Eric Kraus

Benefits of Journaling

Journaling has become a valuable tool in many successful people’s toolboxes. But if you haven’t had a chance to give it a try, you may wonder, “What are the benefits of journaling and how can I use it as a tool to help me accomplish my goals?”

For one of the months for my Responsive Resolutions, I decided to try journaling every day. I had heard of the benefits of journaling from colleagues, but had never actually spent the time to commit to it. However, I was willing to suck it up and try it, at least for a month.

Finding time to journal was actually relatively easy. I decided to keep my first month’s resolution of waking up at 5 am – which on a side note, has been a game changer for my productivity. I now have plenty of time to get a work out in, write, read or now journal before the craziness of the day begins.

Related: How to Wake Up Early – Tricks to Getting the Most Out of the Day

“Writing about myself always seemed superficial”

I’ll admit I was a bit of a skeptic with the idea of journaling. Writing about myself always seemed superficial. I never fashioned myself as a guy that kept a “diary”. I already spent a lot of time reflecting on my personal life, work, goals, etc. Writing them down almost seems redundant to me.

What I found was kind of interesting.

Benefits of Journaling

“…the things I am reflecting on are always within my control”

The process of journaling wasn’t so much about writing, as it was planning. I was learning a lot about myself, as I would expect, but it was the increase in productivity that really caught my interest.

Over the course of reflecting on success/mistakes of the past and setting new goals for the future, one thing always stood out in my mind: the things I am reflecting on are always within my control.

“Why am I not doing anything about it?”

So, naturally my reflection of these thoughts was, “Why am I not doing anything about it?”  THIS is where the magic happens. Inevitably, this reflection caused me to take some action, even if it is only to add an item to my task list. I don’t beat myself up over anything, but taking some action to improve the future ensures I am always growing.

My journaling has drastically shifted away from free-form writing or prompt/question and answer to more of a goal review and task planning for the day. Here’s a quick look at the structure and benefits of journaling I am seeing in my daily life.

Journaling Outline

Time To Complete: 10 minutes


Each journaling session starts out with a list of things I have completed or failed in the day(s) since I wrote last. This can be anything noteworthy, planned or unplanned. The goal is to acknowledge accomplishments, which is often a step that we over look and call out mistakes for further reflection.

Benefit: This is my way of measuring productivity and creating focus on personal growth. Reviewing the last few journal entries also gives me the opportunity to make sure no Must-Do tasks are getting left behind.

Must Do

After I review the pervious journal entries and get my Completed list done, I transition into my must-do list. As the name describes, this list is designed to reflect on the things I must do that day. Often these task items were already on a task list somewhere, but by journaling about them first thing in the morning, I am mentally moving them to a fresher part of my brain. And if I know I can’t complete something in the given day, I move it to my longer-term digital task list.

Benefit: This prevents me from filling up my Must Do list with with items I can’t complete and gives me much better focus for the day.


The third list I create is a “learn, share or give” list. This list is a catch-all for anything that I want to accomplish, but is not a Must Do item and doesn’t really fit the category of a task. It includes things like ideas for learning or sharing information and goals toward giving back to others. Sometimes i use this space in my journal to do a diagram about a problem I want to solve or an idea I want to explore.

Benefit: This area achieves the advantageous of free-form writing and I can often generate new ideas from just a few minutes of time reflecting.

I highly recommend The Decision Book by Mikael Krogerus. Each page is a different diagram that you can model to make decisions as well as explore different ideas, alternatives, etc. I use this weekly for new ideas on ways to tackle problems or make decisions.

The benefits of journaling are really personal. It can be an outlet for thoughts or simply a way to better plan your day. Whatever the benefits, I encourage you to give it a try and experiment. Often it takes some trial and error, as it did for me, to find the sweet spot.

30 Days with Office Online

Here’s a account of a 30 day experiment I did using only Office Online.  For clarification, I will refer to the Office installed locally as (desktop) and Office products in the browser from Office 365 as (online).

Rules of the Experiment

Parameters of the experiment were pretty simple: unless jeopardizing my job or customer, I was only going to use Office (online) – no Office (desktop).  This means I authored, edited, shared and presented content all from Office 365.

Read More …

Responsive Resolutions

Happy New Year.

I’m kicking off 2015 with a blog post around self-improvement.  We talk a lot in the Responsive Org about continuous improvement through small, adaptive changes.

“Continually evolve based on the success/failures/learnings from previous runs”


Making it personal

I was inspired by a colleague that is applying this theory to his personal life.  Steve Nguyen wrote a blog post about making 12 monthly resolutions instead of one big (bound to fail) “new year’s resolution”.  I decided to do the same. And for the first month, Steve and I have challenged each other to wake up at 5am.

I’ll be documenting the journey on Twitter: @erickraus  and on Storify.

Microsoft and Docker – Overview

Microsoft and Docker recently announced the expansion of their partnership, bringing Docker to Windows Server and Azure.

What is Docker?

There are a number of use cases that make Docker excited and valuable to organizations

  • Automating the packaging and deployment of applications
  • Creation of lightweight, private PaaS environments
  • Automated testing and continuous integration/deployment
  • Deploying and scaling web apps, databases and backend services

Read More …

Dev Tools For All

Microsoft is executing on its vision of continually bringing the best of Microsoft to other platforms (not just Windows).  Today is an important day in that journey.  Several announcements were made today at Microsoft Connect () related to developer tools / platform.  Here is a brief summary:

.NET / Visual Studio

Read More …

Microsoft Band – Personal Review

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve likely seen some press on Microsoft Band.  Either NY Times: Microsoft’s New Fitness Tracking Device is a Welcome Surprise  or  TechRadar: The Microsoft Band is What Apple’s Watch Should Have Been.  I’ve been asked by a dozen people my thoughts on the Band. Having put the device through a week of activities, I thought I’d capture my experience… let’s get right to it.

The Cons

  • size – it’s a little big compared with other devices.  I’ve had a Jawbone Up and Fitbit Flex on my wrist, both were smaller. After a day I didn’t notice the Band anymore.  After taking it off to charge, it still felt like I had it on… so I think I’m used to it.
  • battery life during training – while the everyday use battery life is awesome, if you are monitoring a workout, I’ve noticed it burns through the battery much faster (duh).  I turned it on while doing yard work and it drained about 50% of the battery in 4 hours.
  • step accuracy – seems a little ‘forgiving’…  on a walk, I counted my steps and noticed it was adding an extra 10% or so (my research is showing most wrist devices have this +/- error as well).  for me the accuracy isn’t as important as the general realm of ‘active’ or ‘get off the couch and walk the dog’  but still.  heartrate seems accurate on the low end, but I haven’t been able to verify on the high end.  during a 5K run, I peaked at 154bpm and came back down to 140 for the duration of the run.  seems relatively accurate.
  • read notification sync – or the lack thereof when I read a message on my phone (it still sometimes shows unread on the band and vice versa)


The Pros

  • features – the fitness and productivity combo is awesome.  thought the “don’t take your phone out of your pocket” pitch was just marketing, but I am loving the notification from Cortana and other apps: ESPN, Facebook, etc.  Also like the ability to quickly reply to text messages.  I added, “driving. reply in a bit”
  • cross platform – while I own a Windows Phone for main sync app, it was cool to have the app on my iPad as well (iPhone app running 2x)
  • integration – the auto sync to RunKeeper was cool.  just logged in via the mobile app and my runs were automatically uploaded.  Now just need RunKeeper app for Windows Phone.
  • battery life – i’m finding that I charge the device about every 36 hours.  that usually includes measuring one 60-90 min activity and one night’s sleep
  • GPS – great add for me as I previously carried my Lumia 1520 in a hip pouch with GPS on

I thought the whole “leave your phone in your pocket” was a bit of marketing blah blah blah…but I find myself touching my phone AND wrist significantly less to check on notifications, etc.  I can triage notifications much better so it’s far less of an interruption to conversations, emails, driving, etc.

All in all very happy with the device.

Band1 Band2 Band3


Social Collaboration – Are you Interested or Just Interesting?

Are you struggling to adopt a social collaboration tool?  Look no further than your company’s culture.

The value in enterprise social tools comes when we use them to be interested in our company’s success rather than use them to be seen as interesting or knowledgeable. However, that value comes with a shift in corporate culture.

Change in Culture

Warren Susman was a well-known author and history professor at Rutgers University. He was most known for his studies in culture during the 70’s and 80’s. If you haven’t read Culture as History — you have to add it to your list.

Susman was said to be “one of the transformative minds of his generation”. During his research he documented 200 years worth of self-help books. He read these books in chronological order, making notes of their key messages. He noted one very significant change right around the 20th century. Susman believed this change formed two distinct periods of culture in our history.

A Brief Look At History

19th Century — the Culture of Character

During the 19th century, the US was primarily a farming society. People rarely left their home towns. The only people we knew lived within 100 miles of us. However, these people formed a very important community that everyone relied on. We think of people during this time as having qualities like being helpful. People valued, above all else “Character”: Were they good people? Were they generous? Did they benefit and provide value to their community?

Susman called this the Culture of Character. During this period of time, social collaboration was actually occurring naturally through the interest and desire for people to contribute in a community.

20th Century — the Culture of Personality

At the turn of the 20th century, the US was undergoing a radical change with the industrial revolution. We evolved from a society of farming, where people never left their homes to one of big cities and booming business. During this time, we think of people with qualities like knowledge and communication skills. People valued “personality” more so than ever. Are you outgoing? A good public speaker? Are you liked among your peers?

Susman called this the Culture of Personality. During this period of time, social collaboration has significantly reduced. People have become more interested in getting ahead, then belonging to and supporting a community.


Interested vs. Interesting

The cultures of personality and character can be seen today juxtaposed between the cultures of different organizations. These corporate cultures drive behaviors aligned with how employees perceive and measure success. Well established organizations drift into to just celebrating the news. Much like the culture of personality, they share success and wins because they are interesting. Start up companies are rooted in the passion for something bigger. Much like the culture character, people are interested in the collective success of others and their company.

Social Networking Tools

Facebook and Twitter are social networking platforms I’m sure many of us are familiar with. They were created and became popular during the Culture of Personality. It’s not surprising these social platforms define success by things called “Likes” and “Favorites”. While there are many great benefits to these platforms, many people use them to share personal information. And on these tools…they strive to be the most “interesting” or liked person.

Facebook in the Enterprise

In our professional careers, having a message ‘Liked’ by our peers doesn’t necessarily have a great correlation to our success. So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that the way we use Facebook and Twitter today would be helpful in collaborating with or leading our teams.

It’s Not a Tool Problem

I argue, it’s actually not a problem with the tools. It’s a problem with our intent. I’ve heard from many leaders who say they struggle with enterprise social because they fear posting messages that are not insightful to their team… Their intent is to be interesting. I think they have it backwards.


“The real value in enterprise social collaboration comes when we use them to be interested, not interesting.”


Businesses are Evolving – A Stronger Need for Social Collaboration

As a massive digital transformation is underway, the demands on organizations are increasing. Companies are being forced to adopt agile practices to compete with the demands of consumers and the innovation of competitors. So how can an organization reap the benefits of using a social collaboration platform to help compete in their marketplace? It starts with forming a culture around being a team and believing in shared goals.

Never Assume You Know Who May Contribute


Communication Like a Team

In order to succeed as a team, we must communicate like other successful teams we know. Consider an american football team’s huddle. Imagine if a quaterback only huddled with one wide receiver. What happens if that one player isn’t open? This is why email can sometimes be a bad form of a huddle. An email assumes only certain people on the team should know what is going on.

When our team communicates, we post messages to our group even if we would have otherwise sent a message to just one or two people. We mention certain people because we need their input or action; however, by communicating openly, we don’t exclude others that might need or want to know. We often get some of the best contributions from people who areinterested….but would have otherwise been left out.

A football team wouldn’t have a huddle without the entire team, why would we have a conversation without our entire team?


A Team Motivated By A Shared Purpose

A team motivated by a shared purpose has the most people working towards achieving its goals. This doesn’t mean people aren’t still accountable and responsible for their own commitments. It means we can do even more amazing things when we leverage our passion and strengths together.

For our team, we chose a purpose that everyone could align to. As a team, we’ve communicated that as a common goal and we celebrate milestones and individual accomplishments as wins for the whole team. Having the right goals, means everyone on the team can be interested in the team’s success, not just their own.

Leaders Set The Tone

When we feel safe, our natural reaction is trust and cooperation. Look at military leaders… Are they recruited from the best leaders in the world? Not necessarily. However, they learn and possess a quality unlike many “leaders” in the corporate world. They create a safe place where their team can do their best work. Team members in the military need to sometimes make split second decisions that often involve self-sacrifice. They do this because they are bound by a belief that their efforts support the greater good of their team. Commonly stated, “Anyone else would do the same for me”

Recently, I heard a quote that I absolutely love. It’s from Simon Sinek:


“The best leaders in the world are like parents. All we want is to provide for our children, so they can grow up to achieve more than we ever imagine for ourselves”

“Leadership is a choice, not a rank”



After our team adopted our enterprise social platform, we soon realized it was our new tool to get work done. It wasn’t just a migration from one tool to another… it was an evolution in productivity. We are now communicating better: more efficiently and effectively. As an unintended benefit of working out loud, we found less value in our weekly status meetings. Everyone seemed to already know the status.

We’ve since eliminated status meetings; they never drove progress for us. As a team, we’re always thinking about ‘what is next’, but burning time just catching up didn’t support that mindset. Shifting from ‘status’ to ‘outcome-based’ discussions allowed us to do that better.

Reprise: Interested vs. Interesting

As you position the value of an enterprise social platform with your teams, here are a few simple tips we’ve found successful for our team:

  • do actual work out loud
  • if there was time to email, there was time to post on social instead
  • lead by example
  • invite others to participate, by making your group public
  • avoid just sharing “interesting” articles. effect an outcome by driving a conversation

For years, “what we did” and “who we met with” have been the measures of success and contribution. As organizations become more responsive to changing markets and customer demands, it will take the collective effort of every individual at the company to work together to continually evolve to exceed customer expectations.


Microsoft BYOD and Mobile Device Management

LOTS of recent announcements on Microsoft mobile device management strategy are worthy of an aggregated post.

EMM Game-Changing Announcement #1


Intune-managed Office mobile apps that enable your workforce to securely access corporate information using the apps they know and love while preventing data leakage. This is achieved by managing/restricting actions such as copy/cut/paste/save-as and interaction/”open in” between apps in your managed app ecosystem.

Mobile Application Management for iOS and Android devices that enable you to keep corporate apps and content separate from user’s personal apps and data. This feature empowers IT to apply policy to the corporate content while staying clear of the user’s personal content. Microsoft is building containers for Windows devices that will be released as a part of Windows 10, and we have worked to drive consistent APIs across the containers being delivered across Windows, iOS, and Android devices.

App wrapping capabilities that help secure your existing line-of-business applications and integrate them into your managed app ecosystem without further development or code changes. Using the Intune wrapper your line-of-business applications will be able to participate in the same managed app ecosystem as the Office mobile apps and securely share content and data with those Office mobile apps. No wrapper from any other EMM vendor can do this.

Managed browser, PDF viewer, AV player, and Image viewer apps for Intune that allow users to securely view content on their devices within the managed app ecosystem.

Grant conditional access to corporate resources, including access to Exchange e-mail and OneDrive for Business documents. This access is based on device enrollment and compliance policies set by the administrator. This is also something that no other EMM solution can deliver.

Bulk enrollment of devices using Apple Configurator or a service account, simplifying administration and enabling policies and applications to be deployed at a scale (you can read more about this here).


EMM Game-Changing Announcement #2


Device Settings Management Exchange administrators can define configuration policies that are applied to Windows, iOS and Android devices and regularly review compliance reports for all the devices accessing corporate e-mail. There are more than 100 additional settings that can be configured over and above EAS.

  • Advanced passcode/pin settings
  • Device encryption
  • Jailbreak detection

Conditional Access to Office 365 Data Exchange administrators can define and apply conditional access policies for access to Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. Corporate e-mail and file-sync do not flow to the mobile device unless the policies required in the conditional access policy are met. If for any reason the device becomes non-compliant, e-mail and file sync are stopped until the device is compliant once again. This significantly increases the level of protection of corporate data on mobile devices.

Selective Wipe of Office 365 Data If a mobile device is lost/stolen, or if an individual leaves the organization, IT professionals can wipe the Office 365 corporate data from devices while keeping any personal data intact.

Integrated Administration within Office 365 Exchange administrators can set policies directly from within the Office 365 administration portal via an easy to use interface with wizard-based set up. Office 365 administrators will see a rich device compliance dashboard that shows exactly what devices are being managed and the settings that have been applied, as well as which devices are/not compliant


Introducing built-in mobile device management for Office 365


These new MDM capabilities, set to roll out in the first quarter of 2015, will help you manage access to Office 365 data across a diverse range of phones and tablets, including iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices, so you can:

Help secure and manage corporate resources—Apply security policies on devices that connect to Office 365 to ensure that Office 365 corporate email and documents are synchronized only on phones and tablets that are managed by your company.

