Microsoft Cloud South Coast User Group. March 2023
On Tuesday evening I returned to Southampton for the Microsoft Cloud South Coast User Group. The event kicked off at 7pm, with three sessions and a curry on the agenda.
Dox42 - Let’s (Power) Automate all your D365 & M365 Documents
Johannes Linder (@jo_linder), Lead Technical Evangelist at dox42, was first up. He talked us through the Dox42 document automation platform. Dox42 is 21st century mail-merge on steroids. It allows you to integrate templates (in Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc.) with data from a wide variety of sources (Dataverse, SAP, SQL, SharePoint etc.) and output to a wide range of targets (MS Office, PDF, Teams, SMS, Docusign, Azure Blob, SQL….).
Dialling into the meeting remotely, Johannes gave us three demonstrations of the product in action. In the first one, customer and product information was pulled from Dynamics, integrated with a Word template from SharePoint, and output as a PDF. We were shown how a straightforward Word plugin allowed fields to be added to the Word document and linked to logic and Dataverse entities. Conditional fields were possible, for example pulling in different Terms+Condition sections for EU, UK, or US customers depending on their address.
The second demonstration involved the creation of an employee contract, pulling in data from a SharePoint employee entry and a short form to create a customised contract document that could then be emailed to the new hire, or even sent off to Docusign for an electronic signature. Depending on the details provided, different sub-documents could also be pulled into the resulting contract.
The third and final demonstration was a customised sales presentation using PowerPoint. Based on the presenter, customer details, industry vertical, chosen language etc, Dox42 could pull relevant slides from a pool created by the marketing team and deliver a customer focussed slidedeck to the sales team, or even direct to the client.
Dox42 is a managed solution, and the service runs either on their own cloud service (in Azure West Europe), or on-premises in your own datacentre. More details at dox42.com
My journey with the Power Platform
Jon Russell (@jondoesflow) talked through his career history from starting University through to his current role as a consultant, via burnout, recovery, and some awesome community projects using Power Platform. A very interesting story with a great outcome, Jon is very enthusiastic about Power Platform and not only how it can help solve IT problems but also how it helped him with good mental health.
Check out Jon’s blog at Jon Does Flow
Why Cloud Architects Always Say “It Depends”
Following a tasty curry, co-organiser Nathan Sweeney (@NathanDSweeney) led the final session. This addressed the question of why when asked how something should be built the answer from Cloud Architects is so often the non-committal “It Depends”. He gave examples based on the Azure reference architectures of the many, many different ways a goal as apparently straightforward as hosting a website can be achieved.
Nathan suggests that instead of saying “it depends”, try replying with more questions like “why is this moving to the cloud?”, “what will success look like?”, or “when do we need to get there by?”. It definitely resonated with me, “It Depends” is the short answer but probably means you haven’t got enough information yet. He left us with a challenge of trying to stop saying “It Depends”, which I have totally failed to do by using the phrase at least 5 times in this article!
The next Microsoft Cloud South Coast User Group is at the beginning of next month - register on meetup.com