Microsoft 365 and What’s New in February 2021

office 365 - Communications & Collaborationteams - Communications & Collaboration

New Features (Teams Mostly)

Microsoft has been busy rolling out new features to the Microsoft 365 platform.  Most of these are in Teams.   Lists, Forms and OneDrive new features could be viewed as “not-Teams”.   Only the OneDrive “Dark Mode” and Lists “iOS App” updates are clearly not going to be used in Teams.

Most of these are immeadiatly available all should be by the end of February.

Features and Brief Summaries

  • Presenter View – Teams now displays PowerPoint in a presenter view for the presenter.  Everyone else sees the normal slides.
  • Approvals – You can now manage approvals via Teams.
  • Channel Calendar – Adding a calendar to a channel a great way to keep channel specific dates organized.
  • Managed Chat in Meetings – in “Meeting Settings” the organizer can new restrict chat either only during the meeting or no chant allowed.
  • Call App Update rolling out Feb. – This is supposed to have a newly organized layout that makes managing calls easier.
  • Planner updates
    • Background Image – Predetermined backgrounds can be added to Planner.
    • File Recommendations – An AI engine supplies recommended files you might was to attach to tasks in Planner
  • Lists
    • Rules for Lists – Rules that can take action on events in Lists can be added to a list.
    • New iOS App
  • Forms
    •  Response Alerts – The originator of a form can add a feature that gives submitters a response via email or PDF for anonymous posters.
    • Formatting for Questions – Questions can now have formatted text.
  • OneDrive – Browser Dark Mode

Here are some links for more information:

Collaboration Coach on YouTube

Microsoft’s official what’s new

General Networks team can help your team understand and use these features.
Contact us with the form below to find out how!

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Why Most MSPs including General Networks Prefer Microsoft over Others

Microsoft Gold Partner
Today a customer asked me about the value that we were bringing and how to they can justify paying for our services.  The way Managed Service Providers (MSPs) justify their value to clients is to offer services at a price below what the client can get that same service for.  In the case of this customer, they about 30 staff members.  Hiring an IT engineer, project manager and helpdesk would just never be an affordable option.  But, as their MSP we can offer that service at a price below what any one of those positions would cost by having many clients share the expense.

Then the MSP company does it’s best to balance service and costs to make sure they are completive with other MSPs.  Part of what makes MSPs completive is standardized processes and solutions.  The more customers have the same set of services, the lower the MSP can make our price to the customer.  Think of it like a large company with multiple divisions.   The IT department (the MSP in this case) controls what solutions are allowed as they have to budget for every solution in use at the company.  While MSPs are not as monolithic as an IT department, they have some of the same pressures.

Here is where Microsoft comes in.  The reality is simple, over 90% of the computers in the small business market (below 500 employees) MSPs tend to  serve are Windows based.  An even higher percentage of the on-premises servers MSP’s clients have are Windows based.  The vast majority of email systems clients have are Microsoft Exchange based.  So while some MSPs support other platforms (i.e., G Suite, AWS and Macs), they add costs in training staff and providing support to customers and therefor raise the average costs for all customers.  So most MSPs are naturally going to advise all clients to go with Microsoft.

General Networks understand that some client have specific needs not met by Microsoft and we support other platforms.  But with other platforms representing a very small percentage of our client base by user volume, the incentives are obvious.

When customers go to other platforms, MSPs are in the position of evaluating if they can afford to offer services to that customer at the same rate as other customers.  If a customer is more expensive to support, the MSP must  charge them more and the price becomes less completive.  As most of the systems in use are Microsoft based, the incentives become clear.

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Integrating ServiceNow with DocuSign

I have been working on integrations between ServiceNow and DocuSign for several years so I thought it might be useful to do a quick blog post on the options. 

The good news is that both ServiceNow and DocuSign are extensible with open APIs. This makes it possible to combine the two in powerful, flexible, and creative ways.  

What are your integration options? 

  1. Build using ServiceNow JavaScript and the DocuSign REST API 
  2. Use DocuSign Spoke (part of ServiceNow’s IntegrationHub) 
  3. Use eSignifi (a certified ServiceNow Store App) 

How to choose? There are actually good/strong reasons for each option. So, let’s explore them a bit. 

Option 1: Build your integration from scratch 

If you have never built anything using ServiceNow JavaScript, I invite you to give it a try.  ServiceNow has fantastic developer tools that make building an integration pretty easy and pretty fun. Using ServiceNow JavaScript to call DocuSign’s comprehensive, fully documented REST API allows you to create integrations that work exactly how you need for your use case. Of course, if your integration needs are complex, this may require a fair amount of development work.  More on that later. 

Option 2: DocuSign Spoke 

ServiceNow includes DocuSign Spoke at the Enterprise subscription level of their powerful and popular IntegrationHub offering.  DocuSign Spoke gives you access to the most used parts of the DocuSign API without writing a single line of code!  Instead, you use ServiceNow Flow Designer  their next-generation, wizard like workflow tool  to connect ServiceNow with DocuSign and, potentially, dozens of other systems. IntegrationHub is a powerful way to centralize your approach to integrations with many systems (browse a list of spokes here). 

Option 3: eSignifi 

Ok, full disclosure here: my company, General Networks, is the publisher of this ServiceNow Store App and I was the designer and one of the primary developers. But with that out of the way, eSignifi is very easy to use, configuration driven connection between ServiceNow and DocuSign that can get you up and running and deployed to production in as little as 2 weeks.  You can view the store listing here for more information. 

What can I do with each option? 

Good news here: the answer is…everything! All options will allow you to connect ServiceNow with DocuSign to suit your exact needs without limitation. The difference between the options is how you will go about implementation, from a technical perspective, and how much effort it will require. 

So how much effort will it be? 

Of course, this depends on your exact use case, so let me propose a use case as an example: Let’s say you want your users to be able to send a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) to a vendor from a ServiceNow vendor screen.  It might look something like this: 

Our goal is to push data elements from ServiceNow to a DocuSign template that will produce a properly formatted NDA, send it out for signature and then attach the signed document to the vendor record at the end of the process.  Make sense?  Let me show you how you would build this with each of the integration options.

Option 1: Build your integration from scratch

Building this from scratch will look something like this:

What you will build/configure:

Component Description Notes
Business Rule or UI Action To call your script to create the envelope Just a few lines of code that call the JavaScript function below
“Send envelope” JavaScript function Calling the DocuSign REST API using either sn_ws.RESTMessageV2() or the “Outbound REST message” capability Maybe 100 lines of JavaScript if you write it well and include some comments ?
DocuSign NDA template A DocuSign template with boilerplate NDA language and DocuSign fields for vendor specific information These are easy to create using the DocuSign web application
DocuSign Connect Configure DocuSign Connect to call your ServiceNow instance for events on your envelopes Quickly configured in the DocuSign web application. You will provide a ServiceNow service account with basic authentication to give DocuSign access to your instance
“Receive updates” JavaScript function A function that will be called for each update received from DocuSign culminating with the receipt of the signed document which will be attached to the ServiceNow record Maybe another 100 lines of JavaScript code

The short version

This is probably less than a week’s worth of work to build assuming you already know the DocuSign API and are familiar with ServiceNow scripting and other elements.

Option 2: DocuSign Spoke

Using ServiceNow’s IntegrationHub DocuSign Spoke, you will build a process that looks something like this:

What you will build/configure:

Component Description Notes
DocuSign Spoke Install and configure the spoke including the connection to DocuSign This takes a few hours but it’s well documented
Business Rule or UI Action To call your flow to create the envelope Just a few lines of script – very simple
Envelope creation Flow Designer Subflow DocuSign Spoke actions to create the envelope, map the data fields and download the signed document when the signing is complete About 20 flow steps
DocuSign NDA template A DocuSign template with boilerplate NDA language and DocuSign fields for vendor specific information These are easy to create using the DocuSign web application

The short version

This is a few hour’s work if you are familiar with DocuSign Spoke and already have it installed and configured.  The DocuSign Spoke actions allow you to avoid learning the DocuSign API for all common features (and a few uncommon features too).

Option 3: eSignifi

Use eSignifi, your process will look something like this:

What you will build/configure:

Component Description Notes
eSignifi Install and configure the eSignifi including the connection to DocuSign This takes a couple hours with your team guiding you through every step
Business Rule or UI Action To call your flow to create the envelope This will be automatically generated by eSignifi
eSignifi NDA Map The map defines the data flow between ServiceNow and DocuSign without the need for any scripting 1 map – maybe 25 mouse clicks to create
DocuSign NDA template A DocuSign template with boilerplate NDA language and DocuSign fields for vendor specific information These are easy to create using the DocuSign web application

The short version

This takes minutes if you already have eSignifi installed. eSignifi maps provide a 100% declarative connection between ServiceNow and DocuSign.

Ok, great so how do I decide?

My general advice is:

  • Avoid the “build from scratch” option. We have worked with several clients who took this approach and though it works, extending and maintaining it requires time and may be difficult.
  • If you own Integration Hub at the enterprise level, use DocuSign Spoke period. There just are no good reasons to take another approach for DocuSign integration if you’ve made a commitment to using IntegrationHub as your general integration approach. Being consistent means that your tech folks learn a common set of tools that apply across many integrations.
  • If you don’t own IntegrationHub and it doesn’t look like the right option for your organization, choose eSignifi. It’s very easy and super-fast to get deployed.

How General Networks can help (a blatant plug ?)

No matter which option you choose, we are here to help! We have deep experience with all 3 options.  Here is a summary of how we can help:


DocuSign Spoke eSignifi Build from Scratch
We offer an API launch package where we’ll guide your technical team through the process of installing, configuring and building your first use case. Free with your first-year subscription is our QuickStart package where we assist getting you live in production in as little as 2 weeks. We can assist your developers on training and planning resources along with technical advice on an ad-hoc basis.
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Why do you want your security in the clould?

GenCare Security: Is this your security pla?

Security has been a 2 edged sword for both IT Staff and IT Users.  You need it but it made using your tools harder.  That all changes with cloud managed security.

  • Loved by Users
  • Loved by IT
  • Trusted by All

General Networks can help you coordinate security across multiple platforms, using multiple apps and manage them all from a single plane of glass.  At the same time we can reduce the impact on your staff.   Making application sign ins secure and easy.

  • Single Signon
  • Passwordless Signon
  • App Portal for all your apps (Cloud and Line of Business)
  • When an employee leaves, just one place to restrict access.
  • Self Service Password Reset
  • Encrypt Data Everywhere (at rest and in transit)

The list of great features is much longer.  Contact us for more information.


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Work From Home with Teams

Microsoft Teams helps employees do more, no matter where they work.
General Networks helps setup, learn and use Teams.
Work from Home (WFH) is easy when Teams is your WFH platform!

The modern workplace is everywhere. In the office. Out of the office. On the road. An increasing number of American workers work remotely at least some of the time. Plus, today’s teams are made up of diverse groups of employees and suppliers. Flexible work options pay big benefits for small- and medium-size businesses: those that embrace remote work cut full-time remote employee expenses and increase productivity.

To deliver on the promise of mobility and flexibility, your business needs a collaboration solution that works anywhere, whether you have 3 employees or 300.

Microsoft Teams is the hub for teamwork in Microsoft 365 that allows you to easily extend secure collaboration tools to remote workers and outside suppliers.

Microsoft Teams Teamwork Assessment
Bring teams together wherever they work

  • Chat, meetings, notes, documents and apps are available to team members anywhere
  • Easily add remote employees, contractors and vendors to teams
  • Team members can access collaboration tools from any location and any device
  • Customize your workspace to access to apps from Microsoft and third-party partner services anywhere
  • Convert your phones to Teams to make voice as easy at chat.  One to one, conference calls, or One to Many presentations.  Teams voice has the technology needed to make you productive.

teams - Communications & Collaboration
If you’re ready to learn how the modern workplace can make your business more mobile, please contact us at 818-249-1962 or visit today.

Get your free Teams evaluation today!

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FindTime moves to

office 365
If you have been following my blog you will know I’ve been enjoying using FindTime for years.  I was quite upset when it got canceled and I was really happy when FindTime was returned to service at  While it looks like you still need to install it there, it seems the backend is now in at  It would be awesome if FindTime was integrated into OWA (Outlook Web Access).   Right now, it requires Outlook desktop to initiate a meeting poll.

I created a User Voice entry to request that you be able to use the Outlook Web Access ( to generate an online meeting.  If you like FindTime, please vote for this:

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Covid-19 and Security: What’s Changed?

What’s the landscape for security in the Work From Home (WFH) era or Covid-19

While the basics of security and the threats have not changed much, the landscape has changed significantly.  While most organizations are not working from the office, the normal situation of “build a security wall” and put important resources behind it is changed.  These same organizations are having staff work from their personal computers where intuitional security (firewall, antivirus, passwords, etc.) do not protect the systems.  Most organizations have not considered these changes as they rushed to get critical staff connected to the data, they need to keep the organization running.  That combined with people’s desire to be connected and know what is going on around them combines to make social engineering threats much higher than they were in the past.

What can you do to help?

IT staff and consultants can deploy what called “Zero Trust” security solutions that make sure that identity and data are protected no matter where that data goes.  What is great about this is Zero Trust solutions can make WFH easier than ever before.  Passwords can be eliminated, and security escalated as all important information and communications are encrypted.  So even if a hacker, virus, or crypto locker gets into a staff members computer, the attack will have no access to cooperate data.

If you are interested in knowing more, you can sign up for a free security evaluation for the office and home computers and we can send you some reports.  Book a free 30 Minute Security Review

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Platinum Sponsors of the Office 365 Saturday San Diego 2020

The Compass365 division of General Networks is this year’s Platinum sponsor of the newly rebranded Office 365 Saturday in San Diego.  This event will take place at the Microsoft offices in La Jolla.  Formerly known as SharePoint Saturday, this exciting event is happening on January 25, 2020Office 365 Saturday is a free event for the SharePoint and Office 365 community and offers attendees learning, sharing and networking opportunities. Plus, it’s a lot of fun! 

