IT all makes sense now!

When you take a shift in workforce movement – like the predicted “Gig-based economy”, the impact of millennials and their work/life expectations, workforce mobility based on demand, skills shortages, and many more – the key things Microsoft is investing in and creating, suddenly makes sense. Here’s what I found out:

What is a Gig-based economy?

“A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.” –

I suggest the following article for further information regarding Gig based economies on The Guardian.

Key takeaways:

  • Independent/Shorter Engagements. In the future, workers will become more independent, paid for their work based on shorter engagements, across multiple companies. In effect, they will either work in isolation, remote/virtual teams, or come together to achieve specific tasks/projects and then disband.
  • Increased Automation. This prediction is based on the trends we see with increased automation – taking away the need for manual human interaction – and replacing it with efficient processes and technologies that can work at a higher velocity with increased accuracy and lower maintenance costs.
  • More Experiences. Millennials don’t feel trapped in a single job – their career will be made up of a series of job experiences, some long and other short – accumulating in a highly skilled and varied experience to hone critical skills and adapt to changing requirements – attraction and retention are the new challenges. Job satisfaction is a combination of challenge and reward – the balance has to be maintained and easily articulated.
  • Tenure Elimination. We will see the end of the tenured employee that refuses to grow or leave – even though they are doing the same work they did 20 years ago!
  • Focused Expertise. People will focus their expertise in the areas of business that cannot be easily replaced by robots or complex algorithms. Human services still require traditional humans, but they won’t be needed to compile spreadsheets or create a PowerPoint slide deck – they need to find ways to interact and communicate to the focused audience that is paying (short) attention


  • Human Interactions. Areas of increased Human activity:
    • Knowledge workers – being adaptable with how you apply your skills is key
    • Cleaning and maintaining technology (unless a robot self-cleans?)
    • Human interaction (required for psychological reasons based on trust, warmth, safety)
    • Security – machines can’t go unchecked through fear of autonomy gone wrong (Skynet, or a very good hacker), a level of oversight for human activity, system errors, physical interactions, and that one thing that can’t be taught: common sense
    • Ingenuity, reasoning, and the final say (computers are good, but humans made them) – is this one job protection also? We can work WITH AI to create something new
    • The leisure and entertainment industries – these need people to provide an “experience”
    • Medical professionals – will be aided by technology, but not replaced


  • Non-Human Interactions. Areas of decreased Human activity:
    • Driving/operating vehicles manually
    • Builders / laborers
    • Farming
    • Call centers
    • Freight, stock, logistics



  • Looking at this optimistically, the future workforce gets to choose how hard they work, based on what they can contribute, and what they need to do to live within their comfort zone. The less you need, the less you contribute. The more you need (or want), the more you contribute (either in time, skills, innovation or artistic ability). The idea of a 3-day working week might actually become achievable – and for those that like to work every hour possible, they may the opportunity for higher rewards, but it all depends on the results they deliver and not just for the amount of time they sit at a desk each day.


  • Alternatively, the sceptics and will predict mass-unemployment, but that is highly unlikely as people need to be able to earn money, in order to spend money – and every business wants you to spend money. So the only way this can play out is if everyone has a fair shot at being able to earn a living wage. When you cut out the waste (increase efficiency) then there is a higher output (this is true of all systems, find a scientific reference) – so as companies become more automated and reduce the wasted time and effort, they will be able to spend more on what matters most – finding new ways of making more money.


Changes and Impact.

  • There will be a huge increase in the need to collaborate intimately with individuals and other companies that are not part of your internal network or trusted domain (logically and technically). We will need to enable a deeper level of trust, supported by policy and advanced technology to protect from human error as well as malicious intruders.


  • We will need to provide access to resources based on how and why you trust them, in this moment. Monitoring all digital activities (and detecting threats) will need to be risk based and constantly responsive to changing circumstances. Removing access upon completion of requirements must be automated and timely, not manual process that is often overlooked or too cumbersome to be practical.


Frequent Turnover.

Even “permanent” employees are going to join and leave organizations more frequently since workforce staffing requirements evolve constantly to meet new business demands. The onboarding and off boarding process must be highly efficient, self-service, fully role-based and all encompassing.


Workforce Vision.

When you ask yourself “why did Microsoft purchased LinkedIn (for $26.2 Billion)?” it now becomes much clearer: the more knowledge you have about your potential (and current) workforce, the more accurate (and faster) you can be when building and augmenting the (virtual) teams necessary to achieve your objectives. Depending on the requirement, some people will be hired long-term to join a core team, and others will be taken from a static pool of resources for short term projects. A dynamic workforce requires a strong trust model with integration to provision access to resources. LinkedIn is one of the largest resources available for building professional connections, requesting recommendations, it’s a dynamic reputation platform.


Collaboration Tools.

There will be a huge demand for interconnected collaboration tools that meet a variety of role-specific needs and work across diverse platforms. Office 365 is building these types of tools one by one, with the most notable new addition of Microsoft Teams built just for this type of shift in work style. Microsoft Teams is built upon the core platforms of Office 365: SharePoint for strong data governance and security, Exchange for interactions across traditional messaging platforms (email alerts, post and respond to updates, group messaging), Skype for Business to provide instant meetings accessible by all team members, with Yammer for the wider community interaction.


