How to build a 500-person virtual internship program in just 30 days with Microsoft Teams

How to build a 500-person virtual internship program in just 30 days with Microsoft Teams

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[upbeat rock music] ♪ I'm Microsoft Teamin' ♪ ♪ With Microsoft Teams. ♪ ♪ I'm learnin' and dreamin' ♪ ♪ With Microsoft Teams. ♪ ♪ The hub and the teamwork on Microsoft 365 ♪ ♪ In these tormenting times. ♪ ♪ I'm Microsoft Teamin' ♪ ♪ With Microsoft Teams. ♪ ♪ Yeah. ♪

♪ With Microsoft Teams. ♪ STEPHEN ROSE: Hi, everybody, and welcome to our first show of season 3. I'm Stephen Rose. Welcome. For those of you who joined us last season, we got some great feedback from you on the shows that we did, our interviews with Jeff Teper and Ignite, but the one thing we kept hearing is, we'd love to hear from more customers and how they adopted and rolled out and secured Teams. We would love to hear how they did it. So, we're going to be focusing on that this season.

And I think there's no better person for us to kick that off with than Todd Knapp, who is the CEO of Envision. Todd, how are you today? TODD KNAPP: I'm doin' great. Thanks so much so having me on the show. STEPHEN ROSE: Now, you guys have been around for a while, like 20, 22 odd years. Take a moment and talk about yourself and Envision, then I want to talk about this program that you developed, and then we have a new segment with our producer Meg, whose going to jump in and ask us some questions. But, let's start with yourself.

TODD KNAPP: Sure. So, Envision Technology Advisors, like you said, we are a 22-year-old IT consulting company. We are based in Rhode Island, but we service customers all over the United States.

And we have built the practice around Microsoft. We are a Microsoft Gold Partner. And really what we specialize in is figuring out how to use all of these great technologies to build human-centric solutions-- things that make peoples lives better, things that make the world around us better. And really there's no better platform to work with than the Microsoft platform for that, so we were incredibly excitement when we were approached for the project we're going to discuss today. STEPHEN ROSE: You guys do a lot of work with not-for-profits, and I know that last summer, Skills for Rhode Island's Future, which is a not-for-profit organization, came to you and said, "Hey, we did this great internship last year, but we don't think we can do it in the time of COVID." And you and your team stepped up, and the short version is, you were not only able to do this but to host it for 500 high school juniors and seniors, really blow some numbers out of the water, it was absolutely amazing.

So, I'm excited to jump in. But, before we start getting into all the cool details, I want to introduce our new producer, producer Meg. Meg, how are ya? MEG: Perfect, so a Fun Facts of Todd & Stephen. So, it's going to be a pretty quick round. Brace yourself. I know this is a little bit nervous, but, you know, we want to get to know you both.

TODD KNAPP: Lightening round. Here we go. MEG: Perfect. First question for you both. What was your first job you ever wanted as a little kid? STEPHEN ROSE: Todd, go ahead. TODD KNAPP: OK. So, this actually came up over Christmas time.

It was a conversation at my family's, you know, we did a tele-Christmas this year. Apparently, the first job I ever wanted was to work on a garbage truck. I was apparently a small kid, one drove by, there was a guy hanging off of the back of it, and apparently I thought that was the coolest-lookin' thing in the world. I wish a motorcycle had driven by, and I thought, look at the freedom, but no: Apparently, garbage truck guy.

STEPHEN ROSE: OK. I was born in Canada. I was raised in Montreal, and for some reason, when my grandmother would take me to the bank-- and I think this maybe why they always gave out lollipops when she would go in-- so, I wanted to be a royal banker. That was what I wanted to be at age three or four, so... TODD KNAPP: How'd that work out for you, by the way? STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah, thank God, it did not. So it's all good. [Todd laughing] All right, Meg. MEG: What was your favorite class in high school? TODD KNAPP: That one's easy for me.

Seventh-grade physical sciences. I absolutely love science, I love STEM, and so I loved that class. But my teacher, Mr. Navarad, really took an interest in me.

And so in subsequent years--9th 10th, 11th grade-- he let me come back and teach the class from time to time with him. And so, I think some of the early experience I got working with other people and building community and thinking about human-centric things really was instilled in me in all places in a physical science class in the seventh grade. STEPHEN ROSE: That's cool.

In eighth grade I had a poetry class that really turned my head around. I was not a big fan of poetry, and we had a teacher who read some like Bukowski and way-out stuff, and it really got me thinking . . . and also read lyrics from guys like Lou Reed and things like that, and understanding that music and poetry and all this could come together. With my love of music, it was very eye opening. All right, Meg. Last question.

TODD KNAPP: Did he rap for you? Did he do like a trope? STEPHEN ROSE: This was long before rap. This would have been in the '80s, so rap had not quite happened, yet. But hey, he turned me on to Lou Reed, so I give him credit for that, which is pretty cool.

MEG: Perfect segue into this question. What was your first concert you went to? STEPHEN ROSE: Mine was Kiss on the Kiss Alive Tour. On the Rock and Rollover. So, that was pretty amazing. My second concert, Al Jarreau and Spyro Gyra Weather Report.

So, talk about two opposite ends of the spectrum, but I got to see Kiss, and it just blew my mind as a young 12-year-old, 11-, 12-year-old boy. Todd? TODD KNAPP: I had nothing nearly that cool. So, we went to a lot of concerts when I was a kid because my mom worked for an arts council. But the first one I ever went to just me, Crash Test Dummies.

STEPHEN ROSE: Nice. TODD KNAPP: That was the thing: Crash Test Dummies. STEPHEN ROSE: And we've come full circle with Canadian bands. There you go. TODD KNAPP: Yeah.

STEPHEN ROSE: I talked about Canada. The Canadian band. That came all the way around. Awesome. Well, the complete opposite of one-hit wonder is this project that you did [laughs].

You like that segue? How that worked? TODD KNAPP: I do. That was really crafty. I like it. STEPHEN ROSE: I appreciate that. So, Todd, I think right now it be great for us to take a moment, take a look at this video that really kind of talks about the program. So, let's check that out. [violin music] NARRATOR: From July to August 2020, Skills for Rhode Island's Future ran one of, if not the largest paid internship programs in Rhode Island's history: the Empower Interns COVID-19 Innovation Challenge, presented by Skills for Rhode Island's Future. The fact that this program ran during COVID-19, a time when many other programs were being forced to cancel, makes this achievement even more notable.

The program featured nearly 500 students from across Rhode Island. The students were broken down into 20 corporations, and each corporation was paired with a corporate sponsor, who presented them with a real business challenge that they were facing due to COVID-19. The teams of interns worked across 6 weeks to come up with innovative solutions to these challenges, eventually presenting those solutions to a panel of judges in mid-August. Envision Technology Advisors were proud to be a part of this historic initiative. Envision helped Skills for Rhode Island's future conceive, architect, and deploy a complete virtual economy, powered the Microsoft 365 platform, in just four weeks' time.

Our technology experts also played a role in coaching interns and helping to iterate the technology as new needs arose. Join us over the coming weeks as we tell the story through short videos, articles, and even live discussions with key members of this initiative. We'll look at how this groundbreaking program was conceived and built, how the interns embraced the technology to communicate and collaborate in powerful ways, and how this entire deployment serves as a model for what the future of work should look like. STEPHEN ROSE: So, in 2019, you had 95 interns in the program. And basically, and walk me through this, they come to you and say, We want to do this. You have four and a half weeks, and you turn this thing around and get 500 people into a 7-week program.

So, how the heck did you do this? TODD KNAPP: Well, so I'd love to take credit for the 500 students, but I have to say the folks over at the Skills for Rhode Island saw the vision immediately and latched right onto it. They had already planned on scaling the program because it was wildly successful the year prior. And, the thing I always forget to say to people is that, Yes, it was 500 students, but the goal was to give them a real-world internship experience. So, to do that, we paired them up with about 120 mentors and coaches from the corporate community. So, we had at any given moment, you know, 6 to 650 folks that were needing to be able to collaborate and work together.

They came to us, they said, "Listen, you know, we have this program lined up. We're not sure if it's going to work in a world where everybody is at home. And, you know, these kids were supposed to be in the field, in these companies . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: . . . that they were interning for.

And they said, "You know, is there a way to do this online?" And, it all began with one very fateful conversation, where we got a couple of folks from Envision and the senior executive team from Skills for Rhode Island together, and we brainstormed and we talked about what might be possible. And coming out of that was this idea that we could create an entire business ecosystem exclusively online. And, we talked about using Microsoft Teams to create what ultimately became called "Skills Village."

In the village, we had corporate headquarters for each team. We had the post office, where they could submit their assignments. We had the convention center, where we held our meetings.

We really did try to rebuild the same places that we would be in Rhode Island if the internship were actually happening in the real world. STEPHEN ROSE: So, there's a lot of tools out there that you could've used. TODD KNAPP: Oh yeah. STEPHEN ROSE: Why Teams? Why was Teams the right one? Why wasn't it Zoom or Slack or anyone of the . . . you know, Google Hangouts

or anyone of these? What was it about Teams that really said, Hey, this going to be the platform that we really want to use or is going to allow us to do the types of stuff that we want to allow students to do? TODD KNAPP: So, a couple of things. Number 1, we had those other tools at our disposal. These was no reason we had to use Teams. We could have done this on any number of platforms, but we would not of had the experience that we ended up with.

We wanted to kids to have the closest experience to being physically in these companies that they could have. We wanted them to experience what is was like to try and build a company and work with other executives and craft a team and create connection. And so we needed things like automation and things like, you know, forms and analytics and all these different pieces and parts.

It wasn't just about needing new video. It wasn't just about chatting. It was about file collaboration and, I mean, a hundred other things. And frankly, from an ecosystem point-of-view, yeah, I could try and assemble, you know, 60 other products and get them all to talk to each other, but it isn't going to happen in four and half weeks. STEPHEN ROSE: No.

TODD KNAPP: And it certainty would not be as seamless as the ecosystem that Microsoft's already built. So, why reinvent the wheel? STEPHEN ROSE: So, how to you ensure that everybody has a good experience? Because you got people across a variety of devices, MAC and PC an Android and Windows. How did you ensure that, you know, you were able to make sure that people could access this and do it the way that they envisioned, because we'll talk in a little bit, kids that age or teens that age, are very smart and start to think about new ways to use stuff.

So how do start by going, this needs to be a good experience and this is how we ensure that? TODD KNAPP: Yeah, well, I mean one of the first things was acknowledging upfront that we were not going to be able to impose a device or a specific use case . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: . . . on this population.

These kids were clearly going to do whatever they were in the mood to do in terms of accessing this environment. And frankly, that was fine because the Teams ecosystem's built for that anyway. STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. TODD KNAPP: It's designed, it leans into the idea that, you know, Stephen, you might be more wildly more efficient on a tablet than I am, you know. STEPHEN ROSE: Yep.

TODD KNAPP: Maybe there's reasons why I need a different kind of device. STEPHEN ROSE: My 16-year-old daughter can do more on her cell phone than I can do on my laptop while walking and chatting with someone else at the same time. So, I . . . absolutely. [laughs] TODD KNAPP: Yeah. Exactly. Well, I'll tell you,

I mean key to the whole experience thing is accessibility. STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. TODD KNAPP: I mean, with 500 students around Rhode Island, they were not all native English speakers.

We had people with visual impairments and hearing impairments. We needed an ecosystem that would support screen readers. One that would allow us to do potentially on-the-fly live translation into multiple languages. We needed the ability to create forms and content that could be viewed in your native language, and that's all already in the platform. It just has to be enabled and configured. But in addition to that, we had other families sending students who maybe didn't have devices to begin with or didn't have internet.

So, we did in fact provision well north of 150, I believe, devices to put out on loan to students that needed to join. We worked with cell providers to get hot spots that we could distribute and worked with them to get the bandwidth restrictions for, you know, rate limiting lifted so that these kids would be able to participate smoothly. In the end, the access side of it ended up being almost the easiest thing. The kids showed us other challenges [laughs] down the road. STEPHEN ROSE: Oh yeah.

And we'll talk about those in a minute. Now, you want to talk about success. This was a seven-week program, and I have some stats here.

You had 231,000 chat messages, over 10,000 posts, 68,000 replies, 182 active channels, almost 7,000 meetings, 4,000 one-on-one calls, and 3 million minutes of video time. TODD KNAPP: That's right. STEPHEN ROSE: That's insane for something along those lines, I mean. Wow! And I think you told me you did have a few folks using Zoom, but the numbers were so small that everybody gravitated toward Teams, that they got it, and they were able to figure it out really quickly.

TODD KNAPP: Yeah. Actually, out of all those big stats that you just said, the total number of Zoom meetings I think was 43. [laughs] [Stephen laughing] . . . out of the whole program. STEPHEN ROSE: Wow. TODD KNAPP: But, you know, the catch is that some of those 43 meetings were because we had a guest speaker that needed to interact with everybody at their company only uses Zoom, and they were the financial services firms. It's locked down.

We had to use their platform. STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: And so, that also then meant, OK, how do we take the content that's being created in non-Microsoft ecosystems and integrated into Skills Village? And that was where the convention center came in handy.

The team that we called the "convention center." We created a library that was driven by Microsoft Stream. Built a channel in Stream, and then deployed recordings into that, and then published them out through the convention center so that kids could go back and view them again.

STEPHEN ROSE: Now, you also used form and flow approvals . . . TODD KNAPP: Yeah. STEPHEN ROSE: . . . and Power Platform. So, let's talk a little bit about that and some of things that that worked with. TODD KNAPP: So, this is a great example of a place where we walked in, we thought we had it on lock, and discovered that boy, did we not.

And rapid iteration became the name of the game. So, you know, when you're talking about 500 students who--by the way, it's a paid internship, you know. So there is over a million dollars . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Sure.

TODD KNAPP: . . . of salary being paid out to the teams that we put into the groups. Well, you know, we thought, yeah a few of them are going to need to, you know, have a day off or something, or maybe they'll have a doctor's appointment, you know. But how many could . . . it's seven weeks.

How many could really need that? STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. And, it's COVID going on at the same time. TODD KNAPP: Yeah, right. How much of this could really be happening? Well, let me tell ya. We put up the form for absentee requests, and we built a lightweight automation around it for an approval automation that did a couple of basic things. And within, I don't know, two hours, I think we had over 100 submissions of that form.

And all of a sudden, it was like, oh man, now there's also multiple submissions happening. We suddenly needed to be able to analyze, you know, how many times is an individual student asking to be out. What percentage of their time is going to be out of the office. We realized that geez, the executive teams of the student corporations need to know what's approved and what's not.

We had HR people that were assigned in each student corporation. They'd needed the opportunity to have input. So, we very quickly ended up with multitier approvals, Power BI dashboards to analyze performance. We ended up with multilingual forms in order to support the non-native English speakers. It turned into something that we thought was like, Oh, this is going to be a cake walk. No.

No, no. Very, very complicated. And it happened really fast. STEPHEN ROSE: That's awesome. I want to talk about what happens when you give teens a platform and cool things like HoloLens and Tinkercad and how they just take off with it? So, we'll come back in a minute. We'll finish our conversation with Todd. [Microsoft Teams incoming call music] So, every week I get a lot of questions on Twitter.

You're always welcome to send me one at @stephenlrose, and we'll try and answer it on-air. My favorite question from this week: How do I know when a feature is GA, and how do I know when I'm going to be getting it? Well, you could check out our public road map-- we'll put that address up on the screen for you-- and that tells you when features have gone GA. Now, if you're an insider or if your part of our first to release, you put your tenant into our first release mode. You're going to see those features earlier than the date that is promised there.

Now be aware: sometimes, we roll out features to some users and not others as part of that early release to test it. And also, once we start to roll out features, sometimes we may stop if there is something that we need to change or fix or alter. But in general, once something has gone GA, if you're an enterprise client, you'll see probably somewhere in the next 90 days. GCC and GCC High are government clouds: That takes longer because it has to go through a government approval program. Same for things like .edus. So, my answer is, just because it's GA doesn't mean your going to see it.

If you want to see things quickly, certainly set up your tenant to be in first release or get into our Insider's program if you want to test it and play with it, but keep an eye on our road map for when something's GA. You can start to get those articles, get your folks trained, and make the most use of those great new features that you're excited about. [Microsoft Teams incoming call music] This week, we're going to take a look at the new Poly Sync 20. The new Sync 20 is a brand-new desktop speaker phone. Really nice carrying case that it comes with. One the side, we have our Bluetooth connect.

We also have a phone charge port, which I really like, and our power button. [Speaker voice: Battery high, PC connected.] And we have a bunch of really cool options on it. So, they have this rocket button. There is this, of course, Teams button. Volume. So, let's start by letting your hear how this thing sounds because the sound on it is really, really impressive.

[violin music playing on speaker] The sound sounds really, really nice on this. We have a dedicated Teams button that as soon as we tap it, it immediately brings up Teams for us, which is great. And if there is a call, it will automatically connect us to the call.

The other thing is there's a programmable button, and I'll show you here how we go ahead and we we do that. So, we can see here we are, all connected up. If we go to General, we can hear our battery level whenever we connect, what aler--if we want to hear a voice or a tone whenever we make a wireless connection. The Rocket button--that could be used for play/pause, redial. We could use it for Siri or Bistro or any one of the voice tools. We can clear the Trusted device list or even hold or resume a call.

So, I like the fact that there's a programmable button on there. We can also mute alerts, have a single tone, choose how to manage second incoming calls. Of course, pick and choose what our ringtones sound like.

So, if there is a connected device, we can hit the drop-down and pick Ringtones, how bright their going to be, and where that comes from--whether it's from the device or from the speaker phone. If we're using it as a soft phone, we can also have a dial tone that comes up, which is really nice, so that when we hit that, we can hear that come up if we choose to do it. We also can see that there's a wide variety of soft phone and media players that are supported.

We have sensors and presence, so if it's aware for Microsoft tools, things like Link or Skype presence, and then, of course, for wireless, whether or not we're using HD voice or an exclusive connection-- only picking one device that it's connected with. So the Poly Sync 20: really nice design. I love that it has a dedicated Teams button to answer calls or bring up Teams and that additional programmable button, which is something that we don't normally see in these types of devices, and I find that super useful.

Echo and noise reduction, about 20 hours of battery life, fully charges in a little under four hours. There's a smart microphone array, so you get a really good balance. You can connect the USB A or C, and the 20+ has a Bluetooth adaptor [there's the cable, nicely wrapped in there].

Under $200, which is really great. Also acts as your cell phone charger in a pinch if you need it. Really nice design from Poly: The Sync 20. [Microsoft Teams incoming call music] Let's talk about what's new in Teams. Well, in December, we saw a lot of great features that are starting to hit everybody's tenants this January.

Let's, break some of those down. Virtual breakout rooms should now be available to most folks in our standard tenants. EDU should also now have this, and we'll see this coming to government cloud in the future. Something cool you may have noticed is the end-of-meeting notification, letting you know that you've got 5 or 10 minutes left in your meeting. It's a great way to know when things are going to be wrapping up.

You might have also noticed that our prejoin experience has changed a little bit-- that now it's going to be easier to understand what audio, video, and device configuration is before joining that meeting, and knowing if you need to change it. Live events limits are now extended. You can now have up to 20,000 attendees, and 50 events can be hosted simultaneously across your tenant. We now also support multiple numbered dialings, so you can see if you type in someone's name the different numbers that are available to them. We've also brought out for our Teams rooms Proximity join for Teams conference rooms. Those are some of the highlights that you're going to see.

We've also brought some great new features to our mobile. So, make sure to check out our blog on Tech Community, where we wrap up every month all the great new features in Microsoft Teams. And as always, if you loved to see one of these features demoed on the show, reach out to me and let me know.

I'd be happy to do it. Now, let's get back and hear more about Envision's project with Rhode Island. [Microsoft Teams incoming call music] So, this is an amazing story, but as soon as you give cool technology especially to teens, they think of ways to use it that would never cross our minds. So, when we were chatting . . . you know, earlier in the week, we talked about the use of HoloLens and Tinkercad and what these students start to do with it. So, walk us through that because I think it's just fascinating.

TODD KNAPP: Yeah, sure. So, you know, I mentioned human-centric technology before. STEPHEN ROSE: Yep. TODD KNAPP: The whole point of this internship ended up being the COVID-19 challenge.

The challenge was, hey, you were assigned to real-world companies as your corporate partners. They now need to figure out how to reinvent their businesses to accommodate COVID-19, or maybe they just simply need to if not reinvent, they need to adjust to be able to operate during COVID-19. And so the corporate partners, by the way, who were amazing, gave these kids serious problems. I mean, they handed out questions for these kids that I thought, you know, wow, I'm glad they didn't ask me that. [Stephen laughing] That's really hard [laughs]. And so, you know, throughout the course of the curriculum, the amazing team from the Skills for Rhode Island ran sessions on ideation and critical thinking and business plan development, and these kids were tasked with finding solutions to these problems, building prototypes to their solutions, and then presenting them in competition, almost like a pitch competition.

And so, you know, one of the early asks of us that wasn't product development oriented was hey, could you guys run sessions on rapid prototyping? And so we started thinking about that because we are a company full of people who love to tinker. And that, of course, is Tinkercad. And Tinkercad is this really great online 3D rendering platform that's pretty easy to use. You can skill up on it in a matter of a half an hour or an hour. And so we ran some sessions, on hey, here's how you use Tinkercad.

And some of the kids, of their own volition, came to us and said, "Hey, do you know anyone at Microsoft that could help us with HoloLens? We really like to remodel this thing and see what it looks like in the real world." Well, it happens that were in the HoloLens program, and so I said, "We've got devices." And the kids built models. One of the challenges was for a nonprofit that does theater. And the state put restrictions on the number of people that could gather and distances and all this other stuff.

The theater indoors was not going to work. And so, the kids said, Well, what if we moved it to this public park, where there is already a, you know, like a hat-shell arrangement? And they laid out, they basically went out, took measurements on this park, and then built a to-scale model in Tinkercad, complete with, you know, vending trucks and tables and all this stuff; mocked it up in Tinkercad; sent us the 3D file; and then we put it into HoloLens, delivered the device to them, and then they went out in the outdoor setting and scaled it to the size of the park so that they could see physically how are the trucks going to layout? Are people going to be able to get around the trees to get to them without bumping into each other? STEPHEN ROSE: Wow. TODD KNAPP: They built traffic flow patterns and redesigned it on the fly. It was exceptional. It was like nothing I've ever seen, you know. And I was thinking to myself, well, I'm sure they'll make a really great . . . you know, maybe we can teach

them how to use Microsoft Whiteboard. STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah, right. TODD KNAPP: They aimed high, and they delivered. It was great.

STEPHEN ROSE: Sounds awesome. So, you have this great infographic first. Why don't you walk us through what we're looking at here. TODD KNAPP: Yeah. So, what I've got is

the timeline of the project: the five-week window prior to the launch, and then the seven-week window of the launch. Because it was so compressed, I realized one day, wow, we did the whole ideation cycle, and we had, you know, a product maturity experience all in that little 12 weeks. So, I aligned it to that. And then I got thinking

a little more and thought, well geez, you could kind of map all the products and processes that we were using to that cycle, and it all aligned beautifully. And so I thought, well, you can't not build a graphic out of that, so ta-da, there it is. STEPHEN ROSE: That's awesome. So, what type of feedback did you get from folks-- from parents, and I know this is a government program, so they're going to have input, things like that? TODD KNAPP: Well, parents and certainty our local government were incredibly impressed with everything that was done by Skills for Rhode Island, the vision that they had for creating this program. They loved the application of the technology. But honestly, the best feedback we got was really from the students.

We had kids who . . . in fact, one of the kids that was involved in that CAD program, I was talking with her and said, you know, is this something you're interested in? STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: She said, "No actually. I wasn't sure what area of my corporate business to be in. I just kind of ended up in R&D. But honestly, I was applying for liberal arts programs.

I'm rethinking that. I think I'm going to look into an engineering program." And she started talking about all the schools that she had never considered applying to.

Then, all of a sudden, she was like, "I could do this." And so you know for me, you know, where a lot of my personal mission is around, you know, promoting STEM and community . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Oh, absolutely. TODD KNAPP: . . . and particularly women in STEM.

STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. TODD KNAPP: What a great, wonderful moment [laughs] at a time when we all needed it, you know. It was very uplifting to see that. Two of our teams actually are continuing postprogram to develop their products independently.

One of them is thinking about doing a Kickstarter. The other one we're still engaged with and working with another nonprofit-- the company they were paired with-- to take their idea and bring it to reality. So, some really, very real things came out of this. STEPHEN ROSE: That's awesome. Any lessons learned? Things that you would do differently? Things you didn't know about working with Teams, that you figured it out, but hey, if I had known this earlier, we could have saved a cycle or two or made things a little bit easier as you're sharing this with other folks who are going, "I wonder how I could do things along the line the way that you have." TODD KNAPP: Yeah. So, I'll give you a lesson learned,

and I'll give you a misstep that could have saved us some time. STEPHEN ROSE: Awesome. TODD KNAPP: So, the lesson learned. First of all, we did something out of necessity that we actually have integrated permanently into our practice, and that's wire-framing Teams build-outs. You know, we only had four and a half weeks. STEPHEN ROSE: Right.

TODD KNAPP: We knew there wasn't time for us to literally go in and build out a full Teams environment, and then have the client say, "Well, we don't like that. Can you change this?" We needed every second. So, our graphics design team at Envision built a mock-up tool that let us create the look and feel of a Teams environment in a flat graphic that the client could literally mark up and say, "Yeah, change these things." And we went back and forth two or three iterations until they said, "Go." I'm fortunate to have some really great engineers at Envision that develop scripts. It's all PowerShell . . .

STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: . . . and things that are publicly available, but they organized it in a really smart way so that in the end, it was like they pushed a button, and this thing built out, created all the accounts in Active Directory, assigned all the licensing, created the teams, built the channels, set the permissions and the policies, did all of that. And so, we built the thing lightening fast. STEPHEN ROSE: Wow. TODD KNAPP: The place where we could have done better is the automation . . . we underestimated the value of the automation in this program.

We ended up building automations basically three days a week throughout the course of the program because there was always a use case. They were saying, "Oh, can we do this, can we do this?" And they were great ideas. We knew we would use it again. So we did that. It would have been smart for us to do two things. Number 1, we didn't use SharePoint Lists nearly to the advantage that we could have. You know, frankly, we know better.

I think it was really just the time frames that we were under. STEPHEN ROSE: Sure. TODD KNAPP: We took the fastest path from point A to point B.

And in that moment, the customer had handed us an Excel spreadsheet that had lists of students. STEPHEN ROSE: Ugh. TODD KNAPP: And so we used it. In retrospect, it would have been way smarter to import that directly into Lists, and then build out the groups, the corporate assignments that the students had. STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah.

TODD KNAPP: Because a lot of automations keyed off of that information. And so, we could have done that piece better. But other thing is that we underestimated the value of deploying beta testing variables inside of our automations, right? And so, if you have an automation, like we had one in particular that iterated through 110 Teams channels and was posting to some and not to others, depending on the circumstances that led to the automation being kicked off . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: . . . the trigger. Building and testing it, we hadn't planned for creating some accounts upfront that we could basically redirect traffic to.

So, on two occasions, we inadvertently posted to 110 channels . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Oooo . . . ow. TODD KNAPP: . . . when we didn't mean to.

And, you know, lesson learned. STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. TODD KNAPP: There's something valuable there. So, we've actually built that into our automation engine that we have as a stock default that we start our builds from now.

STEPHEN ROSE: That's awesome. TODD KNAPP: And so, you know, you get better everyday. STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. So, you had had said, "Teams is the business platform of the future."

TODD KNAPP: Yes. STEPHEN ROSE: Why? TODD KNAPP: Well, I mean, first of all, you know, Microsoft has not been shy about identifying Teams as being the center of productivity for an employee. And, you know, for these students, they grew up in Google platforms, these students. STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. They were born in the cloud, yeah.

TODD KNAPP: They were born in the cloud. They grew up in Google platforms, which in some ways prepares them for the transition, but a lot of them ever have used any of these Microsoft products before. They were used to Google Sheets and things like that. So, to see them adopted so quickly was very confidence building for a lot of us. We thought it was going to be harder to get them on board, but boy, did they adopt it fast. You know, in 365 and in Teams, we have the ability to take in--and here's an ideal example from this-- one of the colleges here in the state decided to give the students credit for the work that they were doing.

They submitted portfolios and got college credit for this work also. Well, we didn't want to . . . we did want to take them away from their field of vision.

We didn't want them to say, Hey, you know, by the way if you want to get credit, leave the path, climb this hill . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: . . . traverse that thorny trench, and then, you know, the promised land's on the other side. We wanted it directly in their line of sight.

So, we took the external portal that the university has, that the college has, and we integrated it directly into a Teams channel. The ability to take Microsoft and non-Microsoft resources and aggregate them centrally, put them directly in the line of sight of the people that are working in the environment, is the reason why this is such an unprecedented platform for everybody. I mean, it's why the adoptions been so amazing. STEPHEN ROSE: Well, I want to ask you one last question. TODD KNAPP: Yeah.

STEPHEN ROSE: This is great. What's next for you and Envision? TODD KNAPP: Oh, man. Well, you know, we're always looking at the next most interesting project, and there's two or three that we're working on, but we have a little passion project of our own on the side, which is that we realized that . . . and if, you, you know, if you look right around me right now, I'm sitting in my living room, as a lot of people have been doing since March of last year, and I started thinking about some of the ergonomics of life. And, you know, is it really healthy for me or anybody to be working in their living room even if the setup is great? STEPHEN ROSE: Right.

TODD KNAPP: And you know, what I have effectively done is turned my restful space into my workspace. And so I started thinking originally, oh, I'll put an addition on the house, or I'll repurpose a room. Then, I had this idea about, hey, you know, could we build a fully cloud-integrated Microsoft-native, modular office building-- something that you could drive on a trailer, drop down on a pad, and instantly hybrid telepresence, you know, Teams Rooms integration, . . . STEPHEN ROSE: Yeah. TODD KNAPP: . . . lighting that is designed to be integrated

with Power Automate to give you visual cues. Simple thing, right? In my office, if I'm running late for a meeting in the conference room, I know. And the way I know is that even though I'm working on something out of the corner of my eye, I'll see a couple of people get up and start heading to that room.

STEPHEN ROSE: Right. TODD KNAPP: I have visual cues. STEPHEN ROSE Yeah, there's a visual cue of some sort. Right. TODD KNAPP: Yeah. So, we got this idea for this, and a whole bunch of us at Envision sat down one day on Teams and we're brainstorming about it, and we put together some really cool ideas, and I'm excited to tell you that in two weekends I'm moving in.

This weekend, we're turning on all the hybrid telepresence and the wireless enablement. It's all Wi-Fi 6. Every single outlet in the building, every thermostat, every light fixture-- all of it cloud enabled and all of it integrated directly via Power Automate into our 365 tenant. So, there are some very cool things there to learn about the design of a postpandemic office of the future. STEPHEN ROSE: Well, we will have to follow up with you because I think we all want a tour. We'll get that, we'll post it in our Extras area.

I think that would be absolutely awesome. So Todd, folks now want to learn more. How can they go, because you got a whole bunch of really cool videos that you guys did. You have documentation on this project and, of course, Envision itself, if folks would love to work with you.

So, what are some of the best ways for people to learn about you and Envision and see some of the work you guys have done? TODD KNAPP: Sure. Well, if you want to learn more about Envision, you can certainty go and visit us on our website, And we've got some things that will make it easy to connect with us. You can click the Connect button.

You can actually schedule with us right through Microsoft Bookings, right there on the site. But the most exciting thing is that this year, we've launched a new YouTube channel called, "Transform Everything." And the idea is to get everybody together in the community just to talk about how do use these technologies to do impactful, meaningful things in the world around you. So, visit us there, and check that out.

We're just getting that on its feet, but we're excited to get started on it. STEPHEN ROSE: Awesome. And we'll put all those links up on the screen, and they'll also be available for those of you watching this on demand, just off to my left, I believe. [laughs] Fantastic job. This is tremendous. I'm very excited to see what our audience has to say. Thanks for joining us.

TODD KNAPP: Stephen, I appreciate it, and thanks to Skills for Rhode Island for letting it be possible and to my incredible team for turning it into reality. So, thank you again, Stephen. Have a great day. STEPHEN ROSE: You, too. What a great show. I want to thank Todd Knapp and the whole Envision team for the amazing work that they did.

Thanks to producer Meg and, of course, our new theme, courtesy of KillaDBA. Make sure to check out our interview with him last season. Tons of great links. Make sure to them out and visit. And of course,

who's our next guest for our next show? One of my favorite companies: LEGO. So, don't miss it. Make sure to mark it on your calendars. We'll see you soon.

As always, feel free to reach out to me @stephenlrose on Twitter. Let me know what you think, what we can answer. And we'll see you real soon.

2021-02-26 14:41

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