Sunday, 4 March 2018

5 ideas for using Flow in your applications

Like many others, my team and I have been doing more and more with Microsoft Flow recently. It’s true that it does have some limitations, especially when you get into longer running processes which are more “state machine” than “take this set of actions” (or you want to understand more around update of items in SharePoint, or respond to delete events, rather than new), but overall the capabilities are incredible. In particular, it’s the connectors to other services that make Flow – and the resulting set of things you can do with them. Chatting to some other developers recently, it occurred to me that lots of Office 365 technical people are probably unaware of what Flow can do these days - and so that motivated this article. My list of cool things you can do for this article is:

  • Send a message on Skype for Business
  • Post into a Microsoft Team
  • Add a row to Excel
  • Create an Office 365 Group (via a call to the Graph)
  • Send a push notification to a mobile device

A few days earlier, I found myself doing strange things in a Flow I was building – I just needed to do some basic debugging to find out why my process was going down one branch, when I expected to be going down another. Why was the value I was testing in my “if/else” condition not what I was expecting? I figured I would add some quick and dirty logging somewhere so I could get better visibility of things (and probably remove or change this later) – but then I couldn’t find something logical to log with. My initial thought was to use Azure Application Insights – I recently talked about using this in intranets and page widgets to track events in your code i.e. particular actions that users take. How often is your app launched? How often are users clicking that special button? How many users ever switch to the second tab of your user interface? Or, perhaps in site provisioning – how many sites are being requested, and how long do things take? I figured that you could log to App Insights at particular points of your Flow, and that would be a great way of analyzing the most common path through a Flow, or perhaps doing some debugging during the build.

Unfortunately, there is no “Track event in Azure App Insights” action yet :(

I added a UserVoice item here if you also think this would be a good thing and feel like voting.

Anyway, this led me to having some fun with other possibilities – you could use them for quick and dirty debugging like me, but I think there are a lot of true business possibilities here and so it’s worth being aware of them.

Send a message on Skype for Business

This one could be useful if a person/team needs to be notified *immediately* when something is added or changes somewhere in Office 365, and for some reason an e-mail notification isn’t a good fit. Arguably this one works best if the recipient is a desktop/PC user – later I talk about options for notifications to mobile workers. Anyway, it certainly gets the user’s attention, and it can be configured in your Flow very quickly. Here’s the end-user experience:



Here’s what it looks like in Flow:


Post a message to a Microsoft Team

But enough of Skype for Business, the future for most organizations (in the Microsoft cloud) is Teams of course. As you’d expect, there’s good integration between Flow and Teams. Saying that, it’s not currently possible to send a chat message in Microsoft Teams, but we can post to a channel – which is arguably more useful in the real world. Here’s what it looks like in Teams:


Here’s what it looks like in Flow:


Add a row to Excel

Of course, half of the world’s critical processes are still running in Excel. Fortunately, you can easily use Excel as a data source from Flow, whether that means reading from or writing to workbooks – it’s trivial if the Excel file is somewhere in Office 365. In the example below, I’m adding a row to an Excel workbook every time an expense report is submitted to SharePoint. This could be used by a finance team for reporting or to help with some month-end processes perhaps. The end result is an Excel spreadsheet which is being built up automatically over time, and I can pull details from the SharePoint item into Excel:


Here’s what it looks like in Flow:




HTTP call to the Graph (with AAD auth) – e.g. to create an Office 365 Group

Some really interesting possibilities come with calling the Microsoft Graph from Flow. Obviously the Graph is the gateway to all things related to mail, calendar events, contacts, documents in SharePoint/OneDrive, Planner tasks, Teams and more. In this case I’m focusing on Office 365 Groups. How about a way to control Group requests and creation through a SharePoint list with approval? I implemented this in 20 minutes flat, and I think many organizations in Office 365 would get a lot of bang for buck from such a process. The ingredients are:

  • A SharePoint list for users to request a new Office 365 Group – this provides the form
  • A Flow with a ‘Start an Approval’ action – this provides the controlled creation/approval by an administrator step
  • A HTTP action added to the Flow (when it goes down the “approved” condition branch) – this calls the Graph, in this case, a POST to the /Groups endpoint with the details of the Group to be created
    • An AAD app registration for to authenticate with the Graph – this must have permissions to create Groups (e.g. Group.ReadWrite.All)

So, if you imagine a SharePoint list where items get added:


We add a Flow to respond when a new item is added to the list, and somewhere in there we add the simple HTTP action (e.g. after an approval step):


We configure this to point to the correct URL in the Graph API, and pass the appropriate JSON for Group creation:


There’s actually a bit more to it than that – we need to specify authentication details for the call, in this case specifying the Client ID and Secret for our AAD app registration which has the appropriate permissions (done separately in the Azure portal):


..and then, when an item is added to the list and it is approved by an admin, the Group is created along with the corresponding mailbox, calendar, SharePoint site and so on:



Not bad for 20 minutes work! Of course, the ability to easily call the Graph means you could do a bunch of things – I can certainly imagine lots of business processes where it would be useful to do things like:

  • Create a calendar item
  • Create a task in Planner
  • Update a user profile
  • Add a new contact

..and so on. A quick look at the Graph documentation should give you lots of ideas.

Send a push notification to the Flow owner on their mobile device

What if you need to get an immediate notification out to some users or administrators who are typically mobile or out in the field when something is changed in Office 365, and e-mail or SMS aren’t the right solution? We’re used to getting push notifications from certain apps on our phone/tablet these days, but developing a custom app and getting this in the hands of all your users can be expensive and time-consuming. If you can get the iOS/Android versions of the PowerApps or Flow mobile apps in their hands instead – and remember, users can install those right now from the respective app stores – then you can send push notifications to these apps very easily.


OK, so there are some caveats with this one, partly because there are two ways you can send push notifications. The caveats are:

  • The standard Flow push notification can only send *to the Flow owner*
  • The PowerApps push notification can send to anyone, but your app users need to be on a premium (paid) plan – remember this doesn’t necessarily need to be everyone in the org though

It’s also worth considering that if you need a notification that something needs to be approved by the recipient, Flow can do something even better for that – Flow approvals work great in the Flow mobile app. The task details are shown fairly clearly, with big “Approve” and “Reject” buttons:


Nothing special is needed for this, just regular use of the Flow ‘Start an Approval’ action. If the recipient has the Flow app installed on their device and is logged-in, they’ll receive the notification and be able to approve/reject extremely easily from inside the app.

