Virtual Reality Redefines How Customers Experience Products

For years, Microsoft Dynamics customers have leveraged Powertrak CPQ software to ensure accuracy and efficiency in their sales quoting, ordering, and configuration processes. Five years ago, our product configurator customers had the option to transform their still images into interactive 2D drawings and 3D models. Today, they can take their configurable products and room layout designs from digital to virtual reality.

Our visual, 3D Product Configurator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP, enables sales, partners, and customers to see near-realistic product models and customize them by interactively dragging-and-dropping add-on parts. When the configuration is complete, users can invite stakeholders to validate the design by visualizing and exploring it in virtual reality (VR).

vr phone Virtual Reality Redefines How Customers Experience Products

Mobile Smartphone Virtual Reality

Why is VR an important piece to the configuration process?

While 3D product configuration software brings visualization, real-time pricing, and ordering to the customer’s fingertips, virtual reality takes the buying experience to a whole new level.

Transforming physical products into virtual is an effective way for your business to save money at trade shows while improving communication.

Here’s how…

Reduce Costs

Transporting tangible products to trade shows, conferences, experience centers is expensive. Take trade shows as an example. The drayage, shipping and labor costs are in the thousands of dollars for many companies.

If you’re presenting a large product or many products, tack on more money for upgrading the size of your booth space. How much are you spending on booth space and shipping at each event? Now multiple that number for each event over the course of the year. How many new clients is it going to take to produce a positive ROI on trade shows?

Here is where VR comes into play. Virtual Reality requires a minimal amount of space (typically 10’x10′). Plus, with the click of a button, you have access to hundreds of virtual products and layout designs. As a result, you are in line to save thousands on shipping, installation and dismantle charges.

Improve Communication

vr operateequipment Virtual Reality Redefines How Customers Experience Products

Interact with products in virtual reality

How do you present your products or services to your customers?

The traditional method of handing out a catalog, brochure or sheet of sales literature was an effective form of communication.

Today, we are seeing the sales cycle becoming longer as consumers demand more information before buying expensive products.

In the case of selling configurable products or room layout design, visual and virtual solutions truly help the sales professional inform, educate, and demonstrate the value of their products or services.

Visual configurators provide a near-realistic product model, so consumers can visualize and customize products and environments to their liking.

After the configuration is complete, users put on a virtual reality headset to fully experience the “virtual design.” Virtual Reality hand controllers are provided for navigation and product interaction. This immersive experience helps key stakeholders validate the design, observe product and object spacing, and determine if spacing affects walk flow.

For those interested in adding visual product configurations to Microsoft Dynamics 365 or virtual reality to their sales and marketing processes, please contact Axonom.

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CRM In Today’s Ecosystem: What CIOs Need To Know

In 2013, several UK supermarket chains discovered that products they were selling as beef were actually made at least partly—and in some cases, entirely—from horsemeat. The resulting uproar led to a series of product recalls, prompted stricter food testing, and spurred the European food industry to take a closer look at how unlabeled or mislabeled ingredients were finding their way into the food chain.

By 2020, a scandal like this will be eminently preventable.

The separation between bovine and equine will become immutable with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which will track the provenance and identity of every animal from stall to store, adding the data to a blockchain that anyone can check but no one can alter.

Food processing companies will be able to use that blockchain to confirm and label the contents of their products accordingly—down to the specific farms and animals represented in every individual package. That level of detail may be too much information for shoppers, but they will at least be able to trust that their meatballs come from the appropriate species.

The Spine of Digitalization

Q118 CoverFeature img1 spine CRM In Today’s Ecosystem: What CIOs Need To Know

Keeping food safer and more traceable is just the beginning, however. Improvements in the supply chain, which have been incremental for decades despite billions of dollars of technology investments, are about to go exponential. Emerging technologies are converging to transform the supply chain from tactical to strategic, from an easily replicable commodity to a new source of competitive differentiation.

