J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

December, 2012

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Office 365 at a Glance


    This is my roundup of Microsoft Office 365 at a glance.  I’ve included a brief summary of the key services and features direct from the Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions, as well as a massive feature list of the Office 365 Services at the end of this post.

    At the start of every year, I do an extreme roundup of the Microsoft platform.  It helps me see the forest for the trees, understand the big bets, and make sense of the overall Microsoft platform.  It also helps me anticipate growth, jobs, declines, etc.  As part of the process, I try to share what I learn because I imagine a lot of people benefit from the ability to see the Microsoft platform at a glance.

    With that in mind, let’s begin …

    The main things you need to know to figure out Office 365 are:

    • Office 365 refers to the online services:  Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, etc. 
    • Don’t confuse Office 365 with the on-premises versions: Lync Server 2013, Exchange Server 2013, SharePoint Server 2013, etc.  (Once you recognize this naming convention, then it’s a lot easier to parse what you find on Microsoft.com, MSDN, and TechNet.)
    • The key way to figure out what’s in Office 365 is to read the Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions.
    • Don’t confuse the Microsoft Office 365 Service Descriptions with the older Business Productivity Online Services Service Descriptions. (I fell for this.  I was reading a Service Description for Exchange Online wondering why it seemed dated – it was.)
    • You can find feature comparisons between the on-premises versions and the online versions within the Microsoft Office 365 Service Description documents.  For example, you can see Lync Server vs. Lync Online, Exchange Server vs. Exchange Online, SharePoint Server vs. SharePoint Online.

    Office 365 Service Descriptions

    The Office 365 Service Descriptions are the important documents for understanding what the Office 365 services actually are:

    • Microsoft Exchange Online Archiving Service Description
    • Microsoft Exchange Online Enterprise Service Description
    • Microsoft Lync Online for Enterprises Service Description
    • Microsoft Office Professional Plus Service Description
    • Microsoft Office Web Apps Service Description
    • Microsoft SharePoint Online for Enterprises Service Description
    • Office 365 Identity Service Description
    • Office 365 Mobility Solutions Service Description
    • Office 365 Security and Service Continuity Service Description
    • Office 365 Support for Apple Mac and iOS Devices
    • Office 365 Support Service Description

    About Microsoft Office 365

    Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of its most trusted communications and collaboration products with the latest version desktop suite. Office 365 is designed to meet the needs of organizations of all sizes—from sole proprietors and small, mid-sized, and large businesses to government agencies to educational institutions—helping you save time, money, and free up valuable resources.
    Key Office 365 benefits include:

    • Access to email, documents, contacts, and calendars on almost any smartphone or tablet.
    • Simple and secure collaboration with colleagues and business partners.
    • Seamless functioning with Microsoft Office and other programs.
    • Comprehensive solutions including desktop productivity applications, portals, extranets, instant messaging (IM), voice and video conferencing, web conferencing, email and voice mail.
    • Pay-as-you-go pricing options with a financially backed 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.
    • Office 365 includes the Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft SharePoint Online services.

    Common Features Across Microsoft Office 365

    Cloud services offered by Microsoft Office 365 for enterprises are designed to help meet the need for robust security, 24/7 reliability, and user productivity.
    Each service is designed for reliability, availability, and performance with a financially backed service level agreement (SLA) for a guaranteed 99.9-percent scheduled uptime. Microsoft deploys patches, security updates, and back-end upgrades, helping to eliminate the time and effort organizations spend managing their servers.
    Subscribers to Office Professional Plus benefit from a set of features that are common to all of the Microsoft business-class cloud services:

    • Secure access: Each offering from Microsoft Office 365 is accessed through 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. Anyone who intercepts a communication sees only encrypted text.
      Intrusion monitoring: Microsoft continuously monitors the Office 365 systems for any unusual or suspicious activity. If Microsoft detects such activity, it investigates and responds appropriately. In the unlikely event that a significant incident occurs, the customer is notified.
    • Security audits: Microsoft regularly assesses the Office 365 infrastructure to ensure that the latest antivirus signatures and required security updates are installed, and that high-level configuration settings are in compliance with Microsoft security policies. For details, refer to the Security and Service Continuity for Enterprises Service Description.
    • High availability: Microsoft Office 365 services have a 99.9-percent scheduled uptime. If a customer’s service is affected, Office 365 offers financial remedies subject to the terms and conditions of the SLA. For details, refer to the Service Level Agreement for Microsoft Online Services.
    • Service continuity: Redundant network architecture is hosted at geographically dispersed Microsoft data centers to handle unscheduled service outages. Data centers act as backups for each other: If one fails, the affected customers are transferred to another data center with limited interruption of service.
    • Microsoft Online Services Portal: This easy-to-use website is the center for activities related to Microsoft Office 365. The portal provides services based on each organization’s specific needs. Prospective subscribers can use the portal to sign up for a free trial. End users accessing the portal can find online help, open Microsoft SharePoint site collections, and launch Microsoft Outlook® Web App. Administrators can manage users, administer services, download tools, and learn about service administration from online help.
    • Directory Synchronization tool: For subscribers with Active Directory® directory services deployed on-premises, this tool helps keep the on-premises Active Directory and the Microsoft Office 365 directory synchronized.
    • Remote administration: With Microsoft Windows PowerShell™, administrators can perform many tasks using a script or automated process. For example, tasks such as creating users, resetting passwords, assigning licenses, and obtaining service-use data can be fully automated.

    Types of Identity in Office 365

    Office 365 offers two types of identities:

    1. Microsoft Online Services cloud IDs (Cloud Identity): Users receive cloud credentials—separate from other desktop or corporate credentials—for signing into Office 365 services. The cloud ID password policy is stored in the cloud with the Office 365 service.
    2. Federated IDs (Federated Identity): In companies with on-premises Active Directory®, users can sign into Office 365 services using their Active Directory credentials. The corporate Active Directory authenticates the users, and stores and controls the password policy.

    The type of identity affects the user experience, administrative requirements, deployment considerations, and capabilities using Office 365.

    For more information about Office 365 Identity, please refer to the Office 365 Identity Service Description.

    Microsoft Exchange Online

    Microsoft Exchange Online is a hosted messaging solution that delivers the capabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server as a cloud-based service. It gives users rich and familiar access to email, calendar, contacts, and tasks across PCs, the web, and mobile devices. With Exchange Online, organizations can take advantage of sophisticated messaging capabilities without the operational burden of on-premises server software.
    Exchange Online supports the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® protocol. Exchange ActiveSync provides synchronization of mailbox data between mobile devices and Exchange Online, so users can access their email, calendar, contacts, and tasks on the go.
    For more information about Exchange Online, please refer to the Microsoft Exchange Online Service Description.

    Microsoft Lync Online

    Microsoft Lync Online is a next-generation cloud communications service that connects people in new ways, anytime, from virtually anywhere. Lync Online provides intuitive communications capabilities across presence, instant messaging, audio/video calling and a rich online meeting experience including PC-audio, video and web conferencing. Transform your interactions with colleagues, customers and partners from today’s hit-and-miss communication to a more collaborative, engaging, and effective experience.

    For more information about Lync Online, please refer to the Microsoft Lync Online Service Description.

    Microsoft SharePoint Online

    SharePoint Online gives you a central place to share documents and information with colleagues and customers. Designed to work with familiar Office applications, it’s easy to save documents directly to SharePoint and work together on proposals and projects in real-time because you have access to the documents and information you need from virtually anywhere.
    SharePoint Online helps businesses of all sizes share team documents and track project milestones. You can manage important documents online so the latest versions are always at hand. You can also provide teams with access to critical information and documents when and where they need them, while controlling who can access, read, and share them.
    SharePoint Online sites can render on many devices (including Web-enabled mobile phones) using a simplified text-only format. Like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online includes a standardized web-based administrative console that enables your IT administrator to easily manage and set up services for users.
    For more information about SharePoint Online, please refer to the Microsoft SharePoint Online Service Description.

    Office Professional Plus

    The capabilities of Office Professional Plus can be summarized as:  Use Office Anywhere, Work Together, and Bring Ideas to Life.
    With Office Professional Plus, users get the latest version of the Microsoft Office applications, seamlessly connected and delivered with cloud services, so they can access their documents, email, and calendars from virtually any device. Office Professional Plus includes the new Office Web Apps—online companions to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel®, Microsoft PowerPoint®, and Microsoft OneNote®—which let users review and make minor edits to documents directly from a browser.
    The flexible pay-as-you-go, per-user licensing of Office Professional Plus is available as part of Office 365 and provides companies with purchasing flexibility; in addition, robust management and deployment tools give companies the IT control to adapt to evolving business needs.

