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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a freelance data mangler in London

Thoughts on Office 365, Windows Azure Active Directory, Yammer & Power BI

This week a SharePoint conference took place somewhere and I took more than a passing interest because it clearly wasn't a SharePoint conference, it was a Office365/Yammer conference and as far as I can discern the big takeaways were:

It was interesting to me because Power BI is something that is on my radar and which is delivered via Office 365. This got me thinking about scenarios where Power BI & Yammer could play together more effectively.

The BI delivery team that I currently work for is trying find ways to make the information that we produce more discoverable, more accessible and to promote the use of the information that we provide throughout the company. The company is an Office365 customer however they pretty much use it only as an email & IM provider - none of the SharePoint-y stuff is used. The company is also a Yammer customer.

The confluence of Yammer and Power BI might make an interesting story here. Imagine, for example, the ability to build a Power View report using Power BI and then share that throughout the organisation using Yammer, perhaps via a Yammer group. Anyone viewing their Yammer feed would be able to view and interact with that Power View report without leaving Yammer. I’m not talking about simply viewing an image of a report either – I’d want to be able to slice’n’dice that report right within my Yammer feed.

I’ve long thought that we need to think of new ways of delivering BI to the masses and I believe social collaboration tools present a great opportunity to do that. I’m excited about what Yammer + Power BI could bring, let’s hope Microsoft don’t royally screw it up.

I still believe that Microsoft’s Master Data Services (MDS) should be offered through Power BI and again the opportunity to collaboratively compile and discuss data that resides in MDS is compelling. I see no reason why people wouldn’t want to change MDS data from within their Yammer feed – why would we force them to go elsewhere? Again I opine, bring the data to wherever your users are, don’t make them go somewhere else.


Hidden away behind all of the announcements was the implicit assertion that Windows Azure Active Directory is critical to Microsoft’s cloud efforts. Office 365 sits on top of Windows Azure Active Directory and I don’t think many people realise the significance of that. Whoever manages your company’s employees’ identities has a huge opportunity for selling new stuff to you and that’s why Windows Azure Active Directory is free. This is not a new play for Microsoft, over the past 20 years or so they’ve become a huge player in the corporate landscape and that’s in no small way down to Active Directory – own the identity and you can sell them other stuff like SharePoint, Windows, SQL Server etc… By allowing you to extend your Active Directory into the cloud and have pervasive groups its not far off being a no-brainer for companies to use Windows Azure & Office 365.

Active Directory in the cloud, public and private groups, identity management, developer APIs … those are the big plays here and is very much like what I described in my blog post Windows Live Groups predictions and “Active directory in the cloud”. The names and players have changed but the concepts I outlined there are now happening. Back then I said:

[This] gives rise to the idea of Groups becoming something analogous to an "active directory in the cloud". This is a disruptive idea partly because it could become the mechanism by which Microsoft grant access to their online properties in the future.

Even more powerful is the idea that 3rd party websites that authenticate visitors … could use Groups to determine what each user can do on that site. Groups will become part of an authentication infrastructure that anyone in the world can leverage.

This "active directory in the cloud" idea relies on a robust API that allows a 3rd party site to add and remove people from groups.

Believe it or not that was six years ago. Don’t want to say I told you so, but…

@Jamiet

Published Friday, March 07, 2014 10:06 AM by jamiet

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