Connecting Technology and Business.

Scan business cards to OneNote, contacts to Outlook using Office Lens

Thanks to technology from Microsoft Research, when you take a picture of a business card with Office Lens for Windows Phone and save it to OneNote, it will automatically recognize the card’s contact information and format it nicely into your OneNote notebook. Using OneNote on your phone, tablet, Mac or PC, you can search for text contained in the scanned business card, initiate a call to the number recognized, find their address on a map or open the attached VCF file to save their contact details to Outlook or your phone’s contact list.

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Office Lens is available for free in the Windows Phone app store.

  • Inputs from Office Blogs

Make the best of both - Skype and Lync

Microsoft enabled Lync users to contact people on Skype using instant messaging, presence, and audio calling right from a user's contact list in 2013. Microsoft has now taken the next step by adding video calling between Lync 2013 and the latest Skype for Windows desktop client. Now Lync users can conduct everyday business and collaboration "face-to-face" with customers, partners and suppliers who use Skype. The video calling with Lync requires Skype for Windows desktop client version 7.0.x.100. This latest Skype is available for download in this below link:


There are still some issues with some browser versions where an older client is downloaded.  If you've downloaded at the link above, and the version is not 7.0.x.100, please download using a different browser.

The video calling requires an up-to-date Lync 2013 client on either Android, iOS or Windows. It works today with the latest Skype for Windows desktop client only, and requires that the Skype user sign in with their Microsoft account.

Whether you're using Lync or Skype, it's an easy, familiar experience—you make the video call the same way you make any other call, with the same options for starting, stopping, re-sizing and maximizing video.

The best of both

Lync and Skype have always delivered phenomenal voice and video experiences to business and consumer users across a wide range of environments and network conditions. Now, Microsoft has taken the best of both to make both even better. This includes built-in security, with enterprise class encryption of both media and signaling. It includes high quality, scalable video using the industry standard H.264 SVC codec with the SILK audio codec as the default choice for Lync to Skype calls. (SILK is used for billions of minutes of audio calls every day, and provides a phenomenal balance between audio quality, bandwidth utilization and power consumption).

Provision for Lync-Skype connectivity

Based on policies administratively set in Lync Server, Lync and Skype users will be able to communicate using instant messaging, see each other's presence, and initiate audio and video calls. Lync-Skype connectivity is also a feature of Lync Online, and can be enabled for Lync Online customers from the Lync Administration Center within the Office 365 portal.

Here is a link that will help the administrators to provision connectivity:


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Add a Skype contact to Lync 2013 

  1. From Lync, click Add a Contact, Add a Contact Not in My Organization.
  2. From the list of available contact providers, select Skype.
  3. In the IM Address field, enter the Microsoft Account (MSA) of the Skype user.
  4. In the Add to contact group dropdown box, select a contact group to add the user to.
  5. In the Set privacy relationship dropdown box, select the appropriate contact setting and then click OK.
  6. The user will now appear as a contact in Lync. Select the user, right-click the user name, and click See Contact Card to view the user properties. You can now establish an audio or video call with the newly added Skype user.

Add a Lync contact to Skype 

  1. Sign in to Skype. The Skype user must be logged into their Skype client with a Microsoft Account (MSA).
  2. Select the Add Contacts icon.
  3. Enter the SIP URI of the Lync user. For example, bob@contoso.com.
  4. When Skype finds the match in the search results, look for the word Lync below the Lync user's name. This indicates Skype successfully located the Lync client's SIP URI. Click the name.
  5. In the top right corner of the window, click Add to Contacts.
  6. The new contact is now added to your contact list, but you'll see a question mark instead of their status icon until they accept your request. When your new contact accepts your request, you will be able to see when they are online, initiate IM conversations, and make audio and video calls.