    For more information about Office Professional Plus, please refer to the Microsoft Office Professional Plus Service Description.

    Microsoft Office Web Apps

    Microsoft® Office Web Apps is the online companion to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel®, Microsoft PowerPoint®, and Microsoft OneNote® applications that helps users access documents from almost anywhere. Users can view, share, and work on documents online with other users across personal computers, mobile devices, and the web.
    Office Web Apps is available to users through Microsoft SharePoint® Online, which is part of Microsoft Office 365. Office Web Apps is also available as a part of Microsoft Windows Live™ and also to business customers through Microsoft Office 2010 volume licensing, Office 365, and document management solutions based on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 products.
    This document focuses on using Office Web Apps as a part of SharePoint Online.

    For more information about Microsoft Office Web Apps, please refer to the Microsoft Office Web Apps Service Description.

    Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans

    Friendly Name


    Size Max


    Hosted Email

    Exchange Online


    Complete integration with Outlook* and web access to email, calendars, and contacts
    Cloud-based email using your own domain name
    Shared calendars
    Configurable anti-spam filtering
    Active Directory synchronization
    25GB user mailboxes and ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
    Live 24 x 7 IT-level phone support

    Small Business

    Plan P1


    Cloud-based email using your own domain name
    Shared calendars
    Instant messaging, PC-to-PC calling, and video conferencing
    Web-based viewing and editing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files
    Team site for sharing files
    Public website
    Anti-malware and anti-spam filtering
    Microsoft community support


    Plan E1


    Everything in Small Business, P1*, plus:
    Active Directory synchronization
    Configurable anti-spam filtering
    SharePoint intranet supporting up to 300 site collections
    Live 24 x 7 IT-level phone support
    * Please note: with E


    Plan E3


    Everything in E1, plus:
    Office Professional Plus 2010 desktop version subscription (for up to 5 devices per user)
    Email archiving and unlimited email storage
    Hosted voicemail support
    Connection to line-of-business applications
    Dashboards with Excel Services


    For more information on the Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans, see the Office 365 Suite Subscription Plans page and the Office 365 Plan Advisor Tool.

    Features at a Glance for Microsoft Office 365

    This is a roundup of Office 365 services at a glance, organized by product.  It’s the balcony view.  By scanning the list, you can get a quick sense of the services.  Then read the actual Office 365 Service Descriptions to find out more.




    Office 365

    Secure access
    Intrusion monitoring
    Security audits
    High availability
    Service continuity
    Microsoft Online Services Portal
    Directory Synchronization tool
    Remote administration

    Exchange Online

    Service Features
    Mailbox size (1 GB for Exchange Online Kiosk user, 25 GB for Exchange Online (Plan 1) user, unlimited for Exchange Online (Plan 2) user)
    Message size limits (max attachment size - 25 MB)
    Recipient limits (1,500 recipients/day)
    Message rate limits (30 messages/minute)
    Deleted item recovery (14 Days)
    Deleted mailbox recovery (30 Days)

    Client Access
    Outlook 2010
    Outlook 2007
    Outlook 2003 (POP or IMAP only)
    Outlook Anywhere (RPC over HTTPS)
    Outlook Cached Mode
    Outlook Online Mode
    Autodiscover (for Outlook and mobile)
    Outlook Web App (Internet Explorer 7+, Safari+, Firefox, Chrome)
    Outlook Web App light experience (Almost any browser)
    Outlook Web App: Vanity URL (Customer can set up a redirect)
    Outlook Web App: session time-out (Default: 6 hours, Configurable up to 24 hours)
    WebReady document viewing
    Instant messaging and presence connected to web email client
    Macintosh support (Outlook for Mac 2011, Entourage 2008 Web Services edition)

    Windows Phone 7 devices
    Windows Mobile devices (Windows Mobile 6.0+)
    Other Exchange ActiveSync devices (such as iPhone)
    Remote device wipe
    Customize Exchange ActiveSync security policies and settings, including PIN/password lock
    Disable Exchange ActiveSync access
    Mobile device allow/block/quarantine
    Over-the-air-update for Outlook Mobile
    Mobile SMS sync (through Exchange ActiveSync)
    SMS (text messaging) notifications
    Blackberery (via Blackberry Enterprise Server)
    Blackberry (via Blackberry Internet Service)

    "Send on behalf of" and "send as"
    Shared mailboxes
    Server-side email forwarding
    Inbox rules
    Conversation view and actions (such as ignore conversation)
    MailTips and MailTips customization
    Connected accounts (aggregate mail from multiple external email accounts)

    Personal contacts
    Personal distribution groups
    Shared distribution groups (in Global Address List)
    Restricted distribution groups
    Dynamic distribution groups
    Moderated distribution groups
    Moderated distribution groups
    Self-service distribution groups
    Global Address List
    Hide users from Global Address List
    Offline Address Book
    External contacts (in Global Address List)

    Out-of-office auto-replies
    Cross-premises calendar free/busy (mix of on-premises/cloud users)
    Federated calendar sharing
    Publish or subscribe to calendar through iCal
    Side-by-side calendar view in web client
    Resource mailboxes (for example, for conference rooms or equipment)
    Outlook 201 Room Finder

    Unified Messaging, FAX
    Interoperability with on-premises voicemail systems
    Exchange Unified Messaging (hosted voicemail)

    Anti-spam (AS) (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange)
    Antivirus (AV) (Forefront Protection for Exchange)
    Safe and blocked senders (configurable at the organization level)
    Opportunistic TLS for inbound/outbound email
    Forced TLS for inbound/outbound email
    S/MIME (Yes, with limitations, No Outlook Web App support)

    Transport rules
    Personal archive
    Retention policies
    Journal messages to external or on-premises archive
    Multi-mailbox search (eDiscovery)
    Legal hold
    Rolling legal hold

    Administration through a Web-based interface (Exchange Control Panel)
    Forefront Online Protection for Exchange Administration Center access
    Administration through command line shell (PowerShell)
    Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
    Message Tracking
    Usage Reporting (Some data can be extracted using PowerShell)

    Application Access/Customization
    Application connectivity through web services
    SMTP relay
    Outlook Web App Web Parts
    Outlook add-ins and Outlook MAPI

    Global Address List synchronization from on-premises directory (Active Directory) (One-way through the Directory Synchronization tool)

    Lync Online

    IM/presence and Lync-to-Lync calls
    1-to-1 and multiparty IM/presence
    Address book search
    Dl expansion (DLX)
    File transfer
    Lync-to-Lync audio/video calls
    Lync-to-Lync high definition video
    Presence and click-to-Lync from Office Apps
    Interactive contacts card in Office 2010

    Lync external connectivity (federation and Public IM connectivity)
    IM/presence/audio/video federation with other OSC/Lync Server/Lync Online organizations
    IM/presence/audio/video with Windows Live Messenger

    Meetings (audio/video/web conferencing)
    Meeting attendee capacity (250)
    Desktop sharing
    Application sharing
    White boarding and annotations
    PowerPoint upload for online presentations
    Ad-hoc multiparty PC-based audio-video
    Unauthenticated attendee in Lync Web App
    Lync attendee client
    Scheduled conferences (using Outlook plug-in)
    Outlook delegation for scheduling meetings
    Support for RoundTable device
    Interoperability with certified partners for dial-in audio conferencing (ACP)
    Phone-dial-out from scheduled meetings via third-party dial-in conferencing service
    Client-side recording and playback
    Backstage/Content Preview for presenters
    Mute all attendees
    Mute individual attendees
    Unmute all attendees
    Unmute individual attendees
    In-meeting attendee permission controls

    Voice and telephony
    Lync-to-phone (calls with landlines and mobile phones)
    Call hold/retrieve
    Dial-out from ad-hoc Lync meetings
    Advanced call controls (transfer, forward, simul-ring)
    Access to Exchange Online voicemail
    Team call
    Delegation (boss-admin) for Voice