You may already be thinking about how to take advantage of blockchain technology, which makes data and transactions immutable, transparent, and verifiable (see “What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?”). That will be a powerful tool to boost supply chain speed and efficiency—always a worthy goal, but hardly a disruptive one.

However, if you think of blockchain as the spine of digitalization and technologies such as AI, the IoT, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and drones as the limbs, you have a powerful supply chain body that can leapfrog ahead of its competition.

What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?

Here’s why blockchain technology is critical to transforming the supply chain.

Blockchain is essentially a sequential, distributed ledger of transactions that is constantly updated on a global network of computers. The ownership and history of a transaction is embedded in the blockchain at the transaction’s earliest stages and verified at every subsequent stage.

A blockchain network uses vast amounts of computing power to encrypt the ledger as it’s being written. This makes it possible for every computer in the network to verify the transactions safely and transparently. The more organizations that participate in the ledger, the more complex and secure the encryption becomes, making it increasingly tamperproof.

Why does blockchain matter for the supply chain?

  • It enables the safe exchange of value without a central verifying partner, which makes transactions faster and less expensive.
  • It dramatically simplifies recordkeeping by establishing a single, authoritative view of the truth across all parties.
  • It builds a secure, immutable history and chain of custody as different parties handle the items being shipped, and it updates the relevant documentation.
  • By doing these things, blockchain allows companies to create smart contracts based on programmable business logic, which can execute themselves autonomously and thereby save time and money by reducing friction and intermediaries.

Hints of the Future

Q118 CoverFeature img2 future CRM In Today’s Ecosystem: What CIOs Need To KnowIn the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, we had no idea that the internet would become so large and pervasive, nor that we’d find a way to carry it all in our pockets on small slabs of glass.

But we could tell that it had vast potential.

Today, with the combination of emerging technologies that promise to turbocharge digital transformation, we’re just beginning to see how we might turn the supply chain into a source of competitive advantage (see “What’s the Magic Combination?”).

What’s the Magic Combination?

Those who focus on blockchain in isolation will miss out on a much bigger supply chain opportunity.

Many experts believe emerging technologies will work with blockchain to digitalize the supply chain and create new business models:

  • Blockchain will provide the foundation of automated trust for all parties in the supply chain.
  • The IoT will link objects—from tiny devices to large machines—and generate data about status, locations, and transactions that will be recorded on the blockchain.
  • 3D printing will extend the supply chain to the customer’s doorstep with hyperlocal manufacturing of parts and products with IoT sensors built into the items and/or their packaging. Every manufactured object will be smart, connected, and able to communicate so that it can be tracked and traced as needed.
  • Big Data management tools will process all the information streaming in around the clock from IoT sensors.
  • AI and machine learning will analyze this enormous amount of data to reveal patterns and enable true predictability in every area of the supply chain.

Combining these technologies with powerful analytics tools to predict trends will make lack of visibility into the supply chain a thing of the past. Organizations will be able to examine a single machine across its entire lifecycle and identify areas where they can improve performance and increase return on investment. They’ll be able to follow and monitor every component of a product, from design through delivery and service. They’ll be able to trigger and track automated actions between and among partners and customers to provide customized transactions in real time based on real data.

After decades of talk about markets of one, companies will finally have the power to create them—at scale and profitably.

Amazon, for example, is becoming as much a logistics company as a retailer. Its ordering and delivery systems are so streamlined that its customers can launch and complete a same-day transaction with a push of a single IP-enabled button or a word to its ever-attentive AI device, Alexa. And this level of experimentation and innovation is bubbling up across industries.

Consider manufacturing, where the IoT is transforming automation inside already highly automated factories. Machine-to-machine communication is enabling robots to set up, provision, and unload equipment quickly and accurately with minimal human intervention. Meanwhile, sensors across the factory floor are already capable of gathering such information as how often each machine needs maintenance or how much raw material to order given current production trends.

Once they harvest enough data, businesses will be able to feed it through machine learning algorithms to identify trends that forecast future outcomes. At that point, the supply chain will start to become both automated and predictive. We’ll begin to see business models that include proactively scheduling maintenance, replacing parts just before they’re likely to break, and automatically ordering materials and initiating customer shipments.