Microsoft collaboration experts from around the country will be in attendance to share their expertise through sessions that focus on Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive, Azure, and other products in the Microsoft technology stack, including Power Apps and Flow. 

At the event, Qais Gharib, Sr. Solutions Architect and leader of the Compass365 Business Applications team will be presenting a demo of a commonly requested feature not natively supported in Office 365: A solution that leverages SharePoint lists and the Office 365 Power Platform to Print to PDF.  Come and learn more about this solution and other SharePoint and Office 365 tips, tricks and best practices from the experts!  

Please stop by the Compass365 table to meet our team and to learn more about our SharePoint/O365 services including: 

  • Modern intranets with SharePoint 
  • Upgrade and migration services 
  • Business solutions with Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI and Nintex  
  • Office 365/Teams collaboration, integrations and customizations 
  • Akumina Digital Workplace implementations 

Office 365 Saturday is a free event, but make sure to register online HERE 

 Join us in January for Office 365 Saturday!

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Microsoft, Google and Apple all agree: Use Multi Factor Athentication (MFA or 2FA)

“When both Google and Microsoft are recommending the same thing, it’s probably a good time to start following their advice.” – ZDNet

Apple 2fa mfa

With the “big 3” in agreement, it’s time to listen.  Apple no longer makes it optional.   Microsoft says it stops 99.9% of hack attempts and requires it for any Microsoft Partner with access to customer data.   Google is also recommending MFA.

There is a lot of information on the internet about which MFA (or 2FA) tool is best.  It’s pretty clear that most solutions recommend using an app and not a text code. Text codes are not transferred securely and therefor can be intercepted giving you less security.  Bottom line, if you are not using an MFA authenticator app, you are less secure.  Every company or organization needs to have MFA protecting their email system, customer information and financial data.  Passwords alone just don’t provide a reasonable level of protection.

But is MFA enough?

MFA is a great start but it’s still can be defeated by social engineering (tricking a person to do what they normally would not) attacks.  If you are in a business with security and reporting requirements (Legal, Banking, Health Care, etc.), it is not.  You need to have “more layers in your tin foil hat” – Matt Soseman,  Microsoft.

Google and Microsoft both have security platforms that greatly enhance security.   As I have certifications in Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) platform, I’ll use that as an example.  EMS is an Office 365 add on that can protect not only Microsoft Platforms, where it clearly out shines all other products, but also 3rd party apps.  It’s not simple to configure initially because there are so many amazing features.  But the many services bundled can protect everything in your environment.  And save a good deal of money compared to cobbling together  multiple products.

EMS is a Azure based cloud product.  No servers are required for most environments.  EMS can protect your PCs, Mobile iOS and Andriod Devices (cooperate supplied or BYOD), Macs, and servers.  It can also protect almost any cloud service (Office 365, G Suite, Facebook, DropBox, etc.).    EMS incorporates many tools including MFA, Mobile Management, Antivirus, and Single Sign on.  There are many other tools in the base product (EMS E3, free to non-Profits under 50 users) that I won’t go into.  EMS starts at a very reasonable monthly charge of $8.80 per user for commercial accounts.

Once a basic level of security is achieved with EMS E3, organizations, can add more and more “tin foil” layers of security while making access to secure systems easier.  For example, see my earlier article about getting rid of passwords on this blog.

The highest end version of Microsoft’s security suite (Microsoft 365 E5) can even monitor your Firewall logs for security threats and take automatic action to block compromised systems and accounts from your data.

At General Networks we strongly recommend EMS and Microsoft 365 as complete security services.

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SPSLA18-general networks-sharepoint saturday-la

Platinum Sponsors of the SharePoint Saturday Los Angeles 2019

General Networks is the Platinum sponsor of this year’s SharePoint Saturday Los Angeles happening on September 28, 2019. SharePoint Saturday is a free event for the SharePoint and Office 365 community and offers attendees learning and networking opportunities. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

SharePoint experts from around the country will be in attendance to share their expertise through sessions that focus on Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive, Azure, and other products in the Microsoft technology stack, including PowerApps and Flow.

At the event, General Networks’ Biz Apps Solutions Manager, Qais Gharib, will be doing a presentation on a solution that enables you to print list data to a PDF from a PowerApp form. Come and meet him, along with a few other General Networks’ team members.

General Networks will have a sponsorship table at the event. Please stop by to learn more about our SharePoint/O365 service offerings including intranet deployments, platform migrations and upgrades, and forms/workflow solutions.

SharePoint Saturday Los Angeles is a free event, but be sure to register online

We look forward to seeing you in September!

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