    Client support
    Lync 2010
    Lync Web App for participating in scheduled meetings
    Lync 2010 Attendee client (joniing meeting)
    Lync 2010 Mobile client
    IM and media encryuption
    IM filtering

    Exchange/SharePoint interoperability
    Presence interoperability with Exchange and SharePoint on-premises
    Presence interoperability with Exchange Online and SharePoint Online

    Third-party API support
    Client-side APIs

    SharePoint Online

    Ask Me About
    Colleague Suggestions
    Colleagues Network
    Enterprise Wikis
    Keyword Suggestions
    My Site My Content
    My Site My Newsfeed
    My Site My Profile
    Notes Board
    Organization Browser
    Photos and Presence
    Recent Activities
    Status Updates
    Tag Clouds
    Tag Profiles
    Tags and Notes Tool
    Client Object Model (OM)
    Event Receivers
    Language Integrated Query (LINQ) for SharePoint
    Solution Packages
    REST and ATOM Data Feeds
    Ribbon and Dialog Framework
    Silverlight Web Part
    Worklow Models
    Access Services
    Browse-Based Customizations
    Business Data Connectivity Service
    External Data Column
    Business Data Web Parts
    External Lists
    SharePoint Designer 2010
    Forms: Out-of-Box workflows and customization through SharePoint Designer 2010
    InfoPath Forms Services
    Sandboxed Solutions
    Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Developer Tools
    Windows 7 Support
    Workflow Support
    Workflow Templates
    SharePoint Service Architecture

    In-Place Legal Holds
    Document Sets
    Metadata-driven Navigation
    Multi-Stage Disposition
    Rich Media Management
    Shared Content Types
    Support for Accessibility Standards
    Content Organizer
    Unique Document IDs
    Managed Metadata Service

    Excel Services
    Visio Services
    Calculated KPIs

    Best Bets
    Extensible Search Scale
    Duplicate Detection
    Metadata-Driven Refinement
    Mobile Search Experience
    People and Expertise Search
    Phonetics and Nickname Search
    Recently Authored Content
    Search Scopes
    Single Site Collection Search
    Site Search
    Click-Through Relevancy
    View in Browser
    Basic Sorting

    SharePoint Lists
    Web Parts
    Improved Governance
    Large List Scalability and Management
    Multi-Lingual User Interface (MUI)
    Permissions Management
    Quota Templates
    Secure Store Service
    Connections to Microsoft Office Clients
    Public Website (One per tenant)
    Audience Targeting
    RSS Feeds
    Cross-Browser Support
    External sharing
    SharePoint Ribbon
    Mobile Connectivity
    Office Web Apps integration
    SharePoint Workspace 2010
    Out-of-the-Box Web Parts
    Configuration Wizards

    Office Professional Plus

    Microsoft Access
    Microsoft Excel
    Microsoft InfoPath
    Microsoft Lync
    Microsoft OneNote
    Microsoft Outlook
    Microsoft PowerPoint
    Microsoft Publisher
    Microsoft SharePoint Workspace
    Microsoft Word

    Office Web Apps

    Word Web App
    Open in Word
    Edit in Web App
    View in Web App
    Undo and Redo
    Font Formatting
    Paragraph Formatting
    Bullets and Numbering
    Proofing Tools

    Excel Web App
    Refresh Data
    Open in Excel
    Edit in Web App
    Sort and Filter Data
    Save or Download a Copy
    Undo and Redo
    Formula Bar
    Font and Cell Formatting
    Number Formatting
    Edit Worksheet Structure

    PowerPoint Web App
    View and Copy Slide Notes
    Run Slide Show
    Broadcast Slide Show
    Outline View
    Open in PowerPoint
    Edit in Web App
    View and Edit Slide Notes
    View in Web App
    Undo and Redo
    Create and Manage Slides
    Font Formatting
    Alignment, Bullets, and Numbering

    OneNote Web App
    Show Authors
    View Previous Page Versions
    Open in OneNote
    Edit in Web App
    View in Web App
    Co-authoring for Shared Notebooks
    Undo and Redo
    Font Formatting
    Paragraph Formatting
    Bullets and Numbering
    Proofing Tools
    Create and Manage Pages and Sections
    View and Restore Page Versions

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Microsoft Developer Platform at a Glance


    This is my yearly roundup of the Microsoft developer platform.  It includes Visual Studio 2012, .NET Framework 4.5, Windows Azure, Windows Phone, Office 2013, and more. 

    I’ve included key links and starting points at the end to help you find your way around the vast Microsoft technical playground.




    Application Infrastructure

    .NET Framework 4.5
    Base Class Libraries (BCL)
    Common Language Runtime (CLR)
    LINQ (Language-Integrated Query)

    ALM (Application Life-Cycle Management)

    Visual Studio 2012
    Team Foundation Server
    Team Foundation Service (TFS in the Cloud)

    App Frameworks / Extensions

    Enterprise Library
    MEF (Managed Extensibility Framework) 4.5


    Windows Azure SDK

    Content Delivery Network (CDN)
    HDInsight (Hadoop)
    SQL Data Sync
    SQL Reporting
    SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machines
    Windows Azure Active Directory
    Windows Azure Active Directory Graph
    Windows Azure Authentication Library
    Windows Azure Cloud Services (Hosted Services)
    Windows Azure cmdlets
    Windows Azure Management Portal
    Windows Azure Marketplace
    Windows Azure Media Services
    Windows Azure Mobile Services
    Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio
    Windows Azure Service Management REST API
    Windows Azure Service Bus
    Windows Azure SQL Database
    Windows Azure Virtual Machines
    Windows Azure Web Sites
    Windows Azure Workflow Manager

    patterns & practices
    Transient Fault Handling
    Windows Azure Autoscaling

    Collaboration / Integration / Workflow

    Windows Azure Service Bus
    Windows Azure Workflow Manager

    Data Access

    ADO.NET 4.5

    DataSets, DataTables, and DataViews
    Entity Framework
    LINQ (Language-Integrated Query)
    WCF Data Services

    Database Server

    SQL Server 2012
    SQL Server 2012 Database Engine
    SQL Server 2012 Express LocalDB
    Windows Azure SQL Database

    Development Tools

    Visual Studio 2012
    Visual Studio LightSwitch
    Windows Azure SDK
    Windows Phone SDK


    Kinect for Windows SDK
    Microsoft Surface


    Kinect Game Development
    Windows Phone Game Development
    Xbox Live Game Development
    Xbox Live Indie Game Development


    Active Directory Federation Services
    Windows Azure Active Directory
    Windows Azure Active Directory Graph
    Windows Azure Authentication Library
    Windows Identity Foundation 4.5


    Common Language Runtime (CLR)
    JavaScript in Visual Studio 2012
    Visual Basic
    Visual C++
    Visual C#
    Visual F#


    Windows Azure Mobile Services
    Windows Phone
    Windows Phone SDK


    Modeling Tools for ALM in Visual Studio 2012
    Visualization and Modeling SDK – Domain Specific Languages

    Office Applications

    Office 2013
    Office Development in Visual Studio
    SharePoint Development in Visual Studio


    C++ AMP
    Parallel Extensions for .NET
    PLINQ (Parallel LINQ)
    TPL (Task Parallel Library)

    RIA (Rich Internet Applications)

    Microsoft Silverlight
    WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) 4.5
    Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML)


    WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) 4.5
    Windows Azure Cloud Services (Hosted Services)



    ASP.NET Web Forms
    HTML / CSS
    Windows Azure Web Sites
    Windows Store Apps

    Web Server

    Internet Information Services (IIS) 8

    Windows Store Apps

    Windows Store Apps

    Windows Runtime
    Windows Library for Javascript
    Windows Store app APIs

    Windows Server

    Windows Server 2012

    Windows Services

    Windows Service Applications

    Here are some links you may find useful ...

    Key Links


    Dev Centers

    Getting Started

    What’s New

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Free Book: Getting Results the Agile Way


    Just in time for the holidays … a free book for you today.  You can get your free book, Getting Results the Agile Way, for free on the Kindle:

    Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life

    As the sub-title implies, it’s more than a book.  It’s a system you can use to get “Agile for Life.”

    It’s ultimately a simple system for meaningful results.  It helps you respond to change, and actually thrive on change.  It helps you live your values at work, while playing to your strengths.  It helps you find your competitive advantage in doing things better, faster, cheaper.  It’s a time management system that focuses on value and effectiveness.

    It helps you get the system on your side.

    Leaders are using it to build high-performance teams and improve work-life balance.  Consulting companies are using it to inspire better results.  Businesses are using it to transform what they’re capable of.  Many individuals are using it to take their personal development to a whole nother level.

    Using The Rule of 3, you focus on three wins:  Three wins for the day, the week, the month, and the year.   This instantly gets you focused on value, not volume, and on outcome, not activities.

    Best of all – it helps you tell and sell your story in a simple way.   When you start thinking in wins, you not only find the short-cuts, you amplify your impact.

    If you have a habit you want to change, you can use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to build or break a habit.  You can also use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to help you learn a new topic or master a new skill or complete a project you’ve had on your someday, maybe list.  For example, I’ve used 30 Day Improvement Sprints for everything from learning Windows Azure to roller blading more than 20 miles a day.

    Perhaps the most powerful thing I use from Getting Results the Agile Way is the idea of Power Hours and Creative Hours.  The same work that used to take me 40 hours or more, I can now do in four hours or less – a 10X improvement.   By identifying my most productive hours during the week and by focusing on my strengths, I get exponential results.   I’ve even been able to use this approach for teams to amplify results by using the best hours of the day for heavy lifting and for creative insights.  It’s helped lead to many innovative breakthroughs and drive inspired action.

    If you’ve lost your mojo or want to get your game on or find your next breakthrough, check out my free book (today only):

    Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life

    As one of my mentors always said, “If it’s free, it’s for me.”

    This is my single best way to help you make the most of what you’ve got, and put it all together in a simple system that you can practice daily and get better at with time.  You get time on your side, and it’s a continuous learning system, so your results will get better and better.

    If you don’t need to improve your results, maybe you know somebody who does.  Be sure to share it with them, and keep spreading the mantra:

    “Think in Three Wins”

    Best wishes on getting results.

    Enjoy and happy holidays,


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story


    At least once a year, I try to walk the Microsoft platform and do a roundup of all the products and technologies, especially focused on the developer side.   (Here is an example – Mapping Out the Microsoft Application Platform.)  It helps me see ahead, anticipate changes, challenges, and opportunities, and really get a balcony view of the company from a platform perspective.

    This year, I was challenged as I was trying to walk the story from my usual paths.  Normally, I walk Microsoft.com, MSDN, and TechNet.  I know my way around so I can usually pull the pieces I need to figure out the platform and get a fast balcony view.

    I realized that this time, in order to make sense of the platform, I really needed to step back.  I needed to really understand the bigger story and the backdrop.  To walk a friend through, I basically recapped some of the most important messages:

    1. 3 Screens and a Cloud – This is really a clients and clouds story, acknowledging little screens, like on a phone, medium screens, like tablets and laptops, and bigger screens, like the ones that fill a wall or a living room.   Different screens create new opportunities and challenges, including a new breed of NUI experiences.
    2. Devices and Services – This is just acknowledgement that XBox, Kinnect, phone, Surface, are on purpose.  It builds on and builds with the 3 screens and a cloud story.  It also acknowledges the shift from “boxed” product to software as a service, as a first-class citizen.
    3. Unified Windows platform – I think this line says it best: “To hear Microsoft tell it, the five big trends to come will be natural user interfaces, machine learning and big data, unlocking application capabilities through the cloud, social networking, and the emergence of a single unified Windows platform across PC, mobile device, server and cloud.” – See Microsoft Predictions for Itself
    4. Public, private, partner, hybrid.    When it comes to the Cloud, it’s really a spectrum.  There’s stuff on premises, there’s stuff in the public Cloud, and there’s mash ups in between.   Whether you “use the cloud,” “move to the cloud”, or “be the cloud,” you have to consider where you want stuff to live, whether that means living in a private Cloud on premises, or in a public Cloud, or as a private Cloud within a public Cloud, or within a specialized partner Cloud, etc.  Once you know the permutations and the mental model, slicing and dicing becomes easier, and you can quickly figure out where something “lives” or should live.
    5. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).  This is also another powerful way to slice and dice the platform.  A simple way to think of it is “host,” “build,” and “consume.”

    When you know the story and you look through that lens, many things make more sense.  For example, if you know there is an on-premise story and a Cloud story, then it makes sense why there is SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online (part of the Office 365 story).  If you don’t know that, then you can spend a lot of time wondering how do you figure out the platform stack and how do you make sense of what you see.

    It even helps explain some of the transitions, like Windows 8.   At first blush, on a non-touch device, it can seem awkward.   Once you realize that it’s a step towards a unified model, where touch and other NUI experiences are a first-class citizen, then it makes a lot more sense.

    It also helps to get an introduction to things by people who live and breathe the stuff.  For example, we have a lot of former Apple folks, and we have a lot of Mac experts.  I reach out to them and ask them what they think of Windows 8 and how they make the most of it.   The power “touch” users are amazing in action.  I like the balanced perspective from people who know both worlds, and who focus on effectiveness, user experience, and results.  It’s always enlightening. 

    But the real surprise is how much power is right at your finger tips that you just don’t even know until somebody points it out.  For example, I was in a meeting trying to find one of my apps on Windows 8 and a colleague said just hit the Windows key then start typing the name of the app you want.  I didn’t believe him – it sounded too weird.  In fact, I didn’t believe him so much, that I just did it to prove to him how he was wrong.   Suddenly my app was at my finger tips, faster than I was ready for. 

    The more I dig into this, the more I realize I should share more about making sense of the platform.  I did write up The Microsoft Story, but there is just so much more beneath the “surface” … and I think only the tip of the iceberg gets the buzz.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Inspirational Quotes for 2013


    Inspirational quotes can inspire and lift you if you let them.  After all, inspiration is “to breathe life into.”  And who doesn’t want a breath of fresh air for 2013?

    But first, let’s put a key concept front and center – because it’s paramount to success in today’s arena.

    It’s energized differentiation.

    Brands that stand out communicate excitement, dynamism, and creativity.   That’s true whether it’s your personal brand or the business you’re in.  According to John Gerzema and Ed Lebar:

    “Energy is where the action is. It reflects the consumer’s perception of motion and direction. It sustains the brand’s advantages. High-energy brands create a constant sense of interest and excitement. Consumers sense that these brands move faster, see farther, and are more experiential and more responsive to their needs.”

    It’s time to find your energized differentiation if you want to make this year – 2013 – YOUR year for impact.

    Own it.  Own 2013.  2013 is one giant timebox at your disposal -- show the world what you’ve got.

    So, where do you get this energy?  Where do you get this source of inspiration from?  In a down economy, with more to do than you have capacity for, and changes that you can’t keep up with … where do you find your inspiration to do great things?  Look inside.  Your buttons are already there, and you just need to push them.  But sometimes you need the right words.

    Here are a few of my favorite inspiration quotes, as well as an extreme list of the best inspirational quotes I know:

    1. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” — Mary Anne Radmacher
    2. “Life is not measured by the number of breathes we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” — Maya Angelou
    3. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao-Tzu
    4. “Let him who would move the world, first move himself.” – Socrates
    5. “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw
    6. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
    7. “Big thinking precedes great achievement.” — Wilferd A. Peterson
    8. “Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.” — Nido Qubein
    9. “Success each day should be judged by the seeds sown, not the harvest reaped.” — John C. Maxwell
    10. “I want to be all used up when I die.” — George Bernard Shaw

    If you want more words that lift us, check out my inspirational quotes page for lists of inspirational quotes from the best of the best.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Best Business Books List, Version 2


    One of my most important lists, is my Best Business Books list.  It’s where I round up all of the best business books I’ve read and put them in a single list at your finger tips. 

    Sure there are lots of lists of the best business books, but this list is unique.   It’s organized by “hot topic” buckets so you can rapidly scan for specific books on an area or challenge you want to tackle.  It also features an A-Z list at the end, where you can rapidly compare this list with any of other best business books lists. 

    But the most important difference is that these business books are not based on popularity.  I hand-craft this list based on books that I use to make an impact at work.   I’ve had many great mentors who have recommended many books to me.  I’ve read them all.  I’ve learned to read books faster in the process, but more importantly to turn them into action, and get results.

    These are the books I’ve used for everything from doing rapid product design to building raving fans to innovating in work processes to deliver things better, faster, cheaper.   I’ve used these business books to better understand competitive differentiation and how to find blue ocean opportunities.  I’ve also used these books for understanding trends in the market and to better anticipate market disruptors.