Service Desk Elimination.

Users won’t have the luxury of calling the service desk for help on minor issues. Technology will be deployed completely mobile (no more building static images). The user will own the device lifecycle and be expected to do some of the configuration and enablement actions (as they do for their own personal technology) – they will be responsible for knowing how to resolve their own issues:

  • Obtaining access to company resources, such as role specific applications and data, will require each user to carry out certain actions that IT would have done in the past, but this will be highly automated and a guided user experience to prevent the need for technical assistance
  • Users will need to learn to diagnose basic computer errors, report faults via an app or browser, and carrying out resolution steps will become a part of a self-service solution built into the fabric of the IT environment (no more white-glove approach).
  • Think of anywhere that people were required to manually do something that we now do for ourselves, like a petrol station service attendant – you are on your own now, use the community to help you, or learn to survive on your own with education.
  • Answers to questions will be easier to ask and find, through virtual communities, automated bots, voice controlled interfaces that are context aware, pre-emptive diagnosis and repairs, and the ability to swap defective devices faster (think of a vending machine full of iPads, laptops, and mobile phones…)


What does IT need to do to handle this change?

  • Securing Core Components. Apart from the shift in the way IT people will work, the future requirements for supporting different devices, apps, and data will become more diverse and increase in risk. The focus has to change to securing the core sensitive components of the IT environment, and only allowing access based on defined conditions and trust models, and protecting sensitive data no matter how and where it is accessed, stored, or shared. The EMS suite of tools will help you with this.


  • Engineered Identity Management. Identity management needs to become fluid, and responsive. Long gone are the days when users are manually added to a group and never removed again. Rather, we must engineer identity management solutions to automate the addition and removal of access permissions based on multiple factors of authorization, authentication, and risk levels. – Azure AD has you covered here.


  • Threat Detection and Automation. Threats are now more likely to come from internal sources. Technologies such as firewalls and anti-virus are just single layers in a multi-layered approach. The future of security is threat detection, protection, and automatic remediation, using AI and ML, with a massive amount of industry wide cyber security sensor data. We are fortunate to have Microsoft partnering with the top security vendors in the world – spending $1billion each year to improve security not only for the Microsoft workloads, but for all connected devices, applications, and cloud services.


  • Data Access. There will be an explosion of data generation, storage, processing, and analytics like nothing we know about today. Every organization will be able to thrive based on the richness of the data they have access to. Making key decisions will no longer be gut instinct. Rather, it will be based on shared knowledge of millions of entities with billions of data points all being analyzed within fractions of seconds and presented to the “decision makers” at light speed (in rich and immersive interfaces). Microsoft Azure has your back!…


  • Public Infrastructure. Running your own infrastructure is expensive, complicated, and requires constant maintenance (not only hardware and software, but the ongoing knowledge management, endless meetings, and the cost of highly skill IT staff of all levels). Instead, use the public infrastructure (just like we do with water supplies, main roads, and air travel) and find a partner that will allow you to lease the equipment (devices, peripherals, and software). Let someone else worry about the logistics of supply and demand, warranties, break/fix, 3 year replacement cycles etc.. It may appear to cost more initially, but when you add up the numbers, you will find savings as well as increase end-user satisfaction due to better service and options (if you don’t get this, get a new partner). Insight is uniquely positioned to help with this.


  • Gain Control. Retain control of your architecture. Turn your IT professionals into being business enablers (instead of break/fix and lights-on activities). Build innovation center’s inside your business (made up of equal parts technical geniuses and business entrepreneurs) to transform ideas and opportunities into the future revenue engines that help grow the company and solve real-world problems with the best that technology can offer. Insight can help with both of these.


If you like these ideas, have any questions, or have your own suggestions, please get in touch.

Now a published Author !

Well, blogging on a regular basis didn’t last long, but I have a good excuse for that – I was helping to write a great book on Windows 10 for Enterprise Administrators, and now I am officially a published author on Amazon 🙂

I have also relocated from Australia to the USA, and once I’m settled here I will have plenty to share based on my new role as a Technical Solutions Executive for Insight, working to drive digital transformation through the deployment of the Microsoft solution stack, and the many other partners we work with.

Expect to see more here soon…

A new IT Reference Framework for Solution Architecture

Today I had the opportunity to present an idea that has been developed slowly over the last 5 years, though various customer projects and discussions with other industry experts. The basic idea is to provide a simple reference diagram  with standard terminology and layers, that can be adopted as a tool for developing solution architecture.

You can read more about it by viewing this presentation, or download the PDF. And start using the framework in your own work by downloading the Visio.

If you are interested in using or further developing this idea, please get in touch with me.