But what about other types of notifications? Perhaps someone has submitted something, and you need to confirm to them that it has been logged and a process has been started? Well, if you can use the PowerApps push notification option, this works great and you can even prompt the user to open your PowerApp (and pass parameters to load a particular item/take the user to a particular screen etc.):


When the user opens the notification, your particular PowerApp can open. Here’s what it looks like in Flow:


Pretty nice stuff really.


I think it’s a good idea for all developers, architects and technical business folks working in Office 365 to be aware of the possibilities of Microsoft Flow. There’s a significant leap forward here in terms of what can be accomplished for the amount of effort involved – and so many organizational processes can benefit from this stuff. I’ve presented 5 ideas here of some things that might be useful, but I’m focusing mainly on taking other actions in or communicating via Office 365. Consider also that Flow has a LONG list of connectors to 3rd party applications – and although all the top enterprise productivity vendors have a similar list, I don’t believe anyone is taking it as far as Microsoft are. The image below shows a small selection (just those starting with letters P to W!):


Even in this set you can see Salesforce, ServiceNow, WorkDay and lots of other enterprise systems.

I think some of this stuff is killer for Office 365 personally. Happy process building!

    Thursday, 15 February 2018

    PowerApps – implementing offline support in your app

    In the previous article I talked about my views on the good, the bad and the ugly of PowerApps at the present time (early 2018), but today I want to focus on a particular scenario – ensuring your app can be used offline. Not all apps will require this capability, but for some scenarios it will be vital. Unfortunately there is no magic button when building the PowerApp which makes it support offline – the implementer has to build it in his/herself, and this can make a simple app quite a bit more complication.

    When we talk about an app working when offline, I’d say the general expectation is that:

    • The app is usable (e.g. any dropdowns which pull data from somewhere continue to work)
    • If the app is focused on writing data to somewhere (e.g. a SharePoint list/database/Excel file stored somewhere online etc.), then it should be possible to submit the record whilst offline – even if the connection needs to be resumed for it to actually be saved to the back-end
      • I think lots of PowerApps fall into this category (e.g. log a new incident/I.T. request/holiday request/expense claim etc.), so I’m going to focus on this aspect today
    • If the app reads existing data (e.g. show existing incidents/requests), then it should be possible to access at least some of this data offline (e.g. most recent 20 records, say)

    The PowerApps blog has some good info in Build offline apps with new PowerApps capabilities, but I found myself doing some things differently – so thought it worth discussing here.

      Understanding the deal with offline

        A big thing to recognize here is that *the app must be opened for a while once the connection is resumed for data to be submitted*. It’s not like the “fire and forget” experience with the e-mail application on your phone (and one or two other native or “tier 1” applications), where you can hit send and trust the data to be sent even if your phone stays in your pocket. Instead, your users need to have your PowerApp open for a while – and the specifics depend on how you implement offline. In my case I used a timer which checks every 5 seconds if the device is connected to the internet, and then saves the record to SharePoint Online if so – this means the user doesn’t have to DO anything in the app (e.g. press a button), which is something. And, of course, as these things are happening in the background it’s important to communicate the status to the user, so it’s clear when their record has been saved to the back-end.

        By the way, this deal isn’t specific to PowerApps. I’m no expert here, but it seems nearly all 3rd party app (including other apps you might use for such a use case e.g. Nintex Mobile) require this due to constraints on the background processing apps can do when not in use. Even with the right settings in place on your device (e.g. “Background App Refresh” enabled on iOS), this isn’t enough for these apps to push data it seems. So, prepare to coach your users in having the app open for a while once re-connected – and as I show below, you could consider making this really clear in the user experience.

        A sample experience (from my POC app)

        Here’s a video of offline support in an app I built recently, recorded from my iPhone – the holiday/leave requests app I mentioned in the last post. This simulates a user submitting a leave request without a connection (flight mode enabled), and then the record actually being saved to SharePoint Online once the connection is back (flight mode disabled):

        The recipe for offline in PowerApps

        In this section I’ll go through the different bits which are making the offline behaviour work, and provide some starter PowerApps formulas where appropriate (with the important functions highlighted). Remember my case focuses only on adding a new item to a SharePoint list, so it’s the PATCH function which is doing this work. Overall, the recipe I used was:

        • Two info screens within the app:
          • Pending screen
          • Confirmation screen
        • Formula behind submit button:
          • If connected, PATCH record to SharePoint
          • If not connected, CLEARCOLLECT to save record locally
          • RESET form (to clear existing values)
          • NAVIGATE to pending screen

            If(Connection.Connected, Patch('My SharePoint list', Defaults('My SharePoint list'), {Title:Concatenate("Leave Request - ", User().Email, " - ", Text(Now(), "[$-en-GB]dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm:ss" )),SomeField1:SomeControl1.Value, SomeTextField1.SomeTextControl1.Text,SomeChoiceField: {    '@odata.type':"#Microsoft.Azure.Connectors.SharePoint.SPListExpandedReference", Value: SomeDropDownListControl.Selected.Value, Id: 1 });
            Navigate(ConfirmationScreen, ScreenTransition.Fade),
            ClearCollect(LocalRecord, {Title:Concatenate("Leave Request - ", User().Email, " - ", Text(Now(), "[$-en-GB]dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm:ss" )),SomeField1:SomeControl1.Value, SomeTextField1.SomeTextControl1.Text,SomeChoiceField: {    '@odata.type':"#Microsoft.Azure.Connectors.SharePoint.SPListExpandedReference", Value: SomeDropDownListControl.Selected.Value, Id: 1 });
            Navigate(PendingScreen, ScreenTransition.Fade))
        • Formula for Timer control (implemented on both “start” and “pending” screens – so user can have app open in any logical location, and record will be submitted). In the OnEnd event:
          • If connected and have record(s) in “LocalRecord”, iterate each record with FORALL and then PATCH to SharePoint
          • NAVIGATE to confirmation screen
          • CLEAR “LocalRecord”

            If(Connection.Connected,ForAll(LocalRecord, Patch('My SharePoint list', Defaults('My SharePoint list'), {Title:Concatenate("Leave Request - ", User().Email, " - ", Text(Now(), "[$-en-GB]dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm:ss" )),SomeField1:SomeControl1.Value, SomeTextField1.SomeTextControl1.Text,SomeChoiceField: {    '@odata.type':"#Microsoft.Azure.Connectors.SharePoint.SPListExpandedReference", Value: SomeDropDownListControl.Selected.Value, Id: 1 }});
            Navigate(ConfirmationScreen, ScreenTransition.Fade));

        • A “status bar” within the app indicating whether the device is connected or not (as a simple reminder to the user)

        WARNING – those formula extracts are edited/simplified versions of my real ones, and maybe the closing brackets aren’t exactly right. Take care if you try to use them for your formulas – really I’m just trying to convey the concepts!