    Here are some of the challenges and opportunities that my best business books list helps you address:

    • How to start a business
    • How to create a better business
    • How to innovate in your business
    • How to figure out your vision, mission, and values
    • How to do strategic market analysis
    • How do to competitive analysis
    • How to design a more effective organization
    • How to build a business that lasts
    • How to drive change
    • How to create products and services that matter

    I need to warn you up front.  This list is massive.  It’s not a “happy-go-lucky” list of fun business books to read (though, you could use it for that.)  It’s a serious and significant compilation and synthesis of the best business books that you can use to amplify your business impact.

    That said, because of the Getting Started section, Top 10 Best Business Books, categories, and A-Z list, you should be able to easily find your way around and manage the large list.  Here are the categories I used to slice and dice the best business books down to size:

    • Branding
    • Business, Business Models, and Value Chains
    • Change and Change Management
    • Competition
    • Culture
    • Customer Focus, Service Delivery
    • CxO, Executive
    • Decision Making
    • Effectiveness
    • Entrepreneurs, Start Ups
    • Excellence
    • Execution
    • Finance
    • Globalization
    • Home Business
    • Innovation
    • Knowledge Management, Performance Management, Training
    • Management
    • Marketing, Sales
    • Motivation
    • Negotiation
    • Organizational Design
    • Outsourcing
    • Productivity
    • Strategy, Purpose
    • Strengths
    • Survival, Longevity
    • Systems
    • Teamwork
    • Trust
    • Vision, Mission, and Values
    • Work-Life Balance

    One way to use the best business books list more effectively is to find three new books you want to read for the new year.   While you may already know many of the classics like Good to Great, by Jim Collins, or In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters, have you heard of The Starfish and the Spider, by Rod A. Beckstrom?  It helps you build a federated community with shared goals and values, a key in today’s social and connected world.  Have you heard of Managing the Design Factory, by Donald G. Reinertsen?  It’s probably one of the best books on how to design teams and systems to be more effective in terms of building product lines and product-line architectures.  Have you heard of A Simple Statement, by James Grady?  It’s probably the single best book on how to create compelling vision and mission statements.  It’s the book that taught me mission is “who you are”, and vision is “where you want to go.”

    If somehow you’ve seen them all before or none of the books on my best business books list catches your attention, then take my other list for a test drive:

    30 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders

    It’s a list of the best business books that various Microsoft leaders of all levels told me significantly shaped their success.


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Best Leadership Books


    My Best Leadership Books list is now ready for action.   I’ve revised the Top 10 Best Leadership Books section, added a Getting Started section and an A-Z List of the Best Leadership Books to help you quickly scan the full collection.  I hope you find it to be one of the most useful lists of leadership books available on the Web.

    This leadership books list features the greatest hits from many favorites including Stephen Covey, Peter Drucker, John Wooden, John Maxwell, and more. 

    Here are some of the skills that this list of leadership books helps you with:

    How to create and share your vision, mission, and values
    How to adopt a leadership mindset
    How to build better daily leadership habits
    How to build your emotional intelligence
    How to deal with setbacks and failures as a leader
    How to develop the leader within you
    How to develop the leaders around you
    How to do succession planning
    How to execute
    How to look and act like a leader

    How to find your motivation and drive and help others find theirs
    How to influence without authority
    How to create a culture of excellence
    How to create a learning organization and culture of growth
    How to use situational leadership to improve your leadership ability
    How to play to your strengths
    How to prioritize and take decisive action
    How to practice principle-centered leadership
    How to practice servant leadership
    How to establish healthy teamwork

    I’ve organized the best leadership books into the following meaningful categories:

    Authenticity, Authentic Leadership
    Development, Leadership Development
    Emotional Intelligence, Compassion, Heart, Empathy
    Failure, Setbacks
    Influence, Rapport
    Interpersonal Skills
    Leadership, Lessons in Leadership
    Learning, Growth
    Principles, Practices, Strategies, Tactics
    Purpose, Passion, Motivation
    Reflection, Inner-Engineering
    Servant Leadership
    Situational Leadership
    Vision, Mission, Values

    As you can imagine, it’s an extensive collection of leadership books. 

    There is an even a book on executive presence.  This is a popular topic for people looking to go up in levels and establish their credibility among their peers.

    One thing you’ll notice is that John Maxwell dominates the leadership books scene.  John Maxwell has clearly advanced the practice of leadership through many of his specific and actionable leadership books.  He’s written on various aspects of leadership from attitude to interpersonal skills  The beauty of his leadership books is that they are like little playbooks that are compact, insightful, and actionable.  It also helps that his writing style is down to Earth and conversational while staying positive and inspirational.

    But don’t let Maxwell’s amazing collection of leadership books overshadow the contributions of other great leadership books.  For example, if you really want to build a culture of excellence and have people spend more time in their strengths, then read Good to Great by Jim Collins, and Go Put Your Strengths to work by Marcus Buckingham.   If you want to master building high-performance teams, then be sure to read Flawless Execution where James Murphy shares lessons from the Air Force.   If you lead people, be sure to read about Situational Leadership so you can balance your directing and motivating styles with the needs of the people you manage.   To really take your leadership game to the next level, read Leadership on the Line, by Ronald A. Heifetz, to avoid hitting glass ceilings, know what hard-core leadership really entails, and to distinguish between technical and adaptive challenges … your leadership career may very well depend on it.

    Take my Leadership Books List for a test drive and I think you will find at least three new leadership books to add to your leadership development collection.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Personal Development Books at Your Fingertips


    I’ve done an extensive overhaul of my Personal Development Books List.  Aside from new books on the list, you’ll also notice a new Getting Started section, as well as an A-Z Best Personal Development Books list at the end. 

    This is a powerful collection of personal development books.

    You can use these personal development books to address the following:

    How to adopt a positive mindset
    How to be happier
    How to be more productive
    How to change or build a habit
    How to create more work-life balance
    How to create more wealth
    How to develop your emotional intelligence
    How to develop your self-discipline
    How to find and live your values in work and life
    How to find and develop your strengths
    How to find your purpose and your passion
    How to improve your courage
    How to improve your focus
    How to improve your self-awareness
    How to learn faster
    How to model success
    How to think with skill
    How to set goals and achieve them

    This collection of personal development books includes books by Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Tim Ferris, Seth Godin, John Maxwell, Edward de Bono, Marcus Buckingham, Epictetus, Napoleon Hill, Steve Pavlina, Martin Seligman, Jack Canfield, David Allen, Malcolm Gladwell, and more.  It’s the ultimate collection of wisdom at your fingertips.

    It's a large collection so I split it into the following categories for your browsing convenience:

    Career Development
    Character, Attitude
    Choice, Decision Making
    Communication Skills
    Courage, Confidence
    Emotional Intelligence
    Habits, Principles, Practices
    Happiness, Feeling Good
    Interpersonal Skills, Relationships
    Motivation, Self-Discipline
    Positive Thinking, Optimisim
    Purpose, Passion
    Spiritual Intelligence
    Thinking SKills, Intelligence
    Work-Life Balance

    And there is an A-Z list at the end so you can very quickly scan the entire collection and cross-check against any other personal development books list. 

    While you may already know many of the books on the list, I suggest trying to find three books you haven’t heard of before.  For example, if you haven’t heard of Edward de Bono’s How to Have a Beautiful Mind, it’s a brilliant book.  If you haven’t read John Medina’s Brain Rules, you’re in for a treat.  He’ll teach you 12 rules that you can use for work, school, or life to maximize your results.  If you’ve never read Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power, it’s probably THE single best book on personal empowerment and mastery of your mind, body, and emotions.  In The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey helps you go from effectiveness to greatness.

    Check out the list of Personal Development Books, and if there are important books that I need to add to the list, be sure to let me know.

    Happy Holidays,


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Year in Review 2012


    At the end of each year, I like to take a step back and take the balcony view – to learn from the hind sights and gain some foresight.

    It’s been a crazy year. 

    My book, Getting Results the Agile Way, has been a #1 best-seller for time management on Amazon.  In fact, this morning it was also #2 for time management in the books category.

