Ozbizweb Group win the MAPA award for Excellence in Small and Mid-Market Cloud Solutions!

We did it!

Ozbizweb Group with Partner Sales Executive Carmel Mosser (far left) and GM of Microsoft Australia, Pip Marlow (front)

Ozbizweb Group with Partner Sales Executive Carmel Mosser (far left) and Managing Director of Microsoft Australia, Pip Marlow (front)

At last week’s 2015 Microsoft Australia Partner Conference, Ozbizweb Group took out the MAPA award for Excellence in Small and Mid-Market Cloud Solutions. See the video below for the announcement.

This year we based our submission on a SharePoint Online/Office 365 solution for AUS Recruit, a Gold Coast based athlete recruitment company. AUS Recruit secure scholarships for Australian athletes in the American College system, and use SharePoint Online and custom workflows to automate their business processes.

The solution also highlighted our use of Azure Logic apps to automate our own business processes, and the Office 365 APIs to provide an integrated support experience via the Office 365 App Launcher.

We followed up the conference with our first Breakfast event featuring Microsoft Australia’s Brett Fraser. This was the first event we’ve hosted and we received some fantastic feedback from our 50+ guests.

Breakfast Event

We’ve left the Australia Partner Conference with some great ideas for the year ahead. If you’d like to know more about how you can put the Microsoft Cloud to work for your business, get in touch!

I thought I knew Office 365

Or How I failed my way to an MCSA

In order to stay up to date with our Microsoft Partner competencies and maintain our Gold Partner status, we have to complete the relevant Microsoft Exams.

This year, we wanted to secure the Gold Small and Mid-Market Cloud Solutions competency since we’d satisfied the Office 365 performance requirements. The only thing standing in our way was two technicians passing exam 70-347: Enabling Office 365 Services.

From the moment I started collecting study materials, I knew that this would be hard. I’ve deployed and administered Office 365 for about 3 years now, though there seemed to be a lot of people with similar experience who didn’t make it. Forums were filled with people reporting failures and discussing how difficult the exam was. The official prep video from TechEd says from the outset – these are much harder than earlier exams, if you don’t do this for a career, we want you to fail (paraphrasing).

So long story short, I sat 70-347 twice, and failed twice. The passing score is 700/1000 with 54 to 55 questions, and both times I scored exactly 684! I couldn’t believe I’d missed out by what looked like one question.

After these failures I couldn’t rebook for another two weeks, so I decided to study up on 70-346: Managing Office 365 Identities and Requirements. I used CBT nuggets and a couple of MVA video series. Luckily I sat and passed this one the first time.

Exam4

While waiting for my re-do of 70-347 I studied the following things. Hopefully this can serve as a bit of a study guide.

Powershell – Exchange Online

This is a fantastic video series that you can follow along with. It’s a great introduction to using Powershell to manage any Office 365 service without having to memorise cmdlets or scripts. You might also like to watch the earlier video series on Managing Exchange Online using the Exchange Online portal

Powershell – SharePoint Online

These videos help you understand how to create and manage SharePoint online site collections via the portal and Powershell.

Powershell – Skype for Business

I couldn’t find a video series for this one, though you can browse and test the Powershell cmdlets for Skype for Business and see how they differ from the other services.

Powershell – Microsoft Online Services/Azure AD

There’s a few pre-requisites for getting connected to Azure AD via Powershell, see this link for more info.

Telemetry

This was something I struggled with since I’d never rolled it out before. Try to understand the requirements of the different components of the Telemetry dashboard.

The Office 365 Admin Portal

Log onto http://portal.office.com as an administrator and pay attention to the features of the Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business Admin portals.

After the two weeks was up I resat the exam and scored 900/1000 and completed the requirements to be a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Office 365.

Exam3

While I found these exams to be really challenging, they gave me exposure to areas of Office 365 and its included services that I hadn’t explored. I’ve grown to appreciate the power and speed of Powershell, and I’m now using it instead of the portal for lots of tasks.

If you’re looking to expand your understanding of Office 365 and get your skills recognised, I highly recommend them. You’ll learn a lot and get a cool certificate:

Elliot Munro - MCSA: Office 365

Also, my brother Blair got lucky and passed 70-347 on his first try…

Ozbizweb Group are finalists again!

The finalists for the 2015 MAPA awards were announced this week, and we’ve received a nomination for Excellence in Small and Mid-market Cloud Solutions!