          Dealing with reading from data sources when offline (e.g. for dropdowns)

          One thing to look out for is if your SharePoint list has choice or lookup fields – you might be presenting the options in a dropdown list or with radio buttons in your app. Since November 2017, you can now have multi-select on such fields, but unfortunately if the user happens to use your app for the first time in offline mode, the dropdown list will not be populated (it will display “Find items”, but no list appears when the user clicks). The user can type in an option, but since they are not selecting from a list of valid choices this will generally go horribly wrong and the item will not be added to SharePoint.

          Also consider that you are most likely not using taxonomy/managed metadata fields, because they are still read-only (as at February 2018).

          So, you need to work around this. One option, especially if you’re already using the PATCH command or similar to update SharePoint, is to bind your control to some static data which can be accessed offline. This is a bit lame, as you’re essentially duplicating the items as hardcoded data within your app – you lose the benefits of your choice/lookup field, i.e. the form dynamically fetching the right options based on what is defined in SharePoint. You could probably do something clever with a formula which refreshes a collection when the app has a connection, but it would be nice if this was handled in a better way by the PowerApps infrastructure. Maybe in the future :)


          PowerApps can work just great offline, but it’s all down to the implementer. The PowerApps framework provides the ability to detect if the device currently has a connection, a timer control (so that actions can be taken automatically), and the various functions for adding/updating data in a data source (e.g. PATCH, UPDATE etc.). These are the ingredients to use when implementing offline support in your app – there’s work to do, but you can control the experience and make sure it makes sense in your context.

          Further reading -

          Tuesday, 6 February 2018

          PowerApps–the good, the bad and the ugly (early 2018)

          I’ve been doing quite a lot of work with PowerApps for clients recently, and it’s been an interesting time. No doubt I’m still not the world’s most capable PowerApps implementer by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like I’ve been through the usual denial/anger/acceptance phases that often come with a new technology ;) Some of my work has centred on a proof-of-concept application for one of the big airlines – specifically, building an app that pilots should be able to use whilst offline on an iPad. The project was to digitise some forms related to booking leave, which is an important part of flight crew scheduling. We effectively rolled 3 forms into one app:


          I gave a presentation on this recently to my colleagues at Content and Code, but I’ve also genericised some of the information so it can be shared more widely (Contoso Airlines!). The deck shared below is a combination of some typical lessons learnt and tips, but also has my thoughts on where PowerApps is a technology, structured into “the good, the bad and the ugly”.

          Potentially transformative, but with a learning curve..

          My conclusions are that it’s a great technology and although it’s aimed at forms-type applications in general, it really shines for relatively simple mobile apps. The organization just has to deal with getting users to have the PowerApps app installed (either from the app store, via an MDM solution such as Intune or Airwatch, or another approach) and then all the PowerApps forms and applications the organization provides will show up there. This is *far* easier and cheaper than developing individual native apps on iOS and Android, which each need to be distributed to users once the build is complete. In contrast, it’s feasible that you could have your Office 365 users working with a simple PowerApp on their mobile device within hours. Think about that for a moment! Sure, PowerApps doesn’t give you the richness that a high-end native app can have, but the barrier to entry is much lower.

          However, it’s not always the simplest for the app implementer to work with. Frequently, things can get into a territory that I’d argue most power users would struggle with. An example in my case was having to abandon the default SharePoint integration/data-handling, and craft my own formulas which use the Patch() function to add an item to a SharePoint list (necessary because my form used multiple screens). This is fiddly work if you have lots of form fields and columns in the underlying list, even for a developer used to such things.

          Customizing SharePoint lists vs. creating a standalone PowerApp

          The implementer must choose between two approaches – customizing the form of a SharePoint list, or creating a “standalone” PowerApp (which might talk to the very same list). Conceptually these are quite different, and have different behaviours. This decision is expressed in the PowerApps menu on a SharePoint list:


          A key thing here is that customized SharePoint forms do not show up in the PowerApps app:


          If users need to work with a customized SharePoint list on their mobile device, then using the SharePoint mobile app instead provides a reasonable experience – in fact, the SharePoint app should hand-off to the PowerApps app when you go to the list, and the customized PowerApps form should then be loaded. However, this currently seems to be a bit hit and miss – most often, I actually just get a web rendered view of the PowerApp, and here it seems that the experience isn’t as optimized for mobile as a true PowerApp – some pinching/zooming is often necessary.

          I’m sure things will be straightened out here eventually, but I still think I’d prefer a different model – what about if certain customized SharePoint lists could be flagged to appear within the PowerApps app (perhaps by a tenant administrator)? That would seem a better arrangement to me at least.. 

          Other interesting aspects

          The presentation includes some high-level detail on other things I’ve worked with that might be interesting:

          • Installing the on-premises Data Gateway to connect to on-premises data (SQL Server in my case)
          • Implementing offline support in a PowerApp (using a Timer control to submit data once reconnected)
          • Some implementation details around using a Gallery control for navigation, and the 10 PowerApps functions I found most useful from the 150+ functions which are available

          My “good, bad and ugly” summary:

          If you’re not that interested in the presentation and want to skip straight to the summary, here are my conclusion slides:




          By the way, if you’re wondering what I mean by “web experience (upscaled phone/tablet view)”, let me try to explain. Certainly a form/app looks good on a mobile device, and is optimized for that form factor – all the controls are very “thumb-able”, and even typing into a textbox works fine (shown here at tablet/iPad size):

          4 - BA PowerApp - paternity leave screen

          But when a PowerApp is accessed on a PC, there is no responsive design or optimization for the device – the very same rendering for phone/tablet is used, which is just plain weird in my view:

          PowerApps - PC 800 - msg

          And no, I don’t know the Office 365 suite bar displays “Dynamics 365” either (particularly since Dynamics is not even in use in this tenant). But I’d happily live with that if I could have a better experience than the strange “phone screen in a PC browser” deal that we currently get. Nintex Forms does a better job of this, so I’m not sure why PowerApps went down this route. Again, I’m hopeful some enhancements to this will appear at some point.

