Understanding self-service licensing in Microsoft 365

We discuss one of my favorite soapbox topics in Episode 55 of the Microsoft 365 Voice – how to plan for, manage, and control self-service licensing in Microsoft 365.

What is self-service licensing?

Microsoft announced self-service licensing in late 2019 and rolled it out in January 2020. Self-service licensing enables individual M365 users to purchase product licenses directly from Microsoft without tenant administrator approval. This means your users can purchase a product license, pay for it with a credit card, and use it in your tenant without asking you first.

Which products offer self-service licensing?

As of July 2021, self-service licensing is available for Power Platform (including Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate), Microsoft Project, and Visio.

What types of controls can you put in place to manage self-service licensing?

Reporting is available in the M365 Admin Center to see who has purchased and/or deployed self-service licenses in your tenant. If you want to prevent users from purchasing self-service licenses entirely, you’ll need to block self-service licensing via PowerShell. Unfortunately, Microsoft requires you to block self-service licensing for each individual product. This means you’ll need to monitor the Message Center and hope to see announcements when new products are enabled for self-service licensing. If you don’t prevent self-service licensing for each new product, your company may be left exposed.

Listen in for our thoughts on self-service licensing and the practical steps you need to take to manage your tenant. And check out Microsoft’s self-service purchase FAQ page for additional details.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Business processes vs. automated activities

We’re thrilled to welcome Mike Fitzmaurice, Chief Evangelist for WEBCON, to Episode 53 of the Microsoft 365 Voice. The focus of this episode is the difference between automations and business processes.

In simple terms, an automation is a ‘widget’ or task you optimize (e.g. building a macro or automating an email to be sent automatically by Salesforce). A business process is broader and deeper with a formally scoped business need and a series of automated steps that connect to form a complete cycle. Business processes are formally managed, supported, and adapted over time to meet emergent business needs.

Here’s a few of the topics discussed in this episode:

  • Supportability is key. A spelling error shouldn’t break a business process. Nor should your business processes require reverse engineering to determine WHAT the process is doing and WHY it is doing it. Processes should be built to withstand or prevent errors, should be fully documented, and should be supportable over time.
  • Processes need to be managed. New employees need to be educated on your business processes so they can do their jobs effectively. Evolving goals and customer needs need to be accounted for. If your business processes don’t evolve, they will become less effective over time.
  • Automate what you can, but don’t forget to turn widgets into formal business processes. End-users can drive improvements by automating individual tasks. But make sure you’re evaluating the need for larger business processes that can drive deeper value to your organization.
  • Business processes ensure accuracy. If you have a series of steps that must be performed correctly 99.9% of the time, you need a formal business process that is measurable, managed, supported, and adapted to changing needs.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Pro tips: What to do when you don’t feel heard at work

All of us have felt it. What should we do when don’t feel seen or heard at work? How do we regain our footing if we’ve lost control of a meeting?

On Episode 52 of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we share our experiences and share practical tips for being “seen.”

  • If you’re leading a meeting, be proactive. You’re responsible for meeting cadence and timing. Lean in and ensure important voices are heard.
  • If you hear someone being cut off in a meeting, create space for them to speak. Say “I’m interested in what Mike has to say…” and give him the floor to share.
  • Take the high road when you can. Don’t assume bad intent if you’re interrupted.
  • Be resilient (and persistent). If you have key content to share, don’t censor yourself. Keep trying to break into the meeting dialogue. If you can’t get a footing to speak, send an instant message to someone else on the meeting and ask them to be an ally for you and give you an entry point.
  • Pave the way for others to share. Be a champion and an advocate for others on the meeting. Give them the floor and show interest in their perspective and ideas.
  • Encourage others. Be a mentor for someone who doesn’t like to speak up in meetings. Ask them how you can support their ideas.
  • Deal with meeting regret. Often we regret the things we didn’t say–the answer we didn’t give and the details we didn’t provide. Our fear of saying the wrong thing leads us to say nothing at all.
  • Learn how to deal with ‘interrupters.’ We’ve all seen meetings and presentations derailed by someone who consistently interrupts. Learn how to effectively handle these interrupters and retain (or gain) control of a meeting.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

What are our plans for 2021 conferences?

It’s springtime in the northern hemisphere, and we’re dreaming about a return to in-person conferences. Most of us have been home for over a year due to the pandemic, and we’re hoping to travel and see friends again soon. In episode 50 of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we discuss our upcoming virtual, hybrid, and in-person events.