    Companies are using Agile Results and Getting Results the Agile Way to do more with less, innovate faster, and create high-performance teams.  And, more importantly, achieve work-life balance.  In fact, this past year I’ve lead several sessions with key teams at Microsoft to help them improve their focus, execution, and motivation.  Again, all while driving a theme of personal empowerment and work-life balance.

    Getting Results the Agile Way is ultimately about helping you make more impact and write your story forward with skill.

    The Business of Business Transformation

    I might not have mentioned it before, but I’m in the business of business transformation and I help customers make the most of the Microsoft platform in the context of their business.    As far as my day job on Cloud Vantage and, now, back on the Enterprise Strategy team, I’ve spent the bulk of the year helping shape the Microsoft O365 story in the Enterprise.  I’ve also helped many customers go through business transformation as they figure out how to go cloud.

    As you can imagine, I learned a lot about what it means for a business to really get back to business, as they figure out their vision, mission, and values, their business model, and their capabilities.  It’s a chance for businesses to figure out what they do best, what they want to do more of, and what they want to do less of.  With cloud computing, you get an amazing opportunity to improve your business agility and streamline your IT, as well as enable more innovation in your process and products.  I’ll share more on this in the future.

    Adoption and Change Leadership are the Key to the Future

    I’ve also learned a lot about change leadership and driving adoption and change throughout a business.  This is actually one of the most important concepts for the years to come.  The pace of change is insane.  The actual bottleneck now isn’t the delivery of more features.  It’s absorption.  It’s figuring out what’s valued, and driving adoption.   For many customers, they don’t need more features, they need to learn how to use what they’ve already got.  For other customers, the bottleneck is learning how to go beyond the piece-meal technology, and move up the stack to higher-end scenarios.  For example, with Office 365, it’s not about mail and instant messaging.  It’s about effective meetings and ad-hoc collaboration.  It’s about collaborative Business Intelligence.   It’s about creating effective teams.

    Scenarios are the Secret Sauce for Driving High-Impact Wins

    I could say a lot about what I’ve learned around scenarios for end-users, IT staff, and the IT platform itself.  For example, there are some amazing scenarios for the IT platform including mergers and acquisitions, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD.)  It’s been exciting watching these scenarios materialize with customers and help them transform their business and operate at a higher-level.

    But the gap between what’s possible and where so many actually are is enormous.  And that’s the opportunity.

    This is where my years of scenario-driven and experience-driven development will rise and shine by helping businesses unleash their potential.

    Program Management, Strategy, and Productivity

    Speaking of opportunity, as I flip back over my blog posts for the past year, I realize how much more I could have written on topics such as Program Management, strategy skills, Office 365, productivity in the Cloud, etc.   In fact, I think that’s actually good scope.  One of my friends challenged me to help grow 1,000 Principal Program Managers. 

    I like the challenge.  After all, I like to take on big challenges, and I mentor a lot of Program Managers around Microsoft.

    Blog Impact for 2012

    I ended up writing about a few key themes this year including time management tips, execution excellence, and leadership skills.  Kanbans are hot.  I think more people are realizing the power of “pull” over “push” and how much easier it is to try and satisfy existing demand, than try to master demand generation.

    I’ve done a roundup of my top posts.  I limited it to posts that had at least 3,000 views.  For example, my post on 10 Things Great Managers Do has more than 16,000 views, 10 Ways to Use Evernote More Effectively has more than 15,000 views, 25 Books the Most Successful Microsoft Leaders Read and Do has more than 10,000 views, and The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft has more than 8,000 views.

    I was surprised by a few posts.  For example, I thought The Microsoft Story would shoot way past 6,000 views.  And one post I forgot I wrote, Kanban: The Secret of High-Performing Teams at Microsoft, has more than 18,000 views. 

    Like I said, Kanbans are hot Smile


    Top 10 Posts for 2012

    1. 10 Free Leadership Tools for Work and Life
    2. 10 Things Great Managers Do
    3. 10 Ways to Use Evernote More Effectively
    4. 25 Books the Most Successful Microsoft Leaders Read and Do
    5. Agile Methodology in Microsoft patterns & practices
    6. Agile Results in Evernote with One Notebook
    7. Idea to Done: How To use a Personal Kanban for Getting Results
    8. Kanban: The Secret of High-Performing Teams at Microsoft
    9. The Guerilla Guide to Getting a Better Performance Review at Microsoft
    10. The Microsoft Story

    My Most Important Posts for 2012

    This is a short-list of the posts I think were my most important posts for 2012:

    Top Posts A - Z

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Weekly Outcomes for Teams and Leaders


    Weekly outcomes are the key to execution excellence.  They support incremental progress, flowing value, and continuous learning.  I’ve written about weekly outcomes before in Weekly Outcomes: The Simple Weekly Planner and How To Lead High-Performance Teams.    Great, but now I want to really shine the spot light on what an example looks like and why.

    First, here is a simple example:

    -- Weekly Outcomes Example --

    Weekly Outcome: 11/12/2012

    3 Wins

    1. Customer impact story  (roadmap and story on a page)
    2. Starter Kit for Foo (prototype and model and addresses the Foo story)
    3. Library Model (Draft Complete)

    A – Z List

    1. Adoption Story (Integrate feedback and insights)
    2. Anatomy of an Engagement Walkthrough
    3. Capabilities and Workloads at a Glance
    4. Change Management Story
    5. Cloud story on a Page
    6. Core Deliverables (against Core Services)
    7. Demo Deck for Foo 1
    8. Demo Deck for Foo 2
    9. Demo Kit for Bar 1
    10. Demo Kit for Bar 2
    11. Demo Kit for Bar 3
    12. Demo Kit for Team Roles and Responsibilities
    13. Deployment Story at a Glance
    14. Escalation Alignment Template
    15. Hot Spot Identification
    16. How To Videos
    17. Information Architecture (Names, overlap, splitting services)
    18. Library Fix (Core scenarios functioning)
    19. Milestone Map for Foo
    20. Narrative of an Engagement
    21. Outcomes and Deliverables List
    22. Roles and RACI Map
    23. Starter Kits for Bar
    24. Starter Kit for Foo
    25. Sweep of Library to catch up
    26. Transformation Story
    27. Video - How To Do Foo
    28. Video - How To Do Bar

    -- End Weekly Outcomes Example --


    Notice three things in the example above:

    1. A simple list of three wins at the top
    2. A complete list of all the work on the radar organize alphabetically A-Z.
    3. Sometimes a win is simply progress or a key milestone – such as “Draft Complete”

    This approach helps keep relentless focus on the three wins for the week.   It helps bubble of the critical outcomes that will make or break success for the week (at least as we currently understand what success looks like.)    This short list of wins at the top also helps us align our work with each other to support the goals, as well as to track a short set of key wins.  Most importantly, if we need to adjust throughout the week, we are simply dealing with a working set of three high-value wins.

    The longer A-Z list is our “pick-list” to pull from and to help remind us that just because our short list of three wins is front and center, does not mean we are not aware of the bigger picture and competing priorities.   The three wins help us keep everything in perspective and help us avoid analysis paralysis and information overwhelm.  Meanwhile, we are able to easily grab things from the A-Z list.  This helps us stay agile and fluid and most importantly, always flowing value.

    The two lists – the simple + complete – really compliment each other.  The three wins force us to really focus on what value is and what the priorities are, and the longer list always keeps us on top of our game.  We get the full balcony view.   It also helps create a sense of urgency because we are aware of all the work that needs to be done.  At the same time, it creates a very simple way to keep focused on flowing value and enjoying our victories.

    If you want to seriously and significantly drive amazing value from your team, use the Three Win approach with weekly outcomes.

    You can find out this technique and more for execution excellence in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    30 Day Improvement Sprints: The Key to Making Impact, Changing Habits, and Rapid Learning


    30 Day Improvement Sprints may just be your best friend as you start your new year.   You can use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to learn new skills, build or change habits, and amplify your impact.   They provide a simple way to apply concentrated effort in batch to accelerate your success.

    I’ve written about 30 Day Improvement Sprints before in Why 30 Day Improvement Sprints30 Day Improvement Sprints30 Day Improvement Sprints Revisited, Monthly Improvement Sprints, and Making 30 Day Improvement Sprints More Effective.   But with the new year fast approaching, it’s time to rehydrate the power of 30 Day Improvement Sprints for making waves of significant change.

    Why 30 Day Improvement Sprints

    If you know the story, I started using 30 Day Improvement Sprints years ago to deal with the following challenges:

    1. I needed a way to really focus.
    2. I needed a way to make significant change.
    3. I needed a consistent way to make space for new things in my life.

    What better way than to make it a monthly pattern?

    In fact, the first thing I learned was that the key was less about 30 days and more about making it a theme for the month.   With each new month, I could repeat the theme or add a new one.   This idea of Monthly themes lets me pick a focus each month and cycle through multiple things throughout the year. 

    It’s a simple but effective way to add focus, while allowing for exploration.

    Before that, I had the problem of not sticking with something long enough, or having too many open things in flight.  By carving out a theme each month, it lets me put ideas in the parking lot to pick up during another 30 Day Improvement Sprint.

    There is also magic that happens if you stick with something for more than two weeks and get over your initial humps and feelings of awkwardness as you learn something new or change your habits.  The first two weeks are a step back before you leap frog ahead.

    What is a 30 Day Improvement Sprint

    A 30 Day Improvement Sprint is simply a focus for the month.  For example, in January, your focus might be on your fitness or your career or a habit you want to add or a skill you want to learn.  Pick something.   Maybe it’s a book you’ve wanted to write.

    The key is to pick a meaningful theme to give focus and meaning for the month.

    Make it a story you want to look back on.  Make it a story you want to tell.  It’s not whether you actually achieve your results.  It will be the progress you make along the way.  30 days is a great way to chip at the stone, and the days add up fast.

    To give you an example, I actually created a 30 day program using a 30 Day Improvement Sprint:

    30 Days of Getting Results

    To create the program, I decided that each day I would spend no more than 20 minutes and write with might.  The goal was to share the best of what I’ve learned around getting results and making impact.  I wanted to unleash what everybody is capable of.   It also gave me a chance to show the power of a 30 Day Improvement Sprint in action.   By the end of the 30 days, I had a powerful program that helped many people hit their high notes and operate at a higher level.   Many people told me this was the most powerful program they ever experienced in terms of improving their results at work and in life.

    People still tell me they are surprised it’s free.   They also can’t believe that I wrote it in 20 minute batches each day for a month.  In fact, you’ll notice that as the days went on, the insights got deeper, the words flowed better, the stories got richer, and the power of each day’s lesson got exponential. 

    This is another benefit of a 30 day focus … you get more than synergy -- you get the compound effect.  

    How To Do a 30 Day Improvement Sprint

    It is extremely simple.   That’s the point.  The recipe is this:

    1. Choose a challenge that inspires you. 
    2. Dedicate a small amount of time each day to “work your sprint.”
    3. Set a simple outcome each week, and review your results each week.

    Each day is a new chance to try something small to produce results against your goal.   Each day, just try something new, and keep a sharp focus on learning.   Between doing + learning, you will have breakthroughs.  Because you are not caught up in immediate results, you allow yourself the freedom to explore and get creative.  You also are focused because you are doing something small each day.  That’s how breakthroughs and innovation happen.

    Pick something that will really help you in your work or in life, or both.  For example, when I joined my current team, I set a focus for the month:  “House in Order.”  I made the goal for the month to really simplify and clarify the product portfolio for the group, and to simplify and clarify some of the key processes and priorities.   Then, each day, I dedicated a small amount of time to that effort, while I worked my weekly outcomes.  And, where I could, I connected my weekly activities and outcomes back to this higher-order goal.

    By the end of the month, I had a simple catalog of all the assets for the group, as well as a simple information architecture (IA), and a simple set of processes, and a simple deck to help tell and sell the story of value for the team.

    Along the way, I learned a bunch.  Most importantly, I continued to flow short-burst wins, while working towards the bigger picture and my 30 Day Improvement Sprint.

    Where to Go for More

    You can learn more about 30 Day Improvement Sprints (or “Monthly Themes”) from the following sources:

    1. 30 Days of Getting Results (where each day you will learn a new lesson in achieving results and high-performance)
    2. Getting Results the Agile Way (my book on how to master time management, motivation, and making things happen)

    Many people have been using 30 Day Improvement Sprints (or “Monthly Themes”), so you can learn from them, as well.

    I’ve used 30 Day Improvement Sprints for everything from changing diets to starting workouts to learning new technologies and writing books.  It’s powerful stuff, and it helps you rise above the noise of day to day, while making the most of each day.

    30 Day Improvement Sprints help you carve out space for the big wins in your life each day, while dealing with the day to day of everyday life.

    Best wishes on the road ahead.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Windows Azure at a Glance


    This is my quick lookup table of Windows Azure at a glance.   I use it to very quickly hop and out of Windows Azure and to help me stay oriented among the capabilities and features.

    It’s not fancy.  It’s just a simple list of Windows Azure functionality grouped by meaningful buckets.




    Compute Models

    Cloud Services (Hosted Services)
    Virtual Machines
    Web Sites

    Development Tools

    Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio


    Management Portal
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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Zig Ziglar Quotes


    Zig Ziglar passed away.  In his honor, I've put together a comprehensive set of Zig Ziglar quotes.  It's a pretty extensive collection.  He’s talked about everything from leadership to marketing to personal development to success in work and life.  He did a great job of sharing profound wisdom in a pithy and precise way.

    Zig Ziglar really had a way with words, as you'll see if you explore his quotes.  He was full of timeless wisdom and sticky phrases that make you think, or remind you of how to operate at a higher level.

    Here are the Top 10 Zig Ziglar quotes:

    1. “Be helpful.  When you see a person without a smile, give him yours.”
    2. “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”
    3. “Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.”
    4. “If you don’t see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner.”
    5. “It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you use that makes a difference.”
    6. “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
    7. “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”
    8. “You are the only person on earth who can use your ability.”
    9. “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
    10. “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

    For the rest of the list, check out my Zig Ziglar Quotes collection.

    Share with friends and family and make somebody's day.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Guy Kawasaki on Self-Publishing


    I’m honored to have a guest post by Guy Kawasaki on Top Ten Reasons to Self-Publish.   Self-publishing is hot.   It’s a great path, especially if you can use writing as a way to share and scale what you know.  

    That said, there is a lot to know when it comes to the business of books, and that’s what Guy’s latest book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, is all about.

    One of the big surprises I found in terms of self-publishing is that I made more in a month, than I made in a year, once I shipped the Kindle version.   I knew there would be a difference, but I didn’t really anticipate just how big that difference would be.

    The other thing I learned is that there is a big difference in what you can achieve if you look at self-publishing in terms of a longer-term play.   The best advice I got from a friend was to think of it more like a slow burn, than a fast flame.   This helped me experiment more and play around with everything from different covers, to different taglines, to different formats, etc.  As a result, it’s been a best-seller in Time Management on Amazon for many months, which is an extremely competitive niche.

    But I digress.  Check out Guy Kawasaki’s guest post for me on Top Ten Reasons to Self-Publish.  Who knows, it might just be your future career, or play a big role as we shift to a digital economy of information products and insight.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Great Books


    I have a Great Books collection on Sources of Insight.   It’s a hand-crafted selection of great books on the following topics:

    36 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders
    Business Books
    Career Books
    Communication Skills and Presenting Books
    Conflict, Negotiation, and Persuasion Books
    Health and Fitness Books
    Interpersonal Skills Books
    Leadership Books
    Learning Books
    Management Books
    Marketing Books
    Mind and Thinking Books
    Money, Wealth, and Personal Finance Books
    NLP Books
    People Skills Books
    Personal Development Books
    Productivity and Time Management Books
    Strength Books
    Writing Books

    The list of great books is always expanding.

    Each lists is broken down into more meaningful buckets so that you can explore a rather large list of books more easily.   For example, my list of Leadership Books is a popular one because it includes a lot of the best leadership books organized by key categories.

    I’m in the process of sweeping these lists of best books, and breaking some of them down into finer-grained lists.  For example, I’ll be splitting my Productivity and Time Management Books list into two separate lists of great books (and the current list does not do it justice.)

    I’ve been working on my Time Management Books lists, which includes my book, Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life.   This list is going to be a doozy.   Time management is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of our lives.  As some say, “time is all you’ve got.”  The key of course, is how to make the most of it.

    Anyway, if you see things shuffling around on my Great Books collection, now you know why.   A lot of people ask me for advice on which books to read, and I buy several hundred dollars worth of books each year, so I try to share lists of useful books to save you time or help you find some books that might not otherwise be obvious.

