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Microsoft Flow and Power BI make awesome bedfellows

Microsoft Flow and Power BI make awesome bedfellows

On Friday April 29th Microsoft release the preview of its latest toy, Microsoft Flow. Flow is similar to Zapier & IFTTT in that it connects to online services and takes actions based upon trigger events. During the demo to a group of Microsoft MVPs we saw some interesting ways to utilize Flows, but I couldn’t wait to get my hands into it to build some fun Power BI visualizations against more easily accessible data. Saturday morning I built out a simple Flow that took data from Twitter and added it to a SharePoint Online list.

From this I was able to create a Power BI report that visualized Tweets by count of Tweet and demonstrated individual tweets vs re-tweets. The data was drillable to the text level. I gave John White a call because I thought I had finally created something that we could geek out on before he got to it! Amazingly enough I had and within minutes we were adding refinements and enhancements, giddy as school girls.

The core issue that I was facing with my Report and methodology was that SharePoint lists are not best suited for contain the amount of data that we are likely to see this week with the Future of SharePoint event on Wednesday, let alone a month or year’s worth of twitter data. After we talked my Report had become a very slick visualization (embedded below).

John & I agreed that we needed more geek out time and decided to meet back up later in the evening. I started getting texts an hour before our meet up time with links to what John had built in the previous hour. An Azure SQL Database to house the twitter information, 5 new flows to capture specific Twitter data, and a Dashboard backed report that is slicker than Canadian Goose poo.

We knew that we had to share this new cool stuff with the community, but didn’t think we had the cycles to write the hundreds of pages of content we needed to get the point across. Then we remembered that we have Camtasia licenses thanks to TechSmith‘s generous Microsoft MVP offer.

John & I spent the next hour recording a 3 part series that you can find on the BIFocal YouTube Channel or simply click on the links below. We take you through creating an Azure SQL Database, building Flows, and finally using Power BI to create awesome Reports and Dashboards.

Our final product in the web series can be found below. Keep in mind that it the anonymous report is only refreshed 8 times a day.

We hope that you enjoy the content!

-jase

Office 365 E5: the plan, the promise, the process & the pain

Office 365 E5: the plan, the promise, the process & the pain

I have been a long time Office 365 subscriber. In addition to using Office 365 for work at the companies I have worked for over the past 5 years, I have maintained a personal subscription for my own personal brand stuff. Being a Business Intelligence fan boy the subscription that fit me best has always been the E3 at $20 per seat per month (PSPM).

That was until WPC this year when Microsoft announced the E5 SKU and I heard about all of the great news stuff that was coming in this new SKU. I’ve been paying $10 per month for PowerBI for Office 365, and when it was announced that E5 was going to include PowerBI Pro AND PSTN Conferencing I figured that it was going to be a winner from a price perspective.

On December 2nd the E5 SKU became available to me in the Office 365 Admin cart. The price point was $35 PSPM. After a moment of consideration the price point seemed, while not terrific, reasonable. Here is what tipped the scales for me:

1. Included in the price is all that E3 includes = $20 PSPM

a. Office Online & Office Pro Plus

b. SharePoint Online

c. Exchange Online

d. Yammer

e. Azure Rights Management

2. PowerBI Pro = $10 PSPM

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing for details on the data refresh & collaboration features that do not come with the free version

3. Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing = $4 PSPM & the rough equivalent to GoToMeeting which starts at $24 PSPM

Allows for attendees to join the meeting by dialing in using a landline or mobile phone as well as using PC & Phone based apps to connect & share screens

4. Delve Analytics = $4 PSPM

Insights to show you communicate using Office 365. Set own goals & measure your progress

5. Customer Lockbox = $2 PSPM

Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery, Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection, Skype for Business Cloud PBX, & Office 365 Planner Preview = not features I know that I need yet for my small implementation, but are certainly of interest for larger enterprises

I figured that with all of the new features rolling out it would be worth the extra money to get E5. I went into the Admin Center to switch my plan from E3 to E5 and when I did I found this:

The link takes you to articles that refer to not being able to switch due to Add-Ons & suggests that removing the them will remedy the situation allowing you to switch plans. Sounded good in theory, however when I attempted to set the Add-On quantity to zero since there was no remove button I got the following:

I decided to leverage support at this point since it didn’t appear as though I could do anything more to help myself. I used the Admin Center support mechanism and within a few minutes a very helpful fellow named Ian called me back. We walked through everything that I had already done, as per protocol, and then he reached out to the next level support teams.

Turns out that the only way to “switch” from an E3 plan with Add-Ons to the new E5 plan is to purchase an E5 licenses, remove the E3 license & Add-Ons from the user and apply the new E5 license to that user before saving.

The issue with this is that now I have an E3 subscription that I am still being charged for that I no longer need. When attempting to cancel this subscription you encounter a cancellation fee. This is something that I am still working on with Microsoft at this point, however I am up and running with my E5 license… or so it seems. When I close out and reopen my Office 365 browser session I now get the following message in the App Launcher:

My email is still flowing properly into Outlook 2016 & to my phone, however I can no longer access any of the Exchange Online features through the App Launcher. Testing revealed that I could still access Outlook on the Web by visiting the https://outlook.office365.com URL directly when logged into Office 365, so I knew that my mailbox was intact & healthy. Knowing that things can take some time to provision I decided that I should give it a bit and come back later. After all, I had just made the change… I shouldn’t expect things to provision and be ready that quickly, right? WRONG! Within 5 minutes of me applying the E5 license to my user I got my Skype for Business Dial-in Conferencing info:

Blazingly fast setup experience! I was thrilled & impressed. Sadly the App Launcher issue was not as quick to resolve…

After 4 days of the App Launcher still showing “Setting Up” I decided it was time to open another support case. I looked at the user account in the Admin Center and found that it claimed to still be preparing the mailbox:

This time the response was not quite as quick and I got bounced around to 5 different departments over the course of 7 hours, each looking for the next team to pass me off to. When I got the following email I had finally had enough and insisted on escalation:

After I sent a scathing email to the listed manager & underlying chain of command the communication got much friendlier & faster.

The Exchange Online Support Team member, Amit, did his full load of troubleshooting & finally determined that the issue appeared to be Customer Lockbox. We went into the license & removed just the Customer Lockbox feature and applied the change.

Once this change was made the mailbox “completed” it’s setup & all appeared right with the world again.


While Customer Lockbox is not a feature that I am dying for yet, it is a part of what I am now paying for so I wanted to get it working. Amit & I went back into my user, added the feature back in, and then I logged back out and in again. My user returned to its previous state of “preparation” however my access to the Exchange Online features through the App Launcher remained.

At this point we have closed out the App Launcher case & there is an open case for the Customer Lockbox issue, which according to the case notes below will be resolved on 12/13/2015:

With Customer Lockbox not being able to be provisioned at this time and the apparent lack of the Voice Features. no sign of Delve Analytics, or Planner… I am starting to feel a bit like I am eating the cookie dough before it’s put in the oven. I know it’s too early… but it sure can be tasty… and what’s life without a little risk right? While I know the ultimate end game is going to be great, it is just a bit hard to swallow the high a price for something that isn’t fully baked yet…