          So that's some headlines from what I spoke about. I'll most likely publish some other PowerApps articles which dive into more detail on implementing offline/using the on-premises Data Gateway etc., but essentially I just wanted to share the slide deck in case it’s useful to anyone:

          The slide deck:

          Thursday, 4 January 2018

          Using Site Designs or PnP templates for SharePoint site provisioning

          So the new “site designs and site scripts” capability for creating SharePoint sites from a template is starting to become available in Office 365. This provides an alternative approach to using Microsoft’s Patterns and Practices (PnP) provisioning library and XML, which has been the way that most experienced implementers have been creating custom site templates in recent times. For a full “self-service” implementation, it’s typical to provide a custom form for end-users to request sites and provide any required information - the PnP building blocks provide support this, although some tailoring is needed in most cases plus the work to implement in the organization’s Office 365 and Azure environment. Microsoft are introducing site designs/site scripts as an alternative way of templating SharePoint sites, which is more baked-in to Office 365.

          However, it’s not just a simple “either/or” decision between site designs and PnP – both are valid approaches, and there are quite a few considerations which could lead you to use one or the other. In addition, it’s also possible to combine both approaches by calling a PnP template *from* a site design. This is very welcome since:

          • there are lots of tweaks to a SharePoint site that are not possible yet with site designs
          • lots of organizations have an existing investment in custom site templates implemented with PnP

          So, the implementer can choose between site designs, PnP provisioning, or a combination of the two. In this post I’d like to explore some of the factors around your SharePoint site creation/templating strategy.

          Key considerations for Site Designs

          1. End-users create sites directly (with no approval step)

          Site designs that you define become available for selection in the out-of-the-box site creation experience. There is no approval process, and in general you have to be happy with the user experience which is provided. It’s the "SharePoint home" page where the site creation UI is surfaced - accessed from the 'SharePoint' text in the Office 365 header or the 'SharePoint' app in the app launcher. Self-service site creation must be enabled on the tenant for the 'Create site' link to show (SharePoint Admin Center > Settings > Site Creation > “Show the Create site command to users who have permission to create sites”). Note that it is possible to restrict the use of specific site designs to certain groups of people (e.g. if you had a template for an 'executive site' or a 'finance site', and only certain groups of people should see this option) with commands such as Grant-SPOSiteDesignRights or GrantSiteDesignRights (REST), but the top-level switch which enables all users to create sites must be enabled on the tenant – those commands only hide/show specific templates.  

          Here’s what the experience looks like:

          COB site design - create site

          COB site design - site design selection

          COB site design - form 1

          COB site design - form 2 

          2. It’s possible to provide a custom form, but implementation effort is needed (especially to collect custom metadata)

          As users create sites, it’s common to want to collect some custom metadata – things like business unit, purpose, cost centre and so on. Happily, it appears possible to provide a custom form to facilitate this (but it’s not working yet in any of my tenants):

          Custom site creation form

          It’s not yet clear what form (ahem) the form is expected in. It could be that a PowerApp form is expected here, in which case we’d be specifying something like:

          Custom site creation form - PowerApps

          However, in addition to implementation effort required to develop and host the custom form, I envisage that a chunk of work is required for that custom metadata to be applied somewhere. After all, you’ll need to decide whether this gets stored somewhere in the site (e.g. property bag) or in some centralized list or database somewhere. So as an accompanying point, it’s perhaps worth remembering that…

          2.5 There is no site directory “list”, except for your site collection list in the SharePoint Admin Center

          In a typical SharePoint site templating implementation (based on PnP or not), there’s usually a SharePoint list which contains details of all the sites which have been requested and created. Often the implementer will store custom metadata (such as division, cost centre etc.) in this list, particularly if doesn’t need to be updated by the site owner on an ongoing basis. But there’s no such list with the native site creation setup, only your list of site collections in the SharePoint Admin Center - and remember these Group sites will only show in the NEW Admin Center due to be launched in early 2018! It’s not yet clear whether this will support custom metadata and make the whole thing easy, but I doubt it – I’d fully expect there to be work to do to handle your custom metadata, and I think that’s fair..

            3. Cannot block ability to create communication sites

            Some organizations are happy for end-users to create team sites from approved templates, but want communication sites to be a more controlled thing – perhaps because they’re worried some folks will take communication sites too far and create lots of mini-intranets. Unfortunately this isn’t possible currently. If end users can create SharePoint sites (the default), they can create both team sites and communication sites. Certainly, communication sites are a welcome addition to SharePoint Online - but I could believe some organizations will block the out-of-the-box site creation tools and implement their own version with more governance for this reason.

            The first step of creating a site using the out-of-the-box UI is shown below (but not in the series above) – as you can see, both types are available for selection:

            COB site design - site type

            4. Site designs create Office 365 Group sites (unless you have disabled the ability for end-users to create Groups)

            As you might know, when a site is created from the SharePoint home page (as shown above) it’s actually an Office 365 Group which is created – assuming that is, that your Office 365 environment is using the default setting which allows all end users to create Groups. If not, a classic/standalone SharePoint site is created. All this is the case whether a custom site design is applied or not. With a Group of course, a bunch of things are actually being provisioned not just a SharePoint site collection – including a shared mailbox for group conversations, a calendar, a Planner Plan and so on. This is perfect if your collaboration strategy is based on Office 365 Groups – but this requires detailed consideration. Organizations should not wander into this blindly.

            ..but a Team is not automatically created for the Group..

            Notably a Microsoft Team is not provisioned for the Group – similar to if the Group was created from Outlook, Yammer, Power BI or one of the other endpoints. But it is possible to easily add a Team as a separate step if needed. Any user who has permissions to create a Team will see something this option when they go to create a Team:

            COB create new team - 1

            COB create new team - 2

            In all this, you should be considering whether your strategy is based on Office 365 Groups which can be created by any user (the default), or whether you prefer to do something else. This is a fairly big topic, but there are several options here, including:

            • Provide a means for end-users to create (or simply request) SharePoint sites which are not Groups i.e. they are classic standalone SharePoint site collections
            • Restrict who can create Groups in the organization, by using the Set-AzureADDirectorySetting command with the "GroupCreationAllowedGroupId" parameter to restrict Group creation to members of a special group (e.g. I.T. staff) – see Manage who can create Office 365 Groups for more info
              • (N.B. Microsoft recently clarified the licensing requirements around enabling this option – users who ARE able to create Groups must have an Azure AD Premium license, but the rest of the organization does not)
            • Both of the above
            • Don’t use Groups at all
            • Provide a means for end-users to create (or simply request) a site which is an Office 365 Group, but using a custom form as described earlier or an entirely custom interface (e.g. because you have particular requirements not satisfied by the out-of-the-box UI)

            Overall, you can’t really get into site designs for team sites without considering wider aspects of collaboration. Oh and remember, if you provide site designs for communication sites (rather than team sites), those are NOT Group-connected sites. By the way I think Microsoft made the right call there, given the nature of most communication sites..