Italian train operator Trenitalia, for example, has put IoT sensors on its locomotives and passenger cars and is using analytics and in-memory computing to gauge the health of its trains in real time, according to an article in Computer Weekly. “It is now possible to affordably collect huge amounts of data from hundreds of sensors in a single train, analyse that data in real time and detect problems before they actually happen,” Trenitalia’s CIO Danilo Gismondi told Computer Weekly.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, will change Trenitalia’s business model, allowing it to schedule more trips and make each one more profitable. The railway company will be able to better plan parts inventories and determine which lines are consistently performing poorly and need upgrades. The new system will save €100 million a year, according to ARC Advisory Group.

New business models continue to evolve as 3D printers become more sophisticated and affordable, making it possible to move the end of the supply chain closer to the customer. Companies can design parts and products in materials ranging from carbon fiber to chocolate and then print those items in their warehouse, at a conveniently located third-party vendor, or even on the client’s premises.

In addition to minimizing their shipping expenses and reducing fulfillment time, companies will be able to offer more personalized or customized items affordably in small quantities. For example, clothing retailer Ministry of Supply recently installed a 3D printer at its Boston store that enables it to make an article of clothing to a customer’s specifications in under 90 minutes, according to an article in Forbes.

This kind of highly distributed manufacturing has potential across many industries. It could even create a market for secure manufacturing for highly regulated sectors, allowing a manufacturer to transmit encrypted templates to printers in tightly protected locations, for example.

Meanwhile, organizations are investigating ways of using blockchain technology to authenticate, track and trace, automate, and otherwise manage transactions and interactions, both internally and within their vendor and customer networks. The ability to collect data, record it on the blockchain for immediate verification, and make that trustworthy data available for any application delivers indisputable value in any business context. The supply chain will be no exception.

Q118 CoverFeature img3 cheers ver2 CRM In Today’s Ecosystem: What CIOs Need To Know

Blockchain Is the Change Driver

The supply chain is configured as we know it today because it’s impossible to create a contract that accounts for every possible contingency. Consider cross-border financial transfers, which are so complex and must meet so many regulations that they require a tremendous number of intermediaries to plug the gaps: lawyers, accountants, customer service reps, warehouse operators, bankers, and more. By reducing that complexity, blockchain technology makes intermediaries less necessary—a transformation that is revolutionary even when measured only in cost savings.

“If you’re selling 100 items a minute, 24 hours a day, reducing the cost of the supply chain by just $ 1 per item saves you more than $ 52.5 million a year,” notes Dirk Lonser, SAP go-to-market leader at DXC Technology, an IT services company. “By replacing manual processes and multiple peer-to-peer connections through fax or e-mail with a single medium where everyone can exchange verified information instantaneously, blockchain will boost profit margins exponentially without raising prices or even increasing individual productivity.”

But the potential for blockchain extends far beyond cost cutting and streamlining, says Irfan Khan, CEO of supply chain management consulting and systems integration firm Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company. It will give companies ways to differentiate.

“Blockchain will let enterprises more accurately trace faulty parts or products from end users back to factories for recalls,” Khan says. “It will streamline supplier onboarding, contracting, and management by creating an integrated platform that the company’s entire network can access in real time. It will give vendors secure, transparent visibility into inventory 24×7. And at a time when counterfeiting is a real concern in multiple industries, it will make it easy for both retailers and customers to check product authenticity.”

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials. Although the key parts of the process remain the same as in today’s analog supply chain, performing them electronically with blockchain technology shortens each stage from hours or days to seconds while eliminating reams of wasteful paperwork. With goods moving that quickly, companies have ample room for designing new business models around manufacturing, service, and delivery.