Apply mobile device settings—Set and manage security policies such as device level pin lock and jailbreak detection on devices to help prevent unauthorized users from accessing corporate email and data when a device is lost or stolen.

Perform a selective wipe of Office 365 data—Remove Office 365 corporate data from a device when an employee leaves your organization, while leaving their personal data, photos and apps intact.

Preserve Office 365 productivity experience—Unlike third-party MDM solutions that have replaced productivity apps with restrictive all-in-one apps for corporate email, calendars and documents, MDM for Office 365 is built directly into the productivity apps your employees know and love. You can set access policies to help secure company data while keeping employees productive.

Manage policies with ease—Administer mobile device policies directly from within the Office 365 administration portal, through an easy to use interface with wizard-based set up. View reports on which devices are connected to Office 365 and identify devices that have been blocked due to non-compliance.

Azure AD – Not Just a Directory in the Cloud

What is Azure AD?  At an architect level, Azure AD is a high-availability, geo-redundant, multi-tenanted, multi-tiered cloud service that has delivered 99.99% uptime for over a year now. We run it across 27 datacenters around the world. Azure AD has stateless gateways, front end servers, application servers, and sync servers in all of those data centers. Azure AD also has a distributed data tier that is at the heart of our high availability strategy. The data tier holds more than 500 million objects and is running across 13 data centers.   Azure AD Architecture

Figure 1. Azure Active Directory Architecture


It’s Not Just Another Directory to Manage

For starters, there are no costs for using Azure AD. The directory is a free resource. There is an additional Azure Active Directory Premium tier that is licensed separately and provides additional features such as company branding and self-service password reset. Azure AD offers many benefits, other than just typical “directory services”. When using a Microsoft cloud service like Office 365 or Microsoft CRM Online, the identities for those platforms are using Azure AD.  This comes with huge benefits because those platforms instantly benefit from the features within Azure AD.  For example, if you are an Office 365 user, you have access to thousands of other applications that integrate with Azure AD (assuming your organization leverages that SaaS vendor).  Users could also benefit from additional services like multi-factor authentication to Office 365, Azure Rights Management Service, for encrypting documents/emails and Self-Service Password Reset.

Single Sign On

Azure AD’s gallery of pre-integrated SaaS applications grows pretty much every week and it is now supporting over 2300 total apps! Also, Azure AD now provides integrated SAML support for over 50 applications, including all of the apps pictured below. Azure SaaS Apps

Figure 2. Azure AD SaaS SAML Integrated Apps


Multi-Factor Authentication

Azure Multi-Factor Authentication prevents unauthorized access to both on-premises and cloud applications by providing an additional level of authentication. Protect your business with security monitoring and alerts and machine learning-based reports that identify inconsistent access patterns to mitigate potential threats.

Self-Service Password Reset

Tasks such as resetting passwords and the creation and management of groups to your employees should be self-service. No sense paying a help desk resource to reset a password when that can be done by the user (possibly faster than placing a phone call).  Azure AD offers Self-service Password Change and Reset and Self-service Group Management with Azure Active Directory Premium.   For more information, see Azure Active Directory.

Azure Search

Azure Search is getting rolling and customers may have questions, or will have questions, about where it makes the most sense. First and foremost, doing Search is hard, and it can also be expensive. Azure Search is targeted at three core scenarios in this iteration:

Online retail/ecommerce

Most customers of ecommerce applications/sites will find products by using search first. Azure Search fits nicely into this space with its range of features including filtering, category counts (faceting), scoring, filters, sorting, paging and projection.

User generated/social content

There are many different flavors of user-generated content applications, but most share similar requirements when it comes to search. Examples of these kind of applications include recipe sites, photo sharing sites, user-contributed news sites and social network applications that have a Web and mobile presence. These applications deal with a large volume of documents, sometimes many millions, particularly when they allow users to comment and discuss on items. Geo-spatial data is often involved, related to location of people or things. Relevance tends to be driven by text statistics in addition to domain-specific aspects such as document freshness and author popularity.

Business applications

Users of line of business applications often navigate through their content using pre-defined menus and other structured access paths. However, when search is incorporated into these applications a lot of friction can be removed from general user interaction making it quicker and more efficient to retrieve this information.

Azure Search supports these scenarios from mobile devices to web sites and everything in between. A great introduction to using the cloud to provide app capabilities that used to be very hard in a quicker, easier fashion.


Check out the Azure Search blog post for more information/scenarios.