            5. Using site designs alone does not need Azure

            Most SharePoint site templating implementations which use PnP also use Azure. Certainly if self-service is involved, the typical arrangement is to have users request the site through a form, which adds an item to a list. Because site creation/template application takes some time, it needs to be an async process and so somewhere in there is usually an Azure queue with an Azure web job or Azure Function – this does the heavy lifting, and then e-mails the user and some administrators when the site is available. The PnP provisioning library provides much of these building blocks.

            However, we regularly run into organizations which are using Office 365 and it’s services, but do not use Azure or any competing cloud platform such as AWS yet. Of course, any Office 365 implementer knows that by using Office 365, the org is actually using Azure AD underneath, but really we’re talking about whether it’s possible to deploy remote SharePoint code such as PnP to the cloud. Often the InfoSec or compliance groups have not yet validated whether this is OK for the org, and there might be valid reasons why Office 365 is OK but other cloud services are not (yet).

            So, it might be compelling that site designs themselves bring no requirement for Azure. Sure, you’re limited to the templating options provided by site designs, but the “engine” which is applying the template to the site is Microsoft’s code running within the Office 365 service – no custom code is needed whether PnP or not, and therefore the infrastructure requirements are somewhat simpler.

            6. Site designs cannot be used on-premises, but PnP site templates can..

            Not too much to say here beyond that. Will site designs come to on-premises SharePoint in the future? Difficult to say, but it’s worth remembering that PnP site provisioning can be used in online and on-prem scenarios.

            7. Limitations of site designs

            One big caveat if you’re hoping to use only site designs for your site templates is that you’re currently limited to to what can be accomplished in a site design. The list of things you can add/change in the site is currently:

            • Add list:
              • Set title
              • Set description
              • Add column
              • Add content type (note – it must exist already! Site designs cannot provision new content types yet)
              • Set field custom formatting (with the new JSON-based formatting)
            • Apply theme
            • Join a hub site (although hub sites are not yet launched)
            • Set site logo
            • Add navigation link
            • Trigger a Microsoft Flow

            NOTE – this list will change over time. See the site design JSON schema reference for the latest picture and details of each operation.

            When I think about the other things we often change (using a PnP template) – changing the site locale/region settings, activating features, provisioning a new home page, adding and configuring web parts, setting the site access requests recipient, changing content types/views/applying versioning settings etc. on libraries – it becomes apparent that things are very limited indeed. For us, this is a complete blocker to the idea of using site designs on their own at the moment. Fortunately, the ability to call a Microsoft Flow is intended for you to supplement what the site design/site script is doing – so let’s explore this idea.

            The “site designs + PnP” approach

            In brief, the Flow can trigger some remote code you have to perform other configuration of the newly-created site. This allows you to chain a bunch of other things on to what you were able to do with the site design – for example, actions in my list of things not possible purely in site designs. Of course, the logical thing to do here is actually to apply a PnP template to the site as we would have done before site designs. The pattern is:

            1. Site gets created from site design
            2. Site design steps are applied
            3. Custom Microsoft Flow is called – this puts an item onto an Azure queue with details (e.g. URL) of the new site
            4. The Azure queue uses a QueueTrigger to start an Azure Function (or web job if you prefer)
            5. The function applies a PnP template to the site

            There’s some pretty good early documentation on this approach in Calling the PnP Provisioning Engine from a Site Script. That article shows using a function written in PowerShell which authenticates back to Office 365 using SharePoint Add-in authentication, but you might also choose a C# or node.js code approach which uses Azure AD and ADAL.NET/ADAL.js to authenticate back. Either way, there’s some work to do in Azure to get this running.

            The benefit of course, is that you unlock the ability to do anything you need to meet the requirements of the site, but can take advantage of the out-of-the-box UI for creating sites (and the fact that things are nicely baked-in to Office 365/SharePoint Online). Given that PnP site provisioning continues to expand it’s capabilities and we can now automatically deploy app packages containing SPFx web parts and extensions, or even SharePoint Add-ins, this approach will be common I feel. Indeed, I think we will implement “minimal” site designs which basically only call a Flow, and the entire template implementation is handled in a PnP template.


            It might sound like I’m down on site designs somewhat from the points I’m raising, but I’m not. I think this is a great evolution in SharePoint Online – no longer is all of a site templating solution is left to the implementer, since Microsoft are now taking care of some elements (however small to start with). I love the fact that some thought was given to how to go beyond the capabilities of site designs, and I’m sure the engineering teams were thinking specifically about how PnP templates could be incorporated. If I was king for a day, I would have preferred that the existing PnP template schema was used as the foundation for site designs in the first place (instead of introducing another approach to templating with a new JSON schema) – however, I do understand that the PnP engine is open source/community-driven and is not part of the core Office 365 platform, so perhaps that was part of the reason.

            The introduction of site designs certainly means that there are more options around SharePoint collaboration and site provisioning strategies! Being equipped with as much information as possible is wise – this will help you make the right decisions for you/your organization’s context..

            Also remember that site designs are still in preview (currently being rolled out to Targeted Release tenants) – hopefully it won’t be too long until the initial release hits General Availability, and the capabilities expand along the journey..

            Reference -

            Thursday, 14 December 2017

            Presentation deck – Best bits of Azure for the Office 365/SharePoint developer

            This is post 2 of 2 to publish the slide decks for presentations I’ve given recently, in particular at the European SharePoint Conference 2017 held in Dublin. See also:

            Presentation deck – Pitfalls in SPFx development

            As with my other post, the slide deck is embedded at the bottom of this post. There’s no way for me to convey the demos easily, but the slides themselves hopefully have some good reference information. When you start to consider some of the different scenarios in even lightweight extensions to Office 365/SharePoint, it’s clear how useful Azure is:

            What? How?
            Do something on a schedule Put code in Azure Web Jobs/Functions
            Build apps (Office 365 app/SP provider-hosted add-in) Deploy app files to an Azure app
            SharePoint site provisioning Deploy PnP Partner Pack (or PnP Core with some calling code) to Azure
            Run code on a button click Use Azure Functions + JavaScript
            Store data not suited to SP lists Use Azure SQL Database
            Store files for my app Use Azure BLOB storage (and CDN if appropriate)
            Implement SharePoint web hooks Use Azure Queues and Functions
            Implement authentication on a custom web app Implement Azure Active Directory (AAD) auth

            The highlighted scenarios are ones I demo’d, with the last one actually being a demo of a real-world solution we built which touches on queues, web jobs, BLOB storage, CDN and more.