Q118 CoverFeature img4 roadblock CRM In Today’s Ecosystem: What CIOs Need To Know

Challenges on the Path to Adoption

For all this to work, however, the data on the blockchain must be correct from the beginning. The pills, produce, or parts on the delivery truck need to be the same as the items listed on the manifest at the loading dock. Every use case assumes that the data is accurate—and that will only happen when everything that’s manufactured is smart, connected, and able to self-verify automatically with the help of machine learning tuned to detect errors and potential fraud.

Companies are already seeing the possibilities of applying this bundle of emerging technologies to the supply chain. IDC projects that by 2021, at least 25% of Forbes Global 2000 (G2000) companies will use blockchain services as a foundation for digital trust at scale; 30% of top global manufacturers and retailers will do so by 2020. IDC also predicts that by 2020, up to 10% of pilot and production blockchain-distributed ledgers will incorporate data from IoT sensors.

Despite IDC’s optimism, though, the biggest barrier to adoption is the early stage level of enterprise use cases, particularly around blockchain. Currently, the sole significant enterprise blockchain production system is the virtual currency Bitcoin, which has unfortunately been tainted by its associations with speculation, dubious financial transactions, and the so-called dark web.

The technology is still in a sufficiently early stage that there’s significant uncertainty about its ability to handle the massive amounts of data a global enterprise supply chain generates daily. Never mind that it’s completely unregulated, with no global standard. There’s also a critical global shortage of experts who can explain emerging technologies like blockchain, the IoT, and machine learning to nontechnology industries and educate organizations in how the technologies can improve their supply chain processes. Finally, there is concern about how blockchain’s complex algorithms gobble computing power—and electricity (see “Blockchain Blackouts”).

Blockchain Blackouts

Q118 CoverFeature img5 blackout CRM In Today’s Ecosystem: What CIOs Need To KnowBlockchain is a power glutton. Can technology mediate the issue?

A major concern today is the enormous carbon footprint of the networks creating and solving the algorithmic problems that keep blockchains secure. Although virtual currency enthusiasts claim the problem is overstated, Michael Reed, head of blockchain technology for Intel, has been widely quoted as saying that the energy demands of blockchains are a significant drain on the world’s electricity resources.

Indeed, Wired magazine has estimated that by July 2019, the Bitcoin network alone will require more energy than the entire United States currently uses and that by February 2020 it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

Still, computing power is becoming more energy efficient by the day and sticking with paperwork will become too slow, so experts—Intel’s Reed among them—consider this a solvable problem.

“We don’t know yet what the market will adopt. In a decade, it might be status quo or best practice, or it could be the next Betamax, a great technology for which there was no demand,” Lonser says. “Even highly regulated industries that need greater transparency in the entire supply chain are moving fairly slowly.”

Blockchain will require acceptance by a critical mass of companies, governments, and other organizations before it displaces paper documentation. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue: multiple companies need to adopt these technologies at the same time so they can build a blockchain to exchange information, yet getting multiple companies to do anything simultaneously is a challenge. Some early initiatives are already underway, though:

  • A London-based startup called Everledger is using blockchain and IoT technology to track the provenance, ownership, and lifecycles of valuable assets. The company began by tracking diamonds from mine to jewelry using roughly 200 different characteristics, with a goal of stopping both the demand for and the supply of “conflict diamonds”—diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance insurgencies. It has since expanded to cover wine, artwork, and other high-value items to prevent fraud and verify authenticity.
  • In September 2017, SAP announced the creation of its SAP Leonardo Blockchain Co-Innovation program, a group of 27 enterprise customers interested in co-innovating around blockchain and creating business buy-in. The diverse group of participants includes management and technology services companies Capgemini and Deloitte, cosmetics company Natura Cosméticos S.A., and Moog Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control systems.
  • Two of Europe’s largest shipping ports—Rotterdam and Antwerp—are working on blockchain projects to streamline interaction with port customers. The Antwerp terminal authority says eliminating paperwork could cut the costs of container transport by as much as 50%.
  • The Chinese online shopping behemoth Alibaba is experimenting with blockchain to verify the authenticity of food products and catch counterfeits before they endanger people’s health and lives.
  • Technology and transportation executives have teamed up to create the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum for developing blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.

It’s likely that the first blockchain-based enterprise supply chain use case will emerge in the next year among companies that see it as an opportunity to bolster their legal compliance and improve business processes. Once that happens, expect others to follow.

Q118 CoverFeature img7 milk CRM In Today’s Ecosystem: What CIOs Need To Know

Customers Will Expect Change

It’s only a matter of time before the supply chain becomes a competitive driver. The question for today’s enterprises is how to prepare for the shift. Customers are going to expect constant, granular visibility into their transactions and faster, more customized service every step of the way. Organizations will need to be ready to meet those expectations.

If organizations have manual business processes that could never be automated before, now is the time to see if it’s possible. Organizations that have made initial investments in emerging technologies are looking at how their pilot projects are paying off and where they might extend to the supply chain. They are starting to think creatively about how to combine technologies to offer a product, service, or business model not possible before.

A manufacturer will load a self-driving truck with a 3D printer capable of creating a customer’s ordered item en route to delivering it. A vendor will capture the market for a socially responsible product by allowing its customers to track the product’s production and verify that none of its subcontractors use slave labor. And a supermarket chain will win over customers by persuading them that their choice of supermarket is also a choice between being certain of what’s in their food and simply hoping that what’s on the label matches what’s inside.

At that point, a smart supply chain won’t just be a competitive edge. It will become a competitive necessity. D!

About the Authors

Gil Perez is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President, Futurist, and Internet of Things Evangelist, at SAP.

Hans Thalbauer is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Dan Wellers is Global Lead, Digital Futures, at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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SQL Setup ToolSuite Introduction (3) – SQL Registry Viewer Version 2.0

You may want to know what registry keys will be added to system for a SQL server installation. If you use some registry snapshot tool to compare the window registries change of before and after the SQL installation you will find there are 40000~60000 modifications happening. However if you study the modifications carefully you will find that most of them doesn’t have much sense, for example, lots of modifications go to “HKLM\DRIVERS\DriverDatabase\DeviceIds\” entry. The most interesting modifications are:

<>Installer related registry keys under

<>COM+ related,Like

<> SQL specific
Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server

<>Service, performance log related keys,  and other keys under WOW6432Node


So is it possible to list all these important SQL server related registry keys? My answer is SQL Registry Viewer tool in GitHub:

This tool pre-reads all SQL server meta data from setup source (the setup media containing those MSI/MSP files). The meta data includes  product code, patch code,package code, files, registry keys will be added to system etc. It will then use this prepared meta data to scan registry and display only SQL server related in the UI. The tool will ask you to specify service pack or CU you ever installed to your system for an accurate report. you can browser/search/export the keys in the UI easily.  Just be attention that this tool is not intended to list all SQL server related  keys. Just those important ones will be displayed.

The binary is here (Version 2.0)

Enjoy and have fun!


What is new in Version 2.0

Comparing to version 1.0, version 2.0 has below advantages:

  1. Cached meta you scanned

If you ever scan your SP/CU folder, their meta will be cached for next run. This can save the scan time significantly.

  1. Pre-processed the SQL meta files so loading time will be in seconds instead of minutes, and the size of the tool reduces from 40MB to 4MB.
  2. Use multi-threading technology to load registry keys asynchronously and in parallel. This help reduce the time to scan the registry keys. With these technologies now the tool runs 2 times faster.
  3. Put some scan task to background so you can get the UI sooner to browse the keys.
  4. If you export the keys the result detailed text file will have remark about what the keys belongs to. For example, below entry tells you the key is for “SQL Server 2008 R2 Management Studio”:

[SQL Server 2008 R2 Management Studio]



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CSS SQL Server Engineers


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tumblr p49qhpAZze1sxq35qo1 500 Photo

A Historian Walks into a Bar . . .

Recreate Personal Views as System Views with Impersonation in Dynamics 365

Views can be created as both system and personal views. The former will be available to all Users who have permission to view the entities and the latter will be available to the owner and anyone who it is has been shared to. This blog will focus on a simple way using a console application to convert all personal views to system views, as there is currently no way to achieve this using out of the box features. This method will make use of impersonation to retrieve the personal views of all Users and will then loop through them to create system view copies. The example used in this blog is one of many ways you could use impersonation in a console application.

image thumb Recreate Personal Views as System Views with Impersonation in Dynamics 365

The method above is what I used in a console application to complete the task outlined. It starts off by retrieving the Ids of all Users in the system, which can be seen in the code below. It then loops through the list of Ids and sets these to the CallerId of the sdk one at a time. In this case I used OrganizationServiceProxy as my sdk variable to connect to CRM, which I did before calling this method.

image thumb 1 Recreate Personal Views as System Views with Impersonation in Dynamics 365

Once the personal views (which have the logical name ‘userquery’) have been retrieved and filtered by Id to remove duplicates, the next step would be to create the system views. For creating the new system views, with the logical name ‘savedquery’, I had pre-created a list of attributes which allowed me to map the relevant data from personal view to system view. This needed to be done as the entities of both views differ in number of attributes.

After running the console application, the views for all Users were recreated as system views. In the environment I used to test this, my User was the only User with a personal view created.

image thumb 2 Recreate Personal Views as System Views with Impersonation in Dynamics 365

The screenshots above and below show the view “My Contact View” being duplicated as a system view.image thumb 3 Recreate Personal Views as System Views with Impersonation in Dynamics 365

The console application can be used to clean-up the unnecessary personal views once they have been converted into system views.

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How the Right CRM Solution Can Make Your Association’s Members Feel Like VIPs

CRM Blog How the Right CRM Solution Can Make Your Association’s Members Feel Like VIPs

How the Right System Benefits Your Members

Gathering, centralizing and delivering data about every interaction between the association and your members allows you to stay connected. When a member calls, you should be able to pull up a profile with information like:

  • The committees they serve on and their position.
  • The events they attended.
  • The donations they made.

With better information, you and the entire staff can show genuine interest without having to pretend you know more than you do.

The Challenge Your Association is Dealing With

If you are still using separate systems to manage events, dues, donations and social interaction, member information is fragmented. Without data consolidation there is no way to provide association staff with a complete picture of member activities and your constituents don’t get the personal attention that they deserve.

The Solution:

Make meaningful connections through systems that support:

  • Automated, personalized responses.
  • Shared member profiles across the organization for personal engagement.
  • Connection of social channel interactions with member records for complete data.
  • Tracking of all interactions with each member.
  • Alerts to support immediate responses when appropriate.

Learn how BroadPoint helps associations streamline processes and connect systems to better serve their members.

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Assigning Resource Management Permissions for Azure Data Lake Store (Part 2)

This is part 2 in a short series on Azure Data Lake permissions. 

Part 1 – Granting Permissions in Azure Data Lake
Part 2 – Assigning Resource Management Permissions for Azure Data Lake Store {you are here}
Part 3 – Assigning Data Permissions for Azure Data Lake Store
Part 4 – Using a Service Principal for Azure Data Lake Store
Part 5 – Assigning Permissions for Azure Data Lake Analytics

In this section, we’re covering the “service permissions” for the purpose of managing Azure Data Lake Store (ADLS). Granting a role on the resource allows someone to view or manage the configuration and settings for that particular Azure service (i.e., although we’re talking about ADLS, this post is applicable to Azure services in general). RBAC, or role-based access control, includes the familiar built-in Azure roles such as reader, contributor, or owner (you can create custom roles as well).

Tips for Assigning Roles for the ADLS Service

Setting permissions for the service + the data stored in ADLS is always two separate processes, with one exception: when you define an owner for the ADLS service in Azure, that owner is automatically granted ‘superuser’ (full) access to manage the ADLS resource in Azure *AND* full access to the data. Any other RBAC role other than owner needs the data access specifically assigned via ACLs. This is a good thing because not all system administrators need to see the data, and not all data access users/groups/service principals need access to the service itself. This type of separation is true for certain other services too, such as Azure SQL Database.