Here is a link for more guidance on using this Lync – Skype connectivity feature:


What's next…

Microsoft has promised that they will extend support to the Skype clients on additional platforms, starting with Android and iOS in the coming months. They will add support for SkypeIDs and make it easier to find and add contacts from the worldwide Skype directory when the next version of Lync becomes Skype for Business in the first half of 2015. These planned improvements to Lync Skype connectivity are just one example of how Skype for Business will keep and improve on all of the capabilities of Lync.

- Inputs from Office Blogs and TechNet

Creating A Power BI Data Model From An Excel Table

I have an Excel table with columns and rows of information formatted as a table. It is a price list of items available for selling for the month. I want to upload this on a Power BI site so that my staff can benefit from the Q & A feature of Power BI. Once the data model in the worksheet is uploaded to the site, whoever wants to search for the price or the part number of one or more items in the list can have this displayed immediately as a table or as a card in a browser. Here are the names of the essential fields apart from the others in the table:

PartNumberPart Number
ItemNameName of the item
ProductFamilyFamily of the product
DTPDTP of the item


I open the Excel workbook containing the worksheet. I click on PowerPivot tab and add this table to the data model by clicking the "Add to Data Model" command. A new Excel window with the Power Pivot table opens up and displays the entire worksheet. (Here, I can rename columns, delete unwanted columns and do some data transformation by adding new columns and thereby establish relationships with the columns).

I am now more interested in the info I am going to provide my staff from this table. So, I go to advanced and click on the Default field set to specify the columns and field order in which it will be displayed while visualizing the data in Power BI. I select the four fields that are listed in the table above.

I am also more particular about the Q & A part of Power BI which will enable them to search for the specific item name and its DTP or Part Number. So, I go to the Synonyms feature and start adding some synonyms for the column header named DTP – Price and Cost are two words that come to my mind immediately. I add them as synonyms.

I save this file.

Now, my data is ready for uploading on the Power BI site.

I go to my BI site and drag and drop this workbook from my local system to the workbooks area. I also add this to the Q & A feature by clicking on the ellipsis at the bottom right corner.

Now, anybody who has access to the Power BI site can click on the Q & A feature at the top right corner of the page and start asking plain English questions on the pricelist that is uploaded. A sample question could be "What is the price of A" and immediately, the site helps me with suggestions to the available list of items and once done, displays the results in the form of a table or a card as required.

Very simple and user friendly indeed!

Power BI enabled by Microsoft Online services

​While MS Excel frontends the Power BI offering from Microsoft, the Microsoft Online services extends the Power BI experience to the cloud by providing a platform for sharing, collaborating and searching for information. It also adds mobility to the information by making the business intelligence information accessible from mobile devices through an app.

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The Power BI platform is built on SharePoint technology and as a result brings with it the collaborative flexibility and added security of information with control in the hands of the business decision makers.

BI Sites

BI Sites are built with additional features that will be required by the analysts who build the data models and visualize the data mined using the queries that they have discovered from the databases. Excel workbooks containing the queries and the power views can be easily uploaded (a drag and drop is all that is required to upload a file) and featured visual reports int he form of tables and charts and Powerview dashboards can be presented on these sites. Queries that were used to build the data models can be shared with others on this platform so that they can also use these queries to design other data models related to the queried data. A dynamic relationship can be established between the datamodels on the site with the source databases using a Data Management Gateway (DMG). This will add a touch of real time capability to the BI information presented in the site.

These sites also have features required by the stakeholders of the information so that the BI experience becomes seamless. The HTML 5 enabled web pages make the featured reports interactive. What if? scenarios can be visualised instantly. Forecasting (predictive analysis capability) is built in and the alforithms that come into play for this forecasting feature can be tested for its accuracy (to add to the confidence of the user on the reliability of this forecast) using the hindcasting feature. Animated visual reports using the play axis feature can make the BI info come alive on the web page.

Q & A

One of the outstanding features of the Power BI sites is the Question and Answer feature. This allowes the users to ask any question on the featured data models on the site in plain English and receive answers instantly - whether it be in form of plain individual facts and figures, tables or a choice of charts. This completely eliminates the learning curve (that might come as a deterrent for many as in the case of other complex BI applicaitons) and provides the decision makers with a simple tool to access the BI information.


The BI information for the BI sites are accessible to users from mobile devices like tablets (coming soon to smart phones) eliminating the need for carrying heavy devices of larger form factors to access realtime information. The Power BI Mobile app brings rich BI information to the mobile devices eliminating the need for loging in to a browser all the time afresh everytime some info is required. Also, the BI info made available to the users is visually uniform across any of these devices making it more user-friendly and providing them a seamless experience.

Power BI enabled by MS Excel

If you are familiar with Excel, then Power BI from Microsoft will be just a natural extension of your experience with Excel. We know Excel is the best number crunching tool ever since Microsoft Office came into being. It has ruled the computers of Information Workers who wanted to gather data in one place, extracting information out of them using formulae and functions and present them as tables and visualize them as charts. Some went another step ahead to analyze the numbers using pivot tables and other What if analysis tools offered by Excel. Statisticians used the Data Analysis tool pack to dig deep into the data to study patterns and put the data to various tests to pull out hidden information and forecast various business or social outcomes.

The Self-service BI capability offered by Microsoft today capitalizes on these capabilities of Excel and brings the power of Business intelligence into the hands of the ordinary end users.

Microsoft Office 2013 ProPlus or Office 365 ProPlus today has the BI capability in its Excel application. All one needs to do is download the free add ins that are required for this purpose. Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Maps are the four additional components that are required to add BI capability to Excel.

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Power Query

Power Query helps in discovering data from various data stores and sources - be it proprietary or open source databases and tables. A powerful search capability built in Power Query also helps in discovering data from the public data sets available disseminated in the internet. It can import data from Excel files, .txt or .csv or .xml files. It can also import metadata and links about files in a folder.

Power Query also can pull out queries from various databases like SQL Server, Azure SQL, Access, Oracle, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Sybase and Teradata. It also can discover data from other data sources like SharePoint list, OData feed, Azure Marketplace, Hadoop file (HDFS), Azure HDInsight, Azure Blob Storage, Azure Table Storage, Active Directory, MS Exchange, Facebook or SAP Business Objects BI Universe.

Power Query also allows users to create their own customized queries.

Power Pivot

Excel today supports 10 million+ of rows of data normally. With the Power Pivot add-in Power Pivot can handle even more. In fact, the data it can handle can match the needs of customers that handle hundreds of thousands of record per day (like in retail chains) or that which handles passenger traffic. Power Pivot helps user build data models by merging building relations between the tables brought inside Excel by Power Query. Relationships are either automatically detected by Power Pivot or can be created by users. Managing the data tables and cleaning the dataset of redundancy or removing the outliers can done here. Transformation of data and adding additional columns with new data or data that have relation to one or more columns of information in the table are made possible by Power Pivot.

Power View and Power Maps

Visualization of data and making it interactive is done by the Power View feature of Excel. Here is where a dashboard of the various aspects of the data model are built for the interpretation of the information produced by Excel. Tables and graphs appear on the same page and make the BI experience richer. Applying filters and sorting info are also possible in this Power View. There is also an animation axis that is provided in the charts created by Power view that brings to life the data in one or more columns of the pivoted tables. If the tables contain geospatial data (names of continents, countries or cities and towns), they can also be plotted on the maps to make the information more meaningful. This also enables the users to relate to the info in the tables in a better way. A 3D view of the maps with animation of data over time helps derive greater insights into the data. An option to create a video of the view is an added bonus feature.

Power BI from Microsoft has more to it than what Excel can do. We will learn about this in the next posting.