            Otherwise the main topics are:

            • Azure web apps
              • Lots of cool features you might overlook here, including Deployment Slots and Testing in Production. In other words, it’s much more than simple web-hosting that you might get from the days of hosting IIS yourself..
              • Variety of ways to deploy files there – from the Kudu interface which is similar to dragging/dropping files into a SharePoint document library, to publishing from Visual Studio, to WebDeploy, to auto-sync from your source control (VSTS, GitHub etc.)
            • Azure App Insights
              • Another unsung hero of Azure? I’ve discussed this in a couple of posts recently, including Use Azure App Insights to track events in your app/web part/provisioning code. I love the idea of finding out how often a particular web part is running, or if a particular tab is being clicked in your app – and it’s really simple to put this kind of stuff in place too. App Insights also has great tools for querying your logs in a SQL-like way, and also for configuring alerts (e.g. if the home page takes longer than 5 seconds to load from the client-side). Take a look!
            • Azure Functions
              • If you’re an Office 365 developer and you haven’t implemented some code in an Azure Function yet, I think it’s only a matter of time :) I have a slide which compares to Azure web jobs, but overall Functions can be used in so many more scenarios – including things like a button click in a web part or PowerApp, or perhaps a call out from a Flow or the Site Designs model for site provisioning (via a Queue Trigger)
              • I also talk about how Azure Functions should typically be secured with AAD auth in the real world. I demo’d an SPFx web part which uses SPO cookie auth as an alternative to adal.js or similar – this has some advantages to the current arrangement (of adal.js), including the fact that multiple web parts on the same page don’t need to sign-in separately
              • It’s also worth understanding how far the Visual Studio tooling for Functions has advanced. Sure, VS Code is the cool kid for many coding scenarios these days, but for C# functions, VS 2017 is actually stronger I feel – some info on this:
                COB options for Azure Functions - CSharp
            • Azure SQL Database
              • The main point here is to stop storing things in SharePoint that should be in SQL :) SP devs who haven’t touched SQL for years shouldn’t be scared of Azure SQL – it’s really easy to get started, and you can run databases up to 20GB for free
              • Also, be aware that identity in the SQL world has been updated for the cloud. You can now use Azure Active Directory accounts to authenticate, including from tools such as SQL Management Studio and Visual Studio Server Explorer
            • ARM templates
              • ARM templates offer an alternative to lots of button clicking and manual configuration in the Azure portal – perfect for those things that will be deployed to multiple Office 365 tenancies/Azure subscriptions, where you want repeatability
            • Azure Queues (and triggers)
              • Queues are a great building block to support things you might do in code. Any time you need some separation or some long-running processing, a queue is often a nice pattern to use – one thing puts something on the queue, and something called a QueueTrigger is used to point to some code which does the long-running thing (e.g. create a SharePoint site). As mentioned previously, the new Site Designs model for site provisioning will use this, and so do SharePoint web hooks.
              • In terms of what your code might be, Azure Functions and Azure web jobs are common – both work with QueueTrigger as you might expect

            As before, hopefully there are some useful nuggets in here which are useful to you!

              Slide deck:

              Tuesday, 5 December 2017

              Presentation deck – Pitfalls in SPFx development

              This is post 1 of 2 to publish the slide decks for presentations I’ve given recently, in particular at the European SharePoint Conference 2017 held in Dublin. See also:

              Presentation deck – Best bits of Azure for the Office 365 Developer

              Unfortunately, I never think the slide deck alone conveys all of the information of a conference session, since it’s the demos which are often the most valuable part. Still, I try to assemble slides which have useful reference information, so hopefully this will be useful to someone. The full slide deck is embedded from SlideShare at the bottom of this post. The main topics I discuss here are:

              • Versioning and dependency issues
                • The need to ensure you use --save or --save-exact when adding libraries with npm install (so that they are recorded in your package.json file, and other developers on the team can successfully build from source control)
                • Semantic versioning, including caret and tilde symbols in version numbers
                • The need to run npm shrinkwrap for each release of your code
                • [NOTE – some of this changes in npm 5, which automatically does a --save when doing an install, and also automatically generates a package-lock.json file (similar to npm-shrinkwrap.json. But for now, npm 5 is not officially supported in the SharePoint Framework (SPFx) and so these points remain important)
              • Re-use of existing JavaScript code
                • You might choose to wrap such code in a module if it is not already – this provides a more formal method in TypeScript/JavaScript of sharing code (e.g. library code)
                • Once you have a module, you can look at options such as npm install [filepath], npm link or using a private hosted npm repository provided by npm private packages or Visual Studio Team Services Package Management
              • Office UI Fabric
                • Use of Fabric Core and the Fabric React components – using the Core styles is much simpler in version 1.3.4 onwards of SPFx, where the sp-office-ui-fabric-core package is referenced and the SCSS styles use mixins to reference the styles in your custom styles
                • When using the Fabric React components, you should typically ensure you use static linking in your import statements e.g. import { Button, ButtonType } from 'office-ui-fabric-react/lib/Button';
                • See Using Office UI Fabric Core and Fabric React in SharePoint Framework for more information on this
              • Calling the Microsoft Graph and/or custom APIs (e.g. an Azure Function)
                • All of these resources are likely to be secured with AAD
                • GraphHttpClient is currently of limited use..
                • you will most likely need adal.js if calling from the client side, or ADAL.NET if calling from the server side
                • An alternative to adal.js for a custom web API/Azure Function, is the approach which leverages the SharePoint Online authentication cookie to pass credentials to your API (using the “credentials”: “include” header to pass across domains) – I think this is a useful approach and one of my demos covered this (video at
                • I use this slide to give an overview of the two approaches:

                • Also note that soon, it will be possible to call your custom APIs by specifying additional AAD app registrations that can be called from SPFx without additional consent. This will simplify things significantly, and mean that your SPFx web parts/extensions will no longer need a sign-in button/process just to be able to call downstream resources
              • Deployment
                • Remember that the default SPFx behaviour is for any 3rd party libraries you add to be bundled into your web part – this increases your bundle size, and can be a particular problem when you have multiple web parts/extensions all using the same library (and Office UI Fabric can be a big culprit here!)
                • Another “by default” thing to remember is that each web part/extension you build gets it’s own bundle – the config.json file is what controls this
                • Where possible, 3rd party libraries should be externalised to a CDN..
                • ..and if that isn’t possible, consider SPFx component bundles as a way to avoid having a library duplicated amongst all your web parts. In the case where you have 5 web parts on a page all using the same library, if you don’t externalise or use component bundles performance will suffer for first-time page loads

              Hopefully there’s some useful information in here, and I’ll most likely expand on some of these points in future articles. Here’s the slide deck:

              Slide deck:

              Tuesday, 31 October 2017

              Speaking at the European SharePoint Conference 2017

              ESCP17 logo - 500

              Between November 13-16 is this year’s European SharePoint Conference in Dublin, and I’m looking forward to speaking there. The event looks great, with an amazing list of speakers and great representation from Microsoft. Jeff Teper will be giving the keynote, and other Microsoft speakers include Dan Holme, Mark Kashman, Chris McNulty, Vesa Juvonen, Mike Ammerlaan and others. Effectively, this is the biggest SharePoint thing in Europe this year.

              I’m giving two talks, both of which I’ve given before but have updated content from recent developments. As a speaker, it’s great to speak about a topic which is continually relevant but wow, you certainly have to check that every nugget of information is still valid and that you’re covering latest developments. Speaker rooms these days are full of people cursing Microsoft ;) Anyway, the details of my talks are:

              Azure - the best bits for Office 365/SharePoint developers

              Tuesday 14 November - 15:15-16:15

              Azure – there’s a lot in there considering it’s just a small word! As a skillset, Azure is practically mandatory for most Office 365 developers. Between Azure functions, web apps, Azure AD, BLOB storage, SQL Database, queues and web jobs, there are a lot of useful building blocks – and solutions like OfficeDev PnP use them heavily. Maybe you’re starting out and want to host remote SharePoint code (such as Office 365 apps or provider-hosted SharePoint add-ins), or maybe you’re familiar with many Azure bits but also have a list of “untouched” areas. In this session, Azure for Office 365 and SharePoint developers, we’ll dig into the most relevant Azure capabilities, using real scenarios to show winning combinations such as SharePoint web hooks and Azure functions.

              I’ve also added content around:

              • Graph bindings for Azure Functions
              • App Insights

              Avoiding common pitfalls with the SharePoint Framework (SPFx)

              Thursday 16 November - 15:15-16:15

              This session goes beyond “intro” level SPFx content, to discuss common issues when you start using the SharePoint Framework for real. We’ll cover pitfalls related to TypeScript, npm and dependencies, SPFx security, and also focus on challenges related to team development – including new causes of “it works on my machine!”. Perhaps you have existing JavaScript code you’d like to re-use with SPFx, so we’ll talk about better ways to do that than copy/paste. We’ll also look at traps you can run into when you’re ready to release a version of your SPFx web part – ranging from accidentally bundling JS libraries, to not “shrink-wrapping” your dependencies for a reproducible build.

              I’ve also added content around:

              • Correct use of Office UI Fabric, since this is a common task which is harder than it should be at the moment
              • Component bundles in SPFx – the ability to share common code between your web parts and SPFx customizers

              More info

              If you’re not already going, I’d seriously consider looking at it and asking the boss about the possibility. Previous events have been great, and I think the content is always high-quality. Tickets are still available, and you can get a 10% discount with the following code:


              The link you need is:



              Friday, 6 October 2017

              My Ignite wish list – what got delivered and what didn’t?

              In the week or two before the recent Ignite conference, I published a wish list of things I was hoping Microsoft would announce. As usual for me, this focuses *mainly* on building on and extending Office 365, and SharePoint in particular. I like to publish these lists occasionally - it helps me shape my thoughts, and keep up with “top of mind” developments in Office 365 which would help the organizations I work with. Now that the event has happened, there were a TON of announcements at Ignite – clearly there is HUGE amount of investment and development happening across Office 365 right now, and it’s an awesome time to be working with Microsoft tech. If ever you wondered whether you backed the right horse for your career (or made the right choice for your organization), I think it’s hard to have those doubts these days. But that said, I notice that several items on my wish list did NOT get dealt with, so I thought it would be good to reflect on those somewhat.

              Before we jump into the items, I have two high-level thoughts on Ignite:

              • Hey, I see what you did there!
                • Although there *were* lots of announcements, pay attention to the timeline on each of them. I’ve tried to gather together the most relevant ones to me in my table below – but I note that many are actually quite far away into 2018. Nothing wrong with it, but I feel perhaps there was a Microsoft tactic to provide a “big wave” of announcements to increase the overall effect, even if many are quite far away from launch (or even just “things that might happen”). I guess this fits with today’s “disclosure strategy” of using these 2 or 3 large events through the year to make announcements – and frankly, I much prefer this compared to having less overall visibility of the roadmap. You just need to pay attention to dates and caveats.
              • Office 365 and cloud revenue is powering investment!
                • Remember a couple of years ago people were asking if SharePoint was dead? Feels like a different world now. I think one big factor is that Microsoft are further up the adoption curve of Office 365, and the corresponding revenue and outlook means that big ambitious goals can be set. I can imagine that various product groups are a little larger and have more resources. Another one is that lots of infrastructure/scale/foundational challenges have clearly been dealt with now – leaving an increased focus on providing great tools and a modern development platform to users.

              My original wish list

              Anyway, back to my list – here’s what I said Microsoft should provide. I didn’t blog this, but put it on LinkedIn strangely - maybe it was a prophesy related to the increased integration between LinkedIn and Office 365 ;)


                What got delivered/announced, and what didn’t?

                I initially just had some checks/crosses against each item, but then I added some notes, and then some timelines, and finally I ended up with the table below. This might only be useful to me personally, but hey, if it’s useful to you too, then great. It could have more comprehensive notes/links, but that’s probably a bigger task than I can deal with right now! So:





                Tagging/metadata for modern pages

                Not really

                H1 2018

                “Categorization” mentioned for 2018

                Associate existing SP site with


                Early 2018

                PowerShell will also be possible. See “BRK2434 – No team site left behind”

                Provisioning/templating for
                Communication Sites (ideally PnP)


                Q4 2017

                Site Designs (previously known as “Recipes”).*See special note on Site Designs below

                Page layouts for Communication


                Q1 2018

                Profile page extensibility




                Web hooks on Group creation



                Nothing imminent, but a *custom*
                site design can call out to a Flow

                Provisioning/templating for Teams
                (tabs, connectors, bots)




                More modern web parts (e.g.