Here’s a list of the events we have coming up in 2021:

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Would you ever use SharePoint Online without Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams has become the primary solution for collaboration amongst work teams. In Episode 49 of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we discuss whether we’d use SharePoint without Microsoft Teams.

Of course, Microsoft Teams relies heavily on SharePoint Online for its file storage and document library controls. But SharePoint has several key advantages that keep it a frontrunner in the collaboration space:

  • SharePoint team sites & Communication sites are still important. SharePoint is a great solution for publishing content to a large group of people for ongoing consumption (e.g. news sites, intranet sites, etc.). Audience targeting enriches these publishing capabilities, enabling discreet data dissemination to the right people at the right time.
  • SharePoint home sites drive utilization of key new features like the SharePoint App Bar, global navigation, etc. Failing to take advantage of SharePoint will limit your navigation opportunities within Microsoft 365 as a whole (including Microsoft Teams).
  • SharePoint news is a critical component of your organizational content. Even if everyone in your organization is using Microsoft Teams, the ability to publish and manage dissemination of news via SharePoint is vital. SharePoint news enables cross-publishing across Microsoft 365, integrates page and Yammer comments, etc.
  • SharePoint Syntex integration for document understanding & forms processing. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes, SharePoint Syntex deploys models to your document libraries. These models leverage machine-learning and AI to analyze, route, and tag documents and forms.

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

How do you track your work tasks?

Episode 47 of the Microsoft 365 Voice is all about task management!

Mike, Antonio, and I share details on how we track our personal and professional tasks. Key highlights include:

  • Yes, we still love Outlook tasks. All of us use Outlook tasks for managing individual work deliverables. I love seeing my tasks alongside my Outlook calendar. It helps me plan my day and my week.
  • Dates are critical (for some of us). All three of us handle task prioritization and due dates differently. I manage tasks daily, Mike manages his week-to-week, and Antonio has a custom approach. Listen in for ideas on how you can track your daily, weekly, and global tasks.
  • Task categorization (or task ordering) is vital. Some of us use color coding/categorization of our Outlook tasks, while others order tasks by priority.
  • Planner is key for projects. We all have experience using Planner for tracking projects, customer deliverables, etc. Planner is a great way to “live out loud” with shared tasks that others can see.
  • Task organization is related to email organization. I move emails out of Inbox constantly. Simply put, I want to be as close to Inbox zero every day as I can. This same methodology ties into my daily management of Outlook tasks. Mike and Antonio have a different way of managing their email Inbox and their tasks. There is no one-size-fits-most strategy.

Enjoy the episode!

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Should you use a default label with Microsoft Information Protection (MIP)?

We took another deep-dive into MIP on Episode 46 of the Microsoft 365 Voice. This episode focuses on the importance of defining your label strategy, including the use of a default label. Here are a few of the topics Antonio, Mike, and I covered in the episode:

  • Plan your Compliance strategy up-front. Determine who needs to be involved in your Compliance strategy and carefully consider what labels you will use. Changing your sensitivity labels mid-stream can have dire effects on both your users and the veracity of your information protection program. Taking extra time to plan your strategy up-front will serve you best in the long run.
  • If you’re requiring sensitivity labels, you should set a default label. If you don’t, your users will hit a speedbump each time they try to save a file or send an email. Having a default label applied automatically will fulfill the requirement for a label, streamlining the employee technology experience. And as Antonio mentions in the episode, companies that have rolled out required labels without a default label have run into mechanical issues with file syncing, etc.
  • Can you have more than one default label in a single tenant? As Antonio explains, you can set up a default label for each of your sensitivity label policies. Depending on your information protection needs, you may want (or need) several policies. You can set up different policies for different users in your organization (giving users in Group A a different default label than users in Group B, for example). You cannot set up different policies based on type of content (e.g. emails vs. files).
  • Setting up different default labels for different departments can be a slippery slope. Too many exceptions and differences in the rules can fracture your users’ understanding of how MIP works. And as employees change roles or department reorgs occur, you’ll be in a never-ending swirl of moving users between policies and re-educating users on what their default label is.
  • Consider label exceptions carefully. To be effective, your information protection strategy needs to reach all your users. Granting exceptions that exclude some users in your organization from having to apply labels can erode your security posture and effectiveness.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

A Compliance conversation with Joanne Klein

We’re thrilled to have our friend and fellow MVP Joanne Klein join us on Episode 45 of the Microsoft 365 Voice podcast. Joanne specializes in Compliance and Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) and has great guidance to offer organizations as they traverse the Compliance space. Here are a few of the topics covered in this episode:

  • There are always new things to learn. Joanne shared a bit about her background in the Compliance space and gave us some insights into the learning she’s doing as part of her new role as a Global Black Belt for Microsoft.
  • Think “big picture” first. Joanne recommends organizations start their Compliance journey with broad discussions on goals and key drivers. Laying a foundation that outlines organizational risk tolerance and data security needs will help you make detailed Compliance decisions (e.g. retention schedules, automatic archiving) down the road.
  • End-users are key to your success. New automation capabilities can help auto-tag documents and apply retention labels, but technology alone can’t close all your Compliance and security gaps. To ensure your content is labeled and secured appropriately, you need your end-users to play an active role. Ensuring they know how to label content (and how to choose the correct label) is a key part of your Compliance success story.
  • “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Content tagging isn’t an exact science. There is no perfect strategy (or ideal set of labels) that will ensure all your content is tagged appropriately. Even if you use auto-classification, there is still a margin of error for content to be mislabeled. Set realistic expectations on what you can achieve with appropriate controls, automation, and end-user education.
  • Identify who your decision-makers are. Build a RACI model to define who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed about your Compliance decisions. Do you have a Compliance Manager? Is the Compliance team driving decisions? What role does your security team have?

We hope you enjoy the conversation.

Have a Microsoft 365 question? Submit it online! Your question may be featured in a future podcast episode.

Why I still love my digital daily huddle

We’re a year into COVID, and many of us are still working from home every day. Life as we know it has changed, and we’re not sure when we’ll get back to a “new normal.” Like many of you, I’ve spent the last year adapting to virtual happy hours, book clubs, holiday gatherings, etc. One of my favorite virtual events has been the digital daily huddle.

When quarantine started in March 2020, I launched a digital daily huddle to connect with co-workers. The huddles were quick 30-minute video meetings held early each morning. Attendance at the huddles was optional, and work topics were rarely discussed. We used our huddle time to connect and talk about life, coffee, the latest news & world events, etc.

We held huddles daily for several weeks and then shifted to meeting twice per week. It’s been nearly a year since we held our first digital huddle, and the meetings are still going strong. People attend when they can and skip when they’re busy or not in the mood to chat. There’s no pressure to dress up or look good on video, and no need to be positive and upbeat. We’re real and unvarnished. We laugh. We connect.

There are still no agendas for our huddles, and we rarely discuss work topics. But the huddles remain an essential part of my week. There are so many drawbacks to life in 2020 and 2021, but the digital huddle is a habit worth keeping.

A SharePoint Syntex & Microsoft Viva conversation with Chris McNulty

We’re excited to have Chris McNulty, Director of Product Marketing at Microsoft, join us on the Microsoft 365 Voice to discuss Project Cortex, SharePoint Syntex, and the newly-announced Microsoft Viva! There’s a lot to share in this space, especially since Microsoft’s unveiling of Microsoft Viva on February 4, 2021.

Our conversation with Chris spanned a wide range of topics, including:

Advantages of using SharePoint Syntex with an E5 license. SharePoint Syntex is licensed per-user-per-month as an add-on product. Chris helped us understand the key advantage of using SharePoint Syntex with E5 for automated classification and labeling.

Understanding how SharePoint Syntex document understanding models work – and how the models can be optimized for content variations. Chris explained how predictable patterns in your data makes it easier for SharePoint Syntex to label content and extract key pieces of metadata.

A view into how Microsoft chose the names Project Cortex, SharePoint Syntex, and Microsoft Viva. Chris even gives a hint about the future of the Project Cortex name…

What are “explanations” in SharePoint Syntex? Explanations are the “hints” you build into your document understanding model. The explanations teach your model how to identify patterns in your data. Chris provides helpful tips for teaching your users how to think about and use explanations in their models.

Introducing Microsoft Viva! Microsoft Viva is a new employee experience platform that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights. Viva can help organizations foster a culture that empowers and brings people and teams together and helps everyone be their best. Microsoft Viva integrates with Microsoft Teams, bringing four new focus areas:

  • Viva Topics – A new Project Cortex product that automatically organizes content and expertise, enabling people to find the information they need when they need it.
  • Viva Connections – A modern engagement experience designed bring people together and help them find their (digital) way.
  • Viva Learning – Engages employees in formal and informal learning opportunities that drive growth.
  • Viva Insights – Leverages analytics to provide insights and recommendations for personal well-being and employee productivity.

Chris does a great job explaining why Microsoft is passionate about employee well-being and how Microsoft Viva can help.

To learn more about Microsoft Viva, download the e-book or watch the digital launch event.