Forecasting using Power BI

Two weeks before, the Garage Series folks from Microsoft decided to put Power BI to the test and see if they could combine multiple data sources and use the visualization engines in Excel and Power BI in an attempt to predict the outcome of El Clásico after hearing from fans of both clubs.  The nice thing with a scenario like this is that detailed data is easily available via sources like Wikipedia, but using Power Query in Excel they could mash up external data keying off dates and geographical locations to bring in things like temperature, humidity and even moon phases to see if any of these things had an impact on the matches between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

Microsoft made use of several technologies in the latest Excel and Power BI:

  • Excel Spreadsheet to enter Data
  • Power Map

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  • Q &  A in Power BI

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  • Power BI Data Visualization

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  • Timeline View

Power BI - Timeline view.jpg 

Regardless of the data being used, everything can be modelled in Excel with all of the data slicers and visuals. Then via simple drag and drop Excel file can be added into Power BI. Once the files are loaded into Power BI, it is easy to add them into the Q&A engine simply by right-clicking and adding the file into Q&A. With everything loaded into Power BI, people can view and interact with the data directly from the browser – they don't need the latest version of Office installed or a powerful computer to run it. All the compute is actually running in the Power BI service. It's pretty amazing.

Now if you're wondering how it turned out, the images above show just how close the teams and players are matched. You may have watched El Clásico a few weeks back and know who won, (Real Madrid won 3-1 against Barcelona) but it is wonderful to see how well Power BI, Excel and the disparate data did to help predict the outcomes.

The Power of Power BI

Business intelligence (BI) is the set of techniques and tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes.

Business Data might be structured like database tables or unstructured like emails and IMs. This data might have been collected over long years. This might have been stored in various data stores like Database management systems (Oracle, SQL or Access DB), Exchange servers or SharePoint servers or even Social media Apps (if the business has a page in Facebook or a handle in Twitter).

The purpose of storing this data might vary from business to business but there is one common purpose – for compliance purposes. The government might require businesses to retain data for a certain number of years for audit purposes or the business is forced to comply with some regulations dictated by a certain agency for certification or business continuity.

Little do the business know that the data stores that they are maintaining are treasures troves of information that can help them grow their business, compete better and lead their respective vertical in terms of scale and profitability. These data stores also contain information as to why a certain business unit is not showing desired results or why even after enough effort has been put a certain group of people have not been able to attain their targets.

There is no limit to the amount of information that can be pulled out of these data stores. Very valuable information that can transform business can be made available to the Business Decision Makers from these data so that they can make very informed decisions that might lead to cut expenditure and lead to revenue growth and profits.

Even though this data is available in the business, it does not reach the decision makers in the right form at the right time. Many times, the DBAs or the system administrators put rules, policies and procedures in place for stricter security reasons that the data is far out of the reach of those to whom it really matters. People who have skills to analyze data are not able to do it because of data inaccessibility.

On the other side, even if the data is accessible, there are no proper user friendly "tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information". Tools so far available were designed with the skilled analyst in mind. A BI professional had to know the complex analytical technics that are far from the grasp of the decision enablers or decision makers. Even he had to adopt to the tool running through a long learning curve. So, the BDMs could not appreciate the value of the data that was lying in close proximity. The potential that underlay the dormant data remained unexplored.

Enter Microsoft and its Power BI tools. Suddenly, the scenario has undergone a sea change with the power of Business Intelligence brought to the end user. BDMs don't have to depend on analysts to provide them with BI info anymore. They can have access to databases through the powerful querying and importing tools, create data models themselves using the familiar Microsoft Excel and visualize the data to arrive at informed business decisions. They can also share BI information and collaborate on a common platform enabling other decision makers to arrive at informed decisions towards common goals of the enterprise.

More about this in a later post…

Power BI from Microsoft

Microsoft's Power tools are designed to be Self-service BI as anybody who is familiar with MS Excel can start using it right from day one and can use it with little or no dependence on system administrators, DBAs and skilled BI analysts. Microsoft's Power BI also brings the power of the cloud to the end users so that users can remain in the familiar SharePoint platform to exploit its features.