                Q4 2017
                • Planner/Forms web parts
                • Enhancements to Highlighted Content web part (provide query)
                • Enhanced web part picker

                SPFx enhancements


                • Site scripts/site designs (Q4 2017)
                • Simplification of calling Graph/custom web APIs secured with AAD
                • Site Collection App Catalog etc. (Q4 2017)

                Some ‘under the radar’ things!


                • Multi-geo (OneDrive/EXO now, SPO in 2018)
                • Hub Sites (early 2018)
                • OneDrive Files on Demand (Q4 2017)
                • Conditional Access per site (early 2018)
                • Simpler sharing e.g. verification code links for external users (Q4 2017)
                • List enhancements e.g. formatting, attention view, indexing and Flow improvements etc. (Q4 2017)
                • Better site/content analytics (early 2018)
                • LinkedIn integration with Office 365 people card (Q4 2017)

                but not yet delivered


                • New Admin Center (First Release Tenants in early CY2018)
                • App Launcher updates
                • PowerApps for SharePoint lists (October 2017 for FR tenants)
                • PowerApps enhancements e.g. upload attachments, simpler conditional views etc. (before end 2017)

                NOTE:– I’d love to hear from anyone who spots an error or something I missed with these details (e.g. a timeline). Please leave a comment if you don’t mind and I’ll update!

                My thoughts – especially on the missing items

                So Microsoft didn’t deliver everything I was hoping for. BUT, they did deliver a whole bunch of things that weren’t in my list! I list most of these in the “under the radar” and and “previously announced, but not yet delivered” categories. Us MVPs are fortunate enough to have something of an inside track on most of them (thanks Microsoft, your work here is MUCH appreciated by the way) so I had familiarity lots of them before the event. It’s great that those categories have so many items, and no doubt many more could be added too. BUT:

                •  Tagging/metadata for modern pages
                  • I was disappointed not to hear more on this. It feels like there are still significant gaps when it comes to building solutions around modern pages, especially when it comes to roll-ups and displaying content of different types (e.g. pages tagged with X). Yes, there’s a new PnP re-usable control, but you’d have to do some work to integrate this, and that feels like Microsoft’s job to be honest.
                • Profile page extensibility
                  • Still nothing. What’s up with that? This has been talked about for a LONG time, but still we can’t add custom widgets or tailor the Office 365/Delve profile page. I didn’t even hear any mention of it to be honest, yet lots of organizations I work with want to do something there.
                • Web hooks on Group creation (site)
                  • Again, nothing here either. Vesa has mentioned some engineering considerations around providing this, but I was hoping for an announcement so that applying a custom PnP templates to self-service created Office 365 Group sites would become easier. Sure, a Flow can be used with the forthcoming Site Designs capability, but that seems to still leave a gap for default sites which don’t use any kind of Site Design, like an out-of-the-box Group site. The info was only released on this yesterday, so I could be missing something though – hope so..
                • Provisioning/templating for Teams (tabs, connectors, bots)
                  • Lots of progress on Microsoft Teams, but still no proper templating story. I was *really* surprised not to hear something on this - I definitely have clients who want to use Teams at scale, but with the same set of custom tabs etc. Configuring by hand just isn’t an option, so let’s hope for something soon (again, unless I missed it).

                Of course, let me know if I am missing anything, or you disagree with my interpretation of things.

                * A note on Site Designs

                So, we do have a way of applying templating to Communication Sites (and it goes beyond that – Site Designs can be also applied to Team Sites created from the out-of-the-box UI, so this is a big deal). But, right now I do have some reservations on the model here. Obviously there’s ANOTHER way to define a site template now (the JSON format used by Site Designs, which doesn’t look too easy to work with actually – seems like there are quite a few attributes/actions to understand), and that feels sub-optimal given that the PnP provisioning building blocks have evolved so much. We *can* integrate PnP provisioning (woohoo), but the architecture is Site Design > Flow > Azure queue item > QueueTrigger/Azure Function > my PnP provisioning code. Which is fine and ticks many boxes, but:

                • Frankly I would have preferred some form of Microsoft-hosting my PnP provisioning template and taking care of the execution. The fact that we still need Azure can be a blocker for some organizations, and means there is still a level of complexity, and a chunk of work for us to do. It was pointed out to me that Microsoft may have chosen this approach because they don’t want to host/support PnP provisioning themselves (as a community effort rather than pure Microsoft), and I guess I can understand that actually. But still..
                • Templating Office 365 Group sites still seems to be a gap. Yes, I can call out to my Flow for a site which *does* have a custom Site Design – but what about Group sites which are springing up as users create Groups/Teams/Planner plans/Power BI workspaces etc.? There’s a way in which a default Site Design can be specified at the tenant level, but will this apply to Group Sites? I’m not clear at this stage. But I certainly want the capability of applying a custom template to a Group-connected site in a timely way.
                  • UPDATE – just minutes after publishing, I picked up on the detail in the video linked below, that it IS possible to target a Site Design at an out-of-the-box Group Site. This is done by associating your Site Design to WebTemplate=”64” for a Group site, or WebTemplate=”68” for a Communication site etc. Happy days.

                I still think it’s something of a shame to have another templating language/approach though. Which bits of the template will be done in the Site Design and which in a PnP template? I can imagine lots of different approaches being used for this. But of course, the main advantage is that this form of templating integrates with the out-of-the-box UI for creating SharePoint sites, which opens up a lot of possibilities. I just wonder if in the end, we’ll be implementing “shell” Site Designs which call out to a PnP template which does the real work of creating content types/lists/pages/web parts and so on in the site. Let’s see..

                For more on Site Designs, see


                  Despite not hitting all items on my list (which are just the views of one guy of course – everyone else has their priorities too), I think Microsoft are actually exceeding what I hoped for. Yes, there will always be gaps and as you can imagine, there are LOTS of things I’m not covering here. Whether it’s general developments such as new Office 365 Plans or Bing for Business, the raft of enhancements to Microsoft Teams (e.g. taking the place of Skype for Business for online), or developer-focused things such as Graph enhancements (e.g. Extensions in Azure Functions, SP list data in the Graph etc.), there’s lots of other things to keep up with. Some good starting points for further reading are: