‘Like’ is acceptance, appreciation, and applause all in one click.” This can be particularly powerful when a leader uses “Like” to show that they are engaged with their employees and recognize contributions across their organization.

2. “Like” messages that you’ve been @mentioned or cc’d on to notify the poster that you’ve have seen the message.

This creates a quick feedback loop, without a string of emails that just say, “Got it” or “You’re welcome.”

3. “Like” new users posts for positive reinforcement.

Lisa Vanderlip, Communications Specialist for the Canadian Cancer Society, told us, “As my network’s community manager, I encourage ‘Likes’ as they let the poster know that they have had an impact. Nothing worse than posting and then all you hear is crickets [nothing].” “Likes” are one of the best ways to boost employee engagement in a new network and build momentum during a network or a group launch.

4. As a new user, “Like” posts to get your feet wet.

“Likes” are a low-stakes way for new users to get comfortable with working out loud. And, by liking coworkers’ posts, these shy users are building connections with others and supporting their network.

5. “Like” to recognize useful content outside of your immediate team or division.

Yammer encourages us to work out in the open, and the “Like” button is a simple way for colleagues to show appreciation for useful content, discussions, and collaborative effort across the organization. Being “Liked” shows that people outside your own immediate team care about what you are working on.

How to “Like” a message you dislike.

Sometimes there’s just a negative posts or bad news, and responding with “Like” may feel inappropriate, but it’s important to show you’re engaged. Speaking from personal experience, I believe most people understand that your “Like” conveys support and acknowledgment, not that you’re actually pleased that your coworker is “sick as a dog.” If you’re still concerned that clicking “Like” will send the wrong message, you can “Like” someone else’s uplifting response in the thread, or simply write a personal reply of your own conveying how you feel about this topic or issue.

Regardless of how you use “Like,” share your personal experiences with us in the comments below! If you’re interesting in starting a discussion in your network about the different and creative ways people use “Like,” please reach out to me for details on the survey I posted to the YCN.

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