There are currently over 1 billion MS Office Excel users who can now put to use the capability of Excel to discover, analyze and visualize data using Power BI. Already feature-rich Excel that has been catering to the needs of business through its data import capabilities and various analytical features like pivot tables, "What if "analysis has been enriched today with add-ins like Power Pivot, Power Query, Power View and Power Maps all available for free for those who want to enhance their analytical experience using Power BI.

Also, 1 in every 4 enterprise customers is a user of Office 365 online services from Microsoft. What this means is that they are already using the SharePoint platform to collaborate. So, Power BI will be a natural extension of this experience in the cloud for these users. They can now share BI info, search and find relevant information that can be of vital importance to them. What more, they can access these info from anywhere using their mobile devices so that real-time information that is critical to their business can be put to use at the right time to win a deal or avoid a loss of revenue or opportunity.

Power BI by Microsoft is also a highly scalable feature that can help people to begin small but move up to complex data models that will require higher computing power and space to store data and the resulting information.

As this also has cloud integration, it can be managed by the enterprise. Enterprises can provide a secure atmosphere for their users to work on critical data that would remain confidential but still enable them to access data from various data stores in a secure way and share info only with the stake-holders form who the BI info is crucial.

Microsoft, being a trusted technology for decades and having established itself as a dependable online service provider for even a major chunk of the Fortune 500  companies worldwide, todays corporates and business houses can jump into this bandwagon of cutting edge Power BI technology and start capitalizing on its offerings.

More about Power BI in later posts…

Share content from any App in Windows 8.1

The Share charm is a quick way to share files, photos, and info with people you know, or save things for later, without leaving the app you're in. You can share a photo with just a few people at a time, share a link with your entire social network, or send an interesting article to Reading List app so you can read it later.

You can share things from most apps with the Share charm. If you want to share things from the desktop, you can share through email or use OneDriveto share files and photos.

To share files

  1. In an app, swipe the item you want to share to select it. (If you're using a mouse, right-click the item you want to share to select it.)

  2. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Share.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Share.)

  3. Tap or click the person, app, or device you want to share with, and follow the on-screen instructions.

To share a link

  1. Open an app and browse to the website, article, or map you want to share.

  2. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Share.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Share.)

  3. Tap or click the person, app, or device you want to share with, and follow the on-screen instructions.

To change settings for Share


You can change which apps are listed in the Share charm, and how they appear.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, and then tap Change PC settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, and then click Change PC settings.)

  2. Tap or click Search and apps, and then tap or click Share.

  3. Change the settings you want.

Search from Everywhere using Bing Smart Search

The Search charm in Windows 8.1 uses Bing Smart Search so you can search your PC, the web, and OneDrive, plus some apps and the Windows Store. You can search once to get results from everywhere, and you can go back to your search results without having to search again. Here are the steps…

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, and then click Search.) You can also press the Windows logo key +S, or press the Windows logo key and start typing to open Search. And if you're on the Start screen, you can tap or click the Search button , or just start typing. (If you don't see the Search button on your Start screen, you don't have the latest update for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.
  2. Enter your search term. As you type, you'll see a list of search results and suggestions.
  3. If you see the app, file, or setting you're looking for in the list, tap or click it to open it. To see all of the results for your search term, including all the web results from Bing, tap or click the Search button to go to the search results page. You can also tap or click one of the search suggestions.
  4. On the search results page, tap or click a search result to open it.

Your results are grouped by category and by where they're from. For example, the photos on your PC will be grouped together, and so will the photos from the web. The results from your personal files on your PC and OneDrive will be listed first, and then results from apps and the web. Thumbnails give you an idea of what you're getting before you tap or click. To see all the search results for a specific category, tap or click the See all link for that category.

You can narrow down the search by clicking on the arrow above the Search box and clicking on the category you want.