The IT Reference Framework by Richard Diver

Developing ideas for visualisation

Developing ideas into something usable can be tricky. Today I created a short page to share an idea I had last year; Cortana Explorer – a UI concept that could help to display complex relational information in a simple to view format. The idea occurred to me as I worked on a few diagrams that explored the functionality of various components of Azure. These diagrams started looking like this:

Developing Ideas - Azure IaaS Storage options
Azure IaaS Storage options

As I developed the idea, I thought it would be better if the framework could be explained, so I developed some different views of how it might look when completed with different information, and then I animated those views.

Developing Ideas - Azure Solutions Explorer concept art
Azure Solutions Explorer concept art

This led me to realise this would be even better if the data was automatically selected, from a data base or search query, and entered into the model for automatic visualisation. Due to the circular design, and some recent interaction with Cortana, I made the whole thing appear to be a Cortana button that could expand with various search terms and additional layers of information presented that the view may not have realised were relevant to their original search query – which leads them to follow the information in different paths. All the while allowing the information to be dynamically added and visually represented in the most appropriate way.

The example I used was a simple search term: Dinosaurs

Developing Ideas - Cortana integration for solution exploring
Cortana integration for solution exploring
Developing Ideas - Cortana Explorer showing a T-Rex
Cortana Explorer showing a T-Rex

This is a pipe dream as I have no skills or experience in turning something like this into an actual application, but the thought is there and I would love for someone to discover it and help it along the journey.

What I thought  I would share here is a bit more details about the methods I used to actually create the visualisations, using only Microsoft Office tools:


  1. Plumbago

    This is a recent addition to my toolset for the initial sketches created when developing ideas: its a free product, created Microsoft Research as a garage project, that allows for easy sketching using a touchscreen and digitized pen (like on a Surface Pro, or Surface Book – and many others). The output is designed to be more like using actual paper, and there are settings to control the amount of smoothing done to make your handwriting and sketches more legible. Another feature is the ability to storyboard – each page takes a full screen, and there are 25 pages in board. I’m a big fan of OneNote too, but this works differently, so I use both.

  2. Visio

    My tool of choice for most of my creative work, more will be shared on this site over the coming weeks and months.

  3. PowerPoint

    This is a powerful story telling tool that has been misused by many business professionals in the past – “Death by PowerPoint” and “Bullet points from hell” to name a few thoughts that occur when someone wants to show you their work. There are some great resources available to find smarter designs and ideas on how to present your ideas using this tool. The latest version even has built in capabilities to help recommend layout options for you images and text. Don’t worry about how many pages you use, just consider your audience and how they will consume the information. PowerPoint isn’t only useful for a projector screen in a meeting – it also makes for a great alternative to Word documents, especially if you want to include more visual elements (like I do), and if your audience will most likely read the content on their own screen, which will be in landscape mode (word documents are usually in portrait orientation) – landscape allows for more screenspace to be dedicated to a whole page view. You can save the output as an animated slide deck, and PDF document, or even as a video file (mp4 and wmv).

  4. Snipping Tool

    This is a screen capture tool that comes with Windows and is very easy to use. You can find it by hitting the Windows key then typing Snip. One of it’s great features is the ability to set a delay timer to allow you to open menus before it freezes the screen. More information on how to use it can be found here.

  5. MS Paint

    Still one of the greatest tools for quick cropping and minor touch ups of any images before pasting them into PowerPoint, or blog posts 🙂

I hope this helps you develop some of your own ideas. Let me know if you have any questions about my techniques, or the idea itself.

Increase security for the price of a bacon sandwich

Read our first security post titled “Saving your cyber security bacon“. In it we  cover the fundamental security improvements that any organisation can make to strengthen their security for identities, devices, apps, and documents or emails. It introduces the following solutions and techniques with further resources for your research:

Cloud Security:

  1. Local Admin Password (LAP)
  2. Azure Active Directory (AAD)
  3. Business Guests (B2B)
  4. Conditional Access Policies (CAP)
  5. Privileged Identity Management (PIM)
  6. Privileged Access Workstation (PAW)
  7. Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA)
  8. Azure Information Protection (AIP)


Day one

We are planning to use this site to share our though and ideas on the following topics that have kept us busy for the last 20 years in IT:

  • Security
  • Design
  • Productivity 

Security:  Richard works as a Solution Architect, specialising in Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and the Enterprise Mobility and Security suite (EMS). His day job is designing and deploying technologies for customers, as well as speaking at conferences and writing technical articles, papers and books.

Dawn is studying a variety of security topics and creating training courses to help others, as well as starting a new career in IT security consulting and training.

Design:  We have some great ideas we would like to share and get your feedback on. This section will include diagrams, presentations, charts, and few ideas for new frameworks that can be used to articulate complex ideas in a simple way. We will also cover some of the useful tools we use and show how to get from a concept design drawn on paper, to a final product that can be used in presentations and documentation.

Productivity:  As busy professionals we have to juggle the worklife balance to ensure we can make the most of our time and prevent burn out. The information we share in this section will be aimed at providing real-life hacks that you can use to get more done, in less time, and find your own balance.

There is a lot of content to share already, and more will be produced as we learn new things. Feel free to contact us with any question and suggestions for new content you would like to see.