Try to use groups whenever you can to grant access, rather than individual accounts. This is a consistent best practice for managing security across many types of systems.

If you are using resource groups in Azure the way they are intended to be used, you may be able to define service permissions at the resource group level rather than at the individual resource level (although the example shown is here is setting RBAC for ADLS specifically). Managing permissions at the resource group level reduces maintenance, assuming your resource group isn’t too broadly defined.

Typically, automated processes which do need access to the data (discussed in Part 3), don’t need any access to the ADLS resource itself. However, if any access to the Azure portal or to manage the ADLS service (such as through ARM or PowerShell) is needed, then the appropriate RBAC entry is necessary. 

In Part 4 we’ll talk a bit about using service principals. I’ve found that frequently a service principal needs data access (ACLs), but not any RBAC access to the service.

The RBAC functionality is consistent across Azure services. When roles are updated for an Azure resource, it is recorded in the Activity Log:

ADLS RBAC ActivityLog Assigning Resource Management Permissions for Azure Data Lake Store (Part 2)

Defining RBAC Permissions in the Azure Portal

Setting up permissions can be done in the portal in the Access control (IAM) pane. (By the way, the IAM acronym stands for Identity and Access Management.)

ADLS RBAC Portal Assigning Resource Management Permissions for Azure Data Lake Store (Part 2)

Defining RBAC Permissions via PowerShell Script

The technique shown above in the portal is convenient for quick changes, for learning, or for “one-off” scenarios. However, in an enterprise solution, and for production environments, it’s a better practice to handle permissions via a script so you can do things such as:

  • Promote changes through different environments
  • Pass off scripts to an administrator to run in production
  • Include permission settings in source control

In the following PowerShell script, we are assigning contributor permissions to an AAD group:

ADLS RBAC PowerShell Assigning Resource Management Permissions for Azure Data Lake Store (Part 2)

Here’s a copy/paste friendly script from the above screenshot:


#Input Area
$  subscriptionName = 'YourSubscriptionName'
$  resourceGroupName = 'YourResourceGroupName'
$  resourceName = 'YourResourceName'
$  groupName = 'YourAADGroupName'
$  userRole = 'Contributor'


#Manual login into Azure
Login-AzureRmAccount -SubscriptionName $  subscriptionName


$  resourceId = Get-AzureRmResource `
    -ResourceGroupName $  resourceGroupName `
    -ResourceName $  resourceName 
$  groupId = Get-AzureRMADGroup `
    -SearchString $  groupName

New-AzureRmRoleAssignment `
    -ObjectId $  groupId.Id `
    -RoleDefinitionName $  userRole `
    -Scope $  resourceId.ResourceId 

The online examples for the New-AzureRmRoleAssignment cmdlet enumerates the IDs or GUIDs, which makes things clear for learning but isn’t ideal for operationalized scripts. Therefore, the purpose for $ resourceId and $ groupId above is to do the work of looking up the GUIDs so you don’t have to do that manually.

Personally, I like using PowerShell instead of ARM (Azure Resource Manager) templates for certain things, such as permissions, but you do have additional options beyond what I’ve discussed here based on what you’re most comfortable with.

Finding More Information

Get Started with Role-Based Access Control in Azure

Want to Know More?

My next all-day workshop on Architecting a Data Lake is in Raleigh, NC on April 13, 2018

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Summer Seat Belt Branding


ve7a4nf Summer Seat Belt Branding
“Holy childhood.  Who remembers burning themselves trying to buckle up in the summer?”
Image courtesy of

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GrantConfigDBDatabaseAccessAction Error When Installing Dynamics 365

During a recent install of Dynamics 365 I had this error pop up.

image thumb GrantConfigDBDatabaseAccessAction Error When Installing Dynamics 365

This was caused because we had left SQL Server Management Studio while performing other set up tasks. To continue from this error, you need to close SQL Server Management Studio and then click on the Retry button to resume the install.