    Enjoy and happy holidays.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Mid-Year Review, Career, and Getting Ahead


    Mid-year is always a hot time at Microsoft.  It’s a time to recap the impact and check the scoreboard.  For some, it’s a time to shine.  For others, it’s a wake up call.  And for others, it’s Phoenix time.

    I think between the slowing economy, the rapid pace of change, and ultra-competition, figuring out how to rise and shine in your career is tougher than ever.   How do you make an impact?  How do you rise above the noise?  How do you get ahead?

    One of the best books I read lately, just in time for the holidays, is Getting Ahead, by Joel A. Garfinkle.  I wrote up a meaty review, movie-trailer style, with key highlights:

    Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level

    It might just be one of the most important books you read for the new year, and for your career overall.  Joel Garfinkle is an effective executive coach, so he’s well-versed in helping people get over the humps in their career and taking things to the next level.   His framework is simple and he focuses on three keys:

    1. Perception
    2. Visibility
    3. Influence

    That sounds so simple, but there is an art part, in addition to the science.  It’s one thing to know the perception.  It’s another to proactively engineer it.  Joel shares several ways to both help you understand how perception works, and how to shape it to help you make more impact out of the work you already do.  Nothing is worse than wasted work or undervalued results.  The reality is that great work does not always sell itself, and that you need to know how to sell yourself and your work in a way that amplifies your impact.  And your perception as a team-player and collaborator can make or break you, and help you avoid getting kicked off the island.

    In terms of visibility, if great work happened, but nobody was there to see it, did it happen?  So many people do great things on a daily basis, but they lack the visibility to get ahead.  Or, worse, they don’t even get the ROI out of the work they did.   For many people, visibility is an extreme challenge, especially if you don’t like to show off your work.  The key of course is not to show off, but to highlight the value in a way that resonates to those that care.  After all, how will your work help if the people that need to know the impact, either aren’t aware of it, or don’t get it.   Not everybody has time to read about the awesome things you did or to go and investigate the nifty thing you created that’s going to change the world.  You have to make it simple and sticky so that people can quickly understand how your work adds value to their world.

    And there are many tricks of the trade to do so.  Garfinkle shares a bunch of ways you can immediately use, just in time for your mid-year review.

    Perhaps my favorite exercise in the book is to write a list of your top ten achievements from the past year.  Dig through your emails, calendar, notes, etc. and find the ten things that you are most proud of.   Then write a good summary of each one in terms of the actual impact.  Not only will this help for your review, but it will remind you of the great things you did over the past year, and help catalyze you for the new year.  You might be amazed by how many things you forgot you did.  You can also use this short-list of impact to shop yourself around and to get gain better clarity on what you want to do more of.   It’s a way to get specific on your achievements, and your impact in a way that you have it at your mental finger tips.

    As another sanity check, you can do a quick rating of each achievement in terms of visibility on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is highly visible.  If you have a bunch that rate a 7 or below, don’t be surprised if your mid-year review does not shake out the way you want it to.  Now is the right time to start giving more visibility to your achievements and to tell and sell the story in a sticky way.

    It’s not too late.  Remember, Scrooge changed overnight.

    In terms of influence, John Maxwell said it best when he said, “Leadership is influence.”  What’s the big deal?  It’s how you amplify what you do.  You can only do so much as a one-man band.  You scale your impact by leveraging, leading, and influencing others.  As Covey would put it, it’s how you build synergy. 

    While the framework for Getting Ahead is pretty simple, it’s full of depth.  It’s backed by a bunch of research as well as Joel Garfinkles personal experience in career coaching at a variety of companies including Oracle, Amazon, Deloitte, Ritz-Carlton, Bank of America, Starbucks, and many more.

    If you’re looking for a great career book, with insight and action, Getting Ahead is a great book to stuff in a stocking or to send as a gift.  It’s also possibly one of the best gifts you give yourself for the road ahead.

    Best wishes on your journey ahead – and may perception, visibility, and influence be on your side.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time Management Books


    I put together a comprehensive Time Management Books list.  It’s a serious roundup of the best time management books you can find.  It’s a long list, and it’s meant to save you time in multiple ways, and on multiple levels.

    I organized the time management books into multiple categories for fast scanning, slicing, and dicing:

    • Getting Started
    • Top 10
    • Action
    • Creative Types and Artists
    • … etc.

    The most important list is at the end of the page.  It’s a list of the best time management books in A-Z order.  The idea is that you can easily compare to your own list of books and quickly find books you haven’t seen before.  So the categories of time management books are nice to help you look for specific books on procrastination or taking action, but the A-Z list is a way to quickly scan a comprehensive collection of time management books.

    Here is a sampling of the page:

    Getting Started

    • Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life by J.D. Meier
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
    • The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard
    • The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo
    • The Skinny on Time Management: How to Maximize Your 24-Hour Gift by Jim Randel

    Top 10 Time Management Books

    1. 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman
    2. Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours by Robert C. Pozen
    3. First Things First by Stephen R. Covey
    4. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
    5. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
    6. The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
    7. The 80-20 Principle by Richard Koch
    8. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr
    9. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
    10. Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and Chaos by Steve Chandler

    Time management will be an incredibly important topic for the new year.  As we’re asked to do more with less, find ways to do things better, faster, cheaper, make the most of what we’ve got, and make our moments matter -- any time management hacks or strategies that you can add to your bag of tricks will help you survive and thrive in our ever-changing world.

    If my list of Time Management Books helps you find a book or two that helps you master time management, then I’ve done my job.

    Happy holidays and best wishes for the road ahead.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Career Books


    I’ve done a massive update to my list of Career Books.    It’s a powerful list of the best career books on a variety of topics.  Whether you’re an Entrepreneur, freelancer, Linchpin, creative artist, self-employed, or CxO, there are books on the list for everyone.

    I put a special emphasis on books that help you with the following challenges:

    • How to find a job you love or love the job you’re with
    • How to deal with change and job changes at work
    • How to use your strengths at work to amplify your impact
    • How to build a better resume
    • How to interview more effectively
    • How to work better with your boss
    • How to deal with setbacks and failures
    • How to build your brand at work
    • How to work less and deliver more
    • How to eliminate the roadblocks that keep your from advancing.
    • How to promote yourself as a valuable person to the organization
    • How to improve your visibility
    • How to improve your influence and impact throughout the organization
    • How to use feedback to improve your career skills

    I divided the list of career books into several categories to slice and dice it down to size.  It includes the following categories:

    • Top 10 Best Career Books
    • Brand, Reputation
    • Career, Career Paths
    • Change, Changing Careers
    • Consulting
    • Creative Expression, Artists at Work
    • Effectiveness
    • Engagement, Energy
    • Fear, Failure, Setbacks
    • Interpersonal Relationships
    • Interviews
    • Job Hunting and Job Search
    • Lifestyle, Career Design
    • Networking
    • Passion, Purpose, Motivation
    • Resumes
    • Self-Employed
    • Strengths
    • Transition
    • Work Less, Achieve More
    • Work-Life Balance
    • Zen at Work

    It’s a serious list of career skills books.  I’ve wasted my money on tons of books that were not very helpful, so hopefully you don’t have to.  Hopefully this list will save you time, too.  It may also help you explore and find out about career books that you didn’t know existed.

    You’ll find a lot of name-brand folks among the list, including, but not limited to, John Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Daniel Pink, Seth Godin, Marshall Goldsmith, and Tony Hsieh.

    I hope to also introduce you to some new gems that you may not have heard of before.  For example, John Eliot wrote one of the best books on how to achieve incredible performance at work.  It’s called Overachievement.  Dr. Rick Kirschner wrote the definitive book on interpersonal skills.  It’s called, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.  Nancy O’Hara wrote one of the most insightful books on how to figure out what you really want and how to stop thinking that the grass is always greener somewhere else.  It’s Work from the Inside Out.   One of the best breakthrough books for today’s digital economy is Six-Figure Second Income.    It’s a great overview of how to sell your experience, profit from your passion, and create passive income streams through information products.

    Whether you are stuck in your career, or trying to find a job, or trying to grow your career skills, there are plenty of books to choose from.  Hopefully my list of the best career books will save you a lot of time, effort, and money to find the most relevant, insightful, and actionable books that help you improve your workplace effectiveness for the years to come.

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