The project we based this years’ entry on was an Office 365 and SharePoint Online customisation for AUS Recruit. AUS Recruit are an athlete promotion agency that secures scholarships in the American college system for Australian athletes.

The project was featured on Kochie’s Business Builders last year on Channel 7. See the segment here:

This is the second time we’ve made it to the MAPAs, last year in the Small Business category. We missed out that time to our friends at XCentral (who were also nominated this year for Excellence in Managed Services).

This years winners will be announced at the Australian Partner Conference on the Gold Coast at the end of the month. In the meantime, we get to use this cool email signature:

Ozbizweb Group - Excellence in Small and Mid-Market Cloud Solutions

 

 

Connecting SharePoint to Xero with Azure Logic Apps

Like many businesses with Office 365, we use SharePoint Online quite a bit for business intelligence, process automation and document/data storage.

We also use other cloud applications like Xero for cloud accounting. Though we were looking for a way to connect our separate cloud tools together to cut down on double handling of data and automate our invoicing.

We first tried to get the solution working entirely via a SharePoint workflow in SharePoint Designer. It wasn’t long before we gave up on this approach because we didn’t know how to do the initial authentication of the web service calls to Xero from SharePoint Designer.

The Xero Developer Center provides some good documentation and guides on configuring apps to connect to Xero organisations, so we decided to build a web API on Microsoft Azure in conjunction with a SharePoint workflow to pull this off.

Here’s what the solution looked like:SharePoint Workflow Idea

 

Advantages

  • All the OAuth authentication work is done by the API, and we can send all our calls with a client ID and Secret from SharePoint Designer with a web service call.
  • The API is designed to service multiple customers, so we can provide this as a service to our customers who want to connect SharePoint to Xero.

Disadvantages

  • We weren’t too fussed on the idea of storing the Xero Client ID and secret in SharePoint Designer, where it can be viewed by any user who can open workflows.
  • Configuring the solution for multiple customers would mean setting up and supporting these SharePoint Designer workflows across multiple organisations.

Ideally we would have a way to coordinate the flow of data between SharePoint and our API from a secure, centralised location – and, although we’re messing about with the Office 365 APIs, we’re not the most experienced developers.

Enter Azure Logic Apps

The solution to our problem came with the announcement of Azure Logic Apps back in March. This gave us the perfect way to orchestrate the authentication and flow of information between the services.

CreateAzureLogicApp

Our Azure Logic app monitors a designated SharePoint list for a new item (invoice), and once triggered, will initiate a HTTP call against our API with the relevant invoice information. We also added in a notification email step using the built-in Office 365 API app.

AzureLogicAppSteps

 

Here’s how our invoicing process works now:

  1. Remote support technicians complete a job.
  2. If the customer is not on a support contract, a SharePoint workflow creates a new item in a separate SharePoint list for processing with all the information required for invoicing.
  3. The Azure Logic App checks the list every minute, and when it finds a new item, pulls the information and populates a HTTP POST call in the format required by Xero. This creates a draft invoice in Xero, where it can be approved later.
  4. After an invoice is created successfully, a notification email is sent to let us know there’s an invoice awaiting approval.

AzureLogicAppFlow

 

Advantages

  • Since it’s running in Azure, we can set this solution up for other customers, and manage everything from the Azure Portal.
  • The Xero Client ID and Secret is stored in a central, secure location.
  • Azure Logic Apps provide detailed reporting on the success/failure of previous runs. This was extremely helpful during the initial setup.
  • No double handling of data between clouds and no missed invoices!

Azure Logic App History

Invoices processed by the Azure Logic App:

Invoices Processed by the Azure Logic App

Here’s a draft invoice created in Xero by the Logic App and our custom API. We’ve also set it up to work with our custom tracking fields, so that the technician who completed the job in SharePoint is recognised in Xero.

Invoice Created in Xero using SharePoint List Data

Invoice created in Xero using SharePoint list data

 

More reasons to connect SharePoint to Xero with Azure Logic Apps

The invoice creation workflow is the first that we’ve setup using our custom API, though there are other possible use cases for this service. For example:

  • Pull overdue invoices from Xero, assign task to SharePoint users to follow up
  • Get list of contacts from Xero in a SharePoint List
  • Add New contacts to Xero from SharePoint List
  • Use Excel services to create business intelligence dashboards, extending the functionality of Xero reporting

Have some other ideas? Get in touch!