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Managing in Mature Markets

Markets and companies change as industries grow and as a disruptive innovation commoditizes. Generally, prices come down because the innovation becomes commonplace and competitors fight for every scrap causing margin erosion.

Eventually markets equilibrate, and a monopoly or small oligopoly sets in. Typically, as Geoffrey Moore pointed out, mature markets have three competitors: the leader that gets most of the business, a fast-following challenger, and one or more niche players.

We can see this playing out right now. Mature industries like databases have an oligopoly set up with Oracle and IBM leading. SAP, with Sybase, is one of several niche players along with MySQL and SQLServer.

Recently new approaches to data storage have come to market, such as NoSQL databases that offer a different approach. Amazon has developed an in-house product that has been a discussion topic for people thinking of dethroning Oracle, but that’s not likely. More likely is that Oracle and IBM will be the database leaders until the planet no longer needs databases. It could happen.

The Dreaded Audit

On the way to oligopoly, we see vendors making mistakes that could cost them their leadership positions. Mature market leaders have figured out how to put customers in the forefront, and their solutions look more like a broad array of services than products. That’s because they have come to understand the role of whole product, and they are willing to do whatever makes sense to keep customers happily engaged.

There’s one practice, though, that flies in the face of whole product and keeping the customer satisfied. It’s the software audit. Essentially, a vendor builds into its contracts the right to periodically inspect a customer’s systems to understand use patterns and to ensure adherence to the terms of its licenses. Typically, a contract for so many seats, or applications, or gigabytes should not go over a preset limit. For any overage, the customer would owe a higher license fee.

All of this seems fair in the abstract, but in practice customers resent the intrusion of an audit — especially when the audit does not turn up a flagrant violation but instead identifies the possibility of one. Vendors have been known to bill on the possibility. That can cause, shall we say, disharmony in the customer base.

In the future, the software audit likely will be seen as an artifact of the licensed software era. Subscription vendors and their customers don’t have the same issues, because it’s clearer when the customer needs more seats and they make a purchase.

However, the software audit is here today, and in my mind it represents a mistaken approach to revenue generation by mature market vendors. It also opens a legitimate seam for the competition to exploit.

Another Way

Markets trend toward commoditization, and features and functions tend to converge on a market ideal. The cost of attrition declines over time, even in a licensed software situation. So, the risk of customer attrition over some aspect of the whole product — that is, policies and procedures — increases.

You can see this scenario playing out in the document management space as Nitro, a document management company with a focus on whole product, does battle with the leaders. Nitro is not a small upstart. It is well over 10 years old and has a customer base of roughly 650,000. Nitro differentiates itself on a user interface that’s very Windows-like and on price.

However, it doesn’t simply offer a lower cost approach to document management. Its flexible licensing policy avoids the software audit process. This seems to matter to its customers, who want to deploy technology to all members of the company freely — without obsessively checking license allocation or fretting about fines each time a new hire comes on board. For them, the audit can be a show stopper.

My Two Bits

Regardless of the size of the market or its installed base, a company needs to grow, preferably faster than its organic rate. When customers grow their business, they buy more licenses — but growth is a zero-sum game in mature markets. For one company to grow, it has to take customers away from competitors; usually that means taking from the market leaders that have a majority of the customers.

So the software audit, as useful as it might be for generating incremental revenue, has a downside. It is not the face of whole product that a company in a mature market ought to present, because it can easily prompt a rush for the exits. That’s why so many vendors avoid such contention and focus on product line extension and new product development. Those activities are harder to pull off than swooping in with auditors, but they are ultimately better ways to hold onto customers and grow markets.

Finally, you might say that cloud computing with its per-seat pricing can avoid all of this, but that’s not the point. A vendor that can adopt audits also can find ways to throttle use and charge dearly for increasing use. The real point is developing modern approaches to customers that generate revenue on actual products and services delivered rather than gotcha gimmicks.
end enn Managing in Mature Markets

Denis%20Pombriant Managing in Mature MarketsDenis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there.